By Anayo Ezugwu
AS predicted in 2018, the Nigerian political atmosphere in 2019 was frost with political activities as a result of the general elections. As usual, Nigerians showed faith with democracy by re-electing President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office.
Buhari was declared the winner with nearly four million votes. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said the 76-year-old incumbent of the ruling All Progressives Congress party, APC, secured 56 percent, or 15.2 million votes, in the February 23 polls. His victory meant that Nigerians gave him another chance to tackle corruption and widespread insecurity in the country.
But his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who received 41 percent or 11.3 million votes, rejected the results. As a result, Abubakar and his party challenged the outcome at the Presidential Election Tribunal, but failed to convince the tribunal why the elections should be annulled. Subsequently, he appealed the ruling at the Supreme Court. Like the tribunal, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, saying that it lacked merit.
Since the elections, APC has consolidated its support base across the country by retaining Kogi State and winning Bayelsa State from the PDP. In the November 16 governorship elections in the states, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, who contested for re-election under his party, APC defeated Musa Wada, candidate of the PDP in the election. The victories in Bayelsa and Kogi States sum up the good outing recorded by the APC in the 2019 general elections, where the party retained the centre.
In Bayelsa, David Lyon, governor-elect and candidate of APC recorded an unprecedented victory to dislodge the PDP. Apart from these, Senator Smart Adeyemi, representing Kogi West senatorial district, on November 30, emerged as the winner of the re-run election for the Kogi West senatorial district. He polled 88,373 votes to defeat Senator Dino Melaye of the PDP, who recorded 62,133 votes in the controversial re-run election that was marred by violence.
On June 11, the leadership of APC recorded a huge victory when lawmakers of its choice were elected as presiding officers of the 9th National Assembly. In the red chamber, Senators Ahmed Lawan of Yobe North and Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta Central, were elected as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
The APC also recorded another victory at the lower chamber, following the election of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. Both men were the anointed candidates of the party.
Apart from Abubakar and PDP, there were other politicians and activists that were displeased by the outcome of the general elections. Omoyele Sowore, rights human activist and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, during the elections was among those unhappy with the conduct.
Because of this, he called for revolution across the country. As a result, the Department of State Services, DSS, arrested him on August 4 for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country. “These threats include threats of sabotage, threats of subversion, threat of terrorism and, of course, ethnic agitations, separatist agitations, economic sabotage and others. If we are operating as a responsible security organisation and someone is calling for revolution in Nigeria, we must understand the meaning of revolution.
“Primarily, it means a revolt, it means insurrection, it means insurgency, it means forceful takeover of government and we are operating democratic system in Nigeria. Nigeria is not a banana republic and cannot suddenly be made one. So, the DSS will not just sit by and watch individuals or groups wanting to rise and threaten the peace and unity of the country,” Peter Afunanya, public relations officer, DSS said.
The DSS on December 5 released Sowore, following a court order to free him within 24 hours. The agency obeyed the court, but on Friday, December 6, he was re-arrested in a dramatic fashion in court.
Leading to the general elections, on January 25, President Buhari suspended Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.Onnoghen was removed based on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23. As a result, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, was sworn in as the acting CJN and he had since been confirmed as the substantive CJN by the Senate.
On Thursday December 5, the Federal High Court in Lagos sentenced Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud. Justice Mohammed Idris, who delivered the sentence had earlier declared him guilty of the charge in the case that had been on for 12 years.
Kalu was tried alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was director of finance and accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor. In the amended 39-count charges, they were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, of conspiring and diverting over N7 billion from the coffers of the state.
On November 12, the Senate reintroduced a bill seeking to penalise persons found guilty of hate speech. The bill for the establishment of a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Senate Deputy Chief Whip. While that of the social media is sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa. The two bills have passed second reading in the Senate.
The hate speech bill proposes death penalty for people, whose speech results in the death of another person. And the social media bill empowers government regulators to shut down social media and perhaps the internet for those whose posts are deemed to risk public safety and national security.
Though these bills were introduced under the guise of public interest, both are likely by-products of growing attacks on human rights. For many Nigerians, these bills are not just a matter of new, inconsequential rules. It is a war on their voices, freedom and rights. It is seen as having been designed as a trap for government critics, journalists, lawyers and any opposition to the government.