The popular conversations around the Godfatherism concept have mostly been painted with fiendish and roguery brush. A godfather is often described in the devilry sense of a plunderer, a greedy scoundrel and what have you. But are these descriptions entirely reflective of what/who a godfather is? No.
A godfather is a mentor. He is a guardian. A shepherd. An adviser. A bulwark. A backbone. He is like a rock of Gibraltar. Godfathers do exist in many spheres of life: in spiritual life; in political life; in academic/professional life.
The spiritual godfather is one the Anglicans call ‘Baba Isaami’ or ‘Baba ni pa Oluwa.’ His responsibilities are ‘simple’ : to see you grow in the way of the Lord for the advancement of Christ Kingdom. He teaches you, alongside your biological parents, to cultivate an habit of obedience, reverence, discipline and self-respect.
A professional godfather is a go-to senior colleague. He recommends you for deserving opportunities. He nurtures you to become an established industry player.
A political godfather is one that has earned a notoriously controversial appellation. A political godfather, in the real sense of the word, is an experienced father-figure, mostly a notable political personage. He has big social-capital. He has clout. He is ‘nobly’ connected. He uses his influence in the society to crowd-fund for a godson in an election. At times, he spends his personal resources to sponsor a godson in an election. Professor Lai Olorode has articulated three broad categories of political godfathers in his starred publication Egocentrism and Elitocracy in African Politics (2006) . This categorisation would explain further the perspective on godfatherism.
The first Godfather, according to Olorode, is the Sleeping one. The Sleeping Godfather is a patriot who feels genuinely concerned about the development of the community. He funds elections and remove his hand and mouth and allow his godson to exercise his mandate to the best of his ability. Often the interest of the Sleeping Godfather is identifying and sponsoring a credible candidate who will add value to the system. Some godfathers under this category once in a while merely require their ego to be massaged. Generally, they are rarely harmful to the system. This is the category of Ideal Godfathers. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu arguably falls into this category. But I will return to this point later. . . .
The second godfather is Partner Godfather. He is one who sponsors and supports his chosen candidate to elective office and demands various forms of compensation throughout the tenure of the godson. Often, there exists a principal-customer or father-son relationship between them. Godfathers under this category are not usually interested in the day-to-day running of government once their contracts and other forms of compensation are met by the godsons. (Olorode: 78)
The Active Godfather, which is the third category in the opinion of Olorode in the cited publication, ‘ is the most difficult to handle. He sponsors candidate for election, funds his election and even follows it through to make sure his candidate wins. The godson has no authority or any right to do anything without the godfather’s prior approval. He insists on running the show while the godson moves about only in name. Any resentment or attempt by the godson to go contrary to the wishes of the godfather is punished severely.’
Tinubu is an ideal godfather because he uses his network for a felicitous god-son to emerge in an election without later encumbering him with financial or pecuniary requests. He scouts for godsons with verifiable professional records and leadership qualities to be put forward in elections. The list is endless: Raji Fashola, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lai Mohammed, Rauf Aregbesola, Ben Akabueze, Yemi Osibanjo, Gboyega Oyetola, etc, are some of the stars who have come through the political tradition espoused by Tinubu.
Tinubu does not only help his godsons win elections, he also supports them to achieve success in office. The case of Gboyega Oyetola clearly comes to mind. After supporting the insurance giant and one of UNILAG’s best alumni Oyetola become Osun governor, Tinubu has also extended to him material and moral supports. For instance, Tinubu, with a donation of N100 million, has been said to be the highest individual donor to the COVID-19 relief fund set-up by the government of Osun State. Besides the personal donation, he was also said to have mobilised many of his business associates and political allies to donate handsomely to the cause of the state.
As emphasis: an ideal godfather is one who identifies a candidate with capacity, good character, and pushes the candidate’s interest forward without nefarious conditions.
An ideal godfather is a nation builder. He partners with other politicians to produce a decent candidate in an election. He does not shortchange the system by installing a candidate lacking in right education and professional qualifications as one godfather did in Osun State some years back. The governor had nominated his younger brother, his godson, to fill the State’s vacancy on the Board of Guinness Nigeria PLC even when the godson was educationally deficient and professionally hollow. The bottling company then was owned by the O’odua Investment Limited, a business conglomerate managed by five states in the Southwest. The godson-brother became a board member with no requisite experience. No degree. No diploma. No WAEC. A drop-out. A loafer. The only qualification he possessed was his familial relationship with the governor! What quality influence do you think such a nondescript being would have on the Guinness board peopled with shrewd and tested professionals?
In the context of this discussion, the decision of godfather-governor to launch his brother into limelight may be rationalised on the altar of politics, but such rationalisation is mawkish because the inappropriate nepotism came at a huge cost to the people of Osun State, nay to the whole O’odua business empire. An ideal godfather projects only a candidate that, in his reckoning, will serve the system optimally. An ideal godfather, rather than throwing up his haphazardly educated and inexperienced godson to hold a position beyond his capacity, would have encouraged him to first remedy his inadequate education then seek right work experience; so the godson, some thirty years later, would not be faced with a challenge of having to prove to the world his unpleasant academic credentials.
The desired godfathers in our society today are Ideal Godfathers; they are leaders who will identify good materials, mentor them for onerous task of nation building sans any intention to be albatross to the godsons and the system they are elected to serve.