| By Olu Ojewale |
THE political terrain was exciting in the year 2013. From the beginning of the year, it was obvious that there would be a drastic change in the political landscape. But it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who provided the earthquake that rocked the political terrain the most. On Wednesday, December 11, the media were awash with an 18-page letter Obasanjo wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan. In the letter dated December 2, 2013, and titled “Before it is too Late,” Obasanjo accused Jonathan of not honouring his words and taking actions aimed at destroying the country. In the letter, the former president accused President Jonathan of pursuing “selfish personal and political interests” based on advice from his “self-centred aides.”
He alleged that the president was using Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to fan the ember of discord in the ruling party and allow the crisis in the party to fester. “Let me start with the leadership of the ruling party. Many of us were puzzled over what was going on in the party. Most party members blamed the national chairman. I understand that some in the Presidency tried to create the impression that some of us were to blame. The situation became clear only when the national chairman spoke out that he never did anything or acted in any way without the approval or concurrence of the party leader (Jonathan) and that where the party leader disapproved, he made correction or amendment, that we realised most actions were those of the chairman but the motivation and direction were those of the leader.”
According to Obasanjo, one of the major problems in the party was caused by President Jonathan’s ambition to run for a second term in 2015. “Up till two months ago, Mr. President, you told me that you have not told anybody that you would contest in 2015. I quickly pointed out to you that the signs and the measures on the ground do not tally with your statement. You said the same to one other person who shared his observation with me. And only a fool would believe that statement you made to me judging by what is going on. I must say it is not ingenious. You may wish to pursue a more credible and more honourable path,” he said.
President Jonathan in his response through a press statement issued by Reuben Abati, his adviser on media and publicity, while acknowledging receipt of the letter, said he was disappointed that the letter was made public. “We, however, find it highly unbecoming, mischievous and provocative that a letter written by a former Head of State and respected elder statesman to President Jonathan has been deliberately leaked to the mass media in a deplorable effort to impugn the integrity of the President and denigrate his commitment to giving Nigeria the best possible leadership,” the statement said further. Nevertheless, Abati said that President Jonathan himself would, at the appropriate time, “personally respond to the most reckless, baseless, unjustifiable and indecorous charges levied against him and his administration by the former Head of State.” The appropriate time came on December 20, when President Jonathan gave a reply to the letter. In his reply, the president said all what former President Obasanjo had said in his letter were lies and unfounded.
“Perhaps the most invidious accusation in your letter is the allegation that I have placed over one thousand Nigerians on a political watch list, and that I am training snipers and other militia to assassinate people. Baba, I don’t know where you got that from but you do me grave injustice in not only lending credence to such baseless rumours, but also publicising it. You mentioned God seventeen times in your letter. Can you as a Christian hold the Bible and say that you truly believe this allegation?” Jonathan wrote.
On the allegation that more than one thousand people were on a political watch list, the president urged Obasanjo to tell Nigerians who they were and what agencies of government were “watching” them. “Your allegation that I am using security operatives to harass people is also baseless. Nigerians are waiting for your evidence of proof. That was an accusation made against previous administrations, including yours, but it is certainly not my style and will never be. Again, if you insist on the spurious claim that some of your relatives and friends are being harassed, I urge you to name them and tell Nigerians what agencies of my administration are harassing them,” he said.
Nevertheless, the president said he had directed the security agencies and requested the National Human Rights Commission to carry out a thorough investigation of Obasanjo’s criminal allegations and make their findings public.
The open quarrel between Obasanjo and the president could be said to be interwoven with a number of incidents that happened in the PDP during the year. For instance, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, seven governors and a number of leaders of the PDP walked out of the party’s convention ground in Abuja on Saturday, August 31. Hours later, the splinter-group held a mini convention at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre and announced it had elected Abubakar Baraje, its national chairman and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, who was removed by the President Jonathan faction as national secretary of the PDP, was given the same position in the new PDP faction. The governors who abandoned the PDP umbrella then were Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, Abdufatah Ahmed of Kwara State and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. Five of the governors, namely Amaechi, Kwakwanso, Wamakko, Ahmed and Nyako eventually defected to the All Progressives Congress on November 26.
Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, emerged the winner of the Anmbra State governorship election held on November 16. Obiano defeated Tony Nwoye of the PDP, Chris Ngige of the APC, and Ifeanyi Ubah of the Labour Party, who were his main challengers in the race.
On November 6, President Jonathan forwarded a request to the National Assembly seeking approval for an extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states beginning from November 12. The president had first imposed emergency rule on the three states in May when Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist group, almost made them ungovernable. The legislators have since approved the extension.
On October 19, a media report revealed that Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, had approved and purchased two bullet-proof BMW cars for N255 million. The controversy generated by the purchase and investigations by relevant authorities on the cars lasted to end of the year.
On Sunday, August 25, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State returned to the country after his treatment abroad for the injuries he received in a air crash in 2012. Opponents of Suntai argued that he was not fit enough to lead the state. Haruna Tsokwa, speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly who led the revolt died on Monday, November 4.
On July 31, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, registered the APC as a political party and subsequently withdrew the operating licenses of the three previous and merging parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. In March 2013, two other associations – African Peoples Congress and All Patriotic Citizens – also applied for INEC registration, adopting APC as an acronym as well. This caused some political upheavals and accusation by the party that it was the handiwork of the ruling party to frustrate the merging parties. The APC had announced the merger on February 5.
On July 24, the Lagos State government deported about 70 destitute to Onitsha, Anambra State; a move that sparked off a heated row between the two states as well as scathing criticisms on both state governors. Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State eventually apologised for the action.
On Tuesday, July 9, a serious fight broke out in the Rivers State House of Assembly, following the decision of the five anti-Governor Chibuike Amaechi lawmakers to remove the speaker. Some of the members were injured in the fracas. The incident led to the taking over of the functions of the House by the National Assembly.
It was the turn of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, to heat the polity on May 24, when Amaechi was re-elected as its chairman. Governor Amaechi won the poll by 19 votes defeating Governor Jonah Jang, his Plateau State counterpart, who polled 16 votes. The result factionalised the group because Amaechi did not have the support of the PDP leadership which eventually recognised Jang as authentic NGF chairman.
On Thursday, March 28, Jude Agbaso, lost his job as deputy governor of Imo State. He was impeached and removed by the state House of Assembly, when 26 out of 27 lawmakers voted for his removal. Agbaso was alleged to have taken N458 million bribe from a Lebanese firm, J-PROS, handling the rehabilitation of the Sam Mbakwe Road in Owerri, the state capital.
On the international scene, President Barack Obama, was re-elected in November 2012, was inaugurated for a second term in office on Sunday, January 20, 2013. On July 3, Egyptian army ousted Mohammed Morsi, the country’s elected president, following a civil unrest which had paralysed the country for months. General Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, chief of the armed forces, who made the announcement, said he had suspended the constitution and nominated Adli Mansour, head of the constitutional court, as interim president on Thursday, July 4, 2013.
Kenya on March 4, 2013, held general elections to pick a electing president, senators, county governors and members of parliament for the 290 electoral constituencies. Uhuru Kenyatta, 51, defeated Raila Odinga, former prime minister, to clinch the presidential seat. He was sworn-in on April 9 as the fourth president of Kenya. Robert Mugabe, 89, was also sworn in for a seventh term in office as Zimbabwe’s leader, August 22. Mugabe had won the presidential election with 61 percent of the votes against 34 percent for Morgan Tsvangirai, his main rival, on July 31.
In Mali, a presidential election was held on July 28, 2013. A second round run-off was held on August 11. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita defeated Soumaïla Cissé in the run-off to become the new president of Mali. Keita was sworn into office on Thursday, September 19. On 21 September 2013, unidentified gunmen of Islamic origin attacked the upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack, which lasted until 24 September, resulted in at least 72 deaths.
— Jan. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT