The Nigerian political climate is increasingly getting tense as the 2015 general elections draw near. In fact, there are permutations that the elections may hold by November 2014, if a new electoral law demands that all polls be concluded six months before the swearing-in date.
Questions are being asked about the men and women that will be the major players this time round. Political parties as well as individuals are warming up for the great battle ahead. It is time for political strategising and calculations all aimed at ensuring victory at the polls. Other Nigerians cannot help but watch patiently - and curiously too - as events unfold.
Below are the strong men who will make things happen in the days ahead:
CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
After ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo voluntarily resigned as Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), a civic reception was organized in his honour. According to the organisers then, Obasanjo is an outstanding statesman and an icon and is being celebrated for his exploits on the political landscape of Nigeria in the past 50years.
“Having dominated the Nigerian public life in a way no other person has for the past 50 years, the symbolism of another retirement is not lost on us. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has effectively become the father of the nation, a political oracle and a living legend whose life is worth celebrating,” they said.
After leaving office in 2007, he has been practically responsible for the enthronement of two subsequent governments and speculations are rife that he wants to repeat the feat in 2015.
It is also noteworthy that most of the members of the breakaway faction of the PDP are loyal to Obasanjo and the import of his absence at last Saturday’s special convention of the ruling party was not lost on political observers.
With the current trend, nobody is sure which direction Obasanjo is heading to, but the choice he makes will surely make or mar the 2015 election.
President Jonathan is probably the chief among those who will make or mar the 2015 elections. A lot will depend on what he chooses to do or not to do concerning 2015. His party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which prides itself on being “the largest political party in Africa” and has sworn to hold on to power for 60 years, is now battling for survival. It has been politically difficult (though there are a few exceptions) to defeat an incumbent in Africa, more especially if the incumbent is desperate and hell-bent on returning.
Former head of state General Muhammadu Buhari is a household name, although not much was heard of Buhari until the establishment of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, PTF, and the end of the military interregnum that ushered in the present democratic dispensation in 1999. He appeared on the Nigerian political landscape determined and resolute to clinch the No. 1 position again as executive president. A dogged politician, he has run for the office of the president of Nigeria for three consecutive times: 2003, 2007, and 2011.
Within the Nigerian political landscape, the Turakin Adamawa and former vice-president, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, is like a big masquerade.
Atiku is among those expected to run for president come 2015. He seems to be calculating possible advantages from the current crisis rocking the ruling party. In line with this, he is currently in a move with seven PDP governors to possibly float a new party or take control of the PDP.
A consummate politician, he has the wherewithal to finance elaborate campaigns.
BOLA AHMED TINUBU
A politician’s politician, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Lagos, can be said to be about the only politician in Nigeria who has regional control and, from his base, he is now about to come out and expand his political tentacles and influence all over the country.
SENATOR DAVID MARK
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, is undoubtedly one of the politicians whose roles will affect the outcome of 2015 election. As the president of the Nigerian Senate, he enjoys the loyalty and confidence of the senators whose support will be sought by almost all candidates who are interested in winning elections.
Whichever political divide Mark may lean on will be counting their advantages. Therefore, which side he may take will go a long way in determining the outcome of the elections. More so, if Mark eventually declares interest in contesting for any office higher than what he is occupying now, then the sound of the music will definitely change.
AMINU WAZIRI TAMBUWAL
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Waziri Tambuwal, just like David Mark, is another force to reckon with. As the leader of the lower chamber, Tambuwal who also enjoys the loyalty and the confidence of the House of Representatives has the potential to determine where a block of votes will go in the election.
This is because Tambuwal, in his position, has a great influence which can play significant role in determining which camp enjoys the majority, if not all of the members of the house will give their support. As far as the outcome of 2015 elections is concerned, Tambuwal is not a political figure to disregard.
CHIEF ANTHONY ANENIH
Popularly called “Mr. Fix It” and Jonathan’s right hand man for now, Tony Anenih is the current BoT chair of the PDP and one of the deciders of who gets what in the embattled political fraternity. Anenih’s doggedness and political dexterity is legendary. A member of the PDP BoT had once told a national daily on why the presidency wanted him at all cost to be the BoT chair after Obasanjo’s exit. He said that his antecedent in political organization and arrangement placed him ahead of other aspirants then.
With Jonathan almost in the cold, all eyes are on Anenih now to see how he can keep the party together and ensure its victory in the 2015 general elections in the face of daunting challenges facing the party. The leader, as he is fondly called, is an old war horse. His political exploits since the Second Republic have remained unmatchable, although he has not contested for any elective political office; he has been instrumental in the emergence of governors and Presidents of the country at different times.
Having read the handwriting on the wall, he has been calling for restraints in the ongoing crisis rocking the party. He served successive governments at the centre, ranging from the days of General Ibrahim Babangida to the present government of President Jonathan. His services will surely come handy in 2015.
GOVERNOR BABANGIDA ALIYU
Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu is the self-styled Chief Servant of Niger State. He is a technocrat cum politician when he was selected as the PDP gubernatorial candidate in 2007 after the disqualification of Alhassan Guna. Since then he has no known political structure until he became the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), which has since transformed into a political power bloc.
The role of the NSGF in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) festering crisis is an open secret. As things stand now, he is a member of what is now known as “New PDP” which plans to upstage the mainstream party. Despite his recent denial of a gang-up against the president, it is clear that he has something up his sleeve as we inch towards 2015.
GOVERNOR SULE LAMIDO
The speculation is that governors Sule Lamido and Rotimi Amaechi have been endorsed by Obasanjo to run a joint ticket of presidential and vice-presidential candidate respectively. This was after the sighting of a Lamido/Amaechi campaign vehicle in Kaduna State.
In the meantime, the chairman of the PDP, Jigawa State, could not resist pledging the state’s support if Lamido and Amaechi were given the opportunity to lead the country. “They could bail it out from the present difficult condition it’s fallen into,” he said.
Lamido enjoys the overwhelming support of the people of Jigawa State to whom he signifies transformation in its entirety. He further has the support of the state governors of the “new PDP”. These states are allegedly states with the highest PDP voters and, with that, he is sure to gather a whole lot of votes. Besides, he seems to have secured the support of the wealthy former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar.
GOVERNOR ROTIMI AMAECHI
Governor Rotimi Amaechi was not always a politician; he was at first a public relations officer of Pamo Clinics and Hospitals Limited (1988) owned by the former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili. It was in 1992 that he cut into the Rivers political scene as the special assistant to the deputy governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili. In 1999, he contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, representing Ikwere LGA and was subsequently elected and re-elected speaker of the House in 2003.
In 2007, Amaechi brought a suit over his party’s decision to make Celestine Omehia the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate. Omehia had been favoured by then Governor Odili. Amaechi won the suit with the support of the militants and became Rivers State governor on Oct 26, 2007. He was re-elected governor in April 2011.
Amaechi is certainly gaining international and national popularity with the latest intrigues surrounding his political ambition in recent years. Speculations are rife that he had used his clout as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to foster his vice-presidential ambition. Not once but twice. Governors play a critical role in the emergence of presidential candidates. Amaechi’s position as NGF chairman gives him the strategic position required to win the backing of critical stakeholders in the polity.
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER (NSA)
As in the case of the police, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) is another agency whose role will be very crucial in deciding the shape of events during the forthcoming election. Any security advice from the NSA regarding the corporate peace and existence of Nigeria concerning the election or any perceived threat from any quarter cannot be undermined. Such security advice may even trigger off any decision that can be taken by INEC to the effect of allowing or disallowing any politician to contest elections.
The NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) is very relevant here as well as his role as the one who heads the office that coordinates other security agencies. His objective stance at all times will be a parameter to assess his performance in office, the credibility of the election and Nigeria at large in the eyes of the world.
IGP AND THE POLICE
The strategic importance of the role of the police in a crucial national exercise as the 2015 elections cannot be doubted. Even though the inspector-general of police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, is not a politician, his role as the IGP together with the Nigeria Police Force will determine the shape of events before and during the elections.
As the head of the police force, his ability to stand firm or fall to any side in favour of any contender who may wish to use the police for a particular advantage will contribute in determining the results. For him, the major challenge ahead is to play according to the rules and to ensure that the force which he heads does not work in secret or in the open to favour any candidate. This will earn the police and Abubakar himself more accolades than anything short of this. His integrity and that of the police would be better preserved also. Needless to say, the credibility or otherwise of the historic elections lies so much in the hands of security operatives of which the police is at the vanguard.
INEC AND JEGA
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, alongside resident electoral commissioners in the 36 states of the federation seem to be the deciders of where the pendulum swings at the end of the day, barring judicial interference.
INEC is a making of the law. Under the 1999 Constitution, the independence of INEC as a body is guaranteed by Section 158(1) which provides that “the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person when exercising its powers to appoint and effect disciplinary control over persons. Also, according to Section 4 of the INEC Establishment Decree and Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution (15), the commission is saddled with certain responsibilities in order to achieve desirable political administration.
The functions include: to register political parties, organize and supervise all the elections, conduct registration of eligible voters and compile authentic voter register, monitor the organization and operation of the political parties including their finances, conduct registration of eligible voters and compile authentic voter register, constituency delineation, among several others.
But how the electoral umpire and its personnel will carry out their mandate is a determinant of what to come in 2015. Given its past notorious record of outright partiality and reluctance in some instances to do what is right, INEC can make or mar the 2015 elections.
THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE SERVICES (DSS)
The State Security Service (SSS) is the primary domestic intelligence agency of Nigeria. It is primarily responsible for intelligence gathering within the country and for the protection of senior government officials, particularly the president and state governors. It is one of three successor organisations to the National Security Organization (NSO) dissolved in 1986. The SSS operates as a department within the presidency and is under the control of the national security adviser. The SSS has come under repeated criticism from both within Nigeria and without; it is viewed as an instrument of political repression, used by whatever government is in power to harass and intimidate political opponents. SSS officials maintain that they act constitutionally, providing needed internal peace and security for the people of Nigeria. The agency is also known as the Department of State Services (DSS).
Politicians in power might influence the agency to compile a fictitious dossier on any politician they consider a threat, which will tamper with his integrity, hence his disqualification from contesting political office.
It is interesting to note that the body’s action and inaction, depending on what is involved, will go a long way in determining 2015.
The creation of the duo of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) was among the greatest achievements of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. Their mandates are separately the same, that is, to combat corruption in whatever form and at all levels of the country.
Alas! Not a few see these desirable agencies in this era of corruption as ready tools in the hands of people in power to hunt their perceived opponents. A classical case was at the twilight of Obasanjo’s government in 2007 when the pioneer EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, was in charge. He raised a lot of dust on the political scene of the country when the commission came up with a list of purportedly corrupt politicians who were stopped at the eleventh hour from contesting elections.
The action was believed to be a hatchet job and, in achieving the objective, it was alleged that Obasanjo had the active support of the then attorney-general and minister of justice, Bayo Ojo. The trio of Obasanjo, Ojo and Ribadu allegedly treated then INEC chairman Maurice Iwu with suspicion. He was seen in the circle as being too close to ex-Adamawa State governor Boni Haruna and, by implication, close to Obasanjo’s estranged deputy, Atiku Abubakar.
That action by Ribadu gave the anti-graft agencies a bad name and many are therefore sceptical of their real motives whenever it is election time.
The Judiciary is widely believed to be the last beacon of hope for anybody who is aggrieved. The third estate of the realm is known for redressing injustice but, unfortunately, politics has found its way into the sacred temple of justice and destroyed the very virtue of justice therein.
An independent judiciary is universally acknowledged as one of the most defining and definitive features of a functional democracy. Many see it as an essential barrier against abuse of power, authoritarianism and arbitrariness. How it functions as well as how the various stakeholders in a democratic experiment appropriate its interventions and role in the polity are critical indicators of the health or otherwise of a democracy.
Some members of the bench have been accused of trading judgement for money which caused great brouhaha. Therefore, if the judiciary compromised its independence at any point, the result would be as unpleasant as the cases in Osun and Sokoto states’ post-gubernatorial elections.
By LEADERSHIP's Bode Gbadebo, Paul Chiama, Adah Abah and Chikelu Chinelo