2016: What a Year this Has Been (I)!

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2016. What a year! In the subconscious of a troubled world, it is a year like no other. In the mentality of a cursory humanity, one Donald Trump, a celebrity in his own right, was another aspirant in the race to the White House at the beginning of the year. But he will be ending the year counting the days and marking the hours before January 20, 2017. That is the date Barack Obama will walk along the corridors of the Oval Office for the first time as he joins the illustrious club of former presidents of the most powerful country in the world. In 2016, the world was at war. Humanity became more troubled. It appeared peace took a holiday and watched humanity tear itself apart. From the arid deserts of Aleppo to the rain forests of Colombia where FARC rebels continued a 50-year-old campaign, the world knew little tranquility.

On the streets of Istanbul and back streets of Paris, extremists instilled fears further in the hearts of a traumatised planet. While Aleppo burned, the world bickered. The only positive was that after 50 years of strife, the civil war in Colombia ended.  But a certain Boko Haram in Nigeria would not budge. Though thoroughly weakened, the Islamic group has not totally ended its campaign of death and pain. Bombs still exploded in the streets of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, just few weeks ago. As victims nurse their wounds and the displaced battle with the psychological trauma of being taken away from their comfort zones, some smart Alecs in the corridors of power chose to feast on their misery – over N200 million to cut some grass.  Saraki was a hunted politician when the year started, but as the year grounds to its close, praises came from unusual quarters: Aso Rock. “You are one of most influential politicians in the country.”

President Buhari told him on his birthday. For PDP,  it has been another year of fratricidal war. Ali Modu-Sheriff, the party’s factional chairman and nemesis will not give up until the party is buried.  From the embattled EFCC acting chair, Ibrahim Magu to the willing political cannon fodder, Jimoh Ibrahim, 2016 threw up many players who shaped the way the world views itself.  In Gambia, Yahya Jammeh seems determined to take his country down with him. He first conceded defeat in an election he was trounced before doing an about-turn. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad has consolidated power  with the trouncing of rebels in Aleppo and in neighbouring Turkey, the Russian Ambassador had to pay with his life for the role his country played in Assad’s victory.  It has been a year and that is why Samuel Ajayi  looks at those who have shaped the it, for good and bad

Trump, Mr. Donald:Shocked the world with his White House win
Trump, Mr. Donald:Shocked the world with his White House win
His case remains an eloquent definition of how the world panned out in 2016. Trump was seen as an outsider in the race for the American presidency, but against all the odds, he won the Republican ticket. As the practice of the ever righteous American media, most of the projections did not favour him. While his opponent, Hillary Clinton, appealed to the elites, Trump went to those he knew his message would resonate with: these were Americans who felt the eight years of Obama had favoured immigrants than them. They wanted their country back. Trump preached hate and stood by it. President Barack challenged the status quo and negated everything American has ever stood for. The media feasted on him. Women he had allegedly been in careless amorious relationships with came forward. They recalled how he sexually assaulted them. The allegations kept coming in torrents and by the way, they were allegations capable of ruining any political career – not Trump’s. When American went to the polls, the world waited with bated breath and when the results started coming in, an upset of unimaginable proportions had been created.
If there was one man who shaped 2016, it is the man, Donald Trump.

Jonathan, former President Goodluck: Honour Despite constant Muckraking
Jonathan, former President Goodluck: Honour Despite constant Muckraking
All through the year, stories never ended concerning how much was stolen under him when he superintended over the affairs of Nigeria. Unless something drastic changes in the nation, some of his former aides will be spending Christmas in detention. For Goodluck Jonathan, former president, ‘revelations’ about his stewardship that started in 2015 continued all through 2016.
However, in the midst of all these, the man has continued to draw accolades across the Atlantic. Week in week out, he was celebrated by the international community which still see his decision to concede defeat, even after the final ballot had not been counted, not only a sign of heroism but a sign that he meant every word when he said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Besides, Jonathan was on many occasions chosen to serve as election monitor in some countries; a demonstration of the fact that he earned this by conducting an election in which he himself lost.
While all through 2016, the world continued to be fed tales of his ‘poor’ management of the nation’s affairs while in office, it seems there is no stopping his being honoured for being a hero of democracy.

Magu, Alhaji Ibrahim: The Hunter, the Hunted and the Game

Magu, Alhaji Ibrahim: The Hunter, the Hunted and the Game
The embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has ended the year the way he started it: in controversy. Magu, in terms of being active in the media in the course of the year, would have made the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, green with envy. Magu elevated propaganda into an official act. The nation was fed with tales upon tales of how much was stolen from public coffers under the watch of former president, Goodluck Jonathan. He even announced that the nation had recovered about $3 billion.
Magu also ensured, during the year, that rule of law did not play any role in his own fight against corruption. His Commission simply refused to obey court orders; especially those that had to do with release on bail of suspects.
However, Magu, by 2017 might be a former chairman of the EFCC, if feelers from the presidency are anything to go by. Last week, the Senate refused to confirm him as substantive chairman of the EFCC; citing unfavourable security report from the Department of State Services, DSS. Part of the report even alluded to the fact that Magu might not be clean, in terms of management of public funds, to head an agency as sensitive as the EFCC.
His is a case of the hunter ending up being the hunted.

Saraki, Senator Bukola: From the Embattled to the “most Influential”
Saraki, Senator Bukola: From the Embattled to the “most Influential”
Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, started the year with a countdown to the day he would be booted out of office as the Senate President. But if the words of President Muhammadu Buhari on Saraki’s recent birthday were anything to go by, the Senate President turned a full cycle all within a space of 12 months. When he emerged as the Senate President, hobnobbing with the opposition PDP to achieve his ambition, had openly repudiated him and supporters of the president bayed for his blood. To them, Buhari would not be able to fight corruption with Saraki in charge of the senate. He was charged, alongside his deputy, with forgery. Some old corruption cases were exhumed. Many said it was a matter of days before he would be sent packing. But if the nation’s political barometer was correctly read, then Saraki might see his term of office through.
At the moment, Saraki would be giggling that some of those who had written his political obituary have actually eaten the humble pie.

Wike, Governor Nyesom: Standing against the Federal Juggernaut
Wike, Governor Nyesom: Standing against the Federal Juggernaut
If there is any governor in 2016 whose middle name is ‘embattled’, it is the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. Twice in 2016 he took the might of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and came out victorious, though with bruises here and there. Rivers State is very strategic. Not for its oil alone but because erstwhile political boss of Wike and current minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is from that state. Amaechi in 2016 had tried to prove to his masters in Abuja that he has a home base. The recent by-elections in the state provided another opportunity for Wike and Amaechi to test their political might. Wike, once again, humbled Amaechi even with massive deployment of federal might, as attested to by the National Chairman of APC, John Oyegun.
For Wike, he is one of the shakers of 2016 who proved that democracy remains what it is: a game of numbers.

Ibrahim, Mr. Jimoh: The Willing Political Guinea Pig
Ibrahim, Mr. Jimoh: The Willing Political Guinea Pig
From nowhere, Jimoh Ibrahim, contriversial businessman and political upstart, rammed into the political consciousness of a troubled nation in 2016. While Eyitayo Jegede, the defeated candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, in last month’s governorship election in Ondo State, was putting finishing touches to his campaign itinerary, INEC put a spanner into the works. It announced that it was recognising Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP and not Jegede. Not a few people suspected a foul play. The belief was that INEC was playing a script and Ibrahim had made himself a willing actor in the script.
Jegede went to court. He won. But the damage had been done. His nomination was confirmed less than 72 hours to the election.  Ibrahim might have achieved his aim as a political spoiler for PDP but his political odyssey in 2016 will be footnoted with ignominy.

Lawal, Mr. Babachir: An  SGF and his Troubled Contract
He started the year as a change agent but ended it defending, not only his name but his job, integrity and possibly freedom. Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, is one of the major drivers of President Buhari’s government of ‘saints’. Apart from holding a very sensitive position, he is seen as one of the agents of change. But that was until words emerged, last month, that a company he owned actually ‘won’ contracts running into millions of naira to clear grass in the IDP camp in Borno State.
Supporters of the SGF have been saying their man had resigned his directorship of the company since March. Only that they forgot to add that the company had already got the contract then and besides, the man still signs the cheques.
Now the president has ordered the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to investigate allegations against Lawal and Magu, the EFCC acting boss, the hen might be coming home to roost.
For Lawal, it might turn out to be Christmas without a snow.

Modu-Sheriff, Alhaji Ali: A Year for the PDP Undertaker
Ali Modu-Sheriff, the factional national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has had a year in 2016. It has been one case after the other in court but the man seems to have one ambition that has not been realised in 2016: to kill PDP as a party. He has ensured that all moves to reposition the party and make it play the role of an effective opposition party have failed. Even where the party conducted a normal primary election, Modu-Sheriff would ensure he truncated it. And he seems to have tacit supporters from the ruling party who seem to be closer to him than his own party members.

INEC: An Umpire and its Confused chairman
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, spent 2015 having inconclusive elections. But in 2016, the electoral umpire has not shown if it has improved. It seems to have a middle name called confusion. Against all grains of common sense, the body recognised Jimoh Ibrahim as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Ondo State. It took the judiciary weeks to right the deliberate wrong. INEC postponed the Edo gubernatorial election after it had assured all stakeholders that it was ready. The Okigwe Senatorial zone by-election in Imo State was a parody of shame.
2016 is one year Mahmud Yakubu and his INEC will like to forget.

Fayose, Ayo: The Indomitable NoiseMaker
If there is any governor that constantly reminds the nation that Nigeria is not a one-party state, it is the Ekiti State Governor. He has not relented in criticising the ruling party, especially the President.
Earlier in the year, Fayose had his accounts frozen with the allegation that it was used for conduit as a illegal funds during last year’s elections. He went to court and he won. Last week, he gleefully, like an actor, posing before the cameras, withdrew a sum of N5 million. It did not end there. In 2016, Fayose was the first and only governor to sign the anti-grazing bill into law. Also, Fayose presented his budget wearing a military fatigue uniform. It drew criticisms as expected, but the enfant terrible of Nigerian politics was not disturbed.

Tinubu, Bola: The Kingmaker who Lost his Own Tiara
Tinubu started the year getting feelers that he might have lost control of the APC political machinery. Nothing has changed. Not only was he bloodied in Ondo State when his preferred candidate was denied the ticket. His influence was also undermined by his own former loyalists who are ministers under President Buhari. Empowered and emboldened, they delivered a state in the South-West to the APC for the first time without Tinubu’s input. Sources say if Magu is eventually elbowed out of the EFCC, it would be culmination of a miserable political year for Tinubu.
However, never you underrate the man called Jagaban by his admirers. 2016 might not have gone as he wished but you write him off at your own peril.

Dalung, Solomon: The Minister who ‘Spended’ his Goodwill
If there is any minister who provided ammunition for his principal’s traducers, it is the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung. It is not in the area of performance has the man been a disaster. His faux pas were too many. He and his fat cats at the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, were said to have chartered a flight to watch the final match of the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon. And for a record eighth time, the Falcons won the cup and that was when story changed. The girls would not leave their hotel until their allowances were paid. Nigerians supported the girls. Dalung dithered. NFF remained confused. And the Presidency was initially aloof. Dalung then did the unthinkable: he told a shocked nation that no one expected the girls to win hence, no preparations for their allowances.
It took the intervention of President Buhari for the monies to be paid. And then, at a hearing before the House Appropriation Committee, Dalung ended a miserable year when he announced: “Monies spended, were well spended.”
The tragedy is that Nigerians might be saddled with his incompetence again for 2017.