By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The year ending today has undoubtedly thrown up its fair share of political intrigues and razzmatazz, but the year following it would surely shape the destiny of the nation for the foreseeable future.
Nigerians woke up to a New Year at the beginning of 2012 with the news of the increase in the pump price of petrol, a product that more than anything else dominates the country’s political and economic considerations.
The hullabaloo arising from that action inevitably flowed into the political arena when critics and all those disenchanted with the Goodluck Jonathan administration seized upon the issue to rally against the administration.
Many Nigerians for once, put aside ethnic and religious differences as they rallied against the administration at various points in Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
Remarkably, as the nation slides into 2013, issues arising from that increase remain largely unsettled.
Among the issues that were thrown up directly or indirectly by the popular revolt against the pump hike were the multi trillion naira subsidy scam, the Lawan Farouk – Femi Otedola bribery saga, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB among others.
In the outgoing year, the trial of a handful of the scions of powerful Nigerian politicians indicted in the subsidy scam commenced. Those being tried include children of a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd), billionaire businessman, Aresikola Alao among others.
While the trial of the suspects snails through the courts, the eyes of many would be looking towards two of the central players in the revelation of the scam, Lawan and Otedola.
Scandal in the House
Lawan, a fourth term member of the House of Representatives was assigned with the duty of leading the House investigation into the management of the subsidy scheme.
He, however, came into national spotlight after it was revealed that he and the secretary of the investigative committee, collected $620,000 from Mr. Otedola for the purpose of deleting Otedola’s companies from the list of indicted companies.
Enraged members of the House of Representatives were quick to distance themselves from Mr. Lawan and institute a fresh investigation into what came to be known as the Lawan-Otedola saga. However, by year end, the investigation into the ethical conduct of Mr. Lawan had turned into a mystery.
Though the House Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions which investigated the matter claimed to have concluded its investigations as far back as two months ago, surprisingly, the Aminu Tambuwal House which had come to be well regarded for its moral ethos has failed to take the report for consideration.
In the first half of 2013, the consideration of the report is expected to take central stage in the House. Before proceeding on Christmas break, the House passed on the PIB to its committees on Downstream and Upstream Petroleum for consideration.
In the senate, consideration of the report has not even commenced as geopolitical forces derailed the plan.
The PIB is expected to be one of the most debated issues in the polity. The National Assembly, the governors forum and the media are expected to provide the platform for the debate on the PIB, a major legislative initiative to redefine the operations of the nation’s oil industry.
Another report that is highly expected to grace public discourse is the report on the investigation into the ethical conduct of a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Herman Hembe, the erstwhile chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market.
Mr. Hembe was accused by the embattled Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms Arumah Oteh of soliciting bribe from her commission and of collecting funds for a capacity building workshop that he did not attend.
While Hembe is facing criminal trial over the allegations, Ms Oteh, however, has turned into a vexatious character in the relationship between the National Assembly and the presidency.
A House report found her unqualified for the position she holds and recommended the termination of her appointment while she was on suspension.
As if pre-empting the House report, the presidency vide a letter dated July 17, 2012 recalled her from suspension to assume duties just as the House report emerged.
It was an action that was seen as contemptuous by the House of Representatives. It was based on this that the House in its passage of the 2013 budget precluded her from expending funds appropriated for the commission.
In the year ahead, the resolution of the face-off over Ms Oteh is expected to colour relations between the presidency and the legislative arm of government.
2015 politics /break-up of PDP
By 2013, it would be one year to the 2014 signpost given by President Jonathan on when he would disclose his political future.
But not many politicians will wait till then. It is as such expected that in 2013 that political operatives and their grandmasters, who operated subtlety throughout 2012, would come out in bold attempts to seize the political space.
The fate of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP would seriously become an issue in the year ahead. With the suspicion that President Jonathan would be seeking re-election, his opponents would attempt to take control of the party from him and if not, to distabilise the ruling party.
The governors who control the party at the grassroots, Vanguard gathered, are expected to flaunt their powers in the year ahead.
In 2012, the battle started simmering with the election of Bamanga Tukur as the national chairman of the party last March.
Tukur was the choice of Jonathan and he was elected against the counsel of some governors including the governor of Tukur’s native Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako.
Not surprisingly even before the end of 2012, the rancor in the party arising from the clash of interest between Tukur and Nyako was already fanning the embers of disunity in the party.
Tukur’s decision to dissolve the state executive loyal to Nyako has split the party in Adamawa State into two with different factions steadfastly loyal to the governor and the national chairman.
PDP governors apparently fearful that the Nyako treatment would be meted out to those of them, who in anyway share differences with Jonathan, it was learnt, are now mobilizing to confront Tukur to reverse the decisions taken on Adamawa State.
The governors, it was learnt, are expected to bare their fangs at a national executive committee meeting of the party scheduled for the first month of 2013.
Showdown with Tukur
The showdown with Tukur inevitably would also be a showdown with the president. President Jonathan had sought to show that he was unbiased in the Adamawa saga through the constitution of the Governor Sule Lamido committee tasked with resolving the crisis, but the decision of the PDP national secretariat to proceed with the congresses last week, is expected to be read as an act of bad faith by the governors.
The row with Tukur may be the first stage in the crisis that some say may lead to an internal conflagration that would swallow the PDP ahead of 2015.
Willy-nilly the PDP would in 2013 also face the greatest threat to its political hegemony.
At the twilight of 2012, Nigeria’s historically discordant opposition was for the first time desperately trying to forge an unprecedented unity to confront the ruling party. The Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP among others in 2012 were desperately trying to merge into a single party to prepare well ahead for the 2015 round of general elections.
If their plans go as scheduled, the new party is expected to come into existence in the first half of 2013. The realization of a formidable opposition with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu singing the same tune north and south is expected to bring an unusual formation that the PDP has not been used to.
The legal framework for the 2015 elections and indeed, a new constitution for the country is expected to be birthed in the first half of the year.
The Senate and the House committees on constitution review which commenced serious work on the review of the constitution in 2012 are expected to conclude their work in the first quarter before presenting their reports separately to the two houses.
Two of the main features expected from the amendments would be local government autonomy and the autonomy for the State Houses of Assembly.
Both plans, however, would be stillbirths if the governors forge ahead with their plans to oppose the amendments which many of the governors see as reducing their powers.
In the year 2013, Nigerians could well be treated to political drama in some states following the unusual accidents that involved some governors.
Already Kaduna has a new governor in the person of Mukthar Yero whose emergence has already upturned geopolitical calculations in the politically and religiously volatile state.
In Taraba State, the substantive governor, Mr. Danbaba Suntai has been hospitalized since October after surviving an airplane crash throwing up for the first time, a Muslim as Acting Governor of the state.
Speculations on the fate of the governor have continued to generate public debate. Sources at the weekend claimed that Mr. Suntai is now expected back in the country despite earlier claims that he had suffered critical damages in some of his organs.
Besides Suntai, is Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State who is turning into another character in another mystery story of a missing governor.
In the first weeks of the New Year, the continued absence of Mr. Chime and Mr. Suntai from their duty posts is expected to further generate much public debate.
In Chime’s case, his continued absence could enliven the one time submissive state House of Assembly into impeaching the governor.
Should Chime’s hold on the governorship be curtailed, it would undoubtedly pose serious consequences for the geopolitical balancing in Enugu State empowering a one time relegated deputy into the central political character in the state.
Whether Chime survives the political or health challenges facing him, his other gubernatorial colleagues in office would be topical players and playmakers in what promises to be a promising year ahead of the nation’s centenary.