L-R, President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate president David Mark and Speaker House of reps. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal
Olawale Olaleye, Ademola Adeyemo and Omololu Ogunmade write on major events that are likely to determine how Nigerians will see 2013
Enumerated below are some of the issues expected to shape the New Year. They are either some of the unfinished businesses of last year or issues that the year is billed to generate.
The issue of security remains one aspect of the system where Nigerians expect to see significant improvement. The experience of last year, especially the rise in terrorist attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery and other related vices has created so much fears in the people and caused doubts about government’s ability to contain the situation.
Coordinated attacks, particularly the bombing of public facilities and the killings of high profile personalities, marked the height of insecurity last year.
But the orgy of mindless killings should therefore not continue in the New Year. Much as the challenge of terrorist attacks is alien to the nation’s security system, efforts must be intensified and sustained to ensuring that the tide of last year is checked.
The environment must be safe for business, political and social activities. Those are the expectations in the New Year. Government must come all out in the area of security because it cannot afford to take for granted, the lives and property of people it seeks to govern.
The issue of budget performance has worsened the frosty relations between the legislature and the executive towards the end of last year. Indeed, alleging poor releases of funds as reasons for the dismal performance of the budget, which made the House of Representatives to give the executive a wake-up call, the last cannot be said to have been heard of that episode.
Thus, the passage of the 2013 budget by the end of last year is seen as a decision embraced by the National Assembly in order not to leave any room for excuses on the part of the executive in the implementation of the budget. It therefore stands to reason that there might be renewed hostilities if the executive fails to meet expectations in terms of budget performance.
That aside, the ego and popularity contest between both arms of government might continue in the New Year as they both seem to have personal axe to grind with each other.
However, with constant dialogue between the two arms of government such as was seen in the last few weeks till the end of last year, which resulted in easing the tension between the two arms of government, the two sides can find a common ground to work together in the interest of the people.
Amendment to the 1999 Constitution is one of the many unfinished businesses of last year. As a major assignment in the hands of elected officials at both federal and state legislatures, this year may eventually witness the making of a major amendment exercise.
Although, there had been failed attempts to do a major amendment to the constitution, this exercise has generated as much interests in members of the public that it should not be another failed exercise. Yet, the same public is cynical about the lawmakers handing them a truly people’s document that would address salient issues.
It is expected that the National Assembly will live above board, dispel indications of suspicion and come up with a document that would satisfy critical areas of the national questions. President of the Senate, David Mark, at the regional public hearing on constitution review in Lagos, promised that the exercise would be just what the Nigerian people desire.
In the same vein, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, both of whom are co-chairing the review committee had also promised to churn out a good document that would stand the test of time.
Although, the National Assembly had at each turn, tried to parry questions pertaining to the need to subject the amended constitution to referendum before its adoption, the ability to manage the growing distrust in the quest for an enduring exercise is what Nigerians are waiting to see in the New Year.
Focus on Enugu, Cross River, Kogi and Taraba
Up until the end of last year, the state of health of Governors Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) Idris Wada (Kogi) and Danbaba Suntai (Taraba) had constituted concerns to the Nigerian people. While Chime’s whereabouts remains unknown since he embarked on vacation on September 19, 2012, unconfirmed reports had it that the governor was seriously sick.
His deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, has since taken over. But the state House of Assembly was reported to have given him till the end of this month to speak up on his whereabouts else, it might be constrained to commence an impeachment process against him.
Enugu is a state to watch out for this New Year.
Imoke who had also relinquished powers to his deputy, Efiok Cobham, on grounds of leave, was also said to be sick even though government has since refuted the speculation, saying he had only gone on deserved leave.
Suntai is presently in a German hospital where reports on his state of health remain contradictory. The Taraba governor was involved in a plane crash towards the end of last year and had since been flown to Germany for better medical care. In his stead, however, his deputy, Alhaji Garuba Umar, has been acting.
But feelers from those with first hand information on his health are not sure about his ability to govern the state again even if he gets well and have begun to scheme to play a major role on who emerges the deputy to Umar.
Wada's deputy, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi, may also join the list of accidental governors following last Saturday's involvement of the governor in an auto crash. The accident which was said to have happened on Lokoja-Ajaokuta Road, near Salem University, reportedly affected the governor who is now under intensive care.
Sadly, the cases of the Governors, all of whom had been flown abroad, except for Wada who refused medical treatment overseas, have brought to the fore, the state of the Nigerian hospitals such that cannot entertain even the simplest of health conditions. This, therefore, is an eye opener for the leadership to pay attention to the medical system.
Ekiti, Osun on the Spot
Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States are meant to come up next year, 2014. Governors of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Mr. Rauf Aregbesola respectively, were declared governors towards the end of 2010. Thus, another election is due in the state in 2014. As a result, there would be flurry of activities as campaigns will begin this year with interested aspirants throwing their hats in the ring.
While campaign activities would start and subsequently reach feverish pitch this year, it is expected that concerned authorities would pay attention to the states with a view to containing tensions and moderating activities of the actors and their parties. Events that culminated in the Edo and Ondo elections of last year are indications of the desperations that could characterise political activities, preparatory to any election in states.
Anambra Council Polls
The New Year is expected to be a defining moment in Anambra State politics. It is expected to be a year of decision for Governor Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which like his predecessors has been dragging his feet on the conduct of local government elections. For almost seven years, Obi has defied clamours for conduct of the polls, giving what stakeholders have described as nothing but untenable and flimsy excuses.
The highpoint of the controversy surrounding the non-conduct of the polls was the face-off between Obi and the embattled National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, who alleged that he fell out with Obi because he insisted government must conduct local government elections.
Nevertheless, insinuations are rife that Obi has resisted all entreaties for the conduct of the polls because of fears that the opposition might overrun the ruling APGA at the grassroots. Even though Obi has been in power for nearly seven years, he is said not to have a grip of the politics of the state, especially at the grassroots.
His opponents often submit that his victory at the last governorship poll was the offshoot of the respect that the people of Anambra State had for the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who was the national leader of APGA.
Thus at the heat of electioneering towards the February 2010 governorship election in the state, Odimegwu-Ojukwu who himself was battling for survival having been struck by protracted ailment, had urged the people of Anambra to return Obi as governor as a measure of their respect for him. Indeed, the plea paid off as Obi was re-elected.
But now that Ojukwu is no more, Obi’s opponents and stakeholders in the state have alleged that the governor’s refusal to conduct the polls is a deliberate attempt to cover up his shortcomings, being allegedly unsure that his party can make any appreciable impact at the council. There are also allegations that Obi believes that the outcome of the polls will expose his weakness as a sitting governor since ruling parties in other states always cleared council elections since 1999.
However, with another governorship election due towards the end of the New Year, many believe that Obi would have positioned himself on the wrong side of history as one governor who subjected people at the grassroots to undue punishment owing to rumoured fear of defeat if again he fails to conduct the council elections this year.
INEC Political Reform
This year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will continue with its reform of the political system as the commission has vowed to carry through its crusade of ridding the polity of unproductive political parties. Beginning from 2011, INEC has flushed out no fewer than 39 political parties thus bringing the number of existing parties in the country today from 63 to 24.
Not done yet, INEC has promised to throw out other parties which in its estimation, only litter the political landscape with no value to add to the political system. The Attahiru Jega-led INEC has said it would not be cowed by the campaign of calumny being spearheaded by owners of deregistered political parties who had accused INEC of overstepping its boundary by deregistering their parties.
While the party owners have alleged contempt of court against Jega and the commission, saying the issue of deregistration is subjudice; Jega has insisted that the commission was guided by existing laws, including an act of parliament in carrying out the exercise.
Therefore, given the commission’s threat to continue with the de-registration this year, the number of political parties in the country may be less than 10 since the known viable political parties so far include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive (CPC), Labour Party, Democratic Party and the Accord Party (AP).
But the year is also expected to witness the registration of new parties as Jega has said the door will be opened for fresh applications for party registration. Therefore, while many more political parties are expected to be delisted in the New Year, new parties are also expected to be registered.
Politics of Fuel Subsidy
Last year was a harrowing one for Nigerians as the Federal Government’s attempt to end the fuel subsidy regime brought untold hardship to the people. Beginning from January 1, 2012, when government unilaterally announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, fuel scarcity became a common trend across various parts of the country.
From Abuja to Lagos, Kebbi, Abia and Port Harcourt, citizens groaned under the effects of fuel scarcity. Despite Jonathan administration's claim that it had instituted the policy of uniform price of petroleum products across the country, prices of petrol varied from one part of the country to the other.
The product went for as high as N120 per litre in Northern and Eastern parts of the country, while the N97 fixed pump price remained only in some filling stations in Lagos and Abuja. Besides, despite the so-called sanitisation of the oil sector by the Federal Government, the government still spent over N1 trillion on subsidy last year, including arrears of 2011, fuelling allegations that government has not done enough to rid the sector of graft.
This is bearing in mind that before the advent of Jonathan’s administration, previous governments spent less than N400 billion on subsidy yearly.
Nigerians, however, hope that the New Year will witness an improvement while fuel subsidy culprits are sanctioned under the law. Nigerians also hope that the report of the presidential task force led by former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, which probed the rot in the sector would not be swept under the carpet.
PDP BoT Chairmanship
The issue of who succeeds former President Olusegun Obasanjo as chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) will be decided this January 8. The board’s secretary, Senator Walid Jibrin, said the party had set the criteria to be met by any aspirant to the position. Jibrin noted that the next chairman must be sound, acceptable, credible with proven integrity and have a clear vision for the party’s mission. He also said whoever emerges, according to the party constitution, will serve a single term of five years.
PDP’s BoT chairmanship became vacant following Obasanjo’s resignation some eight months ago. Since then, the jostle for the office had continued. Some of the contenders to the office are former BoT chairman and Works Minister, Chief Tony Anenih, Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former national chairman of the party, Dr Ahmadu Ali, former Senate President, Dr. Ken Nnamani and Chairman, Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.
Of all the contenders, Anenih and Ekwueme are top runners but analysts believe the race is open especially that the president is said to be undecided yet. Besides, Obasanjo is also said to have begun to root for a Yoruba successor as a way of redressing the imbalance in the power sharing equation.
The former president is believed to be rooting for a chieftain of the party from South-west in the person Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun. But above all, factors that may decide who heads the board are credibility, past achievements and the body language of the president.
Distractions of 2015
Although, the 2015 general election is some two years away, intrigues towards the presidential, governorship, national and state assemblies’ elections will enter critical stage this year. Interestingly, for both the PDP and the opposition, the 2015 general election will determine their respective standing in the polity.
Recently, former governor of Yobe State, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, said the opposition parties would defeat the PDP in the 2015 presidential election.
Yet, several factors have made the 2015 elections a concern of many. First is the uncertainty over President Goodluck Jonathan’s rumoured bid to seek re-election. Before the 2011 election, the president had promised to serve just a term. He reiterated the promise during his visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia shortly before the last presidential election.
But his body language, a few months into his first term, is said to be suggesting that he might seek re-election. This, consequently, has begun to heat the polity with interested parties even seeking interpretation in the court of law on his eligibility for the election.
While the case is still in court, the Igbo have also intensified agitation for a president from their area to balance the age-long marginalisation of the South-east.
Development such as this has heightened the stake for 2015 and obviously, this New Year will take most of the shocks for an exercise that is still to come.
The latest report on the merger/alliance talks by opposition parties is that a new mega party will come up by March this year. That means the talks had reached a critical stage and the need to tidy up this year preparatory to the 2015 election is pivotal. The opposition had gone into talks immediately after the 2011 elections.
Although, similar talks preceded the 2011 elections, inability to reconcile obvious differences collapsed that move. The resumed talks after the exercise however appear serious. Should this work out, it will certainly change the tempo of politics and form part of the issues that would guide debate for the 2015 general election.
A lot of people, no doubt, have their reservation about the workability of the merger, especially that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is said to be pushing for the use of its logo and name. However, others have reportedly turned down such a suggestion, preferring the formation of a brand new party.
But whichever way, the outcome of the merger talks is an attraction in the New Year and it would go a long way in shaping the 2015 elections.