It was a sad experience for some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after they were involved in an accident on Monday.
Thousands of PDP faithful had occupied the streets of Abuja and some major cities in the country in what they described as the ‘mother of all protests’.
The protest was against the judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on Tuesday last week in which the court sacked the PDP governorship candidate in Imo State and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9 poll.
While the protest went smoothly in some cities, it was a sad event for some PDP faithful in the nation’s capital as two trucks conveying protesters collided.
One of the trucks was stationed at the junction of a major road while the other, which was approaching, lost control in apparent stunt and collided with the first vehicle.
A number of protesters are feared to have sustained various degrees of injury while it has yet to be ascertained if anybody died in the incident.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja have protested the harassment of one of their members by a patient’s relative.
The protesters took to the streets of the nation’s capital on Thursday one week after a female doctor was assaulted at the Maitama District Hospital.
The doctor was reportedly stripped naked by one of the relatives of a patient following the death of their mother from a chronic medical condition.
The protesters marched in numbers to the Federal Capital Development Authority to express their grievance over the incident.
Some of them carried different placards with various inscriptions, while others called for justice and more secured working environment for members of the association.
The NMA Chairman (FCT chapter), Ekpe Phillips, condemned the incident during an interview with reporters in the nation’s capital.
He said, “There should be an undertaking by patients that their relatives will not show any act of violence to any doctor or healthcare worker, as doctors are scared to come to work due to the violent act of some patients.”
Phillips, therefore, called on the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, to deploy appropriate security measures to protect the lives of residents, especially health workers.
The president of protest-hit Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, plans to outlaw “hate speech” that has proliferated on social networks in recent months, his office said Monday.
Tebboune asked Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad to draft a bill “criminalising all forms of racism … and hate speech in the country,” according to a statement published by the official APS press agency.
The new initiative follows “an upsurge in hate speech and incitement,” the presidential statement said.
Algerian social networks have become a battleground for rival political camps after they gave rise to the popular “Hirak” protest movement that in April ended the 20-year reign of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The tone became more aggressive in the run-up to a December 12 presidential election, held in the face of strong opposition from the protest movement which saw the polls as an attempt by the establishment to consolidate its power.
All five candidates who ran in the poll had links to Bouteflika, with Tebboune having served as one of his prime ministers. Official turnout was less than 40 percent.
The law would allow authorities “to confront those who exploit the freedom and peaceful nature of Hirak” by brandishing “slogans that undermine national cohesion,” the statement said.
The initiative has sparked fierce debate on social media between those who back it and those who see it as an unneccessary measure, with some wary that it could give wide scope to crack down on legitimate protest.
The planned law stipulates that “everyone is called upon to comply with the Constitution and laws of the Republic, in particular respect for… the Nation state and its values… as well as the symbols of the state.”
Nearly a year after the launch of the popular movement, its activists continue to demand an end to the governing system in place since the country’s independence from France in 1962.
Britain’s ambassador to Tehran denied Sunday that he took part in a demonstration that broke out at a memorial for the 176 people killed when a plane was shot down.
Students held a gathering at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University on Saturday evening to honour those killed hours after Iran admitted the Ukrainian airliner was downed by mistake.
Iran’s Mehr news agency said the ambassador, Rob Macaire, was arrested for his alleged “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at the gathering in front of the university.
On Sunday, Iran confirmed his arrest as a foreigner at “an illegal gathering”, but said he was released soon after being identified.
“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” Macaire said on Twitter, adding he had been detained half an hour after leaving the area.
“Normal to want to pay respects — some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting,” he said.
“Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries,” he added.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister on Sunday confirmed Macaire had been arrested but said he was freed soon after being identified.
“He wasn’t detained, but arrested as unknown foreigner in an illegal gathering,” Seyed Abbas Araghchi tweeted, adding Macaire was released 15 minutes after he called the British diplomat to confirm his identity.
The British government said Macaire was arrested and detained briefly in the Iranian capital in what it called a “flagrant violation of international law”.
Iran’s armed forces said on Saturday the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 was mistakenly shot down, after denying for days Western claims it was brought down by a missile.
Police dispersed students who chanted “radical” and “destructive” slogans when the tribute to those killed in the air disaster turned into an angry demonstration, Fars news agency reported.
According to eyewitnesses, one of the victims was the driver of a 14-seater bus.
He had conveyed some passengers who were returning from the yuletide celebration and tried to disembark close to the bank premises.
But a minor disagreement ensued between the driver and the policeman after he had asked him not to drop the passengers there.
Thereafter, the policeman opened fire on the occupants killing the driver and two other passengers including a serving corps member.
Visibly angered by the developments, the youths went on a rampage, destroying the bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Meanwhile, three police vans and mobile policemen have been drafted to the scene of the incident located close to the Central Motor Park, in Ekeki, the state capital.
Reacting to the development, the State Police Command said the officer, accused of extra-judicial killing, has been arrested.
According to a statement issued by the spokesman of the Command, SP Asinim Butswat, the Commissioner of Police, CP Uche Anozia, has now ordered that he be remanded in custody.
“The authorities of Bayelsa Police Command have arrested and taken into custody one Police Mobile Force (PMF) personnel for suspicion of Discreditable Conduct and Unlawful Use of his Firearm.
“The suspect, a male NCO, who was arrested on the orders of the State Commissioner of Police, CP Uche Anozia is currently in detention at the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Yenagoa,” Butswat said.
The Police, however, claimed that no lives were lost. Rather, the victims were rushed to the hospital where “they are currently responding to treatment.”
They have also vowed to investigate the case and ensure that all indicted persons are brought to justice.
Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military force Wednesday ordered its supporters to end their sit-in at the US embassy compound in Baghdad, but hardliners pledged to stay put outside the mission.
“You delivered your message,” the Hashed said in a statement addressed to the crowds encircling the embassy since Tuesday in outrage over deadly American airstrikes on a pro-Iran Hashed faction at the weekend.
It called on supporters to regroup outside the high-security Green Zone where the mission is located, but a leading commander in Kataeb Hezbollah, the group targeted in the US raids, told AFP they would “remain” at the embassy.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he does not foresee a war with Tehran, after pro-Iranian demonstrators stormed the US embassy in Iraq.
“I don’t see that happening,” Trump said at his holiday retreat in Florida when a reporter asked about the possibility of war with the Islamic republic.
“I like peace,” the president said before heading into New Year’s celebrations.
The president spoke after Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that around 750 troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy over the next several days to the Middle East.
The US had already flown a rapid response team of Marines into Baghdad to reinforce its embassy after the attack Tuesday, which left smoke and flames rising from the compound’s entrance and further heightened tension between Tehran and Washington.
US officials said there were no plans to evacuate the mission, and no US personnel were reported injured.
The US reinforcements “got in there very quickly,” Trump said.
“I think it’s been handled very well.”
He added that “this will not be a Benghazi,” a reference to an attack in 2012 by radical Islamists on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed inside the smoke-clogged building including the ambassador, Chris Stevens.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Beirut home of Lebanon’s new prime minister on Saturday, calling for Hassan Diab’s resignation less than 10 days after he was appointed.
Lebanon is without a cabinet and in the grips of a deepening economic crisis after a two-month-old protest movement forced Saad Hariri to stand down as prime minister on October 29.
Anti-government protests continued after Hariri’s resignation, while political parties negotiated for weeks before nominating Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace him on December 19.
Echoing protester demands, Diab promised to form a government of independent experts within six weeks — in a country where appointing a cabinet can take months.
But protesters on Saturday were unconvinced by his promise.
“We’re here to bring down Hassan Diab. He doesn’t represent us. He’s one of them,” said one young demonstrator, referring to the country’s ruling elite, who protesters despise collectively.
Lina, another protester agreed, saying: “It’s the revolution that must name the prime minister, not them.”
The 60-year-old Diab, who has a low public profile and styles himself as a technocrat, last week called protester demands legitimate but asked them to give him a chance to form “an exceptional government”.
“We are willing to give him a chance, but let us at least give him a roadmap,” Lina told AFP.
“The names don’t matter to us, we want policy plans, what is his programme?” she asked.
Protesters decry Diab’s participation as a minister in a government deemed corrupt.
The support given to him by powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah also angers many protesters and pro-Hariri Sunnis.
Protesters also gathered in the northern Sunni majority city of Tripoli on Saturday, an AFP photographer said.
The protests and political deadlock have brought Lebanon to its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The international community has urged a new cabinet to be formed swiftly to implement economic reforms and unlock international aid.
Students, teachers and other demonstrators rallied in their thousands in Algeria’s capital Tuesday against the newly elected president, rejecting his offer of dialogue with a months-old protest movement.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune won 58.1 percent of the vote in Thursday’s election, according to official results, and on Friday said he was ready for talks to “build a new Algeria”.
But protesters, long opposed to an election they saw as a ploy by the establishment to consolidate power after ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned under popular pressure in April, remained defiant.
Shouts of “The election was fixed! It wasn’t legitimate! The march will continue!” filled the air in Algiers during the first weekly rally since the poll, an AFP journalist said.
Security forces were heavily deployed, but there were no confrontations between them and demonstrators.
“Tebboune will not govern us!” protesters shouted, vowing to keep the poll winner from taking up residence at the presidential palace.
He is set to be sworn in during a ceremony in Algiers on Thursday, the presidency said.
The protest movement has rocked Algeria since February, initially demanding Bouteflika step down then pushing for the remnants of his regime to make way for new, independent institutions.
Turnout in the election was 39.9 percent, according to the constitutional council.
All five candidates had links to Bouteflika, who ruled for two decades despite suffering a debilitating stroke in 2013.
Tebboune is also seen as close to army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who became the country’s de facto strongman following Bouteflika’s departure.