God fatherism has seldom worked in Nigeria even thought it has been tried for a very long time in Nigeria's history. Current efforts by many Nigerian leaders to create their successors will fail like the ones before them. The only way to make your successor look like you is through ideological indoctrination. In several cases I looked at, the results were quite conclusive that god fatherism failed. In the three cases where it seemed to have succeeded (Herbert Macaulay transfer to Azikiwe; Azikiwe transfer to Okpara; Sarduana transfer to Abubakar) there are reasons to believe that there were other factors.
But first let us review the failed experiments where the failures were crystal clear to illuminate the way for the present day laboratory students such as APC, Mr. Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, Mr. Patrick Obi of Anambra, Mr. Obasanjo in his most recent and belated effort, etc:
- Awolowo’s attempt to god father Akintola (1959). When Mr. Awolowo left Western Nigeria to pursue national interests he created Mr. Samuel Ladoke Akintola to look like him, to watch his (Awolowo’s) back and to pursue Western Nigeria’s interests the way he had done. Once Mr. Akintola locked up all the powers of Western Nigeria’s premiership he decided to part ways with his mentor and god father. The crises that followed can still be felt in Western Nigeria. There is no need to retell the story here as it is still fresh in the minds of the Yoruba and Action Group historians.
- Mr. Jim Nwobodo to Mr. Chimaroke Nnamani in Enugu (1999). Mr. Jim Nwobodo anointed his kinsman Mr. Chimaroke to succeed him. Barely a year after Mr. Nnamani consolidated his powers as the governor of Enugu he turned on Mr. Nwobodo and smeared his name. He created an ideological group now known as Ebeano which took over the administration of the state. Mr. Nnamani’s administration did some good – built roads; built short tunnels; modernized Park Lane Hospital as ESUT Teaching Hospital; developed Circle Road around Enugu; etc but he was a dictator. Mr. Nwobodo’s name and accomplishments never saw the light of day. Mr. Nwobodo was vilified and he is yet to recover.
- Mr. Nnamani god fathered Mr. Sullivan Chime (2007). Mr. Chime was Mr. Nnamani’s attorney General and was complicit in all that Nnamani did by providing legal cover. He was selected to be the governor after Mr. Nnamani and to cover Nnamani’s tracks. Once in office Chime distanced himself from Nnamani; exposing Nnamani’s shenanigans; calling back fired and retired employees to curry favor; and buried Mr. Nnamani with rumors. He betrayed Mr. Nnamani in such a manner that Judas Iscariot looked like a saint.
- Mr. Obasanjo and Messrs Uba and Uba installed Mr. Chris Ngige as the governor of Anambra State. Mr. Ngige turned to be a turn coat and refused to share the state treasury. The Uba’s tried every thing in the book to force Mr. Ngige to stick to the terms of his selection. It did not work. Mr. Ngige was dancing to his own drums just like Mr. Nnamani before him. But thanks to the Courts, Mr. Ngige was ousted, but he never delivered the goods. Mr. Obasanjo’s best effort notwithstanding.
- Mr. Obasanjo brought Mr. Yar’ Adua to succeed him (2007). Mr. Obasanjo had failed to get himself a third term contrary to the constitution. He needed to return as president by appointing an ailing successor so that he would be a de facto president. He also gave Mr. Yar’ Adua a little know VP (Mr. Goodluck Eberechukwu Jonathan) who he thought he could over shadow in a blink of the eye. Mr. Yar’ Adua in his brief presidency proved other wise and Mr. Jonathan has even proved to be much stronger than he was expected to be. Mr. Obasanjo is now trying his hand to create another successor still in his (Obasanjo’s) image
- With a mere change of names this story is the same in Lagos, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Kaduna, Plateau, etc, states. It is the same story with PDP politicians, ACN politicians, ANPP, etc. It is a peculiar Nigerian practice. By the way this happens in other spheres of Nigerian life. I know where some business men set up some young boys as agents but later the boys took over the business from their masters.
- I think you know where I am going with all these: god fatherism does not work in Nigeria
Let us now turn to case where on the surface god fatherism seemed to have worked.
- Macaulay transfer to Azikiwe. Mr. Nnamdi Azikiwe succeeded Mr. Macaulay as the chairman of NCNC. Zik did not tarnish Mr. Macaulay’s name. Two points can be noted here. (a) Mr. Macaulay was dead and probably Zik did not have to step out of his shadow (b) NCNC (and therefore Zik) did not form the government of Nigeria. The party did not even succeed to become the government of Western Nigeria. So power was never secured.
- Sarduana’s transfer of power to Abubakar. When Mr. Ahmadu Bello sent Mr. Abubakar to Lagos, power was still held by the British Government. Most of the power held by Nigerians was concentrated in the regions. So Mr. Bello was still “above” Mr. Abubakar. After independence power was shared between NPC and NCNC so Mr. Abubakar still needed Mr. Bello’s aura and political umbrella to govern. Mr. Abubakar was beginning to assert his independence when the majors struck in January 1966 and put an end to any things Abubakar might have thought of doing.
- Zik’s transfer of power to Okpara (1959). This is the most problematic to explain. Mr. Michael Okpara had secured the premiership of Eastern Nigeria just as. Mr. Samuel Ladoke Akintola had done but he did not part company with Mr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. I think this was because unlike Awo, Zik still had some powers as the Governor General and could still influence things. So Okpara’s tenure might have been more like Abubakar’s than Akintola’s.
I think that the message is clear. (i) Politicians CANNOT learn. They keep doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Do not be a god father. Even one’s natural sons sometimes go their own ways. (ii) Succession plans that are ideology based work best because your successor already believe in the same things as you and therefore would pursue the common goals. Ideology is why Republican and Democratic successors tend to stay the course. (iii) People like Mr. Chime who is trying so hard to father his successor should be advised to hands off and stay neutral and let events take care of themselves.
This is my view. What is yours?
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
December 11 2013