2020 has come and gone amid uptick of interests in the polity cutting across regions and political parties in the country. 2021 will no doubt be greeted with more politicking as horse trading and realignments for the 2023 general elections occupies the minds of political actors in the better part of the year.
This will be so because in the previous year, debates over which region should produce the next president and debates over the need for merit dominated political discuss.
The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is eager to retain power at the central but the leadership crisis in the party and uncertainty about where the pendulum swings as to party’s presidential ticket, will no doubt remain a contending issue in the months ahead.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is faced with its own challenge of not just providing better opposition, but keep its house in order.
Still, there are individuals to watch out for, across party lines, this year whom in their capacities, wield measures of influence to define the quality of political engagements in 2021.
Who becomes the next president of the country and from which region, hangs largely on the shoulder of the number one man in the country- President Muhammadu Buhari.
He will be at the centre of the conversation this year as his party men await his decision on who deserves his blessing in 2023.
Buhari, a northerner, would round off his second term in 2023 and power is expected to shift to the south. But the position of some northern oligarchs will put the president under pressure as to where the APC should zone its 2023 ticket to.
Some ministers and governors of the party, like Fayemi, Babatunde Fashola, Rotimi Amaechi have said there was an agreement that power should rotate between both regions and demanded that it should be respected accordingly.
With the pressure from some northern groups hinging on the ground that zoning is not constitutional, the President will be on the spotlight somewhat.
Buhari has said he would hand power over to whoever wins the 2023 election but has not come out clear about his party position on zoning. Still his actions and inactions in 2021 will be critical, pundits aver.
Vice President Osinbajo
His name did not ring a bell in the polity till 2015 when he was picked by former Lagos State governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, whom he served as commissioner of justice, to run on a joint ticket with Muhammadu Buhari. His charming disposition and the goodwill Buhari enjoyed from the public then, gave Osinbajo massive political mileage.
Although he has not been engaged in the major power play in his party, he has been a major influence to key policies of the Buhari’s administration. There are indications that Osibanjo name will will make the headlines in connection with 2023. So his moves will be of interest in 2021.
The Senate President and chairman of the National Assembly has proven to be a politician with great influence in the last two years. For what it’s worth, Lawan’s influence has seen the 9th Senate more coordinated than what was witnessed during the immediate-past Senate.
As the number three man in the country, Lawan who recently denied reports of plans to run for the 2023 presidency, will be part of the factors to determine where the country heads in the months to come.
Much like Senate counterpart, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has brought his influence to bear in the management of the Green Chamber even though some interesting incidents, like the invitation of the President over the security situation in the country didn’t go as planned.
Still, Gbajabiamila will be critical to key policy decisions that will shape the political space in 2021.
As chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yakubu, cannot escape being a major person of interest in this year as any other year while in office. Having broken the record as the only INEC chairman to be reappointed for a second term, all eyes will be on him on how he manages top elections this year especially the Anambra governorship election.
But much more is the continuation of his advocacy for electoral reforms and the need for an early start to the 2023 general election.
Mai Mala Buni
As national chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Buni has a huge task of not just managing the affairs of the party but helping it retain its dominance ahead of 2023.
Last year, he led the party into embarking on a radical but strategic restructuring process which saw the reconstitution of party organs at all levels across the country. This year all eyes will be on him to see how he ensures that the aim of the process which is to make a party a much broad based platform comes to fruition.
He will also be on the spotlight as far as managing the diverse interests within the party.
With former President Goodluck Jonathan coming into the picture in recent times, it would be hard to deny that something is afoot. In what looks like the former President has become the bride to the ruling party, there are speculations about him throwing his hat into the ring.
The former President had recently said it’s too early in the day to talk about 2023, but his recent romance with the ruling party has created the perception that he is nursing a come back.
While this can not be ruled out for now, his influence will play a major role in the selection of who Presidential candidate emerging from the south, particularly South East and South- South.
The former vice president who contested against President Buhari in 2019 seems poised to contest again under the PDP.
Atiku who will be 76 in 2023, has not hidden his ambition to contest the 2023 presidential election despite the clamour from some South East stakeholders in the party who believe that the next presidential candidate should come from the region.
However with his political machinery being oiled for the contest, pundits believe that the former Vice President who has been a major political actor since 1993 will not doubt have a say in the political affairs of the country this year.
The national leader of APC and former Lagos State governor is certainly a politician of interest in 2021. With his 2023 presidential ambition gathering momentum, he has been in the news since last year and he is expected to make more headlines in 2021 as the scramble for APC presidential ticket intensifies.
Tinubu is one of the major power houses in the APC and his position cannot be overemphasized.
The APC national leader was spotted recently in northern Nigeria where he met with some stakeholders of the party. Although Tinubu has not declared interest to contest the 2023 presidential election, his body language says so much.
His presidential structures has been across board in the last one year. As APC holds its national convention this year, it is expected that more structures will be built this year as well.
The battle over zoning of the presidential ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continues this year and Secondus as national chairman will have to deal with it. Also he has the tough responsibility of managing the divergent interests tugging at the heart of party. While the South West crisis has refused to go away, the backlash from the recent congresses are still raging.
Besides his rumoured interest in 2023, the Ekiti State governor being chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) will be key person of interest in 2021. As leader of the governors, he will no doubt be in the thick of political engagements this year.
Orji Uzor Kalu
It is no secret any more that the Senate Whip and former governor of Abia State is interested in seeking the top job in the country in 2023. Having been freed from prison, he has upped his political consultations, reaching out to major stakeholders in the polity. He is expected to continue such consultations this year even as he further defines the kind of presidency he intend to have.
The Sokoto State governor who doubles as the deputy chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has been touted as being interested in the top seat. Tambuwal who also is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum (PDF) will be influential in critical decisions that will shape the activities of the PDP as it seeks to return to power in 2023. So his actions and inactions will be closely watched.
His defection to the APC from the PDP was a major political highlight of last year. And while his battle with some key PDP stakeholders in his state still rages, it is expected that he will build on whatever leverage he has gotten within his new party. He is also hinted as being interested in 2023 presidential race.
Regarded as the most influential governor in PDP and perhaps in the polity, Wike’s interventions in 2021 will be critical as he will also contribute in defining the activities of the PDP this year.
As chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Bagudu, the Kebbi State governor, will be a critical player in the politics of 2021. His interventions will be needed on critical matters being a link-man of sorts between the party and the presidency on policy matters.
Nasir El Rufai
The Kaduna State governor is often seen as one of the main strategists in the APC, perhaps this informed his choice to head the party’s restructuring committee. While his next move by 2023 remain speculative, many pundits believe that, el-Rufai, given his knack for vibrant engagement in the political space will certainly be a person of interest this year.
The minister of Transport will also be a person of interest in 2021. Although his ambition in 2023 has remained an issue of speculation, his influence in the APC can’t be wished away. As such many believe that he will be a major actor in the affairs of the ruling party.
Last year, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, was appointed the national reconciliation committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to reach out to youths, former and aggrieved members of the party, as well as leaders of rival parties to ensure a successful outing in 2023.
The former Kwara state governor who contested the PDP presidential election primaries in 2018, may have spotted the holes in the ruling APC and wants to harvest from the cracks in the party.
Currently, he is holding discussions with other political leaders in other parties who have expressed the desire to join PDP but are still holding back until the PDP put its house in order.
Saraki has placed premium on providing good accommodation for youths and make them a virile driving force behind the PDP. This will play a major role on how the PDP will draft its flag bearers in 2023. As such how he embarks on the task ahead of him will be critical in 2021.