This year promises to be very eventful politically. As preparations for the Anambra State governorship election enters the final phase and those of Ekiti, Osun and the general elections of 2023 begin, there would be no dull moment. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI x-rays the personalities and institutions that will shape politics in the year
THE race for the 2023 general elections would dominate this year. Though President Muhammadu Buhari is due to complete his second and final tenure of four years in May 2023, the battle over who will succeed him is expected to be the focus within the various political parties.
Preparations towards the Anambra State governorship election, which is expected to hold in November, would also dominate the polity this year. Though the off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States are scheduled for next year, much of the realignment of forces that will shape the outcome of the contest will shape the outcome of the contest will happen this year.
Interestingly, the above governorship elections would be indicators that will show how the 2023 general elections would be like.
The role of several personalities and institutions are likely to go a long way in determining the nature and outcome of the 2023 general elections. These include President Buhari, the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mai Mala Buni, the National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Uche Secondus, APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano and his predecessor in office, Peter Obi.
Others are Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, former Ekiti State Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose, Senator Abiodun Olujimi and Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola.
As the father of the nation, President Buhari’s action or inaction would impact positively or negatively on the polity this year. Though he is no longer qualified to contest the next presidential election the President would want to leave a good legacy by handing over to a worthy successor who can consolidate on his achievements to make sure Nigerians enjoy the dividends of democracy.
He can do this by deepening the electoral reforms that started under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and consolidated by Dr. Jonathan and by giving INEC a free hand to supervise the processes that will lead to the elections. In fact, it was the free hand given to former INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega by Jonathan that led to the introduction of the Smart Card Reader, which in turn aided his victory in 2015.
Within the APC, Buhari has the final say in determining the processes that will lead to the emergence of the party’s candidate. This will, to a large extent, determine whether the party will consolidate on its gains since 2013 when it came into existence or disintegrate into smaller parties. Some observers believe that the President and his backers have already set the machinery in motion to rejig the APC political machinery ahead of 2023.
Another newsmakers that will feature prominently in the political arena this year is Asiwaju Tinubu. A senator during the aborted Third Republic and governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, Tinubu is widely regarded as the architect of modern Lagos. Since then, he has managed to build a formidable political empire that spans not only within the Southwest but also across the country.
Tinubu is popularly known as a kingmaker. Since he stepped down as governor of Lagos in May 2007 he has not contested for any elective position. A man reputed to be an astute political strategist, he was the main architect of the merger that brought the APC into existence in 2013. Though he has not come out openly to declare his interest in the 2023 presidency, his anticipated participation in the contest has been generating interest within and outside the political arena.
For instance, in a sermon recently, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as the Latter Rain Assembly (LRA), advised Nigerians to quit plotting and scheming against Tinubu.
In a viral video, Bakare eulogised the APC titan, describing him as a hardworking leader whose track record and leadership dexterity are unmatched. He added that Tinubu had done more than any leader to secure the Southwest for his people while urging Nigerians to stop judging the former governor based on his ancestry.
Similarly, former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has warned that the plots against Tinubu will fail. Fayose who made the remark at his country home in Afao-Ekiti recently said the APC stalwart does not deserve to be crucified by his political mentees, for whom he sacrificed enormously to groom and raise from political obscurity to limelight.
Fayose said the conspiracy against the former Lagos State governor was part of the strategies to divide and create confusion among Yoruba people and that it would fail. He urged his Yoruba kinsmen to support and accord him the necessary regard.
The leadership role that will be provided by Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila at National Assembly will also determine how far the constitutional and Electoral reforms expected from the lawmakers will go. For instance, INEC has made it clear that it intends to deepen the use of technology in elections from 2021, if the relevant portion of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that prohibits the use of technology is expunged from the document. The commission believes that the introduction of electronic voting will give it a level of accuracy and effectiveness, so that the votes of Nigerians will count.
The process of voting, counting and collation is still done manually because the law does not allow for digitalising the electoral process. This causes significant glitches that could compromise the integrity of the election. Besides reducing the potentials for error, experts say digitalising the process also saves time and human resources.
The digitalisation of the electoral process is expected to start this year with the Anambra State governorship election, according to INEC. The leadership of the 9th National Assembly affirmed its commitment to speedy passage of the Electoral Reform Bill at a retreat organised by INEC recwntly.
The commission under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu started with a series of inconclusive elections but it has since consolidated on the reforms introduced by Prof. Jega. Yakubu initiated the process of simultaneous accreditation and voting, as well as that of uploading of results declared at polling units on INEC portal, to forestall manipulation of results during the collation process.
The commission has also promised to carry out a comprehensive overhaul of its system, beginning from the first quarter of this year, to make it possible for more Nigerians to vote during elections. Speaking during a recent live radio programme, the INEC National Commissioner in charge Voter Education, Festus Okoye said: “What we are going to do from the first quarter of 2021 is (one), to update the voters’ register in terms of numbers. So many people are displaced from their communities and so many students who registered while at school have graduated and moved from where they registered to another location. There are also people who have moved from one place to another for different reasons. We have also recorded deaths and so the voters’ register ought to be updated. So, what we are going to do is a comprehensive update of the voters’ register, while also carrying out our continuous voter registration.
“We are going to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process because many of our young persons are not interested in going to the polling units to cast their votes; they want to sit in the comfort of their homes and use their smartphones to vote, if possible.”
Buni who is also the governor of Yobe State has emerged as a pivot around which the processes leading to the next general elections is going to revolve. The Buni-led National Caretaker Committee emerged on June 25, 2020, at an emergency meeting of the APC National Executive Committee to resolve the crisis created by the suspension of former National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The committee was initially given six months to reconcile warring factions in different state chapters and organise a national convention of the party. But, its tenure has since been renewed for another six months.
What this implies is that the committee would superintend the processes that would throw up the party’s candidates for various elective positions.
Secondus is the man that has the responsibility of preparing the ground for the next general elections. Many of such processes will take place this year. For now, the PDP has not made up its mind whether it is going to keep faith with its presidential zoning arrangement or not. It had earlier given an indication that it will throw the race open; which is another way of saying that it may allow the North to continue to take another shot at the presidency in 2023.
But, the party has been put under pressure to respect the zoning arrangement by the recriminations generated by the recent defection of Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi from the party to the ruling APC.
It remains to be seen how it would turn out. From all indications, Seconds is equal to the task. He began his political career during the Second Republic in 1978, when he served as Rivers State Youth Leader of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He was also the Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) between 1993 and 1998 and a two-term chairman of Rivers State PDP. While he was Rivers PDP chairman, he earned the sobriquet “Total Chairman” because of the way he managed the affairs of the chapter.
At the party’s convention in 2008, he became the National Organizing Secretary, a position he held until 2012. On September 1, 2013, he was elected Deputy National Chairman. He also briefly served as acting National Chairman, following the resignation of Adamu Mu’azu in 2015. On December 10, 2017 at the Eagles Square, he was elected National Chairman after a keenly contested election. He is regarded as the best chairman the PDP ever had; as his tenure made the party win more states as an opposition party.
The former Vice President has been very vocal on national issues since he returned to the PDP prior to the last general elections. Even after he lost the election to President Buhari, the situation has not changed. So, he would remain one of the major newsmakers within the political arena this year.
But, his chances of contesting the 2023 presidency on the platform of the PDP would be decided later in the year when the party clarifies its position on zoning. Secondus had indicated in October in the Bauchi State capital that the race for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket would be thrown open to all contenders willing to contest, including Atiku. He made the remark while responding to questions from reporters on whether the party will re-present the former Vice President who lost the 2019 presidential election to President Buhari.
His words: “There is no room for discrimination. Everyone is qualified; both young, old, governors, non-governors are qualified to contest and we have the space for everyone – if you win, you become our candidate . The door is open to everybody.”
But, it would be difficult for the PDP, which has zoning in its Constitution, to jettison it, unless it is done by consensus.
Irrespective of whether Atiku is going to run or not, he will be influential in shaping the 2023 race for the PDP or any party he decides to pitch his tent with. The former Vice President is a perennial presidential contestant. He first contested in 2007 on the platform of the defunct Action Congress (AC), one of the legacy parties that metamorphosed into the APC, after he fell out with his former principal, Obasanjo and left the PDP. In 2011, he returned to the PDP and contested for the party’s presidential ticket but lost to the then President Jonathan. Prior to the 2015 general elections, he went back to the APC and contested for its ticket but lost to incumbent President Buhari.
He contested the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the PDP; having returned to the party again in 2018.
Former President Obasanjo is well known as someone who is not a passive observer of events in Nigeria; he does not shy away from expressing his views on national issues. So, this year, as activities leading to the next general elections begin to gather momentum, he is likely to be very vocal within the political arena. Born March 5, 1937, Obasanjo was military Head of State from 1976 to 1979 and later civilian president from 1999 to 2007 on the platform of the PDP.
Today, aged 83, he may look like a cuddly grandfather but he still has plenty of fuel in his tank and fire in his belly to comment on national issues. He is the author of many books that are based on his life experience. Over the years, Obasanjo has formed a habit of severely criticising all those who governed the country after him. Love him or hate, Obasanjo would continue to play the role of an elder statesman.
Thirteen years after he stepped down, Obasanjo still divides opinion. Many Nigerians – both those who love and hate him – wish he would retire gracefully to his farm. But that does not seem to be on the cards in the foreseeable future. The 83-year-old continues to pull strings and he enjoys significant influence within Nigeria’s complex political web.
Former President Jonathan would continue to be a major newsmaker this year. He has been hugging the headlines in recent times over speculations that he may be drafted into the 2023 presidential race. From all indications, a powerful political clique in the North are trying to draft to run again. Whether he will eventually accede to their requests remains to be seen.
Before the 2015 presidential election, he had a bad reputation because of the way he acquitted himself on the job. He was regarded as an accidental president who, despite his relative inexperience, ascended to lead the country when his predecessor, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, passed away in office 2010. In 2011, he secured the ruling party’s support for another term and he eventually won the general election. His tenure was characterized by soaring unemployment, instability in the North, as Boko Haram gained strength and territory, and a widespread perception that public funds were pocketed by the influential and well-placed with impunity.
His reputation had taken a big dent when he contested for re-election in 2015. It was his decision to concede victory to President Buhari as the votes were counted in March 2015 changed the narratives. It was an unprecedented and courageous act in Nigerian politics, and it caught many observers by surprise. Since that historic concession, he has been widely regarded as a statesman.
The Anambra State governor will also feature prominently in the news this year. Obiano who will be stepping down from office early next year will be expected to annoint a successor; being the leader of his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Little was known about Obiano before he became governor.
Born in Aguleri, a town in Anambra North senatorial district, Obiano, a banker-turned politician, benefitted from zoning when former Governor Obi used it as a pretext to engineer his emergence as the next governor. Obiano left the banking system to contest the Anambra governorship election in November 2013 and won. He was sworn in on March 17, 2014 to succeed Obi. On November 18, 2017, he was re-elected as governor.
Obi, a two-term former governor of Anambra, was the Vice Presidential running mate to Atiku during the last general elections. As the state elects a new governor this year, to succeed Obiano, Obi is expected to play a prominent role within the PDP.
Besides, since the presidency is likely to be zoned to the South in 2023, the former Anambra State governor may be aspiring to contest for the plum job during the next general elections. Like Atiku, Obi has also been very vocal on national issues in recent times. While delivering the 60th Founder’s Day lecture, titled “Nigeria at 60 and the Journey So Far” at the University of Nigeria , Nsukka (UNN), last October, he blamed inadequate funding for public education for the country’s poor economy. He said education remains the engine room and driver of any economy .
Obi, 59, regretted that 60 years after independence, succeeding administrations had not focused on education to develop the country .
As a founding member of the APC, Dr. Chris Ngige, the current Minister of Labour and Employment, is also likely to play a major role within the APC during the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. Ngige was appointed to serve in President Buhari’s first term and reappointed for the second term. He was elected senator to represent Anambra Central in the National Assembly in April 2011. Ngige was the governor of Anambra State from May 2003 to March 2006 under the PDP, but he later joined the defunct AC.
Ngige who was born on August 8, 1952 in Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State would also play a role in determining who gets his party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 race. He was the party’s governorship candidate in 2013 but lost to Governor Obiano.
Although the next governorship election in Ekiti State is scheduled to take in mid 2022, much of the drama that is expected to characterise the nomination process for his party’s candidate would take place this year and Governor Fayemi would play a key role in it. Fayemi, a member of the APC, assumed power on October 16, 2018. He was previously governor between 2010 and 2014. He lost his re-election in 2014 to Ayodele Fayose.
Fayemi,55, from Isan-Ekiti, Oye Local Government, was also the Minister of Solid Minerals Development in President Buhari’s cabinet from November 11, 2015 to May 30, 2018, when he resigned to contest again for his second term.
This year, he would be in the news not only because of next year’s governorship election in his state, but also in respect of his rumoured presidential ambition.
On the platform of the PDP, Fayose would also want to prove that he is still relevant within Ekiti politics, as his party prepares for the next governorship in the state. Born on November 15 in Ibadan, Oyo State, Fayose who hails from Afao-Ekiti, served for two term as governor on PDP platform. He became the second governor of Ekiti on May 29, 2003, after defeating the then incumbent Governor Niyi Adebayo.
Fayose could not complete his tenure as a result of an impeachment on October 16, 2006. However, he contested again in 2014 and won. He is now the only governor in Nigeria so far that has defeated incumbent governors two times.
As the highest-ranking member of the PDP from Ekiti State, Senator Biodun Olujimi would also be a major newsmaker this year, as her party prepares for the 2022 governorship election. Olujimi represents Ekiti South senatorial district in the upper legislative chamber. She is also the Minority Leader of the chamber.
Olujimi, 62, is regarded as one of the most experienced female politicians in the country. The former deputy governor is at loggerheads with his former principal (Fayose) over the leadership of the PDP in Ekiti.
After Ekiti, Osun State would be the next battleground for electoral contestation in 2022 and Governor Gboyega Oyetola would be in the middle of the contest; as he would be seeking for re-election for a second term. Like Ekiti, much of the politicking for the governorship would take place this year.
The major challenge that may confront the Iragbiji, Boripe Local Government Area-born politician would probably be from within his own party, the APC. But, party elders were reported to have waded into the matter recently, to prevent it from degenerating into a major crisis.
Off-cycle elections such as the ones in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun are significant for the two major parties because they will serve as dress rehearsals for the 2023 general elections.