New Year: Political issues likely to shape 2021 - NATIONAL TRUMPET


Saturday, January 2, 2021

New Year: Political issues likely to shape 2021

The year 2021, which has been described as the 2023 general election’s pre-campaign year, is expected to witness key political developments. JOHN ALECHENU examines some major issues that may shape the year’s political happenings.

The year 2020 witnessed its fair share of political upheavals. These included the leadership crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress which led to the removal of its former National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the entire National Working Committee; the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections; as well as defections across party lines.

Without a doubt, the year 2020 will remain a year most citizens of the world will not forget in a hurry.

From the turmoil within the governing APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, to the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide lockdown, #EndSARS protests and high-profile deaths, Nigerians across the board will continue to remember 2020 as a unique year.

During the past year, there were already signs that the politics of the 2023 general elections, which started in hushed voices in 2020, would not only gather steam but reach feverish pitch this year.

But on a brief look, the Anambra State governorship election is scheduled to hold this year. The incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, is about rounding off his second tenure.

For obvious reasons, it will be an election to watch because the stakes for the parties are high.

For example, Anambra is the only state where the All Progressives Grand Alliance is in power at the state level. Meanwhile, the two dominant parties, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, are keenly interested in winning the state. The possibility of any other opposition party emerging cannot be entirely ruled out as well.

While APGA would do all it can to retain the state, APC and PDP would likely leave no stone unturned to win the state.

At the moment, PDP has 15 states while APC-controlled states rose to 20 when Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State joined the party few months ago.

Away from Anambra State and starting with the planned APC membership registration/revalidation exercise scheduled to commence in the second week of January, political pundits have predicted an intense year of politicking within the two dominant political parties, the APC and the PDP.

The enormity of the task of rebuilding the party after the ouster of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC will put the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the APC in the spotlight.

Within six months, the committee is expected to reconcile aggrieved party members, update and revalidate its membership register, hold congresses at the ward, local government and state levels, and hold a national convention to elect new party leaders.

As the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Dr Salihu Lukman, a vocal advocate of reforms within the APC, noted, “We must remember that like any human organisation, our party is not perfect, and our responsibility is to constantly work to improve on the capacity of the party to grow and effectively provide us with the platform to be able to engage in political contests. In order words, our party is work-in-progress.”

Since the return of democracy in 1999, after decades of military rule, the battle for the control of structures of political parties has been more intense in ruling political parties, both at the state or the federal levels.

A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP now a Gombe State APC chieftain, Abdullahi Jalo, explained that the reason for this was not farfetched.

He said, “By the Nigerian constitution, you cannot contest for elective office without being sponsored by a political party. And for the typical politician, he or she will want to control the process to ensure he comes out triumphant. For some who don’t see politics as a game, they resort to desperate measures. Some politicians go as far as deploying thugs to unleash violence on their opponents just to get what they want. The year 2021 is not likely to be different because there will be alignments and realignments of political forces. The movement of established politicians from one party to another will intensify, because this is the year before the year of full-blown campaigns for the 2023 elections.”

The expected official take-off of the campaign machinery of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, and other party members interested in the APC presidential ticket, is also likely to have a telling effect on the party’s health.

The jostle for the control of the party’s soul is likely to intensify in the year ahead. The party’s governors, who are obviously its most powerful power bloc, will certainly be interested in who succeeds Buhari.

Appeals by the APC for its members to withdraw pending litigations from court and embrace dialogue have so far largely gone unheeded.

Some party leaders, including a former National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hillard Eta, have refused to withdraw their suits against the party.

Eta, for example, is in court challenging the dissolution of the Oshiomhole-led NWC which he was a part of.

Although the party had since expelled him, he insisted he remained a member of the ruling party and, in fact, its acting National Chairman.

The outcome of the court case may likely have an effect on how the APC conducts its affairs going forward. The case of the opposing camps in the Rivers, Bayelsa and Zamfara states’ chapters of the party will also attract more than a passing interest among Nigerians.

This is for the simple reason that the judiciary has played a decisive role in the fortunes/misfortunes of the party in the three states in the past years.

In Rivers State, the APC was denied the opportunity of fielding candidates for all elective positions in 2019, while in Zamfara and Bayelsa states, the party contested and won elections but was stripped of its victory through the court.

In Zamfara, the court held that the party failed to conduct primaries in line with its own guidelines and in Bayelsa, the court held that the party fielded an ineligible candidate as its deputy governorship candidate.

Although there is still a subsisting court judgement declaring Igo Aguma as APC Caretaker Committee Chairman for Rivers State, the party’s national headquarters recognises Isaac Ogbobula as its caretaker chairman.

Aguma is sympathetic to the cause of Senator Magnus Abe while Ogbobula is said to be doing the bidding of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi.

The resolution of this and similar conflicts, as well as the conduct of congresses, will certainly decide the fate of the party, at least in the South-South geo-political zone where it currently does not control any of the six states.

The party’s congresses expected to take place nationwide will also be of interest to political pundits. This is largely due to the fact that it has the potential to either make or mar the party as a political platform.

Some political observers are of the view that the APC has yet to recover from the fallouts of the rancorous primaries it held in 2018.

The situation in the APC is not different from that of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party. The crisis in the South-West geo-political zone is threatening to engulf the entire party. The PDP is also bracing for an upgrade of its membership register and a national convention later in the year. The tenure of the incumbent Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee will expire in December. There are indications that he is interested in a second term in office.  However, the political intrigues and permutations ahead of 2023 elections are likely to have a telling effect on not only him, but the entire party.

If, as it is widely being speculated, the party is to zone its presidential ticket to the South, the position of the National Chairman will definitely go to the North. If on the other hand, it is zoned to the North, the chairmanship will remain in the South.

However, whichever is the case, other zones or aspirants will also seek to replace Secondus. The party is also battling internal strife, while many of its leading lights interested in the presidential ticket will also be reviving their campaign machinery before the end of the year.

This among, other things, will put pressure on the party to take decisions which could either sway public opinion for or against it.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a serial contestant for the position of President, is reported to have revived his campaign machinery. He may be contesting the PDP presidential ticket against younger opponents such as the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, whose second term as governor ends in 2023; former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke; and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, among others.

All of these persons will certainly be interested in whether or not the party retains the current zoning formula which keeps the national chairmanship position in the South.

Eminent leaders of thought under the aegis of the National Consultative Front are also gearing up to transform into a political party.

The group which parades personalities such as Prof. Pat Utomi; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’abba;  former National Chairman of the National Conscience Party, Dr Yunusa Tanko, among others, are proposing an alternative to the PDP and the APC.

A prominent promoter of the new group, Olawale Okuniyi, who is also the National Secretary of Project Nigeria, said, “We are still having consultations with Nigerians across the board on the way forward; that will be decided early this year. The truth is that both the PDP and the APC are two sides of the same coin; they have both failed Nigerians. We are launching a mega political movement in January and have a full inauguration in June.”

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “The fact that we are already talking about 2023 elections just two years out of the four years of this regime is a clear sign that Nigerians are tired of the cluelessness and clear lack of focus of this regime and can’t wait to vote the APC out of office.”

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