by Stanley Azuakola
For followers and lovers of Nigerian politics, 2013 should be a fun year. We can’t expect less from a year right at the midpoint between the last general elections and the next.
The Scoop is highlighting below, ten people in politics who we think everyone should watch closely this year for different reasons – power plays, cues, steadfastness, course correction and more. We do not claim to be T.B Joshua and some in our Top 10 might end up being as anonymous as the deputy governor of Zamfara state. Who’s he? Exactly!
Here are our picks:
1. Mukthar Yero (Governor, Kaduna State)
Even if 44 year old Yero had ambitions to become governor at some point in his career, he couldn’t possibly have known it would be as early as 15 December 2012, the day a navy helicopter carrying Patrick Yakowa, the then Kaduna governor, crashed in Bayelsa.
We would be watching to see how Yero leads the volatile and divided state. How does he carry along Kaduna Christians still grieving over the death of the first Christian governor of the state?
It would also be interesting to see if Yero can successfully wean himself off the overbearing influence of Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the man who used to be his employer and now his godfather.
2. Ike Ekweremadu/Emeka Ihedioha (Deputy Senate President/Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives)
As the chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on the amendment of the constitution respectively, Ekweremadu and Ihedioha both have crucial roles to play in 2013.
Ekweremadu has experience going for him as he also chaired the committee the last time a constitution amendment was successfully done in Nigeria.
Big issues are up for amendment this time including state creation, indigene/settler dichotomy, immunity and state police. All eyes would be on these two gentlemen as they steer the ship.
3. Diezani Allison-Madueke (Petroleum Minister)
We all know Allison-Madueke is a looker, but trust us, she’s on this list for more than just her looks. The petroleum minister has to do two things this year. Make sure (in conjunction with the National Assembly) that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) becomes law. It’s disappointing that since 2008 when it was first brought to the national assembly, the PIB still has not been passed.
She also has to do her best to avoid negative controversy this year. It’s not a good thing that a lot of Nigerians view her as one of the most corrupt ministers in the cabinet.
4. Nasir El-Rufai (CPC politician)
El-Rufai is a star in opposition circles and it’s not hard to see why. He seems to be the smartest politician in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), adept in both policy and propaganda and has a large following especially among young people.
It should be pointed out that a number of people also consider him to be petty and hypocritical. Either way, whenever possible contenders for the presidency in 2015 are mentioned, his name always appears on the list, while his insistence that he is uninterested in vying for the nation’s top job doesn’t convince anyone.
5. Danbaba Suntai (Governor, Taraba State)
It appears that Suntai would survive after all. The governor who has been recuperating in Germany since his private plane crashed last October has a lot to be thankful for. Very few people live to tell the story of a plane crash.
Ordinarily the profligate, ineffective governor wouldn’t appear on this list but for a man who survived a near-death experience, it would be interesting to see how he conducts himself when he returns. If he learnt anything from the experience, then Tarabans might be in for a good time. Also, in the event that the crash has left him in a state where he cannot perform as governor anymore, we hope the governor would take the noble route and resign in 2013.
6. Gyang Pwajok (Senator, Plateau North)
Pwajok became senator in October 2012 following the death of his predecessor in office, Gyang Dantong, who died while escaping from an attack by Fulani herdsmen while attending the burial ceremony of some of his constituents also killed by herdsmen.
Only a few weeks ago, a high court annulled the bye-election which brought Pwajok to office, but he is appealing and remains senator in the meantime.
Pwajok was the former chief of staff to Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau and was said to be the brains behind Jang’s rule. Would the circumstances surrounding the death of his predecessor make him a more cautious senator?
7. Rotimi Amaechi (Governor, Rivers State)
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is the most powerful pressure group in the country, which makes Rotimi Amaechi, the chairman of the forum, one of the most powerful men in Nigeria. The NGF is expected to pull its weight this year over lots of issues including the constitutional amendment and the management of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Amaechi, naturally, would be at the forefront of their campaigns.
We should also mention that there are speculations that he is being considered as a possible vice-presidential candidate to a Northern politician in 2015.
He would have to look for a way to effectively combine his position in the NGF with his role as Rivers governor especially as some Rivers residents are already complaining that the governor’s pace has reduced since his re-election in 2011.
8. Bola Tinubu/Muhamadu Buhari (ACN leader/CPC leader)
Since 2011, these two men and the parties they represent have been whetting appetites with talks of an impending merger with no tangible result. 2013 is ‘make or break’ year. If the process doesn’t work this year, it would never work again.
Nigeria needs a strong opposition and many are hoping the merger works. Tinubu and Buhari hold the key. Hopefully they would not misplace it in the well of their egos.
9. Rauf Aregbesola (Governor, Osun State)
Governorship election in Osun would hold in 2014 and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) knows that it is a critical one, especially after the disappointing showing in Ondo last year. Truth be told, Aregbesola hasn’t been astounding. His 2013 budget wasn’t presented in 2012 as expected; there are labour agitations over minimum wage, among other complaints against his administration. How he warms himself into his people’s heart in 2013 will be crucial to his re-election chances and the ACN’s survival, we dare say.
10. Ajibola Ogunsola (Publisher, The Punch Newspapers)
Ogunsola’s The Punch, ruffled the feathers of the Nigerian government a lot in 2012. Publishing hard-hitting stories exposing corruption, unfulfilled promises and ‘wrong’ policies by the government, the newspaper became anti-Jonathan according to some while others believed it was standing for truth.
Going forward, it would be interesting to see how the paper positions itself. It is no stranger to controversy. The bribery allegations and name smearing between two of its top former editors in 2010 and the report in 2011 that it was censoring negative reports against Jonathan in the run-up to the 2011 election still rankles. But its new pro-masses tilt has won it lots of new fans. The Punch and its publisher are definitely to be watched in 2013.