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Edo 2024: The Doctrine Of Godfatherism According To EJ Agbebaku

Godfatherism has become a very common term used in our political discussions and conversations, amidst misconceptions with the word usage, hence it is imperative to put out a detailed piece.

The word “Godfatherism” emanated from the word “godfather” . Godfather originally referred to one who sponsor a child at baptism, later referred to a leader of Mafia group according to Oxford. However, in political terminology we could see a godfather as a leader of a political group that controls the government.

In the course of political discussions and engagements with respect to forthcoming Edo Governorship election, I heard some persons’ claim repeatedly albeit erroneously that the candidate of the People’s Democratic (PDP) is a product of godfatherism. The reason given for this narrative is simply because the candidate is the Governor’s preferential candidate and nothing more.


It is erroneous for anyone to think that merely endorsing a candidate makes anyone a godfather. A governor has a right like every other citizen of the state to nominate and support a candidate in an election, and that doesn’t make him a godfather to the candidate.

Godfatherism is not when a governor nominates a candidate to take over from him like what the Edo State Governor did, no. it is a different thing actually. As a matter of fact, any progressive minded governor ordinarily ought to have a likeminded candidate of his choice, who will continue from where his tenure ends to sustain and realize his prospects and visions for the state. This is because in actual sense, eight years is not enough to complete all developmental projects and programs of a government.

That said, it is trite to say that there is no governor in the history of this country that did not nominate a candidate of his choice at the completion of his tenure, whether the candidate succeeds in taking over from him or not is a different issue entirely. Do not just take my word for it, carry out research on all the governors in the history of Nigeria (that completed two tenures), and see if they did not have preferential candidates towards the end of their tenures. Even in Lagos State that appears to have been under the control of one man since 1999, Fashola endorsed a candidate when he was about leaving in 2015, precisely Hamza (the present Deputy Governor of Lagos State) was Fashola’s candidate, albeit it didn’t succeed but he was his candidate.

When a Governor presents his preferential candidate, it then behooves first on the party to either reject or accept the candidacy via party primary elections. If the party endorses the Governor’s candidate, the party present him to the people as their candidate. Then finally, the people will have the right and privilege to either vote or not vote the candidate. This does not make the Governor a godfather. Even in the federal, there is no President that does not nominate a successor.

This is not just peculiar to Nigeria, in more civilized countries like the United States where we copied our system of government, it is not alien to them. That is why you saw Obama endorsing Hillary Clinton, it does not make Obama Hillary’s godfather.

Now, what is godfatherism?

It is a system whereby a government is wholly or partially controlled by another person other than the person voted for as executive head. Such person is the godfather.

The godfather is technically the non-executive head of the government as he controls every or most decisions in the government, the executive head being a figurehead in that instance.

The godfather decides who should be appointed into the government; contracts to be approved; decisions to execute or not to execute; etc. The case of Gov. Chris Ngige and Chris Uba of Anambra comes to mind and gives a good picture of this.

A governor can be termed to be a godfather when he refuses to leave the stage after handing over to a new government.

The success of godfatherism system depends largely on the executive head (President or Governor), if he opens the door for it, it would thrive. On the other hand, if he shuts the door against it, godfatherism cannot succeed.

Godfathersim is not when an executive head nominates or endorses a successor as has been shown above. Howbeit, the challenge there is when after leaving the office, a predecessor refuses to let the successor govern without his interference and superciliousness in the government. It is like giving a goat out and holding on to the rope tied to the goat.

We have seen many past governors in this country who after handing over government to their nominated candidate, allowed their successor to govern freely without assuming the position of a godfather. We have also seen where they assume position of godfathers, and in most cases engender political tensions in the State, like has been recorded lately across the country.

In conclusion, it would rather be too hasty to be talking about godfatherism in a government (Edo Sate) that has not even set in, especially with antecedents of how godfatherism has been challenged and fought in the state overtime. In any case, we can look at the disposition of the candidates of the various parties in the Edo gubernatorial election and tell. Does the PDP’s candidate appears to be like someone who would be a slave to godfatherism as a Governor? Well, I leave you with the question as I drop my pen here as this doesn’t form the fulcrum of this very article.

Elabor Joe Agbebaku, Esq.
(Owan West, Edo State)

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