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Godfatherism as a practice has always been in the lexicon and practice of Nigerian politics from the first republic. It is based on the belief that certain individuals possess considerable means to determine who gets a party ticket to run for an election and times, who wins in an electoral contest. Godfathers are referred to as men who have the power and influence to determine or decide both who gets nominated to contest elections and who wins an election. (Gambo 2006).
In essence, this practice means that political office seekers get connected to individuals who are believed to have the ability to deliver desired outcome in an electoral contest. A number of analysts have argued that in Nigeria, without a political godfather the possibility of being elected or appointed into any political office is very slim. In the process of getting the favour of godfathers, political office seekers or would be godsons are robbed of their independence, rational, sense of judgment and personal dignity. They become mere stage in such a way that they are totally subordinate to their godfathers. Because of the belief on godfathers to bankroll elections, electorates virtually loose the power to choose who rules them. Thus, unpopular candidates are imposed on the people whose loyalty are to the godfathers. It should be noted however that in a single election, several godfathers may exist each supporting different candidates. The winning tactics employed by these godfathers include the use of money, thuggery, violence and election rigging, at the end, the winner takes it all.
Given the just enumerated conditions, one is left to reflect on the role of godfatherism in democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Dode (2006), argues that democratic consolidation means “the deliberate political process in a polity by which democracy is so broadly and profoundly legitimatized among its citizens that is very unlikely to break down”. It portrays stability and security of governance and the democracy stays that cannot be toppled by military coup or dictatorship. Framework for democratic consolidation could be set by taking right of behavioural and institutional reforms that can normalize or stabilize democratic politics and narrow its uncertainty.
In consolidating democracy, every party in the democratic process must be recognized, namely the electorates, the candidates, the electoral bodies and the political parties. Not to be ignored in the process also, are the military institutions. In view of democratic consolidation, certain parameters are used as guide to measure its effectiveness. These according to Dode include percentage of voters in a country, protection of human rights, defense of justice and equity, responsiveness and effectiveness of governance and non violent political expression. Commenting on the percentage and relevance of voters during election, Ikpe (2000) posits that voters tend to benefit only during election in Nigeria. On this basis, he identifies three patterns of voters: those who strive to extract as much benefits as possible before casting their votes.
The second patterns of voters are those who are active during campaign. Extract much benefits as possible and yet would not vote. The third patterns of voters are those who are totally disenchanted with the whole process so that they will neither participate in campaign nor extract any benefit or voters.
To this last group of voters, one can see such reflection as vote or no vote, the candidate will always be elected, courtesy of godfatherism. Hence, what is the point expending energy on a candidate who has already been elected by the process of mere selection instead of election? This last observation raises the question of whether democracy could be consolidated in Nigeria. Godfatherism is not a new phenomenon both at the global level and in Nigerian politics. Political literature have it that, godfatherism started in pre-world war II era in Chicago USA where heads of criminal gangs sponsored candidate for elections through manipulation, in return for contracts and protection. Nigerian godfathers operate in similar fashion.
In Nigeria, and in contrast with the belief that godfatherism is the creation of the Fourth Republic, the practices dates back to the pre-independent and independent era when political parties were regionally based. To this end, politicians like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello carefully cultivated godsons whom they believed would build on their legacies. The difference in operation is that the first generation of policitians godfathers did not use their godson as substitute to promote parochial interest but to promote developmental aspirations of the people; they were not driven by sense of self enrichment rather they served as huge supply of wisdom and experience to be consulted on the enterprise of governance. In the fourth republic however, godfathers employ money and other influence to award political victory to their godsons for some monetary motives.
To them politics is one huge investment opportunity with considerable promise of massive returns. In this present republic, electoral politics has assumed commercial enterprise outlook with profit as its logic of operation. In the present dispensation, the wave of godfatherism spread so fast and wide that the structures of the prospects of democratic consolidation are threatened. In the entire thirty six states that make up the country, this practice has become almost a norm to a large extent, any godson that fails to settle his godfather as soon as required, is threatened with impeachment or such state will be inflicted with violent activities.
The effect of such practice is that, the masses are deprived of basic needs and infrastructures like good roads, health services and portable drinking water. Even when some of these facilities are subsequently provided, their quality cannot be guaranteed. On the basis of this, we examine the effect of godfatherism on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
1.1 Statement of the problem
Democracy as expressed by analysts is the government by the people or the attainment of societal goals of even development and stability in value. When democracy is practiced based on the basis of universally acceptable norms, its very essence is consolidated. It should be noted that under the democratic norms, the wishes of the masses ought to be supreme, unfortunately, this process has been hijacked by few priviledged elites in democracies like Nigeria.
Money politics has become a useful tool in the hands of political godfathers, the poor masses have been so impoverished that they are seen to have no say in determining who governs. This trend has not done any democratic practice good because in most cases, its perpetuation could likely lead to violent change of government either by the military or the masses. When this happens a country’s democratic experiment is taken aback and development strides many steps backward. Nevertheless, behavioural as well as institutional changes could be a step in the right direction to stem the tide of godfatherism on democracy and ensure democratic consolidation for the country.
1.2 Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to come out with the role and effect of godfatherism and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
To also know the measures to put in consolidating Nigerian democracy.
1.3 Objective of the study
The major concern of this work shall be to find appropriate tools with which to broaden the scope and understanding of the more fundamental issues associated with godfatherism and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. It is thus intended to:
- Study the effects of godfatherism on democratic consolidation.
- Ascertain how the activities of godfatherism could make or promote electoral processes.
- Enlighten the electorate as well as electoral candidates on the evils of godfatherism on democratic consolidation.
- Profer alternatives to godfatherism in democratic processes.
1.4 Research questions
(i) What is the essence of godfatherism in democratic processes?
(ii) What acts constitute godatherism?
(iii) What could be the likely effects of godfatherism on democratic consolidation?
(iv) What are the likely alternative to godfatherism?
(v) What measures can be adopted to curtail the activities of godfathers?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses (Ho)and the alternative hypotheses (Hi) are used to guide this study.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between godfatherism and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Hi: There is significant relationship between godfatherism and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between the influence of godfatherism and electoral franchise in Nigeria.
Hi: There is significant relationship between the influence of godfatherism and electoral franchise in Nigeria.
1.6 Significance of the Study
It is expected that, this research work would serve as a reference material and give benefit to the students of political science as source for further studies, political analysts as data for analysis of political phenomena in the polity, teachers of political science as source of information and help for further analysis.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The scope of the study is an integrated study of the godfatherism and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic – 1999 – 2003.
1.8 Definition of Terms
For clear understanding of the study, the following working definitions have been adopted. The essence of which is to define terms as they are used and applied in this text which may be different from the literary dictionary meanings.
Godfather: A powerful person in political organization who begins, develops and protects the interest of his godson.
Politics: It is associated with policy-making in terms of formal or authoritative decisions that establish a plan of action.
Governance: It is concerned with how plans are carried out in order to achieve the desired societal goals and objectives.
Consolidation: To make a position of power successful or stronger so that, it is more likely to continue.
Power: The capacity to affect another’s behaviour by the threat of sanction.
Authority: The right to make and enforce laws or policies which the citizens obey.
Democracy: Form of government in which the people exercise their governing power either directly or through representatives periodically elected by them.
Electyorates: The people who exercise their franchise to elect a representative into different offices through electoral system.