By Mayowa Olumuyiwa
The year 2020 was no doubt a remarkable one in Nigeria’s political landscape. Not even the rampaging coronavirus could alter the topography. In this report, Mayowa Olumuyiwa takes an inventory of the major political stories that made headlines during the year
Here are some of the major stories:
The Covid-19 deaths of several key political figures:
Rose Okoji Oko, a senator representing the northern senatorial district of Cross River state on the platform of the PDP reportedly died of complications arising from Covid-19 at a UK medical facility. Recall that this incident sent some jitters within the rank and file of the national assembly, thereby resulting into a resolution passed that all members of the Senate should be compulsorily tested for covid-19 as part of control measures.
Abba Kyari, the former chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari died from complications arising from COVID-19 on Friday, April 17. Kyari’s death which occurred at the initial lockdown period was undoubtably one of the most unforgettable events that rocked the Presidency in 2020.
Dr. Wahab Adegbenro died of COVID-19 infection on Thursday, June 2 at the age of 65. Until his death, he was Ondo State’s Commissioner for Health. Recall that this unfortunate event happened in the heat of preparations towards the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for October 10.
Senator Adebayo Osinowo suspectedly died of covid-19 on Monday, June 15, at the age of 64 in an undisclosed hospital in Lagos.
Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, former governor of Oyo state also died on Thursday, June 25, after a serious battle with COVID-19. It is however worthy of mention that Ajimobi’s death sadly came after a week of false rumor which became widely circulated that he had earlier died.
The Battle for Edo Governorship Seat and the many Intrigues:
Edo State was expected to witness an intense momentum in its political firmament in 2020. This is not unconnected with the state governorship elections scheduled to hold in the month of September. Recall that incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki has been treading on a tough political road with his estranged Former Boss and predecessor, Adams Oshiomole, who at the time was the National Chairman of the APC.
Sources close to the duo revealed that their political differences remained a mystery to many who used to know them as close allies. While Obaseki sought for the ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC) which was the party that brought him to power while he had the support of Oshiomole, things however went south between the duo. The intrigues however began to play out when Obaseki, at the twilight of the APC primary, was denied the ticket to contest for the party’s primary. Upon his denial, Obaseki swiftly decamped to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to seek its governorship ticket.
The next drama was the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomole led APC national executives in a court ruling. This development brought the emergence of the Buni-led APC National Caretaker Committee. It was amidst this that the battle for the Edo seat of power became a clear contest between Pastor Ize-Iyamu, the adopted APC governorship candidate and incumbent, Governor Obaseki who became the flagbearer of the PDP. Recall that both candidate keenly contested the office in 2016 but under opposing parties, a feat that some political observers described as ‘unprecendented’ in the electoral history of Nigeria.
There were however certain levels of apprehension in terms of possible conflicts in some quarters within the state owing to a few pre-election clashes earlier witnessed. Summarily, the conduct of the election was surprisingly adjudged peaceful by monitoring observers and other stakeholders, after the incumbent won the election.
Ondo Governorship election and the emergence of a third force:
Until certain realities began to emerge in the build-up to the October 10 Ondo State election, it was taken for granted by most observers in the state that the contest was squarely between the incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC and whosoever candidate the People Democratic Party decides to field for the poll. Little did we realise that the tide was going to change afterall.
Recall that the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi fell out with his Boss, Governor Akeredolu on political ground. He consequently resigned from the APC on Sunday June 21, 2020 and decamped to the PDP on Monday June 22, 2020. This move, according to some political analysts in the state was occasioned by Ajayi’s innate interest to seek governorship ticket to enable him participate in the October 10 election. However, this effort was truncated when on July 22, the PDP held its primary election where Eyitayo Jegede, SAN emerged as the winner, making him the party’s flag bearer. Agboola however emerged second runner-up amidst other contestants numbering up to six.
The battle became fiercer for Agboola who opted for a second chance and last minute succour in order to achieve his intent in the guber race. He decamped again to Ex-Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s newly formed Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). He fortuitously got a chance to have him substituted for Rotimi Benjamin, the party’s flagbearer in the already conducted primary. This unexpected event marked the emergence of the third force party in the Ondo governorship election contest.
The election came amidst high expectations and some apparents fear being a three-horse fight, according to popular belief. The rest is history today.
#EndSARS Protest and the woes that followed:
For some Nigerians and the global community, year 2020 just could not have been complete without the buzz of #EndSARS, which not only become a slogan but will remain evergreen in the memories of many.
Observers trace the start of the protests to a video on October 3, that showed an unprovoked killing of a man by SARS officers in the town of Ughelli. After the video was shared across social media platforms, resulting in criticism of SARS officers, Nigerian government officials claimed that the video was fake and arrested the person who filmed it.
The government’s denials, particularly the arrest of the Nigerian citizen who had filmed the video, only served to further anger the public. In a largely youth driven initiative started using the hashtag across social media platforms, demonstrations erupted in cities and towns, demanding that the Nigerian government dismantle the SARS police unit.
As part of the #EndSARS movement, Nigerians on and off social media across the country began offering legal aid, food, shelter, healthcare and other services to people impacted by the government crackdown.
Then, on October 20, protestors who were engaged in a peaceful demonstration in the affluent Lekki district of the capital Lagos, were suppressed by the military and curfews were imposed. News report had it that protestors in Lekki were also shot at by military personnel, which injected violence into peaceful demonstrations. The deployment of the military and the suppression of protests by the government however increased anger and hostility towards the Nigerian government.
In another twist to the protest, certain alleged hoodlums hijacked the process and turned into destruction of Police stations, shop raid spree, burning and vandalization of several public and private properties, looting of food items said to be palliatives hoarded by some government officials.
These ugly incidents happened in the heat of the Protest across many cities in Nigeria with deaths of policeman and civilians in their numbers, many injured, just to mention a few out of the many woes it brought on people and communities.
In all, the year 2020 came with lots of unforgettable, yet defining moments in Nigeria’s socio-political landscape. One can only imagine what lies ahead as the most populous black race on earth faces yet another unforetold season of surprises.