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Desmond Elliot, poster boy for godfatherism

Desmond Elliot, poster boy for godfatherism
September 16
18:54 2020

The scheduled governorship election in Edo state takes place on Saturday, September 19, 2020. As an Edo state indigene, I have resisted the urge to make any comments about this election. Not because I don’t have an opinion, but it all seemed so futile. I couldn’t see how whatever I was going to say would help the situation. The governorship elections in Osun (September 2018) and Ekiti (July 2018) states were conducted like wars and the ordinary people were on the receiving end. 

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In the case of Osun, it wasn’t bad enough that they had endured 8 years under Aregbesola, they couldn’t even vote in peace. There were many complaints and accusations against security operatives who either allowed thugs to have a field day or may have even aided these shady elements. Yet, in spite of everything, the general elections in February & March 2019 were frighteningly callous and violent: ballot boxes were burnt, some people were injured or killed. So much so that many stayed at home after it became obvious that their votes didn’t seem to count.

Voter apathy was especially high in Lagos during the gubernatorial elections which followed the presidential election which was held a week earlier.  In fact, there were reports that some people (perhaps election agents) were going around neighbourhoods with public address systems pleading with Lagosians to come out to vote.

The situation in Edo state is even more confusing. Yes, the governorship battle is chiefly between All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the APC candidate was the PDP candidate in the last election. And the PDP candidate, the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki was elected on the APC platform. So, there really is no side to pick which is another reason I refrained from commenting in spite of provocative propaganda throughout the campaigns.

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Still, there’s one constant between the 2 candidates which lies in the person of Adams Oshiomhole, the former governor of Edo state. During the last election, he told everyone how unsuitable Ize-Iyamu was for the position of governor. Now, he’s campaigning for the man he once called all sorts of names. Oshiomhole, APC’s ex national chairman, wants to be to Edo state what former governor Bola Tinubu is to Lagos state: The godfather calling the shots. But when it comes to Oshiomhole’s tenure as governor of Edo state, I can’t look beyond the death of my father Hon. F. S Uduzeli in August 2016.

My father fell sick after travelling to Benin-City (two weeks prior) on the horrendous Auchi-Benin highway. Worse still, he’d gone to Benin-City to chase the 13 months pension he was being owed by the Oshiomhole government; and that was like the sixth verification exercise. He was still being owed the last I checked. When Godwin Obaseki was presented in 2016, the only real issue I had with him was, you guessed right, Oshiomhole. Here was a man who was leaving a massive debt behind, no one not quite clear what the many loans were used for.

Dan Orbih, the then PDP chairman in Edo state, said in an interview in August 2015 when President Buhari sought approval from the National Assembly for a $75m World Bank for Edo State:

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“I want to call on the leadership of the Nigerian Senate to kindly reject the request for Mr. President to grant this money to the Edo state government.

“The issues that comes to mind at the mention of this loan are; what is the governor going to use this loan for? How has he utilized previous loans obtained by his government because you must look at what he has done with the previous facilities he has taken before considering to offer him any new financial lifeline. Don’t forget not too long ago, he went to the capital market to obtain 35 billion loan for the Benin water storm project as we speak the only thing after paying out billions of naira in respect of that project that is visible today in Benin city is the pool of stagnant water littered all over Benin city and the attendant emergence of what people now refer to as “Oshiomhole mosquitoes,” very stubborn and deadly mosquitoes that is what that project has brought to the city.”

Now, Desmond Elliot, Nollywood actor and politician who is representing Surulere at the Lagos State House of Assembly under the platform of the APC, said godfatherism is the best thing to happen to Nigerian politics.

In his widely circulated interview, Elliot makes a case for godfatherism. He was trying to counter Obaseki’s re-election slogan ‘Edo No Be Lagos’. As far as Elliot is concerned, Lagos is the ideal to which other states ought to aspire to: But when you say ‘cannot be’, you’re already putting a cover. And I’m a spiritual person. You cannot say such things. We have pastors and Imams that will break the yoke. You can’t say it won’t be when Lagos makes an IGR of over 30 billion every month. You can’t hear about unpaid salaries or pension. You see projects coming up, investors, and investment coming. We are the fifth-largest economy in Africa. So why will you say Edo can’t be Lagos because you are trying to sell an idea? Let me tell you something, loyalty is important.”

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Loyalty is one thing and by the way, it should cut both ways. For all of Lagos state’s huge IGR, Elliot didn’t mention Lagos state’s equally (if not more) huge debt profile. As at June 2019, Lagos state had a debt of over N1 trillion, representing over 20 per cent of the total debts owed by Nigeria’s 36 states plus the federal capital territory (FCT).

There’s also Lagos’ opaque system of awarding contracts which many financial activists have always queried. This is not to say that Lagos doesn’t have programmes other states can strive to replicate. However, can we overlook the fact that Lagos was Nigeria’s capital city for decades with all of the attendant benefits?

Still, the main point Elliot sought to make was about the benevolence of godfathers and why they are necessary because in his estimation, Lagos State has the best godfather in the person of Bola

Ahmed Tinubu: “A godfather always tries to look after the interest of his people. I’m a product of godfatherism but Tinubu has never for one day asked me to do something you know would be detrimental. It’s progressive. So, let him (Obaseki) not castigate the whole thing. If not for godfatherism, would he be where he is today?” Is Elliot saying Obaseki dropped from the sky to be governor? And is Elliot saying he was a nobody before Tinubu picked him up (from wherever)? Before becoming governor, Obaseki was already a well-established entrepreneur in financial services.

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That aside, I doubt that Akinwunmi Ambode, immediate past governor of Lagos, will share Elliot’s rosy view about godfathers or of that godfather in particular. Babatunde Fashola, Tinubu’s immediate successor, nearly didn’t make it to a second term. This is in spite of being hailed as a performer in his first term.

Yet, the Lagos godfather tried to prevent him from returning for a second term. Fashola was saved by the public uproar. The next governor Ambode wasn’t that lucky. It wasn’t enough to deprive him of a second term, he had to be thoroughly humiliated. It’s the same type of stunt Oshiomhole is trying to pull in Edo state. It didn’t matter that allegations against Obaseki were proven false. It didn’t matter that this was the same man he was praising a few short years ago. He had to have his way and show that all power belonged to him. Is he really fighting for the betterment of Edo state? By the way, Oshiomhole himself fought Tony Anenih, Mr Fix-It, the original godfather to a standstill.

The one mistake Obaseki made was not to shout about his achievements long before now. Strategic communications and marketing experts will say attack is the best form of defence. The idea is to sell yourself before a problem arises, in other words, be proactive. Unfortunately, votes don’t always count. Seeing as Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, a status which seems to suit vote buyers, many voters may not necessarily care about what Obaseki has achieved. They may not also remember the Oshiomhole mosquitoes.

Desmond Elliot on Nollywood and Foreign Content

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Desmond Elliot definitely has a history of putting his foot in. In July 2019, he shared his five cents on Nollywood and what the government needs to do: First they need to create an enabling environment for this industry to thrive. Secondly, they (government) need to consciously, intentionally focus on building the industry. Treat it like you’re importing rice…So you ban all foreign content… make it difficult for foreign content to come in, so your local content can grow.”

Treat film like rice, not so? It’s for a reason the Bible says in Proverb 17: 28: “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (KJV).

Meanwhile, how come a man with two foreign names wants Nigeria to ban foreign content? And this is not me quibbling. It’s just that I used to be known as Priscilla Solomon, so I know what I’m talking about. I changed my name to Onoshe Uduzeli just before my final year in the university, changed again after marriage. Desmond Elliot doesn’t have to change his name but what kind of prehistoric thinking coming from a supposed ‘yoot’ says the only way to grow is by banning foreign content?

Nwabuikwu, AIRTIME columnist is a renowned TV/Film critic, and Film scholar. She also has experience in Advertising as a senior Copywriter and Corporate Communications as Communications consultant. Email: [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Mulex
    Mulex September 18, 10:05

    The writer wrote from a place of emotion, and appeared quite partisan which of course is her fundamental rights. I never miss Onoshe’s column as I have followed her online now over 5years.

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