Though 2021 is not a year preceding a general election, it is expected to be a busy one given that the race for the 2023 polls has commenced. Felix Nwaneri, Wale Elegbede and Anayo Ezugwu report on personalities and issues that will shape Nigeria’s political space within the year
Year 2021 promises to be an interesting political year for Nigerians even though it is not one preceding a general election year. The next elections are billed to hold in 2023, with the presidential poll kick-starting the process on February 18 going by the schedule released by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Though the next general election is more than two years from now, there is no doubt that the race for the polls has started as interests are being expressed in various quarters by those who wish to contest for the various offices up for grab.
For instance, jostle for the presidential tickets of the two major political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that for governorship of the states, where gubernatorial elections will hold as well as tickets for senatorial, House of Representatives and states Assembly tickets have started and are expected to gather momentum before the second quarter of the year.
Equally expected to gather momentum as the year progresses is the gale of endorsements and defections, which has already started. The supremacy battle between political godfathers and their godsons is also expected to resurface as most governors who are in their second term have already started scheming on anointing their respective successors. Already, Nigeria’s political landscape is agog with permutations as to which zone will occupy the coveted seat of president.
Against this backdrop, political maneu-verings has started in several quarters across the various geopolitical zones and power blocs as President Muhammadu Buhari will not be taking another shot at the number one position given that he is on his last tenure.
The 1999 Constitution (as amended), in paragraphs 137 (b), states that “a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.”
Buhari was first elected as president in 2015, when he defeated an incumbent – Goodluck Jonathan – and was re-elected in the 2019 presidential election. Having been sworn-in as president two times, he is expected to bow out on May 29, 2023 after serving out the constitutionally allowed two terms. Already, the President has given a hint about his retirement plan. He said he will retire to Daura – his home town – after he completes his second term in 2023.
“This is my second and final term, at the end of which I will, God willing, go to Daura and settle down,” he revealed during a meeting with some traditional rulers from across the country at the presidential villa in March 2020.
But, over two years ahead of the poll that will see the emergence of the President’s successor; it is reminiscent of politics of yester-years as some political spin doctors have started flying the kite over where power should shift to and possibly, who the heir should be.
Though some zones and even names are being touted at the moment, on paper, power is expected to shift to the southern part of the country given the zoning arrangement between the North and South, which took effect from 1999.
However, developments in the polity show that the 2023 presidency will go beyond a southern affair as political gladiators from both sides of the divides are gearing up for the contest. While some of the presidential hopefuls have been criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country, consulting with different groups and stakeholders as well as former leaders, almost all of them have been testing the political waters either directly or indirectly through what some analysts and observers have termed the “poster game.”
However, even as the 2023 campaign presidential posters continue to flood major cities across the states of the federation and the social media in particular,refutation has been the response from the camps of the various politicians linked to them. Perhaps, the reason for the denial is because the development contravenes Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, which states that “campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”
Names being touted at the moment include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC National Chairman, governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi and the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Others are former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, ex-governor of Anambra State and PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019, Mr. Peter Obi; a former governor of Kano State; Senator Musa Kwankwaso; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, exgovernor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi; Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba. These presidential hopefuls, notwithstanding, there are other personalities, who will play a huge role in shaping the nation’s politics within the year.
All eyes will be on the President to see how he will navigate the ship of the country in 2021 given the multi-faceted challenges the most populous black nation is facing. Largely, the New Year will be a mixed bag of governance and politicking as the race for the president’s successor starts to gather momentum. For the President, 2021 is going to be a handful, especially with the CoOVID-19 pandemic still raging.
How Buhari manages the effect of the virus, especially on the economy, will be quite defining for a nation already on tenterhooks. Basically, his action and inactions on tothree issues- security, economy and COVID- 19, will give directions to how the country will fare in the year.
His administration will need to fund its N13.5 trillion budget in 2021 at a time when economic growth is faltering and revenue dwindling due to coronavirus. In the end, he may have to fund the shortfalls through increased borrowing.
Will 2021 be the year that will bring to an end the five year reign of the service chiefs? Nobody knows except the President. However, it is a no-brainer that the administration would be under intense pressure to remove the service chiefs and pave way for fresh minds to tackle the fight against insecurity.
On the political front, the new year will be a decider for the ruling APC and President Buhari will play a major role in either the ascendancy or descending story of the party. With 2023 beckoning, it is expected that the President starts to zero in on possible successors. While it is given that some president’s close allies will fall out with one another in 2021, others will make effort to position themselves in anticipation of the 2023 elections.
Head or tail, it is going to be a tough year for the leadership of Buhari, but it is expected that alongside his cabinet, he would raise the bar and hope by recommitting to tackling the ranging challenges inhibiting the country from achieving its great potential.
He is one of the greatest critics of the Buhari-led administration and Nigerians are not expecting him to keep quiet in the New Year, following unending security and economic challenges confronting the nation. The former president is a specialize in writing letters to those in authorities mostly the presidents and the insecurity and COVID-19 bites harder in the country many Nigerians are expecting him to write another letter to President Buhari. With his patriotism and passion for Nigeria, Obasanjo is will possibly remain visible in the news in the year 2021.
His continuous visit to President Buhari in recent time means that the former president will possibly be visible in the news in 2021. His relationship with Buhari has turned dramatically into a robust and confidence- winning one, with many political watchers speculating that some persons in the presidency want him to contest the 2023 presidential election. Also Jonathan’s recent private meeting with some APC governors led by visit by Governor Buni of Yobe State is validating the speculations that the ruling party may consider fielding him in the next general election to serve a single term, having served one term as president on the platform of the PDP.
With the inauguration of the Atiku Support Group, the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2019 election may have set the ball rolling for the 2023 general election. Atiku Aminu Mohammed, chairman of the organization, said the mission is to project the former Vice-President’s visionary idea of sustainable national development as he prepares to formally declare his intention to contest the 2023 Presidential election. Atiku has been one of the main critics of the present administration and he is expected to continue in the New Year. As it is, he will have critics within the PDP and APC sympathizers to contend it in the year but how resilient he remains will determine his fate in 2023 permutation. Yemi Osinbajo The vice-president is one of the faces of the present administration and many Nigerians believed that he has what it takes to lead the country if given the opportunity. With his appointment as the Tripartite Consultative Committee of APC, Osinbajo will possibly be in the news in the New Year. And he is well positioned to help the party deal with its many crises and reposition it for the 2023 race. His supporters are of the view that he has the track record and wisdom to lead. He is also rumoured to be interested in contesting the 2023 presidency in APC.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State is believed to be aiming to take another shot at the presidency after he failed to secure the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2019. Like in 2019, he is rumoured to be prepared to pair a prominent southern politician for the ticket of the party. As Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, he is said to have built a national network transcending the conservatives-progressives borderline. Tambuwal is believed in many quarters to enjoy vast goodwill from power brokers from across the country. He is also seen as a reliable man with a strong sense of duty. If the Tambuwal presidency is to come to fruition, his friend and ally, Governor Nyesom Wike, would be handful in the project and 2021 is going to be strategic.
The former Governor Lagos State and National Leader of the APC is one politician known for his dexterity and influence when it comes to the art of politics. He is credited with the success of merging the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP into APC in 2013. Although he has not formally declared his presidential ambition in 2023, his close allies are already in town campaigning for him. Some mileage was added to the yet-to be declared ambition recently when popular cleric, Pastor Tunde Bakare, senior pastor of Citadel Global Community Church, said he (Tinubu) has fought and won many battles on behalf of the Yoruba people. For the former governor, the New Year will be handful and he will have both supporters and detractors in equal measure, but trust the Jagaban, he is a general of many wars and he is expected to earn medals at the end of this too.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is one of the strong allies of President Muhammadu Buhari in the South-West. He is also one of those positioned to fly the flag of APC in 2023. He also enjoys the support of his colleagues as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the national leadership of APC. At the moment, there has been speculation that Fayemi and El-Rufai are being considered in some quarters for a joint presidential ticket in APC come 2023. With expected political arrangement and re-arrangement in 2021, the governor will possibly remain visible in the news in the New Year.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State is expected to visibly remain in the news in the New Year with the unending feud between him and deposed Emir Muhammed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. The governor recently revealed that he removed the Emir because he was appointed to spite former President Goodluck Jonathan. The crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano State is also expected to keep the governor as a news maker in 2021.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State will be one of the political gladiators of the New Year with his alleged ambition of being a vice president in 2023. With his call that the next president of Nigeria should come from the southern part of the country, El-Rufai is believed to be positioning himself as a potential vice presidential candidate ahead of the general elections come 2023. He has been linked as possible vice presidential candidate to some potential aspirants from southern Nigeria and possibilities are high that he would step up his strategy to actualize his ambition in the New Year.
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, Senate President, is expected to remain a news maker in 2021, following the criticisms and description by some Nigerians that the 9th National Assembly is a rubber stamp legislature. The Senate President as the head of the National Assembly has to convince Nigerians that they are committed to sustain the independence of the legislature in the face of mirage of challenges confronting the nation. He will possibly remain visible in the news in the year 2021 in order to ensure effective representation and good governance in the country.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State is one of the governors from the South- East expected to remain in the news in the New Year, following his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His rumoured presidential ambition ahead of 2023 and political developments in his state are also expected to keep him in the news.
The endorsement of Governor Bello by the members of the Kogi State House of Assembly to contest the 2023 presidential election indicates that the governor will possibly be visible in around political issues at the national level in the New Year. According to the lawmakers, the governor has proven capability and capacity to lead the nation.
The former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, is another man of immense means and influence to look out for in the scheme of things in 2021. By virtue of his position as one of the leaders of the PDP in southwest, he is expected to create a blueprint for the party ahead of the 2023 election. Also, his statesmanship interventions on national issues would be pivotal to the stability of the country and his party. If anyone can lift the needle of unity for PDP in the southwest, it is the Atona Odua of Yorubaland.
Mai Mala Buni
Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State and chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker Committee is one of the political gladiators to look out for in 2021. He is facing the challenge of re-uniting members of the party and keeping his promise of carrying all aggrieved member along in the reconciliation process. He also has the challenge of organizing a possible national convention for the party in 2021. With the extension of his committee’s tenure by six months, it is certain that Governor Buni will remain in the news in 2021.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also among politicians, who are expected to remain in the news in 2021 as the party prepares for national convention later in the year. He is also expected to remain visible in the news as he sees to renew his mandate as the national chairman of the main opposition party.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is a man of many parts and he never shyaway from controversies. He is considered by many as one the most out-spoken state governors of the PDP as he is always criticizing President Muhammadu Buhariled administration and even the National Working Committee of his party. Wike is expected to remain in the news in 2021.
Ayo Fayose, a former governor of Ekiti State, is one of the most outspoken and controversial Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) politicians. He is considered by many as a dogged politician and one of the leaders on the party in south-west. Fayose’s alleged political ambition at the national level, will make him one the political gladiators to look out in 2021. His fight with Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State over who controls the PDP structure in southwest indicates that the former governor will possibly remain visible in the news in the year 2021.
The suspension of Kwankwaso by a faction of PDP in Kano over alleged antiparty activities is an indication that his presidential ambition is gaining momentum in the state. The social media campaign being championed by the Kwankwasiyya Movement, a political movement he founded, while in office as governor is relentlessly reaching out to the people
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and deposed as Emir of Kano is one of the northern heavyweights believed to be interested in 2023. He has been linked to the 2023 presidency and many believed that he may be a running-mate to any of the southern presidential aspirants. Sanusi’s dispute with Governor Ganduje over his deposition is expected to continue in the New Year. Ganduje recently revealed that he removed Sanusi because he was appointed to spite former President Jonathan. He is yet to respond to the governor’s claim even though Kwankwaso, who appointed him as Emir has refuted such assumptions. His ambition and critical comments on national issues are expected to possibly keep him in the news in 2021.
The former governor of Anambra State and vice presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 elections has been critical of the Buhari administration. He has always insisted only that massive investment in education sector will make Nigeria a developed nation. He is said to be interested in 2023 presidency but many believed that if Atiku declares to run again 2023, Obi may remain his running-mate.
His appointment as the chairman of PDP’s committee on national reconciliation means he will be one of the political gladiators of 2021. He will also use the opportunity to revive his political career in the New Year. During the inauguration of the commit tee on Wednesday, December 2, Saraki assured that they would embark on genuine reconciliation in order to strengthen the party structures across the nation. The former Senate President and former governor of Kwara State is also said to be interested in 2023 presidency.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
With his reappointment as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yakubu would possibly preside over the 2023 general election. Already, he has promises to introduce technology for voters’ enrollment in 2021 drawing from the lessons of the last exercise in 2017 and 2018. But he has the challenge of ensuring free, fair and creditable governorship election in Anambra State in 2021 and also preparing for electronic and Diaspora voting ahead of the 2023 general election.
The former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and convener of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has been very vociferous about governance in Nigeria. He has constantly called for a change of strategy in administering the country. Abdullahi is considered as a voice to reckon with in Northern Nigeria. His recent comment on restructuring showed that he represents the interest of the North.
Okorocha is another politician that has his eyes on the presidency in 2023 and his support for Igbo cause will possibly keep him visible in the news in the year 2021. At various occasions, the former governor of Imo State has said that he is interested in becoming the president of the country. “Having contested in 2003, 2007, 2015, and you are asking me at this time if I will contest? That’s quite interesting. My contest for presidency is not just because I want to be president. If am going to be the president for failure or be a president that will not succeed, then I don’t want to be a president. But if my presidency will unite this country, then I want to be a president. If my presidency will address the issue of poverty and insecurity, then I want to be president. If my presidency will address the economy of this nation that we will begin to talk like other developed nation, then I want for be a president. And if my presidency will guarantee education for the poorest of the poor, then I want to be a president. Other than these, hold your president and presidency, I am fine,” he said,
The Minister of Transportation and former governor of Rivers State is one of the pillars of APC in his state. The seeming crisis in APC in Rivers State is believed by his supporters to scheme him out of equation ahead of politicking for 2023. He is also said to have a presidential ambition come 2023. But his efforts in reviving train transport service and controversy over train fare mostly on Lagos-Ibadan route would possibly keep him visible in the news in the New Year.
Orji Uzor Kalu
The capacity and patriotism of Kalu is one thing that will stand him out in the New Year. He is not just a son of the Igbo people but a friend of the North and West and he is also said to have presidential ambition in 2023. The Chief Whip of the Senate and former governor of Abia, is believed in some quarters to be eminently qualified given his pedigree, political experience, legislative clout and patriotism. His recent visit to General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former heads of state, showed that his well accepted across the country.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives has a huge task ahead of him in the New Year. He has a duty to convince Nigerians that the House is really independent arm of government and not an appendage of the executive arm of government. Gbajabiamila in conjunction with Senate President have to convince Nigerians that they are committed to sustaining the independence of the legislature in the country. He will possibly remain visible in the news in the year 2021 in order to ensure effective representation and good governance in the country.
As Nigerians yearn for an amendment of 1999 Constitution, Omo-Agege is faced with the task of making the demands of the citizenries. The Deputy Senate President, who is the chairman of the Senate Adhoc Committee on Constitution Review, would be among the gladiators that will be in the news in the New Year because of issues that would arise from the review of the constitution. He has promised to meet the demands of the people, saying: “What we are mandated to do by law is to look at those provisions and bring them up-to-date with global best practices, especially to the extent that they tally with the views of the majority of Nigerians. So we are not in a position to replace this constitution but we can only amend.”
As Anambra State prepares for governorship election later in the year, Senator Ubah is one of those believed to have the ambition of becoming the next governor of the state. Apart from winning senatorial election with relatively unknown Young Progressives Party (YPP) the businessman turned politician is said to be well-loved in the state and he is moving round to secure the blessings of elders, stakeholders as well as those that matter in the state in his bid becoming the next governor of the state.