Yemi Ajayi, Davidson Iriekpen, Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Obinna Chima
Given the zero some nature of politics in Nigeria, opinions are divided on the nation’s political and economic performance last year.
However, many Nigerians believe that despite the challenges, including large-scale insecurity and sluggish economic growth, this year offers an opportunity for the nation’s leaders to raise hope by recommitting to tackling the ranging challenges inhibiting the country from achieving its great potential.
According to analysts THISDAY spoke to at the tail end of last year, what this year holds in stock for Nigerians would depend on what its political and business leaders do or fail to do.
Consequently, THISDAY Board of Editors has isolated 20 Nigerians, who by their prevailing positive contributions to the polity’s development so far, it believes, would help shape events in the country in 2020, the year the paper would celebrate its 25 years of sterling contributions not only to the evolution of modern journalism but also to the development of the country.
Wind that Changes the Sail’s Course
The combination of his influence and cult-like persona, especially among his followers, places President Muhammadu Buhari in a locus to shape the events of the next decade, which began yesterday.
The president, who rode to power in 2015 on the crest of his perceived integrity and the absolute trust he commands among his large supporters, has been able to push through some major controversial policies such as the increment in the pump price of petrol from N87 per litre to N145 and land border closure without much protests from the people.
As Nigeria moves into a new decade along with the rest of the world, the president, who has just begun the final lap in his presidential tour of duty, through his vision, body language and quest to book an assured place for himself in history will determine the course of the nation in key areas such as the economy, the anti-graft war and the war against insurgency in the North-east.
His gravitas, which invigorated the anti-graft war and the war against insurgency in his first term in office, will determine to what extent his administration, and by extension, the nation could consolidate on the gains of his first term in office.
Much of the nation’s fortunes or failures in the next decade and thenceforth would be shaped by the zeal, seriousness and candour with which the president directs his lieutenants to pursue his vision in the next three years that presage the end of his final tenure in power.
The Man with First Right of Refusal
Since he assumed office as vice president, Osinbajo has discharged the functions of his office dutifully. Besides being assigned functions by the president, he oversees the economic planning team and report, as well as makes recommendations, to the president who takes the final decision.
When on May 9, 2017, Buhari embarked on a medical trip, Osinbajo became acting president for the period the president was away, taking import decisions that helped to shape the country and douse tension. Ironically, some of those decisions, including the sacking of Director, State Security Service, Mr. Lawal Daura, after a DSS siege on the National Assembly in 2017, did not go down well power centers in the presidential villa.
Consequently, subsequent presidential trips abroad have not witnessed the handover of power to him, fueling speculations that hitherto smooth relations between the president and his deputy had gone sour. Recent sacking of Osinbajo’s aides and reduction of his responsibilities by the presidency deepened this speculation.
How Osinbajo reacts to his seeming marginalisation would determine the stability of the presidency which is essential for good governance, particularly as the nation struggle to battle its declining economy.
Against all Odds, Still a Reckoning Force
At 74 by the decade and 77 years by the next election cycle, there is such an irresistible tendency on the part of many analysts to write off former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the torch bearer of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election.
But that is a perilous task given the fact that Atiku, who has been on the political scene since the rebirth of democracy in 1999, remains for now a factor in the Nigerian politics. Like Buhari, Atiku has become a veteran presidential runner, a race he has been involved in since 2007.
Besides, he is a well-heeled politician with a wide international and national network as well as a deep war chest that he could deploy either to achieve his perennial presidential quest or to oil the political machinery of any candidate he supports.
Except the subterranean campaign by some influential PDP members for a much younger presidential candidate in the 2023 general election coalesce into a strong force whose tide would be unstoppable, Atiku, in the interim, looks good to clinch the party’s ticket again.
But irrespective of whether he runs in 2023 or not, Atiku remains a viable force in the polity as whichever party he identifies with will need his assets, which will give him a leverage in shaping events in the party and national politics.
His Defining Decade
Oshiomhole’s place in national affairs in the next one year lies in his unique position as the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Since he took over from his fellow Edo man, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, on June23, 2018, Oshiomhole has strove to rebrand the party.
His stewardship and management skills have given the party both gains and losses. The party lost some key states such as Zamfara and Bauchi to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election. It was also disqualified from the race in Rivers State due to an internal strife among its bigwigs in the state.
But it made an inroad into Bayelsa State where it dislodged the PDP, which was the ruling party in the state since 1999 in last month’s governorship election in the state; and retained Kogi State, against initial odds.
Despite his achievements in the party, this year is going to task Oshiomhole’s leadership skills to the limit as the party begins to consider a post-Buhari existence. As the president in the next two years will begin the winding down of his active political career as his final term in office expires, the worries of most political analysts is who will be the centripetal figure to weld the various tendencies in the party together like the president has so far done.
Oshiomhole, who is presently battling an ouster war, championed by some governors of the party, will play a key role in defining the future of the APC, and to a large of extent, that of Nigeria, should he survive the groundswell of opposition launched against him.
Astute Political Strategist
First elected senator for the Lagos West Constituency in 1993 during military regime, Tinubu has today become a household name in the Nigerian politics.
After the return to democracy, he was elected governor of Lagos State, holding office from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. In Lagos today, Tinubu’s name rings bell: a resolute godfather. Virtually everybody in position of authority in the state achieved the height with his assistance: from local government to the governorship seat and to the House of Assembly. He singlehandedly nominated, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
At the national level, his influence is immeasurable. He was largely responsible for the change agenda that brought in the Buhari’s administration in 2015 and 2019.
News in some quarters is that Tinubu is nursing a presidential ambition for 2023. Already, there are clandestine realignment of structures and mobilisation towards his presidential ambition. In 2020, his ambition will come to fore. Already, while to some, Tinubu was the architect of building a modern Lagos, a template, which successive governors relied on for successful tenures in office, others feel that he is one of the problems of Nigeria for making them to vote for Buhari in 2015 and 2019, leading Nigeria into the current not cheering situation.
Unrepentant Political Collaborator
Presently one of the longest-serving lawmakers at the national level, Lawan recently made history when he became President of the Senate. First elected to the House of Representatives for Yobe State in 1999, he was elected to the Senate in 2007. In 2008, he was a member of the National Assembly’s Joint Committee on Constitution Review. In 2009, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Lawan initiated and sponsored the Desertification Control Commission Bill.
Lawan ran for re-election in Yobe North Senatorial District on the ANPP platform in 2011, APC in 2015 and 2019 and won.
With the support of Buhari, he became president of the 9th Senate, after defeating his opponent, Senator Ali Ndume, who is also an APC senator.
Since his emergence, the senate president has not hidden the fact that he would work very closely with the executive arm of government to avoid the frequent conflicts that transpired during the 8th Assembly.
For this reason, many Nigerians are not happy with him, especially the speed with which he approves executive requests from the presidency. They want to see a legislature that would stand up to the excesses of the executive in order uphold the doctrine of the separation of powers.
For these reasons, the way and manner Lawan runs the affairs of the Senate will affect the direction of the Buhari administration in 2020.
The Presidential Power House
Even though he was an influential figure before he was appointed as Chief of Staff by the president in 2015, Kyari, no doubt, has become more powerful. There is nothing happening in the country today that he is said not to be aware of. Seen as a renowned technocrat, the recent directive by the president to ministers to see Kyari, if they want to schedule a meeting with him, shows the kind of influence he wields at the seat of power.
Apart from protecting the interests of the president, Kyari as Chief of Staff controls the flow of people into the seat of power. He continues to live up to the responsibilities of his office and for this he has become fair game for his detractors who seek him as the arrow of the cabal.
Even in those dark days when the president was down in health, Kyari was an oasis of support and inspiration; he had to contend and contain with the maneuvers of over ambitious powerful vested interests, which plotted to take over the reins of government.
In 2020, his influence will continue to soar especially with many feeling that he is behind the plot to draft Babagana Kingibe into the presidential race in 2023.
A Rallying Force for ‘Next Generation’ Politicians
Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State, former Minister of Solid Minerals and Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), among others, has worked his way up the political ladder from being an activist and academic. And in so short a period of doing so, he has become a rallying force of sort for those who believe it is time to end gerontocracy in Nigeria.
He commands respect among his colleagues in the NGF and is one of the few South-west politicians who enjoy the confidence of Buhari, a trust that saw to him playing key roles in the presidential campaigns during the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
His position in NGF, an influential group comprising the 36 state governors, puts him in a position to influence policies, especially at the federal level, and a network that becomes an asset for executing political agenda.
With his tenure in Ekiti ending a year ahead of that of the president, there is no doubt that Fayemi will play active role in APC or if the talks of political realignment ahead of the 2023 general election become a reality, whichever party emerges from the transmutation.
Although there are rumours of him nursing a presidential ambition after his tenure, he has at many fora disclaimed such a quest. But in Nigeria, attention is better paid not to the words of a politician, but his body language. Is there, therefore, a dissonance between Fayemi’s words and body language? Although the years ahead hold the answer, Fayemi by virtue of his position for now, is a key player in shaping the future of the nation in 2020.
Nightmare of the Corrupt
Despite the clouds over his continued stay in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, has remained an influential figure in national affairs since he assumed office in interim capacity on November 9, 2015.
His continued stay in office despite his inability to get Senate confirmation twice due to political shenanigans is a testimony to how much he enjoys the confidence of the president due to his stewardship.
With war against corruption being one of the cardinal policies of the Buhari administration and EFCC being a flagship of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies, Magu is emplaced to shape events of 2020 by how he is able to prosecute the anti-graft war and stave political interference off in the commission’s activities.
Should he survive the current underground campaign to have him ship off to either the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru, to attend the mandatory course for officers of certain ranks, or return to any police formation in the country, Magu will play key role in 2020 in determining the intensity of the anti-graft war and consequentially, the fate of many politically-exposed persons still nursing political ambition.
Taking Oil and Gas to the Next Level
Crude oil plays a dominant role in shaping the direction of the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) regulates Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. As the man at the helms of affairs at the NNPC, Mele Kyari is one of the men that would shape activities in Nigeria this New Year. The NNPC boss, who was appointed in June last year, is expected to, through his TAPE Agenda (Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence), drive innovations that would raise oil revenue in the country.
In line with the corporation’s TAPE Agenda, the NNPC would create innovation labs that will crowd source and harness ideas in solving different business challenges across the value–chain.
Using Monetary Policies to Aid Economic Recovery
Considering the acute fiscal challenges Nigeria is presently facing, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will through its development finance mandate continue to play its interventionist role in the economy. Therefore, policies of the CBN under the leadership Emefiele are expected to shape activities in the Nigerian economy this year.
Emefiele has never hidden his desire to continue to oversee a people-focused central bank. Clearly, this prompted the recent decision by the central bank to slash bank charges as well as its aggressive implementation of the CBN’s pro-poor Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and other development finance initiatives.
An Industrialist as a Rescuer
Dangote, the President of the Dangote Group is unarguably one of those that would shape events in Nigeria in 2020. Apart from the presence of his companies in many sectors of the economy, the ongoing road construction from the Apapa port to Toll
Gate on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will be a game-changer for the country in 2020. The construction work, which started some months ago, was under the Presidential Order Number 7. The order allows companies to build roads and have the money spent deducted from their three-year taxes.
Dangote stated: “We started the road right from the port at Apapa. We are building 10 lanes – five lanes on each side – and there is drainage on both sides and streetlight. It is a concrete road. It is the first heavy concrete road that is up to about 35 kilometres. We would also maintain it for five years. This road will last up to 100 years.
“Government gave us 36 months to complete this project, but I can assure you that we would finish it in 15 months. We should be able to finish before the end of next year.”
A Business Combine Harvester
Since its business combination deal with the defunct Diamond Bank, Access Bank has emerged as a leading financial power house in the country. The bank, which is now looking beyond Nigeria and seeks to expand its footprint in Africa with its latest acquisition of the Transnational Bank Limited of Kenya, has Mr. Herbert Wigwe as its Chief Executive Officer.
Presently Access Bank boasts of being among the five largest banks in Nigeria in terms of assets size, deposits, loans and branch network. The bank’s vision is to be the world’s most respected African bank.
Access Bank under the leadership of Wigwe is expected to play a dominant role in the economy in 2020.
The Banking Guru, Philanthropist
The Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, is one of the leading employers in Nigeria and the founder of one of Nigeria’s tier one banks in the country, Zenith Bank Plc.
Ovia is a philanthropist and the founder and proprietor of James Hope College, Agbor in Delta State. His foundation, which focuses on providing scholarship to the less-privileged, has a number of beneficiaries that are now qualified medical doctors, engineers, etc.
He is also the founder of several enterprises and philanthropic institutions, including the Youth Empowerment & ICT Foundation, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian youths.
Stormy Petrel of South-south Politics
Surviving two serious attempts to remove him from office, Wike, the governor of Rivers State has definitely become a formidable voice not just in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but the country in general.
After his election in 2015, attempts were made to truncate his victory through the tribunal. While the Election Petitions Tribunal and Appeal Tribunal nullified his election, He was eventually saved by the Supreme Court.
For his re-election, the number security operatives deployed in the state even when the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not on the ballot, made many to think that Wike had lost the poll. But with majority of his people behind him and his indefatigability he still won.
Since his victory, the governor has become a strong voice not just in the PDP but the entire South-south. This will help to shape the party in 2020 and beyond.
Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ms. Zainab Ahmed, will play a pivotal role in the economy in 2020. For instance, with this year’s budget already signed into law and with implementation commencing yesterday, the minister will be responsible for allocation of the country’s limited funds, maintaining fiscal discipline, ensuring compliance with the budget law, enforcing effective control of budgetary expenditures. In addition, as the country prepares to approach the debt market, she will be at the centre in advising the government on the best way to go about the initiative.
Also, with the Finance Bill expected to be signed into law in the coming days, Ahmed who has always stressed that Nigeria’s problem remains its weak revenue generating profile, is expected to be seen exerting more energy in driving fiscal policies that would help significantly raise the country’s income level in 2020.
In addition, this year, there is the expectation of a sustained coordination between her ministry and the monetary policy arm of the government this year, to help address some of the challenges the economy is facing.
Unrelenting Agitator for Rule of Law
Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana (SAN) is one irritant the Buhari administration would give anything to persuade, but he has stubbornly refused to be on the same page with the government, often on account of violation of the rights of a citizen by the government.
Incidentally, Falana appears to be the nemesis of this government. Wherever there is a high profile suspect of financial crime or treason, the senior lawyer is sure to tackle the government and demand their release or proper prosecution.
Falana serves as lawyer to the leader of the Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who is being detained for alleged complications in an attack on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff among other allegations bordering on breach of security and public peace. He also led the legal team that battled for the release of the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest and Publisher of the online news website, Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
As long as there are incidents of abuse of human rights, there is no doubt that Falana will continue to lend his influential voice to advocacy for a society where the rule of law is respected.
Activist Outside Power
Since he left office as president in 2007, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has stayed true to his self-imposed mandate as the conscience of the nation.
He remains till date one of the few former African leaders with a wide reach and influence in international arena and respected by many world leaders.
He has used such influence to help government and some key individuals through the backend channels to resolve some knotty issues.
He has, on many occasions, had cause to take on his predecessors, over how they have been managing the nation’s affairs.
His penchant for public letter writing to warn his predecessors about the effects of their leadership styles on governance, and consequently on the people, has pitted him against successive governments and sometimes earned him an admixture of applause and opprobrium.
However, irrespective of whatever offences one might level against Obasanjo, his patriotic fervour is certainly not even in doubt; despite allegations that his patriotic agenda might sometimes be self-serving.
With a new year that will herald another political transition of sort with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration superintending over the conduct of elections that would birth a change in national political leadership, Obasanjo, given his antecedent, is expected to be more vocal on national issues and his suggestions or criticisms could influence how government formulates or executes public policies.
Champion of Igbo Presidency
As President General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo epitomizes the aspiration of every Igbo speaking community, and protects the rights and interests of the Igbo people around the world. Igbos are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.
In 2020, the discourse on Igbo presidency will assume broader dimension. While Nwodo’s group is not partisan, it does not shy away from making political comments and taking sides, where it believes the best interest of Ndi Igbo will be served. So far, the only public office in the federal government that has eluded the Igbos is the office of executive president of Nigeria.
How Nwodo deals with the popular combative Pan-Igbo pro-secession group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which favours confrontation as opposed to Ohaneze’s consultative stance will say a lot about the Igbo quest for the presidency in the New Year.
Success of a Quirky Banker
Sitting atop a financial institution that recorded over N170.7billion profit before tax, representing a growth of 3.9% in the third quarter of last year has its benefits. In the same period, customers’ deposit rose by 5.1% to N2.390trillion. This impressive results commands attention on Mr. Segun Agbaje, Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank and Director MasterCard Advisory Board Middle East and Africa.
During his tenure as Managing Director of GT Bank, Agbaje has been awarded many distinctive recognition including Best Bank in Nigeria by Euromoney; African Bank of the Year by African Banker Award; Best Bank in Nigeria by World Finance UK; Most innovative Bank by EMEA Finance; Best Banking Group by World Business Leader Magazine and Best Bank in Nigeria award by the Banker Awards, but his daring move into the USD7 trillion food business through the GT Bank Food and Drinks Fair was completely unexpected.
In 2016, the GTBank Fashion Weekend was instituted as a consumer-focused fair and free business platform designed to showcase the best of Africa’s fashion to a global audience.
Mr. Agbaje may be considering a big launch into another end-user market that will further consolidate the leadership role of his bank and his ensure his pride of place as a trailblazer in banking.