The year 2021 was a dramatic year in Nigeria’s modern political history. With the 2023 general elections drawing closer, a lot of tension was witnessed in the nation’s polity despite the disruption caused by the deadly Coronavirus.
In the last 12 months, the country’s political sphere witnessed its usual twists and turns, leading to defections, appointments, dismissals, death of key political figures, political ‘moves’ and engagements ahead of the 2023 general elections and more.
Below are 10 major events that buzzed the Nigerian political space as reported by Ripples Nigeria.
1. Buhari declines assent to electoral act amendment bill
President Muhammadu Buhari in December declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill citing the direct primaries provisions as a reason.
The development was disclosed in a letter sent to the National Assembly, which was read during plenary at the upper and lower chambers.
The Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who read out the content of the document to the lawmakers at the Senate, said the president explained that direct primaries were expensive and would put a financial burden on the country’s resources.
He further noted that conducting direct primary elections would be tasking, since such mode of election means a large turnout of voters, a move that would also stretch the security agencies.
2. Buhari signs PIB into law
Another major event in Nigeria’s political sphere in 2021 was the signing of the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 16, 2021.
The passage of the PIB had been a nightmare for successive administrations since the need for the bill was first suggested during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Buhari had in 2018, refused assent to the bill after the National Assembly passed a harmonised version of the bill tagged the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) citing “legal and constitutional reasons”.
The PIB contains five chapters, including governance and institutions, administration, host communities development, petroleum industry fiscal framework and miscellaneous provisions in 319 clauses and 8 schedules.
The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) provides a legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the development of host communities, and related matters.
The Senate had passed the bill on July 15, 2021, while the house of representatives did the same on July 16, thus ending a long wait since the early 2000s.
On July 1, the Senate and the house of representatives had recommended 3% and 5% per cent respectively to host communities.
This, however, generated reactions from stakeholders in the oil industry and leaders in the Niger-Delta region.
Several stakeholders including Seriake Dickson, the senator representing Bayelsa west; Douye Diri, Governor of Bayelsa State; Edwin Clark, an Ijaw national leader, had argued that three per cent was unacceptable.
At the public hearing on the bill, representatives of the host communities had demanded that they be allocated 10 per cent because three per cent was not enough to improve the standard of living of their people.
3. Indictment of Nigerian politicians in Pandora Papers
In October, some Nigerian politicians were indicted in a global tax evasion scandal and investigative reporting carried out by more than 600 journalists in 117 countries.
The investigation called ‘Pandora Papers’ revealed how powerful Nigerians set up businesses in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, as well as in countries like Switzerland and Singapore.
Mentioned in the investigations were the former Governor of Anambra State, and the 2019 Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Partry (PDP), Peter Obi, and the incumbent Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola.
The duo was accused of setting up secret companies abroad while failing to declare them as part of their assets.
They, however, denied any wrongdoing. The investigation also claimed that a mansion at 32 Grove End Road in London, where Bola Tinubu was housed while recovering from his knee surgery, was allegedly acquired with proceeds of corruption and money laundering.
Other Nigerians mentioned in the series of investigations were the presiding Pastor of Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo and his offshore company, Senator Stella Oduah and the properties she allegedly bought for N5 billion in London, and over 130 other Nigerians who acquired 233 properties in the UK via offshore companies.
4. Soludo wins Anambra election
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Professor Chukwuma Soludo was in November declared the winner of the governorship election in the state.
The development was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Soludo had in an early lead won Awka North, Nnewi South, Idemili, Ekwusigo, Agwuata, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Njikoka, and nine other local government areas.
His closest challenger, Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Young Progressives Party (YPP) candidate, Ifeanyi Ubah, won one LGA each.
Ozigbo won in Ogbaru while Ubah was declared winner of the election in Nnewi North.
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, Senator Andy Uba, had vowed to go to court over the election results.
Following this, APGA said Uba’s intention to challenge the declaration of Soludo as the winner of the election showed disrespect to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had congratulated Soludo as the winner of the polls.
Meanwhile, the election came after several sit-at-home orders issued by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
5. Federal govt extradites IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to Nigeria
The Nigerian government in June 2021, announced the arrest and extradition of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to Nigeria.
The development, which was disclosed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), caused an uproar amongst the masses over the procedure via which Kanu was extradited.
Although the government refused to disclose where Kanu was arrested and how he was brought back to Nigeria, Malami said he was arrested through a collaborative effort between security agencies in Nigeria and Interpol.
However, the family and associates of the detained IPOB leader had claimed that he was abducted from Kenya against his rights as a citizen of the United Kingdom and against international practices.
Kanu’s arrest and extradition also heightened the tension and unrest in the South-East as people of the region, countless times observed sit-at-home orders imposed by IPOB.
Read also: 2021 IN REVIEW: Calls for Nigeria’s breakup, Buhari’s stubbornness and other crises
Following unpleasant happenings in the region, many prominent Nigerians especially South-East leaders also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to release the IPOB leader and to embrace dialogue in matters relating to Kanu.
Meanwhile, Kanu has been taken before the Federal High Court in Abuja for the continuation of his trial on charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and management of an unlawful society, allegations which he has continued to deny.
6. Buhari sacks non-performing service chiefs, nominates them as ambassadors
In January 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari after months of pressure from Nigerians sacked the country’s service chiefs with immediate effect over the spate of insecurity.
Those sacked were the Defense Chief Abayomi Olonisakin, Army Chief Tukur Buratai, Navy Chief Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Air Chief Sadique Abubakar.
Following their sack, Maj Gen Lucky Irabor was appointed to replace Olonisakin in Defense, Maj Gen Ibrahim Attahiru replaced Buratai in the Army, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo replaced Ekwe Ibas in Navy, while Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao replaced Abubakar in the Air Force.
However, the development which was lauded by the masses after years of unfruitful offensives against the insurgents in the northern part of the country, took a dramatic turn, as Buhari in February, nine days after their replacement, nominated them as ambassadors.
Their nomination, which was later confirmed by the National Assembly raised concerns among the citizenry as many critics decried the development, saying the former service chiefs performed low in the state of security in the country.
Meanwhile, even with the criticisms, Buhari maintained that the service chiefs had “overwhelming achievements” in efforts to bring enduring peace to the country.
7. Senate intervenes, as Plateau Assembly shut down, speaker impeached
The crisis that happened in the Plateau State House of Assembly, where the speaker of the house, Abok Ayuba was impeached by about eight lawmakers was one of the spectacular events that happened in the country’s political space in the year under review.
The situation got so bad and embarrassing to the point that the National Assembly had to intervene in the matter after the state assembly was put under lock and key.
The matter generated reactions from concerned stakeholders across the country as many referred to the incident as a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Until the intervention of the National Assembly, the impeached Speaker and the newly elected Speaker, Yakubu Sanda, were laying claims to the leadership of the legislative arm of government.
Sanda had taken a swipe at Ayuba for what he termed an attempt at impersonation saying after congratulating him (Sanda) as the new Speaker, he (Abok) continues to parade himself as the Speaker.
However, intervening in the political crisis, the Senate condemned the impeachment of Ayuba in very strong terms, asking the State House of Assembly to respect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and be guided by the Rule of Law and the Constitution in all legislative businesses particularly where and when it affects appointment and impeachment of a presiding officer.
8. PDP holds national convention, elects 21 new officials
Another spectacular event of the year was the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The convention which was held in October was enveloped with uncertainty, as the suspended National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, made efforts to stop it.
This was before a Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt dismissed the suit filed by Secondus challenging his suspension and seeking to stop the event
However, after the Appeal Court judgement, Secondus headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling, saying impunity had driven the party to the precipice and threatened its internal democracy and unity, and must be resisted at all costs.
The three-man appeal panel had ruled that Secondus lacked the power to stop the party’s scheduled convention, pointing out that the national leadership of the party was not an exclusive preserve of the appellant (Secondus).
Also, the court said Secondus failed to challenge his suspension as a member of the party from his Ward 5 in Ikuru town, Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, a decision it said was affirmed by the State High Court in August 2021.
Meanwhile, about 21 positions in the (NWC) of the party were contested by at least 27 candidates at the convention.
Ripples Nigeria had reported the full list of those cleared by the screening committee chaired by the former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to contest for the positions.
At the convention, the party stakeholders elected a new set of members from various parts of the country into its National Working Committee (NWC) to take over the leadership of the party.
See the full list of the newly-elected national officials of the main opposition party below
National Chairman – Iyorchia Ayu
Deputy National Chairman (North) – Umar Damagum (Contested)
Deputy National Chairman (South) – Taofeek Arapaja (Contested)
National Secretary – Samuel Anyanwu (Unopposed)
National Treasurer – Ahmed Mohammed (Unopposed)
National Organising Secretary – Umar Bature (Unopposed)
National Financial Secretary – Daniel Woyegikuro (Unopposed)
National Women’s Leader – Professor Stella Effah-Attoe (Unopposed)
National Youth Leader – Muhammed Suleiman (Contested)
National Legal Adviser – Kamaldeen Ajibade (Unopposed)
National Publicity Secretary – Debo Ologunagba (Unopposed)
National Auditor – Okechuckwu Daniel (Unopposed)
Deputy National Secretary – Setoji Kosheodo (Unopposed)
Deputy National Treasurer – Ndubisi David (Unopposed)
Deputy National Publicity Secretary – Ibrahim Abdullahi (Unopposed)
Deputy National Organising Secretary – Ighoyota Amori (Unopposed)
Deputy National Financial Secretary – Adamu Kamale (Unopposed)
Deputy National Women’s Leader – Hajara Wanka (Unopposed)
Deputy National Youth Leader – Timothy Osadolor (Unopposed)
Deputy National Legal Adviser – Okechukwu Osuoha (Unopposed)
Deputy National Auditor – Abdulrahman Mohammed (Unopposed)
9. Confusion as IPOB’s sit-at-home order stalls economic activities in South-East
One of the spectacular events of the year 2021 was the numerous sit-at-home directives by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over the arrest and detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The IPOB had after the arrest and extradition of its leader, ordered an every Monday sit-at-home, to drive home its demand that Kanu be released unconditionally.
The order was obeyed by residents of the southeastern states who felt marginalised by the Nigerian government, and had continued to call for a session, which they believe would bring about a better life for the people of the region.
However, there was confusion when the proposed sit-at-home order was called off, contrary to an earlier statement by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, that its sit-at-home directive was sacrosanct.
Another statement by the IPOB leader’s younger brother, Kalunta Kanu, said the planned sit-at-home order had been suspended due to the National Examinations Council (NECO) examination for junior secondary schools.
However, the move was kicked against by the IPOB spokesperson who said that the IPOB’s leader’s brother does not speak for the group and that his statement should be ignored.
This brought a division in the group as members of the group, who were loyal to Powerful insisted on continuing with the sit-at-home directive. This continued to affect economic activities in the region.
But IPOBs Directorate of States (DOS), Chika Edoziem, in a later directive, suspended the every Monday sit-at-home action, saying it would only be observed whenever Kanu would be making an appearance in court and not every Monday as earlier directed.
Meanwhile, the Abia, Enugu, Anambra, and Imo State governments and police commands in the region had asked residents to ignore the order and go about their legitimate businesses, with the police promising to provide security, but the people of the region continued to observe the directive.
Also, in a later statement, the IPOB promised to deal with some miscreants in the South-East region, who were enforcing the already cancelled Monday sit-at-home order.
10. Battle between Okorocha and Uzodinma
The power tussle between the past governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha and the incumbent Hope Uzodinma continued in 2021 with more dramas unfolding.
The police in February arrested Okorocha for allegedly breaking into a property, sealed by the state government, belonging to his wife.
The arrest was confirmed by the state Police Command, noting that the former governor allegedly used thugs to break into the Royal Spring Palm Apartment sealed by the state government.
Those arrested alongside Okorocha were Lasbery Okoroafoanyanwu, former commissioner for transport, Ijeoma Igboanusu, his former Chief of Staff, Domestics Affairs and Steve Asimobi, his current aide at the National Assembly.
The ex-governor, who now represents Imo West at the Senate, allegedly led his supporters and security personnel to the estate and ordered the unsealing of the premises.
Following the incident, government officials also mobilised to the estate, leading to a free for all fight, while cars were damaged and many wounded.
Okorocha was later released from the police headquarters in Owerri, after a brief detention and asked to respond to a complaint filed against him by the Imo State Government.
Meanwhile, this comes after the South-East Governors’ Forum waded into the feud between the former governor, and his successor.
Ripples Nigeria reported that before Uzodinma became governor, the Ihedioha administration had set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into the acquisition of lands and conversion of government lands to personal property by the Okorocha administration.
Uzodinma maintained that the state government’s action was following a report of a judicial panel set up by the former Governor, Emeka Ihedioha before he left office.
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