By Omoshola Deji
Nigeria’s huge population and profitable politics make the struggle to occupy public office intense. Many do wrongs to have their way and the incumbents hardly retire. After spending their constitutionally allowed two terms, some power obsessed governors simply retire into the Senate, where members are allowed to spend limitless term. Governors use the Senate as a safe haven to sustain their political relevance. Not that alone, they handpick a successor and enthrone themselves as political godfathers. The just concluded national assembly elections kick-start the fading of some of these tin-gods into oblivion. The feared giants fell like Goliath. Colossus who were before this time seen as undefeatable were defeated. This piece examines the factors and circumstance that brought about their defeat.
Nigeria runs a bi-cameral legislative house comprising the Senate which has 109 members and a 360 member House of Representatives. The rigor of assessing the circumstances that led to the defeat of political heavyweights in both chambers confined the writer to focus on the Senate. The Nigerian Senate is the meeting point of political bigwigs. The high number of prominent persons that contested the senatorial election further constricted the writer to focus on a particular class of contestant: the serving and former Governors who lose.
One of the most shocking defeat in the last senatorial election is that of Bukola Saraki. The ex-Governor of Kwara State and Senate President lost in his bid to get reelected into the Senate. The Saraki Empire no one dare confront in the past is being demystified by hurricane ‘o to ge’. On the whole, ‘O to ge’ meaning ‘enough is enough’ is a movement against the reign of Saraki’s political dynasty in Kwara State.
The ‘o to ge’ mantra’s momentum is far-reaching and widely embraced. Kwara South’s longstanding hostility against Saraki made ‘o to ge’ swiftly gain ground in the region. Kwara North’s devastating infrastructure has made the population anti-Saraki, so they quickly embraced the ‘o to ge’ revolution. The hostility between Buhari and Saraki earned ‘o to ge’ patronage, particularly in the outskirt, close to Niger State, where the residents are sympathetic and loyal to the core north. ‘O to ge’ is also widely embraced in Saraki’s stronghold: the North-central, especially Ilorin. The movement keeps gaining momentum as the APC stalwarts have faced Saraki’s disciples’ violence for violence, blood for blood, and money for money.
After ruling Kwara State for eight years and successfully installing his stooge, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Saraki became a godfather and his words became law. Ahmed’s government is widely seen as a continuity of Saraki’s rule. They thus share the accolades of success and the criticisms of either’s shortcomings. Some of the Saraki/Ahmed’s shortcomings that made the ‘o to ge’ revolution successful includes the backlog of unpaid salaries to civil servants and pensioners; Saraki’s alleged complicit in the Offa robbery fiasco; his corruption tainted reputation and trial; the lack of federal support owing to Saraki and Ahmed’s defection from APC to the PDP; and the elites, ex-loyalists and masses revolt against Saraki’s highhandedness, despotism and dynasty.
Many consider Saraki’s defeat as the manifestation of the law of karma, having betrayed his father to seize the political leadership of Kwara State. He leveraged on his father, Olusola Saraki’s extensive support base and political structure to emerge Governor, but later ousted him and enthrone himself as the godfather of Kwara politics. Against his father’s wish, Saraki installed Abdulfatah Ahmed as governor, instead of his sister Gbemisola Saraki. Rumors have it that Saraki’s father cursed him before passing away that he would be disgraced out of politics.
Oh power! Saraki is a big vessel, yet thou hast filled it and shown your transience! The mighty Bukola Saraki has fallen and may never rise again. APC’s Ibrahim Oloriegbe defeated him with 54,814 votes. With Buhari’s reelection, even if Saraki had won, he would have been an ordinary member as the APC would do all to ensure he doesn’t head the 9th Senate.
Hurricane ‘o to ge’ is speedily pulling down Saraki’s dynasty and changing the dynamics of politics in Kwara state. His fast-fall will almost certainly make his choice successor and PDP candidate, Rasak Atunwa, lose the forthcoming gubernatorial election. The encouraging aftereffect of Saraki’s lose is that Nigerians have gained more confidence that they can collapse the dynasty of political godfathers with their votes.
APC fanatics and Bola Tinubu’s apologists’ needs to format their reasoning. It is irrational to abuse the political godfather in Kwara and praise the one in Lagos. The fall of Saraki is a pointer that Tinubu’s fall is not impossible and near. A battle foretold does not kill a wise lame! It’s just a matter of time before Lagosians too shall declare that enough is enough. Saraki’s lose is a big lesson to Tinubu that power is transient and no one reigns forever.
Former Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio suffered an unexpected (but deserved) defeat in the 2019 senatorial election. Akpabio’s lose is not unconnected with his defection from the PDP, the party under which he served as Commissioner and two term Governor. He was later elected Senator in 2015 and became the party’s first Senate Minority Leader despite being a first term lawmaker. The PDP made Akpabio a name, but he defected from the party, accusing her of not rewarding loyalty, apparently because (instead of him) Senate President Bukola Saraki was made the PDP leader when he defected from the APC.
Akpabio ruled like Tsar when he was Governor. He determined who got what and when. He handpicked Udom Emmanuel has his successor and frustrated bigwigs such as Patrick Ekpotu and Nsima Nkere out of the PDP. Akpabio’s bossiness set off a frosty relationship between him and Emmanuel shortly after the latter became Governor. His excesses were unbearable, embarrassing and disrespectful to Emmanuel and his office. Akpabio would at the time make a bold entry into a state event, frolicking with his praise singers, disrupting the program, when the Emmanuel is already seated. The Governor could not tolerate this for long.
The fear of being prosecuted for corruption mainly made Akpabio join the APC. He left PDP for the APC he frustrated Nkere to join and now leading his governorship campaign. Upon defection, Akpabio secured the APC senatorial ticket, boasted he would win by a landslide, but the electorates stopped him. His lose is a testament that no one reigns forever and power is transient. PDP’s Chris Ekpenyong, the then deputy of ex-Governor Victor Attah, defeated Akpabio. The loss was a sweet revenge because Akpabio has not been in good terms with Attah and Ekpenyong, his former principals under whose administration he served as Commissioner.
The ruling APC fooled Akpabio and he fell for it. Confident of winning the North, the APC needed to ensure President Buhari gets a comfortable victory by earning substantial votes in the South-south and South-east, which are PDP strongholds. Upon realizing it would be difficult to win the two regions, APC opt to reduce PDP’s votes by winning over some of her bigwigs. They succeeded in getting Akpabio and Emmanuel Uduaghan, the former Governor of Delta State. The APC celebrated Akpabio’s defection from the PDP. A special televised rally was organized to welcome him into the party. Akpabio felt happy, honored and was boasting he would bring water out of the rock for the APC. In no distant time, it’ll become clear to Akpabio that the APC only needed him and Uduaghan to destabilize PDP’s stronghold. Now that Buhari has won and they lost their senatorial elections, the APC bigwigs would in a little while frustrated them out of the party.
Akpabio’s name will fade into oblivion, if APC loses the upcoming governorship election in Akwa-Ibom. His unceasing boast of having the capacity to dethrone the incumbent governor has made APC rely strongly on him. The party would ostracize him if Nkere lose. He may be arraigned for corruption as the federal government may withdraw the prosecution amnesty granted to him when he joined the APC. Akpabio lost his senatorial election because the electorates largely sees him as a desperate politician, who because of hunger, sold his birthright for a plate of porridge.
Former Governor of Benue State and Senator representing Benue Northwest constituency, George Akume, lost his reelection bid to return to the Senate for the fourth time. PDP’s Orker Jev defeated him with a margin of 42,304 votes.
Akume’s defeat is not unconnected with the lingering supremacy battle between him and Governor Samuel Ortom. The hostility between both heightened when Ortom defected to the PDP over accusations that the APC led federal government is uncommitted to ending the genocidal killings perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State. While Ortom was tackling the federal government to live up to the responsibility of ensuring adequate security for his people, Akume was more concerned about remaining in the good books of the federal government. This made him act contrary to his people’s will on many occasions.
Having been in power for twenty uninterrupted years, Akume’s omnipotent boasts made ex-Senate President David Mark and ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam end their political scuffles with Ortom, especially when he joined them in the PDP. Akume vowed to unseat Ortom and reinstate an APC government in the State, but the electorates reward Ortom’s dedication to exterminating their plights and sacked Akume instead.
Akume’s lose is an attestation that, in a democratic system, the strength of the power of the people is more than that of the people in power. The electoral loss of the godfather of Benue politics, despite having federal government’s backing, is a pointer that like life, power is a temporary, transient phenomenon.
The former Governor of Ondo State’s loss at the poll is another testament that power is transient. The Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) Ondo Central senatorial candidate – who dropped his presidential ambition to contest for senate – only managed to come third. He scored 56,624 votes, coming behind APC’s Ayo Alasoadura who garnered 57,828 votes and PDP’s Ayo Akinyelure who won with a total of 66,978 votes.
Mimiko’s awful defeat is a lesson to those in power. Just few years ago, Mimiko was so powerful that he won governorship election twice (in 2009 and 2013) under a relatively unknown and weak platform – the Labour Party (LP). Not many imagined that Mimiko’s electoral value would diminish so fast that he’ll lose an ‘ordinary’ senatorial election after letting go his presidential ambition.
Mimiko’s political worth diminished when he abandoned the LP for the PDP. He sacrificed the LP statewide political structure he built and controlled to join the then PDP led federal government, only to face stiff opposition from the Jimoh Ibrahim led faction in the state. His political structure collapsed after his preferred successor, Eyitato Jegede lost the governorship election to incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC.
Mimiko had the chance to build the Labour Party into a formidable national one, but he bungled that opportunity because of his insatiable thirst for power. He was PDP at the center, but LP at home. The ex-Governor may never rise politically again. He is not in good form to win future elections, except he defects to the ruling APC or opposition PDP.
The Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, has fallen on hard times. The two term incumbent – who broke the jinx of governor’s losing reelection after serving a term – couldn’t win a senatorial poll that only covers one-third of his state. His uncouth orations, anti-masses policies, and the arbitrary use of power largely made him lose the election. Oyo indigenes are cultural people who cherishes humbleness and respectful communications, but Ajimobi is ill-mannered. This shortcoming made the masses revolt against him. Oyo natives, like most Yoruba people, especially those in the hinterlands, cherishes respect than money and gifts, even if they are poor. They are experts at decoding the hidden message in communications and does not take insults lightly.
Ajimobi’s inability to gauge his utterances made him lose the admiration of many. He lost public support when he maliciously demolished Yinka Ayefele’s Fresh FM radio. Despite public outcry, an unremorseful Ajimobi arrogantly called Ayefele “a disabled being”. Ajimobi also said “Ayefele shouldn’t be pitied because he’s a cripple. He’s not the first to be”. The Ajimobi-Ayefele saga was interpreted by the masses as a contest between the powerful and the powerless. The masses rose in defense of their fellow defenseless brethren, Ayefele.
Persons who fail to learn from others mistakes end up facing their misfortunes. Uncouth statements made the late Bola Ige and ex-Governor Alao Akala lose elections in Oyo state in 1983 and 2011. Same has now made Ajimobi lose his senatorial race to PDP’s Kola Balogun. Lest one forgets, the insults Ajimobi rained on protesting LAUTECH students’ remained unforgivable in the minds of their parents and families who voted during his senatorial election.
Moreover, Ajimobi’s insistence on restructuring the Ibadan kingship and chieftaincy traditional laws earned him more foes than friends. Many took the utterance that he once used to send Olubadan’s wife on errands to his girlfriends as a deliberate move to publicly ridicule the revered monarch. This act made Ajimobi’s cup of sin overflow. The much craved opportunity to punish him surfaced when he decides to run for senate and the masses utilized it.
Ajimobi’s vow that he would not contest for public positions after his governorship tenure ends was also vehemently used against him. His refusal to take a bow when the ovation was at its loudest earned him a fall.
The incumbent Governor of Gombe State and former presidential aspirant of the PDP, Ibrahim Dakwambo lost his Gombe-North senatorial constituency election to Sa’idu Alkali of the APC. Aside underperformance, Dakwambo was largely affected by Buhari’s unparalleled acceptability in the North. Conducting the presidential election simultaneously with that of the national assembly made it difficult for the populous, less educated voters to differentiate between Buhari’s presidential and Dakwambo’s senatorial ballot paper. Alkali defeated Dakwambo by a difference of 64,530 votes.
For an incumbent that won governorship election and reelection in 2011 and 2015 to lose a ‘mere’ senatorial election by such a wide margin is a pointer that Dakwambo has lost public confidence and admiration. He came fifth in the 2018 PDP presidential primaries that produced Atiku Abubakar as candidate. Dakwambo’s appointment as Atiku’s campaign coordinator for the Northeast region yielded no positive results. His appeal to the electorates to vote Atiku as President fell on deaf ears. He couldn’t even deliver his Hassan Manzo ward. Buhari scored 457 votes to defeat Atiku who garnered a meagre 80 votes in the ward.
Dakwambo’s serial defeat is an indication that the mighty has fallen and may just never rise again. Ikkyu’s thought is the best advice for Dakwambo: Like vanishing dew, a passing apparition or sudden flash of lightning – already gone – thus should Dakwambo regard himself.
End Notion and Lesson
The strength of power doesn’t depend on its in perpetuity, but on its transience. The hire and fire power of the voter card makes it a crucial weapon the electorates must use to reward or punish the elected, depending on their performance. Nigerian politicians have an insatiable thirst for power, but are un-thirsty for national development and progress. They do all possible to grab power and once it’s theirs, they do all to hold on to it till death do them part.
The loyalty and patronage power commands fade off like a wisp of smoke when it is lost. Power is not worth gaining or retaining by force as its value is sullied by its transiency. People switch allegiance once power is lost. The deposed godfathers would know they have fallen on hard times in the days ahead. Politicians must act right when in power and beyond because their actions or inactions today is tomorrow’s history. The unborn generations will read it and be told. The defeat of those once regarded as undefeatable at the polls is a testament that no king can reign forever; the mighty (like Saraki) has fallen for new ones to arise.
The Second Part
This piece is the concluding part of a twin piece on the transience of power in which the writer analyzed the issues and outcome of the presidential and senatorial elections. The first part appraised Atiku’s inability to regain control of the country he once managed as the second in command. It dissects why he has been unable to retain the loyalty of the bigwigs he once lord over when he was in power. Although Atiku did not run as a one term ex-President or incumbent, analyzing the piece around the transiency of power was inexorable based on his former capacity as Vice President: a powerful one that allegedly made his boss, President Obasanjo, kowtow for him before winning reelection. To read the piece, please search this platform or Google “2019 Presidential Poll: Is Atiku’s Defeat a Testament that Power is Transient?”
Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via email@example.com