Those who Made News in 2013
The year 2013, which began on a Tuesday, January 1 and which is about to end on a Tuesday, December 31, has been an eventful one. There have been a lot of exciting happenings, both good and bad, and we cannot afford to throw them into the thrash can of history so hastily; rather leadership Friday takes a critical look at the newsmakers of the outgoing year.
Lifting the African Cup of Nations (Keshi)
In February this year, media outlets were awash with the triumph of the Super Eagles at the African Cup of Nations finals in South Africa.
The national team, on February 10, 2013, under Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, became African Champions after defeating Burkina Faso in the final match of the African Cup of Nations soccer tourney at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, to lift the trophy for the third time: in 1982, 1994, and 2013.
Keshi, born 23 January, 1962, is a former Nigerian defender and now football manager, who has managed the nation’s senior male football team since 2011. He became the first Nigerian and second African to win the cup both as a player and as a coach. He had coached the national teams of neighbouring Togo and Mali before taking up the Super Eagles job.
The Killing of Police and DSS Officials By Ombatse
The gruesome murder of 56 security operatives, comprising a joint team of the Nigerian Police and the Department of the State Security Service (DSS), in the remote Alakyo village of Eggon in Nasarawa State on May 7, 2013 on their way to the shrine of Baba Alakyo, the spiritual father of a militia known as Ombatse, made headlines for days while Nigerians mourned their regrettable death.
The Nasarawa State government, which tagged the Ombatse a cult group, reportedly confirmed to the world that the group had on May 7, 2013, killed 46 policemen and 10 operatives of the DSS who were part of the team sent to arrest their leader and chief priest, Baba Alakyo.
Emergence of factions in PDP
The intra-party crisis that has been rocking the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) peaked on August 31, 2013, when the self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa experienced a split as a group of seven PDP Governors, popularly referred to as the G-7 Governors, staged a walk-out at the party’s mid-term national convention and announced a new PDP platform that became known as the New PDP (nPDP). They were led by Abubakar Kawu Baraje, a former acting chairman of the PDP.
The governors’ move and their subsequent defection to the APC made screaming headlines in the media across Nigeria.
The killing of nine Nigerians at an Apo residence in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on September 8, 2013, raised a lot of dust and has been making headlines in the news.
The Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Army reportedly stormed a street located behind Zone E of the Legislative Quarters in the early hours of Friday, September 20, went straight to an uncompleted building reportedly inhabited by homeless artisans and petty traders and immediately began shooting sporadically, killing at least eight and injuring several others on the spot.
The DSS which led the operation said it was a security operation following a tip-off that some suspected members of the Islamist militia, Boko Haram, were using the uncompleted building as a hideout.
The incident sparked off a lot of reactions from the Nigerian public as people blamed the security agents of high handedness, saying they ought to have some convincing evidence on ground before embarking on the raid that led to the loss of ‘innocent’ souls. It led to the Senate setting up an investigative committee on the issue.
Bullet-proof Cars Scam of Aviation Minister, Stella Odua
The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Odua, and some government officials were in the news in October following the purchase of two bullet-proof cars for the minister’s official use at the cost of N225.15 billion (or $1.6 billion).
On October 22, 2013, President Jonathan issued a query asking the minister to explain her role in the deal which had sparked nationwide controversy, especially as the cost was seen as hyper-inflated.
Odua’s travail peaked when the National Assembly summoned her to appear alongside the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA), the managing director of Coscharis Motors (the supplier), and the controller-general of Nigeria Customs before it in an investigative hearing over their roles in the purchase of the two armoured BMW cars.
Odua, who is still sitting tight as the minister, had been recommended for sack House of Representatives.
Golden Eaglets’ Victory At FIFA U-17 World Championship
The victory of the Nigerian National Under-17 soccer team, otherwise known as the Golden Eaglets, dominated media content last November.
At the 2013 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, the Eaglets played the hosts defending champions, Mexico, in their first match, winning 6-1. They finally lifted the trophy after beatingthe same Mexico 3-0 in the final played at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.
The team was led by Manu Garba as head of the coaching crew. The ex-Gombe United chief coach is a man of few words but he is known for his eagle eyes in spotting and grooming young talents.
Nigeria is now the most successful nation in the U-17 cadre, having lifted the trophy for a record fourth time. The Eaglets also set a goal scoring record with their haul of 26 goals at the finals, thus eclipsing Germany’s record of 24 goals set in 2011.
Sullivan and Clara Chime
One of the couples that made news in the year is Enugu State governor Sullivan Chime and his wife, Clara. The two took the centre stage in a dramatic style over what seemed to be a difficult-to-manage marital crisis when, in November, Governor Chime accused Clara of being mentally ill and had her bundled out of Government House, Enugu.
Like wild fire, the news spread and was carried by almost all the media. Clara’s personal belongings were packed out of Government House and she was handed over to security operatives who were ordered to take her to her mother’s residence at Coal City Estate in the state capital.
Before this saga evolved, Clara had petitioned National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), complaining of her confinement at Government House, a move that rattled the taciturn governor. Clara admitted having depression but not mental disorder. Her family, too, stood strongly by her and maintained that their daughter had no mental problem as there is no trace of insanity in their lineage.
As news behind the news continued to build up on the Chimes, it later caught media attention that Mrs Chime relocated to Port Harcourt with her mother, perhaps, to escape all the trouble.
There have accusations and counter-accusations between the Chimes. Even if they finally resolve their current impasse, they were, however, among the major newsmakers of the year, from the family angle.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi and Jonah Jang
Rivers State governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is, no doubt, one of the most frequent newsmakers in 2013. In June 2013, Amaechi and Plateau State governor Jonah Jang were embroiled in a battle for political supremacy over the leadership of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). As the controversy snowballed, the two governors engaged in throwing verbal missiles at each other’s camp.
Amaechi argued that he was the elected chairman of the forum with a 19 to16 vote majority over Jang in March, 2013, when the forum conducted its election. But even fact, as clear-cut as it seemed, would not settle the matter.
While Amaechi accused Jang of impersonating him as NGF chairman, Jang simply shrugged, maintaining that his endorsement by 16 northern states governors was equal to an election and should be seen as such.
Jang who waved off Amaechi’s warnings and accusations as if he was driving of a fly, describing it as “funny”, saying he would show that he was in charge of the NGF when members of the forum honour the meeting he convened to hold on Monday, June 17. Between Jang and Amaechi, it was a sweltering political muscle-flexing.
Beyond the NGF saga, Amaechi was constantly in the news. He became a regular media personality when his chartered aircraft was grounded in April 2013 by officials of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)). NCAA had claimed that as a foreign registered aircraft, the clearance certification which permitted the bombardier BD 700-1A11 (Global Express) aircraft to operate in Nigeria had expired, thus, making its operation illegal.
However, public commentators said that NCAA’s action may have been politically motivated. This was in consideration of several political squabbles involving Amaechi and other actors, including the president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Olusegun Obasanjo and President Jonathan
Former military and civilian head of Nigerian government, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is not new on newspaper pages or in the various other media. However, Obasanjo took his estrangement with President Goodluck Jonathan to a new high when he wrote an open letter, dated December 2, 2013, to Jonathan, heaping several allegations on the incumbent president. This brought Obasanjo to the cover of news media, somewhat making him dominate discussions both in the media and other quarters.
Among the serious allegations brought against Jonathan in the Obasanjo letter was the statement that he (Jonathan) was training ‘snipers’ for political killings against 2015 elections.
He also accused the president of failing in five areas of his responsibilities as the nation’s president and leader of PDP. Specifically, he alleged that the president has failed in fighting corruption and insecurity in the country, and that he uses security operatives to harass political opponents, among others.
President Jonathan later hit back at Obasanjo, in an eight-page letter dated December 20. In his reply, Jonathan said the security challenges facing the country which Obasanjo blamed him for “were sown under previous administrations” – including Obasanjo’s. He also pointed out that kidnapping for ransom and Boko Haram insurgency all started during Obasanjo’s administration. Jonathan challenged Obasanjo to hold the Bible as a Christian and swear to the veracity of the claim that he was training assassins. He described the allegations as “baseless” and “incomprehensible.”
This letter writing entanglement between Obasanjo and Jonathan made them top newsmakers towards the year’s end.
Rivers Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, was in the news this year when around July 2013, he was involved in a fire-sparking crisis with the governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi.
Amaechi had accused Mbu of partisanship in the political crisis rocking the state then, thereby compromising the ethics of his profession and his position as state police commissioner. Mbu was also rumoured to be carrying out the orders of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, due to the sour relationship between Jonathan and Amaechi.
As the conflict assumed an unusually disturbing proportion, and Amaechi petitioned the chairman of Police Service Commission, Mr Mike Okiro, requesting the immediate redeployment of Mbu. While the crisis in Rivers State may have started settling down, citizens of the state and Nigerians will not be in a hurry to forget the cobweb of political crisis that almost crippled the oil-rich state, with Mbu and Amaechi two of the major actors and newsmakers.
Life has not been peaceful for people living in north eastern states of Nigeria as a result of the persistent insurgency in the area which has been ongoing for a few years now. In 2002, the Boko Haram group was founded by late Mohammed Yusuf. The group killed innocent people, especially Christians, in large numbers beginning from 2009.
About 5, 000 to 6, 000 persons are estimated to have been killed by the sect members in its various attacks. In several instances, security installations such as military barracks, police stations and immigration offices were attacked and scores of security officers were killed. In some cases, they not only kill but burn their victims’ bodies. One of the sect’s worst attacks was recorded in Baga attack in Borno State on April 18 and 19, 2013, when Boko Haram members and security operatives were engaged in a gun battle that allegedly left about 185 persons dead and about 2,000 houses burnt.
Though, the military said it killed 25 insurgents only and lost an officer, defence spokesman, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, became a fixture in the news, not only because of his explanations that the operation was multi-national involving JTF members drawn from Chad, Niger Republic and Nigeria, but because of his other roles as the image maker.
Governor Suntai Danbaba’s Plane Crash
Taraba State governor, Danbaba Suntai, made headlines way back on October 25, 2012 when he survived a plane crash near Yola, Adamawa State. Ten months later, he hit the headlines once again when he was returned to Nigeria from Germany and USA while not fully recuperated. His deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, soon became embattled with the governor over who should govern the state.
The governor shortly after his return supposedly wrote a letter of intent to the state assembly informing it of his readiness to resume work. The assembly, however, insisted he appear before it before any decisions would be reached. But for five days, the lawmakers still could not gain access to the governor and several actions took place that further aggravated the situation.
There was a cabinet reshuffle and Governor Suntai was said to have dissolved the State Executive Council (SEC) and appointed a new Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Chief of Staff in the persons of then outgoing Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Timothy Katapa and Alhaji Aminu Jika respectively. This brought about a divide among political and opinion leaders of the state, some saying Suntai was fit and others insisting he was not.
Five Months Of ASUU Strike
When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began its strike on July 1, no Nigerian had an inkling it would draw out as long as it did. The body’s meetings with Governor Gabriel Suswam-led committee could not reach a resolution, as it insisted on several agreements and more demands attached. When the governor failed to make headway, the vice president, Namadi Sambo took over.
After a marathon meeting with President Jonathan, the group held separate congresses whereby it seemed a majority of its members were in support of ending the strike. However, while on the way to a national leadership meeting of the group on November 11, 2013, former ASUU president Professor Festus Iyayi died in an auto crash involving the convoy of Kogi State governor. Further discussions ceased at that time. Iyayi’s stand on the affair, according to media reports, was stated quite clearly to be that “ASUU will not suspend the strike until all its demands are met”.
The supervising minister of education, Nyesom Wike’s two-week ultimatum on November 28, 2013, to lecturers to go back to work or risk being sacked instead strengthened the resolve of the lecturers. By December 2, 2013, one of the conditions of ASUU was that the attorney-general, the minister of Finance and minister of Labour must sign the agreement, with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) boss, Abdulwaheed Omar, as witness.
On December 11, 2013, the federal government signed an MoU with ASUU which stipulated that the federal government would spend a cumulative sum of N1.3 trillion on improving the infrastructure of Nigerian varsities. Of this sum, the government said it had already deposited N200 billion with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
G-7 Governors That Dared The Ruling Party
The open opposition began with governors walking out on the PDP National Convention on August 31, 2013 at Eagle Square, Abuja, to form the ‘New PDP’. The governors were Sule Lamido (Jigawa State), Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano State), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara State), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa State) and Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers State).
A meeting was held at the Sokoto State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, chaired by Abubakar Baraje, the faction’s national chairman, to map out overall strategies to help sustain ‘New PDP’ relevance in politics. It was also intended to discuss modalities for receiving five other governors that had indicated interest. Those expected at the meeting include: Dr. Sam Jaja, the national secretary Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Danjuma Abdullahi Adamu and the G-7 governors.
New PDP showed waning signs when on November 26, 2013, five of the G-7 governors announced their decision to merge with the APC, leaving behind governors Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu. More defections followed which proved pleasant for All Progressives Congress (APC). On December 22, 2013, 37 members of the PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives defected to APC, raising its number from 138 to 175. With this step, APC has surpassed the PDP and needs nine members to take over the lower House. PDP’s number has been slashed to 171. There is claim from APC quarters of 35 other lawmakers who will be joining the party in January, in its strategic takeover of the lower house.
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