Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Top Issues That Shaped Nigeria In 2014

In whatever slant, year 2014 was shaped by defining moments, as captured by THISDAY politics desk.

Since the January 1, 2012 subsidy removal on petrol, which was followed by nearly two weeks of crippling protest by the mass of the Nigerian people, no other year has had the rare privilege of remarkably standing out. Also since that experience, which a few persons thought was ill-advised, the following years had barely started on promising notes.

The outgoing year was not different either. There was nothing that the year kicked off with to stand it out from the preceding year or indicate that it would usher in a better year.

Save for a few moments that are rather insignificant when situated within the larger context – the outgoing year has recorded more lows than highs, even as it continues to record more of such lows in its last days. For refreshers, some of the low and high points of the year are reviewed below:

The Chibok Fix
Nigerians and indeed the world woke up on April 14, to the shocking news of the abduction of 276 female students at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. The Boko Haram terrorist organisation which operates from the northeastern part of the country soon claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Since then, nothing has changed in the plight of the girls except for the few who escaped from their abductors. Although on October 17, hopes were raised that the girls might be released after the Nigerian army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces. The announcement coincided with the six-month anniversary of the girls' capture and followed a month of negotiations mediated in Saudi Arabia by the Chadian President, Idriss Deby. It later turned out a ruse and the girls, from all indications, are spending their Christmas and New Year in captivity.

Nyako’s Impeachment
Former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako was impeached by the State House of Assembly, while his then deputy, James Ngilari voluntarily resigned before the assembly could impeach him along with Nyako. The Assembly accused Nyako of stealing the state funds amongst other allegations.

Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Umaru Fintiri was immediately sworn in as the acting governor. But Ngilari asked to be sworn in as the substantive governor of the state following the impeachment of Nyako arguing that he did not resign his position as reported and therefore headed to court to declare his purported resignation illegal even as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed the election of a new governor for October 11, 2014.

However, on October 7, a new twist was introduced into the Adamawa spectre as just three days to the bye-election the court delivered judgment in the case filed by Ngilari and sacked Fintiri. It immediately declared Ngilari governor. In his ruling, Justice Adeniji said Ngilari did not resign in accordance with Section 306 (1) (2) and (5) of the Constitution.

Ekiti and Osun Polls
The Independent National Electoral Commission conducted governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States on June 21 and August 9 respectively. In Ekiti, the result of the election shocked bookmakers as the incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi was defeated by former governor Ayo Fayose. However, in Osun State, the incumbent, Rauf Aregbesola survived the opposition onslaught as he defeated his closest rival, the PDP candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore.

In Ekiti, Fayose, according to the electoral body, scored 203, 090 votes to beat Fayemi, who scored 120, 433 votes. Candidate of the Labour Party, Bamidele Michael Opeyemi scored 18,135 votes to come third. In the Osun election, Aregbesola won by a very comfortable margin to secure a second term. His main opponent, Omisore polled 292, 747 votes as against Aregbesola’s 394, 684 votes.
The Ekiti Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the return of Fayose. But the Osun case is yet to be concluded.

Taraba’s Lingering Drama
Taraba is one of the few states with interesting political developments. Since its governor, Danbaba Suntai survived a plane crash but yet to fully recover, the state has fought battles on different fronts. But a temporary relief came on November 20, when the Supreme Court sacked the acting governor of the state, Garba Umar and reinstated the former deputy governor, Alhaji Sanni Danladi, who was impeached by the Assembly sometime in October, 2012.

In a unanimous judgment, the court held that the impeachment panel set up by the House of Assembly to investigate the allegations against Danladi violated his rights to fair hearing, noting that the panel failed to hear Danladi and snubbed his court papers, which he had served it challenging its composition.

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who delivered the lead judgment set aside the judgments of both the Court of Appeal and the Taraba State High Court, which had dismissed Danaladi’s suit.

Sanusi Emerges Kano Emir
Against the odds, former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was at the time suspended from office on June 8, emerged the new Emir of Kano. This however followed protests in parts of the state by those who were looking in a different direction. Sanusi, who by his appointment is the 14th Emir of Kano, took over from Ado Ibrahim, who died on the throne. As with most contests of this nature, Sanusi’s choice did not go down well with some Kano people, who had expected that the late Emir’s scion, Alhaji Abbas Sanusi, would succeed his father.

Insecurity Continues
The unrelenting wave of terror attacks by Boko Haram has continued to heighten the insecurity in the country. With the incessant Bombings that have claimed many innocent lives as well as the abduction of over 200 Chibok School girls, the security situation in the country has continued to generate global concern, outrage and condemnation.

Against this backdrop, President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a total war against terrorism, but it appears that the Boko Haram insurgency is unstoppable for now, thereby complicating the security challenges in Nigeria, including the militancy in the Niger Delta, incessant clashes between Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers in the North, ethnic and religious conflicts.

This does not preclude the ‘cold war’ among ethnic nationalities as well as all other forms of violent crimes, banditry, the thriving ‘area boys’ syndrome, gang conflicts, cult uprisings, kidnappings, abductions, robberies, murder/ ritual killings, incidents of mob attacks and lynching of suspected criminals, who sometimes are innocent citizens. Also, police brutality, extra judicial killings and other increasing cases of social vices have compounded the Nigerian security crisis.

The Gale of Defections
The outgoing year witnessed the largest defection of politicians from one party to the other in the contemporary political history of the country. All the political parties have had their own share of defections, either positive or negative. Some have attributed the defections to intimidation and lack of internal democracy in their party, others theirs to poor followership of their parties outside the shores of their region. But generally, many attributed the defections to the level of desperation by politicians in pursuing their ambition. From August till date, the polity has witnessed series of defection that kept mouth wagging.

Some of the prominent defections include the former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who moved from PDP to APC; five governors – Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Ahmed of Kwara State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State defected from their parties to APC, while Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State also defected from the Labour Party to PDP.

The immediate past governor of Anambra State, Dr. Peter Obi, defected to the ruling PDP. Those who defected along with Obi are Hon Uche Ekwunife, with other APGA House of Representatives members.

Chief Tom Ikim and the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, left the PDP in August this year, citing the pursuit of a “good cause”.

Recently in the House of Representatives, PDP and APC lost five members each. In Oyo State, former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala defected to the Labour Party, while Oluseyi Makinde another PDP aspirant defected to SDP. In Ogun State, APC leader Chief Olusegun Osoba along with Senators, members of the House of Representatives, State Assembly members and Commissioners from the state defected to SDP.

APC Gains Stability
The country’s main opposition party, the APC seemed to have found its rhythm as the party successfully held three conventions. The first was where party officers at the national, state and council levels were elected. The party, at another convention, amended some of its constitutional provisions while it crowned its successful outings with the election of its governorship, state, National Assemblies and presidential standard bearers.

PDP’s Coronation of Jonathan
Unlike the opposition APC, the ruling PDP at its national convention at the Eagles Square adopted President Jonathan as its sole candidate for the February 14 election. The convention also affirmed the choice of Namadi Sambo as his running mate, contrary to fuelled speculations that he might be dropped at the end of the day for political exigencies.

Al-Makura Survives Impeachment
In an attempt to increase its chances in the 2015 presidential election, the PDP was believed to have instigated impeachment in states where the governors were in the opposition APC and considered weak and take-able. An example was in Adamawa State where Murtala Nyako was an APC governor.

Having succeeded at impeaching Nyako, the PDP machine did try to impeach the Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura. But after several months of high wire political bickering, Al-Makura survived the impeachment threat. Although there were fresh moves to revisit the deal – that is yet to work – and the idea is believed to have been jettisoned now by the state lawmakers, who are rather preoccupied with seeking re-election.

National Conference
On the last day of the 2014 National Conference, following the adoption of votes and proceedings for the day, Chief Mike Ahamba, while seconding a motion moved by the Lamido Adamawa, Alhaji Mohammed Mustapha, recounted thus: “When we came here, nobody expected us to end this way…We have disappointed the sceptics.”

After several opposition especially from the APC Nigerians at last gathered at the National Conference in Abuja, which was inaugurated by President Jonathan on March 17, to dialogue on how to live as an entity. Although delegates to the conference maintained that it was a success, it remains to be seen what the National Assembly would do with the recommendations adopted by the conference.

Nigeria Turns 100
Nigeria, this year, turned 100 years since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates by the British colonial government in 1914. The news was welcomed with mixed reactions. While the government celebrated it and even went ahead to design a new commemorative100 naira banknote to celebrate the milestone, some segment of the country continued to clamour for Nigeria’s disintegration.

The Illegal Arms Deal
Still reeling from the disgrace of failing to rescue the Chibok girls in the eyes of the international community, Nigeria was again ridiculed, this time by the South African Government. Some $9.3 million in cash allegedly belonging to the Nigeria government and reported at the time to have been transported by “two Nigerians and an Israeli” for arms purchase, was seized by the South African Government.

Nearly three weeks after, another $5.7 million, was also confiscated. According to South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, the monies were seized for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions. In its defence, the Nigerian government said the monies were meant for buying arms for the Nigerian intelligence service. The South African Government has since returned the money to the Nigerian government.

The Missing Money
As the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, first made the allegation of missing money through a letter to President Jonathan sometime in 2013. The ensuing allegation and counter-allegation followed into 2014. In 2013, it was first that $49.8bn being part of the proceeds of crude exported by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), between January 2012 and July 2013, had yet to be remitted to the Federation Account.

When he was invited to the Senate to clarify the allegation, Sanusi said the reconciliation of accounts being carried out by the apex bank, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Ministry of Finance had shown that only $12bn was yet to be reconciled instead of the $49.8bn he claimed was missing from the Federation Account. By 2014, he said it was $20 billion that was missing. Although he was unsure of the exact amount that was missing, by the time he was sacked from office, he maintained that some money remained missing from the federation account.

Phantom Peace Deal
The federal government was taking for a ride another ignoble time. Failing to learn from previous experiences, the government was sold a lie by some group of persons. Eager to bring to an end the attacks by the terrorist group – Boko Haram – Nigeria was deceived into believing that the government of Chad had brokered a peace deal with the terrorists, who were alleged to have promised to release the Chibok girls for their members in a prison swap.

Days, weeks and months have passed and there are no signs of the Chibok girls, neither has there been a ceasefire by the Boko Haram sect. It followed that the persons claiming to have been negotiating on behalf of the terrorists were not members of the group, but imposters bent on defrauding a desperate Nigerian government which desires the return of the missing girls.

Nigerians Get PVC
It was not all bad news. In fulfilment of President Jonathan’s promise that Nigeria would begin to witness one-man-one-vote during elections, the INEC succeeded in making available Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC). Even though the exercise was partly dogged by a little controversy, it has largely been successful.
It is based on this that the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, at an event in Lagos dispelled the allegation that elections won’t hold next year.

“A lot of the information being spread about elections not holding next year is just rumours and nothing more. What I can guarantee you is that INEC as an electoral body is prepared to conduct the elections in every part of the country,” Jega said, while reiterating the Commission’s earlier promises to conduct a free and fair general election in 2015.

Failed Foreign Help on Terrorism
When the Chibok girls were kidnapped sometime in April by the Boko Haram sect, to many Nigerians, that was the last their families would see or hear from them. The willingness of some countries to assist the Nigerian government in the rescue of the over 200 girls was a relief for the grieving families, at least for a while.

The United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, China Canada, Iran, and Israel, and the European Union (EU), were the countries and international organisation that did make effort in assisting the Nigerian authorities. This is aside the massive solidarity that poured in from countries and notable international personalities.

These countries sent teams of military and law enforcement experts, whose specialties included intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiation, and information sharing and victim assistance. All of these notwithstanding, the girls remain missing till the time of this year end review.

Immigration Job Stampede
It was one of the very sad news of 2014. On March 15, the employment test for recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) conducted across the country turned out a disaster as stampede at three centres claimed the lives of 16 applicants and left scores injured. While eight people were feared dead during a stampede at the National Stadium, Abuja, five others lost their lives at the Liberation Stadium, Elekahia, Port Harcourt, and then another three applicants were also feared dead in Minna.

Nationwide criticism later trailed the action of the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, who was pressured to resign or be sacked by President Goodluck Jonathan. Moro was criticised for accusing the applicants of being impatient and causing their own death. The president, it was reported, was under pressure to save Moro’s job. Moro is still a member of the cabinet.

Tambuwal Alters the Equation
If there was ever a time that the ruling PDP was caught in the illusion that it remained the most powerful political party in Africa, that fantasy was questioned with the controversial defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to the APC.
Tambuwal, with his defection, altered the political equation and made the PDP question the shaky foundation upon with they stand. Although the APC even with Tambuwal’s defection still does not have the majority to effect any change in the House, Tambuwal’s action which is a plus for the opposition has managed to put the PDP on its feet.


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