Political Recap: Elections, Impeachments, Protests, Others Dominate 2019
The 2019 political year in Nigeria is one that could be simply described as ‘eventful,’ featuring various critical and interesting events in the country.
Highpoints of such events range from elections to court cases, and crisis within political parties, among others.
In line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, civil society groups, the electorate, and other critical political stakeholders stepped up preparations ahead of what some political actors termed the ‘most important event of the year – the general elections’.
Although the 2019 general elections may have come and gone, the dust they left behind has yet to settle as a result of the mixed reactions that followed. Since the beginning of the year until February 15, Nigerians had prepared and shown their readiness to elect a new set of leaders at various levels until the electoral umpire shifted the date of the elections by one week.
This followed a crucial meeting of INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and the 12 national commissioners of INEC which began on the eve of the initial Election Day and lasted until the early hours of the next day.
Barely five hours to the start of the polls, Professor Yakubu announced at a short press briefing that the Presidential and National Assembly elections had been postponed until February 23, while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls would take place on March 9.
The INEC boss explained that before arriving at the decision, the meeting concluded that going ahead as scheduled was no longer feasible after carefully reviewing the implementation of the logistics and operational plan, as well as the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections.
The decision sparked criticism in some quarters while some individuals and groups called for understanding and support for INEC to ensure the process went peacefully. Seven days later, the Presidential and National Assembly elections took place as scheduled.
The presidential election was keenly contested by President Muhammadu Buhari and his major rival and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, as well as some younger candidates such as Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye, Felix Nicholas, Kingsley Moghalu, and Obadiah Mailafia among several other.
Although a total of 73 political parties – including the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – fielded candidates for the election, some later endorsed Buhari of the APC while others formed an alliance with Atiku to kick the incumbent president out of office.
This made the election a major battle between Buhari – the man seeking another four years – and Atiku – the man on a mission to realise his dream of becoming president in about three decades. Four days after the poll was conducted, President Buhari was returned elected for a second term in office.
Announcing the results on February 27, Professor Yakubu said the President polled a total of 15,191,847 to defeat his PDP rival who scored 11,262,978. President Buhari won the election with a wide margin of close to four million votes ahead of Atiku, claiming a total of 19 states while the former vice president won in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Following the declaration, the President and members of the ruling party celebrated their victory while the PDP accused the APC of rigging the election and vowed to challenge the outcome in court.
Meanwhile, Nigerians also elected their representatives at the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives. In the build-up to the poll, the APC suffered a big loss as scores of lawmakers in both chambers defected to the PDP – including the then Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
However, a majority of the senators who defected to the PDP lost their seats, including Senator Saraki. This led to the emergence of Senator Ahmed Lawan and Mr Femi Gbajabiamila – both of the APC – as the Senate President and Speaker of the 9th National Assembly.
Having completed their two terms as provided by the law, some former governors won their elections to the Senate. These included Kashim Shettima (Borno), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), and Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa).
Former governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State also joined his colleagues in the Senate following a series of court battles after an electoral official said he declared him winner of the election in Imo West senatorial district. On his part, former Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, lost his bid to become a senator to Senator Kola Balogun of the PDP.
Two weeks after Nigerians cast their ballots, the electorate returned to their various polling units to elect leaders at the state level – the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls.
Unlike the February 23 polls held across the country, the March 9 elections took place only in 29 states, excluding Edo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Bayelsa, Kogi, and Anambra States.
The election recorded wins and losses in various states as the APC unseated PDP in some states while the PDP took over power from the APC elsewhere. As of March 23, INEC had concluded and announced the winners of the governorship elections in 22 states, while the exercise was suspended in Rivers and declared inconclusive for various reasons in six other states. The affected states included Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Kano, and Sokoto.
At the end of the whole process, results and winners were announced for all 29 states where the election took place. A breakdown of the results revealed the APC won in 14 states while the PDP claimed 15 states.
The APC retained power in 12 states but lost five states to the opposition party, including Benue and Sokoto where the governors defected before the elections. On the other hand, the PDP retained power in 10 states but lost Gombe State, as well as Kwara where the third governor defected from the ruling party.
The APC could have won in one more state – Zamfara, but the party ceded all the posts it won in the state to the PDP on the directive of the Supreme Court which held that it did not conduct primaries and therefore, could not have won any election.
Similarly, the party was affected by an internal crisis in Rivers, leading to an order of the apex court which barred the APC from participating in any election in the state.
Triumph vs Defeat
While some Governors won their elections into the Senate as members of the 9th National Assembly, former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, was defeated by Senator Kola Balogun of the PDP.
Former governors elected into the Red Chamber comprise new and returning senators. They are Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Senator Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Senator Kashim Shettima, and Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, among others.
The conclusion of the general elections paved the way for the kick-off of the 9th National Assembly with the APC reclaiming its leadership from the PDP following the defection of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and erstwhile Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to the opposition party.
Saraki and Dogara dumped the APC along with dozens of lawmakers numbering over 45 in the build-up to the general elections, but it wasn’t enough to deny President Buhari a second term in office, as well as the ruling party from retaining the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Rather, Senator Saraki and most of his colleagues in the Senate – except Senator Dino Melaye – and some members of the lower chamber lost their re-election bid in the February 23 poll, although Mr Dogara was returned by members of his constituencies. As a result, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Mr Femi Gbajabiamila were elected as the Senate President and Speaker of the 9th National Assembly respectively.
From The Ballot To Court
As it is widely accepted that only the electorate can decide the fate of aspiring leaders through the power of the ballot, that wasn’t the case for some politicians who participated in the election. The people in this category are the aggrieved candidates who proceeded to the Election Petitions Tribunal in various courts to reclaim their mandates purported to have been stolen by the winners in the elections.
Prominent among them are former Vice President Atiku and the PDP, as well as Mr Ambrose Owuru and Hope Democratic Party (HDP) who approached the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge the re-election of President Buhari in the February 23 poll.
Atiku and the PDP prayed the court to disqualify President Buhari on the grounds that he didn’t possess the requisite academic qualification to contest for the office of the President. They also alleged irregularities, over-voting, use of force, and non-compliance with electoral laws among other claims during the elections.
After months of arguments between the petitioners and defendants, as well as the presentation of witnesses and evidence before the court, the Tribunal dismissed Atiku’s petition on September 11. In a unanimous judgement which lasted almost nine hours, Justice Mohammed Garba who delivered the lead judgement ruled that Buhari was duly elected as President.
He added that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations against the defendants. Other members of the Tribunal agreed with the judgement. They are Justice Peter Olabisi-Ige, Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice Joseph Ikyegh, and Justice Samuel Oseji.
On the other hand, Owuru and HDP claimed that the failure of INEC to conduct the election on February 16 before it was postponed by a week forced his party to conduct a referendum through which Nigerians elected him as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dismissing the petition in its judgement delivered in July, the Tribunal held that the petition was unknown to the law and lacked constitutional backing, adding that it was an aberration that constituted an abuse of court processes.
Despite the duration of proceedings at the Tribunal, the petitioners in the presidential election were not satisfied with judgement of the court. They, thereafter, took their appeals to the Supreme Court where they challenged the decision of the Tribunal.
Like the lower court, the apex court struck out the suits of Atiku and PDP, as well as Owuru and HDP, and upheld the judgement of the Tribunal affirming President Buhari’s re-election. The Supreme Court’s judgement put an end to issues and disagreements surrounding the 2019 Presidential Election.
Mission To Reclaim Mandate
Shortly after elections were concluded, the Governorship and National Assembly Elections Tribunals across the country have been busy attending to litigations triggered by the outcomes of the polls. At the governorship level, the Tribunals affirmed the outcomes of the polls in the states where elections held.
Some of the governorship candidates who lost at the Tribunal further took their cases to the Court of Appeal where they lost again. However, there was a twist in the judgement of the appellate court which sat on the appeal brought by the APC in Oyo State.
The court affirmed the victory of Governor Seyi Makinde and the PDP but validated the appeal of Mr Adebayo Adelabu and the APC. It disagreed with the Tribunal on the grounds that documents submitted were not processed properly while the appellants’ evidence were not evaluated adequately.
They noted that if not that the 180-day time limit for the Tribunal had been exhausted, it would have ordered a re-trial. It, therefore, ordered that status quo be maintained, retaining PDP’s Makinde as the elected governor of Oyo State.
Some of the governors who also won at the Tribunal are Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), and Samuel Ortom (Benue), among others. Meanwhile, some candidates who lost at the appellate court have challenged the judgements at the Supreme Court.
Fight Back To Victory
The aftermath of the elections that returned some members of the 8th National Assembly and brought in new members of the 9th Assembly is one that cannot be allowed to pass by without being reviewed.
Shortly after the February 23 polls were conducted, the has been a war of words and exchange of blames among politicians and political parties, especially between the APC and PDP while others were preparing to go to the Tribunal.
Notable among the states where the courts disagreed with the outcome of the polls are Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Sokoto, and Kogi. In early November, the Court of Appeal in Kaduna nullified the election of former Senate spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, as the lawmaker representing Ekiti South senatorial district.
The court ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, of the PDP as the winner of the election. Senator Adeyeye, also an erstwhile spokesman of the PDP, defected from the opposition party to vie for the senatorial seat.
In a similar development, Senator Ibrahim Dambaba – one of the lawmakers who defected from the APC to PDP in July 2018 – returned to the Senate on the order of the Court of Appeal in Sokoto. The court set aside the Tribunal ruling and sacked APC’s Abubakar Shehu-Tambuwal as the senator representing Sokoto South district.
In Akwa Ibom, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodswill Akpabio, is likely to return to the Senate, provided he wins a rerun. Senator Akpabio’s hopes were rekindled by the Court of Appeal in Calabar which ordered a re-run election in Essien Udim, the local government where the minister who contested on the APC platform lost to Senator Christopher Ekpenyong of the PDP.
Of all these cases, the election in Kogi West district appeared to be the poll that caught Nigerian’s attention the most. Senator Smart Adeyemi of the APC returned to the Senate in December following a rerun election conducted by INEC on the order of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The Tribunal had sacked Senator Melaye but he went to the appellate court to seek justice. The PDP candidate, however, lost his appeal in October as the court held that he could not prove his allegations and consequently ordered a rerun within 90 days.
In line with the court order, INEC fixed November 16 for the election – the same day the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States took place.
Kogi State Governor Yayaha Bello of the APC defeated his PDP rival, Musa Wada, to seal a second term in office while APC’s David Lyon also beat his PDP opponent, Duoye Diri, to win the governorship election in Bayelsa. The PDP candidates have vowed to challenge the results in court.
Quest For Power
In the face of the various developments that accompanied the 2019 general elections, the marks left behind have yet to disappear in some states. There have been some power struggles within political parties in some states such as Edo, Kogi, and Taraba among others.
The crisis in the Edo chapter of the APC is one that has continued to linger for months despite the effort of some party leaders. There seems to be a dispute between the APC National leader and his successor – Governor Godwin Obaseki over the proclamation of the Edo State House of Assembly among other issues.
While the party chairman and the governor shook hands and laughed together in July apparently to dismiss the report of disagreement between them, an attack on the governor’s convoy in November while visiting his predecessor deepened the crisis, leading to the exchange of blames between both camps.
The dispute took a new twist when a faction of the APC in the state suspended the national chairman while another group asked the party’s national leadership to expel the governor from the party.
While the crisis was ongoing, Governor Obaseki’s PDP rival in the September 2016 election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, defected to the ruling party. Away from Edo, the Kogi State chapter of the APC also had its share of the piece following a prolonged disagreement between Governor Bello and his former deputy, Mr Simon Achuba.
Achuba was impeached by the State House of Assembly in October following the consideration of a report of the committee set up by the State Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajana, to investigate an allegation of gross misconduct against him.
Some lawmakers were also impeached while others resigned in the course of the year. In June, Mr Abel Diah was re-elected as Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly but the reign only lasted for a while. His deputy, Mohammed Gwampo, was impeached after in October while Diah resigned barely two months later.
This led to the emergence of Mr Joseph Kunini and Mr Hammanadama Abdullahi as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.
Elsewhere, Mr Isah Idris was impeached as the Speaker of Jigawa State House of Assembly while Ugonna Ozuruigbo resigned as the Deputy Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, just as members of the Gombe State House of Assembly impeached Shaiubu Haruna as their Deputy Speaker.
Revolution Call Misinterpreted?
Having summarised the 365 days of the year in this short piece, the review would be incomplete without the prosecution of the convener of #RevolutionNow movement, Mr Omoyele Sowore, by the Nigerian government.
Trouble started for Sowore on August 3 after he was picked up by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Lagos. Sowore was arrested after called for revolution protests across the country. The arrest of the activist was not enough to stop the protests from taking place in Lagos and some parts of the country on August 5 as scheduled.
However, protesters met a strong resistance from security forces already stationed in the Surulere area of Lagos where the demonstration was billed to take place. Several protesters were arrested in the process, including a journalist with online news platform, Sahara Reporters.
Meanwhile, the DSS accused Sowore – the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February poll – of planning to topple the Muhammadu Buhari government through the protests. But the activist denied the coup allegations, insisting that he only mobilised Nigerians to protest against bad governance and other vices in the country.
In September, the government filed seven counts of conspiracy to commit treasonable felony and money laundering charges against Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, a day before the detention order of the Federal High Court in Abuja permitting the DSS to detain him for 45 days expired on September 21.
Temple Of Justice Desecrated?
The duo pleaded not guilty to the charges and were later granted bail in the sum of N150 million but not without stringent conditions. Despite two orders of the court directing their release, Sowore and Bakare were held by the DSS until the evening December 5 while the Service insisted that it did not disobey the court.
Barely 24 hours later, a drama played out at the Federal High Court in Abuja as some DSS operatives stormed the court in an attempt to rearrest Sowore and perhaps Bakare.
The move was thwarted by Sowore’s supporters and his lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, who condemned the action in its entirety. After the atmosphere was a bit calm, Falana drove his client to the DSS of in the nation’s capital where he was rearrested and detained.
The action of the security operatives was described as ‘desecration of the temple of justice’ by some Nigerians, including prominent legal practitioners in the country, although the DSS denied invasion of the court by its personnel.
Reacting to the incident, the Presidency, the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives said they had commenced an investigation into the court invasion but the outcomes have yet to be made public.
These, among many other happenings such as the budget presentation by the President, the first commemoration of June 12 as Democracy Day, the criticism of President Buhari’s media aide – Garba Shehu – by Mrs Aisha Buhari, the Social Media Bill, the Finance Bill, and the controversy surrounding the purported third term agenda of the President, are the major events in the 2019 political year.
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