NIGERIA MOST INTERESTING STORIES IN 2013
The first major step taken by the Federal Government in the year 2013 was the initial deployment of 900 troops in Mali. That was on January 16. They were to join the Economic Community of West African States force as part of Nigeria's contributions to push for the emancipation of Northern Mali, which had been overrun by Islamists.
That month also saw an attempt on the life of one of Nigeria's foremost traditional rulers, the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero. The Emir was injured after an explosive device was thrown at his convoy. A driver and three of his guards died.
Nigerians received what many considered as a major slap on the face that month, when on January 28, a Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Abuja handed down only a two-year jail sentence to a director of the Police Pension Office, Mr. John Yusuf, who had been found guilty of conniving with others to defraud pensioners of N27.2bn. He was given an option of fine of N750,000 for the offence.
Of course, he paid the fine before leaving the court premises.
The judgment by Justice Abubakar Talba was to be followed by a wave of protests and outcry by Nigerians.
In another judgment that month, in what was to become the first major conviction of a terror suspect, Edmund Ebiware, was found guilty of complicity in the October 1, 2010 bomb blast near Eagle's Square.
Ebiware, who was said to be an accomplice of Henry Okah, the former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
In the second month of the year, the Court of Appeal in Lagos affirmed the 2007 death sentence passed by a Lagos High Court on the controversial General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, (aka Rev. King). Rev. King was found guilty of murder and attempted murder.
In what many considered a positive development in the anti-corruption crusade in the country, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission arraigned a member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, at a Federal High Court for demanding and receiving a $620,000 bribe from businessman, Femi Otedola. The court later ordered him remanded in prison custody.
The intrigue of the month was not over. The State Security Service later that month announced that it had uncovered a terror network coordinated by Iranians in Lagos.
In a major development that would later change the political landscape of Nigeria, the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change, All Nigeria Peoples Party and All Progressives Grand Alliance, metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As the journey of the year moved to the third month, the first major event led to worldwide mourning. Iconic literary giant, Prof. Chinua Achebe, died at 82.
However, it was knocks for President Goodluck Jonathan from every corner of the country, when on March 12, Former Governor of Bayelsa State and the President's former boss, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, who had been found guilty of corruption and convicted, was pardoned alongside seven others by the Federal Government. The development later made the US threaten to cut off aids to Nigeria.
The hands of terror struck that same month as over 30 passengers, drivers and visitors died in a bomb explosion set off by members of the Boko Haram terror group, at an inter-state luxury bus park in Kano.
On March 26, a South African court sitting in Johannesburg sentenced the former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Henry Okah, to 24 years imprisonment for masterminding the October 1,
2010 bombing at Eagle's Square, Abuja.
Early into the month, members of a cult, Ombatse, ambushed and killed over 50 policemen in Nasarawa State in what became an embarrassment to the security apparatus of the country.
In one of the worst bloodshed since terrorism became almost a daily affair in Nigeria, a bloodbath in Borno State between Nigerian Army and Boko Haram left 185 people dead in a single day in Baga, Kukawa Local Government Area. It was later revealed that most of the victims of the massacre were civilians. President Jonathan promised to punish those behind the massacre.
Later that month, the death was announced of former Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka. She died of cancer at the age of 52.
The need to counter terrorism and crack down on terror cells in Northern Nigeria led to the declaration of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by President Jonathan.
Two British-Nigerians, 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo and 22-year-old Michael Adebowale, made headlines around the world after they hacked to death British soldier, Lee Rigby, in broad daylight in Woolwich, London.
In what later became a major political intrigue that marked year 2013, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, won the election into the chairmanship seat of the Governors' Forum by 19 votes to 16. But his opponent, Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, laid claim to the seat.
The forum became factionalised and Amaechi was later to be suspended by the Peoples Democratic Party. Jang would later be endorsed by President Jonathan.
Later that month, the Joint Task Force uncovered a Lebanese terror cell in Kano State.
On June 24, the British Government announced a scheme that riled Nigerians, one that would require every Nigerian visa traveller to Britain to deposit £3,000 as bond in case they overstay their visa limits. The Federal Government had, at the time, risen stoutly against the policy and threatened a reprisal. The policy was to be reversed months later in November.
July 2013 started on a rather regrettable note. The Academic Staff Union of Universities made up of public university lecturers in the country began a nationwide indefinite strike on the first day of the month.
The lecturers had accused the government of violating some of the issues contained in a 2009 agreement it had with the body. As a result, academic activities in the affected schools were grounded for months as negotiations stalled and picked up intermittently between the disputing parties for a long period of time.
The strike was called off on Tuesday, December 17, 2013, about six months later, but it represented a major setback in Nigeria's education sector.
In the same week the lecturers commenced their indefinite strike, the Senate had a disgraceful session, where two senators nearly engaged in fisticuffs over a letter by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly. In the letter, Jonathan had stated why he could not assent to the State of the Nation Address Bill 2013 as passed by the National Assembly. So the issue generated a heated debate between the senators and would have led to a fight, but for the intervention of other senators and the Sergeant-At-Arms.
The State of the Nation Address Bill, among others, would empower the lawmakers to compel the President to appear before the National Assembly to deliver the address once a year.
But as steps were being taken to abate the disagreements among senators in the National Assembly, Nigerians were again reminded of a different kind of crisis in the North-Eastern part of the country.
In another cold-blooded attack, gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect, killed 29 pupils and a teacher in a Yobe State Government School on July 7, 2013.
Meanwhile, the crisis down south of the country, specifically in Rivers States had worsened.
The state's political crisis, which was widely connected to the Presidency, degenerated into an attempt to impeach the Speaker of the State's House of Assembly, Mr. Otelemaba Amachree, on July 9, 2013.
In the ensuing crisis, five anti Amaechi lawmakers illegally attempted to impeach Amaechree, who was a supporter of the governor, in a follow-up to the Rivers crisis. The move led to a free-for-all on the floor of the house as anti-Amaechi lawmakers engaged their pro-Amaechi colleagues.
The incident generated public condemnation and trended on the social media for a while, both locally and internationally. In the aftermath of the fight, one of the anti-Amaechi lawmakers, Evans Bipi, seemed to confirm the presidency's involvement in the crisis when he openly named the wife of the President, Patience Jonathan, his “Jesus Christ.” Bipi has since paraded himself as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly in spite of a High Court order forbidding him to do so.
There were other notable events in July including Mrs. Jonathan's admission that she indeed, had a rift with Amaechi and the National House of Assembly's take-over of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Also in an historical twist in the country's judicial system, the Appeal Court upturned a Lagos High Court judgment sentencing Hamza Al Mustapha, a former Chief Security Officer to the late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, to death.
The reactions that trailed the judgment of the appellate court were divided along geographical lines. In the South, particularly South-Western Nigeria, public opinion was critical of the judgment while the North gave their son a huge welcome party after 12 years incarceration. Al Mustapha and another person, had earlier been convicted for the murder of a pro-democracy activist, Mrs. Kudirat Abiola.
However, the whole country seemed to be united in one voice against a move by the British Government to introduce a £3,000 (about N750, 000) visa bond for visitors to the UK. Many even praised the Federal Government's tough stance on the issue when it threatened to bring up a retaliatory policy against the country's colonial masters.
Painfully though, the month ended on a bloody note with the multiple bomb blasts that went off in Kano city, killing scores of people and injuring many others. Boko Haram was suspected to be responsible for the attacks, with AFP reporting that at least four explosions occurred in the Sabon-Gari neighbourhood, where most non-indigenes reside.
If anyone thought that August would be a bloodless month as far as terrorist attacks were concerned, those sentiments were quickly dispelled by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members. The assailants gunned down 44 persons praying in a mosque in Borno on August 12, 2013.
Two weeks later, the mourning was fairly replaced by mixed feelings and emotions for many Nigerians when news of a teenage stowaway boy hit the stands and the airwaves. The boy, Daniel Ihekina, who thought that an Arik plane was US-bound, had beaten airline and airport security at the Benin Airport, to hide in the tyre compartment of the aircraft.
As some people praised the boy's daring act, some others asked that he be punished for what they considered to be suicidal. Two state governors who rewarded Daniel's bravery also received public criticisms for encouraging more youths to attempt similar dangerous acts, in their bid to travel abroad at all cost.
But while Daniel's attempt was to travel out, an ailing Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai, who was injured after a plane he was flying crash landed in 2012, returned to Nigeria on August 25, 2013. Suntai had arrived after ten months of medical treatment abroad.
Consequently, Suntai's return generated some tension in his home state after he declared his willingness to resume his position as governor, in spite of his visible frailty.
August 24, Anambra State PDP crisis went into wire, with Senator Andy Uba, former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, was declared winner of one of the parallel primaries organized by the PDP to pick its candidate for the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State.
While Former Nigerian students' president, Tony Nwoye polled 498 votes in the other primaries, followed by Senator Nicholas Ukachukwu with
378 votes. According to the result Sen. Uba polled 645 votes, followed by Emma Anosike with 110 votes. Others are Jerry Ugwoke got 86;Patrick Ugbomah -89;Mike Okoye -22;Ugochukwu Okeke -20;Alex Obiogolu -17;Mrs Josephine Anenih -3;Walter Okeke -2;and Tony Nwoye -1. The result was announced by the Returning Officer, Dr. Kenneth Enemuoh.
This was a month of political upheavals as the political tensions that had been brewing for some months, reached a boiling point. At a national convention of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party, seven PDP governors and a former vice president and party stalwart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, staged a walkout leading to the birth of a new PDP. Some of the PDP rebel governors had openly criticised the party before the walkout, and many incidents had also laid the ground work for the breakup, however, the move still surprised many Nigerians.
Some days later, Jonathan fired nine of his cabinet members with some of the sacked and retained ministers reported to have openly shed tears. Till date, no appointment has been made by the President to replace the sacked ministers.
September also brought some drama and shame to the polity when some members of the House of Representatives exchanged blows over the visit of some members of the new PDP to the House. Some PDP members were obviously not pleased with the visit of the breakaway group and they let their displeasure show on the floor of the house.
Sadly on the last weekend of the month, Boko Haram struck again and this time, it was at a College of Agriculture in Yobe State, where they killed 50 students.
If September was a month of political upheaval, then October could be said to be a black month. On October 3, 2013, a plane belonging to Associated Airline which had the corpse of the former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Segun Agagu, took off at about 9.30am from the domestic terminal of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, with 20 persons on board, including the crew. But it never made it out of the airport as its engine failed on take-off and it crash landed on the airport's premises. Sixteen of the passengers lost their lives in the crash, some instantly.
The crash shook the country, particularly Lagos, the country's commercial nerve centre where the incident occurred. Many called for the heads of key administrators in the aviation sector and anyone found to be guilty of negligence. Not many would quickly forget the statements of the country's Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, who had referred to the incident as an “Act of God”. Her statement seemed to have further infuriated the members of the public, but in the end, nobody provided answers to the many questions from the public begging for answers.
To even make matters worse, a report broke in the same month that Oduah had sanctioned the purchase of two armoured BMW vehicles for N255m. Also, this generated public outcry and calls for Oduah's sack, which amounted to naught as well.
Exactly a month after the plane crash, Boko Haram attacked a wedding convoy in Borno, killing the groom and 29 others. The attacks came after a brief but quiet period of terrorist attack in the country.
Therefore, many Nigerians queried the state of emergency that had been in place in three North eastern states, including Borno.
By November 26, 2013, the political tussle between the PDP and the New PDP went up a notch, when some of the breakaway members of the PDP joined the All Progressives Party, a rival party.
But it was not all gloomy in November, as the country once again conquered world football at the Under-17 level.
November 16 Anambra state governorship election hid the headline but on Nov. 18, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that Anambra gubernatorial election was inconclusive and had to be rescheduled in some areas. After holding a “supplementary”
election a fortnight later, declared the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate Mr. Willie Obiano as governor-elect.
Several election monitors and some international community also criticised INEC's handling of the exercise.for insistence, U.S Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. James Entwistle describe the election as “a rape to democracy”.
The month could best be described as one of drama and relief, since it is the month in which ASUU brought its 169-day-old strike to an end.
The drama began when a letter written by a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to President Goodluck Jonathan somehow found its way into the public domain. The 18-page letter accused Jonathan of many things, including being responsible for the training of a hit squad likened to one infamously managed by the late military dictator, Sani Abacha. Among other allegations, Obasanjo accused Jonathan of encouraging corruption, tribalism, causing disharmony in the PDP and not keeping to his word that he would not seek a second term. The letter demanded a response from Jonathan, saying previous ones had gone without acknowledgment.
But while the buzz generated by the letter was ongoing, another letter purportedly from Obasanjo's daughter and a former senator, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, was released by a media organisation. The damning letter in turn, accused Obasanjo of selfishness, highhandedness and abuse to his family.
The public was, however, divided over who had authored the second letter. While many said the letter could not have originated from Mrs.
Obasanjo-Bello, others believed that her silence only meant that she had approved of the letter.
A week later, Jonathan's response to Obasanjo's letter came. In the letter, Jonathan denied the allegations against his person, including sponsoring the training of a hit squad. In turn, Jonathan accused Obasanjo of lying in his letter.
The month also saw the defection of 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives to APC. Meanwhile, the media have been awash of how the bleeding PDP is plotting moves to punish the runaway members.
In a related development, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, has also been more vocal in his criticism of the presidency. He accused Jonathan of parading a body language that supported corruption, adding that the scourge of corruption was more rampant under Jonathan's administration.
The House of Representatives also called for the outright sack of Oduah, who was found to have violated the 2013 Appropriation Act by approving N643m for 54 cars.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram did not let up on its campaign of carnage, as the group sacked a military base in Borno, killing scores of people and burning a police station and five aircraft.
Lastly, December 2013 is the month and the year that the world mourned one of Africa's true sons, Nelson Mandela. It was a period when the world stood still for a man who fought apartheid, bled for it and died a victorious man.
QUESTION: WHICH STORY / MONTH DID YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING?
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IHEMELU AZUBIKE OKECHUKWU
A Social Commentator & Political Analyst