The History of Godfatherism in Nigerian Politics

Godfatherism is best described as a form of political corruption in which an influential individual handpicks another, often less influential candidate, to attain leadership in order to exert authority or influence. This may be due to the unpopularity of one candidate, or to work around incumbency term limits.

There is a new political phenomenon that is becoming a thing of concern to all and sundry; this emergent phenomenon is the concept of “godfatherism.” It is an ideology which deprives the people of their fundamental human rights of not benefiting from the dividends of democracy. This practice is rapidly  converting politics from a civil engagement to an enterprise where only the moneybags are beneficiaries; these godfathers rely on their wealth whereby they sponsor candidates of their choice because of their influence. This paper intends to discuss the predatory variant of godfatherism which is the one that offends and negates moral sensibility and collective aspiration of the people. In Nigeria, the concept of godfatherism and politics will be defined and a theoretical framework of analysis will be provided. The paper looks at the case of the activities of godfathers in some selected states. The paper will also spell out the implications of predatory behaviour of godfathers in Nigeria.

The Emergence of Godfatherism in Nigerian Politics 

The word 'godfather' appears in parenthesis in many western political studies.  The situation is different in Nigeria. The patronlclient relationships that  popularised the term in Nigerian politics have cultural roots among many  Nigerians peoples. It is not a totally new experience in the sociology of the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo for people to have one or other type of 'godfather'. For example, the word 'godfather' has a local equivalence in Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo languages and these words have been in usage since the pre-colonial era. A godfather is known among the Hausa as a 'maigida' (landlord or the head of a household). The word 'maigida' goes beyond its literal meaning. Abner Cohen, Paul Lovejoy, and Polly Hill'" used the term in their works to refer to those who provided brokerage services to Hausa traders in transit in different parts of West Africa. These Hausa traders brought cattle from their homeland to different parts of southern West Africa and took back kola nuts to the North. At the various transit centres where they have to stop to do businesses, they rely on a maigida to facilitate their economic activities. The maigida provides them with accommodation, storage and brokerage services. The maigida receive compensations for their services and many of them became rich from the number of clients they had. Even in Hausaland, from where these itinerant traders came, this kind of patronlclient relationship is popularly known. As Ferguson observed: 

In Hausaland, whcn a stranger with kola is staying in the house of one man, and a potential buyer is staying in the house of another man, they bargain over the kola and on each calabash they set aside two kola nuts, 'yan k'ida', as a gift: one goes to each of the landlords." 

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