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2018: Year of mace theft, defections, victory for MKO Abiola

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In this piece , OLALEKAN ADETAYO , SUNDAY ABORISADE, KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE , FRIDAY OLOKOR , SUCCESS NWOGU and LEKE BAIYEWU X -ray major political events that defined 2018 in Nigeria.

President gets Obasanjo ’ s deadly blow

One of the main issues that defined Muhammadu Buhari ’s Presidency in 2018 came in the first month of the year . While stakeholders were waiting for the President to declare if he would be seeking a second term in office or not, one of his predecessors , former President Olusegun Obasanjo , fired a salvo .

Obasanjo , in a letter titled, ‘ The way out: A clarion call for coalition for Nigeria movement ’ , did not mince words in asking Buhari to adopt the Mandela option . He advised Buhari not to “ push his luck ” or “ tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians , no matter what his self – serving so -called advisers” say by seeking re – election in 2019.

Obasanjo insisted that Buhari needed a “ dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect , refurbish physically and recoup . And after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience , influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the sidelines for the good of the country .”

Expectedly , the former President’ s position did not go down well with Buhari and his handlers . Although presidential aides and ministers initially appeared too shock to respond , they later mustered some courage and started hitting back at Obasanjo who they accused of not achieving half of what Buhari had achieved when he (Obasanjo ) was in the saddle .

Finally, Buhari declares interest

About three months after , specifically on April 9 , Buhari discarded Obasanjo ’ s advice and formally declared his intention to seek re – election . He chose a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress , held in Abuja , to make his intention known.

The President, at the meeting, said by seeking re -election, he was responding to the clamour by Nigerians to re- contest in 2019, adding that he wanted to give NEC members the honour of notifying them first .

Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State , who briefed journalists after the meeting, confirmed Buhari ’s position.

Buhari’ s certificate saga

Buhari ’s decision to seek re – election did not come without drama . He emerged the candidate of the APC unopposed. The drama started when the Independent National Electoral Commission published his name alongside those of other contestants for the coveted seat .

While the credentials of his co- contestants, such as the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party , Atiku Abubakar , were published , Buhari , like he did before the 2015 elections , attached an affidavit that he deposed to , insisting that his certificates were with the military . “ I am the above- named person and the deponent of this affidavit herein . All my academic qualification documents as filled in my presidential form , APC/001 /2015, are currently with the Secretary of the Military Board as of the time of this affidavit ,” he stated.

The development became a campaign issue with opposition members claiming the President had no certificate and hence not qualified to occupy the exalted office .

Another twist was added to the controversy when on November 2 , Buhari was presented with the attestation and confirmation of his 1961 West African School Certificate Examination result from the West African Examinations Council. The documents were presented to the President during a courtesy visit by a delegation of WAEC, led by its Registrar , Dr Iyi Uwadiae . Uwadiae was accompanied by the Head , National Office, WAEC, Olutise Adenipekun ; Head , Public Affairs , WAEC, Abiodun Aduloju ; and the Zonal Coordinator, WAEC Abuja , Olufemi Oke.

That also attracted a lot of controversies . It however seems the dust raised by the issue has finally settled .

President declares June 12 Democracy Day

Another major highlight of the year from the Presidency was Buhari ’s June 6 declaration that henceforth, the nation’ s Democracy Day would be holding on June 12 of every year instead of May 29.

The President also resolved to honour the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election , Chief Moshood Abiola , with the highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic , posthumously.

Apart from Abiola , Buhari also approved a national honour for MKO ’s running mate , Alhaji Babagana Kingibe; and the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi . They got the second highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger . Their investiture took place on June 12, 2018.

Adeosun ’s fall

Mrs Kemi Adeosun was forced to resign her appointment as the Minister of Finance during the year. Her decision to quit followed a media report that indicted her of being in possession of a fake exemption certificate of the National Youth Service Corps .

When the news first broke, the former minister kept mum apparently expecting that the tension would fizzle out. She later did the needful and left the country immediately after .

Legislature , executive clash over 2018 budget

The National Assembly and the executive, particularly the Presidency, clashed on several occasions over the 2018 Appropriation Bill. First, the issue was who caused the delayed passage of the bill. Buhari presented the N 8. 6 tn national budget on November 7 , 2017, but it was not passed by the legislature until May 16, 2018, over six months after . By the time the budget was passed, it had been jacked up to N 9. 12tn.

While the executive blamed the legislature for the slow pace of work , the lawmakers accused heads of the Federal Government ’s Ministries , Departments and Agencies of non- appearance before relevant committees for budget defence .

Second, the President , while assenting to the bill on June 20, 2018, complained about the adjustments made to the estimates in the budget by the legislature . Buhari had said the National Assembly made cuts amounting to N 347bn in the allocations to 4 , 700 projects submitted for consideration, and introduced 6 , 403 projects “ of their own ” amounting to N578 bn .

The President stated that another area of concern was the increase by the National Assembly in the provision for statutory transfers by an aggregate of N73. 96bn. “ Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance ,” he had said.

He added , “ An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by N 14.5 bn , from N 125 bn to N 139 .5 bn without any discussion with the executive. ”

The lawmakers had justified the slash , increment and insertions in the budget , one of which was that they were entitled to constituency projects which would serve as dividends of democracy to their constituents .

Meanwhile, a fresh crisis is already brewing between the two arms of government over the 2019 Appropriation Bill. The President only presented it a day before the lawmakers embarked on Christmas and New Year’ s holidays.

Already, the lawmakers are blaming the executive for the imminent delayed passage of the budget , which they have indicated will be after the 2019 general elections.

Electoral Act amendment, assent withdrawal

Several efforts by the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act did not enjoy the concurrence of Buhari who declined assent to the legislation four consecutive times . Part of the initial proposals in the amendment was to legalise electronic card reader to be used for voter accreditation; allow electronic voting and transmission of results ; set a ceiling for individual or group donations to campaigns and reshuffle the sequence of polls during general elections .

A new Section 25 of the Electoral Act had stipulated that the sequence of the elections would commence with National Assembly election, to be followed by governorship and state Houses of Assembly, while presidential election would come last .

The polls reshuffle clause had polarised both the Senate and House of Representatives across party lines . Majority of those in the ruling APC were against it while those in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party backed the proposal .

The open criticism of the proposed amendment by Senator Ovie Omo – Agege, together with other APC members under the aegis of the Parliamentary Support Group , had led to Omo – Agege’s suspension by the Senate and the ‘proscription’ of the group . A court later nullified the suspension.

Based on the President’ s request, the polls reshuffle clause was removed from the first version of the bill . Buhari however declined assent to the second , third and fourth versions , citing various reasons .

Some members of the National Assembly have already hinted that the legislation might have been suspended as the legislature is closed for the year and will resume on January 16, 2019, a few weeks to the general elections for which it was to be used .

Senate invasion and mace theft

Following the crisis over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill , unknown men on April 18, 2018, invaded the Senate chamber while plenary was ongoing , snatched the mace and made away with it . Police later recovered the legislature ’ s symbol of authority under a bridge several kilometres away and returned it the next day.

The Senate accused Omo – Agege, whose entry into the chamber coincided with the invaders ’ of being the mastermind. The lawmaker , on different occasions , denied any link with the attackers, and even sued the National Assembly, its leadership and the panel set up to probe the attack.

Appearing before the panel, representatives of the Nigeria Police said the six suspects arrested were still being interrogated ; that the closed- circuit television cameras in the National Assembly Complex failed to capture all the scenes of the crime and had frustrated their investigations .

It is still unknown if the suspects have been arraigned for prosecution .

2019 elections , defections, battle for majority

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, a gale of defections hit both chambers of the National Assembly in July. Shortly before the legislature embarked on a two- month annual recess , 37 members of the House of Representatives had dumped the APC for the PDP , while 14 members defected in the Senate.

The defections reached the climax when President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki , and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, also dumped the ruling party for the opposition party.

In a counter – move, Senator Godswill Akpabio , who was a PDP governor of Akwa Ibom State for two terms of eight years and a former Chairman of the PDP Governors ’ Forum , joined the APC and resigned as Senate Minority Leader .

During the recess, the defections had created tension in the National Assembly especially the Senate as both the APC and PDP caucuses claimed to hold the majority membership . The uncertainty of their numbers was made worse by lawmakers whose defections were not officially announced .

Since the lawmakers resumed on October 9 , several members of the House have changed parties, most of who chose neither the PDP nor the APC. For instance, at the Senate , Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna- Central defected from the APC to the People ’ s Redemption Party .

The Senate has 109 members while the House has 360 members , making the majority – minority margin in the upper chamber much closer than in the lower chamber.

The supremacy battle in the Senate was recently revived by the PDP members who proposed that the National Assembly should override the President’ s veto on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Just last week, the Majority Leader , Senator Ahmad Lawan , said the APC still maintained the majority and the Deputy President , Ike Ekweremadu , responded that there was no official figure to back the claim .

State governors too defect

The defection gale was not restricted to the National Assembly. Sokoto State Governor , Aminu Tambuwal; his counterpart in Kwara State , Abdulfatah Ahmed ; as well as the Benue State Governor , Samuel Ortom , also left the APC and returned to the PDP .

Interestingly, they were members of the PDP before they defected to the APC ahead of the 2015 general elections. Expectedly , their return to the opposition party also made some of their loyalists to defect , therefore changing the political calculations in their different states.

Atiku emerges PDP presidential candidate

During the year , former Vice – President Atiku Abubakar emerged the presidential candidate of the PDP at its national convention held in Port Harcourt , the Rivers State capital .

Abubakar beat his co- contestants that comprised Tambuwal; Saraki ; a former Kano State Governor , Rabiu Kwankwaso ; Gombe State Governor , Ibrahim Dankwambo ; a former Jigawa State Governor , Sule Lamido; a former national chairman of the party, Ahmed Makarfi; a former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki ; a former Sokoto State Governor , Attahiru Bafarawa; a former President of the Senate , David Mark; a former Plateau State Governor , Jonah Jang , and Datti Ahmed , in that order.

His victory set the stage for him to slug it out with Buhari , the APC standard bearer .

Odigie- Oyegun quits, Oshiomhole steps in

During the year , Chief John Odigie – Oyegun quit the stage as the chairman of the ruling party after its leaders dropped the idea of tenure extension for him and other members of the National Working Committee. The former Edo State Governor also dropped the idea of re- contesting when it became clear that the party leaders , led by Buhari , were favourably disposed to the emergence of Adams Oshiomhole as his successor .

The party held its national convention and the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress emerged the chairman . He superintended over the party’s convention where Buhari was affirmed as the party’ s candidate. He also supervised the party’s primaries in states .

Credit: Punch

UBA Bank

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