By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The year 2014, being the last year before the next round of general elections is bound to be decisive as politicians from across different political hues take position. Some Nigerians who are bound to direct the pace of political activities in the country are mentioned underneath.
President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan will be the centre of action in the coming year. As president of the country eligible for a second term, the pace and posture of his politics would largely determine the pattern of political activities in 2014.
President Jonathan who had in the past pooh-poohed questions on whether he would seek re-election had said that he would make his plans known in 2014. With that year now at hand, the president can no longer wave aside a response to the issue. Will he or will he not?
Though his body language has all but indicated that the president would be contesting the election, it is not impossible for him to pull back.
A decision to run would heat up the polity to a level beyond the normal level of a presidential contest. A decision not to run could also pose serious threats to national security given the passion of the president’s Ijaw kith and kin who are determined to have their son return to office in 2015.
Another possible action of the president that would affect the polity would be how he treats the Council of Ministers. Presently, the council is short of about 12 ministers following the sack of a number of ministers earlier this year. It is expected that the president could reshuffle the council to plug in the vacancies. The public, in the event of a reshuffle, would be watching to see how the president treats controversial members of the council, notably the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah who was indicted by the House of Representatives over her role in the purchase of two armoured vehicles.
How the president responds to some of his bitter criticis would also define the way politics will play out in the country. Besides the usual tit for tat with the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, the president would also be expected to frontally confront his one time benefactor turned adversary, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The president’s open reply to Obasanjo’s missive last week has inevitably taken their quarrel to the point of no return.
Obasanjo as Jonathan noted, has heckled all former heads of state who succeeded him in office as military head of state in 1979. However, Jonathan is not like any one of the others, given Obasanjo’s major role in the ascension of Jonathan to the presidency.
Given that this may be his last political fight, Obasanjo is expected to fight to the hilt in what is obviously now an ego fight between him and his one time surrogate.
The prospect of Obasanjo teaming up with the opposition in 2014 appears unlikely despite the recent visit to him by national leaders of the APC.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal
Though the leader of the PDP in the House of Representatives, only fools still believe that the speaker’s heart is still in the party that is now a minority in the House. Speaker Tambuwal has handled issues maturely in the House despite his relative aloofness from the presidency and the party.
Of the major figures likely to affect the polity in 2014, Speaker Tambuwal is expected to make the earliest move given the gravitation of a substantial number of PDP members to the APC.
The question in many mouths is when, and not if Speaker Tambuwal would defect to the APC. When he does, it is not likely to affect his position, but could bounce on his prospects.
It would be recalled that former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida had earlier this year called on the Speaker to aspire to higher office. Many would be looking for gesticulations from the speaker on a possible presidential contest.
Even before the call by Gen. Babangida, Tambuwal had been the focus of appeals from several political stakeholders who believe that he is best positioned to challenge Jonathan for the presidency within or outside the PDP. His friendly disposition towards the leadership of the APC has also made him the cynosure of many eyes.
Speaker Tambuwal is definitely going to be one of the major factors that would shape the politics of the nation in 2014.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
As leader of the APC, Tinubu is expected to play a decisive role in the politicking that is going to produce the next governments at the central and state levels. His role is going to be overwhelming in the emergence of the next set of governors in the South-West.
How he plays politics of 2015 would, however, be another matter. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in his open letter to President Jonathan accused him of mortgaging the interests of the PDP in the South-West through a secret deal with Tinubu in 2011.
The veracity of Obasanjo’s assertion remains an issue, but whether or not Tinubu cut a deal with Jonathan last time will bring the issue of Tinubu being a decisive factor into consideration.
However, except something goes awry, no deal would be expected in the year as the election is not expected to hold until early next year. Tinubu is thus going to be a decisive influence on the election.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
The three time presidential candidate continues to be idolized by the grassroots in the North on account of his discipline and the perceptions of his aversion to avarice.
However, his influence outside the North and among the elitist class in the North has progressively ebbed. Despite his negatives, Buhari has not ruled himself out of the 2015 contest, and is as such the cause of anxiety in the hearts of opposition partisans who believe Buhari is not electable.
Should Gen. Buhari decide to rule himself out from contesting for the APC ticket and decide to mobilize for a younger and more electable person within the party such as Tambuwal, then it would be a more serious battle for the PDP and President Jonathan.
Senator David Mark
Senator Mark may be regarded as a systems man. However, set between President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo, his body would obviously move with Jonathan but his heart would definitely be with former President Obasanjo. It is no secret among leading political stakeholders that the once very cordial relationship between Mark and Governor Gabriel Suswam in Benue State has ruptured.
In an apparent bid to strengthen his hold on the local chapter of the PDP apparently for the benefit of enhancing his speculated move to the Senate and planting his successor, Governor Suswam is known to have become a strong apologist of the president, and in the process, won key federal appointments that had hitherto gone the way of the Senate President.
Senator Mark on the other hand is bound by the dignity of his office as Senate President not to be seen as overtly a lackey of the presidency, a situation that has seen him lose some patronage from the presidency to Governor Suswam. However, in the battle of strategies that is bound to ensue in 2014, Senator Mark is expected to move with his heart with a patriotic zeal above party sentiments putting more distance between him and the presidency.
The women around the president would in significant ways affect him and the way he operates in 2014.
First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan has largely been out of gaze in recent times on account of reports of negative political fallout of her alleged incursions in the polity especially in her native Rivers State.
Mrs. Jonathan continues to mobilize support for her husband’s presidency through every opportunity available to her.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would be a serious factor in the consideration of many given her hold over the nation’s purse. Her tact and thunders in the face of demands from politicians in government to loose the financial strings would be a critical issue in the year.
Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum has become the longest serving Minister of Petroleum since the advent of the Fourth Republic. She has almost stamped her personality on the politics of the sector and according to some sources, also become a defining personality in the inner caucus of the Jonathan presidency.
She would be a major influence in 2014.
Ms Stella Oduah, the minister of aviation won accolades in her first year in office following the renovations of the country’s airports. However, the accolades died down as eyes focused on the processes that led to the renovations and it became an issue for her when she was indicted by the House of Representatives over her role in the purchase of two armoured cars for her use by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA.
Despite her indictment and the report of an internal investigation ordered by the president, Oduah has remained in her position. Her staying power is largely due to be said to be her role in mobilizing support for the president’s 2011 election. She is said to be one of the strongest women with influence in the inner caucus of the presidency and she would be a figure to watch out for in the politics of 2014.
Governors Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State would be significant political factors especially in their states in 2014 as they prepare for second term elections.
Also of interest in the year would be the emerging leader of the opposition in Ekiti State, Rep. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele who would stir the Ekiti polity as he battles the incumbent.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State would also be of great interest in the polity given his recent appointment as chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum.