The outgoing year – 2019 – is a calendar year filled with ‘change’ characters and curious circumstances. The year started with the last lap vigorous electioneering by politicians across the country. The midnight postponement of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was ominous of other events that would later characterise 2019.
An election slated for February 16 was suddenly cancelled and hurriedly rescheduled for February 23, with President Muhammadu Buhari trumping former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (his closest rival) by more than three million votes.
The election was described as the most expensive ever held in Nigeria, costing N69 billion more than the 2015 election. Amid the violence, malpractice, and feisty litigation that featured prominently and the contentious Supreme Court’s final judgment, Buhari remains in charge.
In circumstances many considered curious and controversial, few weeks to the presidential election, Buhari had kicked out the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, citing allegations that compromised his continued stay in office.
Things had looked ugly until the news that the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, was reappointed.
Then, there was the closure of the border. It started with one and the year’s ending with all of the nation’s borders closed with the attendant confusion, criticism, and commendation, locally and internationally.
It seems too early to conclude on the gains and the pains so far. Before that, a United Kingdom court appeared to have held the Nigerian government by the jugular, when it awarded a private company, P&ID a $9.6 billion (20% of Nigeria’s foreign reserves) judgment debt against the country.
Reprieve however came the way of Nigeria, when the court asked the federal government to pay $200 million security payment in the court’s account while granting request to stay execution in the award of the $9.6 billion. But the jury is still out.
In other news, Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, had been hugging the headlines and setting the stage for a historic moment until it dawned on the nation that Oscars wasn’t coming home soon. Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart had received commendable reviews; it was not enough for it to get a waiver at the academy for not meeting Oscars’ requirements. False dawn.
That was soon made up for with news of Anthony Joshua’s victory against Andy Ruiz Jr, to reclaim his titles. Joshua is champ again! At the rematch, ‘Clash On the Dunes’, Joshua dominated and won by margins of 118-110 on two scorecards with the third judge making it 119-109.
Sadly, however, 2019 was a harvest for insurgents, bandits and kidnappers. The year also witnessed many occasions of the government – at the federal and state level – showing total disregard for court orders and state security operatives acting as though they are gangsters, flagrantly violating fundamental human rights of citizens. Omoyele Sowore’s travails come handy.
The year’s ending on a melodramatic fashion as a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal, Mohammed Adoke was eventually arrested in the UAE, pressured into signing an undertaking and returned to Nigeria to the ‘embrace’ of the EFCC.
Meanwhile, there is royal rumble in big Kano Emirate as the Emir of Kano, Emir Sanusi II, is fighting one of the greatest battles of his life against Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who appears bent on further humiliating the first class traditional ruler.
Curiously, same Ganduje was only recently handed a clean bill after a video, which showed him receiving bribe in dollars. Although the court had spoken, a forensic analysis done by some Oxford University students, recently confirmed the videos were authentic. Life goes on, regardless.
On the foreign scene, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading the UK out of the European Union soon. Brexit, as it has come to be known, might be inevitable. What’s more, the EU has also given a January deadline.
But in neighbouring America, President Donald Trump isn’t smiling at the moment. This followed his impeachment a few days ago by the US House of Representatives, peopled by the Democrats.
In all, the more anyone looks into 2019, which is ending in a few days, the less likely the individual sees what surprises are there for the rest of the year. Below is a recap of some of the events that defined the year under review.
WITH PECULIAR MARKERS, 2019 RUNS ITS RACE
The Fall of a Chief Justice
In February this year, just before the general elections, the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, was suspended from office on charges of not declaring his assets. In fact, the rumour mill had it that he had been removed outrightly. But on February 28, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malami, said Onnoghen was only “suspended” and not “removed” from office. But Onnoghen never returned to office as he was subsequently tried by the code of conduct tribunal (CCT) and convicted for failure to declare his assets. He later resigned while on suspension from office and was replaced by Justice Tanko Ibrahim.
Not a few people believed Onnoghen’s removal had nothing to do with the anti-corruption fight of this government but to ensure he would not preside over the Presidential election petition tribunal. If this school of thought was to be taken serious, the powers that be had their way.
Buhari Gets a New Mandate
The presidential leg of the 2019 general election was to hold on February 16 this year but had to be postponed to February 23, for reasons of poor planning by the electoral body, INEC. It was a battle between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, of the PDP.
Results, in most cases, did not correlate with the number of registered voters. But INEC declared Buhari winner in the fiercely contested election. Buhari on May 29, started a fresh term in office. Atiku on his part would not give up as he contested the result up to Supreme Court. At end of the day, he lost but Buhari won.
If Nigerians expected improvement on the 2015 general election, 2019 was nothing close to an improvement.
The Trial of an Activist
On August 3, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) stormed the hotel apartment of Mr. Omoyele Sowore, journalist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, an online newspaper, and arrested him on the allegation of trying to overthrow the democratic government of President Mohammadu Buhari.
Sowore, fed up with bad governance and apparent lack of any clear direction in the affairs of the country, started the #RevolutionNow movement and that was it. DSS promptly arrested him and despite repeated court orders and meeting very stringent bail conditions, the secret police refused to release him.
On December 4, he was released but the following day, while appearing in court, the DSS made another attempt to arrest him. He ran inside the court but the operatives of the DSS pursued him, sent the judge away at gunpoint and forcefully re-arrested.
The outrage that followed this apparent desecration of the temple of justice was unprecedented and it was one issue that has shown in clear terms, the apparent disregard for rule of law under the Buhari regime and one the issues that have shaped the year.
Orji Kalu Goes to Jail
Former Abia State governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is currently a serving prisoner. Kalu had been standing trial for fraud in the region of N7.1b since 2007 and the case dragged on with different tricks being deployed to use by his defence team.
Apparently, to get a political leeway, Kalu joined the ruling APC and contested for a senatorial seat, which he won. He even took a chieftaincy title in Daura, President Buhari’s hometown. But those were not enough to save him.
On December 5, Justice Mohammed Idris sentenced Kalu to 12 years in jail and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to wind down and its assets forfeited to the government. The Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House, when Kalu was governor, Jones Udeogu, was also sentenced to 10 years in jail.
If there was one major proof in 2019 that the anti-corruption fight has not been a total waste, it was Kalu’s conviction. He has since appealed the judgment, but remains in prison, where he is seeking post-conviction bail.
Bayelsa’s Shocking Election
For the first time since 1999, PDP lost Bayelsa to the opposition on account of bad politics. On November 16 2019, David Lyon, candidate of the APC, polled a total of 352,552 votes to defeat Senator Duoye Diri of the PDP, who polled 143,172 votes.
This was one of the major political upsets that shaped 2019. The South-south is considered a stronghold of the opposition PDP. In fact, the ruling APC, despite deploying the so-called federal might, has not been able to make any meaningful inroad into the zone.
But when they did, they captured the home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan. There were allegations that the former President connived with the APC to teach outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson some lessons, but that is a different issue. The point is that for the first time since 1999, PDP lost a second state in the South-south, coming after Edo.
Aisha Buhari Speaks Out
If there was one other issue that kept Nigerians asking what was going on at the seat of power, it was the frequent outbursts of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari. If it was not about some faceless people hijacking power from her husband, it was about her family members being prevented from accessing certain parts of the Presidential Villa.
About two weeks ago, the President’s wife took on a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, whom she accused of destroying her family. She said the senior special assistant to the President on media and publicity was destroying her family and had “presented himself to these people (the cabal) as a willing tool and executioner of their antics from the corridors of power, even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President.”
Later, the First Lady said she did not have the opportunity of having a pillow talk with her husband again. No First Family has ever washed its dirty linen in the public like this. 2019 surely had a good feel of Aisha’s fury.
The Legislature Works with Executive
For the first term in 20 years of democracy we have the legislature and the executive cooperating for the good of the country. While many have criticised and the bromace between the two arms of government, others have hailed it as good for democracy.
The Presidency and its enforcers did everything to pave the way for the emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan as the Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is hoped that this cooperation will translate into dividends of democracy for ordinary Nigerians.
Kogi: A Stolen Election
The Kogi governorship election was stolen and everybody knows it. The build-up to the Kogi State governorship election was fraught with violence and when the Kogi governorship election did hold on Saturday, November 16, same day as the Bayelsa election, not only was it a mockery of democratic exercise, it was also a massive indictment on the often vaunted integrity of President Buhari.
Ballot boxes were being openly snatched, whilst thugs had a field day aided by security operatives. Election officials were kidnapped and even voters were openly intimidated. A PDP woman leader was burnt alive inside her house in what has come to blight the nation’s journey to internationally acceptable democratic practice.
Not only was the election condemned locally, it also marked another low in the nation’s political journey in 2019. Yahaya Bello is no doubt going to be exercising and illegitimate mandate when he is sworn in for second term. He did not win, he simply stole the vote.
Insecurity Fails to Abate
For the greater part of this year insecuriiy failed to abate. Zamfara and Katsina States were in the news for all the wrong reasons as bandits, who were armed with sophisticated weapons, practically took over many parts of the states and adjoining towns.
In the Northeast, Boko Haram, which this government once claimed had been “technically defeated”, refused to be defeated. In fact, just recently, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, said the insurgents were still in control of three local governments in his state.
While bandits, and Boko Haram insurgents continued to make life miserable for a section of Nigerians for the greater part of 2019, it was a year shaped by the activities of kidnappers, who moved from targeting the vulnerable in the society to abducting those hitherto were considered untouchable.
A high court judge in Akure, Justice Abdul Dogo, was kidnapped on October 23 this year, when he was on his way back from Abuja. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N50 million. Another judge was also kidnapped two weeks after.
Two priests who were also traveling to Akure from Enugu for a religious event were abducted while a lecturer was abducted on his way to Asaba. While security forces did so well to contain the activities of these social miscreants, 2019 still witnessed a lot of their nefarious activities.
MTN and Airtel Deepen the Markets
The capital market scored a big one this year following the listing of two telecommunications giants, MTN Nigerian Communications Plc and Airtel Africa Plc on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
MTN was the first to be listed on May 16, 2019 as the NSE admitted 20.4 billion shares of the company at N90 per share, thereby listing the market capitalisation of the exchange by N1.8 trillion. The market capitalisation of MTN has risen to N2.295 trillion as at Friday, following the appreciation in the share price to N112.50 per share.
Similarly, Airtel Africa Plc had its 3.758 billion shares listed on the NSE at N363 per share in September. This added N1.364 trillion to the market capitalisation of the exchange. However, the value of Airtel Africa Plc shares as at last Friday stood at N1.123 trillion, following depreciation in its share price.
But for the N3.412 trillion value of both MTN and Airtel, the equities market capitalisation of the NSE, would have dipped to N9.4 trillion as at last Friday.
A Ground Breaking Finance Bill
The federal government, in October, submitted a ground breaking Finance Bill to the national assembly, which graciously passed it, but the bill currently awaits President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent. The finance bill seeks to put in place practical measures to generate additional revenues for the government to partly finance the deficit in the 2020 budget. To this end, the bill sought to amend various tax laws in the country. The bill proposes fiscal measures in support of the 2020 budget of the federal government, with extensive tax implications for the country. With a total proposed expenditure of N10.33 trillion against expected revenue of N8.15 trillion, resulting in a deficit of N2.18 trillion. The projection is to finance the 2020 budget partly by tax revenues expected to be generated through the key fiscal changes introduced in the bill. The bill contains vast changes to the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, Petroleum Profits Tax Act (PPTA), Personal Income Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act (CGTA), Customs and Excise Tariff Etc. (Consolidation) Act and Stamp Duties Act.
As FMDQ Inaugurates Its Securities
FMDQ, in August, inaugurated its securities exchange called FMDQ Securities Exchange Plc, breaking the monopoly hitherto enjoyed by the Nigeria Stock Exchange. With the development, investors have now been provided with a formidable alternative as FMDQ transited from just an over-the-counter (OTC) platform to a full-blown securities exchange, recording a paradigm shift in the Nigerian capital market.
According to a statement by FMDQ, the Securities and Exchange Commission granted it necessary approvals to operate as a securities exchange and it, therefore, established FMDQ Clear Limited and FMDQ Depository—its two wholly-owned subsidiaries
A Border Closure to Protect the Economy
President Buhari, on August 21, directed the closure of all the country’s land borders to protect the country’s economy from activity of smugglers who had turned Nigeria to a dumping ground of imported goods and other dangerous equipment into the country.
The action code-named Exercise Swift Response, which is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Army, has seen those in the business of smuggling suffer huge losses, while Nigeria takes steps to ramp up local production.
Emefiele’s New Wings
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was in May reappointed for a second term of five years by President Muhammadu Buhari. He became the first CBN governor since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, to be given the opportunity to serve a second term. Emefiele, who is a former managing director of Zenith Bank, was first appointed in 2014. His reappointment came as a pleasant surprise to many Nigerians, particularly northerners who had expected someone from the North to be appointed to replace Emefiele. But for the first time Buhari proved bookmakers wrong.
P & I D Puts a Nation to Test
Nigeria, in 2019, battled to reverse the judgment of a London court, which awarded $9.6 billion in favour of P&ID over an alleged breach of a gas supply contract agreement. The government had also appealed against the order of the same court, which in October, asked that a $200 million security payment be made into its account within 60 days, as a condition for a stay of execution of the $9.6 billion judgment after granting the country leave to appeal the judgment.
A Return to Jan-Dec Budget Cycle
The signing into law the 2020 budget has effectively returned the nation to a January-December budget cycle. The feat has continued to generate commendations, as analysts believed it was going to help businesses plan and also make implementation more effective.
The Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, in a statement, described the development as historic and capable of enthroning predictability and certainty in public financial management, macroeconomic projections, and project execution.
Theresa May Quits
Her Brexit plans failed again and again to impress squabbling MPs in parliament, but she soldiered on regardless. Until May this year when she announced in an emotional statement outside her office in Downing St, she was stepping down as prime minister. She finally stepped down on July 24. Mrs May – who became the UK’s second female prime minister in July 2016 – had been under sustained pressure from lawmakers opposed to her Brexit plans.
Johnson Gets Brexit Done
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured an emphatic victory in the UK election early December, with the Prime Minister’s Conservative Party winning a majority of seats in Parliament and a mandate to fulfill its campaign pledge of “Getting Brexit Done.”
The result suggested that he paralysis in British politics was over. Brexit is therefore set to come to an end and remove the parliamentary obstacles to Johnson’s delivering on his pledge to take Britain out of the European Union by January 31 or sooner.
The Trump Impeachment
After years of being hounded by the opposition, Donald Trump this December became the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office or not.
The house voted on two charges – that the president had abused his power and that he had obstructed Congress. Nearly all Democrats voted for the charges and every Republican against. President Trump’s Republicans control the Senate, so, it is unlikely he would be removed from office.
Resuscitating the National Theatre
After years of neglect, the iconic National Theatre in Lagos received some attention from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers Committee. They planned to revive the edifice with about N25 billion. They also planned to give it a facelift, restore its touring potential and develop a 40-acre Creative Industry Park.
Africa Nations Cup: Eagles Return with Bronze
Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, bounced back into continental reckoning by winning the bronze at the Nations Cup in Egypt in June. It was a laudable achievement considering that the team failed to qualify for two consecutive editions in 2015 and 2017, following the 2013 edition in which they emerged African champions.
Adoke’s Return to the Past
A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, was recently arrested by the Interpol on November 11, 2019, in Dubai, after travelling there for a medical appointment. Adoke was taken into custody seven months after the EFCC issued a warrant for his arrest as part of an investigation into the $1.3bn sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011. The anti-graft agency obtained arrest warrants in April for Adoke, former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, and an Eni manager.
In the evening of Thursday December 19, EFCC said Adoke arrived from Dubai “into the waiting arm of its operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja”. He has since been in its custody. The former minister has repeatedly said he was innocent of the alleged fraud levelled against him and expressed fears of being persecuted (and not prosecuted) if he returned to Nigeria.
Anthony Joshua: The Comeback Kid
British-Nigerian heavyweight boxer, Anthony Joshua, is ending 2019 the same way he started: as a unified heavyweight champion of the world with four belts. In between, he lost the much-coveted belts to Mexican-America Andy Ruiz in a shocking technical knockout on his US debut in New York.
Six months later, Joshua put up a master class as he dominated Ruiz over 12 rounds in Saudi Arabia to get his titles back and shut his critics up.
Lion Heart and a False Dawn
It was scripted to be Nigeria’s moment of glory at the Oscars. Nollywood and its army of cheerleaders and fans believed so. It had never happened before, but Nigeria’s first ever submission for best international feature film at the Oscar Awards, Lion Heart, was disqualified by the organisers.
Films in this category, formerly best foreign-language film, must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”. But, the 95-minute Lion Heart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language. The submission was however seen as a turning point for Nollywood.
The movie director, Genevieve Nnaji and other Nigerians were left heart-broken.
The best foreign-language film category was changed ahead of the 2020 awards to the best international feature film with the Academy saying the reference to “foreign” was “outdated within the global filmmaking community”. A record 93 countries submitted entries to be considered in the international category this year.
Royal Rumble in Resplendent Kano
There was royal rumble in Kano Emirate as the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has been fighting one of the greatest battles of his life against Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the state, who was bent on humiliating.
The struggle for supremacy and power began when Ganduje created four additional emirates and paramount rulers in the state to reduce the influence and authority of the Emir of Kano. But a Kano court declared his action as illegal. Soon, the state’s parliament came to the governor’s rescue by passing a bill into law, recognising the new emirates.
Now, the governor has issued the embattled Kano monarch, a former CBN governor, unpalatable option. Will Emir Sanusi survive the sustained onslaught on his throne? The closing days of 2019 presents an uneasy calm in the emirate.
SEC Sacks Oando Directors, But they remain in Office
On May 31, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released the result of the forensic audit of Oando Plc activities and barred the company’s chief executive officer (CEO), Mr. Wale Tinubu, and his deputy, Mr. Omamofe Boyo, from being directors in any public company for the next five years. The commission also directed board members found guilty of various infractions to resign.
SEC also announced the constitution of an Interim Management Team (IMT) headed by Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, to oversee the affairs of Oando Plc and conduct an Extra Ordinary General Meeting on or before July 1, 2019. However, Tinubu and Boyo went to court to challenge the decision of SEC. Consequently, the status quo has remained in place as Tinubu and Boyo continued to run the affairs of the company till date.
Edo: Between Oshiomhole and Obaseki
Between Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State, and his now estranged political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, there is no love lost. Last week, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, had arrived in the Benin-City, the state capital, where plans had been made for his own faction of the party to receive Pastor Eze Iyamu, of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Incidentally, Iyamu was the one who contested against Obaseki four years ago. Now, he has joined the APC. The rally did, however, not hold as the Inspector-General of police ordered that such event should not hold so as not to aggravate an already volatile security situation in the state capital.
Oshiomhole and his group still received Iyamu but in his (Iyamu’s) private residence. While each camp has been trying to outdo each other and win sympathy of neutrals, they are not relenting in their war of attrition. And next year, when the governorship election in the state would hold, promises to be more interesting. If only for these two political sparing partners, 2019 has not been a dull year.
Osinbajo’s Aides, Associates Sent Home
On November 5 this year, the seeming cold war in the Presidency between President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, claimed a major casualty when 35 aides of the Vice-President were relieved of their duties. In fact, a national newspaper (not THISDAY) had reported that the Vice-President had tried to delay the sack until the President returned to the country on November 17 but he did not succeed.
On December 9, the former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, was also relieved of his duties as his term of office was not renewed. When the dust was yet to clear, Muiz Banire, chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, was also removed from office. Both were close associates of the Vice-President.
Since 2015, Osinbajo could not have had a tumultuous year like 2019.
The End of a Terrorist
The world was finally rid of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The fugitive leader killed himself October 26, during a US military operation in north-west Syria.
Baghdadi came to prominence in 2014, when he announced the creation of a “caliphate” in areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIS carried out multiple atrocities that resulted in thousands of deaths. According to US President Donald Trump, al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest after fleeing into a tunnel, chased by US military dogs.