The tragedy of the recent mad rage in the Garden City, otherwise known as Port Harcourt, is that nobody has been queried and made to face the music for the conflagration that almost turned millions of destinies upside down.
This is just because some lousy individual feels that their political structures are being tinkered with.
Just because of a frosty relationship between two individuals, the political son and the political godfather, a band of supposed enlightened and educated followers thought that they should defend their mentor. And to do that, they stormed the Rivers State House of Assembly complex, which was up in fire in suspicious circumstances, preparatory to their somewhat sickly sitting to carry out a senseless impeachment process against the Governor. Not for any impeachable offence, but to satisfy their benefactor who was nestling somewhere waiting for the report of the harvest of destruction.
The crisis between the immediate Governor of the state and now Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and the incumbent occupier of the Brick House, Siminalayi Fubara, worsened last week when the Rivers State House of Assembly attempted to commence impeachment proceedings against the governor. Most of the state lawmakers are loyal to Wike who helped install Fubara before both men began to withdraw into their cocoons. The state lawmakers, as part of their moves against Fubara, had suspended the House Leader, Edison Ehie, and other three lawmakers: Victor Okoh (Bonny Constituency), Goodboy Sokari (Ahoada West Constituency) and Adulphus Timothy (Opobo/Nkoro Constituency), who are all said to be the Governor’s loyalists.
One very disturbing account about these men ruled by rage is that a part of the Rivers House of Assembly Complex had to be destroyed by an explosion on Sunday, a day before the impeachment attempt. In fact, the entire complex could go up in flames for what they cared, but for the swift move by firemen. By now, a lot of those who should be cooling off in prison as a result of their ignoble role in the saga are today singing to their clans why nobody should dare them next time.
Both commanders of the opposing camps, Wike and Fubara, have tried to play down the crisis. In his earlier comment, Wike had said that the Rivers State crisis was an affair of their Peoples Democratic Party and that the party was looking into it. Governor Fubara also described the crisis and the rift between him and his predecessor merely as a problem between “father and son”.
Buoyed by his cheer crowd, the former two term Rivers State Governor gave reasons for his fight with his successor and ally. Wike, after a meeting with members of the PDP Governors’ Forum in Abuja accused Fubara of hobnobbing with his political adversaries. “You cannot work, and people will begin to bring enemies; those who fought you when you were struggling for the person to be in office. Nobody does that,” Wike was quoted as saying.
The former governor, who denied that he was seeking financial gratification from his successor, suggested that Fubara was trying to take control of the PDP structure in Rivers State. “I am not a political ingrate but don’t touch the political structure of the state. I will not shut my eyes,” Wike said.
Of course, the combustion was a waiting bomb because of the way the former governor went about choosing his successor, but it went up in flames too early and quite unnecessarily. Fubara, in ranking, was probably the first governor to constitute the bulk of his cabinet while his peers were still making inspections to their offices to see where their desks and chairs were placed after their electoral victory.
It was indeed so easy for him. His boss, who single handedly installed him in office, graciously “offered to release” his key operatives to equally work for him. Immediately after his much expected election victory, Pronto, his Chief of Staff and the Secretary to the State Government were announced. They were the same men who “reigned” with Wike throughout his tour of office.
Ordinarily, such appointments should have been very productive as the individuals could be said to have garnered more than enough experience to help the newly elected governor to hit the ground running. But as things turned out, the retention of the so-called experienced technocrats was the governor’s undoing.
Even the governor, who previously served as the Accountant General of the state under Wike, could not be described as a toddler in governance to be the number one citizen of the oil rich state. But just because of a flimsy fancy of an individual, the combination of these men, which should have been a blessing for the people of the state, suddenly became a burden. And tragically so early.
The scenarios in Port Harcourt reminded one of the Lamidi Adedibu versus Rashidi Ladoja feud in Oyo State, which till tomorrow ranks as one of the most intriguing political chess games in the fourth republic. Adedibu was referred to as the strongman of Ibadan politics though he was never elected into a political office. He was so influential to the point that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Colonel Ahmed Ali, teamed up with him against Ladoja, who was then the Governor in Oyo State. Adedibu got Ladoja impeached by Oyo State lawmakers and for almost a year, Ladoja battled in court for the restoration of his mandate.
What was Ladoja’s offence? Adedibu believed he denied him the spoils of office after sponsoring his governorship position in the state. And the man said it himself matter-of-factly: Ladoja did not pay him the certain agreed percentage of the state resources. Apart from Ladoja, another person who enjoyed Adedibu’s influence was the late Christopher Alao-Akala, who was Ladoja’s deputy. Adedibu made him to replace his boss – Ladoja. The late old man also made his son Kamarudeen a Senator of the Federal Republic.
Nigerians would not forget in a hurry the spat between Rauf Aregbesola, former Osun State Governor and later Minister of Interior, and his successor in office, Gboyega Oyetola. Aregbesola was super excited when his erstwhile Chief of Staff took the oath of office as Governor of Osun State. His joy knew no bounds 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 ex-minister’s policies in Osun State. Their epic battle led to the loss of the second term of Oyetola and ended APC’s control of the state.
In Kwara State, former Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, joined forces to form the “O’to ge” movement that demystified and ousted the Saraki political dynasty that had held sway in that state to bring in AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. It was a clean sweep as the All Progressives Congress won the governorship, Senate, most House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats, most tellingly denying Dr. Bukola Saraki a return to the Senate. But later, Mohammed described the incumbent Kwara State chief executive, AbdulRazaq as a “one chance governor”, an indication of the gulf between his camp and that of the Governor.
In Anambra State, generations would find it well documented the spectre of macabre dance in the political arena when a sitting Governor was abducted from Government House by agents of his sponsor. In a transactional bond, Chris Uba made Chris Ngige the Governor of the South Eastern state backed by well documented agreement, including the promise that Ngige would run just for one term.
In a Mafia-like style, a self-declared godfather employed a band of thugs in concert with policemen to abduct his godson for reneging on agreement to allow the “kingmaker” determine all political appointees, have access to the largest share of state’s allocation, and instantly pay him a sum of N2.5 billion as part of his efforts to re-coop his investment in the political chess game.
Of course, the story of the two Chris (Chris Ngige and Chris Uba) stands out because they made the purpose of their relationship and what would become of it open, documented, signed and stamped. Ngige, because of his inability to sponsor his campaign, deferred to Uba who backed him financially. Then, after just one term, he agreed he would pack his bags and baggage and leave. Then, he pledged that he would throughout his tenure consider Uba as his godfather and remain 100 percent loyal and would never make any decision behind him. The documents are all over the place online. What men would do for power and money!
Political historians would always remember the epic battle between “Baba Oloye”, Leader of the Senate in the Second Republic, Olusola Saraki, and Muhammed Lawal of the Up Lawal fame in Kwara State. Both men, who are late now, may have either reconciled or continued their unfinished battle in the celestial realm where many Nigerians believe they would have met. Baba Oloye single handedly made Lawal governor but no sooner than the younger Lawal, a military man, assumed office that he tried to break free of any political hold the elder Saraki wanted to exert on him and it turned out as a “roforofo” fight. Because the old man ended up with the short end of the stick, he turned inside his sitting room and brought out his medical doctor son, Bukola Saraki, as the next Governor. Until the “O’to ge” movement that changed the political landscape, the Saraki Dynasty remained in Kwara State,
President of the Senate and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, recently poured encomiums on the Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, for not fighting his predecessor in office, Kayode Fayemi. This is because he might have found it difficult to forget about his battle with his own political godson, Udom Emmanuel, who he installed as governor. Emmanuel, a debonair banker, was said to have been literally discovered by the wife of Akpabio as worthy successor of her husband. But the rest is history as Akpabio later took his political destiny away from the PDP and severed everything with Emmanuel as a result of political fight.
What of Senator Aliyu Wamakko, the godfather of Aminu Tambuwal in Sokoto, Senator George Akume and Samuel Ortom in Benue State? Then Musa Kwankwanso and his political godson, Abdullahi Ganduje in Kano.
The flexing of muscles between godfather and godson also occurred in Abia State when a former governor of the State, Orji Uzor Kalu, tackled then Governor Theodore Orji, who the former had assisted as his Chief of Staff to emerge as his successor in Government House. The cold war between them was exacerbated by the decision of Orji to float the Progressive Peoples Alliance following his irreconcilable disagreement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the de facto leader of the PDP, on which platform Orji governed the state.
At another time in Anambra State, the relationship between Governor Willie Obiano and his hitherto godfather and presidential running mate of the PDP in the February 23, 2019 election, Peter Obi went awry shortly after Obiano assumed office. Their tie predated their sojourn into party politics, as both Obi and Obiano had not only worked together at Fidelity Bank, but were also schoolmates at the famous Christ the King College, Onitsha. In Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke, and his successor, Liyel Imoke, went their separate ways.
The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, also had a disagreement with his predecessor and boss, Senator Adams Oshiomhole. Obaseki, a key cabinet member of the Oshiomhole-led government, had his “blessing” to emerge governor in 2016 under the All Progressives Congress. However, Obaseki and Oshiomhole later fought as the former defected to the PDP in an attempt to achieve his second term bid after he was disqualified from participating in the APC primaries. Oshiomhole, who was said to have masterminded Obaseki’s disqualification following in the wake of their running battle, backed Osagie Ize-Iyamu, but Obaseki eventually won.
In a study, entitled: “Godfather and political patronage: Godfatherism and the future of Nigerian democracy,” Akinola Adeoye of the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, noted: “Politics of godfathers involves the ‘anointing’ of a godson who is expected to win an election by using the influence, wealth, political structure and political experience of the godfather. In return, the godson reciprocates by loyalty and regular consultations with the godfather. Godfatherism, in its simple form, is a term used to describe the relationship between a godfather and god-son. Godfathers are slightly different from mafia and election sponsors.” Other experts say the syndrome of godfathers in politics may have come to stay, given the heavy monetization of politics in the country.
In fact, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko, Ondo State, Dr. Rufus Tinuola, observed that the trend appears to have encouraged the gradual dominance of the political space by the generations of some political leaders. Tinuola said: “I am not sure the issue of godfatherism can be eradicated because the cost of contesting for an election here is too much. This is why the people in power keep recycling their children in power so that they can keep perpetuating themselves in positions of authority. I am not sure it can be eradicated as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. We can only be talking of solutions to such problems in countries where elections are not expensive.”
Perhaps, one may not but agree with him, given the scenario in Port Harcourt, which nearly led to the shooting of the State Governor. The police operatives quelling the disturbance mistakenly sprayed him with water cannon because they didn’t know he was among the crowd surging forward towards their barricade. If it were a lethal weapon and the governor was wounded or dead, what would his so-called godfather in Abuja say or do? There is a need for sanity in the polity because no former governor would needlessly fight for self preservation in the name of playing godfatherism if they had governed well.
Moving forward, anybody who causes disruption in the polity because of his personal interest should be made to face the music.