They are not particularly godfathers and some do not even hold political office, but they are the most trusted allies and lieutenants who run things on behalf of the governors.
They always get recognition in form of appointments, often as Special Assistants (SAs), Special Advisers (SAs), Chiefs of Staff (CoS) and directors general with popular nomenclatures.
Within the corridors of government houses across all the states in Nigeria, they wield enormous influence; dictating things.
Kano: Hafsat Ganduje (Gwaggo)
Hajia Hafsat Abdullahi Ganduje is the wife of Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and first lady of the state. She is an academic and a politician.
Popularly known as Gwaggo, Hafsat wields enormous power and influences political appointments, contract awards and other government affairs. She is also said to be behind most of the appointments and cabinet reshuffles in the state.
It was learnt that she was instrumental to the removal of the Principal Secretary to her husband and one his most trusted allies, Usman Bala.
Bala was said to have had disagreement with Hafsat leading to his exit from the main power bloc. He was later made a permanent secretary.
Katsina: Muntari Lawal
In Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s administration, the Chief of Staff, Muntari Lawal, is the main power behind the throne. When Masari was inaugurated in 2015, Lawal became Permanent Secretary/Special Adviser, Government House; a position that made him very powerful thereby dwarfing other aides.
Now as CoS, Lawal not only advises Masari, but “forces” him to take policy decisions. Almost all top and junior political and government appointees troop to his office and residence daily to seek his “blessing”. It was gathered that Lawal is the only person in the cabinet who can call Masari’s bluff and flout the governor’s directive if such does not suit him.
“He is Masari’s alter ego who can look the governor in the eyes and tell him the truth,” a source within the corridor of power in the state told the 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE.
Masari himself confirmed this during an APC stakeholders meeting at the Government House Banquet Hall while giving reasons for appointing Lawal as Chairman of the APC Congress Committee.
“Muntari is my friend, he can tell me anything. He is blunt and can never hide anything from me. He has no preference for the candidate,” Masari said.
Kaduna: Jimi Lawal
Jimi Lawal is Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s ally and friend from the governor’s day as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister.
Lawal became an SA to El-Rufai in 2015 and was later promoted to Senior Adviser and Counsellor in 2019. He is said to be one of the key drivers of the administration, especially on economic matters, being a financial expert and former banker.
Because of his relationship with the governor, Lawal is feared and respected by other cabinet members who always lobby him to get their memos approved.
Plateau: Noel K. Donjur
The CoS to Governor Simon Lalong, Noel Donjur, is one of the trusted aides who command a lot of influence in the government circle and respect from his colleagues in the cabinet in Plateau State.
Donjur, a quantity surveyor, was a former Commissioner for Works before Lalong brought him closer as CoS. He is also the governor’s eyes on the Plateau State Economic Council.
During Donjur’s 57th birthday in December, 2020, Lalong said, “I am highly appreciative of your zeal, passion and sacrifices towards the implementation of the programmes and policies of our administration.
“You have provided the necessary support and coordination that is enhancing governance and service delivery to our people.”
Our correspondent gathered that when Donjur recovered from COVID-19, Lalong called for celebration and organised a dinner in his honour.
Sokoto: Abdulsamad Dasuki
In Sokoto, Abdulssamad Dasuki, the Commissioner for Finance, is someone Governor Aminu Tambuwal respects and trusts.
“With Dasuki, Tambuwal goes to sleep with his two eyes closed and wakes up to see things the way he wants them,” an aide to the governor confirmed.
Dasuki and Tambuwal have come a long way. They are both from Tambuwal town, and while Tambuwal was in the House of Representatives representing Kebbe/Tambuwal, Dasuki represented Tambuwal East in the House of Assembly.
When Tambuwal, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, defected from the PDP to the APC and the PDP-led federal government withdrew his security and sought to declare his seat vacant, Dasuki rallied round him. He raised a motion of urgent importance asking the Sokoto State House of Assembly to condemn the move.
Zamfara: Bashir Yuguda
Bashir Yuguda, a former Minister of State for Finance under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, is a powerful figure in Governor Bello Matawalle’s government.
He is said to be a close friend of the governor and was appointed Honorary Special Adviser in 2019 in order to assist in providing “necessary direction” that will aid Matawalle in moving the state on the path of development and growth.
Yuguda, a former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nigeria to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, has since then been one of the decision makers in Matawalle’s administration.
Nasarawa: Murtala Lamus
Murtala Lamus is one of the first aides appointed by Governor Abdullahi Sule shortly after he took oath of office in May, 2019.
As the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Special Duties, Lamus’ activities revolve around the governor, and he is said to have entrenched himself in the heart of the administration.
Despite Sule sacking his cabinet in August, 2021, Lamus still performed his functions as a key aide.
“The governor respects him because he is an experienced grassroots politician and is quite influential; he is someone who tells you the truth no matter how highly placed you are,” a government house source said.
Kebbi: Faruk Yaro Enabo
In Kebbi State, a Personal Assistant (PA) to Governor Atiku Bagudu, Alhaji Faruk Musa Yaro (Enabo), dictates things. Cabinet members, according to sources, pledge loyalty and route proposals through him before such get the attention of the governor.
He is below 30 years old but wields a lot of power and commands influence in and outside the government circles.
Stakeholders were said to have on many occasions, complained to the governor about his “overbearing attitude”, but the situation has continued.
When the state’s Hisbah Board launched an appeal fund for the construction of its secretariat in March, 2020, Enabo beat the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Bagudu’s wife, Zainab, as the highest donor at the occasion. While the duo of Malami and Zainab launched the fund with N1m each, Enabo gave N1.5m in addition to a vehicle, handsets and 10,000 blocks. He also promised to construct two boreholes at the secretariat.
Benue: Abrahams Kwaghngu
Abrahams Kwaghngu is the Principal Special Assistant (PSA) on Special Duties to the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom.
Kwaghngu is always around the governor and runs errands for him. He comes to work early and leaves late. He is among the last people that see Ortom before the governor retires for the night.
Kwaghngu hails from the same clan with the governor and is the closest to him and influences decisions in the administration.
It is common knowledge in the power circle in the state that once you see Kwaghngu for any reason and you are able to convince him, you are assured that what you wish the governor to do for you will be granted.
Kogi: Abdulkareem Jamiu Asuku
Abdulkareem Asuku is the CoS to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello. He replaced Edward Onoja, the current deputy governor in October 2019.
Asuku, a pharmacist, was the Director of Protocol, Government House, from 2016 to 2019. He endeared himself to Bello as a loyal lieutenant.
In the permutations ahead of the 2023 elections, Asuku holds the ace amid speculations that the Ebira power is considering him as likely replacement for Bello. The speculations heightened when Bello introduced him to President Muhammad Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, during the last Sallah festivities.
Cross River: Frank Ayade
In Cross River State, Dr Frank Ayade is a household name. Ayade is the younger brother of Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.
Although Dr Ayade holds no appointment in his elder brother’s cabinet, he nonetheless is an authority unto himself.
Like Gov Ayade, Frank moves around the state with his own convoy, including police escort and an orderly, carrying out state functions. He is referred to as “co-governor” or “assistant governor”, although without a defined political spectrum. Frank commissions projects and performs groundbreaking for new ones. Commissioners and other government appointees wait on him.
Frank’s handling of the Calabar Garment Factory, which is 100 percent owned by the state government, led to his arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in March, 2021, over alleged N2.7bn fraud.
Lagos: Gbenga Omotosho
Gbenga Omotosho, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, was among the first batch of appointees of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu when he assumed office in 2019.
Omotosho, a former Editor of The Nation, has warmed his way into the heart of the administration with experience. He is a key confidant of the governor.
It was learnt that he commands a lot of respect among his colleagues in the cabinet and is quite influential within and outside the government.
Niger: Dan’Asabe Yakubu Abubakar
Dan’Asabe Yakubu Abubakar (Baba Yakubu) does not hold any official position in the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State but he wields immense power and influence within the government.
He is a younger brother of a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Abdulsalami’s eldest daughter, Amina, is the Niger State first lady and wife of Governor Bello. So, the governor is an in-law to Baba Yakubu and the relationship has been throwing a lot of specks his way, hence the administration is often referred to as that of “families and friends”.