Nigeria’s political space has always been known for its dynamism and vibrancy. It reflects a constant struggle, and negotiation, for power between and among its leading political elites.
These struggles are known to have been driven largely by self-interest, rather than patriotic fervour. Worse still, many agree that the power struggles have also been spiced dangerously by ethnic and religious sentiments.
The year 2020 proved no difference with pushes and shoves that ultimately led to the fall of some hitherto powerful and influential politicians.
Ripples Nigeria’s Timothy Enietan-Matthews takes a look at the major political players whose political careers suffered a major setback in the course of the year 2020.
1. Adams Oshiomhole
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is one politician who will not forget the year 2020 in a hurry!
Osho Baba, as many of his admirers fondly call him, was no doubt one of the biggest casualties of Nigeria’s dramatic and highly volatile political environment.
The former Edo State Governor, was literally the law to himself as the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His word was law, allowing no opposition and dissenting views, as he carried on as the Lord of the Manor.
Indications that all was not well with his continued hold on power came to the fore when his former godson and successor in office as governor of Edo State, kicked against alleged attempts by the APC national chairman to dictate how the affairs of the state are to be run.
What started as a storm in a tea cup, soon turned into a major battle for the control of the soul of the state and by extension, the party at both state and national levels.
When Oshiomhole was suspended by his ward Chairman and other members of Etsako Ward 10, it was thought to be a joke taken too far for the almighty National Chairman to be suspended from the same party he has been Lord over. For this and apparently in his believe that nothing of such could happen to him in the party, Oshiomhole waved aside the suspension and instead concentrated more of his energy in his determination to deny Godwin Obaseki a second term in office as Governor.
Unfortunately for the former labour leader, that inconsequential action from Etsako Ward 10 became his undoing, with strings of events and court cases that saw him suspended as APC National Chairman. This spiral led into unending leadership crisis in the party, with different factions laying claim to the headship of the National Working Committee (NWC), leading to the convening of the controversial National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that led to the dissolution of the NWC.
For Oshiomhole, the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election was the last hope he had to stay relevant politically and retain some form of pride as kingmaker or some sort of political godfather. But Obaseki and scores of electorate in the state were determined to retire him politically, just as he had boasted to have done to others who had the state under their firm control in the persons of late Chief Tony Anenih, Samuel Ogbedumudia, and the Igbinedion dynasty.
Of cause, the outcome of the election is public knowledge and the highly outspoken and garrulous former National Chairman of APC, Oshiomhole is yet to recover from the double political tragedy that befell him in the course of the year!
2. Bayelsa Governor Elect
On the 13th of February, 2020, the then Governor-elect of Bayelsa State, David Lyon was on a parade ground, rehearsing for his inauguration as Executive Governor of the state, having won the governorship election in November, 2019.
However, as the rehearsal was on going, another drama was holding in Abuja, the nation’s capital, where the Supreme Court was delivering judgment on an appeal brought before it by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Diri Duoye.
In what may pass as the world’s saddest near miss, the Supreme Court sacked Lyon as governor-elect, pronouncing the next candidate with the highest number of votes as the duly elected governor of the state, paving the way for Duoye Diri to be inaugurated the next day, February 14, 2020.
From the exalted point as the state’s governor-elect, with just 24 hours to assume the leadership of the state, David Lyon, had his hope dashed and has remained silent since then as another casualty of the political intrigues of 2020.
3. Emeka Ihedioha
Former Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha was one of the first set of Nigerian politicians to fall from their exalted power positions in 2020, after he was sacked by the Supreme Court as governor.
Ihedioha, who tried his luck earlier to assume leadership of Imo State when he contested against another former governor, Rochas Okorocha, took over on the 29th of May, 2019 with a series of flamboyant events spanning a whole week.
For Ihedioha and many of the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, it was a dream come true. The intervening eight years, when Okorocha was Governor, must have been a harrowing experience for PDP supporters in the state, who saw the coming of Ihedioha as answer to prayers.
The euphoria that greeted his election and inauguration as governor, was however short lived, as his tenure was truncated by the justices of the Supreme, who felt, in their wisdom that Senator Hope Uzodinma, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who came third in the official results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was the duly elected governor, after disputed ballots were added to his initial tally.
For Ihedioha, his tenure as governor of the state, an office he sought over the past 11 years, came to an abrupt end barely six months after. He has, since then, remained a passive onlooker in the nation’s political space.
4. Ibrahim Magu
Though not a politician, Ibrahim Magu’s name daily dominated the airwaves, on account of his sensitive office as the country’s number one anti-corruption official.
Magu, as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), became a torn in the flesh of many in the political class, especially those on the opposite divide of the ruling party, as widely believed. A sneeze by Magu was all that was needed for some politicians to shiver; that was how tormenting he was to the political class, while the going was good.
Despite the maximum backing the former EFCC boss received from President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, there were early indications that the anti-corruption czar was not in the good books of some other power brokers. This came to the fore when the Department of State Services (DSS) refused, on two occasions to give him a clean bill of health, electing to cast dark questions marks on his integrity. The Senate, acting on those appraisals, twice turned down requests from President Buhari to have his appointment confirmed.
Though the President stuck to his guns by keeping him in office in acting capacity, Magu however became a victim of the same power gamer hat kept him, leading to his suspension from office, and probe by the Justice Ayo Salami-led Judicial Commission of Enquiry.
Magu’s fall from the pick of the anti-corruption agency and his subsequent investigation for corruption allegations, was not just disgraceful but a case of the hunter being hunted. His arrest on the streets of Abuja, detention in police custody and subsequent release on bail, no doubt gave him a taste of what had been served other political figures under him, some whom were arrested and detained without conclusion of investigations into alleged financial crimes.
The fall of Magu no doubt reinforces the transient nature of power and the unpredictability of the Nigerian political environment!
5. Victor Giadom
Rivers man, Chief Victor Giadom was at the centre of the leadership crisis that rocked the ruling APC for the most part of 2020, and of cause, one of the ironic casualties of the intense power play that ensued.
A former Deputy National Secretary of the APC, little known Giadom was shot into national prominence after he took on former National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, insisting that he was the bonafide acting chairman of the party, since a court of competent jurisdiction had already suspended Oshiomhole.
Though many had questioned the audacity of Giadom, who was said to have earlier resigned from office to contest as deputy governor in Rivers State in the 2019 general elections, theory flying about town then was that he was only a frontal man for some unseen actors behind the scene who were bent on easing Oshiomhole off the stage.
There is no doubt that Giadom, either he was his own man or was merely acting a script, did a good yeoman’s job, as he carried on the fight against Oshiomhole’s leadership of the party with all seriousness and commitment. That President Buhari sanctioned the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party, held at the executive chambers of the State House, further gave form of legitimacy to his claim to the leadership of the party, albeit momentarily.
In a twist of fate however, Giadom was swept away by the same power tussle he had strenuously helped to engineer as he, at the NEC meeting he called, was sacked from the position he fought to occupy. He became one of the biggest casualties of the meeting and the leadership crisis.
Giadom has remained mute till date without as much as a kick, helping to reinforce the belief that he was merely acting a script.
6. Dakuku Peterside
Dakuku Peterside, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State in the 2015 general elections, was appointed the Director General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
For many, the appointment, considered as a compensation for his loss, was made possible by the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers State, and a strong ally of Buhari, who played a prominent role in the election of the President in 2015.
Peterside’s appointment no doubt elevated him to national prominence as NIMASA has always been a strategic agency of the Federal Government and considered by many as a cash cow. And Peterside must have thought himself lucky and hopeful that with the Minister of Transport still in charge as his supervising ministry, he had nothing to fear in having his tenure renewed by the President. After all, Buhari and Amaechi are close allies.
The ex-NIMASA boss’ calculation unfortunately missed the mark, as President Buhari, in early March 2020, announced a replacement for him, leaving him in the cold.
Unlike others however, Peterside has continued to keep himself busy writing articles on various subjects, especially governance, aside authoring a book on maritime administration.
7. Agboola Ajayi
Barrister Agboola Ajayi is the outgoing Deputy Governor of Ondo State but he would be off the scene when on February 23, 2021, his boss, Rotimi Akeredolu will be inaugurated for a second term in office.
Ajayi, who started off well with his boss, fell out of favour after Akeredolu and his team noticed his quest for the office of governor, without waiting for his boss to have a shot at his constitutionally guaranteed second term in office. Though Ajayi initially denied harbouring an ambition to unseat his boss, events that followed showed that he, indeed, had been a ‘disloyal’ deputy trying to unseat his boss.
The brickbat that ensued between him and Akeredolu, saw his personal aides sacked by the state government, a move that forced him out the APC to the PDP, though briefly. Failing to secure the ticket for the October 10 governorship election in the state under PDP, Ajayi jumped ship again to Zenith Labour Party, under which he contested the election. He came a distant third.
The way and manner he prosecuted his ambition gave him out to many as a man who was unduly over ambitious for power and would dine even with the devil for it.
Ajayi, though still the deputy governor, as he has refused to honourably resign as advised by Akeredolu and the APC in the state, is only a shadowy deputy, with no powers, influence or the apparatus attached to the office. He started as the second most powerful man in the state but ended up as a figure head deputy governor, who will definitely be out of the line light for good after February 22, 2021.
8. Dr. Chiji Collins
Dr. Chiji Collins, representing Isiala Mbano Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was impeached as the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly on the 13th of November, 2020.
Before becoming Speaker, Collins was a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) before defecting to PDP. He became Speaker under the short lived administration of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, who was removed from office via a judgement of the Supreme Court.
In a bid to align with the new APC administration in the state under Governor Hope Uzodinma, Collins, alongside some PDP lawmakers, jumped ships to join APC.
The former Speaker apparently made the defection move so as to be in the good books of Uzodinma and the party in power in the state. This however proved to be the contrary, as the 20 APC lawmakers in the Assembly, including those who jumped ship with him, effected his sack.
The members accused Collins of earning 20 times more than ordinary members of the Assembly while Governor Uzodinma was said not to be comfortable with him because of his closeness to Senator Ifeanyi Ararume.
9. Abubakar Ibrahim
Abubakar Ibrahim, who was until November 24, 2020 the Speaker of the Gombe State House of Assembly, was impeached on that day.
His impeachment was effected by 16 out of the 24 members of the Assembly through a voice vote, without outlining his offences.
The former Speaker, who represents Yamaltu West state constituency, was replaced with Abubakar Luggerewo as Speaker of the Assembly.
Speaking on the impeachment, the chief whip of the Assembly, Musa Buba, only said members no longer have confidence and trust in him.
“The former speaker lacked the trust of the members and in a number of times he went contrary to the provisions of our guiding principles,” he said.
10. Francis Okiye
Francis Okiye was impeached on October 22, 2020 after steering the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly since June 2019, amidst controversies.
He was impeached by nine out of 10 inaugurated members of the Assembly over alleged financial impropriety at a session he presided over.
Okiye, who was replaced by Marcus Onobun, was also handed a three-month suspension to allow for investigation into the finances of the Assembly without interference.
The former Speaker’s impeachment is particularly curious, coming just after he and other inaugurated members weathered the storm that had been orchestrated by the APC and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole to get Governor Godwin Obaseki out of office.
Though the state Deputy Governor, Phillip Shuaibu and the Secretary to the State Government tried to intervene, the nine members insisted they had already concluded the impeachment proceedings, with a new Speaker emerging.
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