Top 10 Influential Politicians in Nigeria
When talking about influential politicians in Nigeria, it is essential we understand that being influential is not the same as being rich, even though being wealthy can also determine influence. Today, almost all politicians in Nigeria have influence, but one is greater than the other.
The Nigerian political terrain is a steep one, with political juggernauts rising and falling from time to time. Despite this, there are a few who have not only managed to remain consistent but also enjoy cult support and followership from their region, states, specially formed cult followers and party members.
Perhaps one of the effects of the influence of these politicians is one of the main reasons Nigeria is neck deep in poverty today. While some of them are genuinely loved and adored for their legacies and wealth of experience, some on the list are ruthless and have found the perfect way to remain relevant in the political space by weaponizing not only hunger but also impoverishing the people and promoting thugs and cult groups as tools of their political reign.
Top 10 Influential Politicians in Nigeria
Being a politician is one thing in Nigeria and being influential and capable of influencing electorates is another. In this post, we shall discuss and list the top ten influential politicians in Nigeria in a descending order.
10. Bukola Saraki
Abubakar Bukola Saraki is the tenth most influential politician in Nigeria currently. He was formerly the Governor of Kwara State between 2003 to 2011. During his time as the governor of Kwara State, Saraki wielded insane power over the people of the state and went on to reinforce his power on a national scale when he became the Senate President of Nigeria between 2015 – 2019, under the All Progressive Congress (APC). Another thing that made him influential not just in Nigeria but across Africa is his philanthropic nature, a trait he picked from his father. The Sarakis, has ruled Kwara State for decades and still wield a decent amount of influence despite Bukola Saraki’s inability to retain his seat at the Senate.
9. Rabiu Kwankwaso
Rabiu Kwankwaso is the ninth most influential Nigerian politician. He was the former governor of Kano State between 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015. Kwankwaso enjoys a cult followership primarily in Kano, because of his Kwankwasiyya movement, a movement characterized by wearing red caps with horizontal stripes on them. To date, Kwankwaso still enjoys a cult followership as a result of the movement he founded. Unlike most on this list, his influence is almost only exclusive to a decent part of the Northwest region.
8. Peter Obi
Peter Obi is the ninth most influential politician in Nigeria currently. He is able to be in the list of the top ten because of his Presidential ambition, which has seen him enjoy a steady rise and popularity among Nigerian youths across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party was once a two-time governor of Anambra State. Obi is widely known as a frugal politician whom many Nigerians believe is required in a leader capable of leading the country. Bulk of his 2023 presidential campaign were purely sacrifice unlike most politicians who mobilize and induce with money while planting thugs to put fear in the heart of people. Peter Obi is perceived as an intelligent, selfless politician and perhaps the least corrupt politician among the 2023 presidential candidates in Nigeria by most Nigerian youths.
7. Atiku Abubakar
Atiku is the seventh most influential politician in Nigeria. He once served under President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Vice President of Nigeria. He is regarded as the longest contesting presidential aspirant in Nigeria and has been contesting since 1993. He also became influential when he was a controller general of Nigerian customs. He is the founder of INTELS, a logistic company in Nigeria. While Atiku has never won a presidential election in the history of Nigeria before, he is always considered a political force every election year when he contests.
6. Ibrahim Babangida
Call him the “Evil genius” or “Maradona”, you’re referring to one and the same person. Ibrahim Babangida is 80+ old and has never held any political position since 1993 but he remains one of the most influential politicians in today’s Nigeria. He served as an army general from 1985 to 1993, where he resigned and decided to stay as just a political consultant. Every politician who covets the number seat in the country always make it a duty to visit the Minna-born retired Army General. Babangida is also one of the richest politicians in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of $15 billion. While the source of his wealth might be illegal, Babangida is believed to be richer than the richest man in Nigeria and Africa, Aliko Dangote. He is also believed to own stakes in several companies in Nigeria and supposedly running businesses by proxy through some Nigerian billionaires.
5. Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR
Olusegun Obasanjo is one of the very few politicians who ruled Nigeria as a military dictator and also as a democratic leader. He was formerly a military leader who served as the head of state in Nigeria from 1976 -1979, and he later became the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 – 2007. Despite breaking away from partisan politics, Obasanjo is regarded as an elder statesman in the Nigerian political terrain. Obasanjo is known to be a staunch critic of failed governments and never spared Goodluck Jonathan whom he introduced into national politics and Muhammadu Buhari who failed terribly as a democratic president.
4. Abdusalami Abubakar
Abdusalami Abubakar is a former Head of State in Nigeria between 1998 – 1999 before he handed over to Olusegun Obasanjo as a democratic President. Despite the fact that Abdulsalami Abubakar is not into partisan politics today, he remains active and serves not only as a political consultant but also as Chairman of the National Peace Committee.
3. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan the president of Nigeria from 2010 – 2015 before Mohammadu Buhari took over from him. Despite Jonathan being considered a failed leader, his historic call to Buhari during the elections to concede defeat not only averted impending civil war in Nigeria but also made him the poster politician for peace in Africa. Today, Goodluck Jonathan gets invite to monitor elections across African countries and is regarded as the model leader, possessing of a trait missing in most African leaders.
2. Bola Ahmed Tinubu
A controversial politician with so many nicknames, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the second most influential politician in Nigeria. He is regarded as a “kingmaker” capable of influencing and installing those he favours in power. Tinubu he was the national leader of the All Progressive Congress party and was also the former governor of the most populous state, Lagos State from May 1999 – May 2007. Tinubu controls an unhealthy number of politicians across the Southwestern region, mostly governors, ex-governors, and lawmakers and is touted to own half of Lagos State. His heavy influence has seen him fall out with some of his allies, including people he forced on states as governors. Tinubu who is popularly regarded or known as “Jagaban” is regarded as one of the most corrupt politicians in Nigeria today and has been heavily linked with drugs as part of his past. He is feared by all of his subordinates and has publicly shown disdain/disregard for certain state governors just because he put them in power. Tinubu is also believed to control and empower thugs in Lagos and some other states, all of whom he uses for his political gain.
1. Muhammadu Buhari
Mohammadu Buhari was a military head of state from 1983 to 1985 before becoming the President of Nigeria’s federal republic in 2015 – 2023. His desperation to be in power made him contest four times before winning against Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, after forging alliance with other politicians and political parties, notable among such politicians is Bola Tinubu. Buhari, though failed woefully as a democratic leader from 2015 – 2023, still enjoys cult followership in the Nothern region of the country. Although, angst against the former military dictator grows across Nigeria and in the North, Buhari still wields an unbelievable amount of influence and power, particularly in the Nothern region of the country.