Godfatherism and Political Conflict in Nigeria

 Godfatherism and Political Conflict in Nigeria

In order to exhaustively treat this study, it is imperative that relevant literature in the area of this work be consulted. The areas involved are mainly; Godfatherism and political conflict.


According to Oshuntokun (2002);

The political relationship under successive government in Nigeria is a reflection of the new international economic order, which facilitates the pursuit of regime change by avaricious godfathers whose major pre-occupations, is to perpetuate their hegemonic political influence for personal interest and aggrandizement.

Taking a critical look at the above statement, one would rather agree with the statement as being factual since the reward of godfatherism seems to be more personalized from North to East, West and South of the country. The godfathers being career politicians rely solely on politics for survival. He subjects his godchildren to his hegemonic political influence. He rig elections massively to install his protégé in office. All these he does because of his interest in the state resources and assurance of kickbacks. It is also a fact that godfatherism kills the desire of those who have the mind to work in the state. This is so because professionals, ideas driven minds and others who don’t have access to godfathers are not given the opportunity to develop the state through their ideas.

In the same vein, Omede (2004) has argued that;

Money is needed in politics, elections, managing party activities such as political campaigns, party elections, sponsorship of candidates, compensation of party agents, advertisement and so on. However, money can also be used in politics to bribe voters and electoral officers as well as sponsorship of political aspirants with a view to siphoning public fund if they won.

Thus, the illegal use of money in politics belongs to the realm of the godfatherism has become a factor in Nigeria politics such that very few politicians can achieve success without the backing of a godfather.

It can be inferred from the above that politics in Nigeria has adopted a peculari character with a life of its own. The desire of individuals to rule at all cost has sold political leadership to the highest bidders, as huge amount of money are needed for campaign, mass mobilization and electoral manipulations. Therefore, desperate politicians who wish to win election (even if they are not qualified) usually seek after godfathers. Thus, political participation in Nigeria is characterized by extravagant spending and flamboyant life styles of politicians, who have no other job than political patronage of any government in power. The implication of this in Nigerian politics is that the country is yet to make appreciable progress in transparent governance because godfathers usually create setbacks, which debar democracy and developments in Nigeria.

According to Ogbomwan (2005), apart from being antithetical to democratic consolidation in Nigeria, godfatherism is an evil building block for corruption, retrogression, underdevelopment, mediocrity, backwardness and perpetual poverty of the people.

Ogbonmwan’s view is quite revealing as it unveils the problematic dimensions the phenomenon of godfatherism has assumed in Nigeria, especially during this fourth republic. He calls attention to the issues of corruption and poverty as a result of the antecedents of godfatherism. Tracing the history of Nigeria since political independence, it shows that aspirants to political offices who are less financially buoyant rely greatly on the financial muscle of the money bags in the society who invariably become their mentors and political godfathers. The moneybags on the other hand may look for a popular and very outstanding character to invest their money on by encouraging him to contest for elective office, which will be manipulated in his favour. In order to realize their mission, the political godfathers capitalize on the vulnerability of the poverty-ridden electorates who at the sight of physical cash or material gifts willingly sell their votes to the highest bidder. Additionally, the election is manipulated through financial inducement of electoral officers, thuggery or outright rigging of votes. The activities of political godfathers in Nigeria’s fourth republicis even more challenging and daring to democracy and democracy and democratic stability.

Ekiyor (2004:27-28) explained;

Interconnectedness and interchangeable usages of the concepts of paternalism, godfatherism and patron-client and submits that patron-client paternalism has gradually turned itself in to an institution and has become an aberration to the practice of democracy in Nigeria.

In support of the view expressed by Ekiyor, James posited that,

The patron-client relationship – an exchange relationship between roles may be defined as a special case of dyadic (two persons) ties involving a largely instrumental friendship in which an individual of higher socio-economic statues (patron) uses his own influence and resources to provide protection or benefits or both for a person of lower status (client) who, on his part, reciprocate by offering general support and assistance, including personal services to the patron.

Ekiyor and James opened our eyes to the fact that godfatherism involves two persons which is based on interest, protection, provision and reciprocity. In any democracy, there is usually the need to spend huge amount of money and materials to plan and execute party strategies in order to capture the machinery of government. Such money can rarely be provided by a single individual except through collective efforts of members who may willingly donate money to the party or sponsor candidates at elections. This practice unavoidable attracts a number of very rich individuals euphemistically referred to as “Money bags” who make huge donations and consequently become very influential in the party. These individuals also come into the political party with their personal and selfish interests most of which are in conflict with the party objectives. Gradually, these interests begin to unfold themselves through the party decision making hierarchy; and political godsons who are stooges of their political godfathers in their respective political offices as a mark of loyalty and reciprocity to their godfathers who make it possible for them to ascend political offices, accommodate the interest of their godfathers in several ways. Ultimately, the general masses who are eager to reap the so called dividends of democracy are the ones to bear the brunt of this unholy relationship, the consequence of which often manifest itself in several forms including incompetent leadership, unnecessary interference and sometimes control of governmental affairs by external forces, political instability arising from crisis of legitimacy, outright siphoning of public funds meant for both developmental purposes and advancement of people living standard. Obviously this development is anti-thetical to democratic consolidation of any young democracy, Nigeria inclusive.

Sketching the historical development of godfatherism in politics in Nigeria since independence, Thoveothin (2004:69) came to the conclusion that godfatherism “has become a hydro-headed monster for Nigeria democracy”.

The foregoing discussions unveils the problematic dimensions the phenomenon of godfatherism has assumed in Nigeria, especially during this fourth republic, which, obviously calls for urgent attention. This unavoidably raises some penetrating questions among which are; who is a godfather and godson? What relationship between them? At what point in the history of Nigeria development did godfatherism becoming problematic? What is the nature of these problems and how do they impinge on democratic stability of Nigeria. How do we combat these problems and manage the menace of godfatherism in Nigeria politics.

Irrespective of the definitions and explanations given by various scholars, and authors, as used in this work, one thing is clear, that is, the concept of godfatherism is firmly establishing itself as a guiding principle in contemporary Nigeria politics. The godfatherism – godson phenomenon has gradually turned itself into an institution in Nigeria and has become a devouring aberration to the practice of true democracy in Nigeria. This practice is widespread in virtually all state in Nigeria but most recently, it become visible in Oyo, Anambra, Kwara, Borno, Enugu and Edo states. The godfather-godson relationship has taken various forms in the country but the most disturbing and offensive type is mainly manifested when elections are about to hold in the country. During this period, the godfather handpicks and sponsor candidates who are pliable and amendable to their dubious wishes. The godsons are more or less glorified servants of the godfather. They must comply with every aspect of the agreements that they had entered into with their godfathers (Patron-client relationship).


The escalation of political conflicts in many developing countries and their impact on economic development have been a topical issue in recent development literatures. The overwhelming emphasis on ethnic conflicts in the literature has, however, precluded analyst from looking at political conflicts beyond their ethnic dimension, in the wider context of the developmental process. In particular, because of the pre-occupation with ethnic roots at the prime source of these conflict, has been virtually in many texts. An attempt will be made to construct a simulation model in order to better understand the interactive relationship among political conflict and godfatherism and attempts to regulate political conflict.

Sorokim (1937:504) analyzed the history of eleven European, states and empires over a 25 century span and found that they averaged only four peaceful years in which major outbreaks of civil conflicts were not in progress. Actually, political conflicts have been even more frequent in the past sixty years, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

According to Brown (19963:3-19), political conflict is important for five reasons;

  1. It is widespread;
  2. It usually causes tremendous suffering;
  • It often affects and involve neighbouring states;
  1. It can affect the interests and engage the attention of distant powers and international system
  2. The international community is currently reassessing its efforts to deal with internal conflict

This definition is widespread and all embracing, ranging from internal conflicts and suffering to external suffering involving neighbouring states, distant powers and international organization.

However, (Ziegenhagen, 1986:1) argues that;

Political conflict can be descriptive of mass protest behavour directed against the state, its policies and practices, elites behavour relevant to the displacement of incumbents; as well as major symbolic operational changes in the rules, structures and procedures for governing relations among political participants.

Ziegehagen’s definition seems quite different from Brown’s view in that the latter attached importance to political conflict situation whereas the former sees political conflict in all its ramification as evil in the body polity in the nations that is prevailing in contemporary societies which must be eradicated at all cost. In spite of this, when you view both definitions critically, you will find out that both are heading for the same direction. Political conflicts usually express some sort of behavour against the government, states, individuals and groups or the established order of things. For example, assassination of government or party officials, attack on or destruction of the symbols of government, politically motivated attacks, riots or demonstrations with political implications. American political scientists began to empirically investigate this type of political behaviour after world war II. Which is why Huntington (1968) research on political order in changing societies focused on political violence and instability that include guerilla insurgency, revolts, coups and military conventional wars etc.

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic:


One Comment on “Godfatherism and Political Conflict in Nigeria”

  1. Reuben Tega says:

    pls,i would hava love to get all information of this work.or pls call 08052787133.

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