Published On: Sun, Aug 12th, 2018

2019: Giants in political limbo

—Top politicians who have gone into oblivion

 By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

No matter how the story of the Nigerian political landscape is told, their names will surely be given a mention. For several years, they straddled the Nigerian political landscape as influential power brokers, calling the shots at will. They were the movers and shakers in their states and at the national level. Their orders were supreme and go largely unquestioned.

They were courted by kings, chiefs, and the nobles and revered by the commons. They reigned like kings and emperors. Those who dared them have tales of regret to share.

But today, the politicians, who made headline news; were all over the place staging one event or the other, and have the world on their palms, have sadly slipped into irrelevance.

Their political empires are in ruins and the hitherto masters have gone into political oblivion. As the nation approach another election, a time for their usual ascendancy, BH looks into the past and present of these forgotten godfathers.

Arthur Nzeribe

 

Arthur Nzeribe

 The maverick politician has vanished from limelight since his defeat in the 2006 primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to elect a senatorial candidate for his Orlu Imo State constituency.

The famed arms dealer, who is currently afflicted by an undisclosed ailment, has ceased to be a factor in the nation’s politics. Checks by Business Hallmark show that he is bedridden at his Oguta country home, with medics constantly around to cater for his immediate needs.

He is widely remembered for the role he played in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, as well as the ill-fated move to transmute the late despot, Gen. Sani Abacha to a civilian president in 1998. He was also the linchpin in the third term agenda of former president Obasanjo in 2015.

His group, Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), got a court injunction used by the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to scuttle the 1993 presidential election.

Before his journey into oblivion, Nzeribe was a popular face in the politics of the nation. He once ran for office as president and was elected a senator in the short-lived Babangida military-civilian rule experiment. His crowning moment came in 1999 and 2003 when he was reelected as a senator for two consecutive terms.

At the height of his power, he lived in NICON Hilton Hotel Abuja Presidential Suite and the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos for over twenty-five years despite owning sprawling mansions in major cities of the world. He was chauffeured around major cities of the world in exotic cars like Citroen, Rolls Royce and flew in private jets.

He now lives a sad life surrounded by retinue of nurses and aides.

Peter Odili

 The fall of Peter Odili, a political giant, is nothing but remarkable. He once ruled over Rivers State, one of the wealthiest states in the country, due to oil and other business infrastructure.

During his reign, the indomitable ex-governor of Rivers State wielded a lot of influence in and outside of his state, and no one could achieve much as a politician without his support. He was in fact the biggest masquerade in the state with lots of federal influence. He was reputed as the financier of most of the Obasanjo’s battles with the NASS.

The Prince of the Niger was also the most priced leader in South-South politics until former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s treachery in 2007, when he was harassed with security agencies and forced to drop his presidential and vice-presidential ambitions for former President Umaru Yaradua and his then deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

He was also forced to abandon his support for his godson, former Rivers Speaker, Rotimi Amaechi, whom he had groomed and nominated as his successor.

Odili had to bear the unexpected blow of both losing at the national and state levels when his estranged protégé, Rotimi Amaechi, whom he did not support for the 2007 governorship race, became governor through the order of the Supreme Court.

Now, in the evening of his political life, the once powerful godfather is no longer as influential, as the young Turks like Nyesom Wike and Rotimi Ameachi, who now rule the oil rich state have taken over. Will Odili be able to stand up and come back from his fall? On time will tell.

 

Bode George

 Arguably the most powerful politician in the South West chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George used to wield enormous clout that won him many friends until his fallout with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

While things were still working for him as the National Vice Chairman of PDP, he used the rosy relationship between him and the Owu chief to maximum impact.

With Obasanjo’s backing, he established himself as a formidable kingmaker in the south west, particularly in Lagos, where he anointed and nominated PDP’s state governorship, senatorial and House of Reps candidates. His nominees were also appointed into several federal offices like ministers and board chairmen.

However, his influence dimmed when he ran into trouble with Obasanjo and former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, which led to him being jailed for misappropriation and contract scams at the Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos. The Supreme Court later quashed his conviction. Perhaps too later; he has not recovered from it.

Though, he is back as a kingmaker in Lagos, the rebellion and crisis within his party has greatly diminished his influence and power. The defeat of the PDP at the 2015 polls has also made him lose the little prominence he used to have.

 

Salisu Buhari

 The first Speaker of House of Representatives upon the return of the country to democratic system of government in the Fourth Republic in 1999, Salisu Buhari, joined politics in April 1998, and became very powerful and influential through his massive wealth and contacts. He won the seat of Nasarawa Federal Constituency of Kano State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999.

When the lower house was inaugurated on June 3, 1999, Salisu Buhari defeated his main challenger, Abubakar Sadiq Yar’Adua from Katsina State to emerge speaker.

But his victory was short-lived when allegations of certificate forgery and age falsification were levelled against him.

He had claimed that he was been born on 3 January 1963 and later obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Toronto, Canada in 1990; a diploma in accountancy from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1988, and that he served under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1991. His claims were later found out to be false.

The Federal Government was on the verge of prosecuting him when prominent Nigerians intervened and he was forced to vacate his seat and replaced by Ibrahim Inuwa who dramatically resigned his position as member of the House of Reps on June 8, 2000.

It was allegedly that Inuwa’s resignation was to pave the way for Salisu Buhari’s return to the House. However, the move failed when he was prevented from coming back by forces opposed to the move.

He got a reprieve when former president Olusegun Obasanjo who granted him pardon. After the unceremonious exit, Buhari went into oblivion and nothing was heard of him again until 2007 when he became the secretary of the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua campaign council in Kano State. He reportedly made the late president to get large number of votes in the state.

Also, in 2011 Salisu Buhari became the director general of the Goodluck Jonathan 25-member campaign council in Kano State. In 2013, Jonathan made Salisu Buhari a member of the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

 

Victor Attah

Victor Attah

The once powerful governor of the oil rich Akwa Ibom State has largely disappeared into the background. During his unchallenged reign, he was made a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Famous for his campaign for resource control, which earned him the nickname ‘Mr. Resource Control’, Attah was dreaded by the government of former President Umaru Yaradua and concerned Northern leaders who feared that he could throw the Niger Delta and the country into turmoil through his activism for resource control. The present 13 percent revenue derivation to oil producing states could be largely attributed to his never say die crusade.

He was so influential that he installed his successor, former Governor Godswill Akpabio, who he later fell out with.

He lost power and influence due to the feud with his erstwhile godson and nothing much has been heard of him, except that he has dumped the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

James Ibori

James Ibori

Once the governor of oil rich State Delta State Ibori was a very powerful and influential politician. Apart from his state where he still reign supreme by installing successive governors and leaders, Ibori’s influence extended to the centre. He and Senate President Bukola Saraki and others were instrumental to the emergence of Umaru Yaradua as president.

However, his robust political career suffered a setback due to the unexpected death of Yar’adua and his imprisonment in the United Kingdom for fraud related issues after falling out with former president Jonathan who they opposed succeeding Yar’Adua.

Although he has started to make some appearances at political gatherings, particularly in his home state, he is yet to re-launch himself into the national space.

 

Anthony Anenih

Anthony Anenih

Popularly known as Mr. Fix, former Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Tony Anenih, was almost invincible in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he called the shots. Party stalwarts and those who sought one favour or the other from him revered him. Whoever wanted any favour from the government and party bowed to him.

So powerful was Anenih in the ruling party that he assumed the unofficial title of ‘The Leader’. He was seen as the king maker in PDP.

However, with everything that has a beginning, an end must surely come. He has been demystified and retired from politics by no other person than the incumbent National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole.

He had failed in his last four attempts to install his successor in Edo State since Oshiomhole became governor of the state. Since he didn’t have a base to operate from, he lost relevance at the national level too, thus ending a glorious political sojourn.

 

Bamanga Tukur

Bamanga Tukur

A former Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was so powerful as the chairman of the PDP that he installed governors and lawmakers by influencing their emergence as PDP candidates. But his move to reform the party led to series of events that eventually led to his unceremonious exit.

His short tenure as national chairman of PDP was characterized by internal crisis which eventually led to the defeat of the party in the 2015 polls.

Since his resignation as chairman, he has not been active in the affairs of the party. His last known position was as chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, a position he held until his sacking by President Buhari.

 

Edwin Clark

The influential Ijaw leader and former federal commissioner for information was probably the most powerful non-public office holder during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. As Jonathan’s godfather, Chief Edwin Clark called the shot. While Jonathan held sway in the presidential villa, Clark was the de facto president calling the shots from the sidelines. He was the face of his administration and defended his kinsman to heavens.

While he was instrumental to the appointment of several Niger Delta citizens into Jonathan’s government, he also had a strong hold on the dreaded militants that operated in the region.

However, like many other chieftains of the former ruling party, Clark has disappeared from limelight since Jonathan lost out in the last presidential election to President Buhari. His only relevance is in PANDEF, the umbrella body for Niger Delta agitations.

 

 

 

 

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