Children of prominent politicians have continued to make inroads into governance across the country as they occupy sensitive roles at the state and national levels, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
However, pundits observe that while this may not be wrong if they truly merit the positions they occupy, it will, nonetheless, erode service delivery if they rode to prominence through the influence of their parents.
They say this could be put in the context when other willing aspirants, who have similar qualifications (even if not from the same schools), or other variables such as age and mental capacity, could not secure such elective or appointive positions by the virtue of their disadvantaged economic conditions.
In most cases, elective or appointive positions in Nigeria after the election season are determined by one’s contributions to the project.
Checks revealed that like other seasons, after the 2023 general elections, the rise of politicians’ children being nominated as commissioners, ministers and into different “juicy positions” in the national and state assemblies is visible.
Observers say the development has been gaining traction since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.
They noted that this might likely be an indirect way of recycling politicians who had refused to let go of power for those that were not born in the circle.
Dr Ahmed Salisu, a Nigerian who teaches Political Science at a university in Uganda, said it is not unusual to see children of prominent people clinching prominent positions in government.
“It is not also restricted to Nigeria. It is obtained all over the world, and you have to read the “iron law of oligarchy” to understand why it is difficult for the children of the unknown to penetrate the circle,” he said.
He noted that even in the United Kingdom, the United States, Asia and some developed democracies, children of the elite normally step into the shoes of their parents or benefactors.
“We have the Bush family in the US that have produced presidents, governors and others. We have the Gandhi family in India, and in Bangladesh for instance, the father of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, was also a prime minister.
“The only difference with Nigeria, to mind, is when it comes to delivery of services to the electorate. Honestly speaking, not all people get worried by a certain family being in power. What they want is good governance, and I hope those in power in Nigeria and want to be succeeded by their children should give the best to the electorate,” he said.
According to Wikipedia, the iron law of oligarchy is a political theory first developed by the German-born Italian sociologist, Robert Michels, in his 1911 book, ‘Political Parties’.
He said that rule by the elite or oligarchy, is inevitable as an “iron law” within any democratic organisation as part of the “tactical and technical necessities” of the organisation.
Michels’ theory states that: “All socialist organisations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies.”
He added that since no sufficiently large and complex organisation could function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organisation would always get delegated to individuals within that group; elected or otherwise.
On political parties, he said, “It is an organisation which gives dominion of the elected over the electors.”
The Nigerian example
Top among politicians that have ensured the continuous existence of their “empires” are former governors, who, after serving out their eight-year mandatory terms in office, would either retire to the Senate or secure ministerial appointments to continue to remain relevant within the corridors of power while at the same time securing political advantages for their children.
It has been observed that over the years, the politicians have been expanding their political empires beyond themselves by ensuring that their children and spouses get appointive and elective positions in state and federal cabinets, as well as “juicy committees” in the National Assembly.
They do this by using their influence to get political parties’ tickets for their children and also bankroll them in the main elections to ensure their victory.
Ibori, Uduaghan, Okowa position children in power
Alhough out of power, three former governors of Delta State, James Onanafe Ibori, Emmanuel Uduaghan and Ifeanyi Okowa have continued to wield political influence by ensuring their children remain within the corridors of power both at the state and national levels.
While some of their children have been “favoured” to occupy various political positions and offices both in the Delta State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives, others have secured commissionership positions to serve in the state’s cabinet.
A daughter of Ibori, Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, through her father’s political influence, secured the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the Ethiope Federal Constituency of Delta State during the 2023 National Assembly elections.
Ibori is seen as the political godfather and “kingmaker” of Delta politics and has influence in the emergence of leaders in the state.
The daughter polled 46 votes to defeat her main challenger, Ben Igbakpa, a then sitting lawmaker, who scored 22 votes in a run-off primary election.
She went on to become the lawmaker representing Ethiope Constituency, and soon after getting to the House of Reps, she was appointed Chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which is considered one of the juicy committees in the Green Chamber.
Findings revealed that it takes some level of connection and influence to be considered to head some of the juicy committees of the House.
This is more so that Ibori’s daughter is a first timer in the House of Representatives.
The 42-year-old Erhiatake, who is married to Abioye Suenu, studied Business Studies and Information Systems in the United Kingdom.
Also, Okowa’s daughter, Marilyn Okowa-Daramola, through her father’s political influence, secured the PDP’s ticket for Ika North East House of Assembly seat in the state.
She was returned unopposed in the primary election for the seat and went on to win the election to represent the people of Ika North East in the Delta State House of Assembly.
Marilyn obtained a Bachelor of Law (LLB) from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, in 2010.
She graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 2011 and also obtained a Masters of Law (LLM), International Law and International Relations from Lancaster University in 2013.
On her part, a daughter of Uduaghan, Orode Uduaghan, was appointed to serve as a commissioner in the present administration in the state.
Orode, who lost her earlier bid to clinch the PDP’s ticket for Warri North in the House of Assembly, was “compensated” with the commissioner position.
Orode obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in psychology from Windsor University in 2009. She also obtained an Executive MBA, business administration and healthcare management from Warwick University in 2021.
Ex-minister’s son appointed commissioner in Cross River
Barrister Ededem Anthony Ani, the son of a former Minister of Finance under the military government of late General Sani Abacha, has been screened by the Cross River State House of Assembly for confirmation as commissioner in Governor Bassey Otu’s government.
He was one of the 24 out of 26 commissioners-designate screened. He may likely be assigned attorney general and commissioner for justice.
It is largely speculated that his nomination might be a compensation for the support the governor received from the octogenarian former minister.
Ani Jr is the principal partner in a law firm.
Kogi: Late Gov Audu’s son makes Tinubu’s ministerial list
Another politician, whose influence and goodwill has worked for his progeny even in death, was the late former Governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu.
His son, Shaibu Abubakar Audu, who has been nominated as minister to represent Kogi State has been assigned the steel development ministry in the cabinet.
The late Audu was a strong political ally of President Bola Tinubu.
Indeed, Tinubu was the one who nominated James Abiodun Faleke, one of his political protégés, to serve as running mate to the late Audu during the 2015 elections.
Audu, who was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November, 2015, election in Kogi State, was coasting to victory when he died before the final declaration of the election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The election was subsequently declared inconclusive, and after much political horse trading, the APC eventually settled for Yahaya Bello as replacement for the late Audu.
Audu’s death left a sour taste in the mouths of not only his immediate family members, but his political supporters and the entire people of Kogi East Senatorial District, who lost grip of power and political relevance after many years of hegemony in the confluence state.
The appointment of Prince Shaibu Audu is thus considered a relief and compensation to heal the wound the death of the late iconic politician brought upon the Igala people of Kogi East Senatorial District.
Before his appointment as minister, Shaibu Audu contested in the last APC gubernatorial primary election in the state but failed his bid in the process.
Not satisfied with the outcome, he was reported to have gone to seek redress in court, a case he later withdrew on the advice of the elders of the party.
The minister, who resides in Lagos, was prior to his appointment an executive director with Stanbic IBTC.
He holds an MBA from the University of Oxford and an MSc in international securities and investment banking from the ICMA Centre of Henley Business School, University of Reading.
Ex-Oyo senator’s son gets commissioner slot
In Oyo State, the son of the late former Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, Seun Ashamu, is among those appointed by Governor Seyi Makinde in his cabinet.
He is now the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources.
The late senator was a politician who served from 2015 to 2019 and represented Oyo Central Senatorial District.
Ashamu, a lawyer with nearly 15 years of experience, has been involved in negotiating, structuring and advising complex multilateral transactions in the areas of foreign investment, energy, mining, corporate finance, taxation and real estate.
El-Rufai’s son, Bello, others chair reps’ c’ttees
Like Ibori’s daughter, a son of the immediate past Governor of Kaduna State, Bello el-Rufai, also got committee chairmanship slot in the 10th House of Representatives.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, named Bello as Chairman, House Committee on Banking Regulations.
Through his father’s political influence, Bello was able to secure the ticket of the ruling APC in Kaduna, displacing a sitting member, and went on to win the Kaduna North Federal Constituency seat during the 2023 elections.
Bello el-Rufai was born in 1990 and is the eldest son of Nasir el-Rufai.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, international relations and religious studies from the prestigious Wheaton College, Massachusetts.
He also holds a masters’ in public relations and corporate communication from Georgetown University.
Bello el-Rufai started his career as a manager at Huawei Enterprise, Abuja.
Other children of politicians who got committee chairmanship in the 10th House of Representatives include Adegboyega Adefarati, son of the late former Governor of Ondo State, Adebayo Adefarati. The junior Adefarati heads the House Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity.
Adegboyega Adefarati holds a bachelors’ degree in history from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and also obtained his masters’ in business administration from the Lagos State University (LASU).
Another lucky legislator is Olamiju Akala, who is the son of a former Governor of Oyo State, late Adebayo Alao Akala.
He is also not left out as he heads the Committee on Youth in the parliament.
Olamiju Akala obtained bachelors’ degree in computer and information science from Lead City University in 2009, and also obtained a masters’ degree in service management from Buckingham University in 2011.
Also in the league is Olumide Osoba, the son of a former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, who heads the House Committee on Justice in the House of Representatives.
After secondary school, Olumide Osoba attended the University of Lagos where he graduated in June 1999 with a degree in accounting and finance.
He had his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) starting February 2000 to January 2001 at the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG).
After he completed his NYSC, he pursued his MSc in analysis design and management of information systems at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science from September 2001, graduating in June, 2002.
Ekweremadu, Chime’s children make commissioners’ list in Enugu
Lyold, the son of a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and ex-Governor Sullivan Chime’s daughter, Ada Chukwu, made the commissioner-nominees list of the Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah.
The list was recently sent to the House of Assembly and read on the floor of the house by the Speaker, Uche Ugwu.
Our education, other qualifications couldn’t get us elected – ‘Defeated’ contestants
Meanwhile, some contestants in the last elections said education and capacity were not enough to get them elective positions in Nigeria.
They said one must “inherit” the office, have a godfather, and in rare occasions, benefit from a bandwagon effect during elections.
Ussaini Maisahfi, a degree holder, who contested for a state assembly seat for Jos North-North on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (DSP), said he was not able to contest under any of the bigger parties because equal opportunity to participate was not given.
He said, “I did not contest on the platform of APC or PDP because there is no fair play in the parties. You must always have a godfather before you get the ticket to contest in an election. The issue of delegates who are induced with huge amounts of money to get their support is another problem.
“If you are talking about educational qualification, we also have it like the children of the rich politicians, but then, who is there to push for you?”
Umar Danfari, who holds a masters’ degree in Economics Education and contested for state assembly on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), also said he did not go to the popular parties because of the money involved in the process.
He said, “There is no financial support to contest an election on the platform of the big parties. Even if you are a member of the big parties and you don’t have money, you cannot contest for an election.
“The fee for the purchase of the form is a big challenge. In the last elections, APC asked contestants for the state assemblies to buy form at the rate of N2m. How will you raise this money? During the primary election, you spend money in millions. How will you get that? So, if you don’t have money, and your parents don’t have, you have no choice but to join smaller parties where your chances are bleak.”
It’ll undermine efficiency in service delivery – CSOs
Speaking on the development, the Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi, said that appointing or nominating children of politicians to sensitive positions based on parental influence rather than merit would have negative implications, noting that it would affect service delivery.
She said the trend undermined fairness, fostered corruption, eroded public trust, limited diverse perspectives and hampered social mobility.
She further said, “To ensure good governance and equal opportunities, transparent selection processes and a commitment to merit-based appointments are crucial. This helps prevent nepotism and supports a more inclusive and accountable society.”
On his part, the CEO/Founder, TAF AFRICA, and Convener, Disability Inclusion Nigeria, Ambassador Jake Epelle, said the development was nepotism in action and unacceptable.
He said, “It’s nepotism, favouritism and corruption in every sense of the word.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said that the organisation had noticed the trend wherein politicians were using underhand tactics to install their children in various political and administrative positions in the country.
He said, “We have seen it happen in the executive, legislative and judicial arms. The public service has been repeatedly desecrated and undermined by these antics of the political class.
“Even more worrisome are the emerging disturbing stories from the Federal Character Commission (FCC), where job slots are being sold to the highest bidders. All such unmerited employment should be immediately reversed.
“Oversight institutions and the anti-corruption agencies cannot be watching as the situation degenerates in our public service. Citizens must also be vigilant and expose perpetrators of this form of corruption, which undermines efficiency and effectiveness of government agencies.”
Trend will push Nigeria into oligarchy – Don
Commenting on the matter, a political scientist, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage, said as far as democracy was concerned, everyone had a right to contest, but that the happenings in Nigerian politics showed that the system was going towards oligarchy.
He noted that the system in vogue was that whenever politicians were elected, they tried to bring their children into leadership positions or impose their children on people, which said was undemocratic and dangerous.
He further said, “Even when some of them merit it, you have to admit that there was no level-playing ground because their parents made the way for them. The political class puts a lot of hurdles like money that disenfranchise a lot of people. Look at the last elections, how many common men could afford to purchase the ticket of any of the top political parties to be able to stand a chance of being elected in the first place?”
He said the system had been rigged to the extent that no matter how good a person was, they could not get to some positions based on merit.
He added, “The children of politicians that get their way into these positions do not use their money to campaign. It’s public money, which has already disenfranchised a lot of people. For the common man, it’s either you forget it or you get a godfather.”
Fage concluded that even if qualified, the children of politicians that were now in vantage positions had the advantage over others, but warned that if the trend was not properly addressed, it would push Nigeria further down the path of oligarchy.
With additional report from Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Kelvin Meluwa (Asaba), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano), Eyo Charles (Calabar), Tijani Labaran (Lokoja), Ado Musa (Jos) & Adenike Kaffi (Ibadan)