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Political landmarks of 2017

The first major political event occurred on January 19 with President Muhammadu Buhari proceeding on “medical vacation” in London.

He sent a letter to the National Assembly to that effect and he later asked for extension on February 5. Again, he asked parliament to extend his medical leave until he returned home on March 10, but failed to resume work immediately.

His health caused major concern and the Nigeria House in London became a Mecca of sorts, with several politicians visiting him to ascertain his health condition.

Trump sworn in

In far away United States of America on January 20, 70-year-old businessman, Donald Trump, was sworn in as the 45th President of the strongest political power in the world. Trump, candidate of the Republican Party, had defeated the much favoured and experienced politician, Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton who though won the popular votes, lost at the Electoral College.

Trump has since earned for himself the description, “Unprecedented President,” twitting at the seam and taking unpopular position on global issues. First was his stance on immigration, via executive orders, identifying seven countries as “high risk,” his plan to build a fence on the US-Mexican border to prevent Mexican immigrants, global warming and of late his controversial recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

In the last three months, he has been up in arms with North Korea over the latter’s launching of nuclear weapons. But the greatest threat to his administration is the resignation of a number of prominent cabinet members, including Acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates, National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, Health Secretary Tom Price and Federal Bureau Investigations Director James Comey


Akeredolu sworn in Ondo
In Nigeria, on February 24, the swearing-in of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu and Mr. Agboola Ajayi of the All Progressives Congress, as the governor and deputy governor of Ondo State respectively, was one of the first major events in the local political arena. Akeredolu, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, was elected in the November 26, 2016 governorship election in the state. Both of them were sworn in by the Acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Temitayo Osoba, at the Akure Township Stadium, amid tight security.

In his inaugural speech, Akeredolu said he was ready to transform the state and called on residents to join hands with him to achieve the goal. Dignitaries at the event include Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yusuf Lasun; National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; a national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Chief Bisi Akande.


Buhari travels to London again
On May 7, President Muhammadu Buhari again travelled for fresh treatment in London for an undisclosed illness. His health had been a major cause of concern in a country where there were fears that a power vacuum could affect its recovery from recession.

In a brief message, the President, then 74, said “there is no cause for worry, ” even as he sent a letter to the National Assembly that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would be in charge, just as he did when Buhari left for London in January for seven weeks.

While he was away, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose boasted that he was in possession of photographs to the effect that the President was on life support machine, alleging that the APC was economical with the truth about his health. The statement, however, drew national outrage. On July 11, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo travelled to the British capital to meet the President, returning to say his boss’ health had improved significantly.


Senate rejects Magu
For the third time in three months, on May 15, the Senate rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, after the Department of State Service (DSS), reaffirmed its position that the nominee lacks integrity to lead the country’s anti-corruption agency.

Magu was rejected after appearance before the Senate for his confirmation hearing during which Dino Melaye raised the DSS report dated March 14.

“In the light of the foregoing, Magu has failed the integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption stand of the current government,” the DSS report, read by Senator Dino Melaye, stated. Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, was uncomfortable with the position of the Senate, stating that Magu could continue in acting capacity, without the upper chamber’s confirmation.

Appeal Court backs Sheriff
After a macabre dance and roller coastal with six High Court rulings, the leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got to another level with a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt declaring that the Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi is illegal and cannot act on behalf of the PDP.

The Port Harcourt division of the appeal court has ruled that Ali Modu Sheriff is the legitimate PDP Chairman.

Later, Justice Mohammed Liman, of the Federal High Court, Rivers State, sacked Sheriff as chairman of the PDP, while the Abuja division of the court, presided over by Okon Abang had declared Ahmed Makarfi’s caretaker committee as illegal. Owing to the conflicting judgments by the lower courts, both parties went to appeal to seek redress.


Supreme Court reinstates Makarfi
On July 11, the matter came to a head as The Supreme Court removed Ali Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party. A five-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in its judgment reinstated Ahmed Makarfi, earlier sacked by the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, as the National Caretaker Committee.

Reading the lead judgment of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, held that contrary to the majority judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, the suit filed by Makarfi faction before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt was not an abuse of court. The apex court also held that the National Convention of the PDP held on May 21, 2016, rightly and constitutionally removed Sheriff.


PDP holds non-elective convention
On August Friday 11 and Saturday 12, the Peoples Democratic Party held its 75th National Executive Council meeting and special non-elective National convention. While the NEC meeting held at the party’s Zonal Secretariat, Plot 1970 Michael Okpara Street, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, its non-elective national convention at Eagle Square, Central Business District, and extended the tenure of the Caretaker committee and fixed date for its National Convention.

Buhari returns after 103 days
August 19, President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria after receiving medical attention in London for 103 days. He had left the country on May 7 after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who functioned as Acting President during that period.

His long stay had sparked many demonstrations, for and against in some parts of the country, including the “Resume or Resign” campaigning, by the group “Our Mumu Don Do” and another group led by some youths who spoke in favour of the President.

His aircraft touched ground at the Kaduna Airport in the early hours and he was received by top government functionaries, before he flew to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in a helicopter.

Special Adviser to the President has released a short video saying the who-is-who in the country were there to receive him.


Kanu granted bail
After about a year in detention during trial for treason, on August 24, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was granted bail by Justice Binta Nyako.

Justice Nyako ordered that Kanu be allowed to attend to his ailing health condition, but must produce three sureties each of whom must deposit the sum of N100 million. He was also to meet stringent bail conditions including not to be found among groups of more than 10 persons. Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe was among the three sureties while Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, was among those who attended the sitting.


Court proscribes IPOB
After soldiers stormed the Afara Ukwu, Umuahia country home of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, allegedly killing 22 of his members and arresting 18 others on September 19, the whereabouts of Kanu became unknown.

On September 20, a Federal High Court in Abuja gave a judicial backing to the executive order of President Buhari, outlawing IPOB and its activities. The Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, granted the order proscribing the group, declaring that the activities of IPOB in Nigeria, particularly in the South-East or South-South regions, henceforth, constituted “an act of terrorism.”

INEC begins Melaye’s recall process
The frosty relationship between the embattled Senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Dino Melaye, and Governor Yahaya Bello reached a feverish pitch as officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the recall process of the senator. That was on September 26.

This was sequel to the gatherings of thousands of signatures in Melaye’s constituency in Kogi State. The INEC officials, during their visit to Melaye’s office, dropped the recall notice at his senator’s doorsteps, because he was not in the office which was under locks. Melaye however, challenged the process in court, even as the Senate frowned at the process, declaring it unconstitutional.


Obiano re-elected
On November 18, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Chief Willie Obiano, was re-elected governor of the state. Obiano won in all the 21 local government areas of the state with a total of 234,071 votes.

He defeated with a wide margin the APC candidate, Tony Nwoye, who polled a total of 98,752 votes and that of the PDP, Oseloka Obaze who came a distant third scoring 70,293.


Ekwueme dies
On Sunday, November 19, HRH (Prof) Laz Ekweme, the traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra State, announced the death of his older brother, former President Dr. Alex Ekweme who passed away at age 85.

The elder statesman, lawyer and architect who could well be described as an enigma in the political arena, rose to the level of being a Vice President of the country, and died, but without fulfilling his deathbed wishes – that PDP should go into the just concluded governorship election in Anambra State as a single and divided unit, and win in order bounce back in his lifetime.

In the election, his daughter, Chidi, a seasoned lawyer was chosen as running mate to the PDP candidate, Mr. Oseloka Obaze. He will be remembering for his pan-Nigerian vision and consistency in the PDP and most importantly as an elder statesman who served as Vice President from 1979 to December 1983.


Atiku leaves APC
On November 3, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku, who was silent on his next political move, said he took the decision after consulting “God, his family members and supporters”.

He lamented over the situation of things in the ruling party, recalling how the founding fathers of the APC reached out to him to join the party. The former number two citizen took a swipe at the government of President Buhari, saying APC is a dying party.

This was followed by the visit of the North-East PD leaders to Atiku Abubakar, who resigned from All Progressive Congress (APP) on November 24. This was said to be a basis for his next action.

…Defects to PDP
On December 3, Atiku Abubakar formally joined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, more than a week after he dumped the ruling All Progressives Congress. Atiku, who made the announcement on Facebook, said the complaints he had with the PDP, under where he was Vice-President from 1999-2007, had been resolved, laying the groundwork for his return.

His defection caused no little stir in the political arena as even President Buhari told APC Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun to accept his sympathies. It is expected that his defection will lead to the depletion of notable leaders from in the APC.
It is instructive that Atiku has history of defections from one party to another; hence, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State said that the defection of Abubakar to the Peoples Democratic Party meant that he (Atiku) has “answered his popular name.”

While that is still expected, Adamawa State governor, Jubrila Bindow said he would not follow the former VP to PDP. Also, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Babajimi Benson, said he did not foresee exodus of members of the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Abubakar defection was not unconnected with his desire to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the PDP, where he thinks his chances are brighter. But his intention may have tipped the apple cart as other prominent party leaders who have strong interest in the position feel their hope is dim by his defection.

PDP governors are said to have split over the expected his defection to the party and his bid for the presidential ticket. Some of the governors and party leaders prefer National Caretaker Committee Chairman Ahmed Makarfi, former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido and one-time Governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau.

There were indications that some of the governors might oppose former President Goodluck Jonathan’s plan to back Atiku as the party’s presidential candidate. They claim not to have been consulted by Jonathan.


Secondus is PDP’s chairman
The PDP governors-backed Uche Secondus emerged the new National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) following an overwhelming defeat of two other opponents at the Eagle Square venue of the party’s convention on Saturday, December 9.

The former Deputy National Chairman of the party garnered 2000 votes, with a former Minister of Education, Prof. Adeniran coming a distant second with 230, while media mogul Raymond Dokpesi brought up the rear, with a miserly 66 votes.

Secondus was declared the new chairman with an overwhelming defeat of Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Chief Raymond Dokpesi. But his victory was not without some hard feelings as the South-West where the office was earlier zoned felt led down. This angered party chieftains like Chief and former PDP Chairman, South, Bode George.


Saraki has case to answer
On December 12, a three-man Court of Appeal panel led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson upheld counts 4, 5, and 6 challenging the acquittal of Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki and has ordered him to return to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to face trial on the three counts bordering on corruption and failure to disclose assets.

The Abuja court noted that the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case against Senator Saraki, saying that the property he claimed to have bought from the proceeds of rice and sugar sales was purchased using loan facilities from commercial banks.

Justice Akomolafe-Wilson, in the 70-page unanimous judgment, struck out 15 of the 18 charges brought by the government against the ruling of the tribunal on the grounds that they were incompetent.

Weah wins
The icing on the cake was the emergence of former World Footballer of the Year, former European Footballer of the Year and African Footballer of Year, Senator George Weah as the 75th president of Liberia.

Weah, 51, candidate of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change, (CDC), who was elected into the Senate in 2014, defeated 71 years old Vice President Joseph Boakai, and the candidate of the ruling Unity Party, with a total of 720,023 votes. Weah scored 268,935 more votes than the incumbent vice president of the country, winning 61.5 per cent of the total votes cast.



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