In this exclusive chat Honourable Callistus Uju Okafor, a politician, former National Vice Chairman of Labour Party South-East, Former Deputy National Chairman South, Labour Party spoke with JOSEPH ODOEKWU on the state of god-fatherism in Nigerian Politics, the excerpts read.
Since return to democracy in 1999, god-father has been an issue what do you have to say about it or is this not of concern to you?
Honestly speaking, it has been a critical issue in Nigeria politics and its affecting governance and politicians have failed to address it. I am not particularly in support of it and I frown darkly at it. But my own point which I want to state is this, if you don’t want to have a god-father, don’t accept or go to be a god-son.
How do you mean, could you please elaborate?
The issue of god-father in Nigeria is a betrayal of agreement and a betrayal of trust. Let me give you an instance, remember the problem between Theodore Orji and Orji Uzor Kalu. Theodore Orji was no body to be talked about as far as politics in Abia is concerned. But Orji Uzor brought him first through the liaison office of Abia State in Lagos. He used his goodwill, resources, political connections and power to ensure Theodore succeeds him. Before doing this, he knew he was going to handover but he wanted to be relevant after handing over and that was why he opted for someone he can trust. I am sure both of them had an agreement and at that point of agreement if Theodore Orji never wanted to have a godfather who will direct him when he assumes office, he should not have entered into that agreement. Orji Uzor used his resources and you see that between two to six months in office, he rose against him and the same man whom he agreed with became a bad person.
Are you saying Theodore Orji or someone else would not have emerged without being god-son to Orji Uzor or an incumbent governor?
The truth is maybe, if he had not accepted to be a godson, he will not have a god-father and it would also have been very possible that Theodore Orji would not have become a governor. So there was an element of deceit there, and that’s really bad. The same thing was noticed between Chimaraoke and Sullivan, it also happened in my state between Obiano and Peter Obi. Obiano was never a politician before Peter Obi called him. Obiano never had plans to contest election. He was a retired banker who went to America to enjoy himself, before Peter Obi opted for him. In fact, Peter Obi sidelined the likes of Andy Ubah and others and picked his friend, perhaps his colleague in the bank in those days. Thinking that he would continue from where he stopped and made him a governor. What happened along the line he rose against the finger that fed him. For me this is not right, it is betrayal of trust. And so many examples going on in Nigeria.
Remember, we all know how Orji Uzor Kalu played a significant role to make Ohakim a governor in Imo State. The rest is history. What I am trying to say is that if you have a conscience not to respect agreement with godfathers, when they discuss with you from beginning, say No and go and contest election on your own without looking forward to getting a godfather that will sponsor you. Obviously when you get into power, nobody will direct you on what to do. Not when you involve yourself with having an agreement and probably swear to an oath and you fail to respect agreement because you have become governor. Hope you also remember the case between Chris Ngige and his then godfathers. Ngige had an agreement when he went to Okija shrine. The moment he became a governor, he suddenly became a saint and turned against his sponsors and his agreement. I am not saying that god-fatherism is good, but godsons who go against godfathers when they get into office are those who accepted the deal from the beginning. If you know that the conditions given to you is bad, then don’t accept it.
Let us look at the Oshiomhole and Obaseki issue, do you think its same thing playing out here?
Oshiomhole has been a trade unionist from his childhood and rose to the position of the president of NLC. He has a pedigree. He finished his tenure and joined politics. He contested election and won governing the people of Edo State for 8 years. Oshiomhole became one of the best governors Edo State ever produced. Now he brought Obaseki, and made him the candidate of APC. If Oshiomhole does not want Obaseki to become the governor of Edo State, he would not have considered him and am sure they must have had an understanding before he gave him the full support.
Today, Obaseki is rising against Oshiomhole and telling the world that Oshiomhole wants him to bring the money of Edo State and give to him for them to share. Has he forgotten Oshiomhole was the governor for 8 years? So how is it now possible that Oshiomhole wants him to share the money of Edo State? Okay, even if it is true that Oshimhole is asking him to share the Money of Edo State, it means there was an agreement ab initio which made Oshiomhole use his own money and connections to support him and give him that mandate. If you ask me, Obaseki is the problem. If he does not want to have a godfather he should not have gone for it from the beginning. I am not sure Oshiomhole went begging him to come and become the governor of Edo State. Over 30 persons aspired to be governor of Edo State under APC, but he Oshiomhole was favoured. It is really bad that people rise and fight the fingers that fed them, and this is really bad. I am looking forward to it coming to an end, and I hope it is going to end with aspirants rejecting offers of being godsons or not even seek for godfathers. It is bad that we must call a dog a bad name to hang it, and that is really bad. Unfortunately, all these are coming from the South-East and South-South, and that is really bad.
What is your final opinion and advice on this whole issue?
And I have this to say finally, if you know yourself to be a saint and don’t want to share state money then don’t go into any agreement that will subject you to do so. Today I have risen to the position of the Deputy National President of Labour Party, if I want to become governor tomorrow I must rise by sponsoring myself as an aspirant and try to win election, then go for election and win. At that point I have no godfather. If anyone comes to ask for state money, I’ll get him arrested. But if I accept to any term to climb to a position, I must be a gentleman to respect my conditions, I cannot turn around to blackmail or fight the man who took the top. The moment you go to the shrine there are conditions given. I don’t like it when a man paints the man who made him what he is black.
If I were to be Adams oshiomhole, I will not allow Obaseki enter my house because Obaseki is dangerous to deal with. I heard he came to greet him during the Christmas with gifts of cows and other things, but Oshiomhole must be careful.