The year 2018 was full of drama, suspense and power play in the nation’s political corridors.
Elections were lost and won, politicians took turns to swap parties, one State Governor swapped the throne for a prison cell, one Senator was only a few votes shy of dancing his way into the office of Governor, a Senator jumped off a moving police truck and a former Minister renewed rumours of Nigeria’s President being a clone--from the comfort of his social media pages.
In 2018, we just couldn’t keep up with the political class, hard as we tried.
In no particular order, Pulse looks back at the 10 most controversial Nigerian politicians of 2018….
1. Dino Melaye
It won’t be a ‘controversy list' if the Kogi born senator isn’t on it.
In April, Melaye was being driven in a police truck to his home state to face criminal charges, when he landed with a thud on the dry, hard floor, ranted to everyone in sight and threatened to take his own life.
Melaye also ended 2018 with a song (APC suffer me o/ when shall I see my PDP/ I will never forget my home) and a defection to his old political party, the PDP.
He remains controversial as you read this. Melaye was simply a force of nature in 2018.
2. Ayodele Fayose
When Fayose’s stint as Governor of Southwest Ekiti State ended on October 16, he kept his promise to report himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) where he was wanted for a raft of corruption allegations.
In typical Fayose style, he made sure his EFCC appearance was an attention seeking stuntby spotting a black T-Shirt with the words “EFCC, I’m here”, boldly inscribed on it.
Fayose also spent all of 2018 hurling insults at the APC and the Buhari led presidency, while churning out one conspiracy theory after another.
He was quite the handful in 2018.
3. Aisha Alhassan aka Mama Taraba
Buhari’s former Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, who is popularly referred to as Mama Taraba, was one politician we had to keep talking about in 2018, not least for her drama and controversy.
Alhassan who had openly identified with PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in 2017, was denied the APC governorship ticket for Taraba after she resigned from the federal cabinet on September 28.
With no path to the governorship throne in Taraba from the APC platform, Mama Taraba dumped the governing party for the UDP.
Days after she left the APC, she made sure to remove all the furniture and computers she had donated to the Taraba State chapter of the APC in the capital city of Jalingo.
“I bought the items with my money; when my boys told me they were removing them from the party secretariat, I gave them the go ahead because the APC does not deserve anything of mine.
“I could not have moved the items to Abuja. I merely gave my boys the nod to move them out because the APC was wicked to me. If I had left the party on my own, I would not have bothered about the items, but you know the circumstances that pushed me out.
“I bought the items to furnish the party secretariat, but since I have moved to the UDP, I did not see anything wrong with moving with all my belongings. They should buy their own furniture for the offices,” Mama Taraba said afterwards.
4. Akinwunmi Ambode
Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, was denied a second term ticket on the APC platform in October.
Days before the governorship primary election, Ambode was on everyone’s lips after rumours emerged that he had lost the support of godfather Bola Tinubu and that of the APC grassroots structure in Nigeria’s commercial capital.
On Sunday, September 30, 2018, Ambode had a meltdown at a World Press Conference he had put together, labelling his opponent for the primary ticket, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a phoney who sprayed fake dollars at a nightclub and who is so mentally unstable he’s been spending time recuperating in a Rehab.
Ambode eventually lost the primary election to Sanwo-Olu.
The governor’s year was littered with accusations of incompetence on the job, pettiness and vindictiveness, and his inability to get articulated trucks off the road.
Ambode simply had a 2018 to forget.
5. Ben Murray-Bruce
No other politician rattled the governing party in the social media space quite like entertainment mogul, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce.
He took on fights he had no business taking on, turned facts on their head, disparaged APC talking heads and made sure to insert himself into the national conversation all year long.
Ben Bruce fancies himself the ‘Commonsense’ champion and conscience of a poorly governed nation.
In October, Ben Bruce announced that he won’t be returning to the senate next year, which is a shame because his “nuggets of common sense” will be sorely missed.
6. Godswill Akpabio
This former Governor of Akwa Ibom State continues to refer to his defection to the APC as “uncommon”.
Akpabio’s defection was the equivalent of a big money summer signing for the governing APC, given his brash brand of politics, grassroots appeal in his home state and bare knuckled disposition.
His defection to the APC in August was a carnival affair, with thousands thronging the Ikot Ekpene township stadium to watch him speak through a sore throat.
Akpabio has been accused of being behind the moves by 5 lawmakers to impeach his successor Udom Emmanuel who still belongs in the PDP.
Controversy doesn't even begin to describe him.
7. Bukola Saraki
It says a lot about Saraki’s political brinkmanship that he is ending 2018 as Senate President, masterfully sidestepping and evading all the land mines thrown his way by the governing APC.
In 2018, Saraki was cleared of corruption charges by the Supreme Court, he defected to the PDP, masterminded the defection of his colleagues and cronies, contested for the presidency, was linked to robbery in his home State of Kwara and was appointed Director General of the Atiku Abubakar campaign.
Controversy is another name for Saraki and he continues to wear it like a badge of honour.
8. Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo continues to insert himself into the national conversation, especially before his country heads to the ballot to choose new political leaders.
He did it again in 2018 like he’s done his entire life.
In January, ‘Baba Iyabo’ (as Obasanjo is famously known) asked President Buhari to ditch his re-election plans for good because he’s failed at governance.
“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age. President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the sideline for the good of the country”, Obasanjo wrote.
Buhari has ignored Obasanjo’s counsel. The president has since set up his second term campaign office.
Obasanjo remained controversial with his utterances and press statements throughout 2018.
9. Adams Oshiomhole
The national chairman of the APC still hasn’t been forgiven by a couple of governors for the party primaries he oversaw.
Oshiomhole was accused of receiving bribe money to swing the votes the way of the highest bidders. He has denied the charges.
Oshiomhole was quizzed by the DSS and allegedly left Nigeria to escape the heat after he was grilled.
In 2018, Oshiomhole got under the skins of politicians on the APC and PDP side of the divide, thanks to an acerbic tongue and roughshod persona.
10. Ademola Adeleke
Senator Ademola Adeleke contested the Osun governorship election in September on the back of allegations that he possessed no secondary school examination certificate and that hehad hired someone to sit for the exam for him.
Adeleke was also accused of falsifying his age.
Even though he lost the election, Adeleke is contesting the result in court, one “Gbagam evidence” at a time.
In 2018, the dancing senator with moves so sleek, entertained, mystified and kept us glued to our nation’s politics. He narrowly lost the election in his home state and believes his mandate was stolen.
He’s gone quiet in the last couple of weeks, but expect to see more of and hear from Adeleke in 2019 as the courts decide if he was robbed in September or not.
11. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, thugs invaded the senate chamber, got hold of the mace and made away with parliament's symbol of authority.
And then the whispers became a deafening roar moments after the invasion. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) who had been suspended by the senate for 90 legislative days, was blamed for it all.He would deny any kind of involvement in the mace theft drama, however.
Throughout 2018, Omo-Agege remained controversial and combative.