WHEN OUR CUP OVERFLOWED (1)
Globally, the outgoing year 2011 has been eventful. In the United States, for instance, President Barack Obama had to grapple with the challenges arising from the worsening debt crisis and rising unemployment. The Arab Spring is particularly more spectacular. Almost simultaneously, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen among others erupted into violence with citizens demanding a change of government. Syria is still burning almost nine months after the uprising started. The Libya crisis and emergence of the National Transition Council (NTC) following the death of Muammar Gaddafi remains a talking point.
Nigeria is not spared either. The menace of Boko Haram, post-election violence, crisis in the judiciary, flood disasters, increase in crime, the fuel subsidy removal controversy as well as the poor performance of the country in sports, perhaps the worst ever, were some of the highlights of the events in Nigeria in the outgoing year.
Post-election violence and killing of corps members
In April, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof Attairu Jega successfully conducted a general election that was widely adjudged to be free and fair. But the euphoria heralding the new dawn didn't last the day. Hardly had the result of the presidential election been announced when some northern states, notably Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna went on fire. In the sad accident, over 800 victims, including National Youth Service Corps members, used as ad-hoc staff by INEC in the election, lost their lives.
The federal government set up a post-election violence committee to probe the remote and immediate causes of the crisis with a view to forestalling future occurrence. Chairman of the committee, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, during the presentation of the report of its finding blamed some politicians for the violence. The panel also blamed successive regimes for not acting on past reports on violence and civil disturbances by bringing perpetrators to book, noting that it facilitated the widespread impunity by perpetrators of crimes and violence in the Nigerian society. However, no one has been arrested or brought to book over the crisis. Analysts are still watching to see whether President Goodluck Jonathan would be different and not treat such violent eruptions in the country like past administrations.
Harvest of deaths
2011 also recorded the death of some prominent Nigerians among which is the former Biafran warlord and national leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former House of Representatives Speaker and chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, former governor of Oyo State, Kolapo Ishola, and a senatorial aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Abaniwonda Al-Mustain.
Others are the former Internal Affairs Minister and publisher of The Guardian, Mr Alex Ibru as well as a former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu.
Fuel subsidy controversy
In the last few months, there has been a raging controversy over the proposed plan by the Federal Government to remove the subsidy on fuel. Despite the strident opposition from organized labour and civil society groups, the Jonathan administration is determined to go ahead with the plan. Based on the same old argument, the President has maintained that withdrawing of the subsidy was the only way to address the infrastructure neglect in the country. But so far, only the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has bought into the idea. The opposition political parties are yet to see a convincing reason further hardship should be imposed on the people in the name of subsidy and in the face of the failure of government to achieve turnaround maintenance of the nation's refineries. With the startling revelations coming from Magnus Abe-led Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Appropriation, and Finance set up by the Senate to investigate the operations of the fuel subsidy scheme in the country, it is very doubtful if the policy would enjoy public support and acceptance.
The proposed removal had been billed to take effect from January but because of the opposition from the stakeholders, the date for its commencement has been tentatively fixed for April 2012. A few weeks ago, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) in its submission before senate committee disclosed that the nation spent N3.655 trillion on fuel subsidy between 2006 and September 2011. The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Austin Oniwon, also told the panel that a locally refined barrel of petrol costs $5 with a subsidy of N11.85 per barrel. The independent marketers, he maintained, were being subsidised with N77 per litre of N138.71, amounting to N12.243 per barrel. Again, while in the 2011 appropriation bill, N240 billion was earmarked for the policy, the government through the NNPC ended up spending about N1.3 trillion on subsidy.
The report of the senate committee investigating the management of fuel subsidy is more startling. Apart from the long list of beneficiaries of the subsidy, the report also shows that some construction companies that had nothing to do with petroleum products benefited from the largesse.
More revelations are still emerging, as the panel has directed the NNPC boss to produce the total amount expended on turn-around maintenance of the nation's refineries from 1999 to date, total dividends accruing to NNPC from the Joint Venture Companies, names of guilty marketers, investigations conducted, results and subsequent sanction to defaulters.
Although the present government has promised to form a committee to manage the funds saved from the subsidy removal, not many Nigerians are willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Rather, they insist that those found culpable in the mismanagement of the fuel subsidy be brought to book.
Crisis in the judiciary
In the last 12 or more couple of months, the judiciary in Nigeria has been on trial. It has been in the throes of crisis occasioned by the face-off between the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, and the erstwhile President of the Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Salami. The crux of the matter was the bribery allegation levelled against the former by the latter, thus calling to question the integrity of this arm of government.
Salami had deposed to an affidavit at an Abuja Federal High Court in which he alleged, among others, that Katsina-Alu wanted him to compromise the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal in favour of the incumbent Governor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko. In an attempt to resolve the crisis of confidence between the two, the National Judicial Council (NJC) constituted a panel to investigate the matter. But in its report, the body blamed Salami for lying against Katsina-Alu on the Sokoto governorship case. According to the NJC, Katsina-Alu 'acted in good faith and was motivated by the apparent urge to protect the administration of justice and avoid breach of peace when he directed that the judgment in the Sokoto Gubernatorial Appeal be 'put on hold' pending the investigation of the petitions he had received on the matter.'
Consequently, the panel directed Salami to apologise to both Katsina-Alu and NJC in writing within seven days. Unsatisfied with the verdict, Salami proceeded to court to challenge the order. In the ensuing intrigues, Salami was suspended from office. The council also forwarded a recommendation to President Goodluck Jonathan to retire him from service.
Less than 24 hours after the recommendation, President Jonathan approved the suspension order, thus abruptly ending his long years of service in the nation's judiciary. While the tragicomedy arising from the crisis lasted, Nigerians watched helpless as the judiciary grappled with its dwindling integrity. Nigerians are now looking forward to the reform process put in place by Katsina-Alu's successor, Justice Dahiru Musdapher.
The anti-climax of the prolonged trial of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to the late General Sani Abacha, over the alleged murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, was the bribery allegation he levelled against ome prominent Yoruba leaders. While being cross-examined, Al-Mustapha submitted that some of them plotted to undermine the agitation for the actualization of the June 12 presidential election. He said the leaders of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, notably the late Pa Abraham Adesanya, and the slain former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, were bribed to cover up the death of Chief MKO Abiola. He opened the can of worm at a Lagos High Court.
He alleged that Adesanya and Ige were among South West leaders bribed by the former Head of State, Gen Abacha, after a visit to Aso Rock Villa to scuttle Abiola's June 12 mandate. He claimed that Yoruba leaders were bribed with $200 million to cover up Abiola's death and pacify the ethnic group.
Al-Mustapha, in his testimony, told the court that a former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar, directed the then Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, through a memo he (Abubakar) signed alongside the former National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Mohammed Abdullahi, to withdraw large sums of money in local and foreign currencies to settle some influential Nigerians, who were compromised on Abiola's mandate. The money withdrawn, he said, was $200 million, 75 million pounds and N500 million. According to him, Ige was unconsciously used in the alleged murder of Abiola. He added that prominent Yoruba elders that were not happy with the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election visited the Presidential Villa. But after the alleged inducement, they went home rejoicing.
Both Ige and Abraham are dead, raising the suspension that the submission was a desperate ploy by Al-Mustapha to get himself out of the hook. Although he tendered videotape in court to substantiate his allegation, the evidence in the exhibit was not convincing enough as it failed to reveal how money exchanged hands during the visit to Aso Rock. Accordingly, many Yoruba leaders have challenged him to come up with the names of those who are still alive.
Demystification of political godfathers
The most significant outcome of the April general election was the demystification of political godfathers. In Ogun State, not only that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was defeated right in his Owu ward, his daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello as well as his anointed governorship candidate, Gen. Adetunji Olurin, also lost out to their Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) counterparts. Following the leadership crisis in the state chapter of the PDP, Obasanjo propped up Olurin as the party's flag bearer while the embattled Governor Gbenga Daniel and his teeming supporters abandoned PDP and formed the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN). While Olurin stood as the standard bearer of the PDP for the election, Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, Daniel's blessed candidate, contested on the platform of the (PPN). At the end of the contest, both of them suffered a crushing defeat from the ACN. In a landslide victory, Senator Ibikunle Amosun emerged victorious.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, also had his own taste of defeat in the election.
The story of the strong man of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki, was even more intriguing. For decades, Saraki reigned as the undisputed kingmaker in the state and he alone decided who got what.
He, however, pushed his luck too far when in the April election he decided to do the unusual by imposing his daughter, Gbemisola, as the governorship flag bearer of the newly formed Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) against the anointed candidate of his son, Bukola, who was about leaving office as governor. But he was ultimately demystified as his son's candidate, Abdulfatah Ahmed, emerged winner of the election on the platform of the PDP.
OBJ, IBB face-off
The verbal fireworks between former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjo provided some comic relief for political watchers in the polity. On the eve of his 70th birthday, Babangida had insinuated that Obasanjo wasted the country's oil revenue during his eight-year rule by not addressing the infrastructure needs of the nation. But a predictable Obasanjo quickly responded and described Babangida as 'a fool at 70.' It took a while before reason eventually prevailed and the duo then refrained from making public comment on the matter.
Bayelsa is one of the five states where governorship election did not hold during the April general election because of the ruling of the Appeal Court, which virtually extended the tenure of the governors of Adamawa, Bayelsa, Cross River, Kogi and Sokoto states. They had won their re-run election in 2008. But the Bayelsa governor, Timipre Sylva's re-election bid ran into a storm as the national leadership of the PDP disqualified him from participating in the gubernatorial primary after he had earlier been given a clearance certificate by the governorship screening panel for the state. In the primary election held on November 19 in Yenagoa, Hon Henry Seriake Dickson emerged as the flag bearer for the February 2012 governorship election.
Apparently, this is the first time a sitting governor would be denied the ticket to participate in a primary election. But it is intriguing as the exact offence of Sylva still remains a puzzle. While some have blamed his dilemma on his alleged threatening of the President, others have accused the national leadership of bias and prejudice for its refusal to give reason to justify its action. All eyes are still on the state as the February election date draws nearer, especially since Sylva has taken the matter to court.
Tambuwal's emergence as Reps Speaker
One of the issues the South West has had to grapple with is the perceived marginalization of the region, particularly as it relates to the sharing of key positions in the National Assembly. In the power sharing formula hitherto agreed to by the leadership of the ruling PDP, the South West was to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 7th National Assembly. But the legislators defied the party's zoning arrangement and voted for Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal instead of Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who the zone selected. The perceived marginalization followed the woeful defeat of the PDP in region in the last general election. Of course, this wasn't a surprise to many. In the prolonged struggles among different interest groups to seize the control of the machinery of the party, its supporters had been polarized into different factions before the election. In Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti and Lagos states, each faction in contention for power had its own parallel executive. In Ogun, the rivalry was between the loyal supporters of Daniel and those of Obasanjo. While the group loyal to Daniel had Joju Fadairo as its factional leader, its rival faction was led by Chief Dayo Soremi, with prominent members like the former Minister of Commerce and Industry, Jubril Martins-Kuye.
Oyo, Ekiti, Osun and Ondo states were equally not spared. During the last election, the ACN capitalized on the crisis and had a clean sweep of the entire region. In the composition of the current National Assembly, there is only one PDP senator in the upper legislative chamber and less than 10 of them in the House of Representatives. Yet, as part of their disdain for the PDP, ACN members in the National Assembly had to abandon the collective interest of the region and teamed up with the recalcitrant PDP legislators to elect Tambuwal as Speaker.