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YEAR IN REVIEW: Atiku’s woes, Saraki’s fall, Kalu’s imprisonment, others. Are these signs APC is consolidating?

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YEAR IN REVIEW: Atiku’s woes, Saraki’s fall, Kalu’s imprisonment, others. Are these signs APC is consolidating?

The year 2019 was one that shaped the politics of Nigeria in many ways, both positively and negatively, depending on which side one belongs, except the supposedly non- aligned in the society.

The year was one that defined the nation’s politics and threw up a few surprises here and there, and in many more cases, disappointment and heartbreaks.

Ripples Nigeria presents a summary of the politically defining moments of the year 2019.

2019 general elections

The 2019 general elections was one that threw up a lot of anxiety right from the beginning of the year, as the process leading to the elections started in the preceding year.  The candidature of former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who emerged from the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made the presidential election a potentially interesting one and true to type, it was, bringing along with it, moments of anxiety, intrigues and finally, disappointment.

For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the election produced the sort of expectation they hoped for at the centre, both for the presidency and the National Assembly. For Atiku, it was another failed attempt at occupying the highest office in the land, just as the PDP failed in its  resolve to recapture the presidency it lost in 2015 to President Muhammadu Buhari.

What the PDP lost at the centre, it however gained in the states, as it added to its kitty states like Zamfara, Bauchi, Adamawa, Oyo and Imo states. Before then, it had gained Sokoto, Benue and Kwara states through defections, it lost Kwara to the APC at the general elections.

 ‘Oto ge’ movement in Kwara 

More intriguing for many followers of the Nigerian political space was the tsunami called ‘Oto Ge’ (Enough is Enough) in Kwara State, that swept off former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and the political dynasty his late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki built over the years.

The ‘Oto Ge’, whirlwind, spearheaded by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, was so strong that the Saraki political dynasty, for the first time since the return to constitutional democracy in 1999, lost all elective positions, including the senate seat formally occupied by Bukola Saraki.

Zamfara/Rivers APC gamble

The 2019 general elections will go down in the history of elections in the country as one in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) truly attempted to exert its independence in applying its rules, with the judiciary standing on its feet to fairly interpreting the laws and having them enforced.

The ruling APC gambled with the rules in Rivers and Zamfara through intra-party crisis that consumed it and rendered it without a candidate at the general elections, as the rules were duly applied with the law courts backing INEC in the final run.

Onnoghen’s trial and suspension 

Though Nigerians had witnessed the midnight arrest of some senior judges in the country, the trial and suspension of the immediate Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, proved to be a first of its kind in the history of the country.

Onnoghen was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) based on the strength of a petition submitted  to the commission. Onnoghen was charged for false declaration of assets.

While the ding-dong that followed his arraignment continued, President Buhari, acting on an order by the CCT, suspended Justice Onnoghen from office and appointed Justice Mohammed Tanko in his place in acting capacity, making him not just the first sitting CJN to go on trial but also the first to be suspended from office.

Expectedly, the perceived unfair treatment of the former CJN caused popular uproar but to save himself from further shame, Onnoghen voluntarily retired from office ahead the 2020 due date. This was after the National Jucial Council (NJC) recommended his compulsory retirement to the President Buhari.

Kogi election show of shame

The November 16 governorship election in Kogi was, to say the least, a show of shame, and a major drawback in the nation’s democratic journey, if reports and commentaries from both local and international observers are anything to go by.

Before election day proper, signs that it would be marred by violence and other irregularities showed early, when gunmen attacked the primary election of the PDP at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, the state capital in the early hours of the morning. The gunmen, whose identities are yet to be ascertained months after the incidence, shot at the venue of the primary, leaving many injured as they ran in different directions.

Following closely was the attack on the secretariat of the state chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)  with its governorship candidate, Natasha Akpoti pointing accusing fingers at the state government led by Governor Yahaya Bello.

If the early attacks were without serious fatalities, the election proper made up for that as more than eight were repreportedly killed, including a woman leader of the PDP. Several others were also injured.

Aside violent attacks, ballot box snatching, stuffing and destruction were also widely reported.

Cutting Dino Melaye to size

Former Senator Dino Melaye will not forget year 2019 in a hurry, as it was the year his victory dance was cut short before the rhythm truly started.

Dino, who represented Kogi West Senatorial District at the 8th National Assembly and briefly during the formative days of the 9th Assembly, was sent packing after the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the election petition tribunal which ordered a rerun of the election that gave him victory in November.

Basking in his popularity, Melaye went into the rerun election, confident, but a combination of forces from the federal and state governments allegedly gave victory to Senator Smart Adeyemi, who he defeated in 2015 and earlier in February.

For the APC and the administration of President Buhari, the ouster of the boisterous Melaye is a huge relief.

Bayelsa: End of an era 

The victory of the APC in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa ended the dominance of the PDP in the politics of the state.

For many, it was the end of an era that spanned 16 years, when PDP could almost go to bed believing the state is firmly under its grip.

The APC, which started making gradual in-road into the state with the 2015 general elections, capitalised on the seeming mishandling of the primary election of the PDP that threw up Senator Duoye Diri as the party’s candidate. The fallout of the primary and the discontent of another major force in the politics of the state, Timi Alaibe, analysts say was mishandled, especially by the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson.

Rightly or wrongly,  Dickson has been variously blamed for the loss of the PDP in the state, with many saying his alleged arrogant disposition played a major role in paving way for APC to take over the state.

And Kalu goes to prison

The conviction and sentencing of the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu was another major event that shaped the year 2019 and gave the much needed credibility to the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration.

Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of charges bordering on fraud and money laundering. His company, Slok Limited, was also ordered wound up and its properties forfeited to the Federal Government.

His journey to prison started 12 years earlier when the EFCC first arraigned him in court. He, however, joined the ruling APC after the 2015 elections and expectedly believed his sins would be forgiven him, just as many had hoped.

Sowore’s Ordeal

Omoyele Sowore’s planned #RevolutionNow, would perhaps have been another major political occurrence in the country, possibly second to the general elections but the Buhari administration outsmarted him, and instead made his arrest, detention and re-arrest another major event in the country.

Sowore, a former ally of the top leaders of the ruling APC and presidential candidate in the 2019 election, got his hands burnt while trying to organise a major protest to register displeasure over the governance of the country.

If his arrest was bad to Nigerians, the refusal of the Department of State Services (DSS) and by extension, the Nigerian Government to obey court orders admitting to bail was worse. His forceful re-arrest inside a court room in Abuja finally nailed the belief that the Buhari government was becoming dictatorial, authoritarian and adverse to the rule of law.

The government however saved face when the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, ordered his release, alongside a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who had been in detention for four years, just few days to Christmas.

Malami’s order came after he had earlier denied having the power to order his release.

Adoke Returned to Face Trial

Former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, in the last days of the year 2019, was repatriated (deported) back to the country after fleeing since 2015 when President Buhari assumed office to face charges bordering on his role in the celebrated alleged Malabu oil block fraud that has over the years become a source of international criminal trials and civil litigation.

Adoke was arrested in Dubai by Interpol and detained but he reportedly asked to be allowed to face the charges in Nigeria.

His return, swift arrest and impending prosecution may just be a step towards conclusively unravelling the mystery the Malabu oil block scam has become.

So, is APC really consolidating its hold on power?

To say Nigeria’s political space has been quite vibrant would be putting it mildly. The intrigues look to define everyday contest for power and many believe the ruling party, APC appears to have come out a stronger party compared to its archrival, PDP.

The development has given the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration more audacity and a firmer hold on power, not just with the executive but with gripping and commanding position at the National Assembly.

Though the party still contends with intra-party squabbles, which many thought would be its undoing in the course of the year 2019, it has managed to navigate its way so far without the implosion many had envisaged.

With reconciliation between and among contending forces coming slowly, especially with the likes of ex-governors Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun, as well as the hounding of known opposition elements, APC may just be preparing its long stay at the centre of the nation’s politics even if unpopular.

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