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Ethiope East and Ethiope West. Warri, Agbor, Ughelli, Sapele and Ogwashi-uku are the
major towns. It has Edo, Imo, Bayelsa, Ondo and Anambra States as neighbours. Delta State
has a boundary with the Atlantic ocean and Bight of Benin in the South and South West
The history of the State began when it was originally part of the Mid Western State between
1963 and 1976. It was later transformed into Bendel State which was an integration of the
people of Delta and Benin areas.
In the developing world of Africa, the transition of a group of people into the class of political
elites is mostly facilitated by a `godfather' who is usually a prominent member of the elite
class or a network of godfathers. Many aspects of the democratic life have been subdued by
selective individual recruitment. Recruitment into the political elite class is effected when
they agree to meet the strident conditions for such a recruitment exercise.
The godfather is a self-seeking enigma with a respectable frame of opulence, affluence, and
influence mixed with ruthless decisiveness. Political godfathers use their influence to block
others from being relevant participants in the politics of the society through their scheming
and guarded alliances. Godfathers are political gatekeepers that determine the entrants. He or
she is the colossal guardian figure that manipulates the political landscape by dictating and
providing the navigational direction to the godson or goddaughter who in turn, surrender to
reciprocate with a service of total submission, subservience, and provisions to the oracular
personality with little or no priority concern for the citizens.
Political godfathers could be very ruthless. They use their influence to injuriously promote the
disenfranchisement of the same people that are supposed to freely chose their leaders.
Political godfathers are active before, during and after the elections. Within these three
phases, they could employ the mechanism of violence and death to direct the course of
elections to suit their selfish purposes.
This paper sets out to problematizes the relationship between the godfathers who are the
patrons, and the godsons and goddaughters who are the clients in the democratic processs of
Delta state vis á-vis Nigeria. It shall focus on the role and ills of political godfathers in the
politics of Nigeria with focus on Delta State of Nigeria since 1999. Godfathers in this sense
are made up of rich individuals who financially or morally contribute to the campaign and
election process of selected candidates. To them, winning elections is a do or die project. In
the developed world, godfathers invest heavily in the media to uplift the image of their
candidates while they simultaneously and consciously discredit other rival candidates by
digging into their pasts in ways that could distance them from the electorates. Two good
examples of godfathers in Delta State are former Governor James Onanefe Ibori and Edwin
Clark. The later used his societal influence while the former used his financial, moral and
political connections and weight which has helped state and federal Legislators and
Chairmanship aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party to win controversial
elections since 1999. This legacy was passed on to his successor Emmanuel Uduaghan. These
elections were mostly 'won' because the electoral commission is an instrument of the state.
In the course of reaching a conclusion, this paper sets out to
* historicize on the election process and the evolving democratic and human conflicts that
emanate from Godfatherism in Delta State of Nigeria in relation to other parts of the country.
* To examine the trajectories and causative factors amplifying the phenomenon of
Godfatherism in the state;
* To specifically ascertain some selected incidences of Godfatherism in the electoral
processes in Delta State since 1999.
* To identify the implications of the prevalence of godfatherism in the developmental process
of Delta state.
* To proffer recommendations on practical ways to arrest the malaise of Godfatherism in the
Keywords: Delta state, Godfather, Godson, Goddaughter, Thugs, Rule of Law, Nigeria,
Politics, Democracy and Development. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives
Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Introduction: Origin of political godfathers
After a long period of military junta in Nigeria between 1983 to 1999, many civilians were
sceptical whether the military regime under General Abdusalam Abubakar will be sincere in
handing over power to the the civilian regime. This discouraged many persons from
participating in the new democratic dispensation. Those that dived into it saw it as an
opportunity to seize authority and positions. That was what gave rise to the politics of a new
era of godfatherism in Nigerian politics.
The archetypal godfather in Nigeria is akin and could be more than the merciless and hard-
hearted Mario Puzo's kingpins in the Italian Mafia setting. While the fictional godfather is
characterized as `a shadowy, dare-devil recluse, who combines immense under world
financial muscle with near mythical powers of enormous proportions, which is to attain a
further greasing of the ever-increasing vast financial empire, the Nigerian type has the added
characterization of conceit, ego, loquacity, pettiness, envy, strife, crudity, and confusion.
To different people and location, the term 'godfather' conjures different meanings. For
example in the Catholic Church, a godfather within the Church could be chosen from among
the congregation for the godson both as a counselor and guardian towards molding him into a
responsible life. In France, it could refer to a network of persons that lubricate the economy.
They could be reformers, manipulators and negotiators. In American `cowboy films' they are
the boss in criminal gangs with connections in government and all shades of businesses.
In Latin American countries, godfathers are 'under world groups sponsoring politicians
during elections in return for the protection of contracts. This kind of situation is
euphemistically referred to as `party machine' politics in the American political science
Chimaroke Nnamani, `The godfather phenomenon in democratic Nigeria: Silicon or real?, The Source, 2 June
2003 pp. 5-6.
Jibrim Ibrahim, The rise of Nigeria's godfathers, BBC News, 10 November 2003,
Retrieved 22 June 2017
In Yorubaland of Nigeria godfathers are variously nicknamed as '`baba kekere' (the small
father), `baba isale' (the father of the under ground world), or `baba nigbejo' (the rescuer in
troubled times). The most historical of these terms is `baba kekere'. It was used to depict
community leaders with whom people of less social status identified as a way of providing
physical, social, political and economic security for themselves. For example, most of the
Yoruba refugees who came to settle in Ibadan in the early nineteenth century settled with the
`baba kekere' in the city.
A form of godfatherism is also present in the Igbo society. References have been made to
terminologies such as `Nnam-Ukwu' (my master) and `Odibo' (the servant). In Igboland, a
younger person is given for service to a person with experience in a trade. In this case, the
godfather ,,is expected to set the boy up in his business after under going whatever training
the master must have given him".
Though there could be different perspectives in defining godfatherism in Nigeria, my interest
in this paper is focused on godfathers in the realm of politics. Godfathers are the power
brokers who determine those that would win primary and general elections through the
employment of various machinery situated within and outside acceptable democratic norms
and practices. Former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State defined the godfather of
Nigerian politics as:
...an impervious guardian figure who provided the lifeline and direction to the godson,
perceived to live a life of total submission, subservience and protection of the oracular
personality located in the large, material frame of opulence, affluence and decisiveness, that
is, if not ruthless... strictly, the godfather is simply a self-seeking individual out there to use
the government for his own purposes.
Some of the machinery used by godfathers include multiple voting, exchanging official ballot
boxes with unofficial ones already filled with voting papers, stealing electoral boxes, chasing
voters away from constituencies where their candidates are likely to have few votes, killing
and wounding political opponents, etc.
This paper is necessary because it lays bare the antics and modus operandi of godfathers so
that a wider understanding of their activities could be fully understood and addressed. The
goal is to generate ideas on how to eradicate the insidious manipulations of godfathers and to
make suggestions that could ensure a level playing field in the democratic dispensation of
Delta State and, by implication, Nigeria.
Toyin Falola, From hospitality to hostility: Ibadan and strangers, 1830-1904, Journal of African History, Vol
Dickson Dibia, `A case for godfatherism', http:www.thisdayonline.com/ archive. 30 August 2003. Retrieved 22
Edward Dibiana, The Godfather Phenomenon: Many Faces of a Lecture, The Source Magazine, 2 June 2003
Bash A. Olasupo, (ed.), 2003, Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Issues and Perspectives, Lagos: Friedrich Ebert
Pre- independence Nigeria produced role model Patriots who could positively be referred to
as godfathers. Ironically, their mode of operation was rather nationalistic than self-seeking.
They were the role models and the strong voices upon which the generality of the citizens
found hope and the assurance of freedom. Nationalists like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief
Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello were outstanding and inspiring mentors, strategists
and risk takers who institutionalized political ideologies that have remained as rallying
reference points till date. Such persons personified uncommon patriotism by furrowing
political tunnels that opened bright horizons for nationhood with hope for a stronger and
better country. Unfortunately, time has ushered in a period where those that ought to be
Patriots have transformed to become persons that are more interested in building structures
that are now euphemistically known as 'stomach infrastructures' for personal gains.
Godfathers in action
The phenomenon of godfathers in Delta state is an intimidating case scenario of transactional
leaders. They call the shots in their relationship with their clients that mostly borders on the
spiritual. There are cases of the administration of oaths of allegiance taken under sacred and
mysterious circumstances and locations. Their main goal is to use their clients as puppets to
attain increased selfish power in a somewhat dictatorial setting against the electorate. They
never allow unloyal persons to join their circle in order to selfishly sustain their goals. The
relationship between the patron and the client is usually not related to public good. In some
cases, the relationship between the godfathers and their clients could have a lasting purpose
based on a written agreement that could hold both of them together. In cases where the
understanding is based on verbal trust and confidence, it is common to find them going in
separate directions shortly after an confidential agreement has been reached between them.
The platform that gave rise to the advent of godfatherism has been energized by the weakness
of institutions such as the judiciary and electoral commissions, the silence of the governed,
ignorance of voters' rights, the weakness and vulnerability of the civil society, poverty that
leads to the selling of votes, the malleable and commercialized media.
Though godfatherism could be narrowed down to that individual that dictates power due to
his wealth or socio-political status, it also includes sponsorship based on social and cultural
organizations. For example, there are organizations such as the Arewa Consultative Council
from the northern part of Nigeria, Ohaeneze from the eastern part, the Urhobo Progressive
Union from the south-south and the Afenifere socio-cultural organization from the south west
who may decide to endorse a candidate for an elective position. There are also a set of
opportunists who see aspirants as their clients. They know the nitty- gritty of winning
elections. They sell these ideas to the aspirant and participate in its full implementation.
A governor that is in power could metamorphose into becoming a godfather. Since he holds
the reins of power, he empowers traditional rulers with car gifts and money in other to furrow
the way for him to selfishly use them in the future. Their relationship follows the saying that
'he who pays the piper dictates the tune'. The godfather goes further to appoint
Commissioners and other government officials that are loyal to him into the government of
his godson as he is usually given some slots as part of the conditions for patronage. The
political appointees nominated by him usually pay a monthly amount of money in return
thereby enhancing corruption and deprivation of the wider populace. The appointees in turn
work with a selected group of people who become political leaders in their constituencies.
Their loyalties are directed at the sitting Governor who has automatically become the party
leader in his state. Whenever there are elections, these grass root leaders or the most
prominent leader amongst them may project an aspirant for an election. His or her name is
sent to the Governor for approval or disapproval. If he is approved, he is schooled on what to
do when he enters the office. Such schooling may include remitting money from his office
periodically to oil the palms of those that supported his candidacy. They could also dictate to
him how long he could stay in office and he is also instructed on things that he should never
do when he enters the office. Consciences are sold in the process. Whenever a Governor lends
his voice towards the election of a candidate, the election is considered half won.
The former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori continue to be immensely relevant in the
politics of the State. It has been reported that he nominated the Chairman of the Delta State
Independent Electoral Commission, Moses Ogbe. With such a positioning, he could easily use
him to manipulate the local government election results by fixing the aspirants he has chosen.
However, on 31 August 2017 prior to the Delta State Local Government election, the State
House of Assembly dissolved the state electoral body in agreement with the sitting Governor
Ifeanyi Okowa. This angered James Ibori who viewed this as an affront against his political
Godfatherism is usually connected with the ruling party. This gives them the leverage to
perpetrate election rigging and violence. A number of studies have corroborated this
hypothesis that the ruling party are usually the main perpetrators of violence (Chaturvedi
2005; Mehler 2007; Straus and Taylor 2009; Hafner-Burton, Hyde and Jablonski 2012). For
example, Mehler (2007: 204)
argues in his study that "violent behaviour more frequently
emanates from ruling parties", especially in "multi-party systems which fail to meet minimal
democratic standards". On the other hand, Straus and Taylor (2009: 15)
experiences of elections within some African countries between 1990 and 2007 in which they
posit that, "Of the 124 cases of any violence, incumbents were the primary perpetrators in
105 of the cases; by contrast, opposition were the primary perpetrators in only 18 of those
cases." In the same vein, through the study of Hafner-Burton, Hyde and Jablonski (2012)
has shown that unpopular incumbents usually resort to violence against their favourable
Mehler, Andreas (2007), Political Parties and Violence in Africa: Systematic Reflections against Empirical
Background, in: Matthias Basedau, Gero Erdmann and Andreas Mehler (eds), Votes, Money and Violence:
Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa, Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet; Scottsville: University
of KwaZulu-Natal Press, p.194-223.
Straus, Scott, and Charlie Taylor, Democratization and Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1990-2007
in: Dorina Bekoe (ed.) (2012), Voting in Fear: Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, Washington, D.C.:
United States Institute of Peace, pp15-38).
Hafner-Burton, Emile, Susan Hyde and Ryan Jablonski (2012), When Governments Use Election Violence to
Stay in Power, San Diego: School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California.
opponents as a way of causing fear and commotion to discourage the success of the election
for "fear of losing power".
The tone of this paper is hinged on the work of Richard Joseph where he described the
godfather phenomena as `prebendalism' and `clientelism'
He believes that both factors
determine the allocation of resources in the country. He goes further to illustrate that the two
factors contributed to the collapse of the second and third republic of Nigeria. The thoughts of
`prebendal politics' by Joseph were developed from the works of Marx which expantiates on
the systems of feudalism in China and Europe. According to Joseph, a `prebend' as
constitutes an office of state, is procured by an individual either through a formal legal
process or, more frequently, as a reward for loyal service to a feudal lord. Prebendalism is
the extra-legal activities of groups in Nigeria to capture and retain state power over time...
Clientelism therefore is the very channel through which one joins the dominant class and a
practice which is then seen as fundamental to the continued enjoyment of the perquisites of
The phenomenon of godfatherism thrives because some of the candidates for election need the
political boost needed to overcome the many challenges that come with winning elections.
Some of them are not as popular with the people as they ought to. This is coupled with the
fact that they do not have enough financial capacity to embark on the costly election process
from beginning to the end. They prefer to ride on the back of influential personalities that are
able to reach out to contacts that could manoeuvre the system. Such candidates put much of
their hope in election rigging because they believe that if they do not rig, other contestants
may out-rig them. They focus more on their godfathers than on the electorate when the
reverse is supposed to be the case. A contestant may need to take drinks and money to visit
several political gladiators in order to intimate them about his intentions. It is usually after this
initial trust building that he now begins to reach out to the electorate with various forms of
publicity. The patron-client situation between aspirants and godfathers creates the background
where a political system grows to determine the development process of the socio-political
and economic landscape of the society.
Impediments to democracy
When political representatives ought to focus on the political promises that brought them into
power, there are usually distractions as a result of fights between godfathers and godsons. In
most cases, the person that newly came into office will want to be addressed as 'Leader'. In
other scenarios, when the godfathers demand much more from their godsons, there is a revolt
which leads to a silent war where state funds are now employed in such a way as to make one
of them irrelevant. In the course of these internal crises, there are distractions, impediments to
developments and a misguided channelling of state funds.
Richard Joseph, Democracy and prebendal politics in Nigeria: The rise and fall of the second republic, Ibadan:
Spectrum Books, 1999.
Godfatherism may orchestrate ethnic, sectional and political clashes which could threaten the
rule of law and development. For example when there were political crises between Dr. Chris
Ngige and Chris Uba in Anambra State there was wanton destruction of State properties to a
shocking level that even the Federal government could not interfer. The government house
was destroyed. There was also the dirty clash between godfather Ali Modu Sheriff and his
godson Mallam Kachallah whom he made Governor of Borno State in 1999 under the All
Nigeria Peoples Party. Their conflict began when Kachallah refused the nominees of his
godfather. The crises led to a situation where Sheriff politically relegated Kachallah by using
various ways to embarrass his government in such a way that it culminated in his contesting
for the position of the Governor which he won in 2003. There were also similar conflicts
between Governor Chimaroke Nnamani and Senator Jim Nwobodo in Enugu State, between
Chief Lamidi Adedibu and Governor Rashidi Ladoja in Oyo State. There was also a clash
between two godfathers int he persons of Governor James Ibori and Chief Edwin Clark of
Delta State. The irony of it was that citizens who hitherto had been robbed of their political
rights and common wealth ended up taking sides with either parties while youths were used as
thugs after receiving a token amount of money from what has been looted.
When Audu Ogbe was the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in
Nigeria, he tried to use his respected position to seek the intervention of the sitting President
Olusegun Obasanjo in the political crises of Anambra State between Chris Uba and Chris
Ngige. For daring to write so boldly to the President, Audu Ogbe was fired from his position.
Impact of godfatherism in Nigeria.
When elections are rigged and manipulated by godfathers and the ruling elites, the citizens are
disenfranchised from the democratic process. The right to vote is an inalienable right of
Nigerians. On the other hand, international human rights law obligates that the right to vote -
including other rights recognized under the Covenant, shall not be subject to unreasonable
restrictions and distinction of any kind.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, 1948, Article 21, International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, 1966, Article 25, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, 1981/1986, Article 13.
When citizens are disenfranchised, the matter must be protected by law. International law
states further that where the right is violated, effective remedies are to be provided.
Nigerian constitution further empowers the court to protect the right of citizens to vote.
Unfortunately, disenfranchised Nigerians hardly seek justice whenever cases like this happen.
The reason is because most Nigerians consider the cost of seeking justice and the time that the
litigation processes entail.
One of the strongest impact of godfatherism is that is encourages corruption to an alarming
level. Godsons need to divert economic budget of government to satisfy the whims and
caprices of their godfathers. Funds are diverted from developmental goals to private pockets.
Though the government under President Olusegun Obasanjo established a commission to
fight corruption (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), in 2006 Nuhu Ribadu the
head of the commission estimated that Nigeria lost some US$380 billion to corruption
between independence in 1960 and the end of military rule in 1999.
It has been reported
that the corruption level inNigeria has become an unabated epidermic. Sometimes economic
loss to corruption are as much as between 4.25% and 9.5% of Nigeria's total GDP in 2006.
To put those numbers in perspective, a loss of 9.5% of the United States' GDP to corruption
in 2006 would have translated into $1.25 trillion in stolen funds or $222 billion (GBP 108.6
billion) in the case of the United Kingdom's economy.
Since persons found themselves in office through selection instead of election, development is
usually retarded as monthly remittances are transferred to the godfathers. The focus is usually
directed from developing the society to personal enrichment of a few.
Exorbitant cost of contesting elections
A candidate that depends on a godfather or godfathers may need to pay them in order to get
their support. Not all godfathers are financiers. Some of them are useful because of their
social influence in their immediate society. By the time an aspirant incur expenses in paying
the godfathers, payment for personal security, expensive party application forms, media and
publicity, agents, etc, he becomes desperate to recoup what he spent during the campaign
immediately he enters the office. In some cases, such an elected representative may spend
about two years in office - within a tenure of four years- focussing on this aspect of his private
Article 2(3), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
CFRN, 1999 as amended, ss, 1(2), 7(4), 118(5), 178(5), 117(2) at the background of s.36 right to fair hearing
and s. 42 freedom from discrimination.
"Nigeria Leaders `Stole' $380 Billion," BBC News Online, October 20, 2006,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6069230.stm. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2006 the GDP of the United States stood at $13.21 trillion, while
that of the United Kingdom was estimated at $2.346 trillion. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-
factbook/geos/us.html. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
concern. In the third year he may just begin to prepare for a second term in office passing
through the same system that brought him into office, with little or nothing to show for his
performance apart from exaggerated publicity of uncompleted projects.
Section 91 of the Nigerian Electoral Act 2010
provides that a Presidential candidate can
spend a maximum amount N1,000,000,000 (2,500,000euro); a Governorship aspirant should
not spend more than N200,000,000 (500,000euro); a Senatorial candidate: N40,000,000
(100,000euro); House of Representative candidate: N20,000,000 (50,000euro); State House of
Assembly candidate: N10,000,000 (25,000euro); Local government Chairmanship candidate:
N10,000,000 (25,000euro). The current situation in Nigerian politics is so expensive that
aspirants usually spend more than what is stipulated by law. For example, it is not possible to
know how much was received by a godfather behind closed doors. In addition to this, is the
fact that the citizens have become so impoverished that they sell their votes during party
primaries and the general elections. By the time the elections are fully conducted, aspirants
have become financially drained.
Imposition and non-performance
Many candidates are imposed against the wishes of the people and they end up being
unproductive because they lack the managerial acumen needed to steer the ship of
governance. In Ethiope East Local Government for example, Ochuko Unuagba who was the
Chairman of the council between 2003 and 2011 had nothing to show in terms of
infrastructural development. Rather, he was alleged to have focused on expanding his private
farms and hotel business located in Eku. Unuagba was the political godson of Ighoyota Amori
and the Governor James Ibori. Though Amori was from Ethiope West Local Government area
of Delta state, he was the political King maker who fronted for the Governor across the State.
There was a twist in his political permutation when Alex Imara the brother-in-law of Amori
contested to be Chairman of Ethiope East Local Government Area. Sunny Akpodiogaga
Emeyese who represented Ethiope East Local government at the State House of Assembly fell
out with Amori. In conjunction with other leaders from the local government like Emmanuel
Adiotomre, Emeyese vehemently refused the candidature of Alex Imara since he was
perceived to be sponsored by Amori his brother-in-law. Those were the dwindling political
days of Amori. Imara lost the election to the candidate of the Emeyese camp Tony Oboro.
On the other hand, apart from building a new secretariat for the Council, it is believed that
Oboro's performance in office fell below expectation. The Council has its headquarters at
Isiokolo within an area of 380 km² and a population of 200,792 as recorded during the 2006
census. The size and population of that area situated in an oil-producing region could not
manifest evidence of good governance and development.
It was reported that the ballot sheets that brought Tony Oboro into office were filled and
rigged in an hotel in the town of Kokori where Emeyese came from. It is only when the ruling
elites and godfathers have control over the electoral body that things like this happen.
Federal Republic of Nigeria, Official Gazette, Electoral Act 2010. Abuja 24 August 2010 No. 64, Vol.97 p.33
During the subsequent local government Chairmanship election of 2014, Tony Oboro was
asked to step down by the godfathers for Faith Majemite despite the political strength of those
that supported Oboro. It was alleged that Majemite apparently lost the election to the
candidate of another party but the results were formally declared as inconclusive because the
State government that controlled the electoral committee was bent on foistering Majemite on
the electorate. Majemite finally 'won' the re-scheduled election. Reports have it that
Majemite was favoured for that position because she was believed to be the political
goddaughter of Roli Uduaghan the wife of Governor Emmanuel Udaughan who succeeded
James Ibori as Governor of Delta state. All the local government councils that came into
office did so under the platform of the PDP which was the ruling party of the State. Most of
their respective performances left much to be desired.
In the following Governorship election, Emmanuel Udaughan seriously attempted to impose
Tony Chuks Obuh to succeed him as Governor in 2015. Uduaghan played the godfather role
to Obuh who was already being addressed as the Governor-in-waiting. However, the
mysterious political manoevring of another PDP aspirant Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa
turned the political table in a manner described as unbelievable. Okowa won the primary
election and he eventually won the 2015 governorship election under controversial
circumstances which was finally decided in court to his favour. It is on record that Ibori
performed better in office than Uduaghan whom he imposed on the people. It is also on record
that Okowa who did not receive the support of Uduaghan in the primary election, performed
better than Uduaghan as Governor of Delta State. Okowa built many infrastructural facilities
that endeared him to the people.
The imposition of his cousin Emmanuel Udaughan as Governor of Delta state was a turning
point in the political empire of James Ibori. Uduaghan was imposed on the people of Delta
State in order to cover the monumental corruption recorded under the regime of Ibori.
Political opponents and traditional rulers felt that the action of Ibori was an affront to the
people of Delta State who were robbed of their right to choose their leaders. It was this
situation that led to the dispute between godfather Edwin Clark and godfather James Ibori.
Evidences of Ibori's corrupt practices between May 1999 May 2007 when he was Governor,
were sent to the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and to the police of
the United Kingdom who already had criminal indictments against Ibori.The Southwark
Crown Court charged him for fraud estimated at £50m ($77m). Ibori pleaded guilty as he
admitted to 10 counts of money laundry and conspiracy which resulted in his being jailed for
13 years in 2012. His alleged loot could be described as diverse and unquantifiable.
In the course of delivering judgment, Judge Pitts said: "It was during those two terms that you
turned yourself in short order into a multi-millionaire through corruption and theft in your
powerful position as Delta state governor."
Though he was in prison, Ibori was still considered as a political leader. Political aspirants
visited him to get his blessing for their respective elections throughout Delta State. Even in
prison, James Onanefe Ibori was a godfather of the politics of Delta state.
James Onanefe Ibori went into politics in 1990 as a member of the National Republican
Convention (NRC). He contested the Governorship elections under the platform of the PDP
which he won on the 9th of January, 1999. In line with the law of Nigeria, Ibori swore under
oath that he had no previous criminal convictions. It was reported that he succeeded in doing
this by using the false birth certificate and passport that he used for a mortgage application in
London. In 2003, he was re-elected as Governor of Delta state for another four-year term.
When James Ibori was finally released from prison after serving his jail term, it was evident
that he was still a respected godfather in the politics of the State. This was so because he put
several persons in positions of authority and they continued to be loyal to him. His residence
in London became a political destination where his godsons and political allies went on
pilgrimage to pay him homage. His home town of Oghara went agog when he finally arrived
home as huge celebrations and countless visitations were held in honour of him who admitted
to have stolen from the people! Governor Ifeanyi Okowa quickly re-aligned with Ibori who
wasted no time in endorsing him for a second term in office. Politicians who were members of
APC quickly decamped to PDP immediately Ibori was released from prison. Federal and State
legislators, local government Chairmen and political office holders took turn to re-align, pay
obeisance and reaffirm their loyalty to Ibori.
There was the common belief that when you win the primary election of the Peoples
Democratic Party, there is a guarantee that you have won the general election. The reason for
this is that the leaders and godfathers have previously determined that their candidate in the
primary elections will be the same person that will win the general election. Most times, their
candidates are determined by the decision of the State Governor and his agents. After the
primary elections, the state electoral commission is manipulated to declare the Governor's
candidates as winners. Members of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission
(DSIEC) are usually appointed by the State government. This is usually on conditions that
they must obey the dictates of the Governor. He that pays the piper dictates the tune. State and
Federal legislators are also picked by the Governor and his cohorts. It becomes difficult for a
Former Nigeria Governor James Ibori jailed for 13 years, http://www.bbc.com/news. 17 April 2012 Retrieved
24 May 2017.
State House of Assembly to impeach a Governor or take decisions inimical to the dictates of
the Governor. When situation like this arises, it is unfortunate because it is usually very
difficult to check and balance the actions of the Governor whether good or bad. Whenever a
Speaker of the House of Assembly acts contrary to the demands of the State Governor,
machinery is quickly put in place to impeach such a Speaker through the political
manoevrings of the other members of the House who are considered to be 'loyal'.
Thuggery is encouraged by the actions of godfathers who are desperate to win elections for
their godsons. Some godsons may have paid the godfathers huge sums of money before they
got their support. Existing studies indicate that electoral violence represents a special form of
political violence, different from others in its timing and targets (Höglund and Piyarathne
Thugs are armed to disrupt elections by violently scaring electoral officers and
carting away voters' boxes on election days. Promises of various types are made to these
thugs. Some of them are paid in cash after negotiation and are fully armed till the completion
of their assignments. Others are promised political appointments, visa to travel abroad or
supply and construction contracts after elections have been won. Most of such thugs are
usually drawn from cultists who become even more dangerous to society after elections.
Some of their weapons are not returned to their sponsors after elections and the multiplier
effect of this is that the weapons are used for robbery, kidnapping, assassinations and other
forms of criminal activities.
Youths are mostly used as political thugs because of poverty, the desire to align with the
political elites, the lure of promises, lack of checks and balances against their sponsors,
illiteracy and the weakness of the national political system. The system does not mete out
adequate punishment to persons involved in thuggery as thugs are usually left off the hook
through the influence of their godfathers and sponors.
The use of thugs by godfathers, godsons and goddaughters is an extension of the authoritarian
regimes which some leaders and incumbents have introduced in a democratic setting. Since
they are referred to as leaders immediately they get into power instead of being addressed as
public servants and representatives of the people, they change their postures to become
dictators. They see the need to compete and reinforce their authoritarianism with the use of
thugs since they control the apparatus of state and they have the wherewithal to command fear
and coerce respect.
Höglund, Kristine, and Anton Piyarathne (2009), Paying the Price of Patronage: Electoral Violence in Sri
Lanka, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 47, 3, 287-307.
Substitution of candidates and results
Godfatherism paves the way for the substitution of candidates during elections. Situations
have arisen where some persons that won primary elections were substituted with the names
of other aspirants who either lost the election or did not participate in it. This is usually the
manipulation of leaders from the top hierarchy of the party. In 2015 the political gladiators of
Delta politics manipulated the elections of the Okpe, Sapele and Uvwie Federal Constituency
of Delta State. After winning the primary election of the APC, Christopher Anirah ought to
have become the flag bearer of the Party. The process was manipulated and his name was
fraudulently substituted with that of Gibson Ighofose Akporehe on the rumour and false
ground that Anirah was dead. Anirah's death certificate was forged from a nonexisting
hospital and submitted to the election commission.
Despite meeting state and national party
leaders over the issue, the death certificate was pushed forward and finally accepted by the
Independent National Election Commission and Anirah could not contest at the final election.
In a related scenario, the Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi came into power through the
Supreme Court ruling of October 2007. This was on the ground that though his name was not
on the ballot papers of the Governorship elections after winning the primary election of the
party, the party erred by fielding Celestine Omehia in the general elections instead of
Ameachi. In its final judgment, the tribunal ruled that it is the party that wins elections.
Omehia's election was cancelled and Amaechi who was illegally substituted by the party as
superintended by godfathers, was sworn in as Governor. This ruling came into being because
Amaechi refused to give up after winning the primary elections.
In some cases, results of elections are announced in places where elections did not hold or
where it was marred by violence as orchestrated by godfathers. Godfathers connive with
electoral officers to write results that usually favour the ruling party. Since the year 1999,
hardly could a local government election in Delta State be regarded as free and fair. The seats
are usually 'won' by the ruling People Democratic Party. Results of elections are usually
known before the election. Voting on election day was seen as mere formalities. On the other
hand, in states that are controlled by the All Progressive Congress (APC), local government
elections mostly favour the ruling party. Deltans who got used to this type of electioneering,
habitually stayed away from election venues.
However, the election of 2015 into the Ethiope East Local Government Area representation at
the Delta state House of Assembly and the Delta Central Senatorial district took a twist as the
Labour party became empowered by the strong membership of some persons that decamped
from the PDP. Ighoyota Amori was declared the winner as Senator representing Delta Central
Constituency under the PDP. After enjoying the emoluments of office for some months, Ovie
Omo-Agege seized power from him through a court decision that upheld Omo-Agege's
victory on the platform of the Labour Party, LP. Omo-Agege was Secretary to the Delta state
Osteen Oyibode, `Dead' man resurfaces at election tribunal, gives evidence. News Express.
government during the reign of Ibori but he decamped to the Labour party when it was
obvious that he could not get the ticket to represent PDP in the governorship elections. Evans
Ochuko Ivwurie also decamped from PDP where he briefly held the position of
Commissioner for Special Duties towards the end of Ibori's second term in office. Though
political godfathers like Love Ojakovo fought tooth and nail to violently rig the election in
order for Arthur Akpovwovwo to represent Ethiope East at the Delta state House of
Assembly, Ivwurie fought his way through thick and thin into the exalted position. Ivwurie
posted his photographs where he laid on his hospital bed after he was allegedly attacked by
Love Ojakovo at the election result collation center. Ivwurie succeeded in securing his votes
because he understood the processes through which election results were rigged and he was
able to follow them to the last point till he was declared the winner. Amongst other
politicians, Ivwurie also decamped from the Labour party back to the PDP after the return of
Ibori from prison.
In Ethiope West Local Government area where Ibori hailed from, it was an easy sweep for his
daughter Erhiatake Ibori who won the election to represent Ethiope West at the Delta State
House of Assembly since that area remains the political power house of PDP in Delta state.
Political leaders especially those that benefitted from the Ibori regime gave all their support to
In the case of Lovette Idisi, he decamped from the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP to PDP
where he won the primary election to represent Ethiope East and West constituencies at the
Federal House of Representatives in the 2015 elections. His victory was also hinged on his
allegiance to Ibori. This was catapulted by the fact that his maternal hometown is Jesse in
Ethiope West local government area where PDP held sway.
The long term effect of godfatherism and the use of power by the incumbent is that they
usually take their hold of power to the next level at the detriment of the people. For example,
it is now a trend in Nigeria that after spending the maximum eight years in office, the
incumbent Governor work to install a successor and goes ahead to use his existing political
structure to contest another election into the Senate. He that was once a Governor over twenty
five local government areas may condescend to be a Senator representing five or six local
government areas. They always aspire to be politically relevant. This political transformation
results in economic injury to the state due to the fact that the former Governor will continue to
receive pension for life as a former governor and salaries as a sitting Senator. The amount of
money spent on the salaries of Nigerian politicians especially at the executive and legislative
level is extremely high and intimidating.
As at 2017, twenty-one Nigerian Senators receive pensions from the government as ex-
governors and deputy governors while simultaneously receiving salaries in their capacities as
The list of Senators who previously served their respective States as governors are Bukola
Saraki (Kwara State) who is the Speaker of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom State)
Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State) Jonah Jang (Plateau State) Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom State)
Theodore Orji ( Abia State) Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa State) Ahmed Sani Yarima
(Zamfara State) Sam Egwu (Ebonyi State) Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara State) Joshua Dariye
(Plateau State) Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano State) Isiaka Adeleke (Osun State) Danjuma
Goje (Gombe State) Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto State) Kabiru Gaya (Kano State)
Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe State) and George Akume of Benue State.
The list of former deputy governors representing their Senatorial districts are Biodun Olujimi
(Ekiti State) and Harcourt Enyinaya Abaribe (Abia State). Danladi Abubakar Sani was the
acting governor of Taraba State. Many former governors are also serving in the Federal
Executive Council as Ministers. Some of them may have received double emoluments. They
are Babatunde Fashola, Chris Ngige, Rotimi Amaechi and Kayode Fayemi.
Money received as pension for former Governors vary with States. It has been reported that in
Lagos, a former governor will get two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja, estimated
at N500 million (USD 1,588,565.00) in Lagos and N700 million (USD 2,223,991.00) in
Abuja. He also receives six new cars to be replaced every three years; a furniture allowance of
300 percent of annual salary to be paid every two years and N30 million (USD 95,313.90)
pension annually for life.
It is an irony that these persons served their respective States for a maximum of eight years
and received huge salaries, allowances and other proceeds. Many Nigerians who served the
country for thirty- five years before retirement do not have one-tenth of these privileges.
These are the economic discrepancies that has led to economic recession in a country where
about 70% earn less than a dollar daily. Professor Itse Sagay, the Nigerian Presidential
Advisory Committee Chairman on Anti-Corruption, PACAC disclosed that the salaries,
including other entitlements of a Nigerian Senator is USD1.7million per annum, which is well
above the USD400,000 annual salary of the President of the United States of America.
The analysis shows that a monthly earning of a Senator is more than a yearly income of a
Nigerian medical doctor. It is also more than the salary of 42 Nigerian army generals or more
than twice the pay of the US President. By further calculations, it is 9 times the salary of US
congressmen that earn between USD174,000- USD191,533 as at 2014. With such salaries,
resources needed for capital and social welfare projects are diminished. This creates
unemployment and huge economic challenge to resources needed for welfare programs of the
citizens. The irony of it is that Nigeria receives annual financial aid from the United States of
America. In 2016 such aids from the United States of America to Nigeria was projected at
USD607.5million. This is apart from aids received from other countries such as the United
Kingdom. Monies circulating between a few persons have not been equally translated into
building investments that could boost employment.
Sagay hit again, says we are the ones buying clothes for them to wear.
Unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 14.2 percent in the last quarter of 2016 from 10.4
percent a year earlier... and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Few
people become stupendously rich thereby widening the gulf of poverty.
Erosion of Trust in elections
Due to inconsistencies in the results of elections as a result of the desperate manipulation of
the ruling class, the electorate hardly trust election results which are usually doctored by the
ruling class. European Union observers were very dissatisfied with the conduct of the 2007
general elections due to the late arrival of election materials, irregular voting procedures,
intimidation of voters and violence at polling stations which are the usual antics of political
It has been reported that since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, only 13% of her
citizens express confidence in the honesty of elections. Nigerians who don't approve of the
country's leadership are even more skeptical, with 8% confident in the fairness of elections.
Voters' apathy increased due to non-performance of government especially in the areas of
electricity, job approval rating which fell to 35% in 2014, frustration at the level of insecurity
especially the prolonged Boko Haram insurgency and the monumental corruption of
government. The following statistics show that the highest level of trust amongst voters was
. Retrieved 21 June 2017
Retrieved 12 June 2017.
Power to impeach and to install
Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru, was sworn-in as Governor of Delta State on the 2nd day of January
1992. The first session of the State Assembly State was inaugurated on 30th January 1992
with Emmanuel Oghenero Okoro who represented Isoko North I Constituency as Speaker of
the assembly. Though no impeachments were made during that regime, that administration
was sadly truncated by the military coup of late General Sanni Abacha which seized power on
Some of the subsequent Speakers of the Delta State House of Assembly in the second
assembly when James Onanefe Ibori was sworn in as Governor in 1999, were impeached due
to the internal politics of the State mostly orchestrated by party leaders and godfathers when
ever they felt that the Speaker was not being politically loyal. For example, the Second
Assembly of 3 June1999 under Governor Ibori had five Speakers who reigned for such
periods due to impeachments. Rt. Hon. Francis Omoson Megbele was Speaker between 3
June 1999 22 November1999; Rt. Hon. Prince Kent Omatsone's tenure was between 23
November 1999 March 13, 2000); Rt. Hon. Francis Omoson Megbele reigned between 20
March 2000 14 May 2000; Rt. Hon. (Barr) Akpor Pius Ewherido was acting Speaker
between 15 May 2000 20 March 2001) while Rt. Hon. Basil Ganagana was Speaker
between 20 March 2001 2 June 2003.
Governor James Ibori on 3 June 2003 inaugurated the third assembly which featured Young
Daniel Igbrude (3 June 2003 25 May 2006) and Rt. Hon (Engr.) Frank Enekorogha (25 May
2006 4 June 2007).
A with 29-member House was inaugurated by Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel
Uduaghan as the fourth Assembly on 4 June 2007. The House witnessed three leadership
reigns of Rt. Hon. Olisa Enebeli Imegwu (4 June 2007 13 May 2008); Rt. Hon. (Barr)
Martin Okonta (13 May 2008 29 July 2010); and Rt. Hon. Sam Obi (29 July 2010 6 June
6 June 2011 witnessed the inauguration of the Fifth Assembly and there was, again, a
replacement in the leadership of the House. The Deputy Chief Whip Rt. Hon. Peter
Onwusanya, emerged as the new Speaker of the House following the controversial resignation
of Rt. Hon. (Engr.) Victor Ochei.
On the 22 of July 2015, Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa inaugurated the Sixth Assembly with
Monday Ovwigho Igbuya as Speaker of the House. On 11 May 2017, Igbuya was
dramatically impeached as Speaker and replaced by Sheriff Oboreowori on the allegation of
incompetence and high-handedness though many political pundits accused Governor Okowa
of orchestrating the impeachment - which he denied. Party leaders were also present to
witness the impeachment. The impeachment of these Speakers in the regime of
Governors Ibori, Uduaghan and Okowa followed the same political pattern instituted by the
Ibori political dynasty. Though impeachment within the assembly is usually an internal issue,
the citizens of the State sometimes feel short-changed whenever their Representatives are
impeached under circumstances shrouded in mystery and deep political connotations. Some of
the impeachments were due to suspicion and distrust for the Speaker.
Democracy ought to protect the interests of all persons in the society and should not only
focus on the narrow selfish interests of the privileged few. It is worse when the intention of
powerful elites is to exploit the State and further impoverish the same people they purportedly
sought to represent. True democracy should come from the grass root and not from the top.
Democracy is worthless if it does not evolve from the effective political participation of the
citizenry. Apart from having the right to be freely voted for, the citizenry must exercise the
unfettered right to vote.
The boasts and brags of godfathers and their beneficiaries
An occuring decimal which is usually the aftermath of the imposition of candidates by
godfathers, is that the 'elected' officials boast before the supposed electorates. They turn deaf
ears to the yearnings of the people because they believe that it was not the votes of the
electorates that brought them into power. Their allegiance is inclined towards their godfathers
than towards the electorate. The best thing that most of the 'elected' officals do is to dole out
money before and after elections in order to lure the electorate into loyalty. The following
statements by two persons who benefitted from godfatherism speaks volume.
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi spoke when he visited Ibori in London immediately after the
later was released from prison and he made the following statements:
,,... James Ibori is...the man that made everybody and nobody made him. There are
many people who have been Governors, who have never even been opportuned to
make their successors, but James Ibori made his successors...there may never be a
governor in history again who will sit in his cell and make a Governor. There may
never be in history again of a governor who will sit in prison and make a Senator. I
said there may never be in the history of Nigeria again of a governor who will sit in a
cell and support a Senate President. And there may never be another Governor who
will sit in the prison and make a Speaker of the House. And there may never be a
Governor in this country who will sit in the cell or in the prison and make his
daughter a member of the House of Assembly. ...
Excerpts from a Human Rights Watch interview with Anambra State political
"godfather" Chris Uba in February 2007:
When he [Ngige] became Governor he started playing funny. That is where we disagreed; we
signed before he became governor. We said that I am going to produce [appoint] six to seven
Commissioners. He is going to produce [some] because he is Governor already. I am going
to produce more; he is going to produce lesser...I spent a lot of money to put him there. Ngige
Vanguard Nigerian Newspaper December 22, 2016.
Retrieved 21 June 2017
was trying to be smart, trying to run the government on his own... he blackmails you and
pays the press to go say all sorts of bad things about you and put it on the internet.
When Ngige won the election, Chris Uba his godfather announced his success in a
grandiloquent manner: I am the greatest of all godfathers in Nigeria because this is the first
time one single individual has single-handedly put in position every politician in a state. The
State Governor and his deputy; the 3 Senators to represent the State at the National
Assembly; 10 out of 11 members of the Federal House of Reps; twenty-nine State House of
Assembly members; I also have the power to remove any of them who does not perform up to
my expectations anytime I like.
On the day of the official swearing in of Chris Ngige as Governor of Anambra State on 9 May
2003, the ceremony at the Dr Alex Ekwueme Playground at Awka did not commence until the
arrival of the godfather Chris Uba. This has gone further to publicly show how prominent and
highly revered the position of godfathers are held.
Since the law provides guarantees for remedies whenever the right to vote is violated,
sponsors of disenfranchisements who operate as godfathers should be made to face the local
and international law. Such processes could be made accessible to every disenfranchised
citizen through the availability of free legal representations and the strengthening of human
There have been cases where politicians who fraudulently entered supposedly elected offices
were removed from office by the court and they were asked to refund all monies received as
salaries while illegally occupying such offices. Such judgments should be followed with the
imprisonment of persons who fraudulently enter an office. Their godfathers and accomplices
should equally be prosecuted as accomplices as a way of discouraging this third party politics.
If the huge salaries and entitlements of top government officials and legislators cannot be
reduced by the Federal government of Nigeria in order to meet with best practices, financial
aids from external sources especially from countries like the United States and the United
Kingdom must be drastically reduced or totally stopped. This will galvanize the Nigerian
government and the civil societies to increase pressure in cutting domestic costs in order to
achieve economic equillibrium.
The cost of contesting elections should be reduced. This could be done by setting a flat rate
for picking party nomination forms and encouraging independent candidates to contest
elections. This will eradicate the impediments of godfatherism, encourage people of various
financial status to contest elections, encourage a level playing field, encourage more viable
Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, 12 February 2007.
Chief Chris Ubah, Sunday Champion Nigerian newspaper, 8 June 2003, p. 11
contestants and reduce the menace of electioneering process. The financial cost of applying
for nomination forms at the party level are quite high and it is discriminatory as it gives
opportunity only to wealthy aspirants and godfathers to pay for them and campaign for
elections. The cost of collecting nomination forms should be unified across all political parties
and it should be very affordable in such a way that anybody could afford it. This will
eventually give opportunities for the best candidates to compete and emerge. Representation
must not be the exclusive privilege of the rich. A check and balance and reliable statistics of
financial expenses done by aspirants should also be put in place. Though the electoral
guideline has stated how much must be spent by each category of the aspirants, such a process
has been clearly impossible to monitor.
States usually have their respective electoral bodies set up by the state government. The
persons appointed to these commissions are usually suggested by the State Governor. This
trend must be stopped because it gives unhindered opportunities to State Governors to
manipulate local government elections and local government funds when their cronies come
into power. In many cases, results are announced over the media without evidence of voting
or counting of ballot papers at the reflected venues. INEC should be empowered to conduct
local government elections across all States of the federation as this will ensure credibility and
transparency. This will further amplify the electoral law of 2010 number 6, 63/4 and make it
practically applicable: The Presiding Officer shall count and announce the result at the
The polling stations are mostly prone to violent attacks and ballot box snatching. Full security
must be beefed up within and around election venues, in the process of transporting the results
of votes and throughout the collation of the different results at the designated centers in order
to forestall electoral malpractices. Security and electoral officers who connive with godfathers
and desperate aspirants should be made to face the wrath of the law.
Godfatherism has been a challenge to Nigerian politics since 1999. Elections have been
manipulated, thuggery has been promoted, candidates have been imposed against the will of
the people and resources has been depleted as a result of all these. The aftermath of these has
been questionable governance, insecurity and misappropriation of resources. However, if
national and international laws are judiciously applied, the polity could be stabilized.
The recent adoption of three bills by the Senate of Nigeria on 26 July 2017 will be a giant leap
towards political stability. This is one of the best political decisions that has been taken in
Nigeria since 1960:
1. The Senate of Nigeria has voted for independent candidacy as from the 2019 election. The
implication of this is that Nigerians do not need the platform of any political party to contest
an election. Name, trust and integrity will speak for individual candidates. It will also save the
exorbitant cost of collecting party nomination and expression of interest forms for elections.
Furthermore, it will eradicate the imposition of candidates and godfatherism.
2. The age of a Presidential aspirant has been reduced to 35 years and that of a Governor is
now 30. Youths have now been given a chance to serve on a platter of gold. Youths shall no
longer agitate against marginalization. There will be a better spread of leadership instead of
recycling the same leaders who continue to do the same thing in the same old unproductive
3. Financial autonomy for Local Government Areas. There will no longer be joint financial
accounts operated between the Local Government Areas and their respective State
governments. State Governors usually manipulated and dictated the spending of local
government councils in such a way that there are little or no visible developments at the local
governments areas which ought to reflect grass root development. Financial autonomy will no
longer give opportunities for Governors to select their candidates who 'sweep' local
government elections and are forced to illegally release money at the detriment of local
development. Citizens can now assess the performance of their local government Chairmen
who will no longer have excuses about their financial limitations.
Godfatherism must be completely eradicated and this can only be achieved when there is
respect for the rule of law.
23 of 23 pages
- Quote paper
- Frederick Omoyoma Odorige (Author), 2017, Godfatherism and the Impediments of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Delta State Nigeria, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/373055