… Their roles in Nigeria’s electoral contests in recent years
Another round of general elections in Nigeria has just gone by. In the build-up to the elections that took place in February and March, 2023, this magazine, in the last one year, devoted the cover of four editions to different aspects of the Presidential election which we considered to be the star of them all. The first two editions (the second being a revised or updated version of the first) identified the Top 10 Most Electable Presidential Aspirants from among an array of Nigerian politicians cutting across the country from the two dominant parties. The publication concluded that “two of these men (one each for APC and PDP) will win their party nomination if the contest is free and fair, with one of them emerging as Nigeria’s President in 2023.”
We were spot on: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu clinched the All Progressives Congress (APC) nomination while that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) went to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Both of them were on our Top 10 list.
The third edition on the Presidential election was published early this year, on the eve of the elections, featuring the Top Four Presidential candidates from the angle of what the electoral polls and projections predicted about the likely outcome of the election. In its conclusion, the publication said: “Nobody can say for sure who will be voted the next president of Nigeria. What is certain, however, using the polls, media presence and campaign activities as guides, and barring any extraordinary developments, one of the Top Four presidential candidates – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso – will become Nigeria’s next President.”
We were proved right once again. Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC was declared winner by Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He is billed to be inaugurated on May 29. However, the first two runners-up, Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Peter Obi of Labour Party (he was among our selected Top 10 most electable aspirants under PDP) are challenging Tinubu’s victory at the Election Tribunal. Nigerians and the world wait in baited breath to see whether another (final) winner will emerge from the electoral courts.
Our last edition in the series was published immediately after the election to profile and celebrate the declared winner, Bola Tinubu. It was first published online only before being incorporated in a subsequent print edition.
This edition you are reading has turned out to be another edition on the presidential election. But it did not set out to so. As the headline shows, it was intended to identify and celebrate the Top 10 Most Influential Political Actors in Nigeria. In the course of drawing up the criteria for the selection, we arrived at the conclusion that the best measure of political influence is performance at elections in which they contested or which they influenced for others. That being the case, who else could have qualified more than the presidential candidates whose electoral constituency is the entire country? Thus, out of the Top 10 Most Influential Political Actors in Nigeria, four of them – Tinubu, Atiku, Obi and Kwankwaso – made the list. Their performance at the polls which is the estimated measure of their influence on the Nigerian electorate set them far, far above the candidates of the 14 other parties. None of the group of 14 was able to win a single state out of 36 and FCT, including their home states.
The other group that is conspicuous on our Top 10 is that of Governors – serving and former. Included here are three incumbent Governors – Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Ademola Adeleke of Osun State and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. Incidentally none of them was a candidate in the February/March general election, either because they are serving out their second and final term permissable by law (Bello and Wike) or their election time falls outside the general election cycle (Adeleke and Bello). The others in this category are former Governors George Akume and Aliyu Wamakko of Benue and Sokoto states, respectively, who, after many years of vacating the Governorship seat, still control the levers of politics in their state.
The only member of the Top 10 Most Influential Political Actors who is in a class of his own is General T.Y Danjuma. He is the only non-active or non-partisan politician on the list, but he uses his vast connections, immense wealth and philanthropy to influence the politics of Taraba state and beyond.
One thread that runs through all those selected is the fact that, in the recent general elections, they secured victories for the Presidential and Governorship candidates of their parties in their home states as well as for National and state Assembly contestants. All of them have been known to have secured victories or appointments for themselves (except Danjuma) or proxies consistently (or almost) in their states (and elsewhere) since their emergence on the political scene.
Unfortunately, no woman has been able to wield this level of political influence and so none made the list.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
To describe Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s President-elect as the country’s most influential politician of the moment is to state the obvious. Not even the seemingly weighty issues raised against him by opponents and analysts in the build up to the 2023 general elections about his personal credentials, health status and Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket were able to diminish his political influence.
If election outcomes are a good measure of political influence (and they are), the results of the party primaries and main elections have amply proved Tinubu’s leadership in political influence in Nigeria. He won the presidential ticket of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) with ease, almost in a landslide. In the presidential election held on February 25, Tinubu scored 37 percent of the votes cast, the highest individual tally, leaving the other 17 aspirants to share the other 63 percent. The next three runners up got 29% (Atiku Abubakar), 25% (Peter Obi) and 6% (Rabiu Kwanwaso), respectively.
Tinubu also won the highest number of states, 12, outrightly (Zamfara, Jigawa, Borno, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Rivers). He came second in 19 states (Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Osun, Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Imo and Ebonyi).
Commenting on the significance of these victories, Prof. Muhammadu Jega, former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said: “The number of states that a candidate wins outright is important. Equally important is the number of states in which he came second. Also very important is, if he came second with only a narrow margin in most of them.”
Apart from his personal victories, Tinubu’s influence helped many other APC candidates in the Governorship, National and State legislative elections win their own seats. At the completion of the supplementary elections, his party emerged as the majority party in the Senate with 59 member-elect.
In the February 25 election, the party had 55 senators-elect but gained additional four seats during the supplementary polls. The six opposition parties have 50 senator-elect put together.
Of the 360 House of Representatives seats, Tinubu’s APC won 162, PDP 102, Labour 34, leaving the remaining 62 for the other parties.
He is billed to be inaugurated as Nigeria’s sixth elected President on May 29.
The President-elect has been building his power base, the source of his influence, since the early 1990s. By the time he entered the 2023 presidential race, he had built himself into a one-man political institution. He was instrumental to the birth of three formidable national political parties which provided him solid platforms to dominate Lagos State and national politics. He was elected Senator in 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the centre-left party created by the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; became Lagos state Governor between 1999 and 2007 under Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Action Congress (AC) and National Leader of APC from 2013 to date.
During this period, he has built massive political structures across the country, acquired stupendous wealth and groomed many of his loyalists and associates across the country, especially in his immediate constituencies of Lagos and Southwest, to occupy powerful offices at state and Federal levels, including governors, state and national legislators, ministers, Vice-President, special advisers and head of Federal agencies.
Tinubu is credited with singlehandedly installing his three consecutive successors till date as Lagos state Governor since he left office after serving two terms as the Governor of the state. They include, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. In fact, it is generally believed that anyone and everyone who has become a Senator, House of Representatives member, state house of assembly lawmaker or even a council chairperson in the state from as far back as 2003 had the approval of Tinubu.
Outside Lagos, some of the elected or appointed public office holders who were reportedly sponsored or assisted into such positions by Tinubu in the South West include Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior and former Governor of Osun State; Kayode Fayemi, former minister of Solid Mineral Resources and immediate past Governor of Ekiti State; former and present Governors of Ondo state, Olusegun Mimiko and Rotimi Akeredolu; as well as Abiola Ajimobi, late Governor of Oyo state.
The President-elect’s hand was also seen in the ascension into office of Adams Oshiomhole (as Edo State Governor, National Chairman of APC and Senator-elect in the February 2023 election). At one time or the other since he was Governor of Lagos state and founder or co-founder of national political parties, Tinubu has provided platforms for politicians such as Atiku Abubakar, Nuhu Ribadu; and even the incumbent President and Vice-President, Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, respectively, to contest for or ascend to power. There are many others.
It is within the context of the long list of people he had assisted to get into political office across the country over time that analysists situate his recent controversial campaign statement, ‘Emilokan’ (It’s my turn, in Yoruba). It is interpreted as meaning that after helping others realize their political ambitions, it was now his turn to be supported to realize his.
This year, 2023, by his strategic calculation, is the time to realize that ambition; the year the Nigerian political kingmaker extraordinaire would, himself, become king. With his victory in the February 25 election, there can be no doubt that Nigeria’s Presidency has come within his grips. His exercise of political power and influence has come full circle.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to the illustrious Tinubu Family of Lagos State. He attended Richard Daley College, Chicago Illinois, where he earned himself a place in the honours list of the College. He subsequently proceeded to the Chicago State University, Illinois, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Accounting and Management).
During his undergraduate years, he was honoured with the Outstanding Student’s Award, the University Scholar’s Award and the Certificate of Merit in Accounting and Finance. With his successful academic profile, young Bola contested and won his first political election as the President of the Accounting Society of the institution in his final year at the University.
Upon graduation with honours and several awards, Bola Tinubu cut his professional teeth at the American-based Arthur Anderson, Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now called Deloitte Haskins and Touche) and GTE Service Corporation – the largest Communication and Utility Company in the United States of America.
On his return to Nigeria and with his international experience in Financial Management, young Bola joined Mobil Producing Nigeria as a Senior Auditor before he retired as the company’s Treasurer.
As pragmatic, charitable, grassroots’ person, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu saw communal service as a veritable tool for social development. He never hesitated to serve his community, spearheading several financial contributions and fund-raising for community development programmes in Lagos State. He led Primrose Group, a political action organization pushing for fundamental changes in the politics of Lagos State.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu opted for full time public service in exchange for his lucrative job at Mobil. His first foray into active politics was as a founding member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 1992, he was elected as a Senator to represent Lagos West Senatorial District. At the National Assembly, he distinguished himself as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Appropriation and Currency – a foremost committee of the Senate.
With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Nigerian Presidential Election and the consequent fresh militarization of the Nigerian politics, Tinubu became a founding member of the famous pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which, for several years, engaged the military for the very soul of Nigeria. Subsequently, Tinubu suffered many arrests and detention, harassments and constant threats to his life, forcing him to flee Nigeria for his personal safety. He, however, did not give up the struggle as he joined NADECO abroad to continue the agitation for the restoration of democratic governance and civil rule in the country.
In 1998, Tinubu returned to Nigeria to heed a call for all Nigerians to join in the National Reconciliation and Development. A year later, he began his two-term public service as an elected Executive Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Accounts of Bola Tinubu’s political antecedents can fill a book of many volumes. Suffice it to say that, in the last three decades, he has bestridden the Nigerian political landscape like a Colossus, transforming himself into one of the most powerful politicians in Nigeria’s contemporary political history. Any politician from Lagos state who became somebody during this period – Governor, Deputy Governor, minister, Senator, amongst others, did so on the back, reputation and goodwill of the maverick former Governor. Similarly, those who fell from political grace to grass owed their misfortune to their impudence to challenge Tinubu or failure to reckon with his influence. Tinubu’s sphere of absolute political influence, till date, extends to other southwestern states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti where he determines the fate of state governors and other politicians – who gets elected or reelected and who does not. In many other parts of Nigeria, he has created a sort of cult followership among all the strata of the political elite on account of his astute political craftsmanship and influence.
This explains the national spread of the votes he scored and the states he won in the February 25 election.
Tinubu has a way of building or rebuilding highly successful alliances and political parties. As an astute political strategist, Tinubu, as AD Governor, survived the massive incursion of the ruling PDP to the South Western States of Nigeria as the lone re-elected Governor of the party in 2023. He was actively involved in the creation of the Action Congress (AC), (later Action Congress of Nigeria) as a recourse to the decimated AD. Rallying like-minds across the country, he sold sound ideals and programmes on this fresh and new political platform. Within a few months, he transformed this new party into the credible opposition to the PDP in the country.
Following the victory by PDP in the April 2007 elections, Tinubu was active in negotiations to bring together the fragmented opposition parties into a “mega-party” capable of challenging the PDP in 2011. In July 2009, he called for implementation of electoral reforms spelled out in the Uwais report to ensure that the 2011 elections would be as free and fair as the elections of 1993 had been. This move resulted in the formation of APC by Tinubu alongside Muhammadu Buhari in 2013. The goal was to build a stronger party to get rid of the ruling party, the PDP.
In 2015 Tinubu’s objective was achieved when APC won the presidential elections and most of the polls across the country.
It has been widely reported that Tinubu took his first concrete steps to actualize his “life-time” presidential ambition with the formation of APC. According to reports, APC at birth was a union of political forces loyal to President Buhari and Tinubu, a sort of equal partnership in which the party’s National Executive positions were shared between the two leaders. Tinubu reportedly conceded the party’s first presidential slot of two terms (eight years) to Buhari while he held the Honorary title of National Leader. The history of scuffles and instability in the national leadership of APC is generally believed to be the story of Tinubu’s Presidential bid: he seeks to dominate the party’s structure and hierarchy which he could deploy to his advantage in this year’s presidential election. The removal of Adams Oshiomhole, Tinubu’s arch-loyalist, as APC National Chairman in 2021 was interpreted in Tinubu’s camp as a calculated attempt by his opponents to scuttle his presidential ambition by removing his henchmen from the party leadership. The crisis created by Oshiomhole’s removal left the party without elected leadership at all levels for more than one year.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s score on this account is a mixed bag. It is in the nature of the murky waters of Nigerian politics that no one plays at the level Tinubu did and for the length of time he did without accumulating both accolades and scum, deserved or otherwise. Both the credit and debit sides of the President-elect’s political balance sheet in the last three decades are highly loaded with positives and negatives. The debit entries centre on the questionable status of personal records of his parentage, his age, university attended, health status and source of his famed wealth (he reportedly claimed to be richer than the Osun State Government).
On the political front, the man who built his political career on the foundation of pro-democracy struggle is accused of undemocratic tendencies. These usually manifest in his intolerance of dissent and politically bruising brushes with his Deputies (Kofo Akerele-Bucknor and Femi Pedro), political godsons and associates (AkinwumiAmbode and Aregbesola). He is also charged with ideological contradictions reflected in the mismatch between rhetoric and actions. For instance, the President-elect is accused of failure to use his party to restructure Nigeria, a position he advocated fiercely before APC won power in 2015.
In the campaign leading up to the February 25 election, the major issue that weighed heavily against him was the state of his physical and mental health which his opponents claim question his capacity to lead Nigeria as president.
Some credit entries in Tinubu’s political balance sheet include his capacity to design and deploy winning strategies to achieve political objectives and his outspokenness on any cause he believes in. He is also credited with being a successful Governor of Lagos State with a knack for identifying and installing suitable successors who have kept the touch of performance glowing in Lagos State. He is regarded as a benevolent leader and godfather who grooms and nurtures his associates to great heights in politics and other endeavours.
For his excellent performance as the Executive Governor of Lagos State (1999 – 2007), Tinubu received several awards, including the Best Governor in Nigeria for Year 2000 by the Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce; 2002 Best Practices Prize in improving the living environment, awarded by the Federal Ministry of Works and the UN Habitat Group; Year 2000 Best Computerized Government in Nigeria Award by the Computer Association of Nigeria. Tinubu was conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Law Degree by the Abia State University in recognition of his immense contribution to democracy, good governance and development of Nigeria. He is the proud recipient of numerous other chieftaincy titles and a patron of many professional and social organizations.
The results of the Presidential election have confirmed Tinubu’s acclaimed reputation as a born fighter. As expected, and against all odds, he deployed all his political arsenal, resources and influence to outclass his opponents and charmed his admirers to victory.
On May 29, all things being equal, Tinubu will be crowned the ultimate political influence welder when he is inaugurated as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice-President, was the first runner-up in the February 25 Nigerian Presidential election. He lost the election not for want of political influence. In fact, he is one of the most influential Nigerian politicians alive.
That influence has been clearly manifested in the results of the presidential primaries of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the presidential election itself. In the primaries, Atiku, a northerner, emerged the presidential flagbearer against the popular expectation and push for the position to move to the South in 2023.
This was the second time he was picking the presidential ticket of the party, described by its members in its hey days as the biggest party in Africa, which ruled Nigeria for 16 years, between 1999 and 2015, largely on account of his political influence. He defeated 12 other contestants from both North and South. In a keenly contested presidential primary held at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja, the Adamawa state-born politician polled 371 votes, about half of the 764 accredited voters, to beat his closest challenger, Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who came a distant second with 237 votes.
In the presidential election of February 25, Atiku confirmed his political influence by scoring 29 percent of the total votes cast, just eight percent behind the eventual winner, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who garnered 37 percent. Atiku tied up with the President-elect and the second runner-up, Peter Obi of Labour Party, in winning in 12 states each, the latter having the advantage of also securing victory in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Atiku’s nationwide influence also assisted many other Governorship, national and state legislative candidates of his party, PDP, to win their own elections. Thus, his influence has helped PDP retain its position as the leading opposition party in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly. In the senate, PDP won 36 seats to APC’s 59, while in the House of Representatives, PDP trailed APC with 102 to 162 seats.
Analysts general believe that Atiku’s performance in the 2023 presidential election was far below what his party, through his influence, was capable of delivering. They say he lost the election to internal wranglings in PDP. For instance, both Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso who started out as presidential aspirants of the party, seeing no prospect of securing the party’s ticket, left to pick those of Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), respectively.
Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, also followed the exit door after failing to win the primaries and snubbed in the choice of Atiku’s running mate. He took four other state Governors with him to fight against Atiku’s victory. As it turned out, the three runners up in the presidential election, namely, Atiku himself, Obi and Kwankwaso were all of the PDP family just before the election. Together, they polled about 60 percent of the vote. Analysts have been pondering what would have been had they stayed together in the party.
Professor Muhammed Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for instance, put it this way: “The top three runners-up in this race got a combined 60% of the vote. That is impressive, but then, they only have themselves to blame that they did not present a united front before the election. They only tried to present a united front to contest the results.
“It is a case of locking the stables after the horses have bolted. Would they have made 60% of the vote if they had united behind a single candidate? Anybody’s guess.”
But Atiku is not guessing. He believes he actually won the election and has filed a petition before the Presidential Election Tribunal to prove his victory. If he succeeds, he will become president and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the office that would consolidate his position as the most influential politician in Nigeria.
The 2023 race makes the 6th time the former Vice-President would be contesting for the President of Nigeria. He had unsuccessfully contested five times for the office in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In 1993, he contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries, losing to Moshood Abiola and BabaGana Kingibe.
He was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 presidential election. He contested the presidential primaries of the PDP forthe 2011 presidential election losing to President GoodluckJonathan. He joined the APC ahead of the 2015 presidential election, contested and lost the presidential primaries to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP and was the party’s presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election, again losing to the incumbent President.
When he declared for this year’s race, he said his enduring persistence “is borne outof my passion to rekindle the Nigerian dream that I was privileged to live. He said his return to the presidential race this time was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians.”
Born on November 25, 1946, in a small village, Jada, in Adamawa State, Atiku Abubakar is the only surviving child of his parents, Garba Abubakar, a Fulani trader, and Aisha Kande.
Atiku did not start his education until he was eight years old because his father strongly opposed western education. When the government discovered that he was not attending mandatory schooling, his father was jailed for a few days until his mother paid a fine. He was subsequently enrolled in Jada Primary School before proceeding to Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in Yola where he excelled in English Language and Literature.
Upon his graduation in 1965, he studied briefly at the Nigeria Police College in Kaduna but left when he was unable to produce an O-level Mathematics result. In 1966, he gained admission to the school of Hygiene in Kano after working as a Tax Officer in the regional Ministry of Finance. In his new school, he served as an Interim Student Union President and graduated with a diploma in 1967. With a regional scholarship, he enrolled for a Law Diploma at the Ahmadu Bello University in the same year and completed the programme in 1969. He went on to work for the Nigeria Customs Service during the Nigerian Civil War where he worked for 20 years. He rose to the position of Deputy Director, the second highest position in the Service before his retirement in April 1989. Upon retirement, he took up full time business and politics.
He ventured into business while serving as a Customs Officer. In 1974 he applied for andreceived a 31,000 Naira loan to build his first house in Yola, which he put up for rent.
From proceeds of the rent he purchased another plot, and built a second house. He continued this way, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola. He veered into agriculture in 1981 by acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola to start a maize and cotton farm. The business eventually packed up in 1986.
Dogged in his ways, he ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flourand sugar but his most important business venture was when Gabrielle Volpi, an Italianbusinessman in Nigeria, invited him to set up Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), alogistics company operating within the Ports. NICOTES would go on to provide immense wealth for Atiku. Conflict of interest accusations has since trailed him on account of his involvement in business while a civil servant, who exercised supervisory authority.
Atiku’s journey into the world of politics began in the early 1980s when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of Bamanga Tukur. Towards the end of his Customs career, he became acquainted with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who had been second-in-command of the military government that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. In 1989, Atiku was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria, the political association led by Yar’Adua, to participate in the transition programme initiated by the military President, Ibrahim Babangida. Atiku won a seat to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly, set up to decide a new constitution for Nigeria. The People’s Front was eventually denied registration bythe government (none of the groups that applied was registered) and found a place within the Social Democratic Party, SDP, one of the two parties decreed into existence by the regime.
He ran for the office of Governor in Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) in 1991, and for the Presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the SDP primaries. In 1998, he was elected Governor of Adamawa State and it was while he was still Governor-Elect that the PDP presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, selected him as his running mate. The duo went on to winelections in February 1999, and Atiku was sworn in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected Vice-President on May 29, 1999.
In 2006, Atiku was involved in a bitter public battle with his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, ostensibly arising from the latter’s bid to amend certain provisions of the constitution to take another shot at the presidency (for the third consecutive time). Atiku’s stormy relationship with Obasanjo and his bid to succeed the latter met with stiff opposition. It took a judgment of the Supreme Court to allow Atiku contest after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) initially disqualified him because he had been indicted for financial misconduct by an investigating panel set up at Obasanjo’s behest. The Supreme Court ordered theelectoral commission to restore Atiku’s name onto the presidential ballot.
Atiku left PDP and ran on the platform of the Action Congress because of his issues with Obasanjo. He lost, however, when he placed third after Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari.
Not one to quit, he later returned to PDP where he contested for the presidential ticket in 2007 alongside former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) and Sarah Jubrilbut lost to GEJ.
Atiku was PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections. He lost to the incumbent President.
A lot of allegations of corruption have been levelled against Abubakar. While most ofthem emanated from unproven media reports, most were believed to be orchestrated by his erstwhile boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom he engaged in political running battles during their time in office. But, to date, the former two-term Vice-President has never been convicted of corruption either in Nigeria or abroad. This has led to conclusions that the perception of corruption was foisted on him by suspicions of the source of his humongous wealth and political bad blood. In spite of his battered reputation, Atiku remains a critical fixture in Nigerian politics with millions of supporters all over the country.
Atiku’s claim to national reach began in early 1990s when he inherited the Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua’s political structures. Since then, he has been consolidating his national political network in every presidential election cycle as a contestant and as a two-term Vice-President. Today, his network of fanatical supporters run into millons, organized into numerous support groups.
The case of Peter Obi is the story of the most dramatic sprint in the history of Nigeria’s presidential race. The former Anambra state Governor started the race in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) without any prospect of picking the party’s ticket. But just a few months later he almost breasted the tape on the finishing line.
In PDP, in spite of his political pedigree and integrity, it was obvious that he stood no chance against deep-pocket contenders, particularly the former Nigerian Vice-President and perennial Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, with whom he ran as presidential running mate in 2019. When this magazine did a cover story on the Top 10 presidential aspirants for the 2023 elections, just before the party primaries, Obi was in the category of the also-rans. The magazine said:
“There are currently 18 registered political parties in Nigeria but the two dominant ones are the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the national level, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While most of the parties are expected to field presidential candidates for next year’s election, it is only APC and PDP and their presidential aspirants that are enjoying the limelight. They are the ones well organized to win the presidency and are, therefore, the central focus of Nigerians and this publication.”
Obi quit PDP and picked the presidential ticket of Labour Party (LP), which was hitherto relatively unknown. It had no sitting Governor or National Assembly member and lacked presence in many states, Local Governments and Council Wards across the country.
About the same time, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, another presidential aspirant also quit PDP to become the presidential flagbearer of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). Pundits advised Obi and Kwankwaso to merge or align LP and NNPP, with one of them as presidential candidate and the other as running mate, for them to make any impact at the polls. In response, there was a brief political romance that yielded neither merger nor alliance. They went their separate ways.
That was when Obi’s dramatic sprint in the Presidential race began, with barely right months to the polls. Nigerian youths picked him up as their model political leader and hope for the future of their country. They deployed all social media platforms and communication channels to mobilize themselves and other adult population who were disenchanted with the country’s political past and status quo and wanted to chart a new future Nigeria’s political future. Before you knew it, top politicians from APC, PDP and other fringe parties were falling over each other in defecting to Labour Party. The great ‘Obidients’ movement was born. And it gathered momentum both in Nigeria and abroad with overwhelming endorsements and fundraising activities to beef up his relatively lean political war chest.
Obi’s heavy social media presence began to be complemented with heavy crowds at his political events or wherever he went. The surge in his support base and followership was becoming unprecedented in the build-up to the February 25, 2023 polls.
APC and PDP, as well as their supporters, began to take Obi seriously. They derided him as a social media candidate without physical presence and political structures. They devoted considerable attention and resources to de-marketing Obi and his Labour Party, having realized he was becoming a threat to their victory. But the more they moved against Obi, the more he closed in on them.
Pre-election polls conducted between September 2022 and February 2023 showed Obi cruising neck-and-neck with the previously top two rated candidates – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of APC – in their chances of victory.
In its last edition before the February 25 election, this magazine wrote about the standings of the Top Four in the presidential race: “Taking a poll of the six polls and projections presented above, it would appear on the surface that Obi is rated number 1, winning in three out of the six polls. Obi ranked first in the NOI/ANAP and Bloomberg and We2geda polls while Tinubu came top in the EIU and Fitch polls. Atiku clinched first position only in the ThisDay projection…Kwankwaso failed to clinch the top spot in any one of them; in fact, he took the rear in all the polls and projections.”
The results of the election fairly accurately reflected the polls ratings, confirming Obi’s arrival at Nigeria’s political big stage. He came third with 25% of the votes cast after Tinubu (37%) and Atiku (29%). The three of them won 12 states each outright with Obi adding the FCT to his tally.
Obi and his supporters as well as many others believe that Obi actually won the election but was manipulated out of victory. Like Atiku, the first runner-up, Obi has filed a petition before the Presidential Election Tribunal to challenge the declaration of Tinubu as the winner – and his challenge should be taken seriously. Thrice, he was denied the mandate as Anambra state Governor, unjustifiably as it turned out, and thrice he retrieved it through the courts.
The political influence which has taken Obi to the pinnacle of national politics has also helped others to secure victory in the 2023 general elections. Largely on account of the influence of the Presidential candidate, Labour Party won 8 Senate and 36 House of Representatives seats, making the party the third with the highest number of seats in the forthcoming National Assembly. Obi’s influence has helped the party to win a Governorship seat (Abia state) for the first time.
Obi’s rise to the position of national political reckoning came at the instance of his reputation for stainless and outstanding performance in his private sector career as well as during his public service stint as Governor of Anambra State for eight years. Most of the honours and recognitions awarded him since then derive from this reputation. Take the roll: Man of the Year, The Sun Newspaper, 2007; Most Prudent Governor in Nigeria, Thisday Newspaper, 2009; Nigeria’s Most Trustworthy Governor, Champion Newspaper, 2009; Governor of the Year, West Africa ICT Development Award, 2010; Zik Leadership Prize, 2011; Best Performing Governor on Immunization in South-East Nigeria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012; Leadership and Good Governance Award, Ezeife Leadership Foundation, 2012; Golden Award on Prudence, Methodist Church of Nigeria, 2012; Man of the Year, Business Hallmark Newspaper, 2012; Man of the Year, Silverbird, 2013; Award for Outstanding Example in Leadership and Governance, The Voice Newspaper, 2014; Most Outstanding Igbo Man of the Decade, Champion Newspaper, 2014; and the Golden Merit Award, Nigerian Library Association, 2014.
Obi’s stainless credentials became an issue when he was nominated as a Presidential running mate in the 2019 general elections. His critics called him a desperado for a well-adjusted and seemingly pristine person like him to accept the role of a running mate to an individual who was notorious for his baggage.
Peter Obi was born on 19th July 1961 at Onitsha. He had his secondary school education at Christ the King College, Onitsha. In1980, Obi proceeded to University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he graduated with a B.A(Hons) in Philosophy in 1984.
Afterwards, his love for academic pursuit took him outside the shores of Nigeria to Ivy League and Oxbridge schools. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Boston, USA; London School of Economics where he studied Financial Management/BusinessPolicy; Columbia Business School, New York, USA (Marketing Management); Institute
for Management and Development, Switzerland; Kellogg Graduate School of Management, USA, Oxford University and Cambridge.
Before his adventure into politics, Peter Obi was already a successful businessman. He held high profile positions in several establishments. Some of the companies he served include: Next International Nigeria Ltd; Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd; Guardian Express Bank Plc; Future View Securities Ltd; Paymaster Nigeria Ltd; Chams Nigeria Ltd; Corp Ltd and Card Centre Ltd. He was the youngest chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc.
In addition to the aforementioned, he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Peter Obi is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and the British Institute of Directors (IOD).
Obi tied the knot with Margaret Brownson Usen in 1992 and they are blessed with twochildren: Gabriella Nwamaka Frances Obi and Gregory Peter Oseloka Obi.
Obi began his political career in 2003 when he contested for Anambra State governorship election under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared his opponent, Dr. Chris Ngige, of PDP winner but Obi challenged the result in court for almost three years. Eventually, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the court of appeal on 15 March, 2006.
Obi then took over on 17 March, 2006. After seven months in office, the State House of Assembly, dominated by the hostile opposition party in the state, impeached him. Mrs. Virginia Etiaba, his Deputy, was sworn-in in his place, making her the first female Governor in Nigeria’s history.
But Obi challenged his impeachment in the court of appeal and won and on February 9, 2007, and was re-instated as the Governor.
Again, Obi left the governorship position on May 29, 2007 after the general elections, which Andy Uba won. As a determined elite, Obi contested Uba’s election in court, arguing that he did not complete his four-year tenure and that his tenure started running when he took office in March 2006.
After Obi’s first term, he contested again in the 2010 gubernatorial election and defeated his opponent, Professor Charles Soludo, the former CBN governor. He remained the Governor of Anambra for another four-year term before handing over to Willie Obiano in 2014.
During the 2019 Presidential elections, Peter Obi was named the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, PDP’s Presidential candidate on October 12, 2018. Unfortunately, they lost to the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari.
As stated earlier, Peter Obi’s unique selling point in the presidential race was his integrity
and credibility. Femi Akintunde-Johnson, a public affairs commentator, says “…Obi appears like one of the brightest persons that should lead these disparate nations blithely called Nigeria into the next decade:well educated, well trained, well prepared; he comported himself above average in governance; andremarkably prudent in the management of state resources.
Obi’s network of friends, associates and supporters across the country over the years during his service in the private and public sectors. That network was boosted when he crisscrossed the country on a campaign stump as the presidential running mate to Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of PDP in 2019.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso
Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, candidate of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), finished fourth out of 18 in Nigeria’s Presidential election of February 25, 2023. That must have been another disappointing outing for someone who was taking a shot at the presidency for the third time. But surely, his performance in the latest attempt was a bold statement on his rising political influence and capacity to launch a successful challenge for the trophy in the next couple of attempts.
For one, contesting in the main presidential election this time was a major improvement on his first two bids in 2015 and 2019 in which he could not scale through the primaries. For another, he now has total control of (some would say, ownership) his party, NNPP, whose platform he could effortlessly run on.
Thirdly, by the next one or two election cycles, when the successor to the incoming President would be expected to come from the North, Kwankwaso would have been the most experienced presidential material from the North. By then he would be expected to build on his gains in the 2023 presidential outing, especially his party’s near-total victory in his home state, Kano.
In the results of this year’s election, NNPP was the third runner-up, with 6% of the total votes cast and winning outright in one state, Kano, which has the highest voter population in the country. Kwankwaso’s NNPP also defeated the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Governorship election in the state, produced two of the three Senators in the state and 19 House of Representatives seats. The party also won majority 26 out of 40 seats in the state House of Assembly.
Kwankwaso’s performance in the build-up to the 2023 general election and its outcome shows that the political ‘nomad’ has finally settled down. Previously, the former two-time Governor of Kano state had floated from PDP to APC then to PDP and recently out of PDP again.
When Kwankwaso launched his party, NNPP, early in 2022, not many saw it as anything serious. Indeed, many considered the new party as a distraction from the serious business of politicking by the ruling APC and the opposition PDP. But they appeared to have forgotten Senator Kwankwaso’s previous political impact in Kano, the North West, and Nigeria as a whole. At the 2014 presidential primaries of the newly formed APC, he performed quite creditably well by coming second to Muhammadu Buhari. More significantly he performed better than former Vice President Abubakar Atiku who finished third in that contest. As one commentator put it shortly after he assumed leadership of NNPP, “Without a doubt, Kwankwaso is the single most important political figure in Kano, a fact he is now proving with the strides being made by his party in the state.
“The waves that the NNPP is making in Kano have got APC and PDP grandees as well as political observers in the country consulting the political tea leaves to fathom what this may portend. My own sense is that if this trend continues it may extend beyond Kano and into the entire north-west.”
Analysts attribute Kwankwaso’s rising influence in Kano, and the North in general, to several factors. The first is his track record as a two-time Governor of Kano state.
During his first stint as Governor (1999-2003), he constructed Kano’s first and only state university, the Kano state University of Science and Technology in Wudil, which endeared him to the Kano state polity.
In his second term (2011 to 2015), he established the North West University, Kano, the second state institution in Kano.
Also, Kwankwaso established 26 academic and manpower development training institutes that educated and empowered more than 360,000 young men and women. He is credited as the first Governor in Nigeria to provide primary school children with free school meals and uniforms. By the time he left the government in 2015, enrollment in schools had increased from 1 million in 2011 to over 3 million.
Another factor is the insecurity, rising levels of poverty and alienation and the general disillusionment felt by the people of the North West geopolitical zone against the President Buhari-led APC which has provided ready ammunition for Kwankwaso to capitalise on for his political gains.
Another reason is that happenings in the country especially the targeting of northerners and their businesses for destruction as well as the threatening utterances of southern groups on the power equation in the country created the growing feeling in the North West that it would be politically suicidal to vote a southerner as president in 2023. It is normal under the circumstances for Kwankwaso to project himself as the defender of northern interest and thus garner the sympathy of the voters.
An analyst, writing ahead of the party primaries said: “These projections will begin to take shape after the conclusion of the primaries of the two major parties. Those northerners who feel aggrieved at the outcome will look upon NNPP as a default option and will most likely work against the APC and PDP. In the likely event of this happening, Kwankwaso’s profile as the gatekeeper of northern votes will accord him the chance of either determining who becomes the president in 2023 or may even become the president.”
Such was the impact Kwankwaso made in the campaign for the recent presidential election that pundits and pollsters were compelled to extend their analyses and projections from the traditional Top Three to Top Four contenders to accommodate him. For instance, shortly before the presidential election, this magazine said of Kwankwaso: “However, in spite of his large national political stature, Kwanwaso is running on the platform of a party, NNPP, that is relatively unknown in many parts of the country. This has given him the image of a presidential candidate that can boast of winning only in his home state. But the significance of that image is massive when that one state is Kano, the state whose voter population is the highest in the country. As a matter of fact, in recent presidential elections, Kano was able to deliver votes larger than those of many states put together. Thus, if Kwankwaso, the “home boy” is able to snap the Kano state votes, some from neighbouring northwestern states and springs surprises elsewhere, who knows.
“It is apparently on the basis of this calculation that many polls and projections tag him along with Tinubu, Atiku and Obi and placing him at the rear of the Top Four. In fact, in the February 25 Presidential election, Kwanwaso is like the underdog with the potentials of a lion.”
It would not be unrealistic to project that Kwankwaso could deploy his rising influence and electoral gains in Kano and Northwest to actualize his presidential ambition in the next couple of election cycles.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was born on 21 October 1956 in Kano. He attended Kwankwaso Primary School, Gwarzo Boarding Senior Primary School, Wudil Craft School and Kano Technical College before proceeding to Kaduna Polytechnic where he did both his National Diploma and Higher National Diploma. Kwankwaso was an active student leader during his school days and was an elected official of the Kano State Students Association. He also did his postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1983 at the Middlesex Polytechnic; and Loughborough University of Technology where he received a master’s degree in water engineering in 1985. He also bagged his PhD in Water Engineering at Sharda University India, in 2022.
Kwankwaso joined the Kano State Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency in 1975. He served there for seventeen years in various capacities and rose through the ranks to become the Principal Water Engineer.
Kwankwaso made his entry into politics in 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The same year, he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives representing Madobi Federal Constituency. His subsequent election as Deputy Speaker in the House brought him to the limelight of national politics. During the 1995 Constitutional Conference, Kwankwaso was elected as one of the delegates from Kano, as a member of the Peoples Democratic Movement led by Yar’adua. He later joined the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in the political transition programme of General Sani Abacha.
Kwankwaso joined PDP in 1998 under the platform of People’s Democratic Movement in Kano led by Mallam Musa Gwadabe, Senator Hamisu Musa and Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila. In 1999, he contested the PDP primaries alongside Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Mukthari Zimit, Alhaji Kabiru Rabiu. The Santsi/P.S.P were behind the candidature of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje but they lost to Kwankwaso in the primaries.
Kwankwaso was elected and served his first term as the Governor of Kano State from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2003. His first tenure as the Governor of Kano State was very eventful because of several other groups who were opposed to his high-handed governorship and his attempt at supporting Yoruba President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2003, he lost re-election to his rival Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Kwankwaso was re-elected as Governor of Kano State for the second time from May 29, 2011 to May 29, 2015. During this time, he set out to rejig the political structure of Kwankwassiya: building roads, hospitals and schools and sending residents to study abroad. In August 2013, Kwankwaso was amongst seven serving Governors who formed the G-7 faction within the PDP. In November 2013, Kwankwaso, alongside five members of the G-7, defected to the new opposition party, APC.
In October 2014, Kwankwaso used his large political following in Kano to contest the APC presidential primaries held in Lagos with the results: Muhammadu Buhari, 3,430 votes, Kwankwaso, 974; Atiku Abubakar, 954; Rochas Okorocha, 400; and Sam Nda-Isiah, 10 votes. Coming in second, Kwankwaso endorsed the winner Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier, from 2003 to 2007, Kwankwaso was appointed as Minister of Defence in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second cabinet, replacing General Theophilus Danjuma.
In 2007, Kwankwaso resigned his ministerial position to contest the Kano State governorship election but he lost because he had been indicted by a Government White Paper. Alhaji Ahmed Garba Bichi later replaced him as the governorship candidate of the party. After losing the bid from his party to contest the 2007 elections, he was appointed as the Special Envoy to Somalia and Darfur by President Olusegun Obasanjo; and was later appointed by President Umaru Yar’Adua as a Board Member of the Niger Delta Development Commission, a position he resigned from in 2010.
Kwankwaso represented Kano Central Senatorial District at the Senate of Nigeria for one term from May 2015 to May 2019.
In July 2018, Kwankwaso alongside fourteen serving senators of the APC defected to PDP and in October 2018, he contested the PDP presidential primaries. At the presidential primaries held in Rivers state, amongst twelve presidential aspirants, Kwankwaso came in fourth behind Atiku Abubakar with 1,532 votes, Aminu Tambuwal with 693 votes, Bukola Saraki with 317 votes and Kwankwaso with 158 votes. Kwankwaso later endorsed the winner, Atiku Abubakar, and refused to seek re-election into the senate, with Ibrahim Shekarau replacing him. Kwankwaso campaigned heavily for his son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf, to emerge as the Governor in Kano State. The election was later declared inconclusive with the incumbent, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, winning after the rerun.
On February 22, 2022, Kwankwaso set up the National Movement as a political movement against the staying power of the two major political parties, APC and PDP. He co-opted the New Nigeria Peoples Party as the political wing of the movement and became the national leader of the party on March 30, 2022.
After leaving office as Governor, Kwankwaso launched the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation (KDF), an initiative designed to help the people of Kano state and across Nigeria. Through the foundation, Kwankwaso supported many young people to further their education with continued financial assistance.
At the peak of the open political battle between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a number of the party chieftains in the state got caught up in the crossfire. Celestine Omehia, a former Governor of the state; Austin Okpara, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Senator Lee Meaba; all loyalists of Atiku, were stripped of their various leadership positions in the party and state government agencies by Governor Wike.
Reacting to the Governor’s action, Senator Meaba told Daily Trust on Sunday: “Wike is not hiding the fact that he is fighting Atiku. And he said he was ready to fight to the finish.
“We don’t know what he is planning to do because when campaigns start, we are qualified to campaign too. We are waiting to see how he would stop us from campaigning. This is a joke taken too far.”
Senator Meaba has learnt the hard way that Wike was not joking, for his principal, Atiku, lost the election in the state and overall while Wike became triumphant on most fronts: Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) whom Wike aligned with won the presidential election in Rivers state and is now President-elect. Wike’s Governorship candidate, Nimi Fubara, along with other National and state Assembly candidates in the state were victorious. Dr. Iorchia Ayu, the National Chairman of PDP and loyalist of Atiku whom Wike had wanted removed as precondition for reconciliation failed to deliver his Council and state and was sacked from office.
Wike’s triumph on all fronts in the 2023 general election is the highpoint of his rising political profile and influence in the last eight years. Apart from the President and President-elect, he is, today, perhaps, the most influential public office holder in Nigeria.
In the build-up to the 2023 general election, Wike’s political influence, made him one of the most sought-after political figures in Nigeria. He played host to the Who-is-Who in Nigerian politics, including APC’s presidential candidate, Ahmed Bola Tinubu; Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi and Atiku. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo with Obi also reportedly attended a meeting with Wike in London.
The Rivers state Governor also received in audience some prominent chieftains of APC, such as Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and David Umahi of Ebonyi State.
Other top chieftains of the party that visited the Governor’s Port Harcourt residence are former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
These visits by the presidential candidates and their loyalists were meant to woo Wike to support their ambitions.
Wike started to build his influence in PDP in 2015 when the party lost the presidential election to APC after 16 unbroken years in power at the National level. With prominent chieftains either defecting to the APC or retiring to their shells after the defeat, Wike provided the resources to keep the party afloat. He, alongside a former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, were the most vocal among opposition figures criticising the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
Since 2015, he and his camp have been instrumental to the election of the National Chairmen and majority of the members of the National Working Committee of the party. These included Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Ahmed Makarfi, Uche Secondus and the immediate past National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu. Wike’s camp has also been largely responsible for their time and mode of exit from the exalted office.
Channeling financial resources to most state chapters of the party, Wike was able to influence the constitution of many state executives and earning their loyalty. Wike’s generosity to state chapters, NWC, as well as his aggressive challenge to the APC-led federal government endeared him to many stakeholders of the party.
He also used his well-oiled presidential campaign tours to gain more friends and loyalists in the party. He visited the 36 states of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, where he canvassed for votes and made lots of friends. Media reports said that the Governor gave out huge sums of money to party leaders in each state he visited during the campaign.
Over time, Governor Wike’s influence covered the state structures of the party across the country. A number of his fellow state Governors also defer to him courtesy of his generousity.
He is also loved by the people of Rivers State because of the developmental projects he embarked on as Governor. Even his greatest critics would admit that although his politics is combative, it is also progressive and developmental; the reason he is dubbed Mr Project.
Governor Wike deployed the goodwill he earned from his outstanding performance to sustain the state as one of PDP’s strongholds, the result of which always showed during presidential elections. For example, former President Goodluck Jonathan got 1,487,075 votes against Buhari’s 69,238 in 2015 in spite of the fact that the then Governor Rotimi Amaechi defected to the APC. Also, in 2019, Atiku scored 473,971 votes in Rivers state to defeat President Buhari who had 150,710.
It was with the ernomous influence which Wike had amassed over the years that he approached the Presidential primaries of PDP in May last year. He became the first runner-up, losing to Atiku with 371 votes to 237. Some analysts say Wike would have won if not for the last-minute setback he suffered when Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto state, Presidential aspirant and a longstanding supporter of the Rivers State Governor, along with his delegates, switched loyalty to Atiku just before voting.
Shortly after Wike lost the PDP presidential primary in Abuja and was snubbed for the vice-presidential slot of the party, he became incenced. He and his loyalists mobilized against the National leadership of the party, insisting on the resignation of Dr. Iorchia Ayu, the National Chairman, to compensate Southern Nigeria for the loss of the party’s presidential ticket. This demand was the major precondition given by the Wike camp to support Atiku’s presidential campaign. It was turned down and the group consequently pulled out of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council. The anti-Atiku/Ayu fight crystalized into a group of five aggrieved PDP Governors (G-5) led by Governor Wike. Others include Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom; Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu; Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde
They became a nightmare to PDP and Atiku, its presidential candidate, ahead of the elections.
The last time that PDP state Governors revolted against their party this way was before the 2015 general election, when five PDP Governors refused to support the second term bid of then President Goodluck Jonathan. Their walkout was reportedly incidentally instigated and supported by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Jonathan lost that election, despite the fact that he was a powerful incumbent president. As if caught by the law of Karma, Atiku lost the 2023 election. Significantly, he lost in all the states of these aggrieved Governors, even where PDP won the Governorship and/or other elections (Rivers, Oyo, Enugu). The worst loss occurred in Governor Ortom’s Benue state, the home of Dr. Ayu, the National Chairman. There, PDP did not lose just the presidential election, but also the Governorship, two senate seats, eight out of nine House of Representatives seats and its majority in the state House of Assembly.
The political influence of Governor Wike, through the G-5 Governors, cannot be discounted in these electoral losses by PDP in its traditional strongholds.
But, even as Wike serves out his second and final term as Governor on May 29, 2023, the prospects are high and speculations are rife that the incoming President would acknowledge his contribution to his electoral victory by accommodating him in his cabinet. This means Wike is set to gain even more political power and influence in the forthcoming political dispensation.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was born on December 13, 1963, at Rumuepirikom, Obio-Akpor, Rivers State. He attended Government Secondary School Eneka in Obiakpor, Rivers State, where he sat for his O’level exams. From there, he proceeded to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUT), where he obtained adegree in Law. He attended Nigeria Law School and completed his studies in 1997.
Governor Wike also holds a Masters degree in Political and Administrative Studies from the same university.
Wike is a wealthy man. He reportedly has an estimated net worth of a staggering $550 million and is believed to be the second richest Governor in Nigeria. He is married to a beautiful wife, Eberechi, a high Court Judge, and the marriage is blessed with three children: Jordan, Joaquin, and Jazmyne.
After graduation, Wike briefly went into private legal practice before venturing into politics. He was elected as the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area for two terms, from 1999 to 2007. He distinguished himself as one of the best performing chairpersons of the council. While serving as Local Government Chairman, Wike was elected Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He was also an African representative in the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
At the end of his tenure as Local Government Chairman, he got appointed as the Chief of staff to Governor Chibuike Amaechi. He was also appointed General Manager of the campaign team during Governor Amaechi’s re-election campaign. On July 14, 2011, he was appointed Minister of State for Education, and later as Acting Minister of Education. However, he resigned voluntarily to vie for Governorship of Rivers State on the PDP ticket. On December 8, 2014, he won the Rivers State PDP Governorship primaries and subsequently won the general elections on April 3, the following year. He was re-elected as the Governor of Rivers State in the 2019 general elections.
Senator George Akume
Senator George Akume, former executive Governor of Benue state and the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations is unarguably, the most influential political figure from Benue state and by extension North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Senator Akume has been a permanent fixture in the politics of Benue state in the last 24 years. During the period, he has grown to become, undoubtedly, the most influential politician in the state. There are very few of his contemporaries who have so consistently, and for such a long time, dominated their political environment like Senator Akume.
Akume’s influence on Benue politics is only comparable to that of Senator Bola Tinubu of Lagos, to the extent that they are the only State Governors of the 1999 – 2007 set who have succeeded in using their influence to install their successors to date. Also, like Tinubu in Lagos state and South West, Senator Akume has been instrumental to the election or appointment of many politicians into party and public offices in Benue state and the Federal Government since his days as Governor.
He emerged on Nigeria’s political scene after his retirement as a Permanent Secretary from the Benue State civil service to become the third elected Governor of Benue state in 1999. Since then, he has remained on top of Benue and national politics, serving two terms as Governor, was elected a three-term Senator of the Federal Republic and serving as Senate Minority Leader. Today, in addition to being a minister, Senator Akume doubles as the Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State.
His influence began to manifest right from his time as the State Governor on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In his gubernatorial capacity, he doubled as the party leader in the state, positions he used to pave the way for Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam, the then member of the House of Representatives, to become the PDP Governorship candidate. Suswam eventually got elected Governor in 2007. During that year’s general election, Akume was elected Senator for Benue North West.
However, barely midway into his first term, Governor Suswam fell out politically with his mentor, Senator Akume, forcing the latter to defect to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), formerly known as Action Congress (AC). The party which produced Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor of Lagos state was regarded as a natural successor to the progressive politics more closely associated with the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the First and Second Republics, respectively.
One of the arrowheads of ACN was Tinubu, currently Nigeria’s President-elect, who was Lagos state Governor between 1999 and 2007. Akume’s defection to ACN at that time marked the beginning of a robust partisan relationship between him and Tinubu, which in later years, has proved to be an asset to Akume in building his own political base and influence.
That relationship became handy for Akume almost immediately. He picked the Senatorial ticket of ACN and handed Prof. Steve Ugba, a diplomat, the gubernatorial ticket of the party for the 2011 general election. Determined to see ACN take control of Benue state, Tinubu joined forces with Akume to give Governor Suswam, leader of PDP in the state, the political fight of his life. Suswam only managed to secure his reelection as Governor against Ugba with a slim margin but Akume won his own election to the Senate to represent Benue Northwest. The Senate position provided him the platform to solidify his hold on the ACN leadership.
Three years later, in 2013, ACN transformed into All Progressives Congress (APC), through merger with other parties, with Akume still as leader in the state. This set up an epic battle between PDP, the ruling party then at both the Federal and state levels, and APC in the 2015 general election. Governor Suswam guided the PDP to a primary election in which frontline aspirants like his Deputy, Chief Steven Lawani, Samuel Ortom, who had resigned as Minister of Industry and Investment to vie for the governorship, amongst other heavyweights, were brushed aside in favour of the relatively unknown Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Terhemen Taazor. Suswam, on his part, picked the Senatorial ticket for Benue North East.
Within 48 hours of losing the PDP Gubernatorial ticket, Ortom ran to Akume, who used his position, through legal instruments, to stop the APC primary election that was on-going with Emmanuel Jime, a House of Representatives member, coasting home to victory. From that point, Akume straightened the path to the emergence of Ortom as APC flagbearer and winner of the 2015 Governorship election. Suswam lost his Senatorial bid to APC’s Barnabas Gemade while Akume won his Senatorial reelection. That meant that PDP lost the Governorship as well as two Senate seats to Akume’s APC, leaving PDP with only Benue South Senatorial District.
However, like the case of Suswam, Ortom and Akume soon fell apart a couple of years later, making Governor Ortom to defect back to PDP, on whose platform he contested for reelection in 2019 and won. Suswam, too, won the Senate seat, with Akume losing his Senatorial reelection bid. With Comrade Abba Moro of PDP taking over from the erstwhile Senate President, David Mark as the Senator representing Benue South, most House of Representatives seats were won by PDP and the State House of Assembly dominated by PDP, it would appear that Akume and APC had lost political control of Benue state. Right? Wrong. Those who thought so failed to reckon with Akume’s doggedness, his loyal mass followership in the state and his links with the great political fighter and National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, as well as President Buhari. The President who was re-elected for a second term appointed Akume as Minister while Tinubu, with an eye on the 2023 Presidential election held tight to his Benue state political ally, Senator Akume. Together, the trio of Buhari, Tinubu and Akume plotted the fall of Governor Ortom and PDP in 2023. To make things easier for them, the relationship between Governor Ortom and President Buhari deteriorated over the issue of insecurity in the state, occasioned by deadly herdsmen attacks on communities in the state. The hostile relationship between the President and the state Governor apparently strengthened the partnership and resolve of the triumvirate to dislodge Ortom and the rival PDP from political control of Benue state in 2023.
Akume deftly deployed his position and influence as the state APC leader to ensure the emergence of Hyacinth Alia, a highly revered and popular Catholic priest, as the APC gubernatorial candidate. He was pitched against PDP’s Titus Uba, the incumbent Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was sponsored by Governor Ortom.
Unwittingly, Governor Ortom placed a smoking gun in the hands of his opponents by joining hands with four other aggrieved PDP Governors (G-5) to fight against the victory of his party’s Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. This action divided the party in the state into two, with one part following Governor Ortom to vote for the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and the other, led by Dr. Iorchia Ayu, PDP National Chairman, standing by Atiku.
PDP in Benue state went into the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, 2023 in utter disarray and they were routed by APC forces led by Senator Akume. APC won two of the three senate seats and nine out of 10 House of Representatives positions. In the Governorship and State Assembly elections that followed on March 18, Akume and his men consolidated their victory with the election of Rev. Fr. Alia as Governor and 24 out of 30 members of the state House of Assembly on the platform of APC.
One significant testimony to the huge influence of Senator Akume was the election of his wife, Regina, as member of the House of Representatives for Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency.
Another evidence of Senator Akume’s larger-than-life influence on the outcome of the elections is the huge crowds of individuals and groups across the state who, like pilgrims, have been trooping to his residence to congratulate him on APC’s victory in the state. Much as the visits to the minister reflect his contributions to the success of APC in the state to date, they also make a loud statement about the influence he is expected to wield in the incoming administration of Rev. Fr. Alia. It is now generally believed that anyone, group or community that is seeking any political appointment or patronage from the Alia administration who does not seek the prior endorsement of the state party leader is just having an idle dream. Ditto for those from Benue State seeking similar benefits at the Federal level under the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Those who thought that, after over three decades in control of political power in Benue state, the political influence of the 69-year-old maverick politician may be nearing its end should have a rethink. With Rev Fr. Alia whom he almost single-handedly made Benue state Governor and his political ally, Tinubu, assuming exalted political offices on May 29, Akume’s political star may just be about to shine anew.
Senator George Akume, from Tarka Local Government Area of Benue state, was born on 27 December 1953. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Labour Relations from the University of Ibadan.
He had an unbroken career in the Benue State civil service before retirement as a Permanent Secretary.
In 1999, he became Governor of Benue State and served two terms of four years. He was the first Governor of Benue state to have completed two terms in office.
Akume was a three-term Senator who was elected on the platform of three different political parties. He first won election to represent the people of Benue as a senator for Benue North-West in Nigeria’s senate in 2007 on the platform of PDP. Akume was re-elected Senator for Benue North-West in the April 2011 elections, running on the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform. He polled 261,726 votes, defeating Terngu Tsegba of the PDP who scored 143,354 votes. He was again re-elected to the senate under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. He was Senate Minority Leader from June 2011 – June 2015. He was Chairman, Senate committee on Army and a ranking member of senate. He was nominated and confirmed a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, a position he holds till date.
His immense popularity and influence in the state is attributed to his generousity, dating back to his days as Governor.
The history of politics of Sokoto state, North western Nigeria, in the last two decades is the story of rivalry between two former Governors of the state, Attahiru Bafarawa and Aliyu Wamakko. Both have ruled the state as two- term Governors. Since leaving office, the rivalry has continued through proxies: the successive Governors, National and state Assembly members and political appointees whom they sponsor into office. In each election period, Bafarawa and Wamakko find themselves or their proxies in opposing corners of the political slugfest, alternating between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The people of Sokoto state have been turned into a mass of ringside fans, cheering or booing, depending on who wins the duel or gets the sucker punch. And they are loving it because, according to some, it is “adding colour” to politics in the state.
Abdullahi Ahmad, a freelance journalist residing in the Runjin Sambo area of Sokoto metropolis, told a media house: “If you conduct a vox pop, I am sure you would find out that a lot of Sokoto people want (Attahiru) Bafarawa and Aliyu Wamakko to stay in the political scene forever. It may sound weird, but where would the glamour come from without them?”
“They have the money and they give it out,” Ahmad said. “They are ego-driven, which is good for their boys. In most of the cases, it is the two that decide who gets what seat in their political parties and because they have the money and connections, they continue being the top leaders.”
But as things stand at the moment, Wamakko has gained upper hand over Bafarawa in the political control of Sokoto state. In fact, Bafarawa no more seems to be the issue; the rivalry is now between Wamakko and his proxy, Governor Aminu Tambunwal who is only struggling to cope with Wamakko’s rising influence. Tambuwal almost lost his reelection in 2019, defeating Wamakko’s APC candidate by a slim margin. In the 2023 Governorship election, Wamakko’s candidate, Ahmed Aliyu floored that of Tambunwal, Umar Saidu. Wamakko’s APC won two out of the three Senatorial seats as well as eight out of eleven House of Representatives seats against Tambunwal’s PDP’s three seats. Wamakko also led APC to win majority seats in the State House of Assembly.
As one analyst put it, “Senator Wamakko has continued to be the indomitable and strong Iroko tree and absolutely the lone political tree that makes up a forest.
‘His influence and political landscape and horizon have continued to wax stronger and stronger, both within the state and across Nigeria, and beyond.”
With Wamakko and his party, APC, taking the driver’s seat as the ruling party in the state, his rising influence in the next four years, at least, can only soar higher.
Before the political war between Bafarawa and Wamakko both of them shared a mutual respect for each other. In the build-up to the 1999 general elections, the then All People’s Party (APP) in Sokoto needed a rich politician to match the influence of PDP which was dominated and financed by retired generals then. APP believed it also needed a civil servant with a good record of service to appeal to the electorate in the state who were mostly civil servants.
While Bafarawa, who had been in politics and business since about 1979, had the financial muscle and political connections, Wamakko was a civil servant who had retired as a director-general. The two got together with Bafarawa as the governorship candidate and Wamakko as running mate and won the election for APP. Life started smoothly between them.
But before long, irreconcilable differences set in. The division worsened despite efforts by political, traditional, religious and business leaders in the state to reconcile the Governor and his Deputy. Eventually, Wamakko, who got wind of the plan by the State House of Assembly to impeach him, resigned from office in 2006.
Meanwhile, Bafarawa continued to fight with Wamakko’s loyalists, many of them powerful party leaders. He eventually left the APP himself and floated the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). Although Wamakko had taken control of APP that had been abandoned by his erstwhile boss, he was persuaded by then President Olusegun Obasanjo and some party leaders to take the PDP governorship ticket instead. That was the beginning of Wamakko’s political ascendancy over his former boss in Sokoto state.
Bafarawa, who was rounding off his second term at the time, presented Maigari Dingyadi as the DPP candidate. But Wamakko, with then Water Resources Minister, Mukhtar Shagari, as his running mate, was declared winner of the 2007 election.
Again in 2012, Bafarawa sponsored Garba Ila Gada but they could not stop Wamakko’s reelection. In 2015, the rivals swapped parties with Bafarawa joining the PDP and Wamakko going to APC. The latter backed the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tambuwal, in the governorship election and he defeated Abdallah Wali of the PDP. The only time that Bafarawa had the upper hand against Wamakko was in 2019 when Tambuwal, seeking reelection under the PDP, defeated Wamakko’s trusted ally, Ahmed Aliyu, the candidate of APC.
All four consecutive elections between 2007 and 2019 have been proxy wars between Bafarawa and Wamakko, not necessarily about the candidates. Political discussions have always revolved around the duo and the successes or failures were not duly credited to the candidates but to their godfathers.
When Tambuwal emerged as the winner of the 2019 general elections by a slim margin, hundreds of supporters thronged Bafarawa’s residence to congratulate him. It was a fight into which he put everything to win.
Wamakko, on the other hand, took the defeat of his candidate personally and sponsored a long legal battle until Tambuwal’s reelection was confirmed by the courts.This made Bafarawa the de facto winner.
For the 2023 governorship election, While Wamakko fielded Ahmed Aliyu, who contested against Tambuwal in 2019, Bafarawa, through Governor Tambuwal, settled for the immediate former Secretary to the State Government, Umar Saidu. Bafarawa’s eldest son, Sagir Bafarawa, was made Saidu’s running mate.
Though it did not seem to be an issue in his party, Bafarawa’s hands were visible in the calculations that led to the emergence of Saidu and his son as the PDP candidates.
On his part, however, Wamakko angered many leaders in his own party, including a sitting senator and a former minister, by influencing the emergence of Aliyu again as the party’s gubernatorial candidate. This led to the defection of some prominent APC members to PDP in June 2022.
But the state Chairman of APC, Alhaji Isa Sadiq Achida, said that, by their departure, the ‘’battle line has been drawn, between the APC and the masses of Sokoto State on the one hand, and the selfish political mercenaries and their pay masters on the other.”
As the outcome of the elections showed, Wamakko’s APC won the battle and, as the popular saying goes, the rest is now history.
Analysts and his loyalists attribute Wamakko’s success and growing political influence to the kind of politics he plays, one that is generousity and development-driven. One analyst wrote: “The Sokoto educational and health revolution can be attributed to Wamakko’s commitment and foresight to transform the lives of people in the state. The eight years of Wamakko as Governor has brought enviable record of service delivery. Wamakko’s passion for sound and qualitative education led to the establishment of Sokoto State University. Besides, the huge investment in primary and secondary education had increased pupils/student enrolment. Courtesy of Wamakko’s selfless leadership, Sokoto State has become a reference in development of education not only within the Northern region but also the country at large.”
Another said: “Wamakko is more generous than Bafarawa but he also has his own allies working for him. Wamakko attends funeral prayers, weddings and what have you.”
Yet another testimony: “Senator Wamakko is a grassroots politician and down-to-earth philanthropist. His house is a mecca of sorts. As a listening leader, he is accessible and ready to assist his people anytime.”
Aliyu Wamakko was born on March 1, 1953 in Wamakko, Sokoto State. He spent five years (1968-1972) at the Sokoto Teachers’ College. After graduation, he worked as a teacher from 1973-1977 before being admitted to the University of Pittsburgh in the United States. He graduated with a B.Sc. in August 1980. On his return to Nigeria, he taught at Sokoto Teachers College.
Wamakko took a job as Principal Assistant Secretary of Zurmi Local Government Area (LGA), and later got promoted to Acting Secretary. He worked at Kaura Namoda LGA, and was appointed Chairman of the Sokoto LGA from 1986-1987. He became General Manager, Hotel Management and Tourism Board, Sokoto. In March 1992, he was promoted to Director-General, Careers and Special Services, Governor’s Office, Sokoto, in March 1992. He was elected Deputy Governor of Sokoto State under Governor Attahiru Bafarawa in 1999, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). He was re-elected Deputy Governor for a second term in April 2003. He resigned as Deputy Governor of Sokoto State on March 15, 2006.
Wamakko ran successfully for Governor of Sokoto State on the PDP platform, and assumed office on 29 May 2007. Following an appeal, his election was annulled in April 2008 on the basis that he had still been a member of ANPP when he won the PDP nomination. Abdullahi Balarabe Salame was appointed Acting Governor (11 April – 28 May, 2008) while a re-run was arranged. It was said that the contest was not so much between Wamakko and Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi of the DPP, as between Wamakko and his predecessor, Attahiru Bafarawa, founder of DPP. Wamakko regained his seat in the May 2008 re-run.
There can be no argument that for a long time, TY Danjuma has maintained near-total influence in the politics of Taraba state, dictating who gets what as far as electoral positions are concerned. In fact, for several decades now, General Danjuma has used his military connections, massive wealth and philanthropic disposition to exercise unparalleled influence on Nigerian politics – military and civilian – not only in his home state of Taraba but also at the national level and in other states. Even at age 84, TY Danjuma remains, unarguably, the most politically influential non-partisan politician in Nigeria today.
Danjuma’s total dominance of the politics of Taraba state has been a source of concern to many people in the opposing camp and they are not pretending about it. Iliyasu Gadu, the Senatorial candidate of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) for Taraba South in the recent Nigeria’s general election does not hide his frustration with the stranglehold which Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, a former Minister of Defence, has exercised on Taraba state politics.
In an interview with the Daily Trust after the election, Gadu said: “Taraba State does not belong to an individual. Therefore, he (referring to TY Danjuma, as the retired army General is popularly known) should leave us to choose our leaders.
“He alone cannot decide for Taraba because he has one vote like anyone else. It is high time for him to go and rest because he is not a monarch…
“In Taraba the rights of individuals are breached by not allowing democratic space to blossom. Manipulation thrives in Taraba because it belongs to an individual,” he said.
However, not many will agree with Gadu’s hyperbole or view Danjuma’s involvement in the politics of Taraba state from a negative perspective as done by Gadu. Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who is the President of the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET), a public policy think tank, in a tribute to mark Danjuma’s 84th birthday last December, described Nigeria’s former Chief of Army staff as “a colossus in Nigeria’s military, political, business and philanthropic landscape over the past six decades; Danjuma’s roles and actions in Nigeria’s history have been decisive and consequential.”
The general was a key player in important backroom political wheelings and dealings in his heyday, especially in the context of military transitions to democratic rule. Moghalu told the story of how the late elder statesman and First Republic Minister Mbazulike Amaechi, who was a political confidante of First Republic President Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in a newspaper interview recalled that Danjuma (implicitly acting as point man for the military junta at the time) was favourably disposed to the Great Zik emerging as executive President of Nigeria in 1979. That masterstroke of national reconciliation, had it happened, was to have been on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), with Shehu Shagari as Zik’s Vice-President. Amaechi recalled a dinner at Shagari’s residence between himself, Shagari and Danjuma where this scenario was discussed and agreed as the transition to civilian rule loomed in the late 70s. But Zik ultimately balked – doubtless driven by a fear of a last-minute betrayal inside the party. Instead of joining the “mainstream” NPN, the grand old maestro contested on the platform of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). That choice yielded a different trajectory.
The retired general was the chief financial bundler for Olusegun Obasanjo’s 1999 presidential campaign, and served as Minister of Defence in the first term of Obasanjo’s presidency.
Since 1999 Danjuma has played an active role in Nigerian politics. Apart from serving as Minister of Defence in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Cabinet, he was, in 2003, appointed as Chairperson for investigative committee on the Warri conflict.
In 2010, Danjuma was nominated as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
While in Office, Gen TY Danjuma sought to curb the politicisation of the military, and was a firm supporter of democracy and the Rule of Law. He also oversaw the renaming of all Nigerian barracks and cantons from those of civilian or living persons. He was also widely known to be an avid opponent of President Obasanjo’s attempts in 2006 to engineer a way that would enable himself and state governors to serve more than two consecutive terms.
Danjuma serves as Chairman of the Victims’ Support Fund Committee, supporting the victims of terror such as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. On 16 July 2014, in a speech at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Danjuma “told President Jonathan that Boko Haram insurgents appear to be having the upper hand, as they choose where to strike and capture territory … Danjuma said the battle to win the insurgency war has already taken too long.”
While his influence at the national level and elsewhere may not be very visible to many, that of Taraba state cannot be hidden. As one writer put it, “politically, he calls the shots in the State. No one becomes the Governor of the State without his support. He is in charge of entire Taraba State.
“Darius Ishaku, his kinsman from the Takum Tribe, is the Governor of Taraba State. Those who are conversant with the political dynamics of Taraba will tell you that TY Danjuma installed Ishaku as the Governor of Taraba. We all know what happened when Umar Garba became the Governor of the State after the late Danbaba Suntai was unfortunately incapacitated.”
Theophilus Danjuma was born in Takum, Taraba State (formerly Gongola State), Nigeria. He started his education at St Bartholomew’s Primary School in Wusasa and moved on to the Benue Provincial Secondary School in Katsina-Ala where he was the captain of the school cricket 1st XI team; he received his Higher School Certificate in 1958. In 1959 Danjuma enrolled at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria (Ahmadu Bello University) to study history on a Northern Nigeria Scholarship. However, by the end of 1960, Danjuma had left the university to enroll in the Nigerian Army.
Danjuma was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as second lieutenant and platoon commander in the Congo. In 1963, he joined a UN Peace-keeping force in Sante, Katanga Province in Congo, he was promoted to the position of a captain three years later. In 1966, Captain Danjuma was involved in the counter-coup with the 4th Battalion in Mokola, Ibadan. General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was arrested in Ibadan, together with his host, General Adekunle Fajuyi, by northern soldiers under the command of Major Theophilus Danjuma (as he then was). Both men were then whisked away and taken to a road side bush where they were both stripped naked and shot.
Danjuma told a media interviewer in the Vanguard newspaper of February 17, 2008 that, contrary to popular belief, he did not order the killing of Ironsi and Fajuyi. Instead, he recalled, events spun out of his control in the heat of the moment after the arrest of the two leaders. He said soldiers locally based in Abeokuta disobeyed his command at a point, “batoned” him, and took Ironsi and Fajuyi away to their tragic deaths.
In 1967, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel at the start of the civil war campaign towards Enugu, which was captured later that year. In December 1967, he was appointed Commander of the Nigerian Army’s 1st Infantry Brigade, a position he held till July 1968. Towards the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Danjuma led a battalion that freed Jaja Wachuku, first Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives as well as first Ambassador to the United Nations and first Foreign Affairs Minister, from detention by the Ojukwu government.
In 1970, Danjuma attended the International Court Martial in Trinidad and Tobago as Nigeria’s representative, where he was appointed president of the tribunal in a case brought against members of a failed coup attempt in Trinidad and Tobago. Following his promotion to Colonel in 1971 he spent next two years with responsibility for court-martialling Army officers proven guilty of corruption and indiscipline. In 1975 he was promoted to Brigadier and the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC), and in the following year he became the Chief of Army Staff during the administration of the Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo. He played a prominent role in supporting the president in resisting the Dimka Coup in 1976. He retired from the Nigerian army in 1979 following the handover of power to civilians.
Danjuma’s influence, which continued in subsequent electoral transitions, was also cemented by the great wealth he amassed in his post-military career. He made his billions in shipping and crude oil exploration, proving as astute in the boardroom as he was as a soldier.
In 2008 he established the T.Y. Danjuma Foundation, opening up yet another chapter in his eventful life. This formalized philanthropy has become his latter-day signature. Danjuma’s philanthropic support for human capital development in Nigeria, through education and healthcare in Nigerian tertiary institutions and beyond, has been game-changing for its recipients.
Governor Ademola Adeleke
The Governor of Osun state, Senator Ademola Adeleke, is a chiff off the old block. He is currently holding aloft the flag of the popular Adeleke family of Ede, renowned for their immense wealth, fame and political power. In just about six years of his formal entry into politics, the Governor has arguably equalled the record of his illustrious elder sibling, the Late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, in terms of wealth, fame and political influence. Like Isiaka before him, Ademola has become both Senator and State Governor and he is inching gradually towards total domination of the politics of Osun state.
The signs are all very clear. Until the death of his elder brother, Isiaka Adeleke, the head of Adeleke’s empire and a serving Senator, on April 23, 2017, Ademola was relatively unknown in politics. After the death of his elder brother who was an APC sitting senator, powerful people from Osun West Senatorial District agreed to return the ticket to the Adeleke family. Ademola was drafted to fill the vacancy created by Isiaka’s demise but the powers that be in Osun state APC denied him the ticket. This did not go down well with the powerful Adeleke political family and their supporters. They decided to decamp to PDP and made Ademola to contest the senatorial by-election under the PDP where he eventually defeated the APC candidate in the by-election to replace his late elder brother. Nine of the 10 local governments in the senatorial district elected him, and he received 97,280 votes. He dedicated his victory to his late brother.
As a sitting senator, he decided to take a shot at the Governorship election in 2018 where he fought his closest rival to a standstill: won in the first ballot but he lost in the rerun to his APC opponent under controversial circumstances. Adeleke ran for the governorship election against APC’s Gboyega Oyetola and Iyiola Omisore, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ruled the election inconclusive and scheduled a rerun for September 27, 2018. Oyetola, the APC candidate, won the run-off election.
Adeleke called the election a “coup” and opposed the outcome. On March 22, 2019, a Tribunal proclaimed Adeleke, winner of the election. The Supreme Court later affirmed Oyetola as the authentic winner of the election.
In the second attempt four years later, Adeleke defeated the same rival and incumbent Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, both at the polls and in court. Again, he left no one in doubt about his rising political clout when, in the 2023 general elections, his party swept virtually all the legislative seats available at the state and national levels.
He also led his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win in all the three Senatorial districts and the nine Federal Constituencies as well as 25 out of 26 seats in the state House of Assembly. Similarly, PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, polled 354,366 votes in the state to defeat Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 343,945 votes.
These victories are particularly significant considering the fact that Osun State is one of the states in Southwestern Nigeria which is the traditional stronghold of the rival ruling party, APC.
A chieftain of PDP in the state, Pelumi Olajengbesi said: “The commanding, indisputable and overwhelming victory of all PDP National Assembly candidates in the February 25 presidential election in Osun State again goes to show the popularity and widespread acceptance of His Excellency, Governor Ademola Adeleke, who led the party to victory in the state.
“Also, the victory of the PDP presidential candidate, a North-Easterner from Adamawa, in a South-West state and a Yoruba-dominated one at that, is testament to Adeleke’s efficient leadership and effective grassroot mobilisation, capability, tenacity as well as the widespread support, love and cooperation he enjoys from the good people of Osun State.”
Governor Adeleke came out immediately after the elections to take personal responsibility for his party’s outstanding performance. He said in a statement: “My good people of Osun state, you have honoured me and my party with another remarkable victory at the assembly elections.
“You have passed an excellent vote of confidence in my administration and my party by a series of electoral mandates in the last three elections.
“I went round the state with my scorecard under 100 days and you responded by endorsing my party’s candidates for legislative offices.
” You listened to my request for assembly members of my party who will work with me to deliver our five-point agenda.
” Your trust in me to deliver on our election promises has been expanded and strengthened.
“Your verdict on my performance is loud and clear.
” You have approved of our people-focused governance and our demonstrated will to resolve all outstanding challenges inherited from the previous administration.”
Senator Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke was born on March 6, 1960, to the family of Ayoola Adeleke and Esther Adeleke in Enugu, Southrastern Nigeria.
He had his secondary education at Ede Muslim Grammar School, Ede, before he relocated to the United States to continue his studies at Jacksonville State University, Alabama, where he majored in criminal justice with a minor in political science.
Following his passion, business interests and entrepreneurship opportunities, Senator Adeleke joined Quicksilver Courier Company in Atlanta, Georgia, US, as a service contractor between 1985-1989. He progressed to Origin International LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, US, a flavour and fragrance manufacturing company where he served as Vice President from 1990 to 1994.
He served as a Director of Guinness Nigeria Limited between 1992- 1999 where he contributed immensely to the expansion of the multinational company. He was later appointed Group Executive Director of Pacific Holdings Limited from 2001 to 2016.
Senator Adeleke is also an acclaimed creative Industry entrepreneur and mentor. As a talented creative figure, he mentored world rated ace musicians, including his family members (Davido, his nephew; and B-Red, his son). For his dancing dexterity he was nicknamed the ‘Dancing Senator.’
To complete his educational sojourn which he suspended because of business and entrepreneurial preoccupations, Senator Adeleke in 2019 went back to school in the United States where he re-enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 2021.
His passion for politics and serving the people started as early as 1991, leading to his election with a landslide victory as a Senator for Osun West Senatorial District in 2017, after the demise of his late brother. His popularity reached a peak when he won the Osun 2018 governorship election in the first round before the controversial rerun election that favoured the incumbent Governor of the state.
A great football lover, Senator Adeleke was a member of Ede Muslim Grammar School football team.
Governor Yahaya Bello
Until 2015, it was generally thought impossible for any politician other than one of the Igala ethnic nationality to get elected as Governor of Kogi state. This is because of their strong demographic dominance over the Okun and Ebira ethic groups. That thought became reality as the first three successive civilian Governors of the state – Abubakar Audu, Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada – were all Igala. In 2015, Audu was on the verge of returning to power to continue the Igala political hegemony when he suddenly dropped dead while leading in the votes tally in the Governorship election.
There was a temporary impasse occasioned by Audu’s sudden demise: who would inherit the leading votes of the late gubernatorial candidate? The leadership of APC, invoking the provisions of the Electoral Act that only a political party can submit the name of a candidate in an election to the electoral body decided in its wisdom that Yahaya Bello, who came second in the primaries, should be the candidate of the party for the supplementary election.
Thus, Bello, a young Ebira politician, a civil servant and businessman stepped into Audu’s shoes as APC candidate in the supplementary election where he defeated Captain Idris Wada, then incumbent Governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Bello went on to win all the court cases instituted against his candidacy and became the governor of Kogi state.
That development marked a watershed in the history of Kogi state politics and the emergence of Bello as a political force in the state. He was re-elected Governor in 2020 and has, ever since, established his political influence in the state, and extended same to the national level. The 47-year-old Governor tested his popularity nationwide by contesting for nomination as the presidential candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year. At 47, he is the youngest second term Governor of a state in Nigeria. No one gave him the slimmest chance in 2015 when he aspired to become the Governor of Kogi State.
Abdullahi Haruna Haruspice, an Abuja-based writer, said of Bello: “In spite of the turbulence that heralded his coming to power in 2015 and the teething problems that characterized his first term in office, Bello weathered the storm with such philosophical calmness that when he made an attempt to secure a second term in office, it was an overwhelming victory never before seen in the political annals of the history of the state.”
Governor Bello sought his party’s nomination to run for the presidency in 2023 but lost. Instead of challenging the process and outcome of the primary election, as is common in the Nigerian polity, he wrote to congratulate the winner, Bola Tinubu. Apparently in appreciation of his loyalty and influence in the party, especially among the youths, Governor Bello was appointed as National Youth Coordinator of the Tinubu presidential campaign. In the main general elections, Governor Bello led APC to a resounding victory. Tinubu was declared winner with APC in Kogi State delivering overwhelmingly for him. The party also won the three senatorial seats, six of the nine House of Representatives seats and 22 out of the 25 House of Assembly seats.
There are speculations that Governor Bello, ever a dogged fighter with an enduring capacity for a durable or marathon race, is on course to being appointed as a minister in the incoming APC Federal administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This may probably be in recognition of his growing influence as a powerful power player and a youth mobilizer who contributed immensely to the victory of Tinubu in the last presidential election. Such an appointment, even though considered as a reward for his contribution to Tinubu’s victory, can only provide the young Governor the platform for the expansion of his sphere of political influence not only in Kogi state but also nationwide.
In the process leading to the state Governorship election scheduled for November, Bello’s preferred choice of successor, Ahmed Usman Ododo, won the party’s primaries easily, courtesy of the Governor’s influence who was able to persuade many leading contenders to step down from the race. Ododo’s victory in the forthcoming November election would provide yet another prospective platform for the Governor to further cement his political influence in the state.
Bello’s acceptability and rising influence are attributed to his outstanding performance as Governor and on assignments he executed for the party at the national level.
For instance, according to Haruna Haruspice, the Governor met an over-bloated civil service in the state populated by a chunk of ghost workers feeding fat on the lean resources of the state while doing nothing for the state in return. He made an attempt to correct the ills, had some stumbling blocks from vested interests, made some unforced errors on his own but by and large, he succeeded in shunting out a significant number of the ghost workers. Today, according to Haruspice, “the Governor who had difficulty in paying workers’ salaries initially now pays without tears and even up to date.
Aside finding ingenious ways to streamline the state civil service, as a finance expert, he also enunciated radical measures to shore up the internally generated revenue of the state through the State Internal Revenue Service beyond the perilously parlous state it was in before he assumed the reins of power.
For the first time in the history of the state, upwardly mobile young men and women were appointed into positions to run the affairs of the state unlike in the past when they were mere errand boys for the political operators. Under Governor Bello, the youths took charge of their destiny.
He was also a gender-sensitive Governor. Under him, Kogi state, for the first time since its creation, produced a female Secretary to the State Government (SSG), who by her portfolio, is the most senior unelected appointee of the state government. In his first term in office, even for the first time in the history of the state, the Governor had a female Chief Press Secretary. In his second term, his Aide De Camp, perhaps the first of its kind, is a female cop. Similarly, under his gender-friendly watch, the state had two female Heads of Service in four years.
Governor Bello engineered a fierce crackdown on criminal elements in the state, ordering the demolition of even the ancestral homes of proven criminals and forfeiture of the landed property to the state. Haruspice said only a man with zero tolerance for criminality could do this. “If the present national leadership had paid heed and borrowed a leaf from that unique effort to rid his state of criminal elements, the country would not have been engulfed in crass insecurity as has been the worsening situation now,” he said.
The Governor also proved his mettle when he was given a herculean role in his political party’s membership drive and revalidation of its teeming faithful. He galvanised the youth of the land to robust patriotic activities, though resisted by his political party. He did not sit back in his office, ordering people around. Rather, he picked the gauntlet and hit the ground running.
Bello was born on June 18, 1975, in Okene, Kogi State, the youngest of six children. He attended Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) Primary School, Agassa in Okene LGA beginning in 1984. He attended high school at Agassa Community Secondary School, Anyava, Agassa-Okene and obtained his Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination (JSSCE) and Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) certificates from Government Secondary School, Suleja-Niger State in 1994.
Bello studied at Kaduna State Polytechnic, Zaria, in 1995 and obtained an accounting degree from Ahmadu Bello University in 1999. Yahaya Bello further enrolled in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he was conferred with a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) in 2002. Bello became a chartered fellow of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria in 2004.
Bello was declared winner of the 2015 Kogi gubernatorial election after he was chosen on the platform of APC. On November 16, 2019, Bello was elected to a second term after he defeated PDP candidate and incumbent Governor, Idris Wada, by over 200,000 votes.
His profile has risen rapidly over the course of his Governorship, partly due to his relative youth when compared to other Nigerian politicians along with his controversial statements and actions.
In Abuja on April 2, 2022, Bello formally declared his interest to run in Nigeria’s 2023 presidential elections. Bello was supported by a socio-political group known as Bello Ambassadors Network founded by Edogbo Anthony. The group had over two million registered Nigerians.