Decade of the Interesting, Entertaining and the Provocative in Nigerian Politics (2)

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The 2010s marked the continuation of another leg of the current democratic dispensation. Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha write that Nigerian politicians are struggling to redeem the promises for a better living to the people

The Power Tussle (Struggle to Oust PDP)

Candidates of the PDP were declared winners of Zamfara Elections

Much of the happenings on the political landscape in the last decade occurred between two parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other parties. The former ruling party was blessed with the privilege to grab the presidential throne when the country returned to democratic rule two decades ago. Since that historic feat, the party maintained an iron grip on the throne, keeping the cherished office away from other parties. Initially, Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All Peoples Party (APP) were the only contenders that gave a meaningful challenge to the PDP in the presidential race.

With the domineering presence of the former ruling party, other parties realized the way to upset the PDP was to form alliances. One of the earliest formidable rivals to the PDP was Action Congress (AC) which later changed its name to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2010. The party was formed in 2006 through a merger of a faction of Alliance for Democracy, the Justice Party, the Advance Congress of Democrats, and several other minor political parties. The party would later metamorphose to a stronger force, APC in 2013 when members from Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) joined forces to defeat the PDP. The APC landed its victory in 2015 when Buhari emerged winner of the presidential election, as well as APC securing 21 states.

With the reverse roles, the PDP found itself fighting to regain the power it had enjoyed for 16 years. It went to the polls in the 2019 elections confident that this time it would resume its winning streak. But it was dealt another blow when it lost again to APC, this time with a wider margin compared to the previous election. The PDP garnered 41.2 percent votes against APC’s 55.6 percent.

As a result of the enduring power tussle, politicians have crossed from one party to another, looking for the party where their interests can be best met.

The Emergence of Political Parties

Apart from ushering a new democratic era, the Fourth Republic saw the birth of many political parties. As at 1999 when Nigeria held its first general election in the new Republic, only three parties contested the presidential elections. That number has multiplied in the last decade. Between 2014 and 2016, the electoral umpire in the country, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registered 30 political parties. In 2018, there were over 60 political parties vying for both gubernatorial and presidential seats. By 2019, there were 92 registered parties.

The proliferation of political parties came about after an outcry on the dominance of the two major political parties; PDP and APC. There is also an existing judicial pronouncement that encourages proliferation of political parties. Nigerians have for long clamoured for new faces, preferably younger faces to take the reins of power. Thus, the 2019 election was a motley group of individuals from different sectors of the economy. There was Kingsley Moghalu who ran under the Youth Progressive Party (YPP), former education minister Oby Ezekwesili who represented Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), and motivational speaker Fela Durotoye for the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).

The New Propaganda: Social Media

Social media gained astronomical traction in the 2010s. It assumed another life of its own, giving users the ability to collate and distribute data. Like other parts of the world, Nigerians quickly caught on the social media rave that allowed political conversation to thrive. The online platforms became a social networking battle and rallying field for Nigerians to connect, air their opinions and throw insults and diatribes to seeming detractors, and politicians were not excluded. Understanding the overwhelming influence the platform had, particularly the micro blogging site Twitter, Nigerian politicians hopped on the train, using the social media tool to achieve their personal and political interests.

The 2015 elections saw a massive campaign on Twitter by political parties to win the support of the electorates, notably the APC candidate in the election, President Buhari. Their message of change was spread to every nook and cranny of the social media platform with hashtags such as #Change. Other trending political hashtags relating to election in this decade include #NigeriaDecides, #FreshNigeria, #NextLevel and #RevolutionNow among others.

The End of Godfatherism

The influential culture of powerful politicians endorsing candidates to occupy political seats took an interesting turn in the last decade. Popularly known as Godfatherism, the proclaimed godfathers suffered backstabbing actions from their appointed godsons. Most of these fallouts happened at the tail end of the decade. One of the shocking fallouts of the decade was between Godswill Akpabio and his godson Udom Emmanuel who succeeded him in the 2015 elections.

The rumour mill speculated that there was friction between the two after Emmanuel assumed office but with no substantial evidence, the news remained a rumour until 2018 when in an unceremonious manner, Akpabio defected to the APC with the promise to deliver the state to the president who was bidding for a second term. By his defection, Akpabio made it obvious that he was not going to support his godson’s second term bid, thus, giving credence to the speculations that no love was lost between the two. Fortunately, for Emmanuel, he was able to win the election.

In Kano, the scenario was no different. The former governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and his deputy Abdullahi Ganduje who ruled the state twice had a bitter fallout after the latter climbed the highest rung of the political ladder in 2015. His emergence as the governor of Kano state was greatly endorsed by Kwankwaso but once in power, Ganduje ran the government on his own terms and not that of his godfather.

The cold war between them was relished by the media that sought to understand the gravity of their enmity. In the 2019 elections, Kwankwaso who was among the five PDP governors who defected to the new opposition party APC, and formed a PDP splinter group known as the G-7 threw his weight behind Abba Kabiru Yusuf, the PDP candidate in the state to spite Ganduje. Like in Akwa-Ibom state, Ganduje emerged victorious.

In Edo state, the Godfatherism war is still raging between the national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomole and his appointed godson, Godwin Obaseki. Obaseki alleged that Oshiomole whom he succeeded was still trying to pull the strings in the governance of the state but Obaseki refused to be the puppet.

Perhaps, the most intriguing display of betrayal in the Godfatherism scene happened in Lagos state where Senator Bola Tinubu refused to anoint his godson, Akinwunmi Ambode for a second term in the 2019 election. It was the height of the nepotism culture in politics. Reports claim that Tinubu had been wisely advised not to return Ambode to power by the wise men of Lagos state. They complained that the now ex-governor was too haughty to be controlled.

After weeks of deliberation, Tinubu picked another godson, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ascend the coveted throne. Things turned out messy with this new decision. Ambode refused to back Sanwo-Olu and was full of resentment for the preferred godson such that during his campaign, he told the world that Sanwo-Olu’s sanity was suspect. His statement was a big hint that the APC might suffer an implosion soon. Though plans to drag Ambode’s name in the mud is yet to be successful, it is unknown if Ambode will betray Tinubu like his contemporaries in other states of the South-west have.

The Rise of Boko Haram

The insurgent group became the face of terror in the North-east region during the 2010s. In 2010, it carried out a set of bomb attacks in some parts of the country and by 2011, it carried out its first vehicle bomb attack in the Police Headquarters in Abuja in June, followed by another attack on the United Nations offices in August. The attacks were a violent protest to the government to release its imprisoned members who were arrested in 2008. During the inauguration of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the group carried out another set of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja. By the end of the year, the insurgents intensified their attacks, displacing thousands of people in the North-east as well as carrying out their attacks on religious holidays such as Christmas, casting a dark cloud on the celebrations.

Their attacks further widened in the subsequent years including kidnappings and rape. The most outrageous attack by the terrorist group was when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. Their action spurred human rights protests and condemned the slow response of the Jonathan administration to address the issue.

Boko Haram also sought to capture some territories in North-eastern and eastern areas of Borno, as well as in Adamawa and Yobe. On January 3 2015, Boko Haram attacked Baga, seized it and the multinational joint task force military base, killing over 1000 people.

The Buhari administration since assuming office has been keen on curtailing the widespread violence. Though the results have not been as swift as Nigerians had hoped, it has certainly seen a decline in attacks by the terrorists. The administration even claims that no part of Nigeria is occupied by insurgents. However, cynics have pointed out that the war in the North-east has become a cash cow to the Nigerian military high command. The thinking is that armed ragtag Boko Haram insurgents are no match for the highly trained Nigerian armed forces, if there is a will to end the war; once and for all.

Abductions and Banditry

While Boko Haram was the known face of terror in the country, they gave rise to other security challenges. Unknown men under the guise of Boko Haram carried out a series of abductions in some parts of the country. But the recurring presence of Fulani Herdsmen who were accused of wreaking havoc in Zamfara as well as the Middle-belt, Southwest and South-east states was a huge concern to many Nigerians. The Buhari administration came under great criticism for the manner it handled the security challenges. In recent times, though, there’s been a decline in killings linked to Fulani herdsmen.

An Era of Protests

The 2010s witnessed a wave of protests. In 2012 when Jonathan announced the removal of fuel subsidy, it triggered a wave of civil protests among which the prominent one was ‘Occupy Nigeria’, a socio- political protest movement. The group carried out protests across the country, including in the cities of Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Minna, and at the Nigerian High Commission in London.

In the months leading to the 2015 elections, another coalition of Nigerian youth advocacy groups known as ‘Enough-is-Enough carried out a mobilization program to encourage voters registration. Prior to that, the coalition which key objectives is to  promote better governance and political accountability in the country was among the group of people who led the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign for the kidnapped Chibok girls. The infamous incident triggered a series of protests across the country as well as in the diaspora.

Using the power of social media, a hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was created on Twitter and attracted worldwide attention. Renowned prominent personalities in the government such as Ezekwesili were among the advocates of the campaign. It also attracted influential international personalities like Michelle Obama.

Other causes the group fought for include the high remuneration of legislators and denial of visa for elected officials who travel abroad for medical care.

In 2019, the SaharaReporter founder Omoyele Sowore was held in custody of the DSS for treason according to the security agency.  Sowore was arrested after he planned a revolution protest. His arrest spurred protests from different groups calling for his release. Sowore was finally released in December after spending months in detention.

A Decade of Many Letters

Due to the rising wave of corruption and insecurity challenges across the country, former presidents and statesmen deemed it right to write public letters to address this issue.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was among the leading letter writers of this decade. When Jonathan was in power, the former Head of State wrote a caustic 18-page letter to him, accusing him of driving the country to a precipice and allowing corruption to rise. Jonathan replied him by addressing the key issues raised as well as slightly accusing the former president of instigating subversion through his open letter. Obasanjo also got an incensed response from his daughter Iyabo who accused him of orchestrating a third term for himself as president, cruelty to family members, abandonment of children and grandchildren, and also, a legendary reputation of maltreatment of women. She bluntly told him that he was in no shoes to claim the voice of wisdom as he is not a saint and doesn’t own Nigeria.

Notwithstanding his previous letters, Obasanjo wrote to Buhari this year to address the issue of rising insecurity, though in a milder tone.

The former governor of the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Sanusi Lamido Sanusi also wrote to Jonathan in 2013 about how government-owned oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) systematically diverted huge sums, being crude oil sales proceeds between January 2012 and July 2013. His letter fetched him a suspension.

The Rise and Rise of Bola Tinubu

If there is one political figure that has risen to enviable prominence in the last decade, it is Senator Bola Tinubu. From contesting on the AD platform to secure Lagos governorship seat in 1999, Tinubu has become the feared man in the South-west and even playing big in the federal level. His acolytes will tell you that if not for Tinubu’s intervention, Buhari would never have realised his presidential dream.

He is the proclaimed godfather of Lagos state and has no intention of retiring from that lofty post anytime soon. Tinubu is also responsible for his wife’s stay in the senate for a record-breaking three times, a feat that is yet to be achieved by any senator from the state.

The last rung on the ladder of power to be climbed by the senator is the presidency. Already, there are rumours that he is eyeing the seat in the coming 2023 elections, the politician has consistently debunked the rumour. One wonders if he will be content as King Maker in the coming decade.

Nnamdi Kanu’s Defiance

Nnamdi Kanu

After the death of the revered Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a young British-Nigerian political activist took the baton to implement the motive of the Indigenous People of Biafra which is to create a separate state for the South-east indigenes through a referendum.

His activism was cheered by devotees of the cause and Kanu assumed the role of a leader after he encouraged Igbos to arm themselves with guns and bullets to defend themselves from attacks by Fulani herdsmen in 2015. He was later arrested that same year and was released in 2017 after meeting his bail conditions. His arrest caused an unrest as his followers protested in many parts of the South-east region.

Through his radio station, Radio Biafra, Kanu spread his message and propaganda to followers who feed on every word from his lips as the only gospel for their salvation. During the 2019 elections, he encouraged his votaries to boycott the election. Recently, the charismatic leader has been in the news over a clash with the police when the uniformed men attempted to arrest his lawyer Ifeanyi Ehiofor in Umunakwa Ifite in Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.

There have been counterclaims on the violent actions that led to the death of some members of the police force but the House of Representatives have decided to probe the killings. Kanu’s IPOB have also instilled fear into Nigerian politicians by attacking them outside the shores of the country.