For some 24 years now, Nigerians have experienced uninterrupted presidential democracy with general elections conducted quadrennially. The stage for this sequence was set in 1999 this ushering in the Fourth Republic.
However, New Telegraph wishes to note that the mere conduct of elections is not and cannot be the only tool for measuring the vibrancy of democracy of a country like Nigeria. Even the elections so far conducted, whether general or off-circle polls have manifested contradictions that help in speaking ill of Nigeria thereby making her leadership claim of Africa and the black race not to be taken seriously.
The just concluded 2023 General Election was replete with thuggery of unprecedented level.
We are displeased to note that a major weakening of the country’s democracy is the excessive influence of godfathers. However, these modern godfathers have deviated from what they used to stand for in the past.
New Telegraph recalls with nostalgia the nation’s first President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was not only a distinguished political scientist, anthropologist and journalist but also an accomplished nationalist.
We will not hesitate to place on record the transformation that Dr. Azikiwe brought to the lives of many of his admirers. One of them was the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The ulterior motives of the present-day godfathers usually begin to unfold through the donation of the buildings, providing furniture and other facilities that serve as secretariats of their political parties, as well as the undertaking to pay the salaries of personnel who handle their par-ties’ day-to-day administration.
It is common knowledge that these individuals insist on compensation for their efforts by being allowed to contest for positions of their choice as well as nominating persons for as many elective and appointive positions as possible.
Godfatherism has unleashed monumental consequences on the nation’s democracy. One of them is that it has made a mess of the actual meaning of democracy, which according to Mr. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is: “Government of the people, for the people and by the people.” Excessive one man domination shuts out many people from the menu of democracy that they have been duly invited to. The concept, given its warped colouration and twist by the political activists of the Fourth Republic since 1999, nurtures and sustains dictatorship, authoritarianism and fascism.
Godfathers are usually unwilling to engage in arguments with members of their parties which in many instances they look down upon. Their words, no matter how illogical, are considered as law. They are usually unwilling to allow democratic traditions to be properly entrenched in their political parties. Every electoral battle is a must-win for them. Some godfathers are known to have kept idle young men as hangers-on who are encouraged to engage in thuggery in a bid to give electoral capital to their principals even when the voting behaviour of the populace has pointed towards a different direction.
The over- bearing attitude of the godfathers has helped to give politics a bad name. Politics is seen as the personal estate of some dictatorial and inconsiderate individuals masquerading as philanthropists. Unfit and improper per- sons are usually selected for elective and appointive positions. Such elected and appointed public office- holders are usually not prepared to strive towards optimum performance, for no individual gives what he or she does not have. Worse still, some godfathers are full time politicians. This means that they do not have careers, professions, vocations or businesses.
They earn their livelihoods from politics thereby subjecting the public till to haemorrhage. Every moment is utilised in holding one political meeting or the other with a view to winning an election or persuading some politicians to defect from one party to another.
Africa’s most populous nation should not continue with such long democratic drift which came with the First Republic in 1999. Much as the country continues to pop champagne over her 24 years of uninterrupted democracy, we are displeased to note that she has failed to exhibit positive democratic traits.
One way of making Nigeria halt the descent into the lagoon is to review the activities of all existing godfathers in all the nation’s political parties. Philanthropic politicians should be monitored with a view to discouraging them from hijacking the financing of their political parties.
Members should be encouraged to pay monthly dues for the running of their political parties. Full time politicking should be discouraged for all political gladiators, including the godfathers, party officials and members.
On no account, should individuals serve as full time officials of the political parties as that may require huge amounts of money for the payment of staff salaries.
Persons who eventually assist par- ties with regard to the payment of staff salaries are likely to metamorphose into godfathers thereby undermining the foundations of the nation’s democracy. The ability of every political activist to earn his/her livelihood outside politics would further help limit the dependence on godfathers.
Parties’ which still retain the undemocratic culture whereby single but over-bearing individuals control the purses of state and local governments while handpicking their officials should be barred from politics.
The freedom given to parties to charge nomination fees running into millions of naira, all in the name of fund-raising is unacceptable. The fees should be reviewed downwards in order to encourage improved citizens’ participation while discouraging preying godfathers from becoming destructive.