Politicians to watch out for in 2020
The political calendar of the country for 2020 appears mild. But there are expectations of strong moves by some political gladiators towards the 2023 general elections, apart from the two governorship elections billed to hold this year. STEPHEN GBADAMOSI and DARE ADEKANMBI examine some politicians who might play critical roles in the polity this year.
EXPECTATIONS are high in Nigeria in 2020. There have been so many unresolved political issues carried-over from 2019. But by far the most important political issues being looking forward to are the governorship elections billed to hold in Ondo and Edo states. But it is believed that some political gladiators will begin permutations towards the 2023 general elections. Some of the stakeholders that would have one thing or the other to do in the shaping of the landscape are the following:
The former governor of Ondo State must have gone to the drawing board since the last election when he and his protégée did not make it in the senatorial elections of 2019. He bestrode the politics of Ondo State for over two decades like so-called colossus. He was the first two-term governor in the state and the first Labour Party (LP) governor in Nigeria. After stints in many notable political parties, he had berthed in the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), but it appeared that the last few years had not been fruitful politically. Many political watchers said Mimiko did not play it well when he dumped his presidential ambition for the senatorial ticket earlier given to his former commissioner, Gboyega Adegbenro.
As Ondo State goes for another governorship election this year, Mimiko is expected to try his hand at upstaging the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government, led by Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, the state governor, though he (Mimiko) would not be contesting, having served two terms before now. He, no doubt, has lieutenants that would be propped for the priced position, though there might be alignments and re-alignments.
The current governor of Edo State was an ally and godson of the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. But there is no love lost between the duo for now. Obaseki was the chairman of the state Eonomic and Strategy Team during Oshiomhole’s governorship. After claiming that he (Oshiomhole) had ended politics of godfatherism in Edo State by retiring Mr ‘Fix It,’ the late Chief Tony Anenih from politics, the former governor endorsed Obaseki for the position of governor, while heading for the national stage of the nation’s politics.
Early this year, Obaseki was quoted as saying; “Comrade Oshiomhole came to me, asking that we join forces to fight and bring an end to the practice of godfatherism in the state. The partnership helped us in changing the narrative of development in the state. This led me into politics. I am into politics to better the lives of Edo people. We believed Oshiomhole and followed him to fight godfatherism.
“Godfatherism is not good, but today, he is saying godfatherism is good. He said let the people lead; but today, he wants to lead the people against their interest.
“Any politics that doesn’t benefit the majority of the people is bad politics. The resources we have in the state are to be used for the benefits of the people of Edo State, not a few politicians.”
Obaseki’s first term as governor is ending this year and he is not only certain to seek for a second term, but also working hard to remove every available impediment. He has told all Nigerians that he is following in the footsteps of his former boss by ‘retiring political godfathers in the state.’
Interestingly, Oshiomhole has continued to escape the hammers of the APC governors who are disenchanted with the national chairman’s alleged militancy style and want him out.
Surely, Obaseki wants a second term, whether he will get it in the APC or the party will make the same mistake as the opposition PDP by throwing away its chances at the poll is yet to be seen.
It is also not clear the role other governors will play in the Edo saga. However it turns out will prove very critical in the election in the state.
The story of Oshiomhole, at the moment, is the story of Obaseki. If the national chairman of the APC will continue to be relevant in the state’s politics, it depends on how his imbroglio with the state governor pans out. Former chairman of the APC and former governor of the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was one of those that Oshiomhole’s emergence seems to have eclipsed. Political watchers say if Oshiomhole survives the groundswell of opposition towards him by the Progressive Governors’ Forum this year, he might survive as the APC chairman through the remaining part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
But the former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has more political foes in Edo State to contend with, apart from Governor Obaseki.
Former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under former Governor Oshiomhole in Edo State, Ize-Iyamu, is a contender to watch for in the state this year. He is not standing by and watching the altercations between the former governor and the governor. The former Chief of Staff (CoS) has also acquired political goodwill in Edo State. He was, apart from having been an influential pastor of a big congregation, a national vice chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for South-South region. He later joined the PDP to contest the governorship election in 2016, but failed to clinch the trophy. He is now in the seemingly troubled APC in Edo State.
Analysts say he is waiting in the wings to benefit from the altercations between Oshiomhole and Obaseki. He was the closest rival to Obaseki in the 2016 governorship election when he contested on the ticket of the PDP. Thus, there have been uproars over Ize-Iyamu’s bid to return to the fold of the APC, but he is there now and people think it’s for a purpose.
Many political observers have opined that Ize-Iyamu is the joker the Oshiomhole faction of the APC in the state plans to unleash on the Obaseki group. Late last year, Edo State Secretary of the Oshiomhole faction of the party, Chief Lawrence Okah, alleged that loyalists of Governor Obaseki were planning to disrupt a rally at which Ize-Iyamu was expected to join the party.
“We are aware that the state government has recruited the services of the governor’s Special Adviser on Security, Mr Haruna Yusuf; and a former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Kabiru Adjoto, to recruit armed thugs. They have been mandated to disrupt the scheduled rally by importing armed thugs from Kogi and Delta states.”
But Adjoto denied the allegation, when he told journalists that “it is unfortunate that such a statement will come from Chief Lawrence Okah who is somebody I respect so much and I will be shocked if he actually said so.
“I am a man of peace, I am a stakeholder in this state and the governor is committed to absolute peace in the state.”
The state government also denied knowledge of any planned rally, while the party chairman of the governor’s faction, Anselm Ojezua, described the planned rally as “a provocative handiwork of unauthorised persons.”
Obviously, certain tendencies in the Edo State APC are wary of Pastor Ize-Iyamu, particularly because of his strong link witht he PDP as the party’s standard-bearer in the last election. Some party chieftains believe he could be part of the grand plot by the Oshiomhole group to further disrupt the balance in the APC.
But regardless of all these insinuations, Ize-Iyamu is a man to watch in the Edo 2020 governorship election.
The two-term former governor of Ogun State has assumed the status of the political lord. Amosun had been a federal lawmaker representing Ogun Central senatorial district between 2003 and 2007. Though he failed to govern the state in 2007 when he contested on the ticket of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and lost to Gbenga Daniel of the PDP, his political fortune has tripled since 2011 when he made another attempt at the governorship under the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He went on to secure a second term on the ticket of the APC the party CAN metamorphosed into. By the end of his tenure, Amosun had become a formidable ‘political machinery’ with tentacles beyond his immediate constituency of Ogun. His political clout cuts across the states of the South-West and extends to the Nigerian Presidency.
In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in Ogun State, it is not unknown to many political watchers that Amosun worked against his own political party’s anointed candidate. He was at loggerheads with another former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba who seemingly had the upper hand in deciding who the standard-bearer of the party in the election. Many people also thought that the godfathers would not allow Amosun get to the Senate on account of his anti-party activities. It will be recalled that after the emergence of Dapo Abiodun as candidate of the APC, Amosun’s supporters rallied support for his surrogate in the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Adekunle Akinlade. This was why it was said a plot was hatched among APC leaders in the state to ensure that he lost his bid to go to the Senate.
However, Amosun’s large followership in the APC remained committed to his ambition. Though Akinlade lost with APM, the former governor made it to the Senate.
During the internal wrangling in the Ogun APC, Amosun was one of the top brass of the party that were suspended at the national level, including former governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha. The suspension was to be lifted late last year.
Recently, there were reports of posters of Amosun campaigning for the 2023 presidential election. Though the former governor was quoted as disowning the posters, he was reported to have said it was too early to begin such campaign. Many analysts believe that he might have an ace up his sleeve. Besides, Amosun’s influence in the South-West is such that he has hands in some to political appointments made by the Presidency to the benefit of party loyalists from states of the region. Examples of such are the recent appointment of Mr Laolu Akande as chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Dr Bayo Adewusi as postmaster-general of the federation.
It has also been said that all federal appointments due to Ogun State have gone the way of people loyal to former Governor Amosun, a development believed to have bolstered his support base.
The case of former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Ogun State during Amosun’s eight-year rule, Olamilekan Adegbite, who is also said to be a long-time friend of the senator, was recently appointed as minister of mine and steel development by President Buhari. His former Commissioner for Agriculture, Urban and Physical Planning, Ronke Sokefun, was also recently appointed chairman, Board of Nigeria Deposit Insurance Scheme (NDIC) recently.
Another ally of his who contested but lost in the Ifo/Ewekoro federal constituency election on the ticket of the APM last year, Adeleke Adewolu, also got appointment as Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Engagement at the NCC.
Political watchers believe that all these developments points at the pride of place Amosun holds in the caucus of President Buhari, which may be deployed to advantage in case of emergence of an ambition.
Diminutive governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai is one of the noteable power brokers in the ruling APC. The former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is surely a politician to keep an eye on in the new year and even beyond.
The two-term governor is one of the APC politicians being touted as possible successors to President Buhari in 2023. If the threat of a section of the North that the region will not relinquish power to another after Buhari’s second term is anything to go by, el-Rufai , no doubt, might have a shot at the presidential ticket of the party. Already, there had been reports of his posters in certain parts of the country.
Besides, Nigerians were recently inundated with permutation of an el-Rufai/Fayemi presidential ticket, with reference to the Ekiti State governor as running mate.
The Kaduna governor is also said to be one of the closest allies of Mr President for whom it expected to be easy to secure the nod of the president when the time for such arrives.
But el-Rufai has a lot of issues he will need to clear his name from in the presence of many Nigerians. Recently, he was on the campaign podium with the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, where he knelt and begged for a second term on behalf of the governor. Bello did get the second term, but through a process that has been criticised by not a few Nigerians and one which cost the state many lives.
The Kaduna governor is also remembered for his “body bag” comment, which he made in defence of President Buhari against Western interests in the build up to the 2019 presidential election.
Many would also remember the crisis that has engulfed Kaduna State, most especially the Southern part for a better part of el-Rufai’s leadership in the state.
The governor of Rivers State is one politician that will attract attention in 2020 and the build-up of political activities towards 2023 elections. Wike, a second term governor of the oil-rich River, will not be eligible to serve in that capacity.
But, just like in the 2019 elections, he is being linked with the 2023 presidential election. The guttural voice governor is said to be eyeing a pairing with the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, his preferred presidential candidate for the 2019 election ticket in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Wike is said to be a major force behind Uche Secondus’ national chairmanship of the PDP and this, to observers, is a big advantage to his speculated aspiration. There are, however, claims in certain quarters within the PDP that the governor might have been displeased with Secondus over the manner the governorship primary in Bayelsa was conducted. For this, he is said to be angry with the PDP national chairman and shopping for a possible replacement, with trust having been broken.
Although the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2019 election has not hinted he will put himself up for another election in 2023, speculations are rife that the Waziri Adamawa still has his gaze on the presidential seat. Atiku was in about 4 million deficit in votes in last year’s election and equally lost the legal battle to have him declared as winner. Atiku has not stopped putting the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government on its toes, criticising or commending policies where necessary and offering advice on how to move the country forward.
About two weeks ago, the Board of Trustees chairman of the party, Senator Walid Jubrin stirred up a hornet’s nest about the 2023 game plan in the party by declaring that the presidential candidate of the party can emerge from any zone in the country. He spoke against the background of speculations in some quarters that the ticket is reserved exclusively for Atiku. Jibrin later told newsmen in Kaduna that he had been getting anonymous phone call threats for not endorsing Atiku for 2023.
“I have received calls from some people threatening my life over my coming out not to mention that the presidency of the country be zone to the North-East.
“They were even saying that I am a traitor, that I should have come out to say that it is only Atiku Abubakar, because I said Atiku was already ‘overthrown’ by the Supreme Court. They said I should have said Atiku is the man I want.
Apparently reacting to Jibrin’s comment t zoning in 2023 and sundry matters, Atiku took to Twitter to launch a general appeal to party faithful and leaders not to start discussion about election. Instead, he counseled that effort be geared towards rebuilding the party for future electoral contest.
“Our preoccupation at this point in the PDP should not focus on elections, but on rebuilding and strengthening our party for the challenges ahead of us,” Atku said on his Twitter handle.
Before the first half of this year, the party will be due for countrywide congresses to elect a new set leadership from the ward to the local government, state and of course the national level. Power brokers, in the view of observers, are sure to be at each other’s throat over the soul of the party in attempt at controlling the party structure for 2023.
The Sokoto State governor, like many of his counterpart in the party, is currently on his second term of office. But in the build up to the 2019 elections, his name featured prominently in political discourse as one of the favourites, particularly among the young Turks, to clinch the presidential ticket. The high wire politicking and pressure from some groups led to the leadership being convinced to queue behind Atiku.
Apart from experience in presidential politics and huge war chest, there was no other factor that observers noted detracted from the presidential candidature of Tambuwal in 2019. As jostling for vantage positioning begins ahead of the 2023 race, Tambuwal’s name has refused to stop ringing in the contest. Like in 2019, he is rumoured to be prepared to pair a prominent southern politician for the ticket.
As Speaker, House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, he is said to have built a national network transcending the conservatives-progressives borderline.
Unknown to many, Tambuwal enjoys vast goodwill from power brokers from across the country. He is seen by most of them as reliable and imbued with a strong sense of duty.
The governor of Ondo State is going to have his stewardship tested before the people of the state, as election is held in the Sunshine State this year. He mounted the saddle with loads of challenges from his predecessor, Dr Mimiko. Some of the challenges range from unpaid salaries and allowances to civil servants and infrastructure deficit particularly in road construction and debt.
Within three years, Akeredolu has not only almost cleared the inherited backlog, he has consistently paid the workers. According to observers, the governor has done well in the area of road infrastructure and built on the legacy of his predecessor in the area of health.
The challenge to Akeredolu’s re-election would have been the crack within the APC in the state. But following the intervention of one of the national leaders of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, the cracks are said to have been mended with most of the factions teaming up to support him. His suspension by the National Working Committee of the party has also since been lifted.
Apart from the opposition PDP, which the governor will face at the election, there is also the hurdle of the likely resistance from the Ondo North Senator, Ajayi Boroffice. The Senator and the governor have been at loggerheads over the control of the structure of the party. Boroffice is said to be eyeing the exalted governorship seat of the state. More than anything else, Governor Akeredolu is perceived to be one of the president’s men being positioned to represent the new face of progressive leadership in the South-West.
Currently a member of the National Assembly, the Oka-Akoko-born senator has left no stone unturned in his determination to govern the state. In the build up to the horse-trading that preceded the emergence of the current leadership of the Senate, Borooffice withdrew from the deputy Senate presidential contest. He said he took the decision in deference to President Buhari and the position of the party on zoning of offices. He has also demonstrated very loudly that he is a member of the ‘national caucus’ of the party and ‘president’s man.’
The former Lagos State governor and national leader of the APC is credited with the success of the merger of what is called the legacy parties that came together to birth the APC. In national politics, Tinubu is said to have paid his dues, dating from his days in the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). He and other democracy-inclined leaders fought the jackboot tooth and nail, going on exile and sometime returning to dare the military.
As civil rule returned, Tinubu got the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy to clinch the governorship of the state. In 2003, when a political tsunami swept other AD governors away, Tinubu stood tall like an oak unwilling to bend in a stormy weather.
He not only won his re-election, he has since been installing successive governors for Lagos and has been largely instrumental in a couple of other states in the South-West and beyond.
Asiwaju, as he is popularly called, has been linked with interest in the presidential ticket of the APC after President Buhari has served out his second term.
On two occasions, Tinubu’s media aide has had to issue statements debunking his principal’s ambition. However, so many groups crusading that Tinubu be made president after Buhari have continue to spring up everywhere, particularly in the South-West.
Those who know Tinubu are convinced that he has his eyes set on the coveted seat and has been meeting those who matter to apprise them with his aspiration. The meetings have been held offshore, to keep prying nose at bay and onshore, to convince doubting Thomases.
The challenge for Tinubu’s aspiration lies mainly in the South-West where he hails from. Although APC in is commanding lead in the region, governing five out of six states, only three can be said to be in Tinubu’s grip. These states are: Lagos, Ogun and Osun, where his cousin is the head honcho. Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo are free from his political empire.
In addition to Governor Fayemi, Senator Amosun, Babatunde Fashola and Akeredolu who are seen as Buhari’s men in the region, the former Lagos governor will have it a battle to fight with Pastor Tunde Bakare, General Overseer of the later Rain Assembly. The pastor has clamped down heavily on Tinubu in recent time, culminating in his state of the country address where he charged Buhari to show more than passing interest in who succeeds him.
A few days after the address by Bakare, Tinubu was seen in a photograph with Buhari at the Villa. Speaking with newsmen at the Villa, Tinubu said it was too early for people to be speaking about zoning of the presidency ahead of 2023 elections. “It will be mere restlessness to talk about it now.”
The Ekiti State governor, currently on his second term, has been identified as one of Buhari’s men in the South-West. He is also said to be one of those being positioned to represent a new generation of leaders for the region. Fayemi, at the moment, enjoys huge national prpminence in the APC.
There has been speculation to the effect that he and his counterpart from Kaduna, el-Rufai are being considered for a joint presidential ticket in the APC after Buhari. According to observers, Fayemi’s antecedents as a pro-democracy crusader, an egghead in the progressive firmament count are some of the credentials that work in his favour.
Intriguers and power brokers in the camps of the APC and PDP are locked in the game of positioning their core loyalists ahead of the crucial 2023 elections. As parties inch towards their congresses when new party leaders will emerge from ward to national levels, the power game is expected to be clearer.
But in the midst of the permutations from gladiators, the knotty issue of which section of the country the presidential power should swing has been resonating, with the South East and South West laying claims to the presidency. The East is arguing that a man or woman from its tribe has not been president and finds 2023 the opportune moment to realise that dream. But with that expectation comes suspicion, particularly form largely the North, as to what an Easterner can do with presidential power.
By the country’s unwritten law, presidential power oscillates between the Muslims North and largely Christian South on eight years basis. The arrangement was interrupted by natural occurrence of the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner whose term was completed by Dr Jonathan.
The thinking in some section of the country is that after Buhari’s eight years, it is incumbent to see that returns to the South. Some northerners are also clamouring that power should reside in their domain for the next four years, just as some have been calling for the jettisoning of zoning to pave the way for the emergence of the best person for the job.
In the midst of all this, the PDP and APC are playing hide and seek over where to pick their presidential candidates for 2023.