By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
EXACTLY 365 days ago, Year 2018 that will expire today zoomed off amid high expectations. In Nigeria, the year moved at a dizzying pace leaving on its trail dust of high-wire political intrigues, drama, bitterness, turmoil and uncertainties.
Violence claims6,900 lives
There were tears of blood and gnashing of the teeth on account of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, sectarian violence, armed robbery and other violent crimes that claimed about 6,900 lives as of yesterday, according to Vanguard’s tally. Many northern states – Benue, Plateau, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Borno, Yobe and Taraba were hotbeds of violence and killings.
Flood of fury
About 32 states of the country were ravaged by floods that claimed no fewer than 270 lives, displaced over 350,000 people and destroyed properties worth billions of naira.
Deaths on highways, waterways
There were also harvests of deaths on our highways (3,015) and inland waterways (139), according to Vanguard’s preliminary checks.
Passage of eminent Nigerians
Many eminent Nigerians and elder statesmen died in 2018. They included first civilian President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari; Chief Sonny Odogwu; Alhaji Maitama Sule, Senator David Dafinone; Chief Anthony Anenih; Dr. Frederick Fasehun; Hon. Funke Adedoyin; Senator Ali Wakili; Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh (retd), Major-General Idris Alkali (retd); Professor Sophie Oluwole; Ace comedian, Baba Sala; and Raggae icon, Ras Kimono among others.
NASS, Executive bickering
On the political scene, the year kicked off with the bickering and mistrust between the National Assembly leadership and the Executive arm of government, which affected passage of the 2018 budget; approval of funds for the conduct of the 2019 polls for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; and refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari, on four occasions, to assent the Electoral Act amendment bill, and a host of other bills.
One of the high-points of the executive-legislature face-off was the attempt to change the leadership of the National Assembly when President Buhari was on a 10-day vacation abroad and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in-charge. Following a rash of defections and counter-defections, some All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders and senators clamoured for a change of leadership in the Senate. This was after Senate President Bukola Saraki left the APC for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP with the likes of Senator Dino Melaye, Senator Musa Kwankwaso and 12 others. On the same day, 37 members of the House of Representatives left the APC for other parties and the PDP was the main beneficiary.
Not long after, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the PDP minority leader and a couple of PDP lawmakers defected to the APC. Akpabio relinquished his minority post and urged Saraki to do same, which the latter rejected. The outcome was a high-wire political chess game. Operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS laid siege to the homes of Senate President Saraki and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu as well as the entrance of the National Assembly. The ploy was to pave the way for an APC senator to emerge as Senate president in the absence of Saraki and Ekweremadu. However, Saraki got wind of the plot. He effectively beat it to preside at the Senate where he announced the defection of 14 senators and adjoined for a two-month recess.
Acting President Osinbajo was piqued by the DSS invasion of the National Assembly without his order. He sacked the DSS Director General, Lawal Daura, over the matter.
Before then, the Senate was invaded, in April, by some hoodlums, who snatched the mace and walked away. A Delta senator was fingered as the mastermind of the mace theft. The mace was later recovered by the police.
Major political defections of 2018 included the return of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) to the PDP as well as that of former Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, from the PDP to the APC.
Other landmark political events
One of the major events of 2018 was the reconciliation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar after 15 years of feud. Atiku reconciled with Obasanjo shortly after picking the PDP presidential ticket and declared that the journey started at Obasanjo’s home.
Obasanjo, who had earler in the year written an open letter to President Buhari asking him not to seek re-election, endorsed Atiku for the presidency and urged Nigerians to forgive and vote for him because he had learned his lessons.
Throughout the year, the polity was greeted with the exchange of brick-bats between APC and PDP leaders. While the APC blamed its inability to quickly turn the fortunes of the country around on the 16 years of PDP’s alleged misrule and plundering of the country’s patrimony, the opposition party said the ruling party was incompetent, clueless and lacked ideas to do the needful to save the country.
Some of the memorable events include:
* Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost the APC governorship primary and became the first civilian governor of Lagos that will not get a second term. His deputy, Idiat Adebule, ditched him and sided with the party leadership on the matter.
* 14 million APC members elected President Buhari as the APC presidential candidate via direct primaries across the country.
* Chief John Oyegun lost out and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole emerged as the APC national chairman. After controversial primaries in many states, Oshiomhole survived plots by some governors to get him out of the seat. He was at daggers drawn with Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) among others, who could not get some of their candidates to clinch the APC tickets in their states.
* Senate President Bukola Saraki, after three years of trial, got acquitted of the false assets declaration charges filed against him.
* The polity was entertained by the unending dramatic tango between Senator Dino Melaye and the police.
* APC won the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states amid allegations of irregularities and use of security agencies to intimidate the opposition.
* No fewer than 70 politicians including Buhari, Atiku, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu, and Omoyele Sowore emerged as presidential candidates, the highest in the history of presidential elections in the country.
* On leaving office as Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose went to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, office where he was detained, quizzed and later released.
* President Buhari’s school certificate brouhaha re-emerged with the president, who did not attach his credentials to his nomination form telling the INEC that the documents were with the Military Board. However, President Buhari on November 2 received attestation and confirmation of result certificate from WAEC Registrar, Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, at the Aso Villa, Abuja.
* Via Executive Order 6, the Federal Government placed travel ban on 50 high profile Nigerians being investigated for corruption.
* IPOB Leader, Prince Nnamdi Kanu, whose whereabouts had been unknown since September 14, 2017 when his Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia country home, Abia State, was invaded by security agents, reappeared in Israel from where he has been making weekly broadcasts.
* Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun resigned over forgery of NYSC exemption certificate.
* Senate vowed to probe Vice President Osinbajo and NEMA DG, Mr Mustapha Maihaja over alleged mismanagement of N33 billion Presidential Intervention Programme for North East funds and approval of N5.8 billion without due process already being probed by the House of representatives.
* The private jet and documents of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar were searched by a combined team of security agents in Abuja upon arrival from Dubai, where he went to rest after the PDP presidential primaries. The matter raised dust in the polity.
* Organised Labour embarked on a two-day strike over N30,000 minimum wage and has threatened to resume the strike next week if President Buhari did not start implementation of the minimum wage by sending a bill to the National Assembly by December 31, 2018.
* Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, also embarked on strike to force the government to implement agreements it reached with the union over funding of the universities.
* Campaigns for the 2019 polls were low-key. There were little or no poster wars, campaign adverts in newspapers, jingles on radio and television.
* Abduction of the Dapchi, Yobe State school girls by Boko Haram insurgents of which a lone Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, has not been released because she refused to renounce her faith.
*The polity was awash with poor economic indices such as Nigeria emerging as world poverty capital with 88 million people living in extreme poverty; and 13.2 million children being out of school among others.
* 71 members of the House of Representatives initiated moves to re-introduce the parliamentary system of government in the country. The Bill has passed first reading.
Issues that will shape 2019
As Nigerians cross-over to 2019, some of the issues that dominated 2018 will be carried over.
Such issues include the 2019 general elections, which is fast becoming a make or mar exercise with many states already considered as flashpoints and fear that the poll may not hold in Borno; passage of the 2019 N8.83 trillion budget, war war against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East; bandits in the North-West; and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes across the country especially in Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba. Government must find a solution to the rising wave of insecurity in Zamfara, Taraba, Nasarawa, Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Benue.
Organised Labour and ASUU strikes will be major issues in 2019. The ASUU has been on strike since November 3, 2018 and talks with the government are yet to yield any positive result.
It is to be seen if the Federal Government will meet Labour’s today’s deadline to begin the process of implementing the N30,000 new minimum wage by sending a bill to the National Assembly, which is on Christmas and New Year break. Labour has declared its readiness to embark on a nationwide strike, this week, if the government did not do the needful.