BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
YEAR 2012 is year that Nigerians would not forget in a hurry. It was ushered in by crisis and anguish and ended on a disastrous note for many Nigerians.
As witnessing deaths of many Nigerians both ordinary and prominent, 2012 is a year that the country had its baptism of natural disasters especially flooding, which ravaged more than 17 states of the federation rendering millions homeless and destroying farmlands and property worth trillions of Naira.
Before 2012, the country appeared insulated from natural disasters. As accounts problems of hurricane, earthquake, landslide, etc were read from distant lands. However, a combination of flash floods and release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon ensured that many northern, South-South and South-Eastern states were flooded forcing the Federal Government to release N17.6 billion to cater for the flood victims and raised a committee headed by business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to raise more funds.
Beginning on a strike note
From day one, it was clear to discerning minds that 2012 would be a tough year. How? The Federal Government after assuring Nigerians that fuel subsidy would not be removed until April, 2012 chose to start implementing the policy on January 1, which was a Sunday.
Price of fuel jumped from N65 per litre to between N141 and N250 in different parts of the country. The Labour, civil society organizations and many Nigerians embarked on strike and mass protests and for two weeks, the nation was on a standstill.
A host of Nigerians who traveled for the Christmas and New Year celebrations became stranded as transport fares skyrocketed. Peace returned to the country on January 15, when the government cut petrol price to N97 per litre and Labour called off its strike
Aftermath of the strike, things moved on a dizzying pace unleashing a gamut of crisis, violence, controversies, intrigues, etc on the polity.
For instance, the Boko Haram sect intensified its violent activities via suicide bombing and gun attacks especially in the Northern parts of the country destroying many churches and military facilities. President Goodluck Jonathan suspended and later removed Alhaji Hafis Ringim as Inspector General of Police and replaced him with Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar on January 25.
Boko Haram’s offensive
After the New Year eve attacks, a series of assaults on Christian churches and businesses occurred in northeastern Nigeria on January 5 and 6 followed by attacks on police stations and government offices in the North on January 20. Over 180 people were killed in those attacks
For the January 5 and 6 attacks, gunmen armed with automatic weapons stormed a town hall in the city of Mubi in Adamawa State where people had gathered to mourn three Christians shot on the previous evening. At least 18 people were confirmed killed by a Nigerian Red Cross official. Another ambush of Christians leaving a church service in the Yola, the state capital left at least eight people dead. Most of the victims were indigenes of Adazi-Nnukwu in Anambra State
A spokesman for Boko Haram calling himself Abu Qaqa claimed responsibility for these two incidents and the shooting during a church service in Gombe that killed six people the previous Thursday. A Christian couple was also gunned down in Maiduguri. Police in Yobe State later told the press they were engaged in street battles with members of Boko Haram. Hundreds of Christians started fleeing northern cities in the aftermath of the bombings and church officials urged people not to take part in revenge attacks.
January 20 after Friday prayers, a group of gunmen in police uniform entered five police buildings and freed all the inmates.
They proceeded to bomb the buildings, as well as two immigration offices and the local office of the State Security Service in Kano. They later drove around the city in cars and motorcycles, shooting pedestrians and battling with police. Among the dead was television reporter with Channels Television, Eneche Akogwu, who was shot while covering the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
On January 23 the government announced the death toll had risen to 185 people, 150 of whom were civilians and at least 32 police officers, including 3 members of the secret police.
Local security forces announced they had found 10 unexploded car bombs and almost 300 smaller homemade bombs around the city.
A Boko Haram spokesman indicated that the attacks were carried out due to the failure of the Kano State government to pay protection money.
The attacks continued throughout the year. On April 8, an Easter Day bombing in Kaduna left 36 people killed. On October 4, gunmen carried out choreographed attacks on three higher institutions in Mubi, Adamawa State, leaving 40 students dead and scores injured. On its part, the government accelerated its counter-terrorism offensive.
There were calls for open and backroom dialogue with leaders and representatives of Boko Haram. Indeed, the sect on November gave terms for talks with the Federal Government.
It later named some prominent Nigerians such as Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to represent it in the dialogue. Buhari later distanced himself from the talks, saying he could not represent Boko Haram.
Ordinarily, 2012 was not an election year but a January 27 decision of the Supreme Court unmask the year as of feverish political contests and conquests. The apex had on January 27 sacked five governors namely, Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Aliyu Wammakko (Sokoto) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River), saying that their tenures expired on May 29, 2011, a decision that threw the affected states except Kogi open for grabs. Kogi governorship elections had earlier been On December 3, 2011.
With the Supreme Court verdict, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed gubernatorial polls for the affected states as follows: Adamawa (February 4), Bayelsa (February 11), Sokoto (February 18) and Cross River (February 25). States like Edo (July 14) and Ondo (October 20) also had governorship elections in 2012.
Tight, peaceful elections
Most of the elections were tight as the opposition parties gave the incumbent parties a run for their money. And significantly, the polls were remarkably peaceful, free and fair contrary to fears that they would be laced with violence.
However, all the incumbents retained their seats except Sylva, whose party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP refused to field him as a candidate, a decision that paved the way for the election of Hon Henry Seriake Dickson as governor of Bayelsa State.
The contests were very interesting in Edo State where Governor Adams Oshiomhole fought the Chief Anthony Anenih-led PDP to a standstill and in Ondo where Governor Olusegun Mimiko defused the arsenals of the PDP and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu-propelled Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to retain their plum jobs.
The PDP convention
After the January fuel subsidy protests and retirement of former Military President, General Ibrahm Badamasi Babangida from active politics (January 26), came the National Convention of the ruling PDP.
The convention, which was held on February 10 in Abuja, the national capital led to the emergence of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the national chairman of the party following a break-neck politicking and horse-trading among President Jonathan, the PDP governors and other top stakeholders.
The burial of former Biafran leader and two-time presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 and 2007 elections, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu- Ojukwu, was a major event that lightened up the cloudy polity in 2012.
The week long funeral rites began with the funeral train, which came with elaborate reception in Owerri, Aba, Lagos, Enugu, Abakaliki and Awka, was rounded off with his burial at his home town of Nnewi, in Anambra State on March 3.
Loss of Bakassi
One of the issues Nigeria and Nigerians may live to regret for a long time is the loss of Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon following the failure of the Federal Government to do the needful. Despite outcry from Bakassi indigenes and some prominent Nigerians including a campaign led by Vanguard, the government refused to appeal the October 10, 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling ceding Bakassi to Cameroon. Nigeria had a 10-year grace to appeal, which lapsed on October 10, 2012.
Other major events
Other major events of 2012 include the House of Representatives probe of the fuel subsidy scam and the ensuing controversies that led to the removal of Hon Farouk Lawan as chairman of the Subsidy Probe committee over alleged bribe-taking; House of Representatives probe report, which indicted the NNPC, CBN, NEITI and audit firms for not remitting N3.098 trillion to the federation account between 2004 and 2011; the Malam Nuhu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report on shady deals in the oil sector in the last 10 years; the threat of the Reps to commence impeachment proceedings against President Jonathan in September if he did not take 2012 budget implementation to 100 per cent; the appointment of Justice Alooma Mariam Mukhtar as the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN; and INEC’s massive de-registration of political parties, which has left only 29 out of 63 political parties in existence.
Reviewing 2012, Governor of Ebonyi State, Martin Elechi last Tuesday described 2012 as a bad year for Nigeria, saying the year could pass as the worst in the country’s history.
Speaking at Echialike, his hometown in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state, while addressing parishioners at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, during a service to mark this year’s Christmas celebration, Elechi said: “The year was bad for the country and the worst in terms of natural disasters such as flood, senseless killing of innocent citizens by terrorist and other hoodlums, among others. We should, however, be consoled with the fact that other countries have their own share of these misfortunes.”