By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The year 2017 may remotely look like a passive year for politicians with the Anambra State governorship election about the most obvious political engagement. However, political undercurrents shadowing the 2019 political engagements two years ahead will flow through 2017 and define the way, and manner politics will be played in the immediate future.
Among the events that will engage political pundits will be some issues that flowed from last year among which are the controversies concerning the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki, the corruption allegations against some principal officers of the administration, the ongoing political realignment in the All Progressives Congress, APC; the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the continuing moves to form a mega political party from the perceived carcases of the two major political parties.
The implications of the new constitution to be churned out by the National Assembly in the first half of the year, as well as manoeuvres by political stakeholders in Edo and Rivers State will reverberate through the year.THE war against corruption: The month of January would be definitive on how the world would reckon the anti-corruption battle of the present administration. Having sent a number of officials of the former PDP administration for trial on cases involving corruption, eyes would be focussed on how the APC administration addresses the internal battles within it that have exposed a spew of alleged corrupt deals involving some of its principal officials.
On focus would be the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal who was last month indicted by a Senate Committee for allegedly running a private company while engaged in public service among other alleged unethical issues.
Given Mr. Lawal’s close relationship with the president and his alleged membership of a section of the cabal, eyes would be on the president to see what he would do if Mr. Lawal is unable to prove his innocence in the court of public opinion.
Mr. Lawal was one of the principal facilitators of Buhari’s sweep of Adamawa and the Northeast in the 2014 APC presidential primaries. Even though he was National Vice-Chairman, Northeast of the APC, there were very few who did not know of his bias for Buhari against Atiku Abubakar in the APC primaries.
His possible departure from the administration would be celebrated by the Atiku camp in the APC, but how possible it could mollify or keep them within the party would be another guess.
Given the bad politics between Mr. Lawal and the Senate President, many would be watching to see how the Senate would receive Mr. Lawal during the defence of the budget of the Office of the SGF.
Also in January, attention would also be riveted on Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, whose nomination for the substantive position was turned down by the Senate upon a scathing report by the Department of State Services, DSS.
Given the fact that he was rejected by the Senate, stakeholders would be watching to see how the 2017 budget proposals of the commission would be defended before the Senate. The general expectation is that the Senate would refuse Mr. Magu to defend the budget outlay of a body that a government agency said he is not capable of leading.
Saraki trial: The trial of the President of the Senate of allegations flowing from his service as governor of Kwara State more than ten years ago is expected to resume. That the security agencies had to dig back into his stewardship in Kwara suggested to many political stakeholders that the trial was politically motivated on account of the Senate leadership contest.
However, with Senator Saraki and President Buhari now chummy, the trial of the country’s number three man which is expected to resume this January could draw much interest. Against the background of the alleged biases against Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, the prospects of a change attitude would be of interest.
The parallel trial of the Senate President and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu over the allegation of forging the Senate Rule Book was cut short last year after the prosecution dropped the charges on the premise that they were improperly filed.
The two houses of the National Assembly are expected in the first half of the year to conclude work on the ongoing alteration of the 1999 Constitution. The proposals on the card include proposals to strengthen democracy at the local government level through proposals to guarantee a three year tenure for local councils. That proposal would deny funding from the Federation Account to any local government council that is not democratically elected ala, caretaker committees. The moves to strengthen the councils would also scrap the State/Local Government Joint Accounts and by such empower the councils with funds that have otherwise been denied them by their governors.
Also on the card is the move to grant financial autonomy to the State Houses of Assembly, a proposal that was agreed by the National Assembly before but spurned by the state legislative houses.
Given President Buhari’s acclaimed stance against corruption he is expected to key into the moves and by that assure more development at the local government levels.
Whither apc, pdp and the mega party?
The APC and the PDP would this year face more crises as the leaders of the two parties continue to position themselves for relevance.
The crisis in the APC has already been defined by the failure of the party to hold requisite meetings such as the National Executive Committee, NEC, and conventions. Even worse, the Board of Trustees, BoT of the party is yet to be formed more than two years after the party was formed.
The internal crisis that was first defined by the hostility of the party leadership towards the National Assembly leadership has apparently turned round with the John Odigie-Oyegun leadership in full war against the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu tendency.
That war is not expected to abate, especially given assumptions by the Tinubu Camp that it helped to plant Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman. Ahead of the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States next year, it is expected that the crisis in the party could worsen especially as the different camps position to take dominance of the structures that would produce the candidates for the elections.
A similar meltdown in the PDP could also be expected especially given the fact that the two major tendencies throughout last year refused to succumb to alternative dispute resolution.
The prospects of the PDP holding a safe and agreeable convention as planned in March seem farfetched, and PDP chieftains are expected to increasingly shift focus towards the planned mega party.
A committee to interact between the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee and other political parties including chieftains of the mega party has already been put in place. But given the fact that those behind the mega party have begun to show themselves, the possibility of them acting with discretion in the matter and springing a surprise on the APC has been denied them.
Any more rivers to cross for Wike?
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was in Sokoto State last weekend. Yesterday, he told the Sultan, Alhaji Abubakar Sa‘ad III that Rivers State under him would not contemplate the splitting of Nigeria.
The visit could have underlined the historic engagement between the core-north and the South-South people, but it also affirms the determination of the embattled governor to consolidate his position in the face of the spirited attacks against him by the internal opposition to his rule.
Through the year, Governor Wike could be the subject of political conspiracies by the APC opposition, but it is doubtful if such would undermine his position.
With President Buhari increasingly engaged with the issues of the economy and having to contend with multiple internal challenges within his administration, Wike may have a breather in the year ahead.
Biafra: The agitation for Biafra would continue to resonate through the polity in the year ahead, especially if the administration continues to keep secessionist leader, Nnamdi Kanu permanently locked up. The leaders of the agitation would be expected to externalise the incarceration and possibly deploy the United Nation’s charter for self-determination as a platform for their quest.
Anambra: Towards the end of the year, the only off season governorship election would hold in Anambra State. Governor Willie Obiano would be easily expected to get the ticket of his All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The opposition would come from the APC and the PDP. However, the likely contenders in the PDP, notably Senator Andy Uba and Mrs. Uche Ekwunife according to speculations are already bracing to defect to the APC where they are expected to confront two men that have already started mobilising.
Contenders in the PDP
Comrade Tony Nwoye, the former chairman of the PDP in the state and presently a member of the House of Representatives and Chief George Moghalu, a former national secretary of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP are the two major contenders that Uba may meet if he goes on to declare for the APC.
Nwoye was the PDP candidate in the 2012 contest and made a very good run despite the hostility of the PDP establishment and the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who reportedly showed a preference for the APGA candidate instead of their party man.
While tapping on the goodwill he has across the state, Nwoye would face the challenge of contesting against the goodwill of Moghalu who despite his limited structure has the goodwill of never having been in the PDP.
Platform of good works
Despite reported efforts by mutual friends of Mr. Peter Obi and Governor Willie Obiano to reconcile the two men, the former governor and his hand chosen incumbent are expected to go into the election on opposite sides. While it is too early in the day to predict how it would turn out, the horizon does not look very promising for Obiano to canter to victory on the platform of his good works.
After its show in Edo State, the gist is that the APC is desperate to get a foothold in the Southeast ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The decision of Dr. Chris Ngige not to seek the governorship could make it a straight fight between Nwoye and Moghalu irrespective of Senator Uba’s decision.
Tinubu: Eyes would continue to be on the political gesticulations of Asiwaju Tinubu in the APC. Though the rumour is that he is not happy after what was done to him in Ondo State, political pundits believe that Tinubu may not rustle the feathers yet especially given the fact that his camp threw away its advantage by entering the Ondo primaries as a divided house.
Insinuations that Tinubu is not very happy is, however, countered by the claim by some of his few critics in the Southwest that the president has deferred to him by so far appointing only his nominees to the political appointments made from the Southwest. Fingers point towards the appointments into the National Communications Commission, NCC, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and some aides of the president including Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Tinubu it is said may not rock the boat in 2017 despite his beef with his former loyalist, Odigie-Oyegun.
From 2017 Politics: The year of the undercurrents by Vanguard (Politics)