Nseobong Okon-Ekong carefully chronicles some of the high and low themes of an eventful year
Tinubu, House of Assembly Sink Ambode in Lagos
For allegedly deviating from the master plan for Lagos State put in place by former Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode went down with the unenviable reputation of being the first chief executive of the state since the current cycle of civilian administration to be denied a second term.
There had been persistent rumour about the conflict between Ambode and Tinubu on one hand and between Ambode and the Lagos State House of Assembly on the other hand. Things became so bad that Ambode was threatened with impeachment. He was, however, saved the embarrassment after a peace meeting was brokered by the APC leadership in the state; and the State House of Assembly had agreed to sheathe its sword.
But the truce was simply a postponement of the evil day for Ambode. The APC leadership in Lagos State waited for an opportune time to go for his jugular and the opportunity came during the governorship primary. Though the exercise was controversial, the result from over 1.5 million members who voted across the 245 wards in the state was finally accepted by the party. It was announced that the current governor of the state, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851 votes to defeat Akinwunmi Ambode with 72,901votes.
2. The Loss of APC in Zamfara and No APC Candidates in Rivers
Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre, APC lost its bid to govern Zamfara State for another four years following a Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the build up to the 2019 general elections in Zamfara.
The candidate of the APC, Mukhtar Idris, had been declared winner of the elections after he polled 534,541 votes despite controversies trailing his candidacy.
The PDP governorship candidate, Bello Matawalle who came second in the election and all PDP candidates in the National Assembly and the state assembly elections upstaged the APC candidates who had earlier been declared winners.
The ruling by the Supreme Court was the climax of the political crisis that rocked the state, pitching Senator Kabiru Marafa who represented Zamfara Central against the former state governor, Abdul’aziz Yari.
* APC Had No Candidates in Rivers
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had insisted that the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State had no candidates in the 2019 general election in the state. However, elements in the party went all the way the Supreme Court which also affirmed the stance of INEC. For so long, a faction of the party loyal to Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi had been at daggers drawn against another group devoted to Senator Magnus Abe, who claimed to be the genuine governorship candidate of the APC in Rivers, while Mr. Amaechi propped up, Tonye Cole, as the party’s flagbearer. In the end, APC members and supporters in the state were persuaded to vote for the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Awara Biokpomabo.
3. Aisha Buhari’s Endless Controversies, Rumours of Second Wife for Buhari, Aisha Buhari Versus Fatima Daura, Reverse to First Lady Title
The nation was rudely awakened to an enduring rumour on social media that President Muhammadu Buhari was planning to take a second wife, suspected to be Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. Perpetrators of the wild story further said that the scheme was the handiwork of Mamman Daura, one of Buhari’s alleged kitchen cabinet members.
Though the gossip died naturally, another controversy soon surfaced with a video on social media showing a raging Mrs. Buhari in the Presidential Villa. Release of the video coincided with return of Mrs. Buhari to the country, after a long absence from the country. Fatima, Mamman Daura’s, daughter was said to be responsible for making the video of the incident which took place in 2017 public.
Mrs. Buhari has become notorious for her erratic outburst, which is often an embarrassment to her husband. She first attracted public attention to herself when she alleged that a powerful cabal in the Presidency was holding her husband captive. Mrs. Buhari has been publicly quoted attacking policies of the administration led by her husband. Recently, she knocked ministers and governors over unending security crisis and poor governance in the country.
Again, she accused the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, of muddling up communication emanating from the Presidential Villa, meddling in the affairs of her family and starving her of funds to run her office.
One month after Buhari was sworn in for a second tenure in May 2019, the President’s wife reversed herself and her husband’s earlier promise not to have the office of the First Lady. She announced her decision to be addressed as the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, going back on the previous practice of referring to her office as ‘office of the wife of the president,’ since the administration of President Buhari started in 2015.
4. Emergence of Muhammad as CJN
Though the emergence of Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, caused disquiet in some quarters, the appointment has stuck. No doubt that Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad became Nigeria’s top judiciary official under a cloud of controversy. Walter Onnoghen, the erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) had just been suspended by the Presidency last January 25 and summoned by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, when President Buhari appointed Muhammad as the nation’s acting CJN. There were cries of partisanship and high-handedness. In July 2019, President Buhari sent Muhammad’s name to the legislature, to permanently confirm him as CJN. The Senate acquiesced, confirming Muhammad on July 17 after a screening session that lasted from 11:43am to 1:18pm.
5. Emergence of Lawan, Gbajabiamila as Leaders of the National Assembly
Judging from what played out in the election of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly, there was palpable excitement when it was time to elect the headship of the 9th National Assembly. As it was in 2015, again, the Presidency favoured Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe as Senate President, while Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila got the nod preside over the House of Representatives.
But this time, the ruling party did its homework properly and was unyielding in knocking on every door to ensure victory for its candidates in both chambers.
With 79 votes, Lawan beat his opponent, Senator Ali Ndume (APC-Borno), who got only 28 votes, to emerge the head of the Red Chamber.
In the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila, a fifth-timer from Lagos State polled 281 votes to defeat his main rival, Hon. Umar Bago, who polled 76 votes.
However, the wide spread concerns that the leadership of the National Assembly will not be truly independent and able to stand up against the executive arm of government have continued to blight the activities of the federal legislature
6. Senators and House of Representatives Members who did not return
In the giddy days leading to the 2019 general election, there were major shift of partisan alliances. One of the earth shaking change of political party loyalty was the defection of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who is now Governor of Sokoto State. A large number of the 109-member senate from the 8th assembly did not return to the 9th assembly. Some of the federal lawmakers did not triumph in the primary election of their political parties. Others did not return due to the failed ambition to be governor in their state of origin.
Those in this category include Senator John Enoh (APC, Cross Rivers Central), Abdulaziz Nyako (APC Adamawa Central, who contested Adamawa governorship on the platform of the African Democratic Congress-ADC), Sonny Ogbuoji (APC, Ebonyi South), Usman Nafada (PDP Gombe North) winner of the PDP gubernatorial primaries in Gombe, Hope Uzodinma (APC, Imo West) defeated the governor, Rochas Okorocha’s in-law, Uche Nwosu, to win the All Progressive Congress’ gubernatorial ticket. His counterpart from Imo East, Sam Anyanwu who contested and lost the governorship ticket of PDP to Governor Emeka Ihedioha and Shaaba Lafiagi (PDP, Kwara North) who contested the PDP gubernatorial election and lost. Aruwa Gyunka (PDP, Nasarawa North) lost the gubernatorial primary of PDP, while Ademola Adeleke contested the Osun state governorship and lost. Jeremiah Useni (PDP, Plateau South) won PDP governorship ticket in the state. Rivers South East senator, Magnus Abe, lost the APC gubernatorial primary in the state.
However, the most controversial of the federal legislators who defected with their leaders from the APC to the PDP, totaling 16 senators and 34 House of Representative members, including Saraki and Dino Melaye, but failed to realise their ambition to return to the National Assembly, have provided the most fascination to critics and followers of the polity.
7. Oshiomhole versus Obaseki
There is no end to the enduring standoff between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the immediate past governor of the state and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. This faceoff has forced Obaseki, previously perceived as weak to display valour and candour historically associated with his forebears.
In the last couple of months, the Obaseki versus Oshiomhole spat which was vehemently denied by both parties has blown into a full-scale quarrel, without restrain. Apart from the principal characters in the broil, their acolytes have lined up behind them to fire shots at the opposing camps; some of them seizing this inauspicious moment to air pent up aggression or settle old scores. The face-off with Oshiomhole has made the public to see Obaseki in colours they never knew he had. Away from the perceived timorous attitude, the Edo State Governor has recently shown a display of valour and candour historically associated with his forebears, the Iyase of Benin, that is, the Second in Command (to the revered Oba of Benin), Prime Minister, Commander-in-Chief.
Majority of the people who thought Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State was weak and cowardly have been forced to have a rethink since the enduring standoff between him and Oshiomhole began. What is becoming clearer by the day is that Obaseki is not a pushover who could be tossed around by a political godfather.
8. Governor Ben Ayade versus Agba Jalingo
Publisher of Cross River Watch, an online newspaper that pays attention to Cross River State, Agba Jalingo has had his freedom curtailed ostensibly at the behest of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State. Jalingo has a run-in with Ayade, his kinsman from Obudu and erstwhile friend.
The Cross River Watch Publisher is facing a four count charge of treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the state government and has been remanded over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by Mr. Ayade. After the initial one month, a federal high court in Calabar, the Cross River State capital denied Jalingo’s application for bail. The presiding judge held that the charges against the journalist were grave with one of them attracting capital punishment.
In Cross River State, Jalingo who also doubles as a rights activist was beginning to acquire the image of a person who behaves in an unconventional way, that is largely unknown in that part of the country. Apart from opposing politicians, no individual or group has been known to express so much unambiguous criticism against the leadership of the state as Jalingo did with the N500 million diversion story against Ayade.
Jalingo has succeeded in drawing the attention of the world to his travail. Appearing in court manacled and wearing shirts emblazoned with copious messages like ‘Journalism is Not a Crime’, ‘Every Free Society Has a Journalist’ that announce the precarious condition of journalism and journalists in the country, he may have turned the tide of public opinion from his person to the bigger issue of rights violation in the larger society. His associates recently leaked a conversation that forced the judge handling his case to remove his hand from the matter. This was viewed by some observers as a psychological victory for Jalingo, who continues to assert his innocence and willingness to remain strong in the face of his current hardship.
9. Proposal for Hate Speech Bill
Nigerian Senator Abdullahi Sabi stirred the hornet’s nest when he sponsored a bill to set up a National Commission for Prohibition of Hate Speech.
The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill provides for investigation and punishment of those found guilty of hate speech or spreading of falsehood that leads to death of another person. By the promoter, it is “designed to address issues of discrimination, hostility and violence in Nigeria”.
The Deputy Senate Whip and sponsor of the bill, Senator Sabi, has justified the proposed death penalty, saying that there’s no going back on the bill. Known as ‘A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches and for Other Related Matters,’ it carries an altruistic toga of national cohesion and integration by outlawing unfair discrimination, hate speeches and to provide for establishment of powers and functions of an Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches.
10. Social Media Bill
Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill (a.k.a Social Media Bill) according to the sponsor, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa is aimed at guiding the users of the internet with a view to curbing fake news and ensuring sanity on the social media. It also provides for arresting and prosecuting anyone or group inciting hate or making hate speeches online.
Recently the Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, said the plans by the federal government to regulate the social media was already underway and there was no going back.
Anti-social Media Bill was introduced by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on November 5, 2019 to criminalise the use of the social media in peddling false or malicious information. The original title of the bill is ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019’.
11. Triumph of APC in Bayelsa
The All Progressives Congress (APC) increased its visibility in the South-south region by winning the governorship contest in Bayelsa State where its standard bearer, Mr. David Lyon was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the governorship election contested by 45 political parties, Lyon scored 352,552 votes to triumph against his major opponent, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 143,172 votes. The margin of votes between the two contestants stood at 209,380 votes
The election which held in 105 Wards and 2244 Polling Units, spread across the eight local governments of the state was blighted by late commencement of the electoral process; incidents of violence, ballot box snatching, over voting and sporadic gunshots. Bayelsa has a disturbing history of electoral violence, which reared its ugly head again in the 2019 governorship contest.
The election produced many surprises. In Ogbia local government, home of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP suffered a setback, losing to the APC with a wide margin. The party which was previously in opposition in Bayelsa state also won in Yenagoa, Nembe, Southern Ijaw and Brass.
12. Return of Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 Presidential Election was declared winner in that contest by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), defeating Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after winning in 19 of the 36 states. Abubakar was victorious in 17 states and in the federal capital, Abuja.
Buhari won in the two most populous states, Lagos and Kano.
The results showed that Buhari scored 56% of the votes. The APC garnered 15.2 million votes, while the PDP had 11.3 million votes. According to INEC, turnout in the election was 35.6 percent, compared to 44 percent in the 2015 presidential election.
Abubakar rejected the results and sought redress in the courts, but the judiciary confirmed Buhari’s victory all the way to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
13. Defeat of Atiku Abubakar
After rejecting the result of the February 23 presidential election, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar challenged the outcome at the Presidential Election Tribunal, which affirmed the victory of the President Muhammadu Buhari.
Abubakar went further to the Supreme Court, where a seven-man panel of the court, headed by Justice Tanko Ibrahim Muhammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of Buhari at the election.
14. The Resilience of Yahaya Bello
Against predictions that he will not return for a second term, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State won the primary to represent his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and went on to win the general election on November 16.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that Bello was ahead of the other 23 candidates with 184,430 votes margin.
Bello polled a total of 245,269 votes, followed by Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second with 60,839 votes.
15. O’to ge Revolution in Kwara
After years of dominance of the politics of Kwara State by the Saraki family, a spontaneous political revolution riding on the crest of the ‘O’To Ge’ (Yoruba for Enough is Enough) slogan led to the defeat of Bukola Saraki, who inherited the political empire founded by his late father, Dr, Olusola Saraki. At the time of his downfall, the younger Saraki was the incumbent President of the Senate.
The people of Kwara under different political groups shifted their loyalty to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to wrest power from Saraki and his loyalists who had assembled on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
16. Okorochar’s Loss, Gain
Uche Nwosu, former Chief of Staff and son in-law to the former Imo state governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Action Alliance (AA) to pursue his political ambition to be the next state governor. However, he lost to the eventual winner, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Nwosu was openly supported by Okorocha who defied his party and worked against the APC in a bid to help his sonin-law win the governorship contest.
However, it was not all gloom for Okorocha as he was elected to the Senate on the platform of the APC.
17. Oby Ezekwesili’s Withdrawal from Presidential Race
Oby Ezekwesili, presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) doused the hope of many of her followers when she announced her decision to withdraw from the race.
Ezekwesili is a two-time minister and former vice president for Africa at the World Bank.
She was the leading female candidate in the presidential election, with a promising message to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty. She said her withdrawal was meant to help concentrate on building a coalition that would offer to the people a viable alternative to the APC and the PDP.
18. The Arrest and Deification of Omoyele Sowore
From a lawless, naïve student-union activist, Omoyele Sowore, publisher of the news website, Sahara Reporters has dramatised the urgency required for people who can raise their voice when others, perhaps better placed to advance the nation’s democracy, stay docile.
On July 27, Omoyele Sowore announced that his political party, the African Action Congress (AAC) was set to spearhead a revolution-protest across Nigeria, starting from Monday, August 5. The plan was to mobilise hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to fill cities across the country until a governance “revolution” emerged. “We didn’t choose to go for a revolution, they chose it by ensuring that there was no level-playing field in the last election,” Sowore told journalists after the announcement.
Sowore said on Twitter, “#RevolutionNow #DaysofRage will cure all these madness once and for all!” On August 3, two days to his planned D-Day, armed operatives from the Department of State Security (DSS) invaded his Lagos hotel in the wee hours of the morning and hustled him into custody.
Security agents have denied him freedom since, flouting different court pronouncements to let him go on bail. They insist that Sowore was not out to stage an ordinary protest but to overthrow the government by illegitimate use of force, in order to achieve through the backdoor what he was denied by popular vote. His incarceration has heightened concerns within the country and abroad that the Buhari government may be steadily closing the civic space and turned Sowore to the face of defiance against the Nigerian government.
19 Imprisonment of Orji Uzor Kalu
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest occurrences on the political landscape in the outgoing year was the imprisonment of former governor of Abia State and Senator representing Abia North, Orji Uzor Kalu for sins he committed during his eight-year reign as chief executive of Abia.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) successfully proved a case of graft against the former governor after 12 years of legal battle. Justice Mohammad Idris of federal high Lagos found Kalu and his co-defendants, Jones Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited guilty of fraud involving N7.65 billion of Abia state money, siphoned when he was presiding over the affairs of the state. Kalu got a total of 133 years for all the 39 count charges but he was sentenced to 12 years concurrently. It was a protracted legal battle that had dragged to the Supreme Court as Kalu had at the initial stage insisted that he had no case to answer, an argument he lost at both the appellate and apex courts.
1. In the giddy days leading to the 2019 general election, there were major shift of partisan alliances. One of the earth shaking change of political party loyalty was the defection of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who is now Governor of Sokoto State. A large number of the 109-member senate from the 8th assembly did not return to the 9th assembly. Some of the federal lawmakers did not triumph in the primary election of their political parties. Others did not return due to the failed ambition to be governor in their state of origin
2. Sowore said on Twitter, “#RevolutionNow #DaysofRage will cure all these madness once and for all!” On August 3, two days to his planned D-Day, armed operatives from the Department of State Security (DSS) invaded his Lagos hotel in the wee hours of the morning and hustled him into custody.
Security agents have denied him freedom since, flouting different court pronouncements to let him go on bail. They insist that Sowore was not out to stage an ordinary protest but to overthrow the government by illegitimate use of force, in order to achieve through the backdoor what he was denied by popular vote. His incarceration has heightened concerns within the country and abroad that the Buhari government may be steadily closing the civic space and turned Sowore to the face of defiance against the Nigerian government