The eyes of many Nigerians would be on the political class. However among those that will receive the greatest attention are those who are either putative presidential aspirants or would be facilitators of the contests that will produce the candidates.
Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso
Among those who will draw the attention of the political class are Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso who took second in the APC presidential primaries in 2014.
Kwankwanso, according to sources, already has coordinators for his presidential campaign in all 36 states. When President Buhari visited his native Kano State, Kwankwanso was not present indicative of the no love lost relationship he has with the party at all levels.
However, his possible defection to the PDP is, however, not an easy option given his not too cozy relationships with Southern PDP chieftains who see him as a northern irredentist.
However, given that the battle lines between him and his hand-chosen successor, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has been drawn, there is almost little chance of the APC accommodating the two of them in Kano. It is for the same reason that Kwankwanso has since he left office as governor only visited Kano once and that was in March, 2016 when he came to console Ganduje on the death of his mother. That visit, however, turned into a battle as the governor and the former governor’s supporters engaged themselves in a face off.
When Buhari visited Kano last month on his first official visit to the state that has repeatedly given him the highest votes in all his electoral outings, Kwankwanso was conveniently not in town having gone to Egypt to pay the school fees of the state’s students his aides claimed had been abandoned in that country.
The resolute attack on his political structure has made it inevitable that he would sooner than later leave the party. Kwankwanso’s leverage to fight for the presidency whether in the PDP or any other party he goes to is going to be highly compromised given the regular battles he has to fight at home in Kano.
Miracles happen in politics, and it may not be impossible that he could be talked into returning to the Senate after a reconciliation with Ganduje.
After his phased return to the party he helped to found late last year, prospects of Atiku becoming the issue in the party have now been grossly put to rest. While he was away in the APC, a number of political chieftains helped to rebuild the party, and many of them have voiced it out that they did not rebuild the party for Atiku.
Indeed, the immediate past national chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi had told Vanguard that even while Atiku was in the APC that the former leadership was in contact with him and was not shocked by the news that he was returning. Those pre-return talks would have been laced with many political intrigues given that at the time that Atiku was negotiating his return that Makarfi was himself already building up structures for his own presidential aspiration.
Besides Makarfi, others who are likely to challenge Atiku in the PDP include Alhaji Sule Lamido and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Before returning to the PDP, Atiku through personal visits and phone calls spoke extensively to several of his political associates in the PDP and the APC on his move. While several were supportive, a significant number of others were also very cautious. However, he seemed to have won the agreement from the majority that he could cross over to meet with PDP constitutional guidelines while his chief supporters would sooner than later cross over to join him.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
For most of 2016 and 2017, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu seemed to have found joy touring the West African sub-region looking after his several businesses and savouring the honour from a number of West African leaders he assisted in one way or the other to power. Such honour was, however, not available for the prophet at home despite his vituperations that helped to position Buhari in power.
The man he positioned as national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun rebelled against him, while many of his former political disciples including Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, Babatunde Fashola, Kayode Fayemi were grasped from his tutelage by the new power brokers in the presidency.
The seeming aloofness of the presidency to the plight of Tinubu may have forced the Jagaban to prospect outside the country for both political and economic capital.
His pains were not helped by the several acts of perceived inadequacies and inefficiencies in the administration that many felt the Tinubu touch would have helped to greatly address.
However, a man with the kind of grit and grace that Tinubu has would not be forever disdained. So, it was that in the last quarter of last year as Buhari got his health back and the realization of 2019 politics began to drum that Tinubu again began to be courted.
Nigerians are still at loss as to what information he gifted the president onboard the presidential jet on their way to Ivory Coast given the president’s exhilaration at the “a beautiful piece of information” he said he got from Tinubu when he took the APC leader to Ivory Coast for the European Union – African Union summit.
Whatever, Tinubu, despite the earlier misgivings is stuck with Buhari and except he is pushed to the wall would sink and swim with Buhari in the forthcoming year.
Dr. Bukola Saraki is the man who some political leaders in the APC alleged should not be made Senate President because he is a man with unbridled ambitions. The antagonists feared that he would use the office of Senate President to aspire for the presidency of the country, a position his father so much desired but did not get. However, Bukola has in almost every sphere overtaken his father having consolidated himself as Senate President above his father’s legendary role as Senate Leader of the Second Republic.
It was perhaps on account of the “unstated ambitions” of the Senate President that he was dragged to court and his wife quizzed. Having nearly come out of the battles bruised but not fallen, and his former antagonists in the presidency now courting him, eyes are now on Saraki on what direction he would go in the year, 2018.
Asked last November by a television hostess, on the sidelines of the launch of a book written by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, one of his political disciples, on what would be his ambition in the year ahead, Saraki had said: “Anytime next year from February, you can ask us about what are my intentions in 2019 or whether I want to come back to the Senate.”
February is 30 days away, and many Nigerians would be looking forward to hearing from Saraki. Whatever he says is likely to have a large impact on the polity given his position as the number three man in the country and his role in steering through the legislative agenda of the administration.
What is, however, certain is that the permutations of his political antagonists are bound to change as they seek to court him to steady the course for the ruling party.
Governor Nyesom Wike has become a sort of father figure in the opposition PDP given his role in the emergence of the new national leadership of the party. The perception among party stakeholders is that Wike unlike many other governors helped to fund the party at the time of the crisis and was only repaid with the election of his man, Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman.
However, insinuations that Wike would want to use his connection with the new party leadership to obtain the vice-presidential ticket or influence the ticket remain a long shot. The governor according to sources is determined to obtain a second term believing that a bird at hand is better than two in the bush.
However, 2018 is going to be a year of battles for the governor as his one-time political patron, Rotimi Amaechi and the Rivers State chapter of the APC frontally confront him for most of the year.
It is not surprising that he has on his part also been making adjustments here and there to try to neutralize whatever federal forces Amaechi may mobilize against him. Few would recall that when he heard of Buhari’s return from his prolonged medical leave last August that he rushed to make himself visible at the welcoming party. Also at the end of last December he was not ashamed to show himself on a one-on-one session with Buhari in the presidential villa.
However, Rivers State and Amaechi are bound to be topical news for most of the year 2018 as the APC and the PDP in the state engage one another in battle ahead of the do or die battle in 2019.
2018 Political Prophecies
Various political groups disguising as Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs will in the New Year spring up to champion the political interests of political gladiators.
•The economy will receive a major boost as governments at the federal and state levels pump money into circulation both in the form of political patronage and through economic activities associated with political activities. Hotels in Abuja will benefit just as printers and other political facilitators benefit from the patronage of by politicians.
•Facilitators of protests who hire unemployed persons to protest at the national headquarters of the major parties will make brisk business towards the end of year as they receive patronage from politicians
•The level of political intimidation and blackmail will increase across the country as those in power fight to rein in political discontent