By John Bulus
Call it a month of unusual events, one definitely would not be mistaken. Liken it to an interesting football match that is characterized with boot-kicking and back stabbing; one would not be out of place. Until a few days ago, the month of January 2012 passes for a month that parades an array of activities which again, shot the country onto local and foreign scenes.
In some quarters, January, 2012 is one month in the year that can never be forgotten in a hurry and consequently, one is tempted to say that never in the recent history has the nation witnessed an orgy of unprecedented irregular fireworks that directly pinched on the masses and in fact, every facet of the country in one way or another. Saturday Vanguard’s John Bulus reviews the situation.
The Beginning (Between January 1 and 16)
Perhaps, if some persons had the inkling that the Federal Government would carry out its decision to withdraw the hitherto, much touted oil subsidy, they would not have bothered travelling home for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
As a matter of fact, many people especially the Christians were in their churches, thanking God for triumphant entry into 2012 (as the day was Sunday) when the Federal Government via the Petroleum Product Price and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA announced that subsidy on fuel had been jettisoned, subsequently pegging the new pump price of fuel at N141 per liter as the official price. At first, the news had strings and vestiges of distortions in the ears of many Nigerians. Many, alb initio were greatly encumbered to come to terms with the new development.
But when many drivers, car owners and other motorists visited some fuel stations for the products some minutes after the announcement, it dawned on them that the news was a reality. Subsidy is gone. And for one week, Nigerian grappled with that sudden change. Suddenly, fares skyrocketed to the high heavens. Prices of goods in the markets and other places were adjusted. Many people who had traveled could not immediately go back to their places of abode. Some, who had to go back to resume work left their children behind to enable them coup with the new fare challenges. But then, there was an impending pandemonium. There was ire.
There was a spontaneous reaction against the federal government for taking such a decision which many said was to strangulate Nigerians and so, they spoke vehemently, vowing to resist the New Year gift, but not until the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress and Civil Society Groups made an official statement to fight till the price was reversed.
The National Strike (Between January 9 and 16)
Anyone who was in the country during the national strike called by Nigerian Labour Congress and the civil society groups would agree that it was the mother of all strikes in Nigeria’s history. From Lagos to Maidugiri, Aba to Sokoto and Benin to Calabar, the economy was totally shut down. Protests became the order of the day as anger heightened in almost all spheres of the country. From January 9 to January 16 the strike lasted, the streets were empty.
Offices were shut. Markets were closed. Flights never took off. In fact, movement was entirely restricted. Abuja, the nation’s capital was a shadow of itself. Lagos, the commercial nerve center of the country became a center of fury.
In the period, deaths of many protesters were reported across the country. Police mayhem and brutality was a common sight in many parts of the country. Meanwhile, many had hoped that after the first day of the strike, the federal government would shift ground and reverse the pump price to N65 per liter.
But that was not to happen. The second day of the strike did not even persuade either NLC or the Federal Government to blink. And so, the pains accelerated. It was only on the third day of the strike that the leadership of the National Assembly, at the instance of the Senate President, David Mark tried to broker peace and negotiation between Labour and FG.
But the meeting also ended in a fiasco. In fact, the meetings held throughout the first week of the strike never produced good result until the weekend when the pains reached a crescendo. On what would have marked the beginning of the second week of the strike, President Jonathan, knowing the strike was dangerously nose-diving, announced a new price of N97 per liter.
Though, it did not go down well with some quarters, Nigerians and the Labour Unions were to later agree to the new development. Undoubtedly, it is evident that pangs of the strike were felt every where. It was estimated that the country lost about (N1.6b), one point six billion Naira on each day of the strike. Indeed, this was not a healthy development in a country that is still bedeviled with insecurity and unemployment, etc.
Enter Boko Haram Insurgence and the Killings (Killings persist throughout the month of January)
Put simply, killings and bombings heralded the New Year.
Apart from the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madallah in Niger State on Christmas Day which unfortunately claimed several lives and shattered the buildings of the church, Gombe state was the first state to be visited by the killers of the Islamist religious sect, Boko Haram.
Making entry into the hitherto peaceful town of the State capital, they unleashed terror on a Deeper Life Church in a commando style, leaving about 10 persons dead and several others wounded. Yola, the Adamawa state Capital was not left out as the Sect also targeted an Igbo community and brutally sent many to their early graves.
The period also witnessed some pockets of killings in Maiduguiri, Yobe and other places. The killings were Boko Haram’s responses to the declaration of State of Emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan in 15 Local Government Areas of four northern states of Niger, Plateau, Borno and Yobe.
The sect had through its purported spokesman, Abdul Qada warned that non indigenes and indeed, Christians from Southern hemisphere living in the north should live the north just as they called on their Muslims brothers living in the south to come back to the north.
Perhaps, the chief of all attacks in the series of bombings in the month under review was the Kano bombings on Friday January 20. In a coordinated attack, Boko Haram simultaneously attacked several police stations and other agencies of the government. Scores of death to the tune of about 185 were recorded.
Also, Mr. Eneche Akogwu, a Journalist with Channels Television was shot dead in the attack. Even after the major bombing, Kano continued to witness bombings. The ill-developments in the northgenerally caused many non-indigenes especially the Igbo who seemingly counted their dead in the attacks to flee the north. Even at the moment, many of them who fled are yet to come back. Some have regrettably relocated.
Kabiru Umar Sokoto’s Escape and the Sack of former IGP Hafiz Ringim (Between January 19 and 26)
Not a few Nigerians were pretty happy when news filtered that Kabiru Umar alias Sokoto, the alleged kingpin of Boko Haram and mastermind of Christmas Day bombing in Niger State was arrested at the Borno State Governor’s lodge in Abuja by the Nigerian Police. It was huge success for the Police. But just when Nigerians could settle with the news, another piece of disturbing news came that Sokoto had escaped form the Police grip.
That happened on his way to his house in Abaji, a suburb of Abuja when a team of policemen took on him for a search in his house. Irked by the negligence of the police in such a high case, the Presidency gave the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim 24 hours to bring Sokoto or faced dismissal form the Police. Mr. Zakari Bui, a commissioner of Police under whose watch Sokoto escaped was also confined to House Arrest. Meanwhile, in an attempt to find Sokoto, the Police declared him wanted and placed N50m as reward for his arrest.
But that was not to come as Sokoto still remains at large. Making good its threat, the Presidency on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 fired Ringim and replaced him with Mohammed Dikko Abubarkar who hitherto was the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, in charge of zone 12, Bauchi. With the sack, Ringim ended his career which would have been loftier had he retired honorably next month.
Sacking of Five Governors by the Supreme Court (January 27)
Barely 48 hours after the sack of former IGP was the nation stunned with yet another piece of news. This time, from the temple of Justice and highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. In a ruling on Friday, January 27, 2012, the apex court upheld the appeal filed before it by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC which challenged the continued stay of Governors Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State, Timpre Silva of Bayelsa State, Wamako of Sokoto State, Liyel Imoke of Cross River State and Mutarla Nyako of Adamawa State .
INEC which was stopped by a court ruling to conduct governorship elections in the five states in the April general elections on the account that the governors won their re-run and took a fresh oath of office at a later date which meant that they had a new mandate had approached the Supreme Court for proper interpretation of the situation. Many had envisaged victory for the governors at the court, but to everyone’s chagrin, the Supreme Court jettisoned such unfounded beliefs and relieved the governors of their duty, saying that their tenure expired on May 29, 2011.
The ruling apparently put paid to the long legal voyage that started early last year between INEC and the Governors. With the development, Speakers of the Houses of the affected states assumed office as acting Governors of their respective States. But problem brewed up in Kogi state over the matter.
The Emergence of Three Governors in Kogi State in one day (Between January 27 and 30)
Believe it or not, Kogi State on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling came under focus. The state has gone down the archive as the first Nigerian state in history to produce three governors in one day. How? The state in the morning of Friday, January 27 2012 started with the former Governor Ibrahim Idris. At the time, no one had had the inkling that the ruling at the supreme will sack him.
And when it finally came, Idris vacated office for the Governor-Elect, Alhaji Idris Wada who was sworn-in by the President, Customary Court, Justice Shuaibu Ibrahim Atadoga. But two hours later, a new development that would have heralded a political impasse in the state erupted. A directive emanated from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, that the Speakers of the affected states be sworn and consequently, the Speakers of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Abulahhi Bello took an oath of office administered on him by the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajandu to become the Acting Govenor. With the development, many had come to believe that Kogi State in a day produced three governors. But the discrepancy has since been resolved at the instance of INEC which says that Wada and his Deputy, be sworn-in as new helmsmen of the state having won the December 3, 2011 gubernatorial election in the state.
Al-Mustapha, Shofolahan Death Sentence (January 30)
There appeared to be no end to the novel developments that emanated from the courts within the month of January. While the Friday, January 27 ruling of the Supreme Court in Abuja was still eliciting reactions, a High Court in Lagos dished out another ruling over a case that has lasted for over 14 years.
The Court ruled that the former Chief Security Officer, CSO the late Head of State and maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan are the killers of Kudirat, the late wife of the self-acclaimed winner of the 1993 Presidential election, late M K O Abiola and therefore, would die by hanging. The murder event occurred on June 4, 1996 and since then, the matter had been in the court. Meanwhile, to many people, the judgment has also gone down as the first of its kind since the return of democracy in the country in 1999. But whether Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan will truly die by hanging or be meted out with another punitive measure or better still, be set free of the charges against them are issues the Court of Appeal will determine in the passage of time as the duo had since approached the appellate court on the matter.
Yet a Reprieve for Bankole and Nafada (January 31)
Indeed, the courts were not done with their shocking rulings. As if they deliberately set aside the month of January to deliver judgments on high profile cases, a High Court in Abuja, 24 hours after Al-Mustapha and co was sentenced to death by hanging, delivered another judgment which discharged and acquitted former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole and his deputy, Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada of charges of embezzlement brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Honourables Bankole and Nafada had been said to have cornered public fund to the tune of N40 billion Naira and were arrested by the Commission and charged to the court. They were later granted bail on the orders of the court.
The case has obviously put the country on the edge as it will set a precedent for the country. But again, the Appeal court is yet to determine the fate of Bankole and Nafada as the EFCC had approached it on the matter.
Emergence of Boko Haram’s Splinter Group, Ansaru (January 31)
The events in January 2012 cannot however be complete without a mention of Ansaru, the Boko Haram’s splinter group which debuted in Kano, saying its full name is “Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan,” meaning Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa.
The group which said its leader is Abu Usamata Al’Ansari, expressed displeasure with Boko Haram’s style of operations, which it described as inhuman to the Muslim Ummah. It vowed to restore dignity and sanity to “the lost dignity of Muslims in black Africa” and to bring back the dignity of Islam in Nigeria and the Sokoto Caliphate, founded by Othman Dan Fodio in 1804,which spread across Niger Republic, Cameroon and some other West African countries.
In a statement widely circulated in Kano during the week, the group said “For the first time, we are glad to announce to the public the formation of this group that has genuine basis. We will have dispassionate look into everything, to encourage what is good and see to its spread and to discourage evil and try to eliminate it.” At the moment, it is still hazy to conclude what the development holds for the polity.