Dynasties In Nigeria’s Democracy, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
If my knowledge of history serves me well, were nepotism and sectionalism not reasons adduced to sack our First Republic politicians from office? Why has it now been somewhat dangerously ‘institutionalised’ without anyone talking? Truly, we do not place high premium on values and integrity anymore as a people and a nation.
As another cycle of a four-year transition, which began on May 29, takes shape, it is time to take stock of the actors that will shape the polity in the next four years. Among them are immediate past ministers and lawmakers, as well as those just assuming office, whose children have just been elected too. Although ours is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for all the people, a few privileged Nigerians have hijacked the system such that our democracy is gradually turning into a government of some family members holding the levers of power on behalf of the people. Godfathers, including governors, do not feel embarrassed when they anoint their wives, children and in-laws. They have no scruples crowning their heirs-apparent as first son, or even first daughter, first son-in-law, first daughter-in-law, etcetera, apart from the established office of the first lady.
Before the February 2019 general elections, many of these godfathers positioned their wards to contest as governors and lawmakers. Two of the most bizarre were those of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s anointing of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as the governorship candidate of Action Alliance, after a failed bid to install him as candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), under which he (Okorocha as governor) ran and won as a senator, despite protestation by other party bigwigs in the state. The Okorocha empire project however went awry; Imo people thought otherwise and gave their votes to Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Also, in Kano State, godfather Rabiu Kwankwaso single-handedly imposed his son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf as the candidate of the PDP against formidable forces like Ibrahim Shekarau and then Deputy Governor Hafiz Abubakar. Fortunately for them, Abba became a worthy candidate and gave Ganduje a run for his money before Governor Abdullahi Ganduje won in a controversial circumstance, despite the fact that the duo of Hafiz and Shekarau abandoned the Kwankwasiya train midway.
To be sure, there is no law prohibiting anybody — whether an in-law or son or daughter of a serving public official from holding public office also, elected or appointed, and whether sponsored by a godfather still active in the political space or not. But is it not morally reprehensible for a father to sponsor his son for a political office even against loyal and competent supporters? It is even more so when you factor in their parochial interests, knowing full well that they will first serve their families before other constituents. A case in point is the recently shattered Saraki dynasty in Kwara State. Dr. Olusola Saraki was a Second Republic senator and majority leader, who in 2003 used his goodwill to sponsor his son, Bukola to become the governor of the State until 2011. Kwara State was tending towards a conquered state by the Sarakis when the senior Saraki pushed his luck too far and presented his daughter, Gbemi to replace Bukola in 2011. However, because of a combination of factors such as Gbemi’s unpopular political platform, and Bukola’s rebellion against his father and resentment of his sister taking over from him, Gbemi did not emerge as governor; otherwise the State, by now, would have been fully under the control of the Saraki dynasty. This was long before the Oto’ege tsunami that swept Bukola and his ilk away in 2019.
Imagine how the Tinubus are dominating Lagos State politics as if there are no rational men and women in the most sophisticated and enlightened State in the country, while all those who want to be anything in the State either queue behind the Tinubus or go for the crumbs.
The attempt to create a family niche in governance is yet to abate despite the rising consciousness of the populace. Imagine how the Tinubus are dominating Lagos State politics as if there are no rational men and women in the most sophisticated and enlightened State in the country, while all those who want to be anything in the State either queue behind the Tinubus or go for the crumbs. The national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu has been relevant in the politics of the State in the last 20 years. His wife, Senator Remi Tinubu is serving her third term in the Senate. His daughter, Folashade Tinubu-Ojo is the Iyaloja of Lagos markets and president-general of the Association of Market Women and Men in Nigeria and has an influence in who become leaders in the various markets in Lagos. She took over from the matriarch of the Tinubu family, Abibat Mogaji, after her death in 2013. In mobilising women for the Tinubu cause, the market women always play a vital role. This is besides having a hand in the making of his three successors — Babatunde Fashola, Ambode Akinwumi and the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State recently named Attahiru Bafarawa’s son as one of his commissioners. So among all his loyal supporters, Bafarawa had none other to present to be made a commissioner by Tambuwal except his son? These days, you hardly hear of Abdulrahman Kawu Samaila, former special assistant to President Buhari on House of Representatives matters. The ex-lawmaker is licking his wounds, having been shoved aside by a more powerful son (Shamsudeen Bello Dambazau) of former minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau. The junior Dambazau was declared winner of the House of Reps seat by a court in Kano. Poor man; Samaila was powerful, but a more powerful family has trumped him. Ex-Governor Murtala Nyako’s son, Abdulazeez, served as senator in the last dispensation, but at least his father was out of power before he came in as senator. The list is endless.
How self-serving can a family be and how cowardly submissive can a people be, to have voted for son and father in the same election but for different positions — one at the national and the other at the state level.
In the past, you would hear that a particular politician’s father was once this and that, and that his son has taken over from him. The younger elements among this lot cannot wait any longer for their fathers to retire or pass on the baton. They force themselves into the milieu while their fathers are still active. In this category is the former governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji whose son, Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji was elected as speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, while the father, an ex-governor of the State is serving his second term as senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District. How self-serving can a family be and how cowardly submissive can a people be, to have voted for son and father in the same election but for different positions — one at the national and the other at the state level.
Meanwhile, we are quick to make example of the U.S. where such things are hardly questioned and even rampant, but always fail to remember the institutional framework that put those people in check, while our political godsons and goddaughters here act with impunity because they have dynastic immunity. If my knowledge of history serves me well, were nepotism and sectionalism not reasons adduced to sack our First Republic politicians from office? Why has it now been somewhat dangerously ‘institutionalised’ without anyone talking? Truly, we do not place high premium on values and integrity anymore as a people and a nation.
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.zainabokino.blogspot.com; 08098209791, text only.