By FEMI BABAFEMI
Events of the next 360 days will, no doubt, shape the form and mode of Nigeria’s leadership structure in the next general elections, which begin towards the end of 2014 and end first quarter of 2015, leading to the inauguration of new set of leaders for the country same year. These events will, however, be initiated, driven and coordinated by personalities that have featured or emerging in the country’s political firmament. They are either likely to contest for top jobs in the nation, including the presidency or governorship or be instrumental in the emergence of those who get what.
Prominent on the list of these figures Nigerians will have to watch in 2013 include incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Senate President, David Mark, former governor of Lagos State and national leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; as well as incumbent governors of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi and Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
Others are Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, business mogul and Anambra politician, Obinna Uzoh; Beks Dagogo-Jack, chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power and Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, among others.
Why they should be watched
Each of the identified persons will either function individually or align with others as a bloc to influence or benefit from major developments in 2013, which, in turn, will determine those who will emerge as the nation’s new set of leaders in 2015.
Below, Saturday Sun x-rays their individual profiles and why they should be watched in the year under review.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the president and commander-in-chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces whose running tenure of four years will expire on May 29, 2015. A man, who providence has conceded so much to in his over five decades sojourn on earth, has been on the seat of power from the inception of current democratic government in 1999.
Until 1998 when he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and was picked as a running mate to the party’s governorship standard bearer in Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, not much was known of him all through his short service in Customs Service, his days as classroom teacher and later an Assistant Director with the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), which he left in 1998 for politics. The coast became clear for him to emerge as governor when, on September 15, 2005, Alamieyeseigha was arrested by the London Metropolitan Police for money laundering, impeached as governor and subsequently made to face trial upon his escape to Nigeria on November 21, 2005, after which he was convicted of the same charge in a plea bargain deal.
As a result, lucky Goodluck got inaugurated as the substantive governor of Bayelsa State to complete their second term tenure after which he got the party’s ticket to contest the governorship election in 2007. While still battling to get a fresh term of his, providence, again, smiled on Goodluck when, in early 2007, he was picked as running mate to the PDP’s presidential candidate, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. After about two years in the saddle as Vice President, luck smiled on Jonathan again when President Yar’Adua passed on after a protracted battle with ailments and he was consequently sworn in on May 6, 2010 as the substantive president.
With the 2011 general elections ahead, the nation was sharply divided along regional lines over the quest by Jonathan to have a fresh term of four years and the North’s insistence to have the region retain the presidential seat to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure of eight years, based on the agreement within the ruling party to rotate the number one seat among the nation’s zones. Jonathan eventually had his way, after much horse-trading and negotiations. He emerged the PDP standard bearer and won the election to start a fresh term of four years on May 29, 2011.
Though the general belief, which may also have been the consensus in some political negotiations, was that Jonathan will not present himself for another election in 2015 to enable another region to have a shot at the presidency, no one needs a soothsayer to search the president’s mind today that he is poised to contest the 2015 general elections. This is more obvious when statements made by his associates on his ambition, his own body language and his tendency to always dodge the answer when confronted with the issue, are to be considered in drawing a conclusion.
In view of this, several groups funded by elements within government are likely to spring up in 2013 campaigning for the return of the president in 2015. At the time of putting this report together, campaign posters of President Jonathan had already flooded major parts of Abuja. One of such with the president’s portrait boldly on it reads: “2015: No vacancy in Aso Rock. Let’s do more. One good term deserves another. Support Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan for 2015 Presidency.” Besides this, President Jonathan will more likely engage in realignment moves with some aggrieved forces within the polity, drop some liabilities around him for fresh hands to pacify some interests and equally soft-pedal on some harsh economic policies of his administration. Indeed, his actions this year will make or mar his chances of retaining his much-coveted seat in the next election.
Should the president also want to attempt wielding state powers to whip some opposition elements into line to back his ambition, 2013 provides the chance to do all that to avoid being accused of political persecution when the elections draw closer. These and more are enough reasons to watch President Jonathan this year. ?
GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI
General Buhari is a former military Head of State under whose watch strict discipline was introduced to every facet of the Nigerian life. With virtually every good thing, especially discipline and zero-tolerance for corruption introduced in governance during his regime disappeared into thin air, the Daura, Katsina-born retired Army General has been angling to return to the seat he was forced to vacate through a military coup over two decades ago. With the return of democratic government in 1999, General Buhari made the first attempt for the presidency on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003, re-contested in 2007 and still failed before pulling out of the party with his supporters to form the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) on which platform he contested the 2011 presidential election and lost for the third time.
Buhari had earlier given an indication that he would not seek public office again after the 2011 contest. However, recent signals coming from his camp show the 70-year-old General may succumb to pressures from his associates and followers to consider vying for the number one seat again in 2015. With age not on his side, Buhari may also eventually decide to mobilise his party to support a younger element within his party fold or from an emerging bigger alliance of opposition parties, which is likely to come through this year.
From all indications, whether Buhari decides to contest the next election or not, he and his party, CPC, will be a major factor in determining who becomes the next president because of the large followership he commands in Northern Nigeria. Again, with alliance talks already ongoing between his party and other opposition parties, like the Action Congress of Nigeria as well as ANPP, Buhari is going to feature in many meetings where decisions will be taken this year on how to defeat the ruling PDP in 2015. Head or tail, he remains a cynosure in 2013.
Obasanjo, a retired Army General, is a former military Head of State who, 20 years after vacating office in 1979, became a democratically elected president of Nigeria when the country returned to civil rule in 1999. He was returned to office in 2007 for another term of four years. His attempt to seek another term of office, in what has now become ‘the third term agenda’ in Nigerian history almost plunged the country into anarchy. In spite of this, he remains till date the only Nigerian who has had such rare privilege of ruling the country as a military ruler and as a civilian president.
Beyond this, he was instrumental in the emergence of the late President Umar Yar’Adua as his successor in 2007. The North will not also forget easily insinuations that Obasanjo deliberately picked a terminally ill Yar’Adua with a young southerner, Goodluck Jonathan as his deputy, with a view to retaining power in the South in the event that Yar’Adua dies in office, which eventually came to pass. He is seen as the major benefactor of President Jonathan today because he was instrumental in the removal of former Governor Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa to pave the way for Jonathan’s emergence as governor after which he again picked him as Vice Presidential candidate in 2007.
There are, however, visible signs that Obasanjo and Jonathan have since fallen apart, a development many attribute as the reason the former had to resign his chairmanship of the ruling party’s Board of Trustees he occupied after the expiration of his tenure. To pacify the North for working against its interest to keep the presidency during the 2011 elections when he campaigned and mobilised support for Jonathan, Obasanjo has already begun to pander towards the North, as preparations for the next elections begin. Though he is not in a position to vie for the presidency again, Obasanjo is believed to still wield a lot of influence in the ruling party and across the country, which will definitely count in the determination of whoever will emerge as the next president.
Since preparations for the election will start this year, the former president will most likely feature in many overt and covert meetings, play host to many aspirants and groups that will visit him for consultations and support, make more frequent comments to castigate the Jonathan administration and more often than not engage in actions that will further distance him from the present government. Whether President Jonathan decides to bridge the gap between them now or not, Obasanjo remains a force to reckon with in 2013.
Babangida is a retired Army General and one of Nigeria’s longest serving Head of State. He was a military president between 1985 and 1993 when he could no longer sustain his plot to keep himself in power after annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election widely acclaimed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola. He was largely involved in the emergence of Obasanjo as president in 1999 with the expectation that the latter will return the baton of leadership to him at the end of his tenure in 2007. Attempts made by Babangida to return to power through the 2007 and 2011 elections were resisted by civil society groups, which are yet to forgive him over the annulled election and largely frustrated by the sitting presidents then.
Notwithstanding his failure to return to power, Babangida, in his years in office, has made friends and empowered allies in all parts of the country and across all sectors of the economy. As a result, he still enjoys a lot of goodwill among the elite and wields a level of influence in political circle, especially in the ruling PDP. A smooth operator and strategist, Babangida is more involved in behind-the-scene manipulations than open shows and making public statements. With many of his allies in the current executive of the pan-North umbrella body, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), he will more likely get involved in mobilising support for a candidate of his choice in the next election, since he has renounced any future interest in the number one job.
As a result, he will most likely participate in many political meetings, where decisions will be taken while he will also play host to aspirants and groups seeking his advice and support for their aspirations. These and more will surely make him a factor and a figure to watch this year.
Abubakar is a former Vice President between 1999 and 2007 when he sought to succeed his boss, ex-President Obasanjo. Because of the frosty relationship between the duo towards the end of their second term, Obasanjo deployed state powers to frustrate him while he, in turn, engaged his boss in an open war of words. As a leader of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), a political structure, which provided the base for the formation of PDP and founded by the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Atiku abandoned the opposition party, Action Congress (AC) he used to contest the 2007 election and returned to the PDP to launch another attempt at the presidency in 2011. He lost at the primary contest for the party’s ticket to President Jonathan, after emerging as the consensus candidate of the North in the party.
After hibernating for a while, Atiku has again begun to reach out to allies towards the next elections. With age also not on his side since he will be approaching his 70th birthday by the next elections, it is, however, obvious that the former VP will be counting age as an advantage to join the contest. To buttress this, he recently visited his estranged former boss, ex-President Obasanjo obviously to mend fences and seek his support again. Apart from this, he has also returned to his Adamawa home state, where he has been involved in the battle to wrest the control of the party’s executive in the state from Governor Murtala Nyako.
A man with huge resources at his disposal, it is almost certain that Atiku will be in the ring with President Jonathan again for the next contest and as such will most likely engage in activities and events that will promote his ambition; such as public lectures, awards, political meetings and more, with various youth groups springing up to campaign for him. No doubt, he remains a political figure to watch in 2013.
DAVID BONAVENTURE MARK
David Mark is one of Nigeria’s well-educated retired military officers still in public office. He was first elected Senator representing Benue South in the National Assembly in 2003 and got re-elected in 2007 when he was elected by his colleagues in the red chamber as the Senate President, the third high ranking office in Nigeria, a position he held till 2011 and retains till date, after he got re-elected to the Senate during the 2011 general elections. Though not liked by many until recently due to a controversial statement attributed to him during his days as a Minister of Communication in the military era, he has, however, endeared himself to several of his critics due to his ability to stabilise the leadership of the Senate and that of the National Assembly as an institution.
At the next change of guard in 2015, Mark will be about 67 years old, thus putting him in the category of those that age may not be on their side if that is going to be a relevant determining factor. Though he is yet to openly indicate interest in the next presidential election, there are indications that he is nursing the ambition to be president, while those close to him are reaching out to political groups across the geo-political zones for a consideration of his candidature. He will be counting on considerations, like he is a Christian from minority North or Middle Belt, in view of the current push by Boko Haram islamist sect based in the core North East to islamise Nigeria, in the event that the South wants to concede power to the North but not the core North where islam is the prevailing religion.
Beside this, his leadership capabilities will again face serious tests, in view of demands for state creation during the current effort to amend the constitution. His ability to manage the various interests that will come to play on the floor of the Senate this year will either add to his mark or leave a scar on his reputation. Owing to the strategic role he is going to play in moderating contentious issues that will pass through the Senate and in view of political activities that will also arise from his ambition, Senator Mark surely deserves to be watched closely this year.
Tambuwal emerged the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011 after attempts by the leadership of the ruling PDP and the Presidency to impose Hon. Mulikat Adeola Akande on the green chamber were popularly resisted by members who wanted to exert legislative independence and prove that the emergence of President Jonathan, in spite of a zoning arrangement in PDP, signifies the death of that understanding. He had earlier, in 2007, been elected into the House to represent the Kebbi/Tambuwal Federal Constituency of Sokoto State before his re-election in 2011.
Tambuwal’s ability to integrate the growing number of members from opposition parties into the mainstream of House leadership, his frequent checks on executive excesses as well as revelations coming from House panels probing certain expenditure by the executive arm of government have largely endeared him to many beyond the precincts of the legislative chambers. Though he has not shown interest in the nation’s number one job, it’s believed that some elements see him as a young northern politician that may make a good president. These elements are banking on his popularity, which influenced the way he emerged as Speaker, against the PDP zoning formula, and believe that in the event that Jonathan insists on contesting in 2015, such popular young northerners as Tambuwal could be a good challenger, who would get support from across the country.
However, even if Tambuwal does not contest for president, he would be a factor in the political scene, since the series of contentious issues, such as the constitution amendment, consideration of probe reports and budget debates that will pass through the House this year will surely bring him under focus.
BOLA AHMED TINUBU
Tinubu hit limelight in his days as a pro-democracy activist who, in spite of his comfort as a top manager in Mobil oil, joined and financed the struggle by National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to end military rule in Nigeria after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. He had, during the transition programme then, been elected a senator representing Lagos West. After fleeing into exile in the heat of the face-off with the military, he later returned to Nigeria, in the last quarter of 1998, after which he contested and won the Lagos governorship election in 1999 on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD). He was the only governor in the South West that survived the PDP tsunami that swept other AD governors in 2003.
From then, he took on the leadership of the party and fought hard to regain some of the lost states from the PDP after the 2007 elections. The party, under his leadership, has since transformed to AC and now ACN, which is today the main opposition political party in the country, controlling Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Edo states, with members elected into the National Assembly from across other zones of the country.
With six states under the control of the party he leads, Tinubu is well positioned to eye the government at the centre and this he has been doing with moves to work with other opposition parties, like the CPC, ANPP and other groups to form an alliance strong enough to displace the ruling PDP in 2015. What is obvious in the ongoing re-alignment efforts is that it is either Tinubu comes forward as a presidential candidate in the next election or he runs as a Vice Presidential candidate to an alliance candidate from the North. Such an alliance will only count on protest votes from the North to win, should President Jonathan decide to run on the PDP ticket against all odds.
Beyond his own ambition, the number of states under the control of his party, which will undoubtedly swing victory if the present configuration remains till the next election, has made Tinubu the beautiful bride to be courted by any candidate or party which intends to win the next election. Apart from this, he will be deeply involved in the battle to keep Osun and Ekiti states under the control of ACN, as the governorship elections in the two states will be coming up in 2014.
Though not holding any public office at the moment, he remains one of the most politically active politicians in the Nigerian firmament today and as such will come under focus.
ORJI UZOR KALU
Kalu is today to the nation’s South East region what Tinubu is to the South West, a mobiliser and rallying point for his people. After completing a two-term tenure of four years each as the governor of Abia State in 2007, Kalu made a bold attempt at the presidency under the platform of his newly formed then Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). Though he did not achieve that, his party succeeded in winning the governorship election in Imo and Abia states as well as other legislative seats, both at the state and national assemblies.
All those gains were, however, wasted by the custodians of those mandates when one after the other they jumped ship and crossed to the party at the centre, the PDP. That till date has denied the South East a bloc voice. Unbowed by the lost grounds, recent events have shown that Kalu is back in the struggle to mobilise support for a South East presidency in the next dispensation. At a time when other regional political leaders were canvassing that their region be considered for the nation’s number one seat, many of those in the South East either lost their voice or are busying promoting the cause of others. This may have informed Kalu’s decision to form a new non-partisan political movement called Njiko Igbo to give a voice to the people of the zone. He has since taken the campaign for the Igbo presidency to the doorsteps of traditional, religious and political leaders of the zone, with recent visits to all the states in the South East and even those in the Diaspora.
The effort, though, tagged non-partisan is likely to unify the Igbo for them to insist that presidency 2015 is their right. With such movement, the South East may get presidential tickets of some parties or end up picking the vice presidential ticket of strong candidates. Whichever one, Kalu would be involved.
Amaechi is the incumbent governor of oil-rich Rivers State and the Chairman of influential Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). He became a governor in his first term by virtue of a landmark judgment of the nation’s apex court, Supreme Court. He is acknowledged to have performed relatively well. He was recently touted as a likely vice presidential candidate to the governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido. Though he denied nursing such an ambition, this has set him against the powers that be in Abuja.
With his position as the chairman of the powerful NGF, it is expected that he will be able to get the needed support from the forum if the rumours eventually metamorphose into reality. However, if recent experience is to serve as a guide, being the chairman of the forum may not automatically translate to a bloc support from the body. Amaechi’s predecessor in the forum and former governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, attempted to use the body as a platform to get the PDP presidential ticket during the 2011 general elections. Unfortunately, he dropped by the way side when the heat was much. This notwithstanding, the forum remains an influential power bloc in swinging government direction on national policies and issues.
With Amaechi, who is noted as an off-the-record critic of President Jonathan, if the PDP governors in the forum cannot push one or two of their own through, they may likely constitute the stiffest opposition to Jonathan’s ambition within the ruling party. This will still put Amaechi at the centre of a complex political horse-trading.
Lamido is a diplomat and a second term governor of Jigawa State who is believed to be nursing a presidential ambition and was recently touted as having been tipped to lead the Lamido/Amaechi presidential ticket. His denial of the report is, however, not enough to dismiss the possibility, as he has already come under the radar of the powers-that-be in Abuja, with the recent well-publicised arrest of his son at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport for allegedly travelling to Cairo with an undeclared $40,000.
With his background as a vocal activist, Lamido will be actively involved in the events preceding the next general elections, even if he is not going to contest in the election. If he contests, however, his achievement as governor, having done much in his state in the last six years, would be a fillip to this.
Aliyu is a second term governor of Niger State and chairman of equally influential Northern Governors’ Forum. His recent efforts to build contacts across the geo-political zones by personally attending events, such as book presentations, lectures, awards and receiving chieftaincy titles suggest he may not hesitate to join the race for the presidency when the time comes. Apart from this, the Northern Governors’ Forum he leads will be expected to champion the campaign for power to return to the North and provide a major opposition to Jonathan’s bid to pick the PDP ticket. Apart from this, the forum, through Aliyu, will feature more frequently in debates that border on regional and national interests, such as the Boko Haram imbroglio, PIB bill and others.
It is most certain that Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the first term governor of Ekiti State, will get sufficient mention in media reports this year not because of the discharge of his duties as governor but because it is a year of great battles for him. First, he has to overcome the challenge of opposition to his return as governor in 2014 within his party, ACN before bracing for yet another one posed by strong contenders for his seat from other political parties, such as the PDP and the Labour Party, LP.
At the moment, it is obvious a member of House of Representatives, Opeyemi Bamidele, is already locked in a popularity test with the governor over the party’s ticket. Though the governor may win the internal battle but not without bruises, he may have to go into the main contest with a divided house to confront the like of former governor of the state, Ayo Fayose.
Unlike Fayemi, Engr Rauf Aregbesola, the first term governor of Osun State will only have to contend with external opponents, like former governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, long time aspirant for the state governorship seat, Senator Iyiola Omisore in the battle to retain his seat in the next election due in 2014. A dogged fighter and activist, Aregbesola built a large base of support and followership for himself through his Oranmiyan Movement, through which he was able to confront and defeat a sitting governor in 2007, eventhough he only got back his mandate through the court in 2010. He has also built on his army of followership, with some environmental and farming programmes used to mop up a large number of unemployed youths from the streets.
Events of 2013 will, however, determine whether or not this will see him through another round of election next year.
A governor serving out his second term in Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi will be focused in the politics of the state this year, owing to the coming governorship election towards the end of 2013. Although he’s not contesting, he would play a role on who succeeds him. Already, a controversy is brewing as to the zone that would produce the next governor of Anambra. While Obi has made a public declaration that Anambra North would produce the next governor, politicians from other zones said there’s no zoning arrangement in the state. Owing to this, Obi has been under attack.
It’s believed that Obi wants to single-handed decide who would pick the ticket of his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and perhaps, subsequently succeed him. This, it is believed, is the reason there’s crisis in the party, which has led to its factionalisation, with one group led by the National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and another group led by a northerner believed to be financed by Obi. Whatever happens, Obi will be at the centre of Anambra governorship election this year. His closeness to President Jonathan is also a factor that makes him somebody to watch.
Uzoh, chairman/chief executive officer of Gocuz Group, is an urbane and unassuming businessman and politician in Anambra State. He has been quietly engaging in philanthropic gestures in the state and across the country, which have endeared him to many people. Last year, youths from the Catholic Church and others urged him to join the governorship race in Anambra coming up this year, pledging to work for his emergence as the next governor.
Uzoh had told the youths that he would consult before deciding whether to contest or not. It’s expected that he would make his intention known in the first half of the year, when the political parties would pick their candidates. However, his Obinna Uzoh Foundation has been engaged in philanthropic activities in Anambra. He was one of the first individuals who donated relief materials to victims of flood in Anambra State last year. He built the ultra-modern All Saints Catholic Parish in Ihiala, his hometown. He’s currently building a hostel at the Catholic Youth Village in Awka, Anambra State capital, scheduled for dedication on March 16, to mark his 50th birthday coming up the next day, March 17, 2013.
A chieftain of the PDP, Uzoh has done much for the downtrodden in the society, sponsoring free medical treatment in the villages, offering scholarship to indigent students and sponsoring people on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Whatever he does about the Anambra election this year would make him a man to watch.
Oteh is the embattled Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Last year, she fought several battles. Indeed, in 2012 both the Senate and House of Representatives passed separate resolutions asking for her sack believed to be because of his courage to accuse a member of the House of Representatives and indeed the House adhoc committee on the probe of the capital market of demanding gratification from her. It was same year she was suspended by the last board of SEC and only got recalled by the Federal Government later.
If 2012 was a bad year for her, 2013 may yet be tough for Oteh, in view of the fact that the two chambers of the National Assembly have refused to entertain any budget presentation or defence from her and as such have given SEC a zero budget portfolio in 2013. This means that there will be no money to pay staff salaries and run the organisation this year. How she will run the commission and function without money will surely get the attention of not only industry players or the lawmakers but also the entire nation.
Engr. Reynolds Beks Dagogo-Jack is the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP) and a member of the Presidential Action Committee on Power, chaired by President Jonathan, which meets regularly on power. President Jonathan first constituted these two bodies in 2010. The PTFP developed the 2010 version of the Power Sector Reform Roadmap, which Mr. President launched in August 2010 and thereafter commissioned the PTFP to drive and deliver the reform milestones under the close marking of the PACP.
Following increasing concerns about the direction of the reform and the attendant slippages in the timelines for the delivery of the remaining milestones, Jonathan, in September 2012, reconstituted the PTFP and appointed Dagogo-Jack as its chairman with a clear directive to recover lost momentum and quickly restore public confidence to his power delivery agenda.
Most sector insiders will readily attest to the claim that since assuming office, Dagogo-Jack has left no one in doubt about his commitment to the power delivery agenda of President Jonathan. Industry watchers describe him variously as very articulate, technical and impressively versatile. He is also described as a consummate team player who is ever ready to trade off his personal ego for a wider public interest. He is