Political systems in African countries present a multitude of issues that limit young people from active participation. One particular issue is the notion of ‘godfatherism’. This can be loosely defined as a political concept in which an influential member of a party or society appoints, dictates, and enforces his desires on another. For a clearer understanding, “godfathers” are the gatekeepers that determine who gets nominated at the primaries and who wins in the polls. “Godfatherism” is not mentorship because the motive is clearly selfish and never people-centred.
Godfathers in some nations are inspired by their resolution to regulate public policies in favour of their selfish desires. For instance, in Nigeria, the primary motive of political godfathers is to control the treasury of the state. The godfathers in Nigerian politics are primarily concerned with the appropriation of government contracts, political/public appointments, and plundering the coffers of the state.
Today, in many African countries, it has become quite impossible for one to ascend the political ladder without having an influential godfather to “knight” an individual into politics. The concept of godfatherism is a guiding principle and reference to contemporary politics in Nigeria. This type of political quagmire has imprisoned the true virtues of democracy. The interesting thing about godfatherism is that it is often referenced in politics in African countries; however, this is a global phenomenon affecting most countries in the world to various degrees. It is no surprise that Nigeria’s polity is filled with Grandfathers and Godsons duos.
Nigeria is considered to be a patriarchal society where a woman’s success may sometimes be relegated to that of a man/godfather, her father, or an intimate interest man. Women in politics, who are self-made, gifted, ambitious and successful of their own accord, are usually ascribed to the presence of a godfather. True democracy which anchors itself on liberty, equality and justice is one that unifies every member of society and creates a space where all ideas, talents, and skills are nurtured and welcomed.
Any government that runs its political entity on the foundation of godfatherism is doing itself a disservice. What ends up happening in such a government is that it often finds itself unable to resolve political, social, economic, and cultural issues over time. No matter the leader, the problems facing the country never come to a resolution or completion. These issues are transferred through generations without a solution in sight. The sad part of it all is that every society has a number of individuals, groups and civil societies that have solutions to pressing issues facing its nation. However, a whole segment of a population is ignored due to politics, gender and age discrimination. This discrimination is worsened when a person has no backing, that is, godfather.
A reason why godfatherism still exists is a desire to maintain a certain status quo that only benefits the affluent. The only way to disrupt godfatherism is for every citizen to step up, stand out and use their voice as an instrument of change. Change does not happen overnight, but there is always hope.
In Africa and other developing countries like Nigeria, godfatherism has become the central point of political vandalism. This is as a result of the overconcentration of authority on individuals. There is a conscious effort by the ruling class to strengthen individuals rather than institutions. For change to occur in society, power has to return to the people.
ThankGod E. Ariohuodion