Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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The outburst in Rivers State recently, is a reminder of the legendary tussle between godfathers and godsons in this our clime. I reproduce below an article I wrote in my August 12, 2020 column to refresh our memories. Happy reading.
Increasingly, political godfathers are finding it difficult to keep their godsons in check. The godsons themselves are increasingly being uncomfortable with their godfathers constantly breathing down their necks. At the initial stage, the godfathers were metaphorically, feeding their godsons like babies. However, as they grew on the job and unwilling to be led by the nose any longer, they decided to frontally confront their godfathers by declaring that they are ready to exercise their freewill, to take their own decisions as legally responsible adults, so to speak. This resulted in a fight during which some of the godfathers got shoved off and so, made to watch their erstwhile godsons from afar while silently plotting their fall. That is the case between former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and his erstwhile godson, incumbent Kano state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje. But one godfather, the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, has taken matters into his own hands, refused to be put down by his godson.
Fearing that his protégée , Uche Seconds, whom he installed as PDP chairman, may not only hand him a technical knockout but also give him an upper cut and so inflict on him a grievous injury that may damage his political career for a long time to come, he has dived headlong into the ring, notwithstanding that his godson, the chairman of his party, PDP, has barely four months to complete his tenure. So, Wike has decided to fight to finish. Boxing experts say this is a ‘top of the match’ contest as the godson has vowed to also fight to finish. It is an epic fight for which ringside tickets have been sold out with millions other fans massing outside the match venue at Wadata plaza. News just filtered in that elders of the party have brokered a truce, peace is said to have been restored. However, this appears to be peace of the grave yard as both camps are still silently strategising.
Recall a similar fight between Peter Obi and Willie Obiano in Anambra state. The then outgoing Governor Obi sought out his chummy friend, Obiano, a banker as himself from the same bank, to take over from him. They were said to be the best of friends and Obi apparently believed that he would follow in his footsteps as governor. So he campaigned vigorously for him and he won. But no sooner had the euphoria of Obiano/APGA victory died down as the new governor settled down at Government House Awka, than cracks began to appear in their relationship. Soon, both began to trade accusations and counter accusations. And as the ‘crisis’ deepened, Obi was driven out or opted out(depending on your angle) of APGA and decamped to the rival PDP. Now the battle between both men is being fought by proxies as each camp fights for who would emerge victorious in the November 2021 governorship election between APGA’s Soludo (supported by Obiano) and PDP’s Ozigbo (supported by Obi). Each side is scheming to outdo the other. Ringside spectators and others are eagerly awaiting result of this epic proxy fight. There are rumours that the umpire, bowing to court orders, may disqualify candidates of both sides, in which case it would be a draw and an anti climax. Still, all eyes are on Anambra to see how it goes.
Interior minister, Rauf Aregbesola, was visibly elated at the swearing-in of his successor, Gboyega Oyetola, who was his chief of staff during his time as governor. Apparently, he was relieved that his chosen successor made it after an exhaustive battle at the polls during which the rival PDP almost snatched victory. He also played a significant role when the battle shifted to the law courts, up to the Supreme Court. However, no sooner had Oyetola settled down than (as the other camp would say) ‘he began to show his true colour’. The first point of friction was on selection of commissioners. Then, the governor began to dismantle some of the minister’s policies in Osun. The last battle was over the just concluded APC ward congresses. Both parties are still arguing over it.
In Kwara state the Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, spearheaded the ‘O’to ge’ movement that routed the Saraki political dynasty which had held sway in that state. It was a clean sweep as the APC won the governorship, Senate, most House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats; most tellingly, denied Dr. Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s number two citizen, a return to the Senate. Minister Mohammed sometime ago referred to the incumbent Kwara chief executive, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, as a ‘one chance governor’, an indication of the growing gulf between his camp and that of the governor. The gulf continues to widen and both camps are continuing with the battle.
Some godsons have been able to sidetrack their godfathers by defecting to another party, thus cutting the cord that joined them together. Among such is Governor Samuel Ortom who confessed that he decamped to PDP as a sitting APC governor because his godfather, George Akume who is leader of APC in Benue state gave him a red card. Edo governor Godwin Obaseki during a bullish fight with his erstwhile godfather Adams Oshiomhole crossed over to the PDP into the hands of new friends who operated underground as godfathers of sort. They have not showed their face openly yet but the fact that the governor is yet to constitute his full cabinet months after his reelection suggests that there is an impasse somewhere. The rift between Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa state and his predecessor, Senator Tanko Almakura is only simmering underneath with attendant rumours swirling around.
Immediate past governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, is having a different kind of fight with his successor, Hope Uzodinma. Actually, it dates back to the battle for the APC governorship ticket. As then sitting governor Okorocha wanted his son-in-law to be the party’ s gubernatorial candidate. But Uzodinma clinched it and was eventually sworn in as governor. Okorocha accuses the incumbent of witch hunting him and he is not taking it lightly. After his recent defection from PDP to APC, Zamfara state governor, Bello Matawalle was declared leader of APC in that state. His predecessor Ahmed Yari cried foul, adding literally, that the sitting governor would be leader over his dead body. Both camps are at each other’s jugular.
Amidst the fights and shenanigans between godfathers and their godsons, past and present, there are still two of them standing. Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu still holds sway in Lagos state largely; though some cracks are beginning to appear as can be seen in his discontent with Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola and the immediate past governor Adewunmi Ambode who was shoved aside after just one term in office. Even in the last APC ward congresses there were some dissenting voices among the party members. It is not yet a storm. However, Tinubu is widely expected to weather through whatever storm and remain standing firm.
All said and done, the real godfather in Nigerian politics was Chief James Onanefe Ibori. He still controls the political affairs of Delta State. He teleguided it even when he was in prison in far away United Kingdom, confounding logic. His numerous godsons still pay unmitigated obeisance to him. However the tables turned against him in the 2023 general elections.