Nigerian politicians to watch in 2022 (I)

December 28, 2021
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By SUNDAY ODIBASHI

The year 2022 will be crucial in Nigeria’s political transition in the country’s growth and development of democracy. As the year preceding the general elections in 2023, tradeoffs for party tickets and electioneering campaigns will be at high altitude. Political parties will have herculean tasks coordinating competitions for tickets, including marketing the various emergent candidates to the voters across the country.

In all, certain political actors are going to be cynosure of activities in different locations across the country.

National Daily x-rays some political actors that could make significant impact in 2022 towards the buildup to the 2023 general elections.

Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be significant in the race for the 2023 presidential election. His participation in the contest for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will raise the standard of politicking in the party.

Atiku has been in the presidential race since 1992; and has contested for the presidential tickets in three primary elections in the contemporary democratic dispensation in Nigeria before emerging a presidential candidate in 2019. His lobby and mobilization team led by High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, is already traversing the country soliciting support for Atiku to secure the PDP presidential ticket.

Atiku has a high name recognition score across the country, almost equivalent to a sitting president at all times in history. He has high political capital and electoral value. Further details of Atiku’s leadership credential will be unveiled in subsequent reports.

Bola Tinubu

The national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been identified as a frontline presidential aspirant in the APC. Various groups have been lobbying and mobilizing support for the former Lagos State governor, and leader of a remarkable legacy party in the APC alliance, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Tinubu is expected to make an official statement in January 2022 on his presidential ambition and contest for the APC ticket. Tinubu’s participation in the contest for the APC presidential ticket will electrify activities in the ruling APC in the buildup to the 2023 general elections. He has political clout, structure, resources, and influence. This will be Tinubu’s first attempt to become Nigeria’s president after years of being a kingmaker.

Details of Tinubu’s credential in subsequent reports.

Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will be a striking political actor when he formally declares for the 2023 presidential race. Certain strong groups are already mobilizing support across the country for Prof. Osinbajo in the race for the APC 2023 presidential ticket.

Contrary to misinterpretations of squaring up against the renowned political leader in the southwest, Tinubu, who some describe as ‘godfather’ in the region, VP Osinbajo provides the southwest with an alternative presidential aspirant in the mainstream APC. If the baton rolls off the head, it could land on the shoulder.

VP Osinbajo, however, does not have established an independent political structure to prosecute campaigns but has incumbency factors at his behest. He is widely perceived to be calm, calculative, and firm.

Bukola Saraki

The former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki, has already lubricated his political machine for the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP, in the first instance. He is bringing his intelligence and tactical prowess on board in seeking the ticket for the 2023 presidential election.

Saraki contested a mock primary election for nomination of a northern consensus candidate in 2011 with Atiku, General Ibrahim Babangida, etc., won by Atiku; to face former President Goodluck Jonathan at the PDP national convention. He further contested the APC primary in 2015 won by President Muhammadu Buhari, and later PDP primary in 2019.

Saraki is on the march again in the buildup to 2023; he enjoys the support of former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida.

Rabi’u Kwankwaso

Former Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State is also one of the frontline presidential aspirants in the PDP. He has preeminent dominance in Kano and its environs. He had made two attempts at securing presidential tickets, first in the APC 2015, and later in the PDP 2019. Kwankwaso’s presidential ambition has no restraint.

Nyesom Wike

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has been a potent force in the PDP since 2015 the party lost power to the APC. He has led many struggles to refine the PDP leadership, besides his legal battles with the federal government on certain issues on functional federalism, collection of VAT by state governments, for instance.

Governor Wike is also in the vanguard of the Southern Governors demanding power shift to the south in 2023. He is a political actor to watch in the negotiations for the PDP presidential ticket. He has a sharp two-edged sword in his hand – he is a close ally of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, could support him if the pendulum swings for a northern candidate in the PDP, or could be an aspirant if the south leaders insist on their demand.

Ike Ekweremadu

Former Deputy President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has developed a reputation for coordinating and giving a strong voice to southeast political leaders at the centre. Senator Ekweremadu is expected to play sensitive and stabilizing roles in the governorship election in Enugu State in 2023. This is in addition to ensuring that the voice of the southeast is not silenced at the federal government, including the southeast demand for the 2023 presidential ticket. Ekweremadu is a modest and skillful political actor to watch in 2023.

Rotimi Amaechi

The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State, has been linked with ‘invisible’ but powerful politicking in the ruling APC. There have been speculations that he is a potential presidential aspirant in the ruling party. At different times, there were manifestations of latent cold war between the transport minister, Amaechi, and the APC national leader, Tinubu, over certain partisan issues. Amaechi has strong allies in the north, extending to the leftists in the southwest. He may not want the 2022 political intrigues to pass without being noticed.

Aminu Tambuwal

Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State had penultimate week indicated readiness to commence consultations for the 2023 presidential race. The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, contested the 2019 PDP primary but lost in second place to Atiku. He is a close ally to Governor Wike of Rivers State who gave him immense support in 2019 at the PDP national convention in Port Harcourt where Atiku emerged the party’s presidential candidate.

Tambuwal believes in collective bargaining and consensus building; he is ambitious but not desperate; he is a team player and abides by the rules.  He could swing the pendulum, a political actor to watch in 2022.

Ayim Pius Ayim

The former President of the Senate, Ayim Pius Ayim, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has recently become a rising voice in the southeast in the buildup to 2023. He has been linked to the race for the PDP presidential ticket. Ayim worked closely with Saraki in conflict reconciliation in the PDP, leading to the party’s national convention where new members of the National Working Committee (NWC) were elected.

Ayim has become a significant political ‘vessel’ as the southeast sustains demand for rotation of the president to the zone. However, Ayim may provide balance of power in the negotiation for the PDP presidential ticket.

Abubakar Bagudu

Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, has been involved in highly sensitive political diplomacy across the country in recent times. The Kebbi State governor has been exporting his political influence from the north to the southwest, south-south and southeast, developing the status of a nationalist and statesman who cares for all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious identities.

Governor Bagudu led some northern governors to Oyo State after the Yoruba/Hausa-Fulani clash at Ibarankpa to douse inter-ethnic tension. The Kebbi governor was also in the APC governors delegation that visited former President Jonathan on two occasions. He also led a delegation to visit Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State at his country home during the 2021 Christmas celebration.

Governor Bagudu’s political diplomacy reflects a significant self-nurture of a national leader, building bridges across the country. He is a political actor to watch in 2022.

Note: No presidential aspirant has formally declared so far. Part II of this story is coming soon.

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