EVENTS THAT DEFINED NIGERIA'S POLITICS
2011 was a very interesting year politically. It was characterised by intrigues. There was tension, subterfuge and all that politics is known for. Many times, tension rose to crescendo that many would think the tiny thread that bound the country together would snap. There were painful periods, just as there were hilarious times when Nigerians had a hearty laugh at politicians, who tried to play god.
From January to December, there was no dull moment. Starting from the zoning brouhaha in the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to the triumph of opposition parties over the PDP in some states across the country, it was action- packed events all the way.
The events that defined the politics of the year are presented below.
Death of zoning in PDP
The year began with a heated controversy in the ruling PDP over the zoning of the presidency. The proponents of zoning believed that the party's presidential candidate must come from the Northern part of the country in conformity with the party's power-sharing principle while those opposed to zoning argued that the party's presidential standard bearer could come from any part of the country. The party's constitution recognises the rotation of the offices among various zones. In the case of the presidency, the highest in the land, was supposed to rotate between the North and South.
The controversy was sparked off by the death of former president, Umaru Yar'adua, and the interest of his former deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to contest the 2011 general election on the PDP platform. The argument about the propriety or otherwise for President Jonathan to contest for the PDP ticket created a lot of tension in the ruling party and by extension the entire polity.
To ensure they stopped the president from clinching the party's tickets, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida; former National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusua; former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki; all PDP presidential aspirants from the North selected former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, as the North's consensus candidate for the PDP presidential primaries. The exercise was spearheaded by the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPFL), headed by former Finance Minister, Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
Atiku was to later square up against President Jonathan in a very bitter and acrimonious presidential primary. Eventually, the president trounced Atiku at the primaries, thereby clinching the party's presidential ticket, which paved the way for his election as president in the April 19 presidential poll.
However, Jonathan's emergence as the PDP presidential candidate dealt a deadly blow to the party's zoning policy. It became obvious that the ruling party's zoning policy no longer held water when, for the first time in the party's 12- year-existence, its choice for the leadership of the lower chamber of the National Assembly was disregarded.
Prior to the inauguration of the seventh session of the National Assembly, the PDP top hierarchy had zoned the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-west and Deputy Speaker to the North-east but in flagrant disobedience to the zoning arrangement, members of the House overwhelmingly voted for Aminu Tambuwal (North-west) as speaker and Emeka Ihedioha (South-east) as deputy speaker. That rebellion was a fallout of the PDP presidential primaries held earlier in the year.
The extension of tenure for five PDP governors
The outgoing year also witnessed the extension of tenure for five governors, who incidentally were elected on the platform of the PDP. The governors -Ibrahim Idris (Kogi State), Magatakardar Wammako, (Sokoto State), Timipriye Sylva (Bayelsa State) Liyel Imoke (Cross River State) and Murtala Nyako, (Adamawa State) were declared winners of the 2007 governorship elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, along the line, some divisions of Court Appeal in their adjudication on matters arising from disputes from the election nullified the elections of the five governors and called for fresh elections in their respective states. The governors contested the fresh elections and also won.
In the build up to the 2011 general elections, INEC indicated its desire to conduct governorship polls in Kogi, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Cross River and Adamawa States but the governors went to court to stop the electoral body. Eventually, they got a judgement from the Appeal Court to the effect that their tenure would run for four years, counting from the day they took their oath of office after they won fresh elections in their respective states. Consequently, governorship elections in the concerned states were stalled.
The takeover of South-west by ACN
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which rose from the ashes of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), regained control of five out of the six states in the South-west. In the 1999 election, the AD won all the South-west states. In 2003, the party lost Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States to the PDP. After the 2007 election, it regained Ekiti and Osun States albeit through the courts while Labour Party displaced the PDP in Ondo State.
But during the 2011 general election, the ACN took over Ogun and Oyo States from the ruling party at the centre, thereby forcing the PDP into opposition in the zone.
The emergence of ACN as main opposition party
Also, ACN emerged as the main opposition party in the country in the course of the year. In both chambers of the National Assembly, the party won the highest after the PDP, thereby making it the leader of the opposition. It took over from the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), which had led the opposition from 1999 to 2011.
ACN has six governorship seats in its kitty and a total of 87 seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) controls only one state. The ANPP, Labour Party and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) control one, three and two states respectively. The ruling PDP controls the remaining 23 states.
The rise and fall of CPC
The rise and fall of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is one of the major surprises in the politics of the country in 2011. At the beginning of the year, the CPC, which was formed by former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to drive his presidential ambition held so much promise.
With the popularity of the party in the North, it was taken for granted that it would sweep the 2011 polls in most of the 19 states in the region. Political pundits had also predicted that Buhari, who was contesting the presidential election for the third consecutive time, would win majority of votes in the North and a few states in the South to emerge the president of the country. But at the end of the presidential poll, the retired general was defeated by Jonathan.
The party also did not live up to expectations in the National Assembly and governorship elections. It could only win the governorship seat in Nassarawa State and a handful of legislative seats across the country thereby making all hopes that the party would form the government at the centre, or, at least, lead the opposition stillborn.
The fall of former governors Ikedi Ohakim, Akwe Doma and Alao-Akala
In the course of the year, three PDP governors, gunning for second term in office suffered humiliating defeats in the 2011 governorship election. Former governor Ikedi Ohakim (Imo State); Akwe Doma (Nasarawa State) and Bayo Alao-Akala (Oyo State) lost their return bids to opposition parties in their respective states.
Ohakim was trounced by Owelle Rochas Okorocha of APGA, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura of CPC buried Doma's second term dream while Senator Abiola Ajimobi of ACN sent Alao-Akala packing.
Ironically, the trio, particularly Ohakim, never gave the opposition any chance. The former Imo governor, prior to the tension soaked election, had boasted that he would teach his opponents that he was on the ground and not on air.
The travails of Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva
At the beginning of the year, Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, was prancing on the political scene as one of the PDP governors but more importantly, as the governor of the president's home state. Like every first time PDP governor, he was hoping to contest and win his second term on the platform of the party. However, in the course of the year, things changed as the party's top hierarchy in Abuja gave him the left hand of fellowship.
The party, apart from disqualifying him from participating in the governorship primaries in the state, had gone ahead to nominate a member of the House of Representatives, Seriake Dickson, as its gubernatorial candidate in the state for the February 11, 2012 governorship poll.
The Bayelsa governor, who started the year hopeful of a second term, is ending it on a very despondent state.
The arraignment of Bola Tinubu in the CCB
Another high point in the politics of 2011 was the arraignment of former governor of Lagos State and National leader of the ACN in the Conduct of Conduct Bureau (CCB). The Federal Government charged the ACN leader to the CCB for operating foreign account while he held sway as Governor of Lagos State.
However, the CCB acquitted the former governor of the charges preferred against him. If he had been convicted, he would have been barred from politics for 10 years.
Arraignment of Senator Ali Ndume for alleged terrorism
In the course of the year, a serving Senator, Ali Ndume, was arrested by the State Security service (SSS) and arraigned in an Abuja Magistrate Court for allegedly having links with the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. Ndume, a former member of the House of Representatives, represents Borno State in the Senate.
Incidentally, the Senator was part of a committee set up by the Federal Government to evolve ways of tackling the activities of the Boko haram.
However, things went awry for him when he was fingered by a former Boko Haram spokesman as one of the financiers of the group.
Ndume's arrest and prosecution is part of government's plan to stem the tide of terrorist attacks in the country.
The death of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
Another key event in the 2011 was the death of former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Ojukwu, a two-time presidential aspirant, was the national leader and chairman Board of Trustees (BoT) of APGA, died in a London hospital after a long duel with stroke.
Ojukwu's death is one singular event that would have monumental consequences on the fortunes of APGA.