The ‘godfathers’ who pull the strings in Nigeria’s election

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thank for click “Godfathers” in Nigerian politics don’t usually run for office themselves, but many believe they are the ones who decide the election winners and losers. With campaigning well under way for general elections on 16 February, these are the men – and they invariably are men – who pull the strings behind the scenes. They are political sponsors, who use money and influence to win support for their preferred candidates. Their “godsons”, it is believed, are not always for their political acumen, but rather on their ability to repay and enrich their godfather. These arrangements have spawned the term “godfatherism”, says Dr Dele Ashiru, a senior lecturer at the department of political science at the University of Lagos.  “It refers to a situation where there’s a big man who wields enormous political power and then anoints a godson, who he adopts as a candidate for the election.  “And the godfather will do all that is reasonably possible to get the godson appointed into political office. “The godfather must be influential, most often they are, or were, a political office holder.”When ‘godfatherism’ gets messy In the southern state of Akwa Ibom, the country’s largest oil-producer, many people believe the main godfather is Godswill Akpabio, who holds a senate seat. A former governor of the state, he still wields significant power in local politics.  So powerful in fact that his defection just a few months ago to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is seen as pivotal to the party’s hope of winning its first victory in the state since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. A hope reiterated by President Muhammadu Buhari when he chose Akwa Ibom to launch his campaign for re-election in December. And Mr Akpabio certainly seems to deliver in numbers. During a recent rally I spoke to followers who said he would bring more than 300,000 voters over to the APC.  But Senator Akpabio denies he is a kingmaker: “If anyone wants to say that I am a godfather I want to disagree with them. “The only time you could say I played a godfather-like role was in 2015. I nominated the current governor [of Akwa Ibom] and when I presented him to the people they supported him,” he told the BBC. Yet a member of his own party says that 2015 victory was marred by violence and irregularities, orchestrated by Mr Akpabio. Umana Okon Umana, who was aspiring to be governor at the time, has accused Mr Akpabio of using state resources, including security forces, to install his candidate.  He describes it as a situation where a godfather sits down with his wife “and writes down all who will contest the governorship elections… all the way down to the house of assembly positions.  “He writes these names before the primaries take place. And then if you’re not one of those candidates they make sure that you have no access to the venue [of the primaries].” A Supreme Court ruling from 2015, however, declared the elec

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1 thought on “The ‘godfathers’ who pull the strings in Nigeria’s election


    (April 30, 2019 - 10:54 pm)

    I think I’m crying. It’s that beastly.

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