North’s next political leaders, By Zayyad I. Muhammad


In Northern Nigeria, discussions on leadership succession and selection processes usually arise prominently only when the region is not in power at the center. The attention to these issues appears to be less pronounced when the North holds central power.

In four to eight years, the dynamics of politics in Northern Nigeria will witness a major shift because the current ‘class 1’ political leaders will retire due to age. For instance, in eight years, former President Muhammadu Buhari will be 90, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be 86, former President Ibrahim Babangida will be 91, Mamman Daura will be 93, Murtala Nyako will be 90.

Former Head of State Abdulsalam Abubakar will be 90, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon will be 98, and General Aliyu Gusau will be 89. General TY Danjuma will be 94, Sani Zangon Daura will be 94, Ango Abdullah will be 84, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje will be 83, etc. Their age will eventually phase them out of active politics.

For ‘class 2’ political leaders, some will also grapple with age, and their faces are too familiar to the public. In eight years, Nasir El-Rufai will be 72, Ali Modu Sherif will be 76, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will be 76, Ahmed Lawan will be 73, Aliyu Wammako will be 79, and Nuhu Ribadu will be 72. 

Bala Mohammed will be 74, Governor Inuwa Yahaya will be 71, George Akume will be 79, and Governor Abdullahi Sule will be 73, while Vice President Kashim Shettima will clock 66, which is fairly good. However, globally, in recent times, people in their 80s have clinched the presidency of their countries, indicating that age is gradually becoming inconsequential in political contests.

However, the individuals poised to play prominent and vital role, naturally succeeding the ‘class 1’ political leaders, include some state governors completing their second terms in four years and other political figures who are relatively young and have excelled in their positions. 

Notable among them are Governors Babagana Zulum (63), Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (64), who is performing wonders in Adamawa state despite its meagre resources, Simon Lalong (69), Yahaya Bello (57), Mai Mala Buni (65), Senator Aminu Tambuwal (58), Speaker Tajuddeen Abbas (60) and many more in both the public and private sectors. While the dynamics remain uncertain over the next four–eight years, it promises to be an intriguing new chapter in the political leadership of Northern Nigeria.

Furthermore, the next leadership of the North may emerge in contrast to our existing selection process, a process that was always haphazard and mostly shrouded by the vestiges of personal interests. It has often been devoid of the subnational’s or country’s interests. This time around, someone’s performance in public office may play a vital role in his or her emergence as the leader of the North. The northern masses are now more concerned about development-oriented people than just political names. Performance is key.

And the dynamics of the Nigerian political landscape are changing as well. The country needs a well-planned leadership succession arrangement. This is even more crucial because the nation is a developing country. A structured political succession plan will free the current age-old leadership from the burden of ‘carrying the camel and its loads’.

Though our succession planning, especially in the North, has been happening within the spheres of political leadership in Nigeria, it was based on some old systems and outdated processes, so to speak. For example, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was tackled on his choice of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua while being full aware of the latter’s health condition, Obasanjo said his decision was based on the information available to him and Yar’Adua’s honesty.

This has brought to the fore the need for the North and the Nigerian political leadership at large to cultivate the culture of having succession advisors and employ the science of succession. It will help them make sound decisions for the transition of leadership between the current generation of leaders and potential younger successors while still maintaining some sort of political relevance and influence.

Unfortunately, the current political leadership has a poor mentorship system, especially in terms of teaching the art of politics and participation in national politics. The most hit are often their offspring and lieutenants; they are mostly engaged in power play and wealth accumulation, forgetting the importance of leadership and governance. Thus, when they find themselves in power, they become confused with power.

Let us also not forget that picking a successor in Nigeria is a painstaking job because of the complex nature of Nigeria’s politics. Our fault lines, apparent influence of geography, tongue, and faith in our polity are some of the factors responsible for this. For instance, the political geography of the North has a large number of these political leaders, and the region has some of the oldest people in the national and state assemblies, including commissioners and council chairs.

The North’s class 1 political leadership must establish a well-organised yet practical succession plan – a crucial step for them, their politics, and the region. Notably, some governors who will conclude their final terms in 2027, having excelled in their roles, are naturally the future political leadership in the North and at the center.

Zayyad Muhammad writes from Abuja via 08036070980,

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily