John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Who Will Shape Nigeria’s Elite Politics in 2014?

by John Campbell
January 7, 2014

(Front seated, from L to R) Nigeria's vice president Namadi Sambo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Anyim Pius Anyim attend the opening of the Presidential Power Reform Transaction signing summit in Abuja, April 22, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


Emmanuel Aziken has written a thoughtful analysis of some of the major political players in his article on December 30 in Vanguard. His pick: President Goodluck Jonathan, speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal, former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu, former chief of state Muhammadu Buhari, Senate president David Mark, and “Jonathan’s women”–his wife Patience, Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, and Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah. He also adds Osun state governor Rauf Aregbesola, Ekiti state governor Kayode Fayemi, and Imo state governor Rochas Okorocha.

Aziken’s picks are credible, and there are no surprises here.

As the incumbent president who legally may run again for the presidency in 2015, Jonathan is at the very center of the political ballet. All of Aziken’s personalities are either close to the presidency (“Jonathan’s women”), part of the opposition to the president (Tinubu and Buhari), or in between (Tambuwal).

Aziken is talking about elite politics–the people who have run Nigeria since the end of military rule, and some (Buhari) even before. “Jonathan’s women” are dependent on the president for their political power. Such figures without a personal political base are also a familiar aspect of the presidential constellation. Obasanjo made similar use of ministers with no personal power base, such as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala the first time she was finance minister. The opposition or “in between” figures Aziken identifies have also been around for a long time and are part of the Nigerian political elite: Tambuwal, Tinubu, Buhari, and Mark. The governors he identifies, too, are seeking to expand their political power in traditional ways.

Aziken has his focus on 2014, and absent a cataclysm (say, associated with Boko Haram), conventional politics is indeed likely to be the order of the day. 2015–and the presidential elections–may be a different story. If Nigerian politics are really changing, if the “grass roots” are becoming more assertive, the conventional arena–and players–of Nigerian politics might change. However, there is no obvious reason why a post-2015 government controlled by the now-opposition would behave very differently from its PDP predecessors.

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