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10 major politicians out of limelight

The past 25 years have sprouted different calibres of politicians, with many retaining their relevance while others have simply faded into political oblivion. These politicians once swayed enormous powers in Nigeria’s fourth republic. But now their names are like a whisper from another life, almost forgotten. While some have faced a natural retirement due to age and changes in government, others lost golden opportunities that forced them to bury a career in politics.

An Abuja-based political analyst, Salihu Mahmud Dantata, identifies three reasons why some once-powerful politicians fade away. “Corruption, the winner-take-all mentality, and a tolerance for unethical behaviour,” he said. He argued that while a change in leadership allows for new voices to be heard, a healthy democracy requires a balance of experienced and new politicians.

“It is important to have experienced politicians who can guide the younger generation,” the analyst said. He acknowledged that the winner-take-all system, though common around the world, should have a blend of old politicians who can serve as experts in specific positions.

In this report, Daily Trust looks at why and how some of Nigeria’s politicians, who once possessed enormous powers, have faded away.


Salisu Buhari

Ibrahim Salisu Buhari could have been Nigeria’s youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives if he had played by the rules. It was a story of impunity and desperation that culminated in shame. At the early stage of Nigeria’s fourth republic, Salisu Buhari emerged as Speaker but only lasted for six weeks when a scandal surrounding his age and educational qualifications broke. He was only 29 years old when he deceived the nation into thinking he was 36 and cooked up a rich educational resume that indicated he obtained a diploma in Accountancy from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1988, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Toronto, Canada, in 1990, and his National Youth Service Corps in Kano in 1991.

Salisu, who represented the Nasarawa federal constituency of Kano State under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), laid out one of Nigeria’s greatest political and educational frauds until the media busted him, forcing him to resign.

Since his political career came to an abrupt end and he received a pardon from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he has tried to build a quiet life out of public scrutiny and has served on campaign councils and advisory councils. He has, however, yet to hold any political appointments that will make him nationally visible.


Patricia Etteh

Patricia Etteh is easily dismissed as a woman with a wasted opportunity, having served as the first and still remaining the only woman to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria. She represented Ayedaade/Isokan/Irewole federal constituency in Osun State initially under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, but later decamped to the PDP when seeking re-election in 2003. In 2007, she made history when she became the first woman to be elected Speaker. But about five months into her leadership, she became enmeshed in a corruption scandal that led to her resignation. The lawmakers had accused her of awarding a N628 million contract for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, as well as the purchase of 12 official vehicles. Though, she was never indicted and later absolved of allegations of fraud levelled against her by colleagues, she is still referenced today by anti-women establishments as a sign of corruption among women politicians. Now 70 and mostly out of public radar, Etteh was in 2022 arrested and released on bail by the EFCC for allegedly receiving payment of N130 million by an unnamed contractor of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).


Peter Odili

Once so powerful that he thought he could succeed former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Peter Odili has retired, but not quietly, to his home of Rivers State. He was recently in the news for siding with the present Governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, who has been enmeshed in a political tug of war with his predecessor and current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike. But soon enough, Nigeria’s anti-corruption bulldog, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), began dusting off his files. Peter Odili, who served as the governor of oil-rich Rivers State between 1999 and 2007, has been a thorn in the flesh of previous EFCC bosses who made several attempts to prosecute him over an alleged N100 billion fraud while he was governor. Though the fraud allegations continue to hover over Odili’s head like a ghost from the past, he continues to hide behind a court injunction that has made him untouchable to the EFCC.


Kema Chikwe

Her beauty and charm stood her out during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. She was one of the powerful ministers in his cabinet, and many said she had the ears of the then-President. Kema Chikwe is a woman who has shattered many glass ceilings. She was the first woman to serve as Minister of Transport and Aviation. She was Chairman of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), a former Ambassador to Ireland, and a one-time PDP National Woman Leader. She has even made an attempt to be governor and senator in Imo State but lost. In 2021, she described her governorship move as the boldest move she ever made, knowing she was the only woman campaigning in that era. Now at 72, she chairs the Women Leadership Institute, an international leadership development organization that provides a professional and non-partisan platform for women in Nigeria and across Africa to develop their leadership capacity.


Bamanga Tukur

There aren’t many public servants that have grazed Nigeria’s political pan as Bamanga Tukur. Businessman, technocrat, and politician. He has held positions such as Chairman of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Ex-Executive President of the Africa Business Round Table, Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Minister for Industries, and National Chairman of the PDP. His tenure as PDP’s national chairman between 2012 and 2014 was characterised by a plethora of crises in the party, which led to the defection of five PDP governors to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). At 88 years old, Tukur is assumed to have retired from active politics and public life, leaving the scene to the next generation, including his son, who is now the Secretary to the State Government of Adamawa State.


Chief Olu Falae

He became so famous for his penchant for supporting the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) under the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida that he was nicknamed Mr. SAP. From civil service to banking, he became Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and then he became a Minister before later going to jail. Falae has seen many good and dark days before he tried his luck with the presidential election in 1999 and 2003, but in both attempts, he was defeated by Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. He has since retired to his home in Akure, where he is now the Olu Abo of Ilu-Oba and Baba Oba of Akure Kingdom.


Hajiya Maryam Inna Chiroma

Hajiya Chiroma served as minister of women affairs between 2005 and 2007. But before then, she made a name for herself politically at the grass root. The former minister and one-time managing director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is known to have championed the cause of inclusive representation as well as increased women’s participation in politics. Hajiya Chiroma. A former national women’s leader of the PDP, she aspired to be the party’s Deputy National Chairman (North) at the 2017 convention. However, she was one of those who were skimmed out after the PDP governors allegedly came up with a ‘unity list’ as a voting guide for delegates. She made a second attempt in 2021 but was defeated by Ambassador Umar Damagun, who is now the acting chairman of the party.


Oladimeji Bankole

Known simply as Dimeji Bankole, he remains Nigeria’s youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives and, at one time, one of the most powerful politicians at the national level. Bankole became the country’s number-four citizen after the resignation of his predecessor, Patricia Etteh. He represented Abeokuta South Federal Constituency between 2002 and 2007 under the PDP. His eloquence, calm demeanour and leadership style earned him respect. But like many of the powerful names in Nigeria’s murky political waters, his tenure ended with a scar to his reputation when the EFCC arrested him and later charged him with a 16-count criminal charge bordering on contract inflation and fraudulent embezzlement of public funds totalling N9 billion. He has since been freed by the court.

In 2019, he contested the governorship of Ogun State under the Action Democratic Party but lost. He tried to make a comeback when he moved to the APC in 2022 and aspired for the party’s presidential slot, but later stepped down and campaigned for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.


Adamu Mu’azu

Adamu Muazu became known as one of the most performing governors in Nigeria between 1999 and 2007. He was also regarded as one of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s loyalists, whom many had thought would succeed him. When Obasanjo chose the late President Umaru Yar’Adua as his predecessor, there were insinuations that other contenders had immediately dropped their ambitions, except for Muazu, who was said to have reluctantly done so at the eleventh hour. Apart from being ‘forced’ to shelve his presidential ambition, Muazu also lost the bid to install his Secretary of State Government as his predecessor and also failed to secure the senatorial seat for Bauchi South senatorial district. He, however, came back to the political limelight when he emerged as PDP national chairman after the resignation of Bamanga Tukur barely a year before the 2015 general election. He resigned after his party was defeated in the 2015 election by the APC.


Sarah Jibrin

Sarah Jibrin, a serial presidential aspirant and candidate, still advances the argument that women do not support those who seek political office. She is Nigeria’s first female presidential candidate and has sought the country’s number one seat on four occasions. She is also the only woman to have contested the presidential nomination for the ruling PDP. Her last political appointment was when she was appointed Special Adviser on Ethics and Values to former President Goodluck Jonathan.