Intrigues that shaped politics in 2019
General elections: expectations and shocks
The year 2019 was a mixed bag. It was no doubt a big election year that came with some uncertainties regarding the future of some politicians, a carry-over from the previous year. As expected, underground campaigns heralded the elections proper. The sudden postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections a few hours to polling for unconvincing reasons almost scuttled the exercise.
The shift of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the early morning of February 16 to February 23, to many, was ominous of what was to come. And it was surprising to the opposition, which had accused INEC of sinister motives, when President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated his closet rival, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by over three million votes, and was sworn in on May 29 for a second term. Abubakar challenged legally, but also lost at all levels.
APC’s loss of Zamfara and Rivers
THE APC lost the governorship, State and National Assemblies elections to the PDP in Zamfara State owing to its mismanagement of its primaries, as confirmed by the courts, which ruled that it did not have candidates, as it did not conduct credible primaries following intra-party crisis between the camps of Senator Kabiru Marafa and then governor, Abdul’aziz Yari.
This led to the emergence of PDP’s Bello Matawalle, being the candidate with the second highest number of votes casted. The same scenario played out in Rivers State, as INEC insisted that the party had no candidates in the elections in the state, a position affirmed by the Supreme Court. It was caused by the division between Senator Magnus Abe and Minister of Transportation and a former governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi.
The Bayelsa, Kogi upset
IF the general elections were unpredictable, more dramatic were the midterm elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states. In Kogi, there were fears that Governor Yahaya Bello might not make it back to the Lugard House seat of government over non-regular payment of workers’ salaries and what the opposition considered poor performance. But despite all the permutations, and amidst widespread violence and irregularities, the governor silenced his opponents by winning the election.
Perhaps more surprising was the APC’s victory in an unusual turf, Bayelsa, which observers attributed to the mismanagement of PDP’s primary election by Governor Seriake Dickson, who was seen as trying to have his way all along. For the first time since 1999, PDP lost Bayelsa to the opposition on account of bad politics. On November 16, 2019, APC’s David Lyon polled 352,552 votes to defeat PDP’s Senator Duoye Diri of the PDP, who polled 143,172 votes.
Until then, the South-South was considered a PDP stronghold, but with APC’s victory, albeit, with the tacit support of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and with Edo State already in its fold, its members believe it is beginning to make inroad into the zone.
When defectors lost out
The general elections came with some surprises and shockers for some politicians, prominent among which is the defeat of all the senators that defected from the ruling APC back to the PDP, including immediate past former president of the senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who inherited the political empire founded by his late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki.The former strongman and godfather of Kwara politics and governor of the state for eight years, who connived with some PDP senators in the 8th National Assembly to emerge senate president, against his party’s choice and his successor, Ahmad Lawan, finally met his political waterloo.
His actions led to a crisis within the party all through his tenure and his defection gave room for the Oto oge (Enough is Enough in Yoruba) revolution that vowed to end his dominance of Kwara politics, just as he lost the support of many otherwise followers. And like they say, a politician without followers cannot lead, hence he lost his re-election bid.
Prominent politicians who lost their elections include Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), former Benue State governor, George Akume, Shehu Sani (Kaduna), Dino Melaye (Kogi) and a former Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
When CJN Onnoghen went on trial
But trial and ouster of then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in February, just before the general elections, on charges of not declaring his assets, did little in addressing suspicions over the real or perceived motive.
The ex-CJN 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 and was replaced by Justice Tanko Ibrahim. Onnoghen’s removal was alleged by the opposition to be a bid to ensure he did not preside over the presidential election petition tribunal.
The royal squabble in Kano
In Kano State, the royal rumble between Emir Sanusi Muhammad 11 and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, which started shortly before the elections, continued. The creation of more emirates out of the hitherto monolithic Kano Emirate by the state government has watered down the power and influence of Sanusi, who was almost dethroned but for the intervention of some prominent Nigerians.Although there appears to be a thaw in the frosty relationship, it is uncertain how far the governor can go in further humiliating the first-class traditional ruler.
Obaseki-Oshiomhole conundrum in Edo
The lingering internal crises in the Edo State chapter of the APC, orchestrated by the feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor and National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, is taking a huge toll and might affect its fortunes in next year’s governorship poll if not well-managed.Osinbajo’s aides booted out The seeming, but constantly denied cold war within the presidency between loyalists of Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo saw the sacking or redeployment from the Presidential Villa of 35 aides of the latter. Going further, former executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, an associate of the vice president, was on December 9 sent parking as his term in office was not renewed, just as Muiz Banire was removed as chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Dasuki, Sowore regain freedom
A sore in the Buhari administration is the arrest and continued detention of journalist and a candidate in the presidential election, Omoyele Sowore. The refusal of the Department of State Service (DSS) to release him despite a court order, added to the growing number of cases of federal government’s disobedience of court orders.On August 3, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) stormed Sowore’s hotel apartment on the allegation of trying to overthrow the government of Buhari. Sowore had started and led the #RevolutionNow movement.
On December 4, he was released, but re-arrested the following day after appearing in court. The drama that played out and his eventual arrest and continued incarceration is a reminder of the cases of Shiites leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, among others.But on Tuesday, the federal government ordered the release of Dasuki and Sowore from detention.
The long arm of the law finally caught up with a former governor of Abia State and a serving senator, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who is currently serving prison term. Kalu had been standing trial for fraud to the tune of over N7.1 billion since 2007 and the case dragged on until recently. His dumping the PDP for the ruling APC, and taking a chieftaincy title in Daura, Buhari’s hometown, could not save him, as on December 5, Justice Mohammed Idris sentenced him to 12 years in jail, while his Slok Nigeria Limited was ordered to wind down and its assets forfeited to the government.
Hate speech, social media bills
DEPUTY Senate Whip, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, sponsored the National Commission for Prohibition of Hate Speech before the senate, which provides for investigation and punishment of those found guilty of hate speech or spreading of falsehood that leads to death of another person. He said, “It is designed to address issues of discrimination, hostility and violence in Nigeria,” and justifying the proposed death penalty, he added that there is no going back on the bill. There was outcry against the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, better known as Social Media Bill, whose sponsor, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, said is aimed at guiding internet users and curbing fake news and ensuring sanity on the social media.
The bill also provides for arrest and prosecution of anyone or group inciting hate or making hate speeches online.This is just as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated that the federal government planned to regulate the social media through the Anti-social Media Bill sent to the Senate on November 5 to criminalise the use of the social media in peddling false or malicious information. He has, however, denied insinuations that he sponsored the bill even as he justifies it timeliness.
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