Friday, 24 April 2015
Nigeria: Political Dynasties Still Standing Today By Paul Chiama
In Nigeria's political history, there are names that cannot be erased so soon after making impact in the country's politics. PAUL CHIAMA looks at Nigeria's political dynasties still surviving till date.
In Kwara State, being part of the political dynasty established by the late 'strong man of Kwara politics' (as he was famously known), Alhaji Abubakar Olusola Saraki, is the beginning of political sagacity, at least, for young politicians in the state who want to remain relevant.
Saraki was a Second Republic Senate leader. His son, who was governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, is also a senator today and has become the leading icon of the dynasty. Going by possible political permutations, Bukola Saraki is also a potential Senate president. The elder Saraki was also elected to Senate again in 1983 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
The Saraki political dynasty did not end with Bukola. It also produced a female senator, Senator Gbemi Saraki, Bukola's sister. The present governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, is also a benefactor of the dynasty, having come to power through Bukola's anointing. The influence and power of the dynasty helped in bringing Ahmed to power. Same goes for many state and federal lawmakers, as well as those occupying sensitive national positions, who owe allegiance to the dynasty.
The Saraki dynasty which has spanned over 40 years is still leading Kwara State politics in the present democratic dispensation.
The political dynasty founded by one of Nigeria's nationalist politicians, the late Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo, is sustained notably by the likes of Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu, who is the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stands as a continuation of the Awolowo dynasty and political philosophy which is typified by progressive politics all through the south-western part of the country. In the same way, Tinubu's APC has a wide coverage and dominance of the South-West in the current political dispensation.
Just as Awolowo remained a focused and persistent opposition politician, Tinubu has always been on the side of the opposition against all odds. For instance, when most of the governors in the South-West's Alliance for Democracy (AD) were facing political hiccups with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, whose desire was to persuade or coax them into the PDP, Tinubu remained in the AD. From AD, he moved to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).The ACN nearly took over the all of the South-West states except Ondo. The continuation of the Awolowo dynasty cannot be told as a political narrative without mentioning the role of Tinubu, who, though not Awolowo's biological son, has most resembled him in his brand of politics.
The political dynasty founded by the late Shehu Musa Yar'Adua has been influential, not only in Katsina, his home state, or northern Nigeria but in the whole country. With the death of Shehu Musa Yar'Adua on December 8, 1997, during the military administration of General Sani Abacha, the younger brother, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, inherited and championed the dynasty. Umaru who was governor of Katsina State before becoming the president in 2007, did not, however, live long enough to continue with the dynasty. He died in 2009.
The Yar'Adua family has produced a vice president (Shehu was second-in-command in Obasanjo's military administration); a president, a governor (Umaru who was governor of Katsina and later president); a minister and many commissioners.
It is interesting to note that Col. Abdulaziz Musa Yar'Adua (retd), the younger brother to the late president, sought APC governorship ticket of Katsina State on the platform of APC. Their father, Musa Yar'Adua, was Nigeria's minister for Lagos in the First Republic.
Today, the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has become the leading politician belonging to the Yar'Adua political camp. Atiku rejuvenated and re-awaked the Yar'Adua dynasty, thus stepping into the shoes of the Yar'Aduas when he, along with some aggrieved PDP governors, registered the People's Democratic Movement (PDM) as a political party in the build-up to 2015 general elections. PDM was originally formed by the late General Shehu Yar'Adua. Just like Tinubu in Awolowo's political dynasty, Atiku keeps the Yar'Adua dynasty ticking despite the fact that he is not a biological member of the Yar'Adua family.
Aminu Kano Dynasty
Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is the current representation of the political dynasty left behind by Malam Aminu Kano, one of Nigeria's foremost politicians. In the current political dispensation in the country and northern Nigeria in particular, Kwankwaso is seen as heir apparent to the political dynasty of Malam Aminu Kano. Kwankwaso has not stopped at trying to emulate and relive the political ideals of the late Aminu Kano. Like Aminu Kano, Kwakwaso is reputed to have the admirable political dreams and aspirations that transcend Kano State.
Aminu Kano co-founded the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) as a political platform to challenge what he felt was the autocratic and feudalistic actions of the native northern government. He vigorously opposed the ruling elite, including the emirs, who were mostly Fulanis. The potency of his platform was strengthened partly because of his background.
He is endeared to the hearts of many talakawas (commoners) in Kano because his policies had direct impact on them and his political stature grew from the support of the Kano commoners and migratory petty traders in the north. He also sought to use politics to create an egalitarian northern Nigerian society. Aminu Kano symbolized democratization, women empowerment and freedom of speech.
Kwankwaso tries to replicate Aminu Kano. His Kwankwasiya template of governance, some say, has brought succour to the people of the ancient city of Kano just like Malam Aminu Kano with his political philosophy that placed emphasis on the masses. His government in Kano has prevented a lot of religious uprising that would have led to needless crisis in the state. He has always promoted peace, tolerance and harmony among Kano residents and the natives. His desire is that people should live in harmony despite cultural and religious differences.
To accentuate his discipleship of Aminu Kano's political ideology, Kwankwaso adopted the red cap on top of his usual white robe which recreates a picture of Aminu Kano to those who knew the late politician. His Kwankwasiya ideology in Kano State has brought relief, succour and new hope to the people of the ancient town of Kano. This political philosophy places emphasis on doing things in a new way and not business as usual.
For instance, the government of Kano State used to spend over N2billion annually in sponsorship of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. But to Kwankwaso, that is a sheer waste of resources that would have been used to better the lives of the common man. Instead, Kwankwaso preferred that government spent such money in sending undergraduate and post-graduate students of Kano State origin abroad on state-sponsored scholarships. It can only take a man with guts and love for the common man to stop such practice and introduce such initiatives for the benefit of the masses. He proceeded to deploy the money to the service of common good and the alleviation of poverty.
In all corners of Kano, whenever Kwankwaso arrives, shouts of 'Kwankwasiya' would rend the air to announce that an important politician of the Aminu Kano camp has come. This kind of following is akin to the one enjoyed by Aminu Kano in his time.
The political dynasty of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is an influential one in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the country in general.
Biafran war-lord Ojukwu's entrance into politics and the founding of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as his political brain-child has always given members of the party a hope of liberation which Ojukwu always stood for. With the south-east as the party's hub of operations, the party is widely believed to be an Igbo affair just the same way Ojukwu always strove to champion the cause of the Igbo race.
Today, the Ojukwu political dynasty has produced the likes of his wife Bianca Ojukwu, Chief Victor Umeh and so on. While Bianca has got to the level of serving as Nigeria as an ambassador, Umeh has remained a core politician of the APGA camp, sharing the philosophy of Ojukwu.
Umeh is seen as the heir apparent of the Ojukwu political dynasty. He has followed Ojukwu's shadow both in APGA and in general politics.
The Nwodo dynasty in Enugu State is one of the recognised political dynasties that have survived till the present day. The family name is widely known in Enugu State politics as it is elsewhere across the country.
The foundation started with the patriarch, Igwe John Nwodo, who was a minister under the premier of Eastern Region, Dr Michael Okpara, in the First Republic. The children of Igwe Nwodo, cleverly leveraged on the political ladder.
Joe Nwodo, the eldest son in the Nwodo family, is not lost out in the political register of the family. He sought governorship seat of Enugu State under the Babangida transition arrangement but was later replaced with his brother, Okwesilieze when Babangida cancelled the process and disqualified all candidates. Joe further aspired f or the presidential ticket of the National Republican Convention (NRC) but lost to Alhaji Bashir Tofa who won the party's ticket.
Okwesilieze Nwodo, the second son in the family, was the first executive governor of Enugu State during the aborted transition period of General Ibrahim Babangida's administration. He also later served both as first national secretary and national chairman of PDP at different times.
Similarly, John Nnia Nwodo (Jnr), the third son in the family, was a minister in the Second Republic under Shehu Shagari. He also served as minister of information under General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Even the females were not left out. For instance, Mrs Grace Obayi, the eldest daughter in the family, was commissioner in both old Anambra State and in Enugu State. The Nwodo dynasty is like an ever expanding empire in Enugu and the country.
The phenomenon of family political dynasty is not peculiar to Nigeria. Even the advanced democracies have their fair share of it. For instance, in the United States, there are political dynasties that dominate the US politics. In Wyoming, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced in 2013 that she would contest against incumbent Senator Mike Enzi in the 2014 Republican primary election.
Cheney is just one of many of such dynasty candidates emerging from the powerful political families in the US. Similarly, Senator Mary Landrieu, daughter of the former New Orleans mayor and sister to the current mayor; and Mark Pryor, the son of former Arkansas Senator David Pryor, both sought to be re-elected.In Alaska and Colorado, Senators Mark Begich and Mark Udall, both sons of congressmen, have been elected lawmakers in the Senate respectively. The story is the same for Udall's cousin, Tom, who was elected New Mexico's senator; he is also the son of a congressman.
In Texas comes the bigger names. George P. Bush, son of the ex-Florida governor and grandson of former President George Bush, is a politician to reckon with. He contested the state-wide office of land commissioner. In Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, a senator's son, also ran for second term as governor.
The United States has indeed had many families who have repeatedly produced notable politicians from their ranks. Such U.S. political families have had a significant impact on politics in the United States and the Americas.
Many of these families have moved to national prominence from a state or regional power base. The Kennedys, for example, are particularly associated with Massachusetts; the Long family has its political base in Louisiana; the Harrisons are known in Virginia while the Roosevelts are associated with New York.
Similarly, the Bush family entered politics in Ohio and Connecticut, but is now more closely identified with Texas and Florida. Members of the Rockefeller family have been elected in New York, West Virginia, and Arkansas. Kennedy family members have been elected in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and California, in addition to their primary base of Massachusetts. The Udall family first became prominent in Arizona but the most recent generation had three cousins simultaneously serving in the U.S. Senate from Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon. The Clinton family moved quickly from Arkansas to national politics, with both Bill and Hillary elected to positions in the federal government.