This Day Editorial 2007: a Transition Year And Its Controversies

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THIS DAY EDITORIAL

2007 – a Transition Year And Its Controversies

This Day (Lagos)

NEWS
30 December 2007
Posted to the web 31 December 2007
Lagos

The year 2007 finally comes to an end today. Politically, the year was very eventful for Nigeria . It witnessed, for instance, the first ever successful transition from one democratically elected civilian administration to another in the annals of Nigeria . Beside that, there were other epochal developments in the year as reported here by Ademola Adeyemo

Perhaps more than any other year, the year 2007 witnessed several landmark political events in Nigeria which make the year very important to the socio-political development of the country . During the year, for the first time, a democratically elected government completed its two term maximum tenure of a combined eight years.

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Again, an outgoing civilian government handed over to another democratically elected government peacefully,V thus successfully holding its third consecutive national elections and further consolidating the transition from military to democratic rule that began in 1999.

Not withstanding the flaws which characterised the transition election in 2007, the year marked the first time in Nigeria ‘s history that power passes peacefully from one civilian government to another.

Political Parties

The year 2007 witnessed the opening of the gate for a large number of political parties to flood the political arena to contest for the various positions. Until this year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was charged with the responsibility of regulating the number of parties through a registration process.

However reprieve came the way of some smaller parties that otherwise may not have got approval to contest when a court of law ruled against INEC that the commission has no business in registering parties. Thus INEC before the election announced that over 50 political parties had satisfied the minimum criteria to participate in the April general election.

Intrigues and Power Play

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which prides itself as the largest political party in Africa witnessed more political intrigues and power play and schemings than any other party in the year 2007.

Following the intrigues, a prominent member of the party and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar whose interest to contest the presidential election was stiffly resisted by his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was successfully elbowed out from the party. Many other top members of the party suffered similar fate as Atiku who crossed over to the opposition Action Congress (AC) to contest.

The year also witnessed a bizarre political arrangement at the highest level of government where for the first time the sitting president and his deputy campaigned and promoted rival political parties.

The feud which somehow destabilised the ruling party saw many chieftains out of it before the election. In addition to the disqualification, suspension or expulsion of many candidates who had earlier won the primaries due to political vendetta.

The Supreme Court later ruled that INEC lacked power to disqualify any candidate whose name was submitted to the commission by his political party. The landmark ruling which came barely six days to the presidential election of April 21, restored the candidature of the former Vice President who had earlier been disqualified by INEC from contesting election under the AC.

Elections and Handover

The high points of the 2007 political events were the successful albeit controversial conduct of the April general elections and the handover to the newly elected civilian government.

On April 14 and 21 INEC conducted the Governorship/House of Assembly elections and National Assembly/Presidential elections respectively. On 23rd of April 2007, INEC Chairman Professor Maurice Iwu announced the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua as the winner of the April 21st presidential election.

Handover

On May 29th former president Obasanjo handed over power to president Yar’Adua. The event took place at the Eagle Square , Abuja . Similarly, there were handover in the 36 states of the federation. The fifth sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives also took off respectively in the first week of June.

Election Petitions/ Judgements

After hardly settling down, the four year tenure of Dr. Andy Uba who was declared the winner of the April 14 governorship election in Anambra state was brought to an abrupt end by the order of the Supreme Court which on June 14. The court nullified Uba’s election and returned Mr. Peter Obi to power.

According to the apex court, Obi’s four year tenure which started on March 26,2006 the day he was sworn in has not expired. The court affirmed that Obi’s tenure will end in 2010 and berated INEC for prematurely conducting governorship election in Anambra State when the incumbent’s tenure had not expired.

There was another casualty on October 10, 2007 as the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris had his victory nullified by the state elections petition tribunal which ordered for a fresh election in the state. According to the tribunal headed by Justice Ibrahim Bako, INEC erred as it has no power to exclude the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Prince Abubakar Audu from contesting the governorship election in the state.

Another landmark political event of the year was the emergence of Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of River State. He replaced Celestine Omehia who was removed again by an order of the Supreme Court. Amaechi who was illegally dropped as the candidate of PDP in the April 14, governorship election was declared by the court as the rightful candidate of the party. Thus Amaechi made history as the first person to become governor without contesting the April 14 , governorship election in Rivers State .

Electoral Reform Panel

Worried by the spate of criticisms that attended the conduct of the 2007 general elections and the attendant credibility burden on his government, President Umaru Yar’Adua on August 28th, inaugurated a 22-man Electoral Reform panel led by a former Chief justice of the federation, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais. The panel was charged with the mandate to within 12 months make general and specific recommendations which may include constitutional and legislative provisions to reform the nation’s electoral laws which will guide against the type of flaws that characterised the 2007 general elections and also give future elections credilbiity.

Corruption Trials

In 2007, some serving governors were charged to court for various allegations of corrupt practices thus setting the stage for the government to demonstrate its preparedness not only to bark but also to bite in its efforts at eradicating corrupt practices in the country. Former governors DSP Alamieyeseigha, Joshua Dariye, Orji Kalu, Saminu Turaki, Jolly Nyame, Chimaroke Nnamani, James Ibori and Ayo Fayose were docked for corruption and abuse of office.

Ettehgate

Another political event that rocked the year 2007 was the issue of the N628million renovation contract scandal that broke out in the house of representatives. The scandal which threw the house into confusion for weeks saw Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh the first female speaker of the house of representatives losing her position. She was forced to resign along with her deputy Hon. Babangida Ngoroje over their indictment by the Idoko panel report which probed the contract scandal. Etteh after weeks of political manouvering which claimed the life of a house member, Hon.Aminu Safana representing Katsina state, threw in the towel. She submitted her letter of resignation, Hon Dimeji Bankole from Ogun state was subsequently elected as the new speaker.

Travails of Adedibu

Controversial and hardline politician, Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu hitherto regarded as an untouchable cow reached a dead end in November 2007 when he was arrested on the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Mike

Okiro who subsequently arraigned the strong man of Ibadan politics in an Abuja Magistrate court. Adedibu got more than what he bargained for when the “garrison commander” was given a one year bondage by the Abuja Magistrate court to drop his weapon of political thuggery and be of good behaviour.

Before the seeming sun set for the 82-year old master of political intrigues, he was a dreaded lord in Ibadan his home base. His profile rose during the tenure of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo who protected him from the reach of the arms of law.

Deaths

Two prominent politicians who died the tail of 2007 were the chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Chief Sunday Awoniyi and a member of the Board of Trustees of PDP, Professor Emmanuel Osamor.

 

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