Politics

Allure of public office

  • Fourth Republic’s long-term office  holders seek further stay in power

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which clocks 23 years on May 29, has witnessed politicians, who have been in power uninterruptedly in the last two decades. Interestingly, a majority of these long-term public office holders have presented themselves for election in the forthcoming general election. FELIX NWANERI reports

 

 

Electioneering period has always been interesting times in Nigeria and it is no different this year as the country prepares for the 2023 general election. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced dates for the elections.

 

The presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 25, 2023, while governorship and state Assembly elections are billed for March 11, 2023. In total, Nigeria’s over 90 million voters will elect a president and vice president, 29 governors and their deputies (gubernatorial polls will not hold in seven states due to interregnum due to intervention by the courts), 109 senators, 360 members of the House of Representatives and members of the 36 state Houses of Assembly.

 

Perhaps, the pleasure of occupying the various elective positions must be exquisite given the vast number of politicians, who have so far declared interest for them and have gone ahead to purchase the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms of the country’s 18 political parties.

 

At the last count, the leading political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have witnessed an unprecedented number of aspirants for the various positions up for grab in the forthcoming polls. But as the parties commence their respective nomination processes, the question many Nigerians are asking is: What is the attraction in political office, when present national and state leaders have lots of complex problems, including rising insecurity, mounting debt and high unemployment, among others, to solve?

 

While politics is like an addiction, which makes it difficult to stop people from venturing into it, there is no doubt that factors pulling people into politics are diverse.

 

However, there are some common threads. Becoming a public office holder is financially rewarding as salaries paid to elected office holders and other benefits accruable are often too good to be ignored.

 

This, perhaps, explains the recent wave of resignations by some ministers, commissioners, heads of government agencies as well as private sector players, seeking for elective offices come 2023.

 

Although their respective actions are in line with the law and guidelines for conduct of elections, there is concern over declaration of interest for the 2023 polls by some individuals, who have been in power uninterruptedly in the last two decades of the present dispensation.

 

Indisputably, some of the elective offices, particularly those of the parliament are not tenured, however, according to some analysts, the fact that it is still unfilled dreams after over 20 years of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, justifies the belief that individuals who have been at the helm of affairs since 1999 have not only over-stayed their welcome but should not continue to recycle themselves.

 

Among those who hold this view, is a renowned professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi. The former presidential candidate had during the inauguration  of the second term of the APC-led Federal Government in 2019, described politicians who spend more than 12 years in public offices as social parasites. His words then: “I despise people who live on politics. I think that people who make a career in life based on politics are doing society a disservice. I have said that nobody should hold public office for more than 12 consecutive years.

 

You go from a commissioner to the governor, senator; you are a social parasite. “You should come out of your hard work, make a difference for four to eight years and go back to what you do. If it is not like that for you, you are a parasite to society. The characters making it difficult to make progress are social parasites, who call themselves politicians.”

 

The concern over recycling of politicians, notwithstanding, a majority of those who have spent more than 20 years in public offices have presented themselves again for election in 2023.

 

Ike Ekweremadu

The former Deputy President of the Senate remains one of the longest public office holders in the present dispensation. He has represented Enugu West Senatorial District at the National Assembly since 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was the number two man in the Red  Chamber for 12 unbroken years (2007- 2015).

 

His fourth bid for the Senate’s number two position in 2019, however failed as Ovie Omo-Agege of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated him. The lawyer turned politician, had before his election to the Senate, served as chairman of Aninri Local Government Area (1997-1998); Chief of Staff, Enugu State (1999-2001) and Secretary to the Enugu State Government (2001-2003).

 

While Ekweremadu would have in public office for a record 26 unbroken years by the 2023, when his fifth term in the Senate is expected to elapse, there are indications that he is not prepared to call it quits with politics.

 

The former Senate Deputy President has declared intention to contest for the governorship position of his home state in the forthcoming general election. No doubt, his bid for the governorship has been faulted by most political stakeholders in Enugu State, including Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi given that it will truncate the power rotation arrangement in the state, but Ekweremadu seems undeterred. He insists that if there had been zoning arrangement in governance as being canvassed in some quarters in the state, he would not have been in the Senate for five terms.

 

“If anybody said there was an agreement on zoning, let that person say it. I was never a product of zoning. If there had been zoning, I would not have been in the Senate for five times.”

Ifeanyi Okowa

 

The Delta State governor, who trained as a medical doctor and practiced his profession between 1983 and 1991, before venturing into politics, has been within the corridors of power before the advent of the Fourth Republic.

 

He served as Secretary of Ika Local Government Area in 1991, and upon the creation of Ika North East Local Government Area in the same year, became its pioneer chairman and held the position till 1993.

 

With the truncation of the Third Republic in 1993, Okowa returned to his medical practice but was back to politics in 1998, following the lift of the ban on politics by the then military government. Since then, he has held several positions at the state and federal levels.

 

They include commissioners for Agriculture and Natural Resources (1999-2001), Water Resources Development (2001-2003) and Health (2003-2006). In 1996, Okowa vied for the governorship ticket of the PDP, but lost to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

 

He, however, led the campaign of the party as Director- General and was appointed Secretary to the State Government (SSG) after the party won the poll. He resigned from the position to contest for Delta North Senatorial District seat in 2011, an election he won. After a term in the Senate, he was elected as the fourth   executive governor of Delta State in 2015 and was re-elected during the 2019 polls.

 

Okowa would be serving out the constitutionally allowed two terms for governors in 2023, but he seems not yet done with politics. While it is speculated that he is positioning himself to be running mate to whoever emerges as the presidential candidate of the PDP, it is also a known fact that there is a running battle over his bid to replace the senator representing Delta North, Peter Nwaoboshi.

 

Nwaoboshi, who noticed the threat to his position immediately Okowa was reelected in 2019, has since left the PDP for the APC to secure a ticket to run for the Senate or pair the party’s governorship candidate in the state. Ahmed Lawan The President of the Ninth Senate has been in the National Assembly since 1999.

 

The former university lecturer was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1999 to represent Bade/Jakusko Fedearl Constituency on the platform of All Peoples Party. Lawan was reelected in 2003 and at different times chaired the House committees on Education and Agriculture. In 2007, he won election to represent Yobe North Senatorial District.

 

He was re-elected in the 2011 and 2015 general elections. His bid for the Senate presidency in 2015 was unsuccessful as the position went Bukola Saraki. He won the Yobe North senatorial seat for the fourth consecutive time in the 2019 elections and upon inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly, emerged as President of the Senate.

 

However, after 24 uninterrupted years in the National Assembly and occupying the exalted position of President of the Senate, Lawan feels that it was time to take a shot at the country’s number one position – Office of the President. It was against this backdrop that he has joined the race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the APC.

Aminu Tambuwal

The governor of Sokoto State has been on the place scene since the advent of the Fourth Republic. He started his political journey as a Personal Assistant on Legislative Affairs to Senator Abdullahi Wali (1999-2000) who was the Senate leader at the time. By 2003, Tambuwal got elected to the House of Representatives to represent Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency of Sokoto State.

 

He went ahead to serve four terms in the Green Chamber under different political platforms – All Nigeria People Party (ANPP), (PDP) and APC. He capped his 12-year stint in the House of Representatives with the position of speaker, which he held between 2011 and 2015.

 

He contested and won the governorship of the “Seat of the Caliphate” on the platform of the APC in the 2015 election and against all odds was re-elected in 2019 on the platform of the PDP. However, as Tambuwal’s second term as governor winds down, his eyes are on the presidency and he is not pretending about flying the flag of the PDP.

 

Already, he has launched his 2023 presidential bid and followed it up with picking of the nomination and expression of interest forms of the main opposition party. He has as well scaled the party’s screening hurdle, waiting for the presidential primary election billed for May 28 and 29. Should the presidential bid fail, Tambuwal, according to political observers, will settle for the Sokoto South Senatorial District seat.

 

Abdullahi Ganduje

The incumbent governor of Kano State, who won a second term after a fierce contest, has previously served as deputy governor twice between 1999 and 2003 as well as 2011 and 2015 under his predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. He aspired to be the PDP’s governorship candidate for Kano State in 1999, but lost at the primaries to Kwankwaso.

 

He was however drafted in by the party’s leaders as running mate to Kwankwaso. In addition to the deputy governorship, he was also appointed as commissioner for Local Government. When Kwankwaso lost his re-election bid in 2003 and was appointed minister of Defence by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ganduje served as his Special Adviser (Political). He also served as a member of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) board.

 

In 2008, Ganduje was appointed as chairman of the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti and later as Executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission at Ndjamena, Republic of Chad. He participated in the 2006 Nigerian Political Reforms Conference and Kwankwaso’s return to power in 2011, he (Ganduje) came back as deputy governor. He ran his own show in 2015 on the platform of the APC and got elected to succeed his principal.

 

He was reelected for a second term in 2019 and barely a year for him to leave office as governor, Ganduje has purchased the APC Nomination and Expression of Interest forms to vie for the party’s ticket for Kano North Senatorial District seat.

 

While the governor’s cam claimed that his senatorial bid is being pushed by the people of the district in appreciation of his efforts to the development of Kano North, the move has set the stage for an epic battle between and the incumbent senator, Barau Jibrin, who has equally declared for the senatorial seat.

 

Rabiu Kwankwaso

Kwankwaso, who leads the popular Kwankwasiya Movement (political pressure group) enjoyed an unbroken 20 years in public office in the present dispensation until 2019.

 

Before 1999, he represented Madobi Federal Constituency of Kano State in the House of Representatives and served as deputy speaker during the aborted Third Republic. Kwankwaso was governor of Kano State for eight years (1999-2003 and 2011- 2015) in the current Fourth Republic. He was first elected in 1999 on the platform of the PDP, but lost re-election bid in 2003 to Ibrahim Shekarau of the then All Peoples Party (APP).

 

He was, however, in July of the same year appointed as minister of Defence by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He made another unsuccessful attempt to return to power as governor in 2007. He was appointed as Presidential Special Envoy to Somalia and Darfur by Obasanjo after the polls.

 

However, luck smiled on him in 2011 as he returned to the Kano government house. After serving out his second term in 2015, he headed to the Senate and represented Kano Central Senatorial District.

 

In 2019, he opted out of the general election after he contested and lost the PDP presidential ticket to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. While Kwankwaso has been on sabbatical for four years, he is back to political scene ahead of the 2023 general election and has declared his intention to run for presidency on the platform of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), a relatively unknown party he recently defected to from the PDP alongside his supporters.

 

Bukola Saraki

The former President of the Senate  holders seek further stay in powerand ex-governor of Kwara State is the scion of the Saraki political dynasty. His father, Chief Olusola Saraki, was Second Republic Senate Leader.

 

The younger Saraki trained and worked briefly as medical doctor. His political career began in 2000, when he was appointed Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on Budget. In 2003, he ran for the office of governor of Kwara State on the platform of the PDP and won. He was re-elected in 2007 and at a time served as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

 

After serving the constitutionally allowed two terms for governors, Saraki contested and won a senatorial seat in 2007 to represent Kwara Central in the National Assembly. He was in the Senate for three terms and served as the President of the Senate between 2015 and 2019.

 

His bid to return to the Red Chamber in 2019 hit the rocks, following the defeat he suffered in the February 23 senatorial election. He had before the poll, lost the bid to fly the PDP flag in the presidential election to Atiku. After four years out of public office, Saraki has launched another presidential bid and has been cleared by the PDP for its forthcoming presidential primary.

 

Rotimi Amaechi

The Minister of Transportation also ranks among those who have been in public office since 1999, when he was elected as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and served as its speaker for eight years (1999-2007). Before then, Amaechi, whose first position in politics was as Secretary of the now defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State   between 1992 and 1994, served as Special Assistant to the deputy governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, during the aborted Third Republic.

 

He equally served as Rivers State Secretary of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) caretaker committee in 1996 during the transition programme of the General Sanni Abacha-led regime.

 

After eight years as speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Amaechi contested and won the PDP’s governorship primary election for the 2007 polls. His name was, however, substituted by the party and replaced with that of his cousin, Celestine Omehia, an action, he (Amaechi) challenged in court.

 

The case eventually got to the Supreme Court and Amaechi became governor on October 26, 2007, after the apex court ruled that he was the rightful candidate of the PDP and winner of the 2007 governorship election in Rivers State. He was re-elected for a second term in the 2011 elections.

 

On leaving office in 2015, he was appointed by President Buhari as minister of Transportation after serving as the Director-General of his campaign organisation in the 2015 presidential election.

 

He also served in the same capacity in the 2029 elections and was reappointed as minister of Transportation. After almost 24 years in public office, Amaechi is not ready to leave the scene as he has joined the race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the APC.

 

Nyesom Wike

The Rivers State governor has equally been on the political scene since 1999. The lawyer turned politician, won elections for the position of chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area two times (1999-2002 and 2004-2007). Between 2007 and 2011, he served as Chief of Staff to then Governor Amaechi as well as the Director General of Amaechi’s re-election campaign in 2011, after which he was appointed Minister of State Education by then President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

He resigned the position in 2015, contested and won the Rivers State governorship election and was reelected for a second term in the recent 2019 general election. Like others, Wike is not ready quit politics after serving as governor for eight years. He has declared for the 2023 presidency and is among the 15 aspirants vying for the ticket of the PDP. Besides the presidential bid, the Rivers State governor is also said to have his eyes on the Senate.

Adamu Aliero

Aliero has been in the political  terrain since the beginning of the present Fourth Republic. He governed Kebbi State between 1999 and 2007 on the platform of the APP and later ANPP.

 

He later defected to PDP and became Senator for Kebbi Central from June 5, 2007 to December 18, 2008. He was appointed Minister of the Federal Capital Territory on December 17, 2008 by then President Umaru Yar’Adua. He left office on March 17, 2010, when then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan dissolved the cabinet.

 

He returned to the Senate in 2015 and won election to the Red Chamber for a third term in 2019. Ahead of the 2023 general election, Aliero has declared intention to return to the Senate but he has the Governor Atiku Bagudu to contend with.

 

The governor, who will complete his second term in May 2023, is seeking the APC’s ticket for the Kebbi Central Senatorial District seat. There had been a frosty political relationship between Aliero and Bagudu since APC’s congresses in the state at which the duo competed for control of the party’s structure. The lawmaker lamented imposition of candidates during the congresses and the removal of party members perceived to be loyal to him in the hierarchy of the leadership of the party.

Aliyu Wamakko

A former chairman of Sokoto Local Government Area (1986-1987), Wamakko was elected as deputy governor of Sokoto State in 1999 and held the position till 2006, when he resigned to contest the 2007 governorship election, which he won. He was re-elected for a second term in the 2011 elections and on completion of his tenure in 2015, contested and won senatorial election to represent Sokoto North Senatorial District. He returned to the Senate after winning election in 2019 and has declared intention to return to return to the Red Chamber come 2023.

 

Abdullahi Adamu

Adamu has been on the political scene before the Fourth Republic, having joined politics in 1977, and was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the constitution for Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979-1983). He was a pioneer member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN); served as the party’s first Secretary-General and later chairman of the party in old Plateau State between 1978 and 1983. In 1994, he was appointed to the National Constitutional Conference by General Sani Abacha’s regime.

 

In March 1995, he was appointed a Minister of State of Works and Housing and held the position till November 1997. He was a founding member of PDP in 1998 and was elected governor of Nasarawa State in 1999. He was re-elected in 2007.

 

After the end of his two-term governorship, he became Secretary, Board of Trustees (BOT) of PDP. In 2011, he was elected into the Senate to represent Nasarawa West Senatorial District on the platform of PDP. He later defected to APC and was reelected into Senate in 2015. He returned to the Senate for the third term in 2019. He vacated the senatorial seat in March this year, when he emerged as the national chairman of the APC.

 

Godswill Akpabio

The former governor of Akwa Ibom State and ex-Senate Minority Leader belongs to the clique of politicians, who have been in the corridors of power since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.

 

A lawyer turned politician, Akpabio was in the private sector for many years before he was appointed as commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources by then Governor Obong Victor Attah. Between 2002 and 2006, he served as a Commissioner in three key ministries: Petroleum and Natural Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, as well as Lands and Housing. In 2006, he declared his intention to run for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State and defeated 57 other aspirants to emerge the PDP candidate in the state.

 

He went ahead to win the main election and was re-elected for a second term in 2011. In 2015, Akpabio joined the league of ex-governors in the Senate to represent Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, and against all odds as a first timer; he became the Senate Minority Leader.

 

He resigned the position in August 2018 upon his defection to APC. He lost his re-election bid to a former deputy governor of the Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, who won the poll on the platform of the PDP. Akpabio, was however appointed as minister of Niger Delta Affairs, a position he resigned from last week to pursue his 2023 presidential ambition on the platform of the APC.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

By the time the incumbent governor of Enugu State hands over to his successor in May 2023, he would have spent 20 years in public office. He was first elected into the 5th Assembly of the Federal House of Representatives in 2003 and he served till 2007 to represent Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency.

He went on to serve for additional two terms (2007 to 2011 and 2011-2015). He thus became the longest serving National Assembly member in Enugu North Senatorial District before he became governor in May 2015. As it stands, the governor of Enugu State will not retire from politics after his two-term of eight years as governor.

 

His next political move is the Senate and it is likely to be an easy ride for him. The reason for this belief is not farfetched. The senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District, where Ugwuanyi hails from, Senator Chuka Utazi, is doing his second term in the Red Chamber and has already given up the position for the governor.

 

. Seriake Dickson

The immediate past governor Bayelsa State served as chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) in his  home state between 1999 and 2000. Afterwards, he was elected National Legal Adviser of the party (2000- 2002). In 2006, Dickson was appointed as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice by the then governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He won election to represent Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State the House of Representatives in 2007.

 

He was re-elected in April 2011 for a second term. In February 2012, Dickson was inaugurated as governor of Bayelsa State, having won the state’s gubernatorial poll in November 2011.

 

He went on to govern the oilrich state for two terms after which he contested and won the Bayelsa- West Senatorial District election. Having spent about three years in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the former governor has declared his intention to return to Red Chamber in 2023.

James Manager

For 19 consecutive years (2003 to date), Manager has been the senator representing Delta South Senatorial District at the National Assembly. Manager was the pioneer Delta State chairman of the PDP. He played crucial role in the victory of the party in the 1999 general election as PDP swept the state, producing Chief James Ibori as governor.

Ahead of the 2023 general election, the lawmaker has declared his intention to contest for the governorship position of Delta State. He said of his ambition: “I’ve been involved in the making of governors in the state from the time of Chief Felix Ibru through Chief James Ibori, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. So, if a kingmaker wants to become a king, what’s wrong in that?”

 

Mudashiru Obasa

The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly by the virtue of his victory in recent general elections is returning to state legislature for fifth consecutive time. That also makes him the longest serving lawmaker in the State Assembly.

 

Obasa started his political journey from the local government level in 1999, when he contested and won a seat of councillor in Agege Local Government Area under the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD (1999-2002 He was elected into the State Assembly in 2003 to represent Agege I Constituency and since then has been winning elections to represent his in the state legislature. He was elected Speaker of the Lagos State House Assembly in 2015.

 

Returning to the state Assembly in 2029, he retained the speakership position in the Ninth Assembly. Ahead of the 2023 polls, the belief was that Obasa will run for the Senate, but he was later urged to focus on a return to the state parliament. Some leaders in the Agege and Orile-Agege areas of Lagos State, who appealed to him to still represent them at the local level before taking a shot at the federal level, said he has brought pride to their communities.

 

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