Last week, two remarkable events happened in Akwa Ibom which clearly showed that this state belongs to the young people. The two events were Bobby Bassey’s engagement and Mary Akpabio’s traditional marriage. Of course, around these two events, a few elites had some events too, which obviously did not get so much attention. The overall lesson from last week is that young people decide who is popular and who is not; who gets all the attention and who doesn’t. They decide which event is talked about and which one is not. There are a lot of things about Akwa Ibom youths – the good, the bad and the ugly. But one outstanding thing about these young folks is, they can move mountain just to have each other’s back. They did it for Odudu Ukpanah. They can never all be on the same page, especially, when there is a piece of politics in the matter, but just a few of them can form a very terrific and formidable force. When they are self-motivated, it’s almost impossible to stop them. However, like I just noted, they have a common Achilles heel; politics.
As a predominantly Christian state, there are mainly two kinds of sentiments that have perpetually divided Akwa Ibom people, youths inclusive; political and ethnic sentiments. While there seem to be some level of sanity, patriotism, and limit to our ethnic sentiments, politics on the other hand is our kryptonite. Politics is the one thing that shreds us into pieces. As far as politics is concerned, the youths are nothing but overgrown babies perpetually left at the mercy of some exploitative and self-seeking elders otherwise called god-fathers, political fathers, political leaders, stakeholders blah blah blah. With a mere layman’s understanding of Akwa Ibom politics within the last two decades, one can clearly see the high level of exploitation by this elite group. For the purpose of this piece, youths and followers will be used interchangeably.
In my little understanding, there are two kinds of politics that collectively drive a government. They are, the boardroom politics and the field politics. As the name implies, the boardroom is where all the major decisions are taken, while the field is where all the actions happen. In Akwa Ibom, there is a clear class divide – the boardroom is permanently for the god-fathers and political leaders, while the field is exclusively for the youths. Apparently, Herbert Hoover was right when he said; “Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.” The overall principle of god-fatherism demands that the youths must serve at the pleasure of the elders and even risk their lives, if the need arises, while the elders sit at home to share the spoils of the war. The status quo is the same, regardless of the political party.
Let’s begin with the defectors.
First thing first, let me state it categorically clear that in my opinion, defection is worst form of political manipulation. It literally turns a certain class of people, otherwise called “followers”, to zombies. So, a politician, after enjoying all the goodies and taking home the lion shares as a boardroom member of a certain political party, decides to join another political party. Why? What he tells the public – his former party is full of evil. He’s too righteous to associate with evil. The true story – for some reasons, he has fallen out of favour with his former party, and in order not to lose grip of power, decides to pitch his tent elsewhere. Every god/political father knows that his biggest strength are his followers. Politics is a game of numbers. Every intending defector knows that his best bargaining chip is the number of “followers” he can pull into the new party. No serious politician defects alone. That is why they ensure that the media places emphasis on, and even exaggerates the numbers. E.g. “Breaking news: over 5,000 people defect…”. This number is what takes the politician straight to the boardroom of the new party where he can comfortably negotiate for himself. There are two possible outcomes; he gets a juicy appointment or holds a high stake in the new party. Either way, he will succeed in retaining a place among the power brokers.
Meanwhile, the “followers”, who are mostly youths, have been so conditioned that they lack the will to ask the basic questions like, how will the defection better their lot? What positive differences will it bring to them? How will their new party improve their living standard? What better offers will they get from the party? At the end, they still remain the same overgrown babies with a false sense of hope and excitement. This is not fiction. It’s the reality. The facts are there in plain sight for verification.
Let’s talk about the god/political fathers within the government circle.
Sometime during my university days, a certain man was appointed as Commissioner in this state. His appointment was greeted with ecstasy, especially among his followers. He served for a while and was eventually relieved off his appointment. Since then, he’s been hovering around the government. Two weeks ago, he was nominated for appointment as a chairman of a commission. Again, his nomination was greeted with wild jubilation among his followers. Interestingly, his team of followers has not changed much since his days as a commissioner over ten years ago. What this implies is that a group of young folks have dedicatedly followed the man for over ten years. So, the man hovers around the government and eventually gets another appointment. How about the followers; what did they get? “The government is working.”
Yes, the government is working. That is why a former minister of the federal republic will accept the appointment of a board chairman in the state. That is why grandpas are taking up appointments that will ordinarily serve as springboards for the youths. The culture of recycling government appointees is enough evidence that the government is working. That the god-fathers and political leaders have blatantly refused to leave the boardroom shows that the government is working. But it seems that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. The sad news is, this exploitation is happening with the full consent of the youths.
We may be tempted to blame the governor for this imbalance, but the truth is, the governor sees over 5million people scrambling for space in the government. This is an absolute impossibility. Like they say, “the government cannot accommodate everybody at the same time”. The governor faces a tough task in the selection process. Of course, the god fathers and political leaders are aware of the governor’s dilemma and so they cash in. The manipulation begins with them getting their followers to sing their praises, chant their names, pass votes of confidence and pledge loyalties to them till it gets to the governor’s ears. This is how they keep the governor’s attention themselves and retain their seats in the boardroom. Like power, they transit from one government to another. They use their followers as baits to remain relevant within the government circle. This is what gives a politician the effrontery to brag. It’s not necessarily money but the number of people he manipulates in the name of followership.
According to the gospel of god fatherism and political leadership, the youths must risk their lives to ensure victories during elections so their god fathers can be recognized as kingmakers; the youths must labour on the field to ensure that the government is deeply rooted, while the elders take the glory. The reward system? Few elders effortlessly and comfortably feed on the commonwealth in the government house, while thousands of young people scramble for peanuts on the streets. During the last media chat at the banquet hall, while responding to a question, Governor Udom Emmanuel said; “I didn’t pick members of the transition committees. The stakeholders sat in this hall and chose the committee members”. For two years now, the “stakeholders” have been the ones choosing members of the transition committees, but during the next local government election, the youths will be ones to go and fight to defend the party.
Some weeks ago, a certain political “godson”, apparently tired of bottling up his grievances against his god-father (or used to be god-father), went berserk on social media accusing the said god-father of selfishness. The god-father got to see the message but because of his status in government, declined to respond. So he decided to play their usual card; using a proxy. He reached out to me. During our conversation, he took time to educate me on the things he has done for the aggrieved godson and then he said; “I made that guy who he is in politics”. For a moment, my heart skipped. Who exactly, is the guy in politics? A former councilor? Just that? Whereas the god-father has been occupying key positions in government since the days of former Governor Victor Attah, former Governor Godswill Akpabio and presently, is actively serving in Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration. Apparently not satisfied, he is seriously strategizing to still remain in government after Udom Emmanuel. By the time we finished our conversation, he knew he met the wrong person for the job. The message was clear; Edidiong Udobia is nobody’s political godson.
On a lighter note, if a god-father can brag so much about making his godson a councilor, then Bola Tinubu should be feeling like a Nigerian god. Make no mistakes about it, these men are mean. These god fathers and political leaders are mere opportunists; they unruly manipulate some naive youths, capitalize on their strengths and numbers to gain relevance in government. This is akin to slavery. In all modesty, god fatherism is nothing but a political enslavement. It’s a yoke on the youths.
This is the story of my leader, my leader.
To be continued…