Publisher: African Democracy Network

‘How To Shoot Yourself Into Power’: Godfather Politics and Military Legacy In Nigeria

Tunde Oseni, Abiodun Fatai, Luqman Saka
KEYWORDS: Godfatherism, Military Legacy, Legitimacy, Democracy


Successive military incursions into politics across the continent of Africa became rampant and pronounced from the mid-1960s. By the 1970s, these soldiers who „shot their way into political office in much of Africa‟ (Adekanye 1993:1) already constituted what Mazrui (1973:1) termed „the Lumpen Militariat‟ albeit „a new political class‟. Adekanye (1993) forcefully argued that by the time military rule ended in Nigeria in the 1990s, the social, political, and economic structures of the country had been taken over by the retired military professionals. Using the foregoing as a point of departure, we argue that the military incursion into Nigerian politics consciously or subconsciously entrenched the „legacy of force‟ into the psyche of the political gladiators, popularly known as political godfathers in the Nigerian parlance. Over time, however, a new form of godfatherism is becoming apparent by which the legacy of force is becoming not only unpopular but also rejected. The work compares the structural and agential opportunities and constraints of three popular godfathers who, until recently, relied largely on patronage and violence within the political terrain. Methodologically, we use the historicaldescriptive case study design based on within-case and comparative perspectives. The qualitative analysis offered here is aimed at providing an in-depth understanding of the political behaviour of prominent political godfathers and how and why their political styles have affected democratic development in the selected case studies. This is helpful in two important ways. One, qualitative analysis offers a „critical interpretive approach‟ to understanding research problems (Denzin & Lincoln 2000: xiv). Two, qualitative method fits in with our multiple case study approach, which allows an analysis of data gathered from different sources including documentary sources and interviews in specific details. 

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