Vincent AKANMODE, Deputy Editor
THE outgoing year will be remembered for the titanic battles that occurred at different levels of government, mainly because it is an election year. It is a year characterised by both conventional and unconventional wars.
There were conventional battles in the sense that the Boko Haram insurgency persisted, even though the military appeared to have dealt more blows to the insurgents than they received from them, if the accounts of their exploits in the Sambisa Forest outpost of Boko Haram soldiers are anything to go by.
The unconventional battles, on the other hand, involved the verbal wars in which prominent political actors engaged one another throughout the year as well as the electoral blows they dealt to themselves.
At the national level was the titanic battle involving President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential election conducted in February.
Although the battle started on the rostrums and later moved to the polling booths, it did not end until the two statesmen had dragged themselves to the courtrooms with their armies of legal luminaries.
Then, there were bruising battles between sworn political rivals from Edo State where the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is at daggers drawn with his erstwhile protégé and current governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki,i to Kogi where Senators Dino Melaye and Smart Adeyemi took their rivalry to a new height. In Kwara State, the age-long Saraki political dynasty succumbed to the hydro kinetic force of the O to ge movement.
It has been a year in which David defeated Goliath on many fronts as political giants were dealt deadly blows by others previously considered inconsequential Lilliputians. In Kwara State, for instance, the then Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, whose political dynasty had ruled the state for decades, lost his bid to return to the Senate because he was defeated by little known candidate of the APC, Ibrahim Oloriegbe.
In Akwa Ibom State, former Governor Godswill Akpabio, an APC senatorial candidate, also lost his bid to return to the upper chamber of the National Assembly, having been defeated by Christopher Ekpeyong, just as little known Saidu Alkali cut short former Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo’s ambition to go to the Senate. In Oyo, former Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s senatorial ambition was thwarted by the victory of Senator Kola Balogun of the PDP at the poll.
Governors were not left out of the supremacy battles with adversaries like Nyesom Wike and Seriake Dickson, the governors of Rivers and Bayelsa states respectively, launching out at each other in a seeming war of attrition. There were also reports of growing animosity between Oshiomhole and some APC governors who are bent on seeing the back of the comrade former governor of Edo State.
Yet, the year has not been all about elitist wrangling and invectives. It has been an admixture of the good, the bad and the ugly as would be found out in our delightful chronicle of the vents that shaped the outgoing year.
Politicians who hit headlines
President Muhammadu Buhari early in the year secured a second term in office after trouncing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February 23 presidential election.
Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate got 15,191,847 votes while Abubakar had 11,262,978 votes.
Buhari won in 19 states including Lagos and Kano, the two most populous states, while Atiku won in 17 states including the Federal Capital Territory.
After dealing political blows on Atiku at the polls, Buhari went ahead to humiliate the former Vice President in the courts when the latter rejected the outcome of the election and sought to upturn the results using legal means.
Few months after President Buhari was sworn in, stories that he was scheming to get a third term in office triggered reactions and counter reactions from different corners of the country.
Beyond what could be best described as rumour, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State, Charles Enya, filed a suit seeking the amendment of the constitution to allow President Muhammadu Buhari get another term in office.
He asked Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, as well as the national assembly to remove constitutional clauses hindering elected presidents and governors from seeking a third term in office.
But Buhari dismissed and disassociated himself from the third term agenda, advising the citizens to read the Constitution because he was not going to make that mistake, thus laying the matter to rest.
The President, against all odds, set the economy on the path of self recovery when he shut the borders to encourage local production of agricultural, textile and other products.
Just last week, Buhari signed the 2020 budget into law and thereby restored the January – December cycle.
The outgoing year started on a vinegary note for former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the February 23 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, following his miserable performance at the polls won by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku had swiftly rejected the result of the election and headed for the presidential election tribunal to challenge the victory of Buhari on the grounds that he lacked the necessary qualifications to contest for president and that he (Buhari) was defeated in the election. While he made frantic effort to pursue his case at the tribunal, the APC compounded Atiku’s woes when it prayed the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to strike out his petition against Buhari’s re-election because the former vice president was not a Nigerian by birth and ought not to have been allowed to contest the election in the first place.
The tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Atiku, saying that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond any reasonable doubt.
Not satisfied with the decision of the tribunal, Atiku and his party went to the Supreme Court but were dealt another devastating blow as the apex court dismissed their appeal.
Tanko Mohammed, the Chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), said after examining the arguments from the parties to the case, the panel concluded that the appeal lacked merit.
Atiku declared his candidacy for the presidential nomination of the PDP mid-2018 and won the nomination at its convention on October 7. He defeated 11 other contestants and got 1,532 votes, 839 more than the runner-up and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.
VP Yemi Osinbajo
The announcement that Vice President Yemi Osinbajob would henceforth seek presidential approvals in the running of the parastatals and agencies, which are statutorily under him, generated speculations that the VP was being humiliated after standing by President Mohammadu Buhari while he was hospitalised in the United Kingdom.
The wild speculations were heightened after the dissolution of the Economic Management Team headed by the VP and its replacement by a new Economic Advisory Council and the disbandment of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel put in place by the VP when he was the Acting President on Tuesday September 24, 2019.
The speculation was, however, denied by the Presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the Presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.
“The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.”
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Like in 2015, All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, played a leading role in the victory of President Mohammadu Buhari and the APC in the 2019 polls as the co-Chairman of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation.
He made extensive trips with President Buhari and other APC leaders to the nooks and crannies of the country, visiting those that matter in a bid to garner support for APC and the President’s second term bid.
At most of the party’s rallies, usually graced everywhere by mammoth crowds, Asiwaju Tinubu spoke with can-do and his speeches were laced with rich anecdotes, proverbs and witty expressions, which did much to sway the electorate.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is one of the top political figures in the country whose political relevance was tested by the governorship election of his state in the course of the year.
Jonathan, who hails from Otuoke community in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, and the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson, had a running battle over who would succeed the latter.
While Jonathan rooted for a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, Dickson threw his weight behind Douye Diri, a senator representing Bayelsa Central District, who eventually emerged the PDP governorship candidate after defeating 20 other aspirants.
The development reportedly soured the relationship between Dickson and Jonathan who, according to reports, was not consulted by the governor. The PDP national leadership set up a peace committee headed by former Senate President Bukola Saraki, to work towards reconciling Jonathan and Dickson, but the move failed.
When the governorship election eventually took place, Dickson’s anointed candidate lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, David Lyon. Jonathan had earlier warned that the APC could win the Bayelsa governorship election if the PDP was not united.
After APC’s Lyon was declared winner of the election, Dickson and some top members of the PDP descended on Jonathan, accusing him of betraying the party by working for the opposition to win the election.
While Dickson and other disgruntled party members bore their fangs against Jonathan, hordes of other party members and members of opposition parties thumbed up the former president and acknowledged his political relevance in the state and the country at large.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan
Yobe North lawmaker on the platform of APC, Senator Ahmed Lawan, emerged the President of the ninth Senate amid intense campaign mounted by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which backed one of his main challengers, Senator Ali Ndume, also of the APC. Nadine who refused the party’s entities to step down, gave a good fight.
Lawan, however, clinched the Senate President’s seat with 79 votes cast to beat Senator Ndume with 28 votes.
It will be recalled that Lawan, who became a senator in 2007, was robbed of the post in 2015, after Senator Bukola Saraki connived with members of opposition PDP to emerge senate president in a controversial manner.
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila
Former Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, of the APC, was declared the new speaker of the ninth House of Representatives.
Gbajabiamila scored a total of 281 votes to beat his rival, Umar Bago, who scored 76 votes.
It took three hours of secret ballot voting before the clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, announced Mr Gbajabiamila’s victory to the cheers of many of his supporters.
“Femi Gbajabiamila, having secured the majority of the votes counted, is hereby returned elected and declared speaker of the house,” Omolori said.
The feud between ex-governor of Edo State, who is now the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the current governor of the tate, Godwin Obaseki, which took roots from Edo State House of Assembly leadership succession crisis, festered throughout the year. The ex-governor’s house in Benin reportedly came under attack by persons suspected to be working for the state government.
The height of the crisis was the attack meted out to the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, and others like the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who had come to grace a public lecture organised by Edo University, at the residence of Oshiomhole,Iyamho. The former labour leader fingered the deputy governor of the state, Philip Shuabu, as the mastermind of the attack, but the latter denied his complicity in the attack.
The ruling party under Oshiomhole recorded victories at the presidential election and in the hitherto strongholds of PDP — Kwara, Gombe and Bayelsa states,others. The party suffered reverses in Oyo, Imo, Bauchi and Zamfara, the last one, in controversial circumstances.
Oshiomhole will be remembered for instilling discipline into the party. The business-like chairman made it clear from the inception of his administration that it was not going to be business as usual and he walked his talk in this respect all through. This, among other issues, pitted him against many of the governors elected on the party’s platform who had been known to have been ‘ untouchable’. So, it was not totally unexpected that moves were made to oust him from office. One of those attempts was made at the National Executive Council meeting of the party in December. But it failed. Another recent bid was made by some governors, who had tried to sway President Buhari into buy into their plot to get Oshiomhole out by all means also failed to fly when the Borno State governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, punched large holes into their specious argument.
Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, has been at draggers drawn with his erstwhile boss and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, for the better part of the year.
Obaseki and his predecessor’s hostility was allegedly a result of power struggle over who controls the state, especially as the governorship election is fast approaching.
Their feud became public when the Edo State House of Assembly was hurriedly inaugurated and a speaker elected at night with only nine lawmakers present.
The assembly had 24 members, and all of them were APC members. The remaining 15 who are loyal to Oshiomhole relocated to Abuja. Two of the lawmakers later abandoned the remaining 13 and returned to Edo State House of Assembly to take their oaths of office.
Following the controversy generated by the inauguration, the Senate asked the Edo State governor to issue a fresh proclamation letter for the Edo State House of Assembly within one week, but Obaseki refused, saying the senate went beyond its constitutional powers in giving him an ultimatum over the state assembly crisis.
Obaseki headed to court and got the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop both the Senate and the House of Representatives’ plan to take over the legislative duties of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Obaseki, thereafter sacked eight commissioners loyal to Oshiomhole from the state executive council.
Obaseki at a point said his administration would continue to explore all avenue in resolving the crisis rocking the party in the state, but the APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, said the governor was not ready for amicable resolution of the crisis.
Outgoing governor of Bayelsa State, Hon Seriake Dickson, is one of the politicians who could be said to have lost out in their plans to remain politically relevant in the outgoing year.
Dickson, like many other outgoing governors, had anointed and supported Douye Diri, a senator representing Bayelsa Central District, who eventually emerged the PDP governorship candidate, against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s preferred candidate, Timi Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Countryman Governor, as Dickson is fondly called, was allegedly working towards going to the Senate following the choice of Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor as the running mate to Diri. But Dickson dismissed the allegation.
Ewhrudjakpor and Dickson are from Bayelsa West Senatorial District.
The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Emmanuel Isenah, who is from the same Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area with Douye Diri, the governorship candidate of the PDP, was impeached by the party in order to spread political offices to enable the party to secure more votes in the November 16 election.
Unfortunately for Dickson, the entire political calculations went awry, leading to PDP’s ouster from the Bayelsa State Government House.
With the development, Dickson failed in his plan to enthrone his anointed candidate and also had his alleged plan to join his fellow ex-governors in the Senate thwarted.
Outspoken First Lady, Aishat Buhari, was also in the news severally in the year. She returned from a long holiday in the United Kingdom fuelling speculations that all might not be well at the home front.
The speculation gained traction in the social media that her husband, President Buhari, was about to marry the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms Sadiya Umar Farouq. It, however, turned out to be a fake news.
Next, she had an acrimonious issue with Fatima, a daughter of her husband’s uncle, Mamman Daura, over the occupation by the Daura family of a section inside the Presidential Villa.This was followed by her confrontation with presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, who she accused of undermining her interests in the media, an accusation denied by Shehu.
The former Rivers State governor and current Minister of Transport, Rotimi Anarchist, is not relenting in his bid to ensure the success of the railway projects across the country.
On the political plain, he has, however, not been able to achieve cohesion in the state chapter of APC following discordant tunes trailing the forthcoming congress of the party in the state.
Justice A.U Kingsley-Chuku of the Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt penultimate Friday restrained the state chapter of APC from conducting the rescheduled congresses across the wards, council areas of the state.
The order followed a suit filed by a chieftain of the party in the state, Hon.Igo Aguma.
It has been battle on all fronts for immediate past Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, this year. Aside from the controversial policies he made that pitted him against the people, Okorocha, towards the end of his tenure as governor, failed to heed the voice reason and public opinion when he picked his son-in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, as his candidate for the office of the governor on the platform of APC.
Nwosu lost the party’s governorship ticket to Senator Hope Uzodinma. Okorocha allegedly had Nwosu defect to the Action Alliance (AA) party, where the latter was handed the governorship ticket. Unfortunately for him, his conviction that the power of incumbency would earn his son-in-law the governorship seat failed.
APC later compounded Okorocha’s plight when it suspended him along with the then Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State for anti-party activities. The suspension was later lifted by the party.
Rochas’ second headache came after he was declared winner of the Imo West Senatorial seat but had his certificate of return withheld by INEC after the Returning Officer for the area, Prof.r Francis Ibeabuchi, claimed he was coerced and given mutilated results by the former governor and the police to announce same in favour of Okorocha.
With his efforts at getting the certificate of return yielding no fruits, Rochas ran to the Federal High Court in Abuja for help. The court ended his frustration when it ordered INEC to issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.
But that was not the end of his travails. His anguish was compounded with the sealing off of his properties by the EFCC, the order for his arrest by his successor and the clampdown on a shopping complex belonging to his wife.
Incumbent Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha emerged the winner of the March 9 gubernatorial election contested by prominent and influential politicians in the state, against all odds. Ihedioha polled 273,404 votes to defeat 69 other candidates, including Uche Nwosu of Action Alliance, who is a son-in-law to the immediate past governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha.
After emerging victorious at the polls, Ihedioha also floored his opponents, Uche Nwosu, of Action Alliance (AA), Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) at the courts when they sought to upturn the outcome of the election.
Shortly after the celebration that greeted his victory, Ihedioha incurred the wrath of the people when he started demolishing monuments erected by his predecessor.
After an uninspiring four-year reign as the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello was, to the chagrin of many political observers, approved by the screening committee of the All Progressives Congress together with three other aspirants for the August 29 primary of the party, which Bello won.
Aware of the dismal performance of the governor in his first term, APC leadership, including the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Campaign Council for Kogi governorship election, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, groveled on the turf, begging the people of Kogi State to forgive Yahaya Bello.
He was eventually declared by INEC as the winner of the November 16 governorship election in the state. Bello polled a total of 406,222 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Musa Wada,, who scored 189,704 votes.
Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) came a distant third with 9,482 votes.
After sitting in the limbo for years, Smart Adeyemi staged a comeback to the political arena early in the year when he squared it up with his arch rival Dino Melaye for the Kogi West Senatorial seat, which he lost to the latter in 2015.
When the election held on February 23, INEC declared Melaye the winner with 85,395 votes to Smart’s 66,901 votes.
Disconcerted with the announcement, Smart headed for the Kogi State National Assembly/State Assembly Election Tribunal, which granted his prayers and sacked Melaye.
Smart went all the way to engage Melaye in another legal battle at an Abuja Appeal Court when the latter decided to appeal the decision of the tribunal. Smart eventually actualised his ambition to replace Melaye at the Senate when he defeated the singing senator in a fresh election ordered by the court.
The APC candidate polled 88,373 votes to defeat Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party, who polled 62,133 votes.
Controversial Kogi State born politician, Senator Dino Melaye’s political career suffered a huge setback in the year. His travails began when the Kogi State National Assembly/State Assembly Election Tribunal ordered his removal as the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District and directed Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh election.
The verdict was also upheld by the Appeal Court in Abuja which ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election for the senatorial district within 90 days.
Melaye, who contested the senatorial election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, had filed an appeal challenging the tribunal’s judgment. The PDP and INEC had also filed separate appeals against the tribunal’s verdict. But the Court of Appeal dismissed all the three appeals and upheld the tribunal’s judgment.
When a fresh election was held, INEC declared the poll inconclusive and fixed November 30 for a by-election.
When the by-election result was declared, Melaye, the ‘Ajekun Iya’ singer who contested on the platform of the PDP, polled 62,133 votes against Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 88,373 votes. Melaye was consequently booted out of the Senate.
Before then, Melaye had failed in his bid to clinch the governorship ticket of the PDP in Kogi State, which would have seen him contesting against the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, in the governorship election held on November 16.
The new governors
The year also witnessed the emergence of new governors in the leadership saddle across the country. They include Governors Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Dapo Abiodun(Ogun); Emeka Ihedioha(Imo); AbdulRahman AbdulRasak(Kwara); Babajide Sanwo-Olu(Lagos); Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed(Bauchi); Babagana Umara Zullum(Borno); Inuwa Yahaya(Gombe); Mai Malla Buni(Yobe); Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa) and David Lyon(Bayelsa).
Sanusi vs Ganduje
Incumbent governor of Kaduna State, Abdullahi Ganduje and the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, have been at each other’s throat since the beginning of the year. The tussle between them emanated from the emir’s alleged support and sympathy to the Kwankwassiyya Movement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2019 general elections.
In May this year, Ganduje created four new emirates and gave the emirs first class status like Emir Sanusi. The action was said to have rattled Emir Sanusi and his supporters who went to court to challenge the process leading to the creation of the new emirates. Late last month, a Kano High Court delivered judgment in favour of Emir Sanusi and faulted the process followed in the creation of the new emirates.
Many had believed that Ganduje and Kano State Government would appeal the judgment, but instead, the state executive council re-activated the process of re-establishing the four emirates quashed by the court. Early this month, the Kano State Executive Council approved Emirate Council Bill 2019, which provides for the establishment of additional emirates.
Ganduje, after signing the bill into law, stated that the law provides that there will be individual emirate council in all the now five emirates. The impasse between Emir Sanusi and Ganduje also manifested in October when Emir Sanusi ordered the sack of Maja Siddin Sarkin Kano, Alhaji Auwalu, for participating in the grand reception in honour of Ganduje.
The Maja Siddin Sarkin Kano, who is in-charge of decorating the emir’s horse, was also asked to vacate his residence of over 30 years, simply because he raised the portrait of the late Emir of Kano, Sarkin Ado Abdullahi Bayero, in celebration with Ganduje as the governor’s long convoy passed through the emir’s palace from Kano airport towards Government House.
Ex-Gov Akinwunmi Ambode
The probe of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, by the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),was marred by controversy.
A committee set up by the state legislature had probed the purchase of 820 high capacity buses by the Ambode administration at a cost of N7 billion despite the alleged rejection of the move by the House twice. Some commissioners who served with Ambode had reportedly indicted the former governor on bus purchase when they appeared before the committee of the House, but they later recounted, claiming that they were misquoted by the media. The House then summoned Ambode to state his own side of the story, but the ex-governor approached the courts to halt his summons.
Similarly, some operatives of the EFCC currently probing a N9.9 billion fraud allegation linked to Ambode’s government, invaded the homes of the former governor in Ikoyi and Epe.
The operatives were, however, resisted by Ambode’s kinsmen at Epe, who claimed that the former governor was being unnecessarily punished for daring top leaders of APC in the race for the gubernatorial ticket of the party earlier this year.
While many are sympathising with the former governor, others felt that Ambode should be willing to face the law to clear himself from the alleged indiscretions.
Attempts by the former Ogun governor to install a federal lawmaker, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, as his successor met brick walls following the outcome of the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) where Prince Dapo Abiodun emerged as the party’s candidate and eventually won the governorship election.
To ensure his candidate’s victory at all cost, Amosun moved his loyalists to the Allied People’s Movement(APM), while he stayed back in APC where he contested and won the Ogun Central Senatorial election.
His anti- party moves did not go unpunished by the APC. He was later reprimanded and suspended by the party’s National Working Committee, which also disbanded the executive committee of the state chapter and replaced it with a caretaker committee.
His loyalists, including Akinlade, have, however, since returned to APC.
The height of his acclaimed indiscretions was the controversial appointment of 75 obas, which has since been nullified by Ogun State House big Assembly.
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