Stakeholders, Godfathers and Populism: The Impact on UI Student Politics


Aduwo Ayodele

In the realm of student politics, stakeholders have become a force to be reckoned with, often acting like mountains, seeking to control the political desires and intentions of their fellow students. But why do some student leaders behave this way? Why do certain groups of student leaders act as stakeholders and mountains, attempting to control the political intentions and desires of other students? Who are these stakeholders and what are their unconventional missions? Why do they prefer uncreative electioneering campaigns over critical debates that could help students interpret their representatives more accurately? And is populism really the future of political dominance?

Stakeholders are renowned bigwigs who provide structure for the emergence of a political lightweight seeking political office. They can also be regarded as influential figures who provide support to political candidates in their bid for office. They work to ensure that the political environment is favourable to their chosen candidate, often through a binding agreement. To propel a contestant to the top echelon, this group of stakeholders foresees how to ensure the political firmament for their loyal candidate. They usually offer this support with a treaty that must be kept with fidelity. However, history has shown us the dangers of this approach. Two examples illustrate this instance. The alleged death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, and his experience with the Mafias illustrate what might happen between stakeholders and their bidder. The abduction of Chris Ngige, a former Anambra State Governor, and his subsequent confinement in the government house toilet in 2003 is another example. Chris Ngige, as a sitting governor, was instructed to kneel and endure slaps. These incidents highlight the problems associated with godfatherism and the potential risks for the candidates themselves.

Although endorsements and alliances can be useful in achieving success, they are not the be-all and end-all of student politics. In fact, they can be detrimental to genuine representation and intellectual rebirth. The culture of endorsement often leads to a situation where certain stakeholders, through non-democratic means, impose their preferred candidate on the student body. This can weaken the need for thoughtful debate and individual decision-making, ultimately leading to a lack of genuine representation.

While the science of endorsement is highly valuable and a stroke of luck in a campaign, endorsements matter less than student politicians believe. Although alliances and endorsements are not illegal and can help achieve a landslide feat, they are fundamentally flawed in all respects. Endorsement is now a mental shortcut for students, who can be easily swayed by exclusive interests. Whether made by a faction, some stakeholders, a hall of residence, department, or a faculty, the rise of endorsement or populism, which is becoming a pop culture at the University of Ibadan, may often merely ignite reaction and weaken the need for effortful thoughts that individual students should be able to rightfully do.

The motive of campus unionism, which necessitates yearly electioneering measures for leadership change, needs to be understood as a planned response that has been thoroughly thought through. The University law, as a purveyor, birthed the need for progressive leadership revalidation and aspirant personality re-evaluation. The purpose of campus unionism is also to bring about progressive change through the election of new leaders. However, the rise of endorsement and populism, which is becoming a popular culture at the University of Ibadan, can create a situation where students are easily swayed by exclusive interests rather than the aggregate interest of the student body. This leads to a situation where students are divided along sectional lines, creating rivalries and blocks of power.

The point is that endorsement is merely a counterbalance to democracy. This act creates the pursuit of sectional interests and crowd mentality against national interests, which should unite the aggregate interest of student-electorates. Endorsement creates another political enemy, empire, or block of power against itself. This feudalizes both the election process and its consequences, as a few individuals may view each other as potential rivals.

Godfatherism and endorsement silence reasoned opposition and create a culture of entitlement, where students are denied the right to critique candidates and their intentions. This ultimately weakens the election process and its outcomes, leading to the emergence of competing factions and the weakening of national interests and creates fractionalisation. One must understand the danger of denying students the right to critique aspirants and their intentions, as it subsequently creates net effects. It would also instil a mere identification, thoughtlessness, and feeling of entitlement against the opposite endorsing caucus. Students should always retain the persuasiveness to choose their representatives, who should demonstrate what is possible from their antecedent and promising manifestos.

Students should have the right to choose their representatives based on their manifestos and antecedents, rather than being swayed by endorsements and godfatherism. It should be noted that a student body better equipped to tackle the challenges of the future can be created by promoting intellectual rebirth and genuine representation.

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