The Illusions and Delusions of Nigeria’s Political Dynasties

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

Political dynasties are families that have exerted disproportionate influence on the politics of their societies. If they are successful, they may produce more than one Head of State or Head of Government. But at the very minimum, political dynasties have produced political leaders in varied ranks of the political process”. (Prof. Ali A. Mazrui, 2008, Political Dynasties in African Politics)

According to definitions, a dynasty is a succession of people belonging to the same family, who, through various means and forms maintain power, influence or authority over the course of generations. Though in elected governments, rule does not pass automatically by inheritance, political power often accrues to generations of related individuals even in republics. Eminence, Influence, familiarity, tradition, genetics, corruption and even nepotism may contribute to this phenomenon. (Please note the words, corruption and nepotism)

In the past 100 years, I can only recount of a very few REAL political dynasties: The Bush family in the US is a political dynasty which has so far produced two presidents: George Herbert Bush and George William Bush. And of course, the most famous political dynasty in the world, the Kennedy family is a US political dynasty. One brother (John) became president; another (Robert) became Senator and then Attorney General, and the third (Edward) has been a Senator and would probably have become president but for the Chappaquiddick tragedy.

In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed as Prime Minister. Ultimately, his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, became Prime Minister of Pakistan twice before her own assassination. In Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri eventually succeeded her father, the late Sukarno, as Indonesia’s Head of State. Of course, in India, the Nehru-Gandhi family are a political dynasty.

Some other notable political dynasties: the Macapagal Presidential Family and the Aquino Revolutionary Dynasty (Philippines); the Beazley and Crean families (Australia); Ziaur Rahman’s and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s families (Bangladesh); the Soekarnos (Indonesia); Aung San Suu Kyi’s family (Burma); the Kims (North Korea); the Lee Kuan Yew’s family (Singapore); the Solomon Bandaranaike’s family (Sri Lanka); the Assads (Syria); the Churchills/Dukes of Marlborough) (UK); the Adamses, the Long family, the Roosevelts, the Tafts and the Udalls, all of the US.

In Africa, the Odinga family of Kenya is becoming dynastic. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga rose as high as Kenya’s Vice-Presidency. Politicisation of Raila Odinga is turning the Odinga family into a political dynasty.

The Kenyattas might also evolve into a political dynasty. In 2002, Uhuru Kenyatta attempted to become President of Kenya like his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Uhuru is young enough to ascend to the pinnacle of power in the future.

It will be useful to consider the achievements of these aforementioned notable political dynasties from the various countries around the world and try and compare them to our so-called, self-publicising, arrogant, selfish and corrupt political families in Nigeria. Any basis for comparison? I doubt it.

A country, where for the past 50 years, the political and military classes have contrived to ruin the country, keep the people in poverty, made the infrastructure left by the colonial rulers moribund, through sheer greed, unbelievable selfishness, absolute and profound lack of vision and focus, mismanagement and corruption.

Then some children of these political and military classes have been expressing themselves as saviours of the masses, with desires and ambitions to run for office (some of them have already succeeded in getting political offices, mostly through rigging and god-fatherism, etc).It is, to my mind the ultimate insult on the people of Nigeria.

Probably this article needs not be written, but for Nigerian political rogues are now trying to put themselves and their “achievement and contributions” to Nigeria (the mere thought of this makes me angry) with such families as the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Gandhis, it is even an insult to the memories of these great Statesmen.

What I have concluded from their utterances and ambition is that they are insensitive, selfish, greedy and most poignantly, do not realise that their parents (some of them, to avoid a wide generalisation) have committed grave sins against the people of Nigeria. On the other hand, they may actually be used by their infamous parents to continue to perpetuate their crimes and themselves on the people. It is again an example of the sad indictment of our society that the children of rogues, corrupt and discredited politicians and thugs will now come out and start to “re-brand”, apologies to Dora Akunyinli, their mostly infamous parents

Let me first say I respect and hold in very high regards our REAL “heroes past” like late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Aminu Kano and Sir Tafawa Balewa. I could join Chief Peter Enahoro, J S Tarka, Herbert Macauley and a few others. But taking these real and true heroes, which of their progenies are shouting their fathers’ names to the high heavens? Like they say, the empty drum sounds the loudest.

To my utter chagrin and consternation, recently we have had children of very minor or even insignificant political players in our chequered history, coming out with delusions of grandeur to claim that (1) they want to contest election in 2011 – and mind you, I have nothing against any of 140 million contesting elections, it is their right – using their fathers’ names as some kind of anointment, (2) their parents were political giants in the affairs on Nigeria for the past 50 years, (3) that they can do a lot better than their fathers (I use the masculine because the parents were invariably, male anyway), and (4) to compound their illusion and delusions, claiming that ordinary Nigerians are jealous and resentment of them because of their “famous” fathers!

I was annoyed at this last bit – resentment and envy? What famous fathers? More like infamous and worthy of prison, most of them. These children either innocently do not know the evils their fathers perpetrated on this country, or maybe they were really shielded from such acts committed by their fathers, or maybe they are just being deliberately mischievous.

One of them, a son of a failed and ignoble former Governor of Oyo state, says he wants to become the next Governor of the state, and while claiming not to be using his father’s name, he is ensuring the father’s first and surname is prominent. He calls himself Lam Adesina. Why didn’t he just call himself Adesina? That way, he will just be another Adesina in Oyo State.

Even Iyabo Obasanjo was the most notorious. She was Mrs Iyabo Bello before her father became the President. The moment OBJ was in power, Iyabo Bello became Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and now simply Iyabo Obasanjo after separation/divorce from Mr Bello. I was in Abeokuta recently and I could only shake my head in disgust at seeing large billboards with her picture and the message “Ko si omo to dabi Iyabo” (There is no child like Iyabo) all over the old city.

Another, a legislator, sought and got his elective position through a notorious late Godfather in a SW state. When he was campaigning, he never used his father’s first name; in fact he distanced himself from his father’s name and poor reputation in his home-city. The moment he got rigged in, he started adding his father’s first name to make a compound double-barrelled name. He felt he could now bandy his father’s name about.

The son the Godfather himself rigged into the Senate now sees his father as a political dynasty. But let’s look at it this way; the godfather or rather “thug-father” was never a politician per se, h

e was a political thug, and thugs hardly made dynasties, do they?

It is very convenient to forgive them. But we can’t forget. I would say the Sarakis, the Akinloyes, the Lam Adesinas, the Fani Kayodes, the Akinjides, the Adedibus, the minor insignificant players like Omololu Olunloyos, took from Nigeria rather than give back to Nigeria. The fathers made money and name via the corrupt political system they operated in, and perpetuated, without complaint. Up till now, I have failed to see exactly what they benefitted their people.

Is it the failed Societe Generale Bank, where thousands of depositors lost their money, and the owners of the bank, the Sarakis, absolute owners of Kwara State, were never brought to book and never showed any remorse or apologies? Who can point to any single worthy thing that Baba L’Oje did in Ibadan, his hometown, since he was in politics from the late 1950’s until he died a few years ago? Can I go to Ibadan and be able to point out any significant projects initiated or established by Ibadan legal luminary, several times in different governments, Federal Minister, Chief Richard Akinjide? Yet he was trying to manoeuvre his son to become the Deputy Governor during the Ladoja/Alao-Akala crisis.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a distinguished Nigerian politician”, “Hon Gbemi Saraki – representing Kwara in the Senate and Nigerian women everywhere!” “Hon Olusegun Adisa-Akinloye – scion of an Ibadan political dynasty” – these are the nonsense I have read recently in the papers.

Please note that I am of the conviction that any Nigeria has a right to aspire and indeed go for any public office. These children of politicians are included. They have every right to become politicians and contest for positions. My beef with them is trying to hop on the ignoble backs and discredited names of their parents, and trying to form another clique or cabal and thinking of themselves as special Nigerians.

“The sins of the father shall be visited on the son” – please feminise this – so the Holy Bible says. And so shall it be. I am sure there’s a similar saying or tenet in the Holy Koran too. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” – (William Shakespear in Julius Ceasar)

Ignis fatuus (Latin, from ignis, “fire” + fatuus, “foolish”) is a Latin term for something that misleads or deludes; an illusion. A delusion is a false belief about oneself or other people that persists despite it being at variance with the facts.

Sadly, these set of Nigerian politician children who think of themselves as political dynasties and indispensable to the Nigerian political scene appear to suffer from this ignis fatuus, a definite and infinite inferiority complex that tend to exist in communities where good governance, conscience, selflessness and uprightness have been thrown to the wind in favour of selfishness, corruption, oppression, arrogance and egotism, and self-centredness.

I believe it is an attempt by the incorrigible and unrepentant parents and families to continue to perpetrate their corruption and oppression of the Nigerian people. There was nothing of note that they did for this country – how else did we find ourselves in this problem? – except lining their pockets from the treasury, laying false trails of nationalism and patriotism as well as giving the false impression that what they did was serve Nigeria.

Did they truly serve Nigeria, and not themselves and their families and friends? Let any of them defend this. I am ready to take them on.

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