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Events that shaped 2023

By Babatunde Ayedoju

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Year 2023 is almost gone, as it is gradually drawing the curtain. However, the year has been very eventful, courtesy of many milestone events that happened during the year. First, on February 25, Nigerians went to the polls to choose the president who would replace the then outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari. Before then, Nigerians, especially from the southern part of the country, had been clamouring for the presidency to be zoned to the south. The agitation was informed by the fact that President Buhari who was about to complete eight years in office came from the north – Katsina State.

Probably because of the crisis reportedly orchestrated by suspected Fulani herdsmen, southern Nigerians, led by the Southern Governors Forum, could not wait to see a president emerge from the south.

2023 elections

At the end of the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party danced to the tune of the southerners by nominating Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State. However, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) put forward a northern candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State. Meanwhile, Mr Peter Obi who served as running mate to Atiku at the 2019 presidential election, defected to the Labour Party (LP) where he easily got the party’s flag for the election.

Breaking away from the conventional practice, Tinubu, a Muslim, picked another Muslim, Kashim Shettima the former Governor of Borno State, as his running mate. That was the first time in 30 years that a major party would present presidential and vice presidential candidates from the same religion. The last time it happened was in 1993 when Social Democratic Party (SDP) nominated Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe as presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively.

Atiku of PDP teamed up with Ifeanyi Okowa, the outgoing Governor of Delta State, while Peter Obi had Ahmed Datti as his partner.

Following the casting of ballots, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the results which showed that Tinubu won with 8,794,726 votes, followed by Atiku with 6,984,520 votes. Obi came third, gathering about 6.1 million votes. That meant Tinubu, Atiku and Obi scored 37 percent, 29 percent and 25 percent of the total votes cast respectively.

Atiku and Obi challenged the emergence of Tinubu as president at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) sitting in Abuja. In September, the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led court dismissed all the petitions brought against Tinubu by the aggrieved presidential candidates.

Tinubu’s certificate saga

In the race to have Tinubu’s victory at the polls nullified, PDP’s Atiku Abubakar challenged the authenticity of the diploma Bachelor of Science certificate issued in 1979 to Tinubu by the Chicago State University (CSU). The opposition cited discrepancies in Tinubu’s date of birth, secondary school attended and gender, as reflected in the certificate which he submitted to INEC prior to the election.

Atiku took the case to a US court where he requested to be granted access to copies of the diploma certificate issued to Tinubu by the CSU in 1979, copies of diplomas with same font, seal, signature and wording issued to other students similar to Tinubu’s own, documents certified by Jamar Omar who at a time was a staff of the university.

Unfortunately for the opposition, when Atiku’s legal team sought to present the Chicago documents before the Justice John Okoro-led supreme court, the apex court ruled that the time fixed by law for tendering evidence had passed. Therefore, their suit against Tinubu over his CSU certificate was dismissed.

Cancelled 2023 census

Though Nigeria’s population census ought to be conducted once in every decade, the last time we had a census was in 2006. The National Population Commission (NPC), saddled with the responsibility of conducting census in Nigeria, initially fixed a census for 2022. However, it was postponed to March 2023. Thereafter it was shifted to May because of adjustment in the date of governorship and House of Assembly election.

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The NPC had trained ad hoc personnel for the exercise, it’s chairman, Nasir Kwarra, had assured that there was no going back on the census, and the Federal Government had approved N15.3 billion to NPC for the supply and installation of ICT devices for the census, bringing the census funding to over N300 billion. Yet, the exercise was still postponed indefinitely.

Though some Nigerians fear that the exercise might have been cancelled, NPC officials on various occasions have insisted that it was only postponed, not cancelled.

Coronation of King Charles III

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year, her son who was previously known as Crown Prince Charles emerged as the new monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

May this year, the UK witnessed the first coronation of a monarch in over 70 years. The coronation which took place at the Westminster Abbey drew dignitaries from all over the world, including about 100 heads of state.

The coronation of King Charles III also meant his wife, Princess Camilla, and his son, Prince William, becoming Queen Consort and Crown Prince respectively.

Israel – Hamas War

On October 7, Israel witnessed one of the deadliest attacks ever on its territory when Palestinian group Hamas struck the southern part of the country during a religious festival. The attack, which beat Israel’s security at the border, reportedly led to over a thousand death in Israel, while 240 people from Israel were taken hostage to Gaza. The hostages included soldiers, civilians and foreign nationals.

Israel launched retaliatory attacks which claimed thousands of lives in Gaza, a large number of which were said to be civilians. By October 9, Israel had imposed a blockade on Gaza with reports of power outage and little or no access to gas.

Though there was a cease fire towards the end of November for some days, intensive fighting has resumed in Gaza with at least 19,000 deaths said to have been recorded in the Gaza strip as at December 19.

Subsidy removal and aftermath

Another major event was the subsidy removal crisis. During his inaugural address on May 29, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had announced that subsidy was gone, in line with the decision taken by the Buhari government before the expiration of its tenure. Immediately, fuel pump price jumped from N197 to about N570. Then it moved to approximately N617 in July.

Meanwhile, few days ago, the World Bank gave a bombshell when it revealed that Nigerians ought to be buying petrol for N750, instead of the current amount that ranges from N617 to N650. The global financial institution was, by this statement, insinuating that the government was still paying fuel subsidy. However, it must be noted that since the Federal Government announced an end to the fuel subsidy regime, it has not publicly reversed that decision.

Wage award and other palliatives

To cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal on masses, among other outlined programmes, the Tinubu-led administration, in October, launched a conditional cash transfer programme targeted at 15 million households nationwide that would receive N75,000 within three months. It equally unveiled plans to pay a sum of N35,000 to government workers for six months, with some states, Ondo State being prominent among them, keying into that already.

As part of its efforts to ease the pain of fuel subsidy removal on the masses, the Ondo State Government, led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, unveiled plans to disburse N10,000 to 18,000 vulnerable people across the 18 local government areas in the state, while also providing buses to transport workers to and from work. The Sunshine State Government equally brought back free shuttle buses for school children, thereby helping parents reduce the burden of paying for their children’s transport daily.

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Naira fall

Equally of utmost significance is the unprecedented fall of the value of naira to the extent that a dollar now trades for about N1190 in the black market which is more accessible to Nigerians than the official market.

In the area of insecurity, the battle against insurgency has continued, with the military contending vigorously against the antistate actors who perpetrate kidnappings and ransome collection across the country.

Dangote refinery

It would be recalled that shortly before former president Buhari vacated office, he led heads of state of Ghana, Togo, Niger, Senegal and a representative of the Chadian head of state to commission Dangote Petroleum Refinery in Lagos. The massive project, first of its kind in the country, reportedly received its first batch of crude oil few days ago – Agbami crude grade from Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Limited (STASCO). According to media reports, the second shipment will arrive in three weeks time. Hopes are high, though not substantiated with enough evidence, that this refinery will help to reduce the price of petrol, as we are not going to be importing any crude oil product that is refined there. That means good news was our foreign exchange and exchange rate of naira to dollar.

Cashless Policy of death

Not to be forgotten in a hurry is the cash crunch that happened at the beginning of this year as an aftermath of the decision of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to redesign N200, N500 and N1,000 notes. The incident led to excruciating pains for Nigerians, as they could hardly withdraw money from their bank accounts, and even when they did through Point of Sale (POS) machines, they had to pay exorbitant amounts as charges. It was so bad that a lot of people died in the process.

Unfortunately, there is a resurgence of cash crunch in some states, including Ondo, even though the Supreme Court has ruled that both the new and the old naira notes should remain legal tender. The ruling came as a result of the CBN directive last year that old denominations of the affected naira notes would cease to be legal tender by December 2023.

It should be noted that the man at the centre of the naira redesign crisis, Godwin Emefiele who was CBN Governor at that time, is still facing a legal battle over allegations of misconduct while in office.

Political gladiators

2023 proved to be a year of conflicts between two political gladiators, with such conflicts happening in states such as Edo, Rivers and Ondo.

Obaseki/Shaibu crisis in Edo

Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu, have enjoyed a warm relationship in the past, right from their days in APC before moving to PDP. However, their relationship took a different turn this year, as they prepare to draw the curtain for their administration.

The battle between the two political titans is not unconnected to the matter of who succeeds Obaseki as Governor of the state. Shaibu had approached a court to stop an alleged plot by the governor to have him impeached, but the governor denied that allegation, accusing Shaibu of being the one who has ulterior motives.

Mr Shaibu later withdrew the suit and apologised to the governor after some party leaders intervened. Nevertheless, the relationship between the two men has remained fragile. It would be recalled that at a point, the governor relocated his deputy’s office from the government house to another part of the state capital.

Likewise in August, Mr Shaibu had to stage a walkout during a colloquium in the state, after his media aides and security details were denied entry to the venue. Shortly afterwards, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Chris Nehikhare, announced that the state government had disbanded the deputy governor’s media crew over the incident.

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Wike/Fubara crisis in Rivers

Not long after the inauguration of Simi Fubara as Governor of Rivers State, his relationship with his immediate predecessor and current FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, turned sour. The matter soon took a dangerous dimension, with the State’s House of Assembly commencing impeachment proceedings against the governor. The governor’s loyalists in the House stood their ground against the impeachment process.

A lot of things happened thereafter, such as demolition of the House of Assembly complex, a large number of government functionaries resigned, 27 anti-Fubara members of the House defected to APC and Edison Ehie, factional speaker of the House, declared their seats vacant.

However, with federal government intervention, both sides agreed to sheathe their swords. They also agreed that all impeachment proceedings against Governor Fubara be withdrawn, Martin Amaewhule be recognised as speaker and all 27 members who defected to APC be accepted back as House members.

Akeredolu/Aiyedatiwa crisis

Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, had embarked on a medical leave in June, with his deputy, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa holding the fort as acting governor. When the governor came back in September, working from Ibadan, he suspended the deputy governor’s media aides. The House of Assembly had instituted a probe against the deputy governor over some alleged misconduct while serving as acting governor. The House also made moves perceived to be impeachment proceedings against the deputy governor who sought a court ruling against such.

The Federal Government and the party leadership had to intervene to broker peace between both sides, which led to the suspension of all Court and impeachment proceedings in the matter. Peace, however, seems to have returned to the state, with the House of Assembly declaring Mr Aiyedatiwa acting governor as the governor embarks on another medical leave.

Kaduna bombing

Just like the administrations before it, the Tinubu government has continued to battle with various security threats such as insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, with the nation’s armed forces actively involved in the fight against antistate actors.

Unfortunately, the fight against insurgency took a terrible dimension on December 3 when the people of Tundun-Biri, Igabi local government of Kaduna State fell victim of an airstrike. The incident happened while people of the community were celebrating a religious festival. Initially, people blamed the Nigerian Air force (NAF) for the unfortunate incident which claimed over 80 lives, but the NAF issued a statement to clarify that its personnel did not carry out any strike in that vicinity at the time of the incident. Then the Nigerian Army took responsibility for the incident.

President Tinubu has promised to investigate the matter and make sure that all those who are culpable face necessary sanctions, even as northern stakeholders have continued to react to the incident, calling for appropriate action from the Federal Government.

Collaboration of Nigeria in ECOWAS fight against military junta in Niger

On the international scene, Nigeria had to play her role as Big Brother Africa when a military junta in Niger, led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, ousted President Mohammed Bazoum. Nigeria led other ECOWAS member states to kick against the coup and even threatened a military action against the junta, a decision that did not go down well with many Nigerians who felt that Nigeria was already overwhelmed with insurgency and should not add to her problems by deploying soldiers to Niger. Another fear expressed was that a lot of Nigeriens had relatives in Nigeria, just as Nigerians also had relatives in Niger, making a war with that country unthinkable. Nigeria was also at the forefront of negotiations with the Nigerien military interventionists to secure the release of the deposed president and restore democracy to the country.

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