Mix of Unmet Changes, Political Intrigues, Dashed Hopes

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 Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Vanessa Obioha and Ojo Maduekwe summarise some of the pivotal events that shaped a politically intriguing and entertaining year, marked with interesting twists and turns. From defections to controversial permutations, 2018 has been, arguably, more dramatic than other years under the present democratic dispensation

Justice Served: Gana vs Duke

Unless the judgment is overturned by a higher court, as it stands, former governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke, won’t be flying the presidential flag for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2019 election.

Duke had been declared the party’s presidential candidate after the primary election held in October, but on December 14, an FCT High Court, replaced him with former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana.

In the case instituted by Gana, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf ruled that since the party chairman, Chief Olu Falae, is from the South as Duke, then based on the SDP constitution on the zoning and rotation of party offices, both the candidate and chairman cannot come from the same region.
Demanding that political parties must “abide by the regulations which they have made by themselves”, Justice Baba-Yusuf ruled that Gana “laid sufficient evidence to have the judgment in his favour; it is a clear violation of the party’s constitution; the court cannot wave right over illegality.”

Justice Served: Oye vs Umeh

The legal battle for the national leadership of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is one of the longest political tussle ever witnessed in Nigeria in the present political dispensation since 1999.

Founded in 2003, APGA has spent half of its existence in and out of court. The July 13 judgment affirming Victor Oye the party’s chairman would be the fourth time such appeal would receive the apex court verdict.

Beginning in 2004, less than a year after its founding, the tussle for the soul of APGA has its root in the confrontation between then national chairman and founder, Chekwas Okorie and APGA’s former treasurer, Victor Umeh, over accusation of anti-party levelled against Okorie by Umeh.

The tussle culminated in the expulsion of Okorie, while Umeh was made the party’s acting national chairman. This expulsion was later endorsed by APGA stakeholders, the National Working Committee. From there began the party’s downward slide into becoming a house of cards.

Justice Served: Saraki vs The FG

The false asset declaration case brought against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the federal government, beginning from September 2015 and culminating at the Supreme Court in July 2018, can be said to have been the most intriguing politically motivated case to watch.

In June 2015, after Saraki went against his then party’s (APC) choice for the senate president, teamed up with members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the senate to be elected their president, he was slammed with a false asset declaration suit by the government.

Arranged on an initial 16-count charge, which was subsequently amended to 18-counts, Saraki was accused of making false declaration of assets and withholding information regarding his assets while he was Kwara governor between 2003 and 2011, and when he became a senator in 2011.

Since inception of the trial Saraki had always insisted that it was politically motivated. The fact that he was at the time a high ranking member of the ruling APC-led government, and the timing coinciding with his emergence as senate president, made his allegation very believable.

Keeping up with the theatrics of his trial was entertaining. On the first day of the trial, he was accompanied by a good number of his colleagues, arrived the premises of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on time by 11:50am. When the CCT failed to begin sitting, he went for his Muslim prayers. On returning, by 1:49pm Saraki was docked and the trial began.

The trial would move from the CCT to the Appeal Court and then back to the CCT and culminate at the Supreme Court. One time, when the case came up at the CCT, Saraki had 106 lawyers in his defense team, led by Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation.

Two years after, on June 14, 2017, the CCT chaired by Danladi Umar, cleared Saraki of charges brought against him by the federal government. According to the ruling, the failure of the prosecution to present witnesses to testify against Saraki made their evidence “defective”.

Executive / Legislative Relations

The lingering frosty relationship, from 2015 till date, between the executive and legislative arms of government can be traced back to the election of both principal officers of the senate and House of Representatives.

Following the animosity created by the false asset declaration suit against Saraki, it is no surprise that when President Muhammadu Buhari presented his first budget in office on December 22, 2015 for 2016, it would take several months before it was passed by the national assembly.

Although issues such as some heads of government agencies disowning the amounts allocated to them, and some accusing the National Assembly of ‘budget padding’ several projects under their agencies, it was however obvious there existed a frosty relationship between both arms.

If the CCT trial of Saraki didn’t cause enough damage, the executive decided to prosecute Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu for allegedly forging the senate rules used in electing them into office.

The police invited Ekweremadu for interrogation, and the government later initiated charges of forgery against Saraki and Ekweremadu before an FCT High Court, but would later drop the charges in October 2015.

Another issue that exposed the fault-lines between both arms was the still lingering non-confirmation of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

First nominated in 2016 to head the EFCC, the Senate rejected Magu, citing a report by the Department of State Security (DSS) advising against the confirmation. Re-nominated again in January, 2017 by an unyielding Buhari, the Senate, relying on the same DSS report, rejected him again, and asked that he be removed even from acting capacity.

All through this confrontation, neither did the senate nor the executive bulge and so, Magu remains until today the acting chairman of EFCC. Perhaps, the most scandalous scenario exposing the no-love lost situation between both arms of government was the recent jeering of President Buhari by the legislators when he came to present the 2019 budget before them.

Ekiti and Osun as Template?

There are allegations that the APC has developed a rigging scheme for the 2019 general elections, and that the 2018 Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, as well as the 2018 by-elections held in Kwara and Bauchi states, served as templates to test-run the scheme.

In all these highly controversial elections, the security agencies posted to maintain law and order, were alleged to have connived with the APC in rigging the elections to favour candidates of the ruling party.

INEC as APC Enabler?

The main opposition PDP is concerned and alleging that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will enable the ruling APC in ‘rigging’ the 2019 elections. On more than three occasions, national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, has expressed concern that the elections might not be free and fair, alleging that “INEC will rig the elections”.

Some critics who allege that INEC may have been compromised, cite as example the decision by the electoral body to register an additional 23 new political parties, bringing the total to 91, saying that this proliferation was the APC’s way of diluting the PDP candidate’s votes in 2019.

INEC has insisted that in registering the parties, it acted legally as prescribed by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, which allows for freedom of association, and as referenced by the Supreme Court in a case brought before it by Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).

The Passing of Anenih, Badeh

The death of Tony Anenih and Alex Badeh came as a shock in different ways. While Anenih, a former Works Minister and founding member of the PDP popularly known for his nickname, ‘Mr Fix It’, died while receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, Badeh was murdered.

Having served as a state chairman of Nigeria’s then ruling party, National Party of Nigeria (NPN), between 1981 and 1983, and later as the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993, helping the late MKO to win the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Anenih was said to have been one of the most influential politicians of his era.

For the late Badeh, who was the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, serving under former President Goodluck Jonathan, he was reportedly killed by unknown gunmen while returning from his farm in Abuja.

A Year of Defections: In preparation for the 2019 elections, political candidates pitched tents where their interests can best be served. This year, however, saw a large number of cross-carpeting from one party to another. But it was the defection of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki from the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) to his former party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that hugged headlines most. Called a betrayer and all sorts of names, Saraki restored power to PDP as a minority leading the senate. Saraki’s defection was a precursor to his presidential ambition which unfortunately didn’t materialise. Like Saraki, the presumed godfather of politics in Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio surprised his votaries and Nigeria as well when he defected to APC. It was expected that his godson who is currently the governor of the state, Udom Emmanuel will follow suit, but Udom stayed put to weather the storm that Akpabio’s defection stirred.

Power Tussle in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly: Following Akpabio’s defection, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke sacked five lawmakers who also defected from the PDP to the opposition party, APC. That decision generated a pandemonium that saw the affected lawmakers:  Idongesit Ituen, Gabriel Toby, Victor Udofia, Otobong Ndem and Nse Ntuen besiege the Assembly in an effort to impeach the sitting governor and elect a new Speaker of the House.

Cracks in APC: It was believed that the election of former governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomole as APC’s National Chairman will to a large extent keep the ominous implosion threatening APC. If anything, Oshiomhole’s emergence brought up disregard of the party’s laws to pursue personal interest. A typical example is that of Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha. The two men have been in a war of words since Oshiomhole countered Okorocha’s plan to field his son in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor. Oshiomhole’s preferred candidate is Senator Hope Uzodinma representing Orlu constituency. Before Oshiomhole’s interference, Okorocha had been greatly pilloried for his actions by the populace who believed it was a ploy to control the affairs of the state after he leaves office. Regardless of Okorocha’s interest, Oshiomhole kicked off the campaign for Uzodinma while the state party members nullified the membership of Uzodinma. Okorocha on the other hand is campaigning for his candidate Nwosu on the platform of Action Alliance.

In similar vein, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State has defied his party the APC’s governorship candidate for Ogun state and is campaigning for his preferred choice, Adekunle Akinlade of Allied People’s Movement. Their dissenting actions are clear evidence of the party’s implosion.

Ortom’s Nightmare: Following his defection to PDP, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue was nearly impeached by some members of the House of Assembly. The eight members acting under protection of the police, had in July sat in session and raised an impeachment notice against the governor. The remaining 22 members subsequently relocated to the Old Banquet Hall of the Government House where they sat with officials of the House of Assembly, including the Clerk of the Assembly in session. Plans to impeach the governor came to a halt when a High Court in Makurdi restrained the motion notice raised by the eight lawmakers.

No APC Zamfara Governorship Candidate: The in-house drama going on in the ruling party continues in Zamfara where the party has failed to produce a governorship candidate before INEC’s deadline. APC cancelled the gubernatorial primary in the state due to alleged election malpractices. With INEC’s ban on the party in Zamfara, it is known how Oshiomhole will manage the issue in the upcoming election.

Raucous Presidential Primaries: The presidential primaries of the APC and the PDP were, in a way, a rowdy circuit. While the APC claim to have uniformly chosen President Muhammadu Buhari as its preferred candidate for 2019, it was a battle of the fittest in the PDP camp. The party had 12 candidates vying for the presidential post, among them were the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tambuwal, Rabiu Kwankwaso and David Mark. Atiku would later emerge the winner.

Not a few eyebrows were raised when the ruling party claimed that they garnered 14.8 million votes for Buhari to win the party’s direct presidential primary. The figures are still being widely contested, with opponents challenging the APC to show its membership register with that number of supporters.

Atiku’s Lucky Charm: Atiku inched toward his political goal of ruling Nigeria when he emerged the winner of the PDP presidential primary. Formerly, a primary member of the ruling party, Atiku defected to his former party, PDP before announcing his presidential campaign. It is not the first time the Adamawa-state born businessman had indicated interest to run for president. In 1982, he made his first presidential bid under the Social Democratic Party but emerged third. Following his fallout with Obasanjo, he defected to the defunct Action Congress where he clinched the presidential ticket but lost to Obasanjo’s preferred candidate, the late Umaru Yar’Adua. Atiku would later return to PDP to take another shot at the presidential ticket. Once again, he lost the ticket to Goodluck Jonathan who would later emerged winner of the 2011 elections. By 2014, Atiku had dumped the PDP for the APC, a party which he helped form with the intent of running for president.  With the emergence of Buhari as the president under the party, Atiku once again fled the party and returned to PDP where he finally got the ticket. Choosing former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi as his running mate, Atiku is determined to put a golden seal to his long dream of ruling the country.

Akinwunmi Ambode’s Truncated Political Dream: A two-term governorship rule in Lagos state is no longer a given, following the unfortunate case of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The ruling governor failed to get the backing of the majority of his party after a perceived fallout between him and the party leaders in Lagos state. He has gone down history as the first governor of the state who only served one term in the office since 1999.

Drama King Ayo Fayose: The drama king was at his best this year, entertaining the audience with his raucous display of words. Having shoved his presidential dream aside, Fayose hasn’t derailed in throwing vitriols at the ruling party, particularly the president. He boldly expresses his opinions on Twitter, daring anyone to contradict him.

However, it was his outburst over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

(EFCC) allegations against him that was the height of it all. The anti-graft agency invited him  over the N1. 2bn slush fund from the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, which was deposited in his Zenith Bank account and which has been frozen by a court order.

Before his tenure elapsed, the governor told anyone who had ears that he would turn himself in to the agency once he leaves office, a decision he said was informed by his belief in the rule of law, particularly the need to clear his name.

In his usual dramatic manner, he arrived the EFCC’s office in company of some chieftains of the PDP. Dressed in a blue t-shirt with a bold white inscription: ‘EFCC I’m here’, with a face cap to match, the ‘stomach infrastructure’ governor carried two bags in tow. He was detained but was released two weeks later. This incident competed for dubious attention with an earlier episode in which Fayose had claimed he was brutalised by security agents, but his assertion was doubted by discerning members of the public.