By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
THE general elections are only months away, riddled with uncertainties, clothed in intrigues that politicians, in these parts, consider the essence of their trade. There are more concerns today over whether the elections will hold, than what the candidates are offering, which in all cases is a rehash of the same things that have been promised over the years.
What follows are highlights of the year, which is expectedly all about politics, some of a hue that we had not seen, nor thought possible. The previous year left Nigerians with an intractable challenge. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had been abroad since November in search of cure for his ailment. He could not hand over; rather there was no agreement on whether he handed over to the Vice President.
The clumsiness of the situation came to the fore on 30 December 2009, when the out going Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, ignored a growing controversy to swear in Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu as his successor. Some said that meant Nigeria had two Chief Justices of Nigeria in one day. Kutigi also swore in Justice Isa Ayo Salami as the President of the Court of Appeal.
He said:”there is nothing new, the law is there. I will be attaining the age of 70 years Insha-Allah by the midnight. The law empowers me to bow out at the age of 70, so make no mistake, I am still in charge. I do not want mischief-makers to write that there are two Chief Justices, I am still in charge. It is the Oaths Act, if you looked at the Oaths Act, you will see that the President and the Chief Justice can swear in the incoming CJN.
The law is clear. If you looked at the constitution, the constitution also makes it clear. For the first time in the history of this country, a sitting Chief Justice has sworn in the incoming; this is the first time. It is happening not because of the fault of anybody because the law has always been there that Mr. President or the Chief Justice can swear in the incoming. Now the occasion has arisen and we are to perform the function. This has generated a lot of issue even from those who are to know.”
The unnecessary controversy was generated because some politicians did not want the Vice President to take over the duties of the President. They believed that Jonathan performing this role would have confirmed his powers.
Campaigns are almost in full swing without a proper law for the elections. Politicians are doing their best to endear themselves to the people. A peep at the campaign messages gives a correct reflection of Nigeria – things have marginally improved for the majority of the people. The crises, riots, killings in the Niger Delta and kidnapping, assumed new dimensions this year.
In 2010, a minority hijacked the country and spent every available opportunity in firming up its choking hold.
Religious Killings in Jos – January 17
Jos that has seen religious riots in various degrees since 2001, witnessed the first in a set of religious killings that were to run throughout the year. More than 400 people were killed after some inflammatory text messages were sent round. There were also claims that some people were stopped from rebuilding their houses.
Hardly a month passed this year without some killings in some parts of Plateau State , mostly in Jos and surrounding villages.
Doctrine Of Necessity – 9 February
The National Assembly relied on the Doctrine of Necessity to create an Acting President for Nigeria . Yar’Adua could not meet the constitutional provision that the President should transmit a handover note to the National Assembly. Yar’Adua had been away for 78 days in Saudi Arabia during which his state of health was uncertain just as it was unknown who was running the country.
It was the third time that the Doctrine of Necessity was used, first in Pakistan (1954), Grenada (1985) and Nigeria (2010). Goodluck Jonathan became Nigeria ’s third acting President. Before him were Prince Abyssinia Akweke Nwafor-Orizu (1966) and Vice Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (1991).
Yar’Adua Returns – February 24
A twist in the political drama ensued with the arrival of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from Saudi Arabia . A miracle convoy surrounded an ambulance that whisked him off to the presidential villa. He immediately “assumed office”, but made no public appearance. He spoke by proxy. A Federal Executive Council meeting that was billed for the next day was cancelled. The Acting President did not see the President and political analysts wondered how both could operate.
Jonathan Fires Yar’Adua’s Ministers – March 17
Debates about who was in-charge abated when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan fired Ministers deemed loyal to Yar’Adua, re-called one of those Yar’Adua earlier removed and shuffled the remaining ones. While Yar’Adua was away, some Ministers reportedly openly refused orders from Jonathan.
Yar’Adua Dies – May 5
President Yar’Adua, 58, died. He suffered from a kidney disease, but developed pericarditis, a hardening in the lining of the heart, in late 2009. He left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia on 23 November 2009 and returned 78 days later but was not seen by the public, politicians or even the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan.
He was the fifth Nigerian head of government to die in office. Before him were Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first prime Minister 1966), Major-General Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head of State (1966), General Murtala Mohammed, Nigeria’s third military Head of State (1976), General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s seventh military Head of State). Yar’Adua and Abacha were the only ones to die naturally.
Speaking on the passing, Jonathan said,” Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown, and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight… as individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr. President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of all life.”
Ogun State House Of Assembly
This is possibly the most volatile State House of Assembly. It has been in perpetual conflict with Governor Gbenga Daniel. The house has gone for months without sitting. Each party in the fray has enough stories to fill a book. It is remarkable that the State is controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and is home of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Speaker House of Representatives Dimeji Sabur Bankole. The disputes centre on succession of the governor and the N100 billion bond that the state government wants to issue. Reason has failed. Rascality has prospered.
Two New Governors Win Through Appeal
The Court of Appeal sacked governors of Ekiti and Osun States . The decisions move the Action Congress of Nigeria from being in control of two States last year, to four. An election is awaited in Delta State , where the Court of Appeal also asked the governor to leave office. Democratic Peoples Party candidate, Great Ogboru got the verdict that will see new election sometime in January 2011.
Amnesty Limps To Conclusion
The amnesty programme of the Federal Government, under which it pardoned militants that laid down their arms, was concluded with training and rehabilitation for militants in Obubra, Cross River State . Complaints about unfulfilled promises and the upsurge in militancy in the Niger Delta have raised doubts about the success of the programme that was largely aimed at saving the economy from the crippling effects of militancy than in addressing the waste of peoples and places in the Niger Delta.
Constitutional Confusion Continues
Can constitutional amendments stand if the President does not sign the new document? The National Assembly insists the amendments are law without the President’s signature. The imbroglio has resulted in amendments of the Electoral Act (which the National Assembly sent to the President for his signature) and possibilities that the election dates that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has set, may not stand. The Electoral Act draws its powers from the Constitution. The dispute is at the Court of Appeal.
15 School Children Kidnapped In Aba – September 27
Kidnapping was too frequent this year to make the headlines, but that of 15 pupils of Abayi International School in Aba, drew attention. The children regained their freedom after five days unhurt. This, and series of kidnapping in Abia State , resulted in the invitation of the military, which is still camped in villages around Aba .
Bombed 50th Anniversary
Nigeria had a unique 50th anniversary gift from militants who bombed streets around the venue of the celebrations in Abuja . About nine people died with others injured. Some suspects were arrested and the cases are in court in Nigeria and South Africa .
DDC Machines Missing – December 9
The 2011 elections were in the news again for the wrong reason. Some of the controversial direct data capturing machines that were imported for registration of voters (there is a case in court on this) were stolen at the Lagos airport. You can bet that the last has not been heard of this matter and its effect on the elections.