2023: The politics of anointing successors

Anointing successors in Nigerian political space has taken deep roots. The fact that it almost always ends with disastrous consequences for the Godfather has not stopped the practice.

The issue at the heart of the endings lies in the motive behind the anointing and the how. Is it to keep the skeletons buried or is it to enshrine continuity and good governance? Are the rules of decent politics followed during the anointing? Is the anointing process fair to all concerned or is it a do or die affair? To understand the logic behind anointing successors the words of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda readily come to mind.

He is quoted as saying that ‘I’m not ready to hand over power to people or groups of people who have no ability to manage a nation’ Continuing, he said ‘why should I sentence Ugandans to suicide by handing over power to people we fought and defeated?’

Museveni then placed himself above the Constitution when he asserted that though the Constitution allows it, ‘It’s dangerous! The dictator then concludes that ‘at times, the Constitution may not be the best tool to direct us politically, for it allows wrong and doubtful people to contest for power’.

Nigerian politicians share the same self-serving, and perhaps treasonable, position, which clearly undermines the Constitution. Anointment of successors is also attributed to the attempt on the part of the incumbents to cover the atrocities they committed while in office.

Thus, in most cases, they would do everything possible to ensure the victory of their anointed successors. Anointing successors has dire consequences on the political development of the country as the process more often undermines internal party democratic processes, encourages the Godfather to subvert instruments of state in favour of the anointed candidate thereby weakening state institutions. It also compels the Godfather to deploy state resources to shore up the acceptability of the anointed candidate.

The Godfather also often closes the political space for dissenting voices as well as. The Godfather oftentimes sets some conditions (in most cases personal to him) for the anointed to deliver on. Public office is not the property of the incumbent. It belongs to the citizens who should be able to reclaim it in an orderly and peaceful way.

Elections play a significant role in deepening democracy; it enables the governed to decide who governs them. By anointing a successor, the incumbent disenfranchises the party loyalists and machinery of the right to exercise their democratic entitlement.

Anointing of candidates is a direct descendent of the so- called Consensus candidature, which plain English name is imposition. Democracy is about free choice; it is about giving people opportunities to choose their leaders without hindrance, but where obstacles exist such as anointed candidates, the people can hardly exercise their freedom of choice.

In such situations they can expect to hardly gain anything from their rulers, who were imposed on them. Furthermore, democracy has an educative value and there is no better way of educating citizens than giving them the opportunity to participate directly in the election of their representatives. It is a fact that credible election remains a salient indicator of democratic consolidation and peaceful means of changing government.

The use of state resources and state instruments of coercion to assert the candidature of the anointed, which some Godfathers engage in a serious attack on institutions of state and the development of national institutions and democracy.

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We are witnesses the alleged muscling of INEC at the various levels to ensure the emergence of some aspirants. Is zoning political office at whatever level also another way of anointing a successor? This has generated a lot of debate and litigation in recent times. It has been argued that Nigerians should opt for competence and merit instead of sectional leadership in choosing leaders, contrary to what zoning arrangements present.

Others contend that though zoning can co-exist with our Constitution and fundamental human rights and even enhance national cohesion, it could negatively affect internal party democracy and political development.

In sum, Godfatherism is antithetical to the ends of democracy. The free will of the people should be allowed to determine who wins the elections. We say ‘No to the Godfathers of the land! Enough is enough!

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