20 years of democracy: Nigeria hampered by political dynasties

20 years of democracy: Nigeria hampered by political dynasties

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Nigeria has had a tortuous journey back to democracy from the ashes of military rule that ended in 1999.

The dynastic rule of the military had created deleterious political vestiges co-opted by the political players as soon as the nation returned to civil rule and this has led to politicians in collaboration with the traditional institutions and the high echelon of the civil service to create political fiefdoms in order to capture the resources of the state to appropriate and consume.

Some of these dynasties have had a succession of leaders at both the states and national levels started by a political patriarch from a certain family or region and later succeeded either by their wives or children.

The Tinubu Dynasty

Perhaps one of the most prominent political dynasties in Nigeria’s democratic experience is the political empire of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the acclaimed national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu bestrides the political landscape of Lagos state like a colossus.  He emerged as governor of the state in 1999. He served two terms and then handed over power to his handpicked successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who he supported to also do two terms as governor between 2007 and 2015.

The fact that the Jagaban of Borgu as he is fondly called exerted enormous influence was not in doubts when he became the indisputable kingmaker in the state. In 2015, Tinubu installed the recently out-gone governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode and was the arrowhead of those who dislodged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre in 2015. The beneficiaries of his stupendous political leverage are current President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, another acolyte of Tinubu.

Through his political shrewdness, Tinubu also imposed his wife Oluremi as Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, after he displaced the cerebral and colorful Senator Olorunmibe Mamora. Oluremi is serving her third term as Senator now after she was re-elected in the 2019 election courtesy of the Tinubu magic.

Tinubu’s power was further boosted after he again helped the APC to retain power at the center by returning President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, and most significantly also imposed his godson, Femi Gbajabiamilla as Speaker of the House of Representatives and his ally Ahmed Lawan as President of the Senate. Meanwhile Tinubu also halted the ambition of estranged godson, Ambode, who allegedly ‘violated’ the Tinubu code and was shown the way out as he failed to get a second term ticket which was handed over to Babajide Sanwolu as Lagos state governor. This is the confirmation that Tinubu is the ultimate political oracle in the state and to a greater extent the nation that must be consulted and appeased by power seekers. Today it is said that “if Tinubu goes to sleep, Lagos also goes to sleep”.

His political fortune is on the high but judging by the maxim that empires raise and fall, Tinubu’s political dynastic may well suffer overstretch, dwindle and probably collapse in no distant time as factors that lead to the fall of dynasties are embedded in his dynasty.


The Saraki Dynasty

The most visible face of the Saraki political dynasty is former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki.

Bukola is the son of the late strongman of Kwara politics Abubakar Olusola Saraki who was President of the Senate in the Second Republic. The Saraki dynasty held Kwara ‘hostage’ and dominated the state such that the Junior Saraki later became Governor of the state between 2003 and 2011(two terms) and took the Senate seat of Kwara central afterwards. His sister Gbemi, was also in the Senate between 2003 and 2011. However, her quest to become governor caused disaffection in the dynasty as Bukola was said to have opposed her choice and worked to scuttle that ambition which pitched him against his late father Olusola.

In 2015, Bukola played a fast one on his colleagues in the APC, and snatched the seat of the President of the Senate against the decision of the party leadership. He however did not enjoy his reign as President of the senate as he suffered one crisis after another induced by the APC bigwigs and elements in the Presidency opposed to his ambition. He was tagged a ‘rebel’ and all manner of conspiracies were invented to punish him. He survived but not for too long.

During the 2019 elections, Bukola Saraki finally bowed to the people’s will as the ‘Otoge’ movement spearheaded by the former Minister of Information and Culture , Lai Mohammed, inflicted defeat on him at the polls. The people of Kwara Central were emphatic in their rejection of Saraki and he has since recoiled into his political lair, probably strategizing for a comeback. How soon he will bounce back remains within the realm of conjectures. This development is also a major setback for the Saraki dynasty such that for the first time in 20 years of democracy the Saraki influence had dwindled such that there is perhaps nowhere the Sarakis are represented in government now. May be this is a relief for the state but it could be too early to presume.

Bukar Abba Ibrahim Political dynasty

Bukar Abba Ibrahim was governor of Yobe State in Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. Before then he had served as governor of the state from January 1992 to November 1993 during the botched Third Republic.

Bukar Ibrahim later took the Senate seat of Yobe East in the National Assembly and remained there until 2019 when he was said to have stepped down for the out-gone governor Ibrahim Gaidam.

However while Bukar Abba retained the Senate seat, his wife Khadija was in the House of Representatives for Damatura/Gujba/Gulani/Tarmuwa in Yobe State under the APC. In 2016, she was made the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs by President Muhammadu Buhari. But she has since returned to her constituency after she was again voted to represent the Damatura/Gujba/Gulani/Tarmuwa federal constituency.  This family and their allies have for so long dominated the political affairs of this highly volatile state ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.

There is a hotchpotch of other political dynasties such as that  Zainab Bulkachuwa, the Head of the Appeal Court, whose husband, Adamu Mohammed Bulkachwa, emerged senator  for Bauchi North Senatorial district on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Her son was also said to have contested governorship position in the state and is allegedly poised for ministerial appointment.

These among many others in the country show that Nigeria is under the clutch of godfathers and their allies in what some analyst describe as “unproductive and consumerist political dynasties”. This development appears to have strangled the political space and prevented genuine leadership that will ensure social good in the largest possible scale for the generality of the people.


Speaking to BusinessDay on Friday, a public affairs analyst, Majeed Dahiru, said the issue of the emergence of political dynasties in the Nigerian political space is only a symptom of a big ailment and that ailment is the Nigerian political system fundamentally premised on sentiments of geography, ethnicity and religion, which he noted are exploited by the elites.

“It is these sentiments that that leaders take advantage of to convert our political process into a criminal franchise, which has led to state capture for self-service.  That is why you see dynasties emerging, rising and falling and fighting among themselves for the control of the Nigerian resources,” he said.

He noted that this situation has arrested Nigeria’s development such that in 20 years of democracy not much progress has been made in terms of socio-economic and political development.

Dahiru also lamented that the people in the name of democracy vest legitimacy on this aberration of leadership, stressing that until something fundamental is done,it will continue this way for a long time to come.

“Nothing can be done about it except there is elite consensus on the need to move away from such disruptive and destructive political culture that created a monster struggling to destroy us all.

“So it has to be a self-enlightened realisation that this system is no longer sustainable and the effects are here already. Nigeria today has become one of the most unsafe parts of the earth, the poorest in the world and of course one of the most corrupt in the world. It simply tells you that a few people have appropriated the resources of the state at the expense of the collective will of the people.

“But I feel this to be a trigger to the self-consciousness that will put an end to the current hemorrhage in the country,” he said.

Also speaking to BusinessDay on Friday, National Chairman  of the National Unity Party (NUP) Perry Opara, explained that there is really nothing wrong with dynastic political power blocs if it will help bring good stability and growth to the country citing the US as an example of where there are political dynasties but having good governance and development.

“There is nothing wrong with dynasty even in advanced democracy   like US, people hold on to power and want those who support them to win. For instance Donald Trump wants Sanders to be Governor of Arkansas because she served well and Trump is very popular in Arkansas. That is what it is you want your people to be in position to ensure that things get well for you as long as there is stability,” he said.

Contributing, the National Chairman of the Providence People’s Congress (PPC), one of the parties that featured a presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, Adeturner Benson, said the ordinary people have borne the brunt of the dynastic misrule and called on the people to rise against it before it totally destroys the nation.

“We are suffering in the midst of plenty, everywhere is chaotic we are worse than the state of nature that Thomas Hobbes called nasty, brutish and short. It behooves on the ordinary people to rise against this type of dynastic misrule in the country.  But it takes a lot of efforts and we must make those efforts,” he said.

He lamented that there is no democracy in Nigeria yet adding that it is for the highest bidder. He said that Nigeria has lost the essence of governance and also castigated the dynastic stranglehold of the cabal in the civil service.

“You are talking about the politicians, come down to the level of civil servants, they are also an institution in their own right that behave as if  they are colonial masters. You want to get anything from them if don’t pay certain amount, you don’t get it. This is the sad situation,” he said.

Many have posited that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. However, some are skeptical about the fate of the nation having been allegedly captured by the dynastic blocs for narrow aggrandizement.


 Innocent Odoh, Abuja

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