Posted by Olayinka Oyebode, Ayodele Ale, Dada Aladelokun and Abiodun Nejo on
One business personality expected to impact greatly on the aviation sector this year is Richard Branson, the proprietor of Virgin Atlantic Airways.
One business personality expected to impact greatly on the aviation sector this year is Richard Branson, the proprietor of Virgin Atlantic Airways. The airline had since its inception in Nigeria a few years back remained a reference point in terms of private initiative and service delivery. The company, no doubt owes this to the ingenuity of its founder, Richard Branson ,who also has consideratble investment in several other sectors.
Bransonís well-orchestrated Midas touch will be put to test in 2005, when the Virgin Nigeria commences operation. Already topmost consulting companies have commenced massive recruitment of workers for the new initiative, which is a partnership between the Nigerian government and Virgin Atlantic. Under the new arrangement, the Virgin Nigeria will serve as the national carrier for the country following the liquidation of the Nigerian Airways. The new initiative has 49 per cent ownership by the United Kingdom-based Virgin Atlantic, headed by Branson.
The choice of Virgin Atlantic may not be unconnected with the companyís demonstrated mastery of the aviation sector. Yet many observers of the sector faulted governmentís decision in this regard, especially when the deal was initially struck with the South African Airways. Government was yet to reply critics of this novel development. Already, plans to commence operations in March have suffered a major setback in December when the United States government kicked against the exclusive allocation of the lucrative Lagos-New-York route to the airline. The US aviation authority called it a breach of the open skies agreement between the US and Nigeria. But aviation minister, Isa Yuguda, says all the impediments would soon be cleared.
Engineer Funsho Kupolokun
To most Nigerians, the only magic wand potent enough to cure the lingering malaise in the nationís oil sector Ė the incessant hike in fuel prices Ė is urgent privatisation of the refineries, since their long-sought rehabilitation has proved a hard row to hoe.
This, as now discovered by the authorities, has become a desideratum, hence, the privatisation exercise, from all indications, wil go into full gear this year. Should it happen, then the nationís socio-economic climate is billed for a phenomenal positive turnaround this year.
All eyes are therefore on Funsho Kupolokun, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to do the historic, by actualising the hope of Nigerians who are almost out of patience on the fuel price palaver.
Since the issue on his laps plays a major role in finding a direction for the nationís economic fortune, Kupolokun, expectedly, remains one of those that will shape 2005. Will Nigerians look back in December and sing songs of joy over a good year? The nation waits on the NNPC boss!
Chief Samaila Danki Makama
It is another census year. All eyes are on Chief Danki Makama, the chairman of National Population Commission, on whose shoulder rests the responsibility of conducting the headcount.
Previous headcounts since 1952-53 population census have been mired in controversy with the results either cancelled or unacceptable owing to inaccuracy and manipulation for political purposes.
The challenge is for Makama to demonstrate that he has a sense of history by rising beyond the pitfalls of previous headcounts conducted in 1952-53, 1963, 1973 and 1991. The authentic results of the 1991 census have failed to see the light of the day.
Apart from its role in nation-building, this yearís population census is, however, important for the 2007 general elections, to prevent a repeat of the widespread manipulations that attended the 2003 elections owing to lack of acceptable population figure to work with.
For Makama, the ability to carry out a reliable census will be a positive exercise reinforcing a sense of shared nationhood and as well provide a model for the attempt to overcome regional and ethnic differences.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Former Commonwealth secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, is a man expected to make waves this year in view of his larger than life figure and the influence he wields in Nigeria and the international community. It is believed in many quarters that he is among the few prominent Igbos whose names recur as reliable candidate for a president of Igbo extraction.
The year provides a platform for him to respond to the calls on him to contest for the nationís most exalted seat come 2007. But be it as it may, the respected statesman is certain to impact more positively on the politics and economy of the South-East and indeed the nation during the year.
Already, there are rumours that this eminent Nigerian has been pencilled down to moderate the National Dialogue billed to hold in the year.
In the business circle, the Orient Petroleum Resources Nigeria Limited whose board he chairs, is making a giant stride this year with the proposed take off of Orient Refinery in Anambra State. Already, about 22 international companies have offered to construct the refinery. This is a big leap in the privatisation of the downstream sector of the nationís oil industry. With this, Anyaoku will be a force to reckon with in achieving the much sought stability in the oil sector.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Finance Minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, holds the ace in terms of effective implementation of governmentís economic policies in the year. Year 2004 ended with widespread complaints about the excruciating effect of governmentís economic policies. The finance expert has a lot to do this year in shaping the fiscal policies of the government in a way that it would favour the low and medium income earners and encourage the growth of industries.
She also has to ensure the proper management of the nationís funds and ensure that the wasteful tendencies of the government is checked through effective reforms.
For her to make a lasting impact on Nigerians in the year, Okonjo-Iweala has to ensure effective implementation of the budget in a way that smiles would be put on their faces.
Professor Charles Soludo
It is a basic fact that whenever Professor Charles Soludo, the man presiding over the apex bank in Nigeria sneezes, all the financial institutions in Nigeria, especially the banks, catch cold. No doubt, the fate of the banks in Year 2005 lies in the hands of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, particularly in view of the wind of change blowing in the industry. On July 6, last year, during the meeting of the Bankerís Committee, the CBN boss had unveiled its policy focus, reinstating its commitment to the course of restoring the banks to the path of glory, in order that they may compete favourably with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
With regards to the reforms, nothing would appear to have hit the existing banks harder than the N25 billion capital base imposed on them, with December 2005 as deadline.
The bombshell left a sour taste in the mouths of the key players in the banking industry
and last year saw many of them running from pillar to post to meet the requirement through direct loans, the capital market, merger and other means. Banking halls became prayer grounds as bank officials conjure the Holy Ghost fire.
The N25 billion capital base order has not been reviewed despite all entreaties and Soludo is bent on executing the reforms to the letter. The reform when fully implemented later in the year, is bound to sore up confidence in the banking sector.
His is a lesson in political transformation. The Turaki of Adamawa and Vice -president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has since 1999 left no one in doubt that he is a force to be reckoned with in this democratic dispensation. This was demonstrated at the dawn of the new era when, he as the governor-elect of Adamawa state emerged as Obasanjoís choice as Vice president, in the high-wired politicking that heralded the presidential primaries in the PDP. Since that initial victory, the Turaki, through the well- oiled Peopleís Democratic Movement machinery, has remained a major force. The PDM was widely believed to have played very strategic roles in both the election of President Obasanjoís in 1999 and his re-election in 2003.
Having successfully played the second fiddle for a term and half, the V.Pís next target is the number one seat. Again the PDM is at work, this time in tandem with caucuses in other parties.
Atiku demonstrated his strength and influence in the PDP when his group successfully blocked all the moves aimed at removing Ogbeh last December. Under Atikuís able leadership, the PDMís next move, it was learnt, is to actualise Atikuís ascendance to the the presidential seat. How the group intends to realise this dream remains a poser for many analysts who feel that the relationship between Obasanjo and the VP is no longer as rosy as it was during the first term. But since the Turaki was credited for being the one who saved the day for Obasanjo at the Abuja primary in 2003,then 2007 could be a payday. 2005 is thus for the V.P, a unique chance to further assert himself in the power games within the PDP and at the Aso Rock presidential villa.
The much-desired boom in Nigeriaís business activities and by extension, her overall economy, it is generally agreed, depend on the state of security of lives and property.
It is therefore incumbent on the Nigerian Police to gird its loins in a determined bid to effectively control crime rate across the country. This, experts believe, will be an automatic invitation to foreign investors, and the nationís wobbling economy will not be the same again.
On various occasions, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, has reiterated the readiness of his men to wage total war against crimes and criminals "wherever they exist." But will he match such pledges with action this year? Will he make fighting crimes with the last drop of blood in his veins this year, his binding New Year resolution? Will he convince all that the Nigerian Police "remains the best in Africa?" The waiting game has begun today.
Many see the police boss as a man of honour. If this is true, then, he may be among those destined to reshape Nigeriaís destiny this New Year!
Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye
Shortly before last year ended, letters from the headquarters of the Redeemed Christian Church of God crept into the hands of pastors in all the parishes of the Church worldwide. The directive was clear: all the members of the church are to proceed on a 49- day fasting and prayers with effect from January 3, 2005.
Many of the church members who believed that their general overseer would not have issued such a directive without a good reason started preparing for it immediately. The pastor, no doubt, has the ears of high and low within the Christian fold. As a matter of fact, some of the holders of state power, including President Obasanjo, have always seen the Redemption Camp of the church, located along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, as a spiritual haven. For instance, not many were surprised at the appearance of Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, a Muslim, at the last Holy Ghost Congress of the church. His Ogun State counterpart Governor Gbenga Daniel who was present at the ocaasion could not but suggest that his name be changed from Ahmed to Abraham.
Adeboye has been offering prayers for the peace and development of the country and on many occasions, he has been invited to Aso Rock for special prayers. But beyond this, not a few believe that he has a lot of influence on political office holders, particularly President Obasanjo who is also believed to have a lot of respect for the man of God. His counsel to the President during the year may go a long way in shaping it.
General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida
As far as the political life of the country is concerned, this former military head of state is believed to still wield a lot of influence. As a matter of fact, he is believed to have been instrumental to the emergence of Obasanjo as president in 1999 by selling his candidature to the North.
The self-acclaimed evil genius is currently scheming for the number one position, and in the past few months, his campaign bills and posters have been conspicuous, while the ĎBabangida for presidentí elements are growing in number by the day. The opposition groups who were victims of his eight-year misrule are spoiling for showdown. Even though he has maintained a sealed lip over his ambition, it has sent jitters down the spines of those who have seen the ruling Peoplesí Democratic Party (PDP) as a potent platform to actualise their ambition of becoming the number one citizen. As the 2007 date for change of baton draws nearer, the battle is becoming more fierce. And it is believed that the PDP is going to be hot in the course of the year for Babangidaís supporters and those crusading for Atiku Abubakarís presidency.
General Buba Marwa
The much-awaited declaration of the presidential ambition of former Lagos state governor, Brigadier-general Buba Marwa, will expectedly be one of the major highpoints of political activities in the year. So far, the retired military officer has been going on quietly with his campaign, keeping his target a closely-guarded secret.
And this has led to some anxieties, which in turn gave birth to some rumours. For instance, a school of thought believes the Adamawa Ėborn politician is being propped for a presidential ticket that would see him pairing with Rivers State governor, Dr Peter Odili. While Marwa has never felt the need to dignify such insinuation with a denial or a confirmation, he has, however, promised in a recent interview that the cat would be let out of the bag in the new year. Already, posters of the former military governor of Lagos State have been cited in several states of the federation. One common feature of the posters is the absence of any party logo. What analysts also view as curious in the Marwa project is the fact that he hails from Adamawa, the home state of the Vice President, whose presidential ambition has remained as constant as the northern star since the return to civil rule in 1999.