The year 2020 was a year that had a potpourri of highs and lows for Nigerian politics, with some unforgettable scandals sipping into the media space.
The year was replete with laughable scandals that would have added some humour to the economic and security woes that bedeviled the country, but for the coronavirus pandemic that kept the country, most times, in mournful mood.
From First Lady, Aisha Buhari’s faceoff with President Buhari’s Private Secretary, Sabiu Yusuf, to the Chairman and CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, having a public fight over office space, to alleged Pension thief, Abdulrashid Maina, jumping bail and using a motorcycle to escape to Niger Republic, and the fainting of former Interim Chairman of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, there was enough scandal in the Nigerian political scene to keep the society abuzz.
In this Year in Review series, we take a look at some of the scandals that rocked Nigerian politics in 2020.
Faceoff between Aisha Buhari and President Buhari’s Private Secretary, Sabiu Yusuf
In July, there was tension in Aso Rock Villa, the seat of power in Nigeria when the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had a serious altercation with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Personal Assistant and Private Secretary, Sabiu Yusuf, who is a nephew to the President.
Trouble was said to have started when Yusuf allegedly returned to Abuja from a private trip to Lagos which was the epicenter of the rampaging coronavirus.
Upon his return to the Villa, he was asked by President Buhari’s Aide De Camp, Mohammed Lawal Abubakar, and the Chief Personal Security Officer, Abdulkarim Dauda, to self-isolate in order to protect the President, the first family and the entire State House Staff.
But instead of heeding the advice, Yusuf, who is said to be a very powerful and influential figure around the President, refused to self-isolate and tried to force his way into the Villa.
Worried that his presence could expose them to danger, Aisha reportedly asked Yusuf to stay away from the Presidential Villa until he isolates himself but Yusuf, who many say hilds Aisha and her children in disdain, snubbed the First Lady, leading her ADC, Usman Shugaba to try to force him out.
The situation quickly spilled out of control, leading to a shootout involving security personnel attached to the First Lady and those loyal to Yusuf.
Angered by the incident, Yusuf allegedly called Buhari’s Chief Security Officer, Idris Kassim and the FCT Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, and arrested Aisha’s ADC, Usman Shugaba, and other policemen attached to the first family who were locked up.
To make matters worse, the President refused to wade into the matter, leading many to believe that he was taking sides with his nephew at the detriment of his wife and immediate family.
Alleged Pension thief Maina arrested in Niger Republic and extradited to Nigeria
Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), was in the eyes of the storm when, in November, he was arrested in Niger Republic and extradited to Nigeria after jumping bail for alleged money laundering of about N2 billion.
He had allegedly fled to the West African country on a motorcycle from Sokoto State after he jumped bail.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had dragged Maina to court after investigations pointed to him using bank accounts of his company for money laundering, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, in a statement said:
“The Nigeria Police Force has extradited Abdulrashid Abdullahi Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), today, 3rd December, 2020, to Nigeria from Niamey, Niger Republic, where he was arrested having been declared wanted by a court of competent jurisdiction over a pending criminal trial against him.”
On Thursday, December 10, when he was re-arraigned before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Maina promptly employed one of the tricks Nigerian politicians use anytime they are charged to court: he fainted dramatically!
This was not the first time Maina had employed some tricks to forestall his trial. He had earlier appeared in court in a wheelchair but after he was granted bail, he suddenly became well enough to take a ride from Sokoto to Niger Republic where he hid for months before he was rearrested and extradited to Nigeria to face trial.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Isa Pantami engaging in a fight over office space
In May, 2020, the Chairman and CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, got into a public fight when Dabiri-Erewa accused the Minister of preying on her and her staff by chasing them out of the Commission’s building sometime in February, and seizing their office equipment.
According to Dabiri-Erewa, Pantami used armed men to invade her office to intimidate her and her staff, supposedly to teach her a lesson.
But in response, Pantami dismissed the allegation, describing it as a lie meant to tarnish his image.
“This is a fat lie from her. The owner of the building @NgComCommission has faulted her lies on their social media platforms. Read what they posted: ‘The Minister has never given that directive to any gunman.’ We need to be very objective in reporting. I have never sent any gunmen there, and I have no one,” he tweeted.
But Dabiri-Erewa insisted in her allegation, saying that Pantami was to be blamed for the problem. She also played the gender key when she accused the Minister of disrespecting her because she is a woman.
Taking to her Twitter handle, she wrote:
“An Islamic scholar should not lie, Hon. Minister. You did that to me because I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary. I left the ugly incident behind me since February. But please, release all our office equipment. Public office is transient.”
The crisis that rocked APC leading to the dissolution of Adam Oshiomhole’s NWC
Another political scandal that rocked Nigeria was the crisis that engulfed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which led to dissolving the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) in June.
President Muhammadu Buhari had recommended the dissolution of the NWC which the party’s NEC accepted and acted upon.
The problem in the APC NWC came to a head when a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
Shortly after that, some members of the NWC loyal to Oshiomhole appointed the former Governor of Oyo State, the late Abiola Ajimobi, as acting Chairman, but he later died of Covid-19 complications in a Lagos hospital.
The party’s erstwhile Deputy National Secretary, South-South, Victor Giadom, also added to the drama when, in a counter move, addressed a press conference on June 17, and declared himself the acting chairman.
He backed his action with the judgment of the FCT High Court, which in March, gave him the go-ahead to be the acting National Chairman.
Despite his suspension by two Port Harcourt-based courts and his replacement as the Deputy National Secretary, Giadom continued to lay claim to the position.
Magu’s arrest, accusations and counter accusations
In July, Nigerians were thrown into another shocking scandal when the suspended acting-Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was arrested and whisked to the Presidential Villa in Abuja where a panel grilled him for alleged corruption and insubordination.
The allegations were leveled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. The panel was led by Ayo Salami, a retired President of the Appeal Court.
Malami had asked Buhari to fire Magu over some weighty allegations, including the diversion of recovered loot, insubordination and misconduct.
The shameful NDDC probe and ‘fainting’ of Prof. Pondei
In July, the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, proved his slumping skills during an interrogation by the House of Representatives.
Pondei, was at the House Committee to answer questions on an alleged misappropriation of N82.5 billion by the Commission, but suddenly, he ‘collapsed’ when a question was thrown at him.
Pondei had just been asked about an extra-budgetary expenditure incurred by the commission when he seemed to lose his grip and ‘collapsed.’
Since the ‘fainting’ episode, the House of Representatives has tactically refused to return to the probe in a classic case of official cover up.
The presidency has also shown by its conduct that its unwilling to pursue the investigations as it has quietly dissolved the Interim Management Board (IMC), headed by Pondei, and replaced the leadership with an illegal contraption called ‘Sole Administrator.’
Timeline of the political scandals that rocked Nigeria in 2020
In May, the Chairman and CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, got into a public fight over an office space with Dabiri-Erewa accusing the Minister of preying on her and her staff.
In June, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was engulfed in a crisis that led to the Adams Oshiomhole’s NWC being dissolved.
In July, Aso Rock Villa, the seat of power in Nigeria, was engulfed in a crisis of monumental dimension when the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had an all-out altercation with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Private Secretary and nephew, Sabiu Yusuf.
In July, former acting-Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was arrested after the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, recommended that he should be fired for alleged corruption and insubordination.
Also in July, former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, rounded off the month by ‘collapsing’ while being interrogated by the House of Representatives when he was asked to explain how the Commission misappropriated N82.5 billion.
In November, Abdulrashid Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), was arrested in Niamey, Niger Republic, and extradited to Nigeria to face trial for allegedly laundering over N2 billion. Maina had jumped bail and fled to Niger on a motorcycle from Sokoto State.
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