– Seven Wonders of Nigeria's Fourth RepublicTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha capture some of the most intriguing and gobsmacking incidents, so far, recorded in Nigeria’s enduring Fourth Republic
Riding on the premise of a new democratic era, Nigeria entered its Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999, after three failed attempts. It was a breath of fresh air to many Nigerians who longed to see the military ousted after a tortuous rule that saw the country sink into decadence, economic hardship, political repression and abuse of human rights. Therefore, the Fourth Republic had many Nigerians holding their breath, waiting for the Eureka moment when they can thump their themselves chest and identify truly as the ‘Giant of Africa.’
However, the fruits of the new democratic era so far have not turned out as sweet as envisioned. Rather, they have left a bitter taste in many mouths and left tongues hanging out in shock and amazement. Even the juicy ones resulted in uncontrollable diarrhoea. The Fourth Republic have witnessed incredible election turnovers, blatant abuse of power and unanticipated deaths have; often leaving a trail of mixed emotions of disappoinmtment, overwhelming elation and jaw-dropping amazement. Each of these events has inadvertently affected the political landscape in ways that were never anticipated; which in some instance led to amendment of the 1999 Constitution, and at other times creating a doubt on the direction the country’s touted democracy was heading.
The Miracle Governor, Duoye Diri
All was set for the swearing-in of David Lyon, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for the 2019 elections as the new governor of Bayelsa State. Lyon defeated his rival Senator Duoye Diri in the elections with 352, 552 votes in the eight local government areas of Bayelsa state. Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fetched only 143, 172 votes for his party.
Before the elections, both candidates were embroiled in legal battles, emanating from the political godfathers behind their emergence. While Timipre Sylva, a former governor of the state, backed Lyon, Seriake Dickson, who, at the time was the governor, endorsed Duoye. Through Lyon, the APC hoped to overturn PDP’s two-decade-old dominance in the oil-rich state. However, the party was caught up in internecine drama before heading to the polls. Lyon’s emergence was not without hiccups. Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, a former Minister, opposed the party’s adoption of Lyon as its governorship candidate, insisting that the ticket should be given to him as the party’s authentic candidate.
Like Lyon, Diri wasn’t accepted by everyone in the PDP. It was believed that ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s preferred candidate was the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, but Dickson sidelined him and picked Diri. The result of his decision led to the boycott of the PDP mega rally by frontline politicians.
Notwithstanding, Lyon emerged victorious, but 24 hours to his swearing-in, the Supreme Court nullified his election based on the fake certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by his running mate, Degi Eremienyo.
The case about the authenticity of Eremienyo’s candidacy was first ruled by a Federal High Court in Abuja during the election month, November. Lyon, who had already rehearsed his speech and ceremonial salute for the ceremony, was left dejected as the news of his disqualification spread like wildfire all over the state and country. It must have been a painful sight to watch his rival, Diri take over the executive seat of the state, a position that was fully in his grasp until the apex court snatched it away from him. In Igbo parlance, Lyon would have been described as one who aimed for ‘o nonso eru aka’, loosely translated as something that is closer but impossible to reach.
Before that incident, such occurrence had never been recorded in Nigeria where a governor-elect was disqualified on the eve of his installation. It led to the christening of Diri as the Miracle Governor for his victory could only have been by supernatural intervention.
From Number 4 to Number 1: Hope Uzodinma
The last Imo State governorship election was peculiar in more than one way. First was the push by the immediate past Governor Rochas Okorocha to have his son-in-law Uche Nwosu succeed him. When that didn’t work through his party, APC, due to the party’s former chairman Adams Oshiomhole’s refusal to field Nwosu as the party’s candidate in the elections, Nwosu joined forces with the Action Alliance (AA). The current governor, Hope Uzodinma, ended up carrying the APC’s flag in the elections.
However, Uzodinma failed to win superior votes for his party, making way for the PDP to control the state through the victory of its candidate Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. Interestingly, Nwosu was the closest to Ihedioha, with 190,364 votes, behind the former’s 273,404. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, came third with 114,676 votes, ahead of Uzodinma’s 96,458 votes.
The election results were challenged by
Uzodinma, who argued that INEC in its announcement, excluded results from 388 polling units, which if added would make him the winner.
In a strict sense, the constitution requires that the winner in a governorship contest should have the highest number of valid votes and a spread of 25 per cent of the votes in two-thirds of the local governments in a state. In Imo, the candidate should at least secure 25 per cent of the votes in 18 local government areas. This is contained in Section 179 (2), of the constitution.
Ihedioha apparently won the popular votes but only secured 25 percent of votes in 14 LGAs whereas Uzodinma secured 25 per cent votes in two LGAs.
Ordinarily, a re-run would have been apt to determine the true winner of the election but a Supreme Court judgment on January 14, 2020, sacked Ihedioha and declared Uzodinma as the winner of the election. Niferians were stunned! Never has such a lopsided judgment been passed to favour, not even the closest to the rival, occurred in Nigeria. The apex court ruling fetched Uzodinma the moniker of the Supreme Court Governor as his emergence did not qualify as the handwork of God.
The Lucky Charm of Former President Goodluck Jonathan
The Goodluck era will not be forgotten in a hurry in the history of Nigeria’s politics. It was an era marked by inspirational messages based on the perceived good luck charm of one man. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s ascension to Number One positions in his home state, Bayelsa and at the federal level. These were truly astonishing incidents, that indicate the former President’s given name had a magical wrap round his personality. Not once, but twice; the aura of goodluck orchestrated by Providence, shot him from the shadow of his principal into reckoning; first when he replaced Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, as governor of Bayelsa; then came his ultimate elevation as President of Nigeria, when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua passed on.. As an education inspector, Jonathan was among the first set of politicians to occupy a prominent seat at the dawn of the Fourth Republic. He was elected Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State alongside the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. An impeachment of the governor led to Jonathan occupying the Number One Citizen position of the state. However, the event that shocked many was the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010. Jonathan was expected to replace him but because his death was shrouded in secrecy, Nigeria was almost without a president for one day due to this unforeseen event, leading to the Doctrine of Necessity. Jonathan would later be installed as the third president of the Fourth Republic and won the 2011 elections with his good luck charm. He became the first president to concede victory to his opponent in 2015.
Compulsory Loyalty: Ngige and the Uba Brothers
Rituals, kidnappings and other blood money sacrifices in the South-eastern part of the country are often left to the imagination of Nollywood filmmakers, even when such happenings are real, they are discussed out of earshot. But in 2003, Nigeria read the shocking details of how the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige went to the infamous Okija Shrine in Anambra State to take an oath of allegiance to his political godfathers at the time who were Chris Uba and Chuka Nzeribe.
The Okija Shrine was said to be patronised by politicians but none resounded like the news of Ngige appearing in the shrine. There were different versions of the story. Some said he appeared naked at the shrine, others said he was seen sipping champagne in the shrine in the company of his political godfathers.
But in an interview with a leading news website, Ngige clarified that he never went inside the shrine.
“I was only there with Chris Uba and Chuma Nzeribe. Chuma Nzeribe and Chris Uba said they were going in to swear on my behalf. I did not enter the shrine with them, I sat in my car. Chuma Nzeribe went inside and said he was going in on our behalf, I said good luck! At that point, I knew they didn’t have any guns and couldn’t hurt me. He (Chuma Nzeribe) didn’t come with his car and I know he didn’t have a gun.”
Uba was behind his emergence as the governor of Anambra but things easily fell apart between Ngige and Uba when the former claimed that Uba wanted to personalise the governance by dictating who should be appointted or not. That same year, Ngige was almost forced to resign through a fabricated letter and his whereabouts was unknown leading to a suspicion that he was probably kidnapped. By 2005, however, an election Tribunal led by Justice Nabaruma nullified Ngige’s 2003 victory and by 2006, a judgment awarded victory to Peter Obi.
The drama between Ngige and his political godfathers exposed the blatant abuse of power and the degree of godfatherism in the country. It was a wonder to many that such dirty and surreal affairs were prevalent on the political landscape.
Unprecedented: The Death of Abubakar Audu
The Nigerian constitution has many provisions for unforeseen circumstances but none was made for the death of a governor-elect. Thus, when Abubakar Audu, the late Governor of Kogi State died shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced his victory in the governorship elections in November 2015. He was said to have died from a bleeding ulcer. Audu was the first governor of the state in the Fourth Republic and was seeking re-election when he met his untimely death. He also ruled the state during the Third Republic.
Since there was no provision in the constitution for such a situation, it was expected that his running mate, Hon. James Faleke would take up the mantle but controversies in the state’s chapter of the APC, due to Audu’s death denied him the ticket. Rather, the party decided to give Yahaya Bello, the runner up of the primary election the executive seat.
His death created a shift in the political landscape as such had never been witnessed in the country.
Deadline Disaster: The Zamfara Way
Again, the Supreme Court wielded its hammer on the 2019 governorship elections in Zamfara State in a ruling that left APC candidates stranded and Nigerians gobsmacked. Ahead of the polls, the internal crisis in the APC led to a delay in the party fielding their candidates. The electoral umpire INEC gave a deadline of August 18-October 7 for all political parties to hold their primaries but the APC didn’t meet the deadline and INEC was forced to omit its name from the ballot box.
However, the party was able to obtain a court judgment ordering INEC to allow the party to field candidates and participate in the March elections. The APC won the governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections and was already in a jubilatory mood when the Appeal and Supreme Court subsequently on May 24, 2019, voided the votes of the APC on the grounds that they held invalid primaries.
Therefore, INEC was ordered to declare the runner up, the PDP candidates as winners of the elections.
In the words of the late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Just Like That, Mohammed Matawalle, the PDP candidate became the governor of the state, alongside his deputy, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, three senatorial candidates and seven House of Representatives candidates of the PDP were declared as duly elected. Of the 24 PDP House of Assembly candidates, only one spot was conceded to the National Rescue Movement (NRM), Kabiru Hashimu, as the winner for the Maru South state constituency.
The manner with which the APC was taken out of the picture beat the imagination of many to this day.
The Dribbler, Bukola Saraki
Former military leader Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida may be called Maradona, after Argentina’s skilled footballer, Diego Maradona, but the former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki’s political dribbling skills is one for the books.
The 2015 elections that saw power change hands in the executive also affected the National Assembly. The ruling party APC for the first time found itself in control of the Senate. However, the APC had some inner demons to battle over who would emerge as the Senate President.
Two divergent groups emerged after the election results were announced. They were the Senate Unity Forum, led by Barnabas Gemade; a senator from Benue state, and Likeminded Senators, led by Dino Melaye, a senator from Kogi state. The Melaye group sided with Saraki while Gemade backed the current Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
Although the APC endorsed Lawan as the preferred candidate, Saraki refused to concede. The smart politician he is, he lured the PDP members of the senate to join him.
More interesting was that President Buhari who was supposed to influence the emergence of the leadership of the legislature washed his hands off the drama, choosing to work with anyone that emerged.
On June 9, 2015, the day of the inauguration, Saraki played a fast one on Lawan and his group. While the latter and his supporters were attending a meeting at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Saraki and his group were already seated at the Red Chamber, ready to commence the inauguration despite the news that the ceremony would not hold.
Eventually, Saraki was appointed in the absence of a challenger. Lawan and his group stormed in at the closing of the event, astonished at the outcome. Nigerians too were also bewildered by the level of political intelligence displayed by the former Senate President