The impact of godfathers in Ghana’s political space; ranging from the national to local level, poses unprecedented levels in the way leaders are elected/appointed to man various political and apolitical portfolios. The godsons are now expected to raise huge sums of money towards the cause of a godfather you so affiliated with during a contest so as to be promised and assured inclusion when elected or appointed. That is, in part, the current political enigma of the youth menace despite your contribution in kind, is never valued. These godsons most often than not, only have their brains as an offer towards the larger picture of contribution towards the course.
Godfathers are those who wield enormous financial holdings, extended local links, having security connections (both formal and informal settings) in a bid to determine the successful operation of a power seeker at any level of competitive politics. This feature of godfatherism is now seen as an institution worth belonging to by serious future political holders.
Studies have it that Europe as well as the US were not left out in the tsunami of godfatherism. That is not to say that the system is bad but the angle with which one uses it to impact on the lives of society is what matters. In France, we had what was called ‘fathers of industry’ which consists of pure ‘corporate titans’, that is business tycoons with the most following who were seen as the driving force of the economy. The people manipulate the system either to further their selfish interests or to advance the cause of the poor. Nwanna notes in his 2006 research work, page 3, which he euphemistically referred godfatherism to, in the American political science literature as ‘party machine’ politics. He notes that it was this system of political godfatherism that produced one of the best presidents in American history, Harry S Truman. With the full backing of a godfather, Thomas J. Pendergast, widely known for bossing notorious political machines, Truman not only emerged as vice-president in 1944 against the wishes of President Franklin Roosevelt, but went ahead to become president.
In Africa and Nigeria to be specific, clear and visionary godfatherism exhibited by Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano, who built a loyal and dedicated following there, partly built through a free education programme implemented during his tenure. Whichever candidate gets his blessing is guaranteed a lot of voters. Mind you, some of the godfathers are not really out to get money, they just want respect, they want to be respected if they come into the state; they want to be recognized as the most important person in the society. I see nothing wrong with Rabiu’s political maneuvers as he blends expanding his brand and goodwill with clear case of human resource development of his people.
• Godfatherism in Ghanaian Politics.
The Ghanaian mode of exhibition of the above term is something not to be proud of despite very few politicians are making a mark in mentoring their followers to equally be seen as role models in society. The term godfatherism is likened to mentorship and whoever does it well would have his name inscribed in the book of unerasable records. In this piece, analyses would be made of this political enigma, its manifestations, form and character, implications and possible solutions relative to the Ghanaian political environment.
In this modern day politics in Ghana, most godfathers want to be seen at the top forever for their entire life. He/she does not envision stepping back at old age and guide the youth population whom he has help nurtured to bring to bear, and even beyond what he wasn’t able to achieve. These are leaders who want to be active leaders for life. For such political leaders, they are the grandsons and daughters of former President of Côte d’Ivoire who ruled twenty-nine years in office. Fêlix Houphouët -Boigny considered himself as a small god in the country. He is quoted to have said in 1988 , ‘There is no number two, three of four. In Côte d’Ivoire there is only a number one: that’s me and I don’t share my decisions.’ That is an exact replica of most African politician who promises heaven and delivers absolute hell. Mentorship of the Ghanaian politician is highly limited to the mentee being a walking stick in both day and night towards reshaping the political future of his/her godfather whiles the godfather gives orders from his comfortably luxurious home. To The Godfather, such errands are the benefits of a godfather to the godson.
Another political dogma which most Ghanaian godfathers hold high esteem is to continue frustrating the system to allow their children and unborn ones to be worshipped just like he/she is being worshipped. The godfathers see building the human resource of the people as a detriment to amassing huge following forever. They would always want godsons and mentees to remain as such and would not do anything that would spark a generation of sustainable work and financial freedom for them. These are the godfathers who would always stifle the growth and development of godsons so as to keep their clout high as always. Their motor is: Keep them hungry and they shall remain yours forever.
A disturbing factor that is visibly seen in today’s politics relative to the association of godfather and son is to always advance the selfish interests of your boss no matter where it might lead you into. The godson is promised of cover up and protection whenever he or she does the unthinkable, all in the name of supporting the ills committed by his/her godfather. However, in an event where the acts by the godson is far beyond human imagination, the godfather distances himself/herself from it, as he/she is ‘supposed’ to be perfectly right all the time. So, only those willing to advance the selfish interests of the existing structures of power gain access to power. This means that only the highest bidders, measured in terms of willingness to do the unthinkable no matter what, and as well swear an oath of eternal gratitude and loyalty to the godfather are considered loyal funs.
The Ghanaian system is in a mess because no matter how productive you are towards national productivity, personal interests of godfathers comes first. Godsons are seen as people who must continue lubricating his/her godfather on the various social media platforms either for political office or to be seen as someone doing perfectly well in giving back to society. This is the system that politicians are asking us to help build and sustain. As Nnamani (2003) puts it...an impervious guardian figure who provided the lifeline and direction to the godson, perceived to live a life of total submission, subservience and protection of the oracular personality located in the large, material frame of opulence, affluence and decisiveness, that is, if not ruthless... strictly, The godfather is simply a self-seeking individual out there to use the government for his own purposes.
The Ghanaian model of godfatherism is seeing the godson as and always giving credit to the big boss. In this model, godsons are seen as people who are created to accept all kinds of blames on behalf of godfathers who are semi-gods and thus, perfection is for none but them. This is the system we are told to help harness and build for future bearers. Your position as godson has a high percentage of being passed down to your own children who would also ‘worship’ children of your godfather. As Louis XIV (1643-1715) of France was quoted as saying ‘ I am the state’, meaning ‘his opinion and view, no matter how chauvinistic and narrow-minded, remains the opinion of the people he ruled’. This is what godsons are supposed to act in the discharge of their duties to selfish godfathers. To them (selfish godfathers) you have no taste to anything that is soft, succulent and financially worth having.
•Manifestation of Godfatherism in Politics.
One of the biggest disservice that these clout pushers does to our national development is putting square pegs in round holes to further advance their selfish cause. A case in point is that the most qualified person who should be in charge of procurement and other related activities is denied for the simple reason that his/her adherents to laws governing the procurement processes would disadvantaged the gains of godfather(s). So you see a democratic government governed by a few invisible crop of selfish business titans who wants nothing for the country but creating loot and share.It also cuts across promotion, deployment and posting exercises. Godfatherism in recruitment process as variously described by many scholars such as Okoro (2010), Chukwuemeka, (2010) and Ude (2008) involves the interference of the godfather in recruitment process to ensure that his godson is recruited whether qualified or not. This derails national development and a loss to the state financially.
Another worrying features are nepotism, party affiliation and bribery. Normally an organization should strive to make sure that it recruits the right caliber of personnel by maintaining a partial free recruitment policy.
The system of godfatherism is not something new to us as Ghanaians. We have the hereditary godfathers who are inherently born into such class where they assume the position of godfathers by nature. With such people, godsons work for them without being asked to. The founding fathers of Ghana who led the struggle for independence, commonly known as The Big Six, comprised of Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey and William Ofori Atta. Those people, tried, in the best possible means to uphold this tradition. These people have produced the current President of Ghana, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, Ken Ofori-Atta (Finance Minister), Samia Nkrumah (Former Jomoro MP and Chairperson of CPP), just to mention a few. The Rawlings’ cannot be left out in a bid to relinquish same trait to Zanetor who is also doing marvelously well in parliament. I consider the above leaders as originators of godfatherism in Ghanaian politics. The ensuing text will proffer solutions to the canker posed by godfathers.
1. To ensure that this works, there should be strict supervision of each ministry/agency/institution by high powered independent body to be set by the State.
2. Less emphasis should be placed on money for those seeking political office, rather
emphasis should be placed on the credibility of the candidate seeking political office.
3. Political awareness campaigns should be embarked upon by National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) civil societies, mass media etc. on the harmful effects of using Ghanaian youths by some unscrupulous politicians to achieve their selfish goals.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that this feature has been played wrongly to the detriment of the poor and thus derails the fortunes of our struggling democracy. Political parties play a huge role in this bias godfatherism canker and this, no doubt has crippled our independent institutions to now serve as remote controllers to politicians in power.
Columnist: Abdul-Razak Lukman
Email: [email protected]