by Femi Owolabi
In 2014, governorship elections held in two states; a considerable number of politicians dumped their parties for rival parties; parties held their legislative, presidential and governorship primaries; there were impeachments and threats of impeachments; among others.
Below are our top 10 political clashes of the year.
Clash 1: Fayemi vs Fayose
This was an election clash. In June, the focus of the nation was on the Ekiti State governorship election which pitted the APC’s Kayode Fayemi, the incumbent seeking reelection against the PDP’s Ayo Fayose, the controversial former governor who was unceremoniously removed from office in 2006. Prior to Fayose’s emergence as the PDP flag bearer, the road to victory seemed smooth for Fayemi whose major contender then was Michael Bamidele, a member of the House of Representatives and the Labour Party governorship candidate who had dumped the APC claiming that the party had no internal democracy.
It’s not everyday that incumbents lose elections in Nigeria, but Fayose’s popularity in Ekiti saw him pull off an upset on June 21st in a landslide victory, where he won in all the Local Government Areas of the State.
Despite conceding defeat after the election, Fayemi and his party, the APC, headed for the tribunals to challenge the election, claiming that it was ‘photochromically’ rigged. Their petition has been dismissed, but they will be filing an appeal.
Clash 2: Aregbesola vs Omisore
If the PDP thought that the Osun governorship election in August was going to be a repeat of Ekiti, they were greatly mistaken as the incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola was more than prepared. Besides, the PDP candidate, Iyiola Omisore, a former senator, did not have the appeal of Fayose.
Aregbesola’s victory at the August 9 election didn’t come as a surprise to many. The victory is however being challenged by Omisore and the election petition tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict soon.
Clash 3: Tambuwal vs PDP
The year 2014, for Nigerian politicians, was a season of defections as the PDP and APC fought a battle for supremacy. In January, Bukola Saraki, and about 10 other senators defected to the APC. There were also members of the House of Representatives who dumped their party for the other.
In a bid to get the Adamawa governorship ticket, a former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, abandoned the APC, the party under whose platform he had run for president in 2011, for the ruling PDP.
Although it didn’t come as a surprise, the biggest of the defections was that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who is the country’s number four man. Since he announced his defection in October, it has been greeted with controversies – from a court suit demanding his ouster, to the withdrawal of his security details by the police, and then the greatest of the controversies on November 20 when the national assembly premises was invaded by policemen in an attempt to prevent Tambuwal and lawmakers loyal to him from gaining access into the chambers whereas PDP lawmakers were allowed. It is believed that the plan was to effect an impeachment of the speaker. The plot however failed, as the lawmakers scaled the assembly’s gate and gained entry.
Meanwhile Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is now the APC governorship candidate in Sokoto for 2015.
Clash 4: Murtala Nyako v Adamawa assembly
The year 2014 was a bad one for Murtala Nyako, the former governor of Adamawa State who was impeached– on allegations of gross misconduct– by the State House of Assembly in July. Before then, Nyako had provoked condemnation when he released a document claiming that Pres. Jonathan was responsible for genocide in the North. By the time the state assembly started impeachment moves against him, he ran helter-skelter trying to prevail on the lawmakers to change their minds but it was too late. His deputy, James Ngilari, who was also meant to be impeached alongside him tendered his resignation to the assembly speaker, Ahmadu Fintiri, who became acting governor and then the PDP candidate in the bye-election which was supposed to hold on October 11.
Things took a remarkable twist less than 48 hours to the bye-election when a Federal High Court ruled that the ex-deputy governor Bala Ngilari did not resign properly as his resignation was supposed to be sent to the governor and not the speaker. He was sworn-in to complete the Nyako term which expires next year. Nyako meanwhile, who was widely seen as a poor performer as governor, has been quiet since his impeachment.
Extra: Also impeached in 2014 was the deputy governor of Enugu, Onyebuchi Sunday. Onyebuchi fell out with Gov. Chime, although the official reason for his impeachment was the fact that he reared poultry in the Government House. The Nasarawa governor, Tanko Almakura, however survived an impeachment scare as the panel set up to probe him acquitted him of the charges.
Clash 5: Ekiti 7 vs Ekiti 19
In November, a bad precedent was set in Ekiti State House of Assembly where—with the support of Governor Fayose—7 PDP members out of the 26 members of the House convened to ‘impeach’ the speaker, Adewale Omirin (APC) and his deputy. They elected a new PDP speaker, Dele Olugbemi. Despite the illegality of their actions, Gov. Ayo Fayose has endorsed the faction. The 7 lawmakers have approved the names of the commissioner-nominees forwarded to the assembly by the governor, and are currently considering the 2015 budget of the state. Fayose has maintained that Omirin can only return as a member and not speaker, and Omirin on the other hand has vowed to seek justice from the courts.
Two weeks ago, the 19 APC lawmakers who have been outside the state for fear over their security, held a secret sitting in the state capital where they suspended the PDP lawmakers. The PDP faction described the sitting of the majority lawmakers as laughable.
Clash 6: The primary season
Nigerians witnessed arguably the most interesting primary season ever this year as candidates from the two main parties faced off in tough contests. It was a good primary season for incumbents, as Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and all state governors seeking reelection from both parties easily secured second term tickets. However, some incumbent in the national assembly who in many cases were involved in clashes with their state governors failed to get return tickets. Among them were Senators Nkechi Nwaogu (Abia) and Victor Ndoma-Egba (Cross River), among others.
By far the most exciting primary was the keenly fought APC presidential primary which featured Muhammadu Buhari, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Abubakar Atiku, Rochas Okorocha and Sam Nda-Isaiah. In what was widely adjudged to be a free, fair and well organized primary, Buhari won the election with Kwankwaso and Atiku following behind in that order.
In Lagos, an implosion was expected after the APC governorship primary. Surprisingly after Akin Ambode (the candidate of APC leader, Bola Tinubu) emerged as winner, the other major aspirants all rallied to voice their support. The PDP race in Lagos was however not as smooth as discrepancies in its conduct led former minister of state for defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, to protest. The issues have however now been resolved. In Kano, Dr. Ganduje, the current deputy governor emerged as APC flagbearer, becoming the only current deputy governor to win his party’s ticket with the consent of his governor. The other deputy governor to emerge as flagbearer is Dave Umahi of Ebonyi (PDP), but his victory is still being opposed by his boss, Gov. Martin Elechi. In Kaduna, former FCT minister, Nasir Elrufai, won the APC governorship ticket. Delta governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, had to shelve his ambition to run for senate but also failed to get his preferred candidate emerge as PDP guber candidate. That ticket went to Ifeanyi Okowa. In Imo, Gov. Rochas Okorocha who vied for both the presidential and governorship tickets, easily got the APC guber ticket but will face a tough opponent in the person of Emeka Ihedioha, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.
Most former ministers who resigned from the federal cabinet to run for governor in their states failed to get the ticket. Nyesom Wike of Rivers won the Rivers PDP ticket, Darius Ishaku won the Taraba PDP ticket and Samuel Ortom who lost the Benue PDP ticket was awarded the APC guber ticket in controversial circumstances still being challenged. However, others like Labaran Maku, Emeka Wogu, Musiliu Obanikoro and Onyebuchi Chukwu lost out at the primaries.
Clash 7: #BringBackOurGirls group vs Aso Rock
Since April 2014, over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state have been in captivity in the hands of terrorist sect, Boko Haram. It took two weeks for Aso Rock to even admit that any such incident had happened. In fact the wife of the president, Patience Jonathan incredulously claimed that the story of the kidnap was false and was being peddled to bring down her husband. The government has since come to accept and own up to the abduction, but despite assurances, the girls have still not been rescued. Twice however army spokesperson falsely claimed that the girls have been released.
A pressure group, #BringBackOurGirls led by women such as a former VP of the World Bank, Obiageli Eekwesili; wife of former chief justice of Nigeria, Maryam Uwais; women rights activist, Saudatu Mahdi; and Hadiza Bala Usman, have been mounting pressure on the FG to do more to ensure the release of the girls. Several attempts have been made to make the campaigners shut up including the hiring of an American PR firm, Levick, which tried to label the campaigners as Boko Haram sympathisers. The FG has also allegedly hired people to disrupt #BBOG sit-outs and at a time, the former FCT police commissioner, Joseph Mbu, banned their protests. Pres. Goodluck Jonathan has refused to meet with the campaigners despite their attempts to reach him. However, the issue of the abducted girls is still on the front burner today thanks to the efforts of the #BBOG movement.