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Pulse List 2017 10 biggest moments in Nigerian politics this year

There was enough drama in Nigerian politics in 2017 to last for decades.

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Nigerian politics is the gift that keeps on giving.

As a Nigerian, when you think you've seen it all, the cosmic political director laughs in your face, hands someone his beer and drags you back into the ring for another round.

2017 was a very eventful year in Nigerian politics, with at least half of its political actors serving us with a range of contentious, comical and controversial moments.

Here are some of the most noteworthy moments of Nigerian politics in 2017:

1. Buhari's medical trips

It's unsurprising that the country's commander-in-chief is its most prominent actor, and President Muhammadu Buhari did not fail to be the centre of attention for most of the year, half of it for the wrong reasons.

President Muhammadu Buhari arriving from London in March play

President Muhammadu Buhari arriving from London in March

(Daily Post )

 

The president's two high profile trips to London to treat an undisclosed illness didn't help his stock much as it sent more than a few tongues wagging.

His absence resulted in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo celebrating a milestone 100 days as Acting President.

The president spent 154 days out of the country treating himself while remaining completely silent about the nature of his illness.

When he came back from his second trip that took 103 days, he assured Nigerians of the country's ironclad unity and rebuked social media comments that crossed the national red line.

Great times Mr President. More in 2018, please.

2. Senate vs Presidency

Part of the effects of President Buhari's absence from the seat of power for almost half of the year was a festering of hostilities between the executive and legislature that finally exploded in July.

After a perceived slight against their relevance by then-Acting President Osinbajo, lawmakers decided to stop considering or confirming any federal appointments sent to the parliament until they were made to feel important again.

This is because Osinbajo had stated that executive appointments did not require legislative approval based on Section 171 of the Nigerian constitution.

The Senate had been at odds with the presidency after it rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but the presidency still kept him on as acting chairman.

The tension eased after President Buhari's return in August, but Magu is still acting chairman.

Guess you can't win it all.

3. Ajekun Iya

Senator Dino Melaye has controversies as many as the exotic cars in the fleet that he parades on social media.

Unwilling to be outdone, the lawmaker representing Kogi West senatorial district was involved in two separate high profile controversies this year.

One of such controversies which brought his academic qualifications into question resulted in one of 2017's truly viral moment.

In a bid to rub his apparent vindication in the face of his nosy enemies, Melaye made a video where he broke into a song and dance that became a constant feature on social media for weeks.

Senator Melaye does the Ajekun Iya dance play

Senator Melaye does the Ajekun Iya dance

(Instagram)

The 'music video' was so successful that the Senator sort of made a music tour out of it, singing it with a band in his native Kogi, and all way to the Notting Hill Carnival in London where he was booed and called a thief by an unappreciative crowd.

4. Saraki's Acquittal

President Buhari's anti-corruption war remains without a notable conviction and this has created a huge PR problem for its image.

At some point, Senate President Bukola Saraki appeared to be the first potential scapegoat that'll help the administration issue a warning shot to corrupt government officials.

After accusations from the EFCC, the former governor of Kwara State was charged to court in 2015 with 13 counts of false declarations of assets when he was governor.

Saraki's CCT criminal trial adjourned indefinitely play Saraki in the dock (Daily Post)

 

In defiance, the Senate President filed a no-case submission before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on May 26, 2017 saying all evidence presented by the prosecution lacks merit.

The tribunal dismissed the case against Saraki in a ruling on June 14, 2017, due to the failure of the prosecution to prove he had a case to answer.

The ruling didn't go down well with the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, who publicly criticised the judgement and even sort of admitted that he tried to influence the Justice Danladi Umar-led tribunal.

Even though the Federal Government has tabled a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, Saraki appears to have won 2017 already.

(Update (Plot Twist): On Tuesday, December 12, the Court of Appeal in Abuja asked Saraki to return to the CCT to face trial on three of the counts he was acquitted for.) Oh well.

5. Atiku's dumping of APC for PDP

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has been a mainstay in Nigerian politics ever since he served as deputy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.

After the relationship between the two soured over their contrasting ambitions, Atiku has been trying his best to rule the country from the highest political seat of the presidency.

As a candidate for Action Congress (AC), he lost the 2007 presidential election to the late former President Umaru Yar'Adua before rejoining the People's Democratic Party (PDP) only to lose the party's primary election for the 2011 presidential election to the eventual winner, Goodluck Jonathan.

Atiku says conduct of Osun governorship rerun is unacceptable play

Atiku Abubakar

(The Nation)

 

Undeterred, he joined the All Progressives' Congress (APC) in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election before losing the party's ticket to another eventual winner, President Buhari.

While resigning from the APC on November 24, Atiku accused President Buhari of neglecting him and condemned the APC for "instituting a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy".

In a live Facebook video message on December 3, as expected, the former Vice President officially declared his return to the PDP.

The buy-back clause is strong with this one.

6. Mama Taraba's rebellion

Before Atiku's resignation, he already secured a very high profile endorsement from the unlikeliest place: a serving minister in President Buhari's cabinet.

Back in September, as part of a delegation paying a courtesy visit to Atiku, Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, declared her support for the former Vice President to become Nigeria's president in 2019.

The former Taraba state gubernatorial candidate said, "Your excellency, our father the next president come 2019, God willing. In your presence are your people, your supporters who will continue supporting you till forever."

Has Mama Taraba abandoned Atiku? play

Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan with former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

(Metro Watch Online)

 

In a BBC Hausa interview that followed shortly after her endorsement of Atiku, she made a very bold promise, saying she was ready to put her money where her mouth is and quit Buhari's government if he makes her choose between him and Atiku.

She said, "Let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that 'Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister but Baba just like you know I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather' if Atiku said he is going to contest."

The minister even went one step further to dare a dismissal from the president for her comments, saying he is not naive enough to sack her.

"Baba is not a madman like those calling for my sack," she boasted.

Her comments didn't go down well with the party's leadership and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, even revealed that the minister never voted for President Buhari during the party's primary election and has never subscribed to his vision.

While many called for her resignation or dismissal, the minister is still serving in the president's cabinet, refusing to comment on Atiku's resignation and what it means for her.

ALSO READ: What does Atiku's APC resignation mean for Mama Taraba?

7. PDP vs PDP

For 16 years, the PDP was the law in Nigeria. The party won election after election without breaking much of a sweat.

When the party lost the 2015 presidential election to the APC, it couldn't decide how to be a viable opposition party, so it started fighting itself.

The party broke into factions in 2016 after its National Working Committee (NWC) chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, refused to step down for Ahmed Makarfi as acting chairman.

The protracted court battle that ensued wasn't resolved until July 12, 2017, when a five-man panel of the Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision that installed Makarfi as the party's interim leader before Uche Secondus was elected its chairman during the recent national convention.

8. MainaGate

The country's most high profile controversy happened at a time when public confidence in President Buhari's anti-corruption campaign was starting to erode.

While Nigerians slept, former chairman of the defunct Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms (PTTPR), Abdulrasheed Maina, was recalled and promoted to head the Ministry of Interior's human resource department, despite pending corruption charges against him.

AGF Malami has no regrets having secret meeting with Maina, says Buhari knew play

Former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina

(Premium Times)

 

This was after he was dismissed by the Federal Civil Service Commission in 2013 following a recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service.

In 2015, Maina was charged alongside former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited before a Federal High Court on a 24-count charge bordering on procurement fraud and obtaining by false pretence through the award of fraudulent biometric contracts.

After he was declared wanted over an alleged N2 billion pension fraud, he fled abroad to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), evading the capture of the EFCC.

The most astonishing part of the scandal is the involvement of top officials of President Buhari's administration.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji; and Head of Service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, have been reported to be instrumental to the process of Maina's recall.

The scandal has also beamed the spotlight on the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura and acting EFCC chairman, Magu.

Despite a runaway Maina claiming the president himself had consented to his reinstatement, all the top officials that have been dragged before a House of Representatives adhoc committee investigating the issue have employed the Shaggy defense: "It wasn't me".

9. Baru vs Kachikwu

NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru and Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu play The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu (left) with Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru (right) (The Punch)

 

Before the overpowering shadow of Maina loomed large over Nigeria's political landscape, there was another corruption spectre that reigned supreme.

On October 3, a letter that was meant for the president's eyes only emerged in the one place it wasn't meant for: the internet.

In the letter, The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, expressed his frustration with the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru to President Buhari.

In the letter dated August 30, the minister urged the president to take urgent actions on matters ranging from alleged illegal practices to insubordination.

Kachikwu said he had suffered "disrespectful and humiliating conducts" from Baru and accused the NNPC boss of bypassing procedures in the award of oil contracts without a review by the NNPC board which he chaired.

In a response issued by the NNPC, it said the minister's claims were baseless and that contracts are not necessarily supposed to be reviewed by the NNPC board, but by the NNPC Tenders Board, the president in his capacity as the Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The statement also laid out the processes involved in reviewing the award of a contract by the NNPC, as well as list the procedures involved in the award of contracts specifically mentioned in Kachikwu's letter.

The NNPC review led to another unpleasant revelation that indicated two oil deals were signed by President Buhari while he was away on medical vacation in London.

Media reports indicated that President Buhari approved at least two separate oil contracts worth billions on July 10 and July 31 while Osinbajo was Acting President and should have been the one to make the approvals.

Even though Kachikwu and Baru were all smiles when they finally met in Abuja at the Nigerian Economic Summit on October 10, the scandal did not reach a satisfying conclusion until MainaGate swept us all off our feet.

10. IPOB vs Army

Armed with a radio channel and the privilege of residing in a foreign country, Nnamdi Kanu, dragged separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), into mainstream Nigerian consciousness.

play Nnamdi Kanu

 

When he was arrested by the DSS for the crime of treason in 2015, many thought his end was near.

However, the year was 2017 when the powder keg really exploded.

After he was granted bail based on health reasons in April, Kanu brazenly violated the terms of his bail on several occasions without getting arrested.

Everything came to a head in September when his group became embroiled in public clashes with soldiers of the Nigerian Army.

The eventful week started with an alleged September 10 invasion of Kanu's father's compound in Afaraukwu, Umuahia by soldiers who also allegedly shot at IPOB members who formed a human shield to keep them out.

The army denied the claims and said the soldiers had been attacked with stones while passing through the residence in a new armoured carrier.

However, Kanu claimed the army was lying and accused them of trying to incite the group into arming themselves to deliberately provoke a war.

A war did break out that week as separate clashes happened in Aba and Umuahia with civil unrest claiming a few lives.

Since the army allegedly invaded Kanu's house again on September 14, he has not been seen in public and has missed two court appearances.

The activities of the group were also proscribed and it was branded a terrorist organisation by the Federal Government.

Could 2017 be the year that IPOB died?

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