By: John Saleh Aminu
As Nigerians look ahead of 2017 for qualitative leadership, its clear that politics in the new year is unlikely to be an easy ride.
Although the general elections is still about two years away, the next 12 months is however strategic to politicians to position and align themselves for the quest for power.
Generally, the year is expected to witness a flurry of political activities from the beginning to the end, however, the lion share of political issues is expected to revolve around the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Some other issues that are expected to define the next 365 days include the following:
Likely shake-up in the cabinet
If the myriad of calls that President Muhammadu Buhari should rejig his cabinet is anything to go by, then its likely that there may be a shake-up in the federal cabinet this year. Political pundits are of the view that that the president is going to tinker with his cabinet by sacking some of his ministers and bringing fresh bloods on board.
It is also expected that the president will appoint a replacement for late Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Mr. James Ocholi and the Minister for Environment, Ms. Amina Mohammed, who was appointed late last year as the 5th Deputy Secretary-General designate of the United Nations (UN).
Anambra State governorship election
One of the issues that will surely attract public concern in 2017 is the yet to be fixed Anambra State governorship election. Expectedly, those jostling for the position will declare their interest in the first or second quarter of the year.
Given the complexity of politics in the state, the year is going to be a very busy one as the people of the state determines the fate of who will steer the ship of the state after the election.
The political parties in the state will feast on the aspirations of many politicians who will seek refuge in any of the 40 registered political parties to realise their ambitions.
According to political analysts, the ruling party in the state, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is going to do everything within its power to retain the seat of power in the Light of the Nation state.
The incumbent governor, Willie Obiano is expected to seek for a second term in office and this will make the contest a keen contest between him and those aspiring to take over from him.
The opposition parties, especially the PDP and APC in their quest for power will also put up a fight to ensure that they send the ruling party parking from the government house.
The PDP is quite strong in Anambra State and the party presently boasts of majority of members of the National Assembly from the state and also has its structures on ground. The party is therefore expected to work very hard to win the election as part of its plan to bounce back before the 2019 general elections.
The APC on its part will also try its best to ensure that it moved its change mantra train to Anambra State and use it as basis to make an inroad into the South- East in 2019.
Without any iota of doubt, the election is going to be keenly contested between Governor Obiano and some other political gladiators in Anambra politics and serial aspirants like Minister for Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige; Senators Andy Uba and Uche Ekwunife, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu and Hon. Tony Nwoye, among others.
Swearing-in of Ondo Governor-elect
Ondo State governor-elect, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who won the November 26, 2016 governorship election on the platform of APC, will take over the baton of leadership of the Sunshine State from the incumbent, Olusegun Mimiko on February 24.
Akeredolu during last year’s governorship election defeated the PDP candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede and Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke. Battle for 2019 general elections Preparations for the 2019 election will definitely commence this year as politicians and political parties will do everything possible to position themselves for the next general elections.
Following the intrigues going on over the possibility of President Buhari running for second term, there is going to be a lot of tension surrounding the race for Aso Rock.
Though the 2019 elections is still about two years away, the haze over Buhari’s second term bid may be laid to rest this year as there might likely be clearer signal whether the president will run in 2019 or not.
Apart from the president, many political gladiators eyeing the presidency, governorships and seats in the National and State Assemblies will also show intents this year.
Some serving governors, especially first timers and members of the National and State Assemblies are also likely to declare their respective ambitions for 2019.
Second terms governors are also going to intensify moves this year to ensure that they put their would-be successors in good stead to take over from them.
INEC’s preparation for future elections
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the electoral umpire will need to do a lot of home work this year to ensure that the governorship elections in Anambra State is better than the previously conducted elections under its current leadership.
The electoral body is also expected to put machineries in place for the 2018 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states and the 2019 general elections.
Agitation for presidency by geopolitical zones
The agitation for the 2019 presidency between the North and South is expected to return to the front burners and expectedly it will generate some interest as usual.
Ahead of 2019 presidency, the North and South- East are seriously positioning themselves for the plum job. South-East is agitating that the zone should be allowed to have a taste of the presidency.
There ar-gument has always been that except for only six months since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the zone has not had a feel of it.
On its part, the North believes that the zone should conclude its eight years of two terms in office. Therefore, the leaders of each of the zones will surely kick-start the process of winning the presidency.
The leadership crisis in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be unprecedented in the annals of the party; needless to say that the crisis is currently shaking the foundation of the party.
The crisis has made many to believe that the chances of the party are very slim in the future elections, especially the 2019 general elections.
This year, the crisis in the main opposition party will generate a lot of concern in the polity and the way the party leaders handle the situation will determine PDP’s performance in future elections.
The one year tenure of the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker Committee is expected to lapse this year and the party leadership might push for a renewal or decide to hold a national convention to elect a new leadership.
As at today, some PDP chieftains at national and state levels and the founding members of the main opposition party have dumped it to pitch their tent with the APC while those who are still in the party have become passive members.
If the various reports that some PDP members are still planning to defect to APC is anything to go by, PDP may lose more members to the opposition party, except its leadership quickly resolve its internal wrangling.
Power tussle in APC
If the division among the leaders of the ruling party is anything to consider, there might likely be a serious implosion in APC if the party did not put its house in order.
The controversy created by the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively against the wishes of the party leadership who supported Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, seem not to be totally resolved as some of the leaders who worked at cross purposes then are yet to sheath their swords.
Apart from the National Assembly leadership crisis, the party leaders at states and national levels also flex muscles over the choice of APC governorship candidate for the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State.
The crisis deepened when the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu demanded the immediate resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, over his role in adoption of Akeredolu as the party’s candidate despite controversies and petitions against his choice at the party’s governorship primary.
Tinubu and his loyalists were reported to have worked against Akeredolu during the poll but with the support from Abuja and last minute reconciliation move; Akeredolu emerged as governor during the gubernatorial poll. As APC is battling to put its house in order, if the jostle for the 2019 elections is not properly handle, this may lead to serious implosion in the ruling party. .
In some APC states there is flexing of muscles between political gladiators over who gets what in the states in 2019. The perceived war between some governors and ministers or members of the National Assembly over succession plan and political aspiration may cause serious dissatisfaction among the members and chieftains of the party.
The fate of some public servants in the present administration, who are accused of corrupt acts last year, would likely be known this year.
Last month, the media was awash with reports of the Senate calling for sack of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, because he allegedly breached the Code of Conduct for public officials as contained in the 1999 Constitution.
He was accused of retaining the directorship of his company, Global Vision Limited, up till September 2016; almost a year after he was appointed SGF.
He was also alleged to have benefited illegally from the Presidential Initiative for the North- East (PINE) according to a report by the Senator Shehu Sani-led ad-hoc Senate Committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East.
Apart from Lawal, the controversy surrounding the confirmation of the appointment of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman, would also be decided early this year.
It would be recalled that the Senate on Thursday December 15, 2015 rejected the confirmation of Magu as EFCC substantive chairman.
The Senate has already written to the president for Magu’s replacement but the ongoing lobby at the top level, especially the advice by the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption to re-submit Magu’s name to the Senate, may safe Magu.
Despite move in some quarters to save the acting EFCC boss, he may be forced out of the office if he is indicted by the report of the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is also going to investigate the allegation levied against Magu.
Irrespective of how the presidency and Senate treat Magu’s case, the outcome of the process will determine whether the acting chairman will continue as head of the anti-graft agency or be replaced by another person. The anti-graft agencies may likely conclude some of the corruption cases it instituted against former public office holders.
There may also be more arrest and detention of some politicians, present and past public office holders to account for their stewardship in government.
Another issue that will come to front burner this year is the outcome of Edo State governorship election petition.
The various petition surrounding the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki as the winner of September 28, 2015 governorship poll may be concluded this year.
The outcome of the state election tribunal might not solve the governorship tussle as losers of the verdict may take their case to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to get justice.
All this will definitely shape political activities in Edo State. Apart from Edo State, there will also be focus on the Rivers State National Assembly election tribunal to settle all the misgiving and controversy that surrounded the state December 10, 2015 rerun election result, which has already been rejected by some candidates and their political parties.
Anambra Central rerun
Apart from the governorship poll, the people of Anambra State are also looking on INEC to conduct a rerun election in Anambra Central Senatorial District for people of the zone to have a representative in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.
Since last year’s nullification of election of Senator Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by a Court of Appeal as representative of Anambra Central Senatorial district following a suit filed by the APGA candidate, Chief Victor Umeh, several attempt by INEC to conduct the senatorial poll has not see the light of the day.
INEC had earlier announced date for rerun election in Anambra Central Senatorial district but the election was put on hold base on court verdict on controversy trailing candidates for the election. The issue of who represents Anambra Central may be resolved this year.
Registration of new political parties
Ahead of 2019 general elections, some new political parties will likely be registered this year.
During the 2015 general elections there were about 25 registered political parties but the number increased last year to 40 with registration of some new political parties and re-registration of some parties, which had earlier been deregistered by INEC.
With 2019 election about two years away, it is believe that new parties may be registered this year, if the report by INEC that it has pending request from various groups for registration of political parties is anything to go by.
Formation of a new mega party
Some schools of thought are also of the view that the proposed mega party, which some people believe is going to be the outcome of reported political alliances among political gladiators in the country may emerge this year with the aim wrestling power from the ruling party in 2019.
The new party is being planned by some members of the ruling APC and opposition PDP, who have their eyes on the presidency but feel that the present arrangement may not allow them actualize their ambitions.
Those behind it are said to have perfected their strategies and are likely to launch it any time from now though they are keeping their plans to their chest to avoid incurring the wrath of their respective parties.
More defections to APC
The quest to return to the mainstream of power flow at the center by some chieftains of the PDP have seen them continue to defect to the ruling APC after their party lost the 2015 presidential election. The trend is likely to continue in 2017.
Call for restructuring
The call for Nigeria’s restructuring in order to save the nation from an imminent collapse, which dominated the political space last year would be sustained this year. A political school, which insists that there is no going back on restructuring, is of the view that the manner in which the executive and legislature take a large chunk of the nation’s budget is ridiculous.
The presidential system in operation, they further opined, is a complete disaster as it has only succeeded in creating a powerful Federal Government, which sits at the Aso Rock and milk Nigeria dry at the expense of the states and local governments.
While the body language of the present administration shows that is unlikely to heed to the restructuring call, there is another political school, which believes that it is time Nigerians take their destiny into their hands by insisting that the nation should not continue to run the way it is.
Though this group cautioned against resort to violence, it pointed out that no government should dismiss the wishes and aspiration of the people as the Nigerian Constitution in Section 14(2) of the stated that “power shall reside in the people from whom government shall derive its authorities and power.”
Against this backdrop, they argued that it will amount to arbitrary use of power by the government against the citizens, who surrendered their sovereignty to the government in the first place if it continues to shun the calls for restructuring.
Consequently, this group urged Nigerians to sustain their demand for the country’s restructuring despite government’s stand as such is the only solution to the conflagration at hand, the endproduct of which may be disintegration.