| By Olu Ojewale |
THE year 2012 was a mixed bag in Nigerian politics. Few days into the New Year, the Nigerian polity was heated by the mass protests against the removal of oil subsidy. The nation-wide strike action and protests grounded the whole nation for one week. The effect of the protest was beyond what President Goodluck Jonathan had bargained for when he quietly removed the federal government subsidy on petroleum products thereby causing a jack up in the pump price of petrol from N65 to N141 per litre, about 115 per cent increases. After grounding the nation’s economic and social activities for one week, government and organised labour led by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, reached an agreement, which brought the pump price of petrol down to N97 per litre, a reduction by 25 per cent. Thus, the labour called off the protests.
On January 27, the Nigerian Supreme Court brought an abrupt end to the tenures of five erstwhile governors who were elected on the platform of the PDP. Affected by the ruling were Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State and Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State. The Court ruled that the five governors had no legal right to be in office beyond May 29, 2011. The court therefore, ordered them to hand over to the Speaker of their respective Houses of Assembly. While the other four governors complied with the order, there was confusion in Kogi State as to who was to act as the governor.
Shortly after the ruling, Abdullahi Bello, the speaker, was sworn in by the chief judge of the state, while the outgoing governor handed over to Idris Wada, who had been elected as governor in the gubernatorial election held on December 3, 2011, and was sworn in as substantive governor by Ibrahim Atadoga, president of the Customary Court of Appeal. Hence, for a few days and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, there were two acting governors in the state. It took the intervention of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to get Bello to relinquish his claim to the office.
On July 14, Adams Oshiomhole got his re-election bid actualised when he was re-elected governor of Edo State. Contesting on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Oshimhole defeated the candidates of the PDP and other parties to retain the seat. Seven parties participated in the election, but the contest was between the governor and Charles Airhiavbere, a retired general and candidate of the PDP. Although the national body of the PDP has congratulated Oshiomhole, Airhiavbere has remained inconsolable throughout the year as his case against the governor’s election is still in court. It was the turn of another non-PDP to win a re-election in October. Olusegun Mimiko, a Labour Party candidate, governor of Ondo State, was re-elected on October 20. He beat the candidates of the PDP and that of the ACN, in the landslide election to retain his seat.
The disqualification of Sylva to re-contest the gubernatorial election on the platform of the PDP in Bayelsa State swung support in favour of Henry Seriake Dickson, the choice of President Jonathan who hails from the state. Dickson easily won the governorship race held on February 11. Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State had no problem in his re-election bid. On February 25, the candidate of the ruling PDP, won a landslide by polling 451,544 or 90.11 percent of the vote cast. Usani Usani of the Action Congress of Nigeria came second and placed third was Patrick Okomiso of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP. Ditto for Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, who also contested on the platform of the PDP.
For some months the Nigerian political class was embroiled in controversy over the 13 percent derivation being paid to the oil producing states in the South. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, governor of Niger State, had stirred the hornet’s nest in his address at the inauguration of the advisory council of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation in Abuja, Thursday, February 23. Aliyu described as unfair the situation where a state like his got between N4.2 billion and N4.5 billion as monthly allocation, while its counterparts in the Niger Delta received 20 times the amount based on 13 percent derivation formula for the oil producing states. He said the unfair distribution of the nation’s wealth has affected the 19 Northern states where illiteracy, poverty, ignorance and general backwardness were on the rise. Aliyu’s prognosis was supported by the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, which promised to press for another look at the derivation formula.
But the oil producing states argued that even the 13 per cent derivation could not compensate them for the economic damage that oil spillage had done to their environment since the discovery of oil in their area. They also wondered why they should be made to suffer for their God given wealth. The debate is still raging on.
After more than one year, the PDP eventually elected a national chairman in Bamaga Tukur, a business mogul and an elder statesman. On March 24, Tukur was adopted as the consensus candidate for the post. The position of the national chairman of the party had become vacant in January 2011, when Okwesilieze Nwodo was forced to resign following opposition from his South-East constituency. The deal also saw Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, emerging as national secretary of the party.
The House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the National Assembly, was shaken to the foundation in March. At the legislative inquiry on the crash of the Nigerian Capital Market from 2008 to date, Herman Hembe, the then chairman, House Committee on Capital Market, and Arunma Oteh, director general, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, accused each other of bribe offer and taking. It was Hembe who fired the first salvo on the first day of the hearing when he accused Oteh of incompetence, fraud, dishonesty and lack of integrity, March 14. He accused Oteh of squandering N30 million on hotel bills between January and August 2010. When Oteh appeared before the Committee the following day, she accused the panel of demanding N39 million bribe from the SEC, to fund the hearing, and that her refusal to succumb was responsible for Hembe’s accusation. Hembe stepped down as chairman of the Committee, and was eventually arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, along with his deputy, Azubuogu Ifeanyi, who are currently facing charges of diversion of public funds at an Abuja High Court. In spite of the trial of Hembe and Ifeanyi, the reconstituted House Committee went ahead with the probe, which finally indicted Oteh and recommended her sack which President Jonathan has ignored ever since.…
After many attempts to get Oteh sacked failed, the House of Representatives decided not to pass the SEC appropriation bill in the 2013 budget. The House ruled on the matter saying: “All revenue to SEC, however, described including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenue shall not be spent by Security and Exchange Commission for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matter, nor liabilities therein incurred except with prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly.”
It was another bad publicity for the House of Assembly in June. On Sunday, June 10, Femi Otedola, a businessman and chairman of Zenon Oil Company, one of the companies the House investigated in connection with alleged oil subsidy scam, granted a newspaper interview in which he alleged that Farouk Lawan, chairman of the ad hoc committee that probed the oil subsidy scam, approached him April 18, 2012, a few days before the report of the oil subsidy probe committee was to submit its report and demanded money so that Zenon’s name would be kept out of the report. Otedola alleged that Lawan demanded $3 million, and on three instalments he paid the lawmaker $620,000 all in April. Based on the allegation, Lawan was arrested and grilled for about one week by the police before being granted bail. The lawmaker admitted that he collected the money, but the whereabouts of the money remained shrouded in secrecy. Lawan has since returned to his legislative duties and the matter was stalemated. When the House called Otedola to come and give evidence in camera before another panel on the matter, he opted for an open televised appearance. But the House said no. That has been the last the public had heard about the saga before the year ended.
Supporters and opponents of Jonathan had an issue to settle on the president’s ambition in 2015. The debate on whether he should be a candidate or not was put to rest when in a media chat on Sunday, November 18, Jonathan said he was not yet thinking about re-election even though he is eligible to re-contest.
In November, Nigerians had a say in the amendment of the nation’s constitution when the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, held a public hearing in the 109 Senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies. The public submissions are expected to help both the Senate and House committees, headed by Senator Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, and Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker, respectively, to amend the nation’s Constitution, which was foisted on Nigeria by the past military regime.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Thursday, December 6, de-registered 28 of the then existing political parties in the country. The action brought about an intense controversy. Hardly had the controversy died down when INEC announced the deregistration of another three political parties, thereby bringing the number of the delisted parties to 31. The three political parties that were deregistered on December 21, are African Renaissance Party, ARP, National Democratic Party and National Transformation Party. Unlike the deregistration of the earlier 28 political parties where INEC gave no reason for its action, this time around, the commission offered reasons for the action.
In a statement by, Abdullahi Kaguma, the INEC Secretary, the commission said the action was taken, “In continuation of the exercise of the powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).” On the reasons for the deregistration of ARP, the statement said the, “Composition of National Executive Committee, NEC, fails to meet the requirements of Section 223(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended). No verifiable headquarters office contrary to Section 222(f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). It has not won a seat in the National and State assemblies.”
For the National Democratic Party, NDP, it said the: “Composition of National Executive Committee, NEC, fails to meet the requirements of Section 223(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). No verifiable headquarters office contrary to Section 222(f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Has not won a seat in the National and State Assemblies.” For the National Transformation Party, NTP, INEC said, the “Composition of the National Executive Committee, NEC, fails to meet the requirements of Section 223(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Has not won a seat in the National and State assemblies.” “The Commission reiterates its commitment to relating with all registered Political Parties as specified by the extant laws of the land,” the statement said.
Some of the 28 political parties earlier deregistered are African Liberation Party, Action Party of Nigeria, African Political System, Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Congress for Democratic Change, Community Party of Nigeria, Freedom Party of Nigeria, Hope Democratic Party, Justice Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria, Movement for Democracy and Justice, and the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy.
Others are, New Democrats, National Majority Democratic Party, National Movement of Progressive Party, National Solidarity Democratic Party, Progressive Action Congress, Peoples Mandate Party, Peoples Progressive Party, People’s Salvation Party, Republican Party of Nigeria, United National Party for Development and the United Nigeria Peoples Party.
Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC, justified the action of the commission on the delisted 28 parties saying, “We have taken the decision to deregister 28 parties and as far as we are concerned, we have acted legally. Of course, many political parties chieftains especially of those deregistered were not happy and we understand that and some of them have gone to court. We are law-abiding and we await whatever judgement that will be made. But we believe that the constitution and the electoral act have given us the responsibility to register and deregister any political party that falls short of meeting the requirements of the law.”
Throughout the year, the menace of Boko Haram sect, a fundamentalist Islamic group, remained a source of worry for the nation, and indeed, the political class, as many Nigerians were killed and maimed in the northern states of the country. Even though the sect said it was ready for dialogue to bring an end to the carnage, Jonathan said at a recent media chat that the government would not negotiate with faceless people. Thus, there is no guarantee that the violent act of the sect will not continue in the new year.
— Jan 7, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT