concept of God-fatherism

Concept Of God-Fatherism

God-Fatherism is one word that opens narrow doors when it comes to deciding who gets what in the political scene. They make or mar potential candidates all over the country. In fact, the concept of godfatherism is firmly establishing itself as a guiding principle in contemporary Nigerian politics. Recently, the women also decided that it was time for the godmothers to play their roles. The term godfather according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (6th Edition) means a male godparent, a very powerful man in a criminal organization, especially a mafia or a person who began or developed something.

The concept of godfatherism has its origin in Christianity; however, the term became popular following the film “THE GODFATHER” directed by Francis COPPOLA. The film debased the original meaning of the term but the Nigerian political scene has taken the term deeper into firth, obscene, mud and loam. It is a term now reserved for God forsaken criminals who will go to any length to achieve their set goals of wielding political power including arson, intimidation, warning flogging and assassination.

Literally, Godfathers are seen in Nigeria to be men who have the power personally to determine both who gets nominated to contest elections and who wins in a state. This phenomenon is firmly establishing itself as a guiding principle in contemporary Nigerian politics.

Challenges of Godfatherism in Nigerian Politics

The political godfather phenomenon is not new in Nigeria. It started during the First Republic when the forefathers of the nation (Zik, Awo, Tafawa-Balewa, etc) influenced and controlled political activities in Nigeria. However, there are lots of differences between the ideological godfatherism of the First Republic and the crude form that is currently in place in Nigeria. The series of Political imbroglio experienced in some states of the country has exposed the negative impacts of crude political godfatherism in Nigerian politics. Like other forms of political corruption, it is a big threat to Nigeria’s democracy-experiment, because it prevents the people from participating unfettered in the political process. This problem is one of the biggest challenges that should be resolved for sustainability of democracy in Nigeria.

Reason Why Godfathers Act Through Surrogates

The fundamental problem is that the godfather is either not directly saleable/popular to voters, or wants to protect himself from liability should he later demand that the godson engages in illegal activities. The godfather would therefore prefer that someone else’s name be soiled. In some states, godfathers bind their godsons by getting them to sign undated resignation letters and filming them making resignation announcements. If the godsons fail to deliver to their godfathers after being elected, the godfathers are able to simply issue the resignation letter and videotape to remove them from office. In some cases, godsons carry the briefcases and become errand boys before their godfathers anoint them for political office.

Importance to individuals who Accept To Be “Godson”?

The reason may not be far fetched, as the so call godsons by all accounts are often people with almost unlimited greed and cupidity. It is an act that suggests mistrust and danger to our nascent democracy. The godsons believe that you cannot rely on the people to win democratic elections.

Godfatherism In Political Science Literature

It is useful to recollect that godfatherism was first featured in political science literature in relation to the US city of Chicago in the pre-World War II era. This is the period when kingpins of the criminal underworld played a major political role in the United States. The heads of criminal gangs sponsored politicians in elections, manipulated the results to get them elected, and in return received protection and contracts from their political godsons. This process is consecrated in American political science literature under the euphemism of ‘party machine’ politics.

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Factors  Enhancing  Godfatherism

Godfatherism survives in Nigeria due to long term of military rule and its various disorderliness. Some of these factors are examined as follows:

(i) Illiteracy

This one of the major factor that is encouraging god-fatherism in Nigeria, as a very high percentage of the citizens in are stark illiterate that can neither read nor write; thereby capitalizing on their ignorance;

(ii) Poverty

Another canker worm that is ravaging the country is poverty, thereby exposing the citizens to various kind of danger such as recruiting them as political thugs and foot soldiers by godfathers. This has led so many Nigerian youths to mortgaging their future for peanuts while the children of these so call godfathers are busy studying in state-of the–art institutions abroad;

(ii) Desperate seek for power

The zeal of getting to position of authority by all means is another factor that is making this phenomenon more popular. This makes our potential leaders to go into any agreement with their godfathers, so as to clinch to power against the wish of the electorates;

(iii) Corruption

Corruption now appears to have become a permanent feature of the Nigerian polity. The Godfathers today are thriving on ill-gotten wealth acquired under questionable circumstances. Majority of them are fraudsters, drug barons, government contractors, and the likes. Due to high-level corruption in the country, the godfathers can bribe their way to any level. Is it the Police or the electoral officials they cannot influence? In fact, they have all what it takes in their possession to have their way and say; and

           (iv) Unemployment

           The rate of unemployment of Nigerian graduates has also boost godfatherism as

           brains that suppose to be used for the development of the nation are being

           employed by politicians most of who are godfather to one  political office holder

           or the other. They exchange their future and that of their unborn children for mere            amala, tuwo and akpu offered by these godfathers.

The Nigerian Experience

This phenomenon is not totally new to Nigerian politics as some of Nationalist and freedom fighters such as Nnamdi AZIKWE (Dr.), Obafemi AWOLOWO, Ahmadu BELLO, etc, are somehow related as typifying the modern-day operations of the political godfather. The Fourth Republic in Nigeria has witnessed these ugly trends from inception soon after the Governors were swear-in in 1999. The political actors and their estranged political godfather were in the verge of contending “who is who” in their state. Prominent among the warlords in the states are Modu Ali SHERIFF (Senator) vs Governor Mala KACHALLA of Borno; Olusola SARAKI (Dr.) vs late Mohammed LAWAL governor of Kwara State; Jim NWOBODO (Senator) vs Governor Chimaroke NNAMANI (Enugu State); Emeka Offor (Chief) vs Governor Chinwoke MBADINUJU (Anambra State); Abubakar RIMI (Alhaji) vs Governor Rabiu KWANKWASO of Kano State and Lamidi ADEDIBU vs Governor Rasheed LADOJA of Oyo State. These are various political godfatherism syndromes in most states in Nigeria where the states have been turned to theatres of “wars”; prominent of which are emphasized below:

         (i) The Anambra State Crisis

Anambra is another state popularly known for godfather politics. Between 1999 and 2003, the fight was between Emeka OFFOR (Godfather) and the Governor of the state Chinwoke MBADINUJU (godson), who refused to dance to the tune of the godfather. This led to MBADINUJU to dump the PDP for Alliance for Democracy (AD) and his subsequent lost of election in 2003. The dust raised by these two (2) political bigwigs was yet to settle when two (2) other actors emerged; Chris UBA and Chris NGIGE. UBA was the godfather responsible for the “installation” of NGIGE. NGIGE went as far as pledging his loyalty to UBA at Okija Shrine, where he agreed to some propositions. Based on the pledge, UBA bankrolled the gubernatorial election to the tune of three billion naira (N3B). After the election, NGIGE refused to pay back his godfather the necessary commission and patronage. And what was supposed to be a cold war became public with the abduction of NGIGE and his purported resignation. Since then, peace has eluded the state until NGIGE was defeated at the election petition tribunal for rigging the gubernatorial polls by the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate.  

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(ii) The Kwara State Saga

           Between 1999 and 2003, the battle line in Kwara politics was well defined. Olusola

           SARAKI (Dr.), former Senate leader and political kingpin, was in contest for

          relevance with his former protégé, Mohamed   LAWAL, a retired Navy

          Commodore, who was the Governor of the state then. SARAKI, who has installed

          not less than four (4) Governors in the state, including LAWAL himself, fell out with

          LAWAL on the  sharing of political benefits and commissions. But LAWAL did not

          compromise and these led to a cold war which culminated into the expulsion of

         SARAKI from the then All People’s Party (APP) now All Nigerian People’s Party

         (ANPP) and SARAKI teamed up with People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

Then, the 2003 elections to both men was the ultimate battle to determine the political grandmaster of the state. They deployed their vast resources to prosecute the “war”. During this “war” bomb blast shattered the peace of Ilorin, this happened at the premises of National Pilot owned by the SARAKI’S. Lots of people were assassinated, maimed, injured, etc, during the imbroglio. Notable among those assassinated was the then Chairman of PDP in the state, Ahmed PATIGI, who was brutally murdered in August 2002.

Supporters of the two (2) camps openly confronted each other with dangerous weapons with the police turning into spectators. But this was put to an end when the junior SARAKI won the Governorship election in the state in 2003 and the rest becomes history.

(iii) The Oyo State Showdown

The battle line in Oyo state was drawn between Lamidi ADEDIBU-the kingpin of Ibadan politics and his estranged godson and governor of the state, Rashidi LADOJA.

ADEDIBU claimed to have invested financially in “installing” the governor, with an agreement that the governor will be a lame chief executive, taking orders from him and to subject public resources, to his private whims and caprices. However, LADOJA reneged and refused to play according to the rules of the game. This culminated into the mayhem witnessed in Ibadan after 2003 elections till January 2006. Many lives and properties were lost, the State House of Assembly was also polarized along the two (2) divides and led to the suspension of fourteen (14) members out of thirty-two (32) – member Assembly. Subsequently, LADOJA was impeached in January 2006 to pave way for his deputy, Alao AKALA, another willing godson, who is eager to serve the godfather better. The Status quo was maintained till December 7th 2006 final ruling of the apex court (Supreme Court) that his removal was illegal and was reinstated after eleven (11) months out of Office. His coming back to the office was faced with serious resistance from his former godfather’s (ADEDIBU) camp, which led to break in law and order of the state capital for few days and living many innocent citizens with various kind of injuries.

Effects/Godfatherism And Its Security Implications

The inherent danger or harm of political godfatherism in a fledgling democracy, such as that of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised. This “bug” often time has led to the invasion of military into the politics of Nigeria, as witnessed in the South-

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western crisis in the first republic between 1960 & 1966 and second republic national political crisis of 1983.

Some of the various identified perils are discussed below:

(i) Wilful destruction of Lives and properties

In the battle of supremacy between the godfathers and their protégés, both private and government properties worth billions of Naira have been destroyed. Also lives of innocent citizens are either lost through assassination or as a result of violence precipitated by godfather politics.

(ii) Hooliganism and Thuggery

         Political actors in the business of god-fatherism seriously focus all their resources on

         how to build a formidable group of youths that can be used as thugs, hooligans and

         other delinquencies that thrives on periodic dole of the godfather.

(iii) The proliferation of arms and ammunitions.

The proliferation of illicit weapons has become one of the most urgent security and developmental challenges facing Nigeria and whole African continent. This problem is on the increase in Nigeria because these arms and ammunitions are being freely used by political thugs in battles of supremacy between the godfathers and their godsons in most cases.

(iv) Increase in crime rate

         Godfather politics encourages youth delinquencies: such as cultism, armed robbery,

         drug abuse, etc. This is due to the fact that political players involved in

        godfatherism usually recruit youths that have these tendencies as foot soldiers and

        arm them by giving necessary logistics.

(v) State of Anarchy

        The chaotic situation generated by godfather politics, always leads to lack of

        control, disturbance of law and order. And ultimately, allowing some unscrupulous

        elements to exploit the situation by unleashing terror on the citizens. This was

       witnessed in Anambra state, where the Governor NGIGE was abducted and his

       purported resignation left the state in total lawlessness.

      Apart from security threats, Godfatherism is an evil building block for corruption,

      retrogression, under development, mediocrity, backwardness and perpetual

     poverty of the people.

The Way Forward

There is need for all stakeholders in Nigerian political scene to rise to the responsibility of taming corruption and the power of political godfathers. To avoid crude political godfatherism as obtainable in Nigeria today from subverting Nigeria’s democracy:

(i) All tiers of government must prosecute any person found plotting to destabilize any part of the country in any manner;

(ii) Government at every level should also curtail the influence of money in politics by controlling individual contributions to political campaigns;

(iii) On the part of the governed there must be radical change of attitudes especially the urbanized segment and in the mindset of the power elite and the political office seeking buccaneers;

(iv) An intelligent and imaginative approach must be adopted to eradicate abject poverty and helplessness of the populace especially its rural components;

(v) The rate of unemployment of most educated Nigerian youths must be reduced to the lowest level; and

(vi) Political awareness campaigns should be embarked upon by National Orientation Agency (NOA), civil societies, mass media etc; on the harmful effects of using Nigerian youths by some unscrupulous politicians to achieve their selfish goals.


In a nutshell Godfatherism in Nigerian politics means that a politician may have sold his or her independence to a financier or party power-broker in order to win an election; thereby mortgaging the future of his or her electorates. It very necessary for all Nigerians to stand and say no to all political godfathers in the nation so as to completely eradicate poverty, unemployment, injustice, corruption, under development and insecurity to live and property.


Igbaji U.C (2013) The concept of godfatherism: the Nigerian context. Retrieved from on 30th January, 2013.


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