2007: Those to Watch Out for

  • Tuesday, January 09, 2007 - Nduka Nwosu, Yemi Adebowale, Laurence Ani, Ntai Bagshaw and Idowu Sowunmi
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2007 is one year with great political and social implications for the country. It is a general election year, with a new president expected to emerge. Political and economic reforms are also expected to be consolidated in virtually every sector of the economy. Nduka Nwosu, Yemi Adebowale, Laurence Ani, Ntai Bagshaw and Idowu Sowunmi examine the men and women who will by their actions or inactions influence the course of events

President Olusegun Obasanjo:

The kingmaker

President Olusegun Obasanjo is the major force to watch out for in 2007. His tenure ends in May and he is widely regarded as the kingmaker, who will play a significant role in deciding who becomes Nigeria’s next president. He has already taken the first step, by ensuring the emergence of his candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua as the flag bearer of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. His firm grip on Nigeria, politically and economically is unprecedented with a presidential system of government empowered even the more by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

He looks determined to have his choice installed as president in order to sustain his economic reforms while also defining a role for himself even after leaving office. Already certain aspects of the PDP Constitution are being looked at with the intention to amend and accommodate Mr President after life in Aso Rock. He will also be the king maker at virtually every level of governance and legislative experience. He is expected to play significant roles in the choice of governors and National Assembly members that will emerge. After the exit of Nigeria from the dreaded Paris Club of creditor nations, Obasanjo is expected to complete the country’s exit from the London Club in March 2007. The National Assembly has already given approval for the release of money required for this purpose. How Obasanjo will settle down to a new life in his Ota farm will also be of interest to Nigerians. If his candidate emerges President in May, he is expected to continue to influence the country’s political and economic life from his Ota farm.

Umaru Yar’adua

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer is obviously man in the news as the countdown to the Presidential Election begins. As the anointed successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Yar’Adua will be the focal point of attraction and repulsion as critics and admirers go on a political slugfest to draw the voters to their camps. Standing on the platform of the PDP, the issue at stake is no longer whether the Katsina State governor is electable but what credentials would make him a better candidate over the other contestants such as Mohammed Buhari and Atiku Abubakar assuming he scales through the issues of indictment and disqualification. Yar’Adua’s emergence on the scene was like a dark horse who turned a beautiful bride. Obviously as the potential hub of political authority in the country, Yar’Adua will be the man to watch. Because the north is hungry for power, a significant population of its voters is likely to rally round a candidate with an official backing especially if the chances of victory for that candidate are high. Between Buhari and Yar' Adua are two gladiators with contrasting backgrounds and political leanings.

Goodluck Jonathan

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

Atiku Abubakar:

Will he return?

Will he return?

Will he return?

Vice President Atiku Abubakar, still enjoying his vacation in Potomac, United States, has insisted that he would contest the 2007 election. Will this enfant terrible of the Obasanjo administration return to contest for the presidency under the banner of the Action Congress? This is one big question that will be answered in 2007. Following his sack by Obasanjo, there were speculations that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would arrest him over his roles in the fPetroleum Technology Development Fund financial scam. Atiku’s indictment for allegedly corruptly enriching himself and his cronies through the Petroleum Development Fund (PTDF), which he supervised, threw up more rubbish than was bargained for by the authors of the scandal in 2006. For once, the public was entertained with what many see and perceive as the malfeasance in high places. The war between the President and his deputy is expected to get a bit more messy in 2007, with Atiku expected to release more incriminating documents. Again, a titanic battle is expected between Atiku and Mohammed Buhari, ANPP’s presidential candidate over the ANPP/AC accord. Already, Atiku has insisted that he would not step down for Buhari in the quest by the alliance for a single presidential candidate. How will this be sorted out? The picture should become clearer in 2007. Whichever way it goes, Atiku will be a key figure on the political scene in 2007.

Mohammed Buhari

The real deal

The real deal

The real deal

This is one man capable of giving Obasanjo’s candidate a good run in the presidential election. This warrior from Daura has all it takes to tackle the PDP. He emerged as the consensus candidate of the ANPP, without the slightest opposition. Buhari now enjoys the support of the remaining four ANPP governors. Only recently, major stakeholders in the South West geo-political zone started mobilisation for his candidature. A coalition of members of the National Conscience Party (NCP); the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP); Peoples Action Congress (PAC) and the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP) from the South-west geo-political zone rose from a meeting held under the aegis of the Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN) endorsing Buhari as their candidate for the presidential election slated for April. Also, the Democratic Party Alliance (DPA), whose membership consists of the Yoruba establishment, had earlier met in Abuja to endorse Buhari's candidature. Notable South-west politicians in the DPA are: Olu Falae, the ANPP/AD joint presidential candidate in 1999, Afenifere chieftains, Ayo Adebanjo and Laniwun Ajayi, Senator Femi Okunrounmu as well as Chief Supo Shonibare. Another group led by Tunji Braithwaite has also been mobilising support for Buhari within the South-west zone. The argument advanced for supporting the ANPP candidate dwells on his integrity, principle and zero tolerance for corruption as well as a determination to halt President Olusegun Obasanjo's desire to install his successor in office. Even Obasanjo under whom Buhari served gave what appeared a reaffirmation of his confidence in Buhari as an honest, public official. In his book, Not My Will, Obasanjo gave an illustrative account, which vividly portrayed Buhari as an incorruptible public official.

Obasanjo said in the book: "Muhammadu Buhari as a member of the Supreme Military Council and as the head of the Petroleum Department was by nature taciturn and an introvert. But, he took any work given to him very strongly and if he failed at whatever he did, it would not be because he did not put in his best. He was as reliable as he was hardworking and honest.”

Sunday Ehindero:

Eyes on 2007 security

Eyes on 2007 security

Eyes on 2007 security

With a six-month extension to his tenure, Ehindero will now be the main man to watch, in terms of coordinating security for the 2007 elections. The Inspector General of police is saddled with a big task. Inept security can easily mar the elections, and put Nigeria’s nascent democracy into jeopardy. As the elections draw closer, there is a big question mark and low credibility rating regarding the ability of the police to play the role of an impartial umpire. More so is the issue of professionalism and access to the right equipment for effective control of fraud and mischief making at election time. Many believe Ehindero and his men are incapable of rising to the occasion. Clearly, the IG’s record for obvious reasons bordering on inconclusive investigations and high level of insecurity in the land, has created a credibility rating for him by many Nigerians who have lost confidence in him. There is a long list of unresolved murders since he assumed office, the most recent including those of This Day Editorial Board chairman Godwin Agbroko, Ayo Daramola and Funsho Williams. Till date, he still could not come out with a clue as to the circumstances that led to Williams' assassination, even after running to the United Kingdom to get men of the London Metropolitan Police for assistance.. In previous elections, the police have been accused of playing a partial role. For many, it would be in his interest to stand on the side of the masses and democracy, than protect a parochial interest.

Legbo Idris Kutigi

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

Obafemi Martins

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Martins made his name when he emerged from nowhere to break into the first team of Inter Milan of Italy at just 18. This weapon of mass destruction, as he is fondly called, never looked back, as he banged in goals after goals for the Milan giants. When he moved to English Premiership side, Newcastle last season, it was expected that he would continue with his goal scoring skills. This was not to be at the initial stage, leading to criticism from the English press. Like a bolt out of the blues, Martins rediscovered his form, and has suddenly become one of the lethal strikers in the Premiership. With seven goals to his credit, the sky now seems to be the limit for Martins in the premiership. With his current form, he looks certain to emerge one of the highest goal scorers in the Premiership at the end of the 2006/2007 season. This is one player to watch out for in 2007. Premiership defenders are certainly in trouble.

Oby Ezekwesili

To intensify education reforms

To intensify education reforms

To intensify education reforms

The education sector has been enjoying massive interest ever since Ezekwesili’s posting to the Federal Ministry of Education a couple of months ago. She will clearly be one of the star attractions of 2007 as she continues with her reforms. Oby, as she loves to be called, is expected to consolidate her aggressive education reform programme. Most of the reforms are aimed at cutting waste, with expected rise in casualties. Clearly, more people in the ministry and its parastatals will lose their jobs. The public-private sector partnership arrangement for running the unity schools will take shape in 2007. This will most likely leave her on the front burner. Last year, the recommended public-private sector partnership was met with stiff resistance by many stakeholders, including teachers in the schools. They even went on strike to demonstrate their opposition to the policy. But Oby refused to bulge. The decision to create more university spaces by converting polytechnics to university colleges will also materialise in 2007. If she is retained in the ministry, she will preside over the admission of the first set of students into the new university colleges. Clearly, it would ease the frustration of thousands of school leavers searching for university admission. The woman better known as ‘Madam Due Process’ says the education sector will be the better for it. Oby will clearly spend 2007, working to justify her posting to the Education Ministry.

Donald Duke

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

With the completion of the phase one of Tinapa, Africa's biggest business resort and its commissioning due for March, Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State is one Nigerian that has re-defined tourism business and added new values to the recreational facilities in Africa. Though he has less than five months to serve as the governor, Duke’s remarkable project would certainly receive a greater attention in 2007.

Sultan Saad Abubakar

Promoting peace through royalty

Promoting peace through royalty

Promoting peace through royalty

The newly crowned Sultan of Sokoto, Brigadier-General Saad Abubakar 111 would play a major role in 2007 mainly as a peacemaker. The Sultanate has not only served as the overall headship for the Islamic society in Nigeria, but also as an icon for peaceful co-existence in the country. The Sultanate has not been found wanting, professing peace when necessary. No doubt, all eyes would be on the new Sultan to mould opinion and chart a cause of peaceful co-existence in the country.

Chukwuma Soludo

Prefect of the banking and finance

Prefect of the banking and finance

Prefect of the banking and finance

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo would of course still be relevant in 2007. Having successfully carried out the banking consolidation exercise in 2006, he is still expected to give directions to the 25 banks in Nigeria. Like it has been argued, banking consolidation is not enough, the banks must be put on their toes to do the right things at all time. To this extent, the CBN governor is as usual the prefect who draws the rules of the game with the big stick to keep all stakeholders in form and shape and of course with possible reprimands when necessary. Governor Soludo is no doubt someone to watch for in 2007.

Tony Elumelu

Making history

Making history

Making history

Banking sensation, Mr. Tony Elumelu has brought his magic wand to bear in the recapitalised UBA Group. When the wave of consolidation swept through the industry, STB officially merged (or was it acquired) with UBA in August 2005, retaining the latter’s name. Few months down the road, Elumelu has showed the stuff he’s made of, writing off all merger and restructuring-related costs. Most interestingly, he has led UBA to become the first bank in West Africa to record a trillion naira balance sheet mark for its total assets and contingents. The group’s latest financial highlights show that while its balance sheet represents a 216 percent growth, its deposit base recorded a whooping 278 percent growth from N205,110 million to N776,135 million. Before the CBN-engendered consolidation, these figures would’ve been laughable.

Elumelu represents a new breed of bankers, real competitors who will eventually help modernise our banking system to provide a broad range of services in a nationwide branching system. Now that consolidation, competition and technological process are transforming the banking sector, he is tactically edging out competition. Beyond Nigeria, Elumelu’s legend is gaining ground. In 2006, he beat other high profile CEOs of reputable African corporations to emerge ‘Africa Business Leader of The Year.’ With clear vision, he is steadily driving UBA towards its ambitious aspiration of becoming the HSBC of Africa. Elumelu’s lessons are both exhilarating and daunting. The prizes offered by the post-consolidation financial sector are dazzling by any measure, but only those who can consistently satisfy the demanding and changing tastes of customers, the banking sector’s true sovereigns, will survive to enjoy them.

Samuel Peter

A boxer’s nightmare

A boxer’s nightmare

A boxer’s nightmare

Many see Peter as the next star of boxing not only for his abilities inside the ring, but the way he conducts himself outside of it as well. He is a devoutly Christian family man who neither drinks nor smokes. He is noted for his cordial approach to interviewers and his reserved and hard-working nature. Months after he relocated to the United States the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ faced Vladimir Klitschko in an elimination match for the IBF and WBO world titles. Despite knocking Klitschko down three times, Klitschko was awarded the win, having thoroughly outboxed the unpolished and raw Peter. Some boxing analysts believe that Peter deserved the decision. Others maintain that the first two knockdowns were not actual knockdowns, but slips caused by Peter pushing Klitschko.

His latest bout against James ‘Lights Out’ Toney at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California was explosive. There were no knockdowns and despite losing a point for cuffing Toney on the ears with both hands during a clinch in the ninth round, Peter won by scores of 116-111 on the cards of the judges. Many see Peter as the next star of boxing not only for his abilities inside the ring, but the way he conducts himself outside of it as well. He is a devoutly Christian family man who neither drinks nor smokes. He is noted for his cordial approach to interviewers and his reserved and hard-working nature. This has made him a role model with many in the Nigerian community in Reno, Nevada, USA, where he moved to after the Olympics to train and fight. A committed Christian, Peter, 28, loves his homeland and is quick to point out that he’ll keep the green and white flag lying at full mast.

Aliko Dangote

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

His businesses read like a supermarket grocery list: sugar, salt, pasta, flour. From modest beginning in the late 1970s, Aliko Dangote has today built a multi billion naira conglomerate. He made his name in commodity trading especially sugar importation into Nigeria which he admits he controls over 60 percent today. His business interest spans the export and import business. He exports cashew nuts, cotton, cocoa, millet ad textile. His extensive network enables him to source these commodities not only in Nigeria but the entire west coast of Africa where he is increasingly becoming a visible player. He also exports fish and imports rice, vegetable oil, and cement.

From the 1980s, Dangote decided to move from being just a successful commodity dealer to a more rounded entrepreneur with solid investments in finance and manufacturing. His style was acquisition and buying into existing companies. Set on 4.5-square kilometers of land, the $100 million Obajana Cement Plant is the largest of its kind in Africa; complete with a conveyor belt that spans eight kilometers from the limestone mines all the way to the plant. When this project is completed it will be able to produce about five million metric tons of cement a year, which is about half of Nigeria’s annual consumption. Not only will Obajana make Dangote Nigeria’s biggest cement producer, thanks to this 90-kilometer long natural gas pipeline, it will generate surplus electricity, enough to help light up Abuja, some 200 kilometers away. Dangote comes across as a shy and unassuming man. But underneath this veneer is a fiercely determined businessman aiming to turn Nigeria into Africa’s business hub.

Wale Babalakin

New kid on the block

New kid on the block

New kid on the block

Wale Babalakin, Ph.D, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and business guru, is building what could well become the best airport in Africa at a cost of $256 million. After the May 2000 fie that gutted the terminal one building of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Babalakin, chairman of Stabilini Visinoni bravely surfaced to negotiate with the government on how to rebuild the place on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.

Today, the project that began about three and half years ago is nearing completion. More than 90 per cent of the job is done and he is moving fast so that the project can become available to Nigerians. The four-star hotel commenced two years after his company the terminal building. The smallest room in that hotel is 35 square metres. That is probably larger than any hotel room across the country today. The whole concept of the hotel is to build for the future and the hotel forms part of this futuristic development.

Jim Ovia

Banking beyond borders

Banking beyond borders

Banking beyond borders

Jim Ovia is co-Founder and pioneer Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc. He has over 25 years banking experience. He is the Chairman of the Nigeria Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Committee . He is a member of the Governing Council, Nigerian Investment Promotion Council and also a member of the Honorary International Investor Council.

He is the founder and Chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization focused on providing scholarship for the less privileged, of which some of the beneficiaries are now qualified Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers etc. Ovia is also the founder of the ICT Foundation for Youth Empowerment, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian Youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and Communication Technology. In 1999, he received the Zik Award for professional leadership in April 1999. He was also conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Finance by the Lagos State University in October, 2005. Jim Ovia is a motivational speaker and has delivered speeches at several conferences. He has authored several published and unpublished works and he is in the vanguard of promotion and propagation of Information and Communication Technology in Nigeria.

Tayo Aderinokun

Fifteen years ago, when Mr Tayo Aderinokun, incumbent Managing Director, Guaranty Trust Bank and his partner, Fola Adeola, set out to establish their bank, they had a dream: to change the banking landscape in the country. The GTB banking experience is now a case study in reputable institutions, including the renowned Harvard Business School in the United States. Only recently, the bank unfolded a new corporate logo in tune with its paradigm shift from an exclusive to an institution that wants to be more visible. In the first ten years of our bank, GTB was playing a niche game. But it has re-engineered itself into the retail market, beating tradition retail banker at their game.

Donald Duke

The cream of Nigeria's business community gathered in Calabar, the Cross River State capital January 15 2005, to witness the signing of the contract between the Cross River State Government and construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for the construction of roads and infrastructural facilities at the Tinapa Business and Tourism complex, the pet project of Governor Donald Duke. The Tinapa project aims to firmly place the Cross River state on Nigeria and indeed Africa's business and tourism maps.

Tinapa would have among other facilities four emporiums of 80,000m (the size of two football fields) in the main bowl. These emporiums would have goods of various types which Nigerians travel to Dubai, Europe and other internationally recognized free trade zones to purchase. The resort will include two hotels, an artificial lake 2km long would be created to provide for boating by tourists. Other facilities to be put on in the complex include water park, golf park, restaurants, cultural village which will have crafts, traditional dresses and other cultural items on offer. In subsequent phases, the resort will have a conference complex, two luxury lodges, expanded leisure and entertainment facilities including water sports, quad biking, archery and expanded cultural and educational components including an aviary, aquarium, crocodile farm and primate rehabilitation centre among others.

The economic prospects look good indeed. At the project signing ceremony, Duke disclosed that the state was targeting at least N300 billion annually from the economic and commercial activities that would be generated at Tinapa. He hinged his optimism on the calculation from the feasibility report, which estimates that at least 3 million people will visit Tinapa annually. If each of those visitors spent a minimum of N100,000 for shopping and leisure that would translate into a N300 billion annual inflow into the state. The first phase of Tinapa is due to be commissioned in March 2007 and if things go according to plan for this phase and the subsequent phases then Cross Rivers state is set to become one of the richest states in Nigeria in the next 10 years.

Emmanuel Chukwulozie

Emmanuel Okechukwu Chukwulozie, Commissioner for Insurance/ Chief Executive Officer of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) has one dream, to elevate the practice of insurance in the century so that Nigerians will embrace insurance practice like it is done elsewhere in the developed world. And in pursuance of this goal, Chukwulozie, who is saddled with the responsibility of regulating the industry is embarking on a wholesale restructuring of the insurance industry in Nigeria. Having identified the major problem of the industry which is its weak capital base, Chukwulozie is aggressively pursuing a recapitalisation that aims at increasing the capital base of insurance firms in the country.

According to him, the minimum capital base of N2billion is being prescribed for operators in the life business; N3billion for those in the non-life business; and N10billion for those in reinsurance business.

Chukwulozie said when this is achieved in 2007, the insurance industry will take its rightful place in the economy. Additionally, 17 groups of mergers and acquisitions have been achieved, while a lot more are obviously in the making and are expected to come to a successful end as soon as possible. Deadline remains February 28, 2007. He foresees an era where claims are paid promptly by insurance firms and public confidence restored in the sector. The commissioner for insurance said he will like to be remembered whenever he leaves the industry as a man who built confidence in the Nigerian public as far as claim payment is concerned.

The kingmaker

President Olusegun Obasanjo is the major force to watch out for in 2007. His tenure ends in May and he is widely regarded as the kingmaker, who will play a significant role in deciding who becomes Nigeria’s next president. He has already taken the first step, by ensuring the emergence of his candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua as the flag bearer of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. His firm grip on Nigeria, politically and economically is unprecedented with a presidential system of government empowered even the more by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

He looks determined to have his choice installed as president in order to sustain his economic reforms while also defining a role for himself even after leaving office. Already certain aspects of the PDP Constitution are being looked at with the intention to amend and accommodate Mr President after life in Aso Rock. He will also be the king maker at virtually every level of governance and legislative experience. He is expected to play significant roles in the choice of governors and National Assembly members that will emerge. After the exit of Nigeria from the dreaded Paris Club of creditor nations, Obasanjo is expected to complete the country’s exit from the London Club in March 2007. The National Assembly has already given approval for the release of money required for this purpose. How Obasanjo will settle down to a new life in his Ota farm will also be of interest to Nigerians. If his candidate emerges President in May, he is expected to continue to influence the country’s political and economic life from his Ota farm.

Umaru Yar’adua

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer is obviously man in the news as the countdown to the Presidential Election begins. As the anointed successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Yar’Adua will be the focal point of attraction and repulsion as critics and admirers go on a political slugfest to draw the voters to their camps. Standing on the platform of the PDP, the issue at stake is no longer whether the Katsina State governor is electable but what credentials would make him a better candidate over the other contestants such as Mohammed Buhari and Atiku Abubakar assuming he scales through the issues of indictment and disqualification. Yar’Adua’s emergence on the scene was like a dark horse who turned a beautiful bride. Obviously as the potential hub of political authority in the country, Yar’Adua will be the man to watch. Because the north is hungry for power, a significant population of its voters is likely to rally round a candidate with an official backing especially if the chances of victory for that candidate are high. Between Buhari and Yar' Adua are two gladiators with contrasting backgrounds and political leanings.

Goodluck Jonathan

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

How much of his good luck is Jonathan bringing into his political camp? As the PDP flag bearer in the Niger Delta in the configuration that has brought him to centre stage, does Goodluck have the clout to convince his people that the slot on their palms is good enough to ameliorate their incessant demand for the number one position of president? Can he convince the militants who want the presidency or nothing less, that the Niger Delta is inching closer to her demands for a right of place in the Nigerian project?

Atiku Abubakar:

Will he return?

Will he return?

Will he return?

Vice President Atiku Abubakar, still enjoying his vacation in Potomac, United States, has insisted that he would contest the 2007 election. Will this enfant terrible of the Obasanjo administration return to contest for the presidency under the banner of the Action Congress? This is one big question that will be answered in 2007. Following his sack by Obasanjo, there were speculations that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would arrest him over his roles in the fPetroleum Technology Development Fund financial scam. Atiku’s indictment for allegedly corruptly enriching himself and his cronies through the Petroleum Development Fund (PTDF), which he supervised, threw up more rubbish than was bargained for by the authors of the scandal in 2006. For once, the public was entertained with what many see and perceive as the malfeasance in high places. The war between the President and his deputy is expected to get a bit more messy in 2007, with Atiku expected to release more incriminating documents. Again, a titanic battle is expected between Atiku and Mohammed Buhari, ANPP’s presidential candidate over the ANPP/AC accord. Already, Atiku has insisted that he would not step down for Buhari in the quest by the alliance for a single presidential candidate. How will this be sorted out? The picture should become clearer in 2007. Whichever way it goes, Atiku will be a key figure on the political scene in 2007.

Mohammed Buhari

The real deal

The real deal

The real deal

This is one man capable of giving Obasanjo’s candidate a good run in the presidential election. This warrior from Daura has all it takes to tackle the PDP. He emerged as the consensus candidate of the ANPP, without the slightest opposition. Buhari now enjoys the support of the remaining four ANPP governors. Only recently, major stakeholders in the South West geo-political zone started mobilisation for his candidature. A coalition of members of the National Conscience Party (NCP); the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP); Peoples Action Congress (PAC) and the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP) from the South-west geo-political zone rose from a meeting held under the aegis of the Coalition for New Nigeria (CNN) endorsing Buhari as their candidate for the presidential election slated for April. Also, the Democratic Party Alliance (DPA), whose membership consists of the Yoruba establishment, had earlier met in Abuja to endorse Buhari's candidature. Notable South-west politicians in the DPA are: Olu Falae, the ANPP/AD joint presidential candidate in 1999, Afenifere chieftains, Ayo Adebanjo and Laniwun Ajayi, Senator Femi Okunrounmu as well as Chief Supo Shonibare. Another group led by Tunji Braithwaite has also been mobilising support for Buhari within the South-west zone. The argument advanced for supporting the ANPP candidate dwells on his integrity, principle and zero tolerance for corruption as well as a determination to halt President Olusegun Obasanjo's desire to install his successor in office. Even Obasanjo under whom Buhari served gave what appeared a reaffirmation of his confidence in Buhari as an honest, public official. In his book, Not My Will, Obasanjo gave an illustrative account, which vividly portrayed Buhari as an incorruptible public official.

Obasanjo said in the book: "Muhammadu Buhari as a member of the Supreme Military Council and as the head of the Petroleum Department was by nature taciturn and an introvert. But, he took any work given to him very strongly and if he failed at whatever he did, it would not be because he did not put in his best. He was as reliable as he was hardworking and honest.”

Sunday Ehindero:

Eyes on 2007 security

Eyes on 2007 security

Eyes on 2007 security

With a six-month extension to his tenure, Ehindero will now be the main man to watch, in terms of coordinating security for the 2007 elections. The Inspector General of police is saddled with a big task. Inept security can easily mar the elections, and put Nigeria’s nascent democracy into jeopardy. As the elections draw closer, there is a big question mark and low credibility rating regarding the ability of the police to play the role of an impartial umpire. More so is the issue of professionalism and access to the right equipment for effective control of fraud and mischief making at election time. Many believe Ehindero and his men are incapable of rising to the occasion. Clearly, the IG’s record for obvious reasons bordering on inconclusive investigations and high level of insecurity in the land, has created a credibility rating for him by many Nigerians who have lost confidence in him. There is a long list of unresolved murders since he assumed office, the most recent including those of This Day Editorial Board chairman Godwin Agbroko, Ayo Daramola and Funsho Williams. Till date, he still could not come out with a clue as to the circumstances that led to Williams' assassination, even after running to the United Kingdom to get men of the London Metropolitan Police for assistance.. In previous elections, the police have been accused of playing a partial role. For many, it would be in his interest to stand on the side of the masses and democracy, than protect a parochial interest.

Legbo Idris Kutigi

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

For the sake of Justice

The role of the judiciary in any democratic transition cannot be over-emphasised. Petitions will arise before, during and after the election. This is where the role of Kutigi will be vital. He sits atop the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He also heads the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body with power to discipline any judicial officer anywhere in the country. He will be expected to motivate the dispensation of free and fair justice during the 2007 elections. This is vital for the success of the election. All eyes will be on Kutigi to deliver along this line.

Obafemi Martins

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Nigeria’s soccer ambassador

Martins made his name when he emerged from nowhere to break into the first team of Inter Milan of Italy at just 18. This weapon of mass destruction, as he is fondly called, never looked back, as he banged in goals after goals for the Milan giants. When he moved to English Premiership side, Newcastle last season, it was expected that he would continue with his goal scoring skills. This was not to be at the initial stage, leading to criticism from the English press. Like a bolt out of the blues, Martins rediscovered his form, and has suddenly become one of the lethal strikers in the Premiership. With seven goals to his credit, the sky now seems to be the limit for Martins in the premiership. With his current form, he looks certain to emerge one of the highest goal scorers in the Premiership at the end of the 2006/2007 season. This is one player to watch out for in 2007. Premiership defenders are certainly in trouble.

Oby Ezekwesili

To intensify education reforms

To intensify education reforms

To intensify education reforms

The education sector has been enjoying massive interest ever since Ezekwesili’s posting to the Federal Ministry of Education a couple of months ago. She will clearly be one of the star attractions of 2007 as she continues with her reforms. Oby, as she loves to be called, is expected to consolidate her aggressive education reform programme. Most of the reforms are aimed at cutting waste, with expected rise in casualties. Clearly, more people in the ministry and its parastatals will lose their jobs. The public-private sector partnership arrangement for running the unity schools will take shape in 2007. This will most likely leave her on the front burner. Last year, the recommended public-private sector partnership was met with stiff resistance by many stakeholders, including teachers in the schools. They even went on strike to demonstrate their opposition to the policy. But Oby refused to bulge. The decision to create more university spaces by converting polytechnics to university colleges will also materialise in 2007. If she is retained in the ministry, she will preside over the admission of the first set of students into the new university colleges. Clearly, it would ease the frustration of thousands of school leavers searching for university admission. The woman better known as ‘Madam Due Process’ says the education sector will be the better for it. Oby will clearly spend 2007, working to justify her posting to the Education Ministry.

Donald Duke

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

Deepening the frontiers of tourism

With the completion of the phase one of Tinapa, Africa's biggest business resort and its commissioning due for March, Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State is one Nigerian that has re-defined tourism business and added new values to the recreational facilities in Africa. Though he has less than five months to serve as the governor, Duke’s remarkable project would certainly receive a greater attention in 2007.

Sultan Saad Abubakar

Promoting peace through royalty

Promoting peace through royalty

Promoting peace through royalty

The newly crowned Sultan of Sokoto, Brigadier-General Saad Abubakar 111 would play a major role in 2007 mainly as a peacemaker. The Sultanate has not only served as the overall headship for the Islamic society in Nigeria, but also as an icon for peaceful co-existence in the country. The Sultanate has not been found wanting, professing peace when necessary. No doubt, all eyes would be on the new Sultan to mould opinion and chart a cause of peaceful co-existence in the country.

Chukwuma Soludo

Prefect of the banking and finance

Prefect of the banking and finance

Prefect of the banking and finance

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo would of course still be relevant in 2007. Having successfully carried out the banking consolidation exercise in 2006, he is still expected to give directions to the 25 banks in Nigeria. Like it has been argued, banking consolidation is not enough, the banks must be put on their toes to do the right things at all time. To this extent, the CBN governor is as usual the prefect who draws the rules of the game with the big stick to keep all stakeholders in form and shape and of course with possible reprimands when necessary. Governor Soludo is no doubt someone to watch for in 2007.

Tony Elumelu

Making history

Making history

Making history

Banking sensation, Mr. Tony Elumelu has brought his magic wand to bear in the recapitalised UBA Group. When the wave of consolidation swept through the industry, STB officially merged (or was it acquired) with UBA in August 2005, retaining the latter’s name. Few months down the road, Elumelu has showed the stuff he’s made of, writing off all merger and restructuring-related costs. Most interestingly, he has led UBA to become the first bank in West Africa to record a trillion naira balance sheet mark for its total assets and contingents. The group’s latest financial highlights show that while its balance sheet represents a 216 percent growth, its deposit base recorded a whooping 278 percent growth from N205,110 million to N776,135 million. Before the CBN-engendered consolidation, these figures would’ve been laughable.

Elumelu represents a new breed of bankers, real competitors who will eventually help modernise our banking system to provide a broad range of services in a nationwide branching system. Now that consolidation, competition and technological process are transforming the banking sector, he is tactically edging out competition. Beyond Nigeria, Elumelu’s legend is gaining ground. In 2006, he beat other high profile CEOs of reputable African corporations to emerge ‘Africa Business Leader of The Year.’ With clear vision, he is steadily driving UBA towards its ambitious aspiration of becoming the HSBC of Africa. Elumelu’s lessons are both exhilarating and daunting. The prizes offered by the post-consolidation financial sector are dazzling by any measure, but only those who can consistently satisfy the demanding and changing tastes of customers, the banking sector’s true sovereigns, will survive to enjoy them.

Samuel Peter

A boxer’s nightmare

A boxer’s nightmare

A boxer’s nightmare

Many see Peter as the next star of boxing not only for his abilities inside the ring, but the way he conducts himself outside of it as well. He is a devoutly Christian family man who neither drinks nor smokes. He is noted for his cordial approach to interviewers and his reserved and hard-working nature. Months after he relocated to the United States the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ faced Vladimir Klitschko in an elimination match for the IBF and WBO world titles. Despite knocking Klitschko down three times, Klitschko was awarded the win, having thoroughly outboxed the unpolished and raw Peter. Some boxing analysts believe that Peter deserved the decision. Others maintain that the first two knockdowns were not actual knockdowns, but slips caused by Peter pushing Klitschko.

His latest bout against James ‘Lights Out’ Toney at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California was explosive. There were no knockdowns and despite losing a point for cuffing Toney on the ears with both hands during a clinch in the ninth round, Peter won by scores of 116-111 on the cards of the judges. Many see Peter as the next star of boxing not only for his abilities inside the ring, but the way he conducts himself outside of it as well. He is a devoutly Christian family man who neither drinks nor smokes. He is noted for his cordial approach to interviewers and his reserved and hard-working nature. This has made him a role model with many in the Nigerian community in Reno, Nevada, USA, where he moved to after the Olympics to train and fight. A committed Christian, Peter, 28, loves his homeland and is quick to point out that he’ll keep the green and white flag lying at full mast.

Aliko Dangote

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

Building Africa’s business powerhouse

His businesses read like a supermarket grocery list: sugar, salt, pasta, flour. From modest beginning in the late 1970s, Aliko Dangote has today built a multi billion naira conglomerate. He made his name in commodity trading especially sugar importation into Nigeria which he admits he controls over 60 percent today. His business interest spans the export and import business. He exports cashew nuts, cotton, cocoa, millet ad textile. His extensive network enables him to source these commodities not only in Nigeria but the entire west coast of Africa where he is increasingly becoming a visible player. He also exports fish and imports rice, vegetable oil, and cement.

From the 1980s, Dangote decided to move from being just a successful commodity dealer to a more rounded entrepreneur with solid investments in finance and manufacturing. His style was acquisition and buying into existing companies. Set on 4.5-square kilometers of land, the $100 million Obajana Cement Plant is the largest of its kind in Africa; complete with a conveyor belt that spans eight kilometers from the limestone mines all the way to the plant. When this project is completed it will be able to produce about five million metric tons of cement a year, which is about half of Nigeria’s annual consumption. Not only will Obajana make Dangote Nigeria’s biggest cement producer, thanks to this 90-kilometer long natural gas pipeline, it will generate surplus electricity, enough to help light up Abuja, some 200 kilometers away. Dangote comes across as a shy and unassuming man. But underneath this veneer is a fiercely determined businessman aiming to turn Nigeria into Africa’s business hub.

Wale Babalakin

New kid on the block

New kid on the block

New kid on the block

Wale Babalakin, Ph.D, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and business guru, is building what could well become the best airport in Africa at a cost of $256 million. After the May 2000 fie that gutted the terminal one building of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Babalakin, chairman of Stabilini Visinoni bravely surfaced to negotiate with the government on how to rebuild the place on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.

Today, the project that began about three and half years ago is nearing completion. More than 90 per cent of the job is done and he is moving fast so that the project can become available to Nigerians. The four-star hotel commenced two years after his company the terminal building. The smallest room in that hotel is 35 square metres. That is probably larger than any hotel room across the country today. The whole concept of the hotel is to build for the future and the hotel forms part of this futuristic development.

Jim Ovia

Banking beyond borders

Banking beyond borders

Banking beyond borders

Jim Ovia is co-Founder and pioneer Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc. He has over 25 years banking experience. He is the Chairman of the Nigeria Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Committee . He is a member of the Governing Council, Nigerian Investment Promotion Council and also a member of the Honorary International Investor Council.

He is the founder and Chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization focused on providing scholarship for the less privileged, of which some of the beneficiaries are now qualified Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers etc. Ovia is also the founder of the ICT Foundation for Youth Empowerment, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian Youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and Communication Technology. In 1999, he received the Zik Award for professional leadership in April 1999. He was also conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Finance by the Lagos State University in October, 2005. Jim Ovia is a motivational speaker and has delivered speeches at several conferences. He has authored several published and unpublished works and he is in the vanguard of promotion and propagation of Information and Communication Technology in Nigeria.

Tayo Aderinokun

Fifteen years ago, when Mr Tayo Aderinokun, incumbent Managing Director, Guaranty Trust Bank and his partner, Fola Adeola, set out to establish their bank, they had a dream: to change the banking landscape in the country. The GTB banking experience is now a case study in reputable institutions, including the renowned Harvard Business School in the United States. Only recently, the bank unfolded a new corporate logo in tune with its paradigm shift from an exclusive to an institution that wants to be more visible. In the first ten years of our bank, GTB was playing a niche game. But it has re-engineered itself into the retail market, beating tradition retail banker at their game.

Donald Duke

The cream of Nigeria's business community gathered in Calabar, the Cross River State capital January 15 2005, to witness the signing of the contract between the Cross River State Government and construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for the construction of roads and infrastructural facilities at the Tinapa Business and Tourism complex, the pet project of Governor Donald Duke. The Tinapa project aims to firmly place the Cross River state on Nigeria and indeed Africa's business and tourism maps.

Tinapa would have among other facilities four emporiums of 80,000m (the size of two football fields) in the main bowl. These emporiums would have goods of various types which Nigerians travel to Dubai, Europe and other internationally recognized free trade zones to purchase. The resort will include two hotels, an artificial lake 2km long would be created to provide for boating by tourists. Other facilities to be put on in the complex include water park, golf park, restaurants, cultural village which will have crafts, traditional dresses and other cultural items on offer. In subsequent phases, the resort will have a conference complex, two luxury lodges, expanded leisure and entertainment facilities including water sports, quad biking, archery and expanded cultural and educational components including an aviary, aquarium, crocodile farm and primate rehabilitation centre among others.

The economic prospects look good indeed. At the project signing ceremony, Duke disclosed that the state was targeting at least N300 billion annually from the economic and commercial activities that would be generated at Tinapa. He hinged his optimism on the calculation from the feasibility report, which estimates that at least 3 million people will visit Tinapa annually. If each of those visitors spent a minimum of N100,000 for shopping and leisure that would translate into a N300 billion annual inflow into the state. The first phase of Tinapa is due to be commissioned in March 2007 and if things go according to plan for this phase and the subsequent phases then Cross Rivers state is set to become one of the richest states in Nigeria in the next 10 years.

Emmanuel Chukwulozie

Emmanuel Okechukwu Chukwulozie, Commissioner for Insurance/ Chief Executive Officer of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) has one dream, to elevate the practice of insurance in the century so that Nigerians will embrace insurance practice like it is done elsewhere in the developed world. And in pursuance of this goal, Chukwulozie, who is saddled with the responsibility of regulating the industry is embarking on a wholesale restructuring of the insurance industry in Nigeria. Having identified the major problem of the industry which is its weak capital base, Chukwulozie is aggressively pursuing a recapitalisation that aims at increasing the capital base of insurance firms in the country.

According to him, the minimum capital base of N2billion is being prescribed for operators in the life business; N3billion for those in the non-life business; and N10billion for those in reinsurance business.

Chukwulozie said when this is achieved in 2007, the insurance industry will take its rightful place in the economy. Additionally, 17 groups of mergers and acquisitions have been achieved, while a lot more are obviously in the making and are expected to come to a successful end as soon as possible. Deadline remains February 28, 2007. He foresees an era where claims are paid promptly by insurance firms and public confidence restored in the sector. The commissioner for insurance said he will like to be remembered whenever he leaves the industry as a man who built confidence in the Nigerian public as far as claim payment is concerned.

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