2021 in review: Five events that defined Nigeria’s politics
The outgoing year 2021, being the median between the 2019 general elections and the next round of nationwide polls in 2023 was full of activities that almost left the political atmosphere charged.
The defections, leadership imbroiglo in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that led to the party’s National Convention, APC’s internal wrangling, Anambra governorship election and Electoral Act Amendment Bill, stood out of the many events that shaped Nigerian politics in 2021.
There were gales of defections in 2021 in a manner that is most common on the eve of the year of a general election. The defections were mostly from opposition parties to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
Notable amongst them were the defections of two sitting PDP Governors; Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara States to the APC. While Ayade was first elected on the platform of PDP in 2015 and re-elected on the party’s ticket in 2019, Matawalle became Governor after the Supreme Court ordered that candidate of the party (PDP) that came second in the Zamfara State Governorship election of 2019 be declared winner as the APC which was intially returned did not conduct valid primaries.
Apart from the two governors, defection became a stock in trade for lawmakers, especially at the National Assembly where a month hardly passed without one or two members of the apex legislature cross- carpeting to another party. Some of the defectors whose defections were announced on the floor of both Chambers of National Assembly include: Idagbo Ochiglegoor and Michael Etaba from Cross River state who dumped PDP for APC; Jonathan Gaza from Nasarawa State (PDP to APC); Bello Shinkafi, Ahmed Bakura, Ahmed Shehu and Suleiman Gumi from Zamfara that moved from PDP to APC.
Others are Chisom Dike from Rivers State who defected from PDP to APC; Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North Senator) Lawali Anka (Zamfara West Senator and Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North, Senator), all from PDP to APC; Jimoh Aremu from Ogun State that defected from the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to APC while Senator representing Anambra North, Stella Oduah also announced her defection from PDP to APC.
Similarly, APC received into its folds 11 lawmakers from Anambra State who defected from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and PDP, comprising five serving and four former House of Representatives members, and two Anambra House of Assembly members while the former governorship candidate of APGA in Anambra State, Chukwuma Umeoji who was replaced by the Governor-elect, Charles Soludu also joined APC.
Also, prominent PDP Chieftains like the former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel who was the Chairman of the party’s Presidential campaign in the 2019 general elections joined the APC in the early part of 2021 and was later joined by his Yoruba kinsman, Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, an ardent critic of the APC administration who hitherto preferred death to what he termed ‘Almajiri party’.
On the other hand, PDP too, shared in the joy of defection when the Lagos4Lagos Movement, a faction of APC in Lagos State where the party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu calls the shots formally joined its folds just as a third term House of Representatives member from Benue State, John Dyegh dumped APC for PDP.
PDP leadership crisis and National Convention
The main opposition party was in the course of the year rocked with a leadership crisis that culminated into the suspension of the then National Chairman, Uche Secondus. He was suspended by the executive of his Ward 5 of Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State. Secondus ordeal was reportedly caused by his face-off with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
There was a suit filed against him by some members of the PDP at a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt which granted an order of interim injunction stopping him from parading himself as the National Chairman of the main opposition party. Secondus attempted a fightback as another High Court in Kebbi reinstated him. However, his victory was short-lived as another High Court sitting in Cross River granted an interim order banning him from resuming office hours after his reinstatement.
PDP later appointed Yemi Akinwonmi as its acting National Chairman. The party went ahead and organised a National Convention in which a former President of the Senate, Iyorchia Ayu was elected National Chairman with other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP. Ayu who was a consensus candidate before the election took place has since assumed office with his NWC members.
APC internal wrangling
APC too had its fair share of crisis bothering on leadership like the PDP. There were series of calls and even protests against the Mai-Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) which according to discordant tunes in the party had overstayed its welcome. The various opposing groups demanded nothing less than the organisation of a National Convention to elect substantive National Officers of the party or resignation of the Committee.
Poignantly, a group known as Progressive Youth Movement (PYM), had in early December announced the sacking of the Buni-led Committee and named a new National Caretaker Committee chaired by Mustapha Audu, son of former Kogi State Governor, Abubakar Audu. The Audu group fixed February 26, 2022, for the National Convention of the party and zoned the next National Chairmanship position of the APC to the North and Secretary to the South as well as other offices.
Anambra governorship election
The Anambra governorship election was held on November 6 and INEC declared Charles Soludo, candidate of the APGA as the winner of the race, having scored 112,229 votes to defeat his two major rivals; Valentine Ozigbo of the PDP who got 53,807 votes, and Andy Uba of the APC who garnered 43,285 votes. The election was marred by irregularities and other hitches particularly due to the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint authentication during accreditation and where it fails for facial authentication.
The build-up to the Anambra governorship election was thorny as a result of insecurity exacerbated by the threats and sit-at-home order by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB). Though IPOB allowed peace to reign during the election, there was a low turnout for the polls. There were also pre-election issues as a result of acrimonious or parallel party primaries by the three main parties in the election – APGA, PDP and APC that almost put INEC at crossroads ahead of the exercise. For instance, the Victor Oye-led APGA had nominated Soludo as its governorship candidate while the Jude Okeke-led faction fielded Umeoji as its candidate. After different court injunctions, INEC settled for the former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor.
Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The passage by the National Assembly and the decline of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by President Muhamadu Buhari was another major event in Nigeria’s political environment in 2021. First, it was the controversial section 52 of the Bill which pundits, including lawmakers, believed left the electronic transmission of election results at the mercy of INEC which can decide when and where to transmit votes electronically or manually. Section 52 (2) of the Bill provides that: “The Commission (INEC) may adopt electronic voting or any other method of voting in any election it conducts as it may deem fit.”
There was a barrage of calls from Civil Societies, political parties, analysts and other critical stakeholders on the National Assembly to make clear provision for electronic transmission of election results and voting especially as INEC said it had the capacity to do so, contrary to the fear of the parliament concerning network coverage.
The National Assembly too harkened to the voice of reason and at the Conference (harmonisation) Committee of both the House of Representatives and Senate and amended the controversial section 52 to become: “voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting”.
While Nigerians applauded their elected representatives for listening to their yearnings for credible elections via electronic transmission of results and voting, the parliamentarians inserted a fresh provision for mandatory direct primaries for the nomination of candidates by political parties in the harmonised Bill sent to President Muhamadu Buhari for assent on November 19.
Direct primaries allow registered members of a party to vote for those who they want to be the candidate of their party in the elections, whereas, under indirect primaries delegates who will be the parties’ candidates for elections.
However, direct primaries rather became a poisoned chalice for the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as President Buhari based his withholding of assent to the piece of legislation on the provision.
Buhari had in a letter to the National Assembly, conveying his withholding of assent to the Bill said: “amendment of the present Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 to delete the provision for the conduct of indirect primaries in the nomination of party candidates such that party candidates can henceforth only emerge through direct primaries”.
APC convention, Ekiti/Osun guber, party primaries to define 2022
As expected, the year 2022 which is just a few days away from now is going to be flooded with political events, hence it is the eve of the 2023 general election. Some of the obvious political engagements include:
APC National Convention
Though with no specific date, the National Convention of the ruling APC is slated for February 2022. The latest information about the convention was the disclosure by APC CECPC Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe last week that the leadership resolved to set up sub-committees on budgeting and other relevant structures for the exercise.
The convention is going to be a defining moment for the party and the country political calculus as the zoning of the position of National Chairmanship position would signal where the Presidential ticket may be zoned to as it has been a practice in which both do not come from the same region. At the moment, the National Chairmanship has not been conceded to any geo-political zone but most of the contenders to it are from the North.
Some of the many aspirants that have indicated an interest in the contest for the APC plum job include; former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Saliu Mustapha, former governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Almakura, former governor of Borno State, Alimodu Sheriff and Senator representing Niger East District, Mohammed Sani-Musa.
Others are: former governors of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, Borno State, Kashim Shettima, Gombe State, Danjuma Goje,
Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, George Akume, Sunny Moniedafe and Mohammed Saidu-Etsu.
There are strong indications that the party would be plunged into crisis in the build up to the National Convention as the CECPC and other organs of APC continued to keep the date for the exercise close to their chest, giving room for speculations, if not suspicion.
For instance, a group known as Progressive Mandate Movement (PMM) which claimed to be foundational to APC threatened to launch a campaign #OCCUPYAPCNATIONALSECRETARIAT to force the party leaders to do the right thing if details of the convention is not made public before January 5.
The group also challenged Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) to ensure that the party’s national convention does not fail to hold by the 5th of February, 2022.
PMM further demanded immediate release of processes leading to the national convention, adding that if nothing is done by January 5th 2022, the National Secretariat will be made ungovernable for the CECPC.
Ekiti and Osun governorship elections
The timetable and schedule of activities for the Ekiti Governorship election held on 18th June 2022 and the Osun Governorship election scheduled for 16th July 2022 had been released by INEC since June. The primary election for Ekiti is to hold between January 4 and January 29, 2022, while that of Osun begins on 16th February 2022 and ends on 12th March 2022. Political parties, particularly the APC are currently selling expression of interest and nomination forms to aspirants for their governorship tickets.
In the same vein, INEC will be conducting Area Council Elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) scheduled for February 12, 2022. The Commission will also in year hold eight bye-elections involving three Federal Constituencies (Jos North/Bassa in Plateau State, Akure North/Akure South in Ondo State and Ogoja/Yala in Cross River State) and five State constituencies (Shinkafi in Zamfara State, Ekiti East I in Ekiti State, Akpabuyo in Cross River State, Pankshin South in Plateau State and Giwa West in Kaduna State).
The 18 political parties recognised by INEC are expected to conduct primaries for the nomination of candidates for positions of President, 469 National Assembly seats, 29 governorship slots and 991 State Houses of the seats across the federation in 2022. Aspirants for these positions are already engaging in consultations and even campaigns with their posters in the various constituencies and in case of the Presidency, the entire country.
There is particularly an upsurge in the number of politicians aspiring to the highest office in the land, Presidency even as there are agitations for power shift from the Northern to Southern region of the country. According to BusinessDay report, “over thirty prominent politicians have either directly or indirectly indicated interest to seek their parties’ tickets to run for the presidency.”