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15 years after, 4 ex-governors still call the shots

Fifteen years after the expiration of their tenures, four former governors are still calling the shots in their states by influencing those who get elective…

Fifteen years after the expiration of their tenures, four former governors are still calling the shots in their states by influencing those who get elective and political positions.  

In 1999 when the country returned to civil rule after 16 years of military regimes (1983-1999), the four top politicians were among the 36 governors that were elected.

Those elected governors in 1999 are Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Boni Haruna (Adamawa), Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom), Chinwoke Mbadinuju (Anambra), Adamu Mu’azu (Adamwa), Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa), George Akume (Benue), Mala Kachalla (Borno), Donald Duke (Cross River), James Ibori (Delta), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo) and Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti).

Others are Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Abubakar Habu Hashidu (Gombe), Achike Udenwa (Imo), Ibrahim Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Katsina), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), Abubakar Audu (Kogi) and Mohammed Lawal (Kwara).

The rest are Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa),Abdulkadir Kure (Niger), Olusegun Osoba (Ogun), Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo), Adebisi Akande (Osun), Lam Adesina (Oyo), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Peter Odili (Rivers), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe) and Ahmad Sani Yerima (Zamfara).

The political fortunes of nine of the 36 governors: Mbadinuju, Kachalla, Adebayo, Hashidu, Audu, Lawal, Osoba, Adefarati, Akande and Adesina went down in 2003 when they could not secure a second term.

However, despite leaving office 15 years ago, four political oracles: Tinubu, Ibori, Kwankwaso and Odili, have been playing key roles in determining who becomes governor in their respective states; starting with their successors in 2007.

While Kwankwaso failed to secure a second term in 2003, he bounced back in 2011 to complete his second term and installed his Deputy, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, in 2015.


Elected on January 9, 1999, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ibori (63) has been controlling the political sphere of the oil-producing state for the last 23 years, installing two of his successors.

In 2007 when his second term was lapsing, Ibori rallied around Emmanuel Uduaghan, his Secretary to the State Government (SSG), to succeed him. 

When Uduaghan, a medical doctor, was seeking re-election in 2011, Ibori, despite his long battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Interpol over corruption and money laundering, was said to have played a vital role in ensuring Uduaghan’s second term victory.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years by Southwark Crown Court, London, for corruption cases. But he was released from prison in December, 2016, after a court order. It was a celebration galore in Delta when he returned from prison.

In 2015 at the expiration of Uduaghan’s second term, Ibori, despite being in prison in London, was said to have nominated and ensured Ifeanyi Okowa’s victory.

Ibori’s preferred candidate for the 2023 governorship election in the state, David Edevbie, was defeated by Okowa’s Sheriff Oborevwori during the PDP primary. Elders in the state then prevailed upon him to back Okowa for the party to retain the state.

An associate of Ibori, Chief Ighoyota Amori, said Oborevwori was a political product of Ibori.

He said, “We served in government together under Ibori and he remains his political son. Ibori has endorsed Oborevwori 100 per cent to become Governor of Delta State in 2023.”


Born on March 29, 1952, Tinubu has not only remained influential in Lagos politics, but has spread his tentacles across the South West and the country, aiming to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. 

Since he left the Lagos State Government House, Tinubu has produced three occupants of the number one house in the Centre of Excellence. Using the instrumentality of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Tinubu installed Babatunde Fashola in 2007.  He brought in Akinwumi Ambode in 2015 when Fashola’s second tenure lapsed.

However, when their relationship turned sour, he edged out Ambode in 2019 and brought in Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

GAC was formed and headed by the APC’s National Leader, Tinubu. It takes major decisions such as the mode of primaries, candidates of the party for elections and even the executives of the party.

Regarded as a kingmaker given the role he played in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019, Tinubu, is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to actualise what he calls his lifetime ambition; to pilot the affairs of the country.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Tinubu boasted about his stewardship in Lagos, saying, “I have governed Lagos. I built a modern state that could be a country on its own. I have led an administration that is so prudent that the IGR increased from N600m to N5bn a month. That’s a record. Nobody else can brag about that.

“I have treated and tamed the Atlantic Ocean’s surge in Nigeria that would have perished many people in Lagos. The infrastructural renewal of Lagos is excellent. I have continuity in Lagos. Buhari has done his best. I can’t run away from him, being my friend, my leader in the party. I will not.”


Since 2011 when he staged a comeback in the country’s Centre of Commerce, Kwankwaso (66) has remained relevant in the politics of Kano, the North and by extension the country.

In November, 2013, Kwankwaso was among five governors that dumped the PDP to join the All Progressives Congress (APC). In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, he contested for the presidential ticket of the APC. He came second during the primary won by Buhari.

Towards the end of his tenure as governor in 2015, he picked his Deputy, Ganduje, as his successor. Shortly after the inauguration, the duo fell apart. Following their disagreement, Kwankwaso returned to the PDP before the 2019 elections and sponsored his son-in-law, Abba Kabir, popularly known as Abba Gida-Gida. Gida-Gida was defeated by Ganduje.

In March this year, Kwankwaso joined the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Like Tinubu, Kwankwaso is eyeing Buhari’s seat on the platform of his new party. It is widely believed that Kwankwaso will make an impact during the February 25, presidential election, especially in Kano and the North West.

For Kano, he has again fielded Gida-Gida to contest for the governorship. The battle for the Kano State Government House is now between two godsons: Gida-Gida (Kwankwaso and Nasir Yusuf Gawuna of the APC (Ganduje).


Operating from the background, Odili (74) is still calling the shots in Rivers State where he was governor between 1999 and 2007.

At the expiration of his tenure, he supported his aide, Celestine Omehia, to succeed him. However, months into Omehia’s tenure, on October 25, 2007, he was sacked by the Supreme Court following a crisis that trailed the governorship primary of the PDP.

The apex court annulled Omehia’s election, ruling that Rotimi Amaechi, was PDP’s legitimate candidate.

In Rivers, Amaechi is regarded as Odili’s boy as he started his career at Pamo Clinics and Hospital owned by Odili. Between 1999 and 2007, he was the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly during Odili’s tenure.

On his part, Governor Nyesom Wike was Chairman of Obio Akpor LGA of the state for eight years when Odili was governor.

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