Presented at the 3rd Annual
EDO GLOBAL ORGANIZATION CONFERENCE
Budapest, Hungary 14-16 October 2005.
As children growing up in Benin City, Nigeria, we longed to see our God parents because such occasions ended with showing unqualified love, kindness, biblical, spiritual and pastoral love and care. Most times the above is topped up with expensive gifts. The Godfather no longer signifies such in Nigeria of today. The term god father has been bastardized and connotes the boss of an organized political crime outfit against the Nigerian people.
The term Godfather became popular following the film ‘The Godfather’ directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the novel by Mario Puzo with Marlon Brando as the main character: the Godfather. That film described the attempt by a Sicilian Family or Mafia dynasty (the Corleones) to maintain total control of the drug ring and racketeering in New York. That film debased the original meaning of the term Godfather and 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; I mean any length to achieve their set goals of wielding political power including arson, intimidation, warning flogging and sometimes assassination.
I now hate the term ‘godfather’ in the context that it is now being used and popularised in Nigerian politics and in particular Edo State.
The political godfather identify their prey (usually an up and coming but gullible individual), they promise what is not within their power to give in a level playing field. Through bribery, compulsion, intimidation, death threat and sometimes assassination, they achieve their goals of wielding not only political power but economic leverage over Edo people.
With the money diverted from the coffers of the Nigerian or State governments, they equipped their ‘army’ with the latest weapons with which their foot soldiers or political thugs recruited from amongst numerous jobless graduates and undergraduates from Nigerian and state universities to terrorize, kill and main their kits and kin who oppose them.
There may have been numerous killings by orders from these political godfathers. Assassinations reported as armed robbery gone wrong are so numerous to count, and these killings go unsolved by the Nigerian ill equipped police.
The modus operandi of the Nigerian political godfather is clear even to the blind. The godfather or the godson occupies an exalted position in government, rather than spending the available fund to establish a factory or set up a process that will employ our youths like school leavers and university graduates, the money is diverted to Swiss or other European or American banks. School leavers and university graduates are therefore made jobless and provide fertile ground for recruiting foot soldiers that will do the evil bidding of these godfathers.
A godfather or a godson in charge of a ministry to look after Nigerian roads for example, diverts money voted for repairs and maintenance of such roads. The roads then deteriorate to appalling conditions that drivers have to negotiate small gullies and puddles on a supposed high or expressway and therefore drive slowly with frequent stops and starts. During these stops and slow movements, armed robbers attack from the roadside. They maim, rape, amputate arms and limbs and sometimes kill their victims. The latest craze amongst these robbers is to undress their victims and carte the clothes away. One wonders what such clothes are worth or are they part of the rituals as directed by the godfathers.
Godfatherism is an evil building block for corruption, retrogression, under development, mediocrity, backwardness and perpetual poverty of the people.
In the past seven years Edo State has witnessed retrogression and destruction of the structure that took the forebears of the present administration many years to build. The present government is now attacking the very fabric that united Edo as one people from one origin. The governor who personifies this non-performing administration, has shown disdain for the plight and yearning of Edo people; he was probably a godson until he fell apart from his supposed godfather. This godson governor was thrust on our people in spite of his dismal performance in the first four years of his stewardship, by his godfather Mr Fix it.
Chief Anthony Anenih gave a press conference to tell Edo people that there was no vacancy in Osadebe Avenue (the official residence of Edo State Governor).
Edo people bowed and he had his way.
Since the governor’s second term started, his performance has further deteriorated to the chagrin of Edo people.
Mr Fix-it is now grooming another godson to thrust on Edo people again and repeat the cycle of ineptness, poor performance and deterioration of the living standard of our people. For how long are we going to bow our heads and allow one man or a group of wicked and uncaring godfathers and godsons to ruin our lives and mortgage the lives of our unborn children for their selfish ends?
In an interview by his budding godson, an aspirant to the governorship of Edo State he said and I quote;
‘’If you ask Odion Ugbesia to draw
God, because I have
never seen God, by the time I finish it, you will
probably find the face of Anenih in it, you find the
hands of Anenih and you find the legs of Anenih. This
is a man who has done so much for me. Everyday I pray
to God to help me in my life, and once and every time
Anenih comes and helps me. He made me a Commissioner;
made me a Minister, made me a Minister again, help me
to build a house’’
Odion Ugbesia’s praise for Chief Anenih stems from corruption and his personal enrichment. ‘He made me commissioner, he made minister; he made me minister again and helped me to build a house’ is the statement of a mediocre in praise of his benefactor. What should be clear to all Nigerians is that Ugbesia did not perform in these positions because he did not merit these positions in the first place.
Like a fish out of water, he was out of his depth which explains the furore that followed on the assumption of office by the new Minister of Solid minerals Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili who stated and I quote
‘‘I inherited a ministry that is in dire need of change, direction and purposeful leadership,” What I have seen so far is quite revealing, sobering and totally unacceptable and the challenges we face are quite enormous. We are determined to confront the decay and rot in the system.”
This is what happens when the people bow their headsand allow the collective will of more than three million Edo to be usurped by one single individual in the final choice of who runs a ministry, a government department or who governs the State
Like Chris Uba who rigged the governorship for Dr Ngige of Anambra State, someday, Chief Anenih will ask for his pound of flesh. Ugbesia’s commissionership and minister positions were obvious Greek gifts that were not merited by him which must be repaid in time to his benefactor Chief Anenih.
The question is what has Odion Ugbesia to show to Edo and Nigerian people as his achievement during his stewardship?
A few weeks ago the UN announced that Nigeria occupied the number 151st position in the Human Development index.An average Nigerian is now expected to die at the unripe age of 43 as Nigeria slips in the Human Development Index released for the year 2005 in spite of our oil wealth and the foreign- exchange that accrue to the government on a daily basis.
In the hands of God fearing people, Nigeria will be a land of milk and honey but we have allowed corruption and godfathers as canker worm to eat the very fabric of our existence; steal all the people’s wealth and have it deposited in foreign banks.
All right thinking Edo people must resist these godfathers and inept godsons.
Today Edo State which was one of the foremost Nigerian States boasting numerous intellectuals has been reduced in seven years to one of the poorest states in Nigeria.
The present situation is further compounded by the fighting between Tony Anenih and Lucky Igbinedion.
The political foot soldiers and party thugs have been unleashed on the people with daily news of armed robberies with fatalities, assassinations, burning of markets and local government council headquarters; chairmen forcibly taking over government buildings while policemen and soldiers look on as they get conflicting commands from the politicians. Like two elephants fighting, one godfather's army is at war with the other's army and our people like the grass suffer.
The godfathers and the godsons are trying hard to show how low they can go and how brutal they can be in their ruthless quest to control the political hearts and minds of our people. Yet the people bow and watch.
What my dad told me several years ago that what troubles Edo people usually does not last more than three years does not seem to hold anymore. For nearly seven years our people have endured this political infighting and the concept of the winner takes all. Edo State allocation is squandered as booty for up keep of political godfathers and when the godson says it is enough; the godson is rendered powerless as a governor courtesy of the relationship between the presidency and some of the godfathers.
Mr Orilade Ojo Ovbalie writing in Edo nation recently describes Anenih as the anchor head of Edo politics in Abuja. He stressed ‘unless miracle happens before 2007 to Anenih, I wonder the person in Edo state who can stop his political El Dorado.
As the Chairman Board of Trustees, of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, no one can take that from him.
As the main determinant of who rules Edo in 2007 a lot of Edo will rise up and say enough is enough.
In fact enough is enough.
If the political upheaval in Edo State has stemmed from a godfather admonishing a godson for poor performance, that would have been a cause to rejoice. That is not the case; rather it is the case of who controls Edo State government, its allocation, resources and who appoints to various governmental positions at both State and Federal level. That is the crux of the matter.
Recently we heard that while one godfather unleashed the EFCC on the other’s family, one called a truce and there was clinking of champagne glass and repositioning for the next election after a supposed birthday party in Benin. A peace making process to enable continued plundering of Edo State treasury.
Yet the people watch with heads bowed.
All right thinking people of Edo must come together to resist the godfathers and their godsons as it is obvious that they do not have the interest of Edo people at heart neither do they represent them.
Those who wish to contest election must come out in force in their various localities and evolve from the grassroots level at the wards through to the local government levels, then the senatorial district level and finally the state level.
If anyone is able to win his/her elections at these various levels, then the individual can lead us. Our people must resist any further imposition of any godson to lord it over us.
We know Mr Peter Obi lost the governorship seat of Anambra State after winning the election because he had no godfather but with the support of his people he was ultimately vindicated in an Election Tribunal although the decision of the tribunal is still to be implemented.
The power and the will of three million people must not be underrated.
We have so many good materials that are not being utilised for the development of Edo State and the economic growth of our people. This trend needs to be reversed.
If we allow justice and fair play to hold sway then an unadulterated candidate from Edo North Senatorial district should now qualify to rule Edo State come 2007. Should that be the case as Edo is of one quaver in spite of dispersal of our people and the new dialects?
Should it not be the individual who wins a fair and free election that should rule? Should artificial senatorial markings be allowed to destroy what our forebears have worked so hard to create?
We pray and hope and should encourage the man, any man from anywhere in Edo State with the fear of God in his heart who will govern with the interest of his people in his heart, without enriching himself and transferring the people’s fund to foreign banks to evolve from the grassroots instead of these tainted pretenders to the governorship with links to disgraced godfathers.
Should we fold our hands and watch while godfathers and godsons take away what has been given to us by Divine rights? The answer is NO!
Should we continue to bow our heads and watch while demagogue godfathers bestride our state and thrust their unwholesome, unworthy, aimless, mediocre and inept godsons who are bereft of idea of governance and people mobilization on Edo people?
When will Edo people learn?
How much more can Edo people take?
How much plundering of our resources can our people watch before taking their destiny in their hands?
It is so painful that corrupt individuals hold a people hostage for so long and all we can do is bow our heads and pray cringing at the sightof the godfather.
If God was in charge of a ministry as some godson would want us to believe they are, would He not have disbursed his allocations equitably for the purpose for which that fund was meant?
Would He not have repaired and maintained the Lagos-Benin Expressway Death Trap which has led to the loss of more than a thousand lives last year alone?
The death toll on that single road has contributed to making Nigerian roads the worst in the world.
The WHO in 2004 clearly stated thata traveller on Nigerian road has less than a 50% chance of arriving his destination safely and yet we have so many political god fathers as heads of these various important establishments and no work whatsoever is done to improve the conditions of these roads.
Edo people must unite to allow leadership to evolve from the grass roots. They must strive to bring back the glorious days to Edo State again.
By 1970 after the civil war the Nigerian Observer daily circulation was read as far as Kano, Kaduna and Jos to the North, Lagos to the southwest and Post Harcourt to the south east. Today the Nigerian observer which competed with the Daily Times, Sketch, Vanguard, The Post, The Guardian, Tribune and New Nigeria in the early seventies has been killed like other establishments in Edo State. It has been reduced to a local newspaper.
We had seasoned Editors then, Like Neville Ukoli, Sam Eguavoen, Austin Momodu Rose Erhabor and many good columnists who worked so hard to put the newspaper on the news stand daily. Their attitude stemmed from the leadership provided by the then governor of the State General Samuel Ogbemudia. Today the Nigerian Observer is the only first general newspaper that is still not on line. Newer newspapers like the Champion and the Sun which came recently are all on line. Edo State is moving backwards while others are striving forwards. There are many other government parastatals like Edo Line that are just limping on and would succumb in no time.
The commissioner for Education has reintroduced school fees to Edo State schools contrary to the directives of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the implementation of Universal basic Education and this single act has removed about 19% of our school children from the class rooms as their parents cannot afford the school fees. These children will in due course go to swell the rank of the recruiting ground for the foot soldiers. Education is a fundamental human right entrenched in the UN bye laws and preventing children from having basic education is a crime against humanity.
The only visible project ongoing in the state is the effort of the commissioner for health to complete the form work on the Women and Children Hospital on Sapele Road; a project that was abandoned in 1975 as part of the State Specialist Hospital Complex. We hope the hospital can be speedily completed so that it can play its role in reducing maternal, perinatal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in Edo State and Nigeria which presently has the highest rate in the world in spite of our oil wealth.
Edo State University whose graduates excelled at the Law School examinations in the early eighties has been reduced to a cult infested university, a recruiting ground for political thugs, cultists, and hoodlums and our people bow their heads and watch.
Our people themselves have been reduced to self imposed curfew due to incessant armed robberies and no one raises his voice at a government that has truncated the economic and social growth of our people due to corrupt and sharp practices and rudderless policies.
By 6pm our people go home to roost for fear of the political foot soldiers. The evening and night life has been totally abolished in a state that used to thrive on night life. One can only imagine the economic impart on our hoteliers and the entertainment industry.
A government that has not only pruned the branches of Edo tree by facilitating the dispersal of Edo youths throughout the world; the same government is now harking at the stem of Edo tree with a plan to kill it. This must be prevented.
Destruction of Edo tree of life must be prevented by all.
We should all Say ‘no more’ to the godfathers and their godsons. Leadership must be allowed to evolve from the grass roots rather than having mediocres thrust on the people.
Enough is enough.
Oba ghato kpere Ise!