The #LekkiMassacre and the collective failure of the Nigerian political class to take responsibility for the decision to unleash armed soldiers on peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate sent us down a rabbit hole: seeking instances when Nigerian politicians took accountability for their flaws and resigned from office.
Before you ask, No, he’s not actually related to President Buhari.
At the dawn of the 4th Republic, Buhari took office as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Claiming to be aged 36, and a career behind him as a businessman, Buhari came into office representing the Nasarawa Federal Constituency of Kano State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Shortly into his role, newsmagazine The News published a story suggesting that he was 7 years younger than he claimed (29), making him too young to enter the House. The story also said that Buhari did not attend Toronto University as he had claimed. TheNews cited a response to its letter seeking clarification on Buhari’s status from Carlo Villanueva, an official of the Institution saying “Regarding your request for confirmation of degree for Mr. Ibrahim Salisu Buhari. We have searched our records and could not find anybody with the name you are inquiring with”. It also emerged that Buhari hadn’t taken part in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program and that while he got admission into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria he was withdrawn because he falsified his credentials.
Buhari did what Politicians do: lie. However, as scrutiny heightened, the office of the then National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Muhammad Gusau announced an investigation. Faced with potential disgrace, Buhari then resigned as both the Speaker and Representative leaving his position open to be filled. He would go on to be convicted for certificate forgery and sentenced to the option of 2 years in prison or a fine. He opted for the fine and was pardoned later on by President Obasanjo.
Another former Speaker on this list, Mrs. Etteh was elected to office in 1999 representing the people of Ayedaade/Isokan/ Irewole in Osun. Etteh became the Speaker in her third term making her the only woman to hold any of the four most senior roles in the country (President, Vice President, Senate President, and Speaker). As she got to grips with her role as Speaker, a scandal emerged accusing her of spending $5m on home renovations and buying 12 cars leading to a brawl at the National Assembly where a newspaper report noted “one Dino Melaye, doubling as Etteh’s personal bodyguard and stalwart of the pro-Etteh group, displayed kick-boxing skills that only the most accomplished mixed martial arts practitioner could have put together at short notice, nevertheless came out of the dust-up with his designer agbada shredded and his nose bloodied.”
After sustained pressure, she would go on to resign her role. Mrs. Etteh left her role as a lawmaker behind to pursue a Law degree.
Before her appointment as Commissioner of Finance in Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s Ogun state cabinet, Adeosun had spent her formative years in England. She was born and educated in London and moved back to the country to enter public service. In President Buhari’s first term, she was appointed Minister of Finance.
In July 2018, the online newspaper Premium Times published a story accusing Adeosun of not holding an NYSC certificate. It also accused her of forging an exemption certificate procured years after her graduation. The paper suggested that this effectively made the minister susceptible to blackmail by the National Assembly who were well briefed on her status. Similar to Buhari, she tried to move on by refusing to acknowledge the story. Two months later, she would announce her resignation thus validating the story.
Aisha Alhassan can lay claim to many firsts: The first woman to be appointed as Attorney General/Commissioner of Justice. The first woman to be appointed as Secretary of the FCT Judicial Council. In 2015, she almost became the first democratically elected female Governor in Nigeria before a court judgment declaring her Governor of Taraba state was reversed. She was then appointed Minister of Woman Affairs by President Buhari. However, she was vociferous in declaring her loyalty to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar describing him as her “political father” thus, putting a target on her back within the ruling party when Abubakar left the party for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In the build-up to the 2019 elections, Alhassan sought the Taraba governorship. However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) disqualified her from contesting in the party’s primaries in the screening process. This inspired her resignation from office. In her resignation letter, she told the President that by disqualifying her from contesting the governorship, the party effectively implied that she lacked the fitness to be a Minister. She decried her disqualification saying the action constituted a grave injustice against her since she paid to purchase the form and had been a loyal member of the party.
Nnaji’s ascension into the political sphere was one of those instances where a renowned technocrat was drafted onto the inside to help reform and lead change within the system. Professor Nnaji’s background as an Engineer and Scientist made him a good fit for a shortlived role as Minister of Science and Technology in 1993. He was later appointed Minister of Power by President Jonathan in 2011. Again, his tenure didn’t last long as he went on to resign in 2012.
Owing to reforms in the power industry and the push for privatization, Nnaji was responsible for the sale of 6 power generating companies and 11 distribution companies. He declared that a company he had ownership interests in (placed in a blind trust while he served in office) was involved in the bidding process. This inspired suggestions that his resignation was requested on the basis of the conflict of interest. However, one theory suggests that then, Vice President Namadi Sambo who owned companies with interests in the power industry and was tasked with leading the government’s privatization efforts and a program to build ten new power stations had clashed with Nnaji thus making the Minister’s position untenable.
If you can think of other Politicians who resigned from office, let us know in the comments.