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Festus Okotie-Eboh: Nigeria’s most flamboyant Politician

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Image of Festus Okotie-Eboh

Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh is unarguably the most flamboyant Nigerian politician of all time. As Federal Minister of Labour and Welfare and Finance Minister during the Tafawa Balewa administration, he was very rich, influential and powerful. He even maintained a personal relationship with the 35th President of America, John F. Kennedy. 

As Federal Minister of Finance, Okotie-Eboh was instrumental in the founding of Nigeria’s Central Bank in 1959. He was an epitome of stylish fashion (as you can see in the picture, with his wife Victoria in 1956 when Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria).

Early Life and Education

Born Samuel Edah, Festus Okotie-Eboh was born on July 18, 1912, to Prince Okotie-Eboh at Benin River, in Warri division (Edah adopted him, so he later changed his name to Okotie-Eboh).

He attended Sapele Baptist School – a Missionary School and in 1930 he took up an appointment as an Assessment Clerk in Sapele Township Office. From 1931 to 1935, he taught briefly and later resigned to join the British Bata Shoe Company Limited, first as a Clerk and rose to the post of a Chief Clerk. From then on, his rise to fame and progress was phenomenal.

Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, who had an Itsekiri father and an Urhobo mother, bestrode the political landscape of Warri and Sapele like a colossus and his political career climaxed as a top NCNC member when he was appointed a Chief Whip in the Western Regional House of Assembly dominated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group in 1954.

Career

While with the Bata Shoe Company, he attended several courses abroad which earned him a Diploma in Business Administration and Organisation. As a visionary, he decided to prepare himself for the future. He resolved to go into business on his own having learnt the first tentative steps in business under the Bata Shoe Company.

https://www.thehistoryville.com/2019/01/kaduna-nzeogwus-military-coup-detat-broadcast-1966/

Okotie-Eboh soon became a rubber merchant cum timber magnate and he started off by opening a chain of schools and enterprises. Amongst them, Okotie Eboh Grammar School, Omimi Plastic and Shoe Factories, all of which laid the sound business foundation of his personal future before venturing into the public service and full-blown politics.

Political Life

Festus Okotie-Eboh actually entered political life, when he contested an election, in 1948 and became a member of the Warri Divisional Council, the Warri Provincial Council, Sapele Township Advisory Board, Warri Provisional Ports Authority Committee and the Warri Divisional Education Committee. He was never defeated at any local election either in Warri or in Sapele. 

Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, who had an Itsekiri father and an Urhobo mother, bestrode the political landscape of Warri and Sapele like a colossus and his political career climaxed as a top NCNC member when he was appointed a Chief Whip in the Western Regional House of Assembly dominated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group in 1954. His meteoric rise to the top did not stop there as he was appointed a Federal Minister of Labour and Social Welfare in 1955.

Since he was assassinated in 1966, Nigeria has had eleven issues (including re-issues) of her currency, yet Okotie-Eboh is not on any as the pioneer Federal Minister of Finance who had done so much for his country.

Death

In 1957, with the reconstitution of the federal cabinet, Chief F.S Okotie-Eboh became the first (and longest-serving) Minister of Finance for the Federation for a period of eight years, until his death in January 1966. Alongside the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the West, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and some other senior military officers, Okotie-Eboh was murdered during Nigeria’s first military coup that ended the country’s First Republic.

A Carnage Before Dawn
You can get the novel by clicking here

It is pertinent to note that Okotie-Eboh was the only Federal Cabinet Minister that was killed during that unfortunate coup.

At the time of his death, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was survived by 14 children and a wife; most of his children were very young. He was buried over one year later in Sapele without fanfare nor national honours.

Legacy

Although he was Federal Minister of Labour and Welfare in the closing years of British-Nigeria, Okotie-Eboh served longer and did more for Nigeria as Federal Minister of Finance. What he achieved in that office for Nigeria are in many fronts, the majority of which still exists today and will still be so into the foreseeable future.

Some of his legacies are the establishment of the Central Bank of Nigeria; inauguration of the first national currency; the establishment of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the creation of the first Nigeria Investment and Development Bank in an era when such far-reaching decisions were dreamed of and concretised in the First Republic.

Since his assassination in 1966, the country has had eleven issues (including re-issues) of her currency. Yet, Okotie-Eboh is not on any as the pioneer Federal Minister of Finance who had done so much for his country.

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Further Reading

How Bello, Balewa, others were killed in January 1966

Okotie-Eboh: Victim of circumstance

Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh: ‘Omimi-Ejoh’, most flamboyant politician of all times

Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh: Rich Echoes From The Past

MKO Abiola: The Nigerian President who never ruled

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Moshood Kashimawo Olawale, MKO Abiola was a wealthy man. He was richer than a country. He was influential and powerful. Abiola controlled virtually everything in his lifetime, from business, communications, and religion to politics, international affairs, and even sports. Abiola had everything he wanted; money, fame, connection, and influence. He was even elected President in one of Africa’s freest and fairest elections. But was robbed of his mandate under enigmatic circumstances.

Early Life and Education

Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, was born on August 24, 1937, to Alhaji Salawu Adelekan Akanni Abiola and Mrs. Zeliat Wuraola Ayinke Abiola (nee Kassim), in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. He was not formally named until he was 15 years old. Prior to that, he was known only as “Kashimawo” meaning “let’s wait and see” in the Yoruba language.

There were signs in his early life that MKO had come to this world to struggle and overcome. As his aging father fell on hard times, MKO was forced to start taking financial responsibility for himself and his family as early as nine years old, which was when he started his first business selling firewood.

Image of MKO Abiola
Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (August 24, 1937 – July 7, 1998).

After completing school he left home to work as a clerk at Barclays bank in Ibadan in the Western Region of Nigeria. The very same day his mother died. Abiola was determined to make a success of himself.

Career

MKO Abiola’s journey to entrepreneurial success was invigorated by his Scottish university education. On his return to Nigeria in 1966, he was ready to put to practice all that he had learned.

Image of M.K.O Abiola's campaign poster, 1993.
MKO Abiola’s campaign poster, 1993.

It was 18 years after achieving his qualification as a chartered accountant from the University of Glasgow in Scotland that MKO Abiola established his reputation as an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with internationally. In his role as Senior Vice-President for Africa and the Middle-East at ITT (International Telephone & Telegraph) Corporation, he had gained immense international business exposure and was named international businessman of the year in 1988.

Honours

Abiola’s international business achievements were partially responsible for the fact that he was made the head of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1990.

His philanthropy came into full-swing in 1970. He used his wealth to address some of the challenges he encountered in his earlier days. He fought his way out of poverty and sought to assist others to do the same.

At the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, MKO sat at the seat reserved for Nigeria’s head of state. On his return to Nigeria, he formally declared himself President of the Federal Republic.

In 1987, he received the highest honour available to a commoner in the Yoruba tribe. He was made the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. In effect, he became the Field Marshall of the Yoruba people.

Image of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida: Annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

Political Life and the June 12, 1993 Elections

MKO Abiola took an interest in politics early on in life. In 1993, he won the presidential primaries of the Social Democratic Party and officially declared his candidacy for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A week before the Presidential elections, MKO had to go on national television and participate in a debate with his opponent Bashir Tofa. He was grilled by members of the opposition party on a number of issues. One of these was his own interests in the oil industry and the management of Nigeria’s petroleum sector.

Even though the military sought to annul the election, the open ballot system used in the June 12, 1993 election meant that the results of the election were known very quickly after voting.

MKO Abiola won in 19 out of 30 states. He sought to focus on what the June 12 election meant for Nigeria. Abiola, managed to win in states that many would have thought inconceivable for a Southerner. His victory in Kano state, in the Northern part of Nigeria, was a measure of the extent to which he had become a bridge.

Annulment and Struggle for the Presidency

The military Head-of-State, General Ibrahim Babangida, was eventually forced to relinquish power; but rather than handing over to MKO Abiola, he handed power to another un-elected man from MKO Abiola’s home region (Chief Ernest Shonekan). MKO put out another statement in response to this bizarre development.

MKO Abiola went to many of the world’s major capitals and sought and received assurances of support for his mandate. He was ardently criticized for leaving Nigeria whilst his supporters were being killed during military crackdowns on their protests.

At the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, MKO sat at the seat reserved for Nigeria’s head of state. On his return to Nigeria, he formally declared himself President of the Federal Republic.

General Abacha had also offered to give him back his election expenses, but MKO preferred to stay detained. There was international pressure to release MKO and other prisoners, but little from the sources that had pledged to support him.

Arrest and Incarceration

The military Head-of-State, General Sani Abacha and his advisers pondered over what course of action to take. It was decided that Abiola should be arrested for treason. Around 200 vehicles came to his Moshood Abiola Crescent home in Ikeja, Lagos to arrest him on the 23rd of June 1994.

Image of Sani Abacha, GCON
Gen. Sani Abacha: Arrested and charged Abiola with treason.

One of the darkest eras in Nigeria’s history began. There were mass arrests and even assassinations, especially of those known to support MKO Abiola’s presidential mandate. The most alarming incident of this kind was the murder of MKO’s wife, Kudirat Abiola, in June 1996.

Abiola remained detained in solitary confinement. He had only a Bible, Qur’an, and guards to keep him company. He also lacked adequate medical care, all in an attempt to pressure MKO Abiola into renouncing his mandate.

General Abacha had also offered to give him back his election expenses, but MKO preferred to stay detained. There was international pressure to release MKO and other prisoners, but little from the sources that had pledged to support him.

Death and Legacy

During a meeting with a United States delegation, headed by Ambassador Thomas Pickering, MKO Abiola collapsed and died. According to mainstream reports, this happened after he drank a cup of tea at the meeting.

The sudden death of MKO Abiola on July 7, 1998, was breaking news around the world. He was 60 years old.

Moshood Abiola’s death succeeded in discrediting military rule in Nigeria, and his outstanding contribution to his country, the African continent, and the world was acknowledged six years after his death when the New African magazine listed him among the hundred greatest Africans of all time.

Image of MKO Abiola
Chief MKO Abiola: Arrested for committing treason.

On June 6, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari posthumously conferred on Chief Abiola the highest title of GCFR (Grand Commander of the Federal Republic) and made June 12 a federal holiday instead of May 29.

Buhari also named the National Stadium in Abuja after the Abeokuta-born business mogul during the maiden June 12 Democracy Day celebration at the Eagle Square on June 12, 2019.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo

Further Reading

How presumed winner of June 12 election MKO Abiola died

June 12, NASS and Nigeria’s Fourth Republic

Buhari names Abuja National Stadium after MKO Abiola

Sir Ahmadu Bello: Warlord, Statesman, Politician

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Image of Ahmadu Bello on the ₦200 note.
Portrait of Sir Ahmadu Bello on the ₦200 note.

Sir AHMADU BELLO (June 12, 1909 – January 15, 1966) is still venerated by millions of Nigerians, especially his kinsmen – the Northern Nigerians. The largest university in West Africa, the second largest in Africa, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is named after him while his picture is graciously perched on one of Nigeria’s high currencies – the ₦200 note.

Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa were major figures in Northern Nigeria pre-independence politics and both men played major roles in negotiations about the region’s place in an independent Nigeria.

As the leader of the Northern People’s Congress, he was a dominant personality in Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic. 

His biography is a story of courage, perseverance, diligence, honesty, patriotism, and service to mankind. He was a teacher, farmer, administrator, politician, statesman, and religious leader. He built edifices which survived him. He was the Premier of the Northern Region of Nigeria and one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders. 

Bello combined traditional leadership qualities with knowledge of Western governance and his greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria.

Early Life and Education

Ahmadu Bello was born in a village called Rabah, some twenty miles from Sokoto, on June 12, 1909, to Ibrahim, the district head of Rabah, son of Sultan Muhammed Bello, grandson of Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio, the founding father of the Sokoto caliphate at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

His father died when was 6 years old and he received his early Islamic education at Rabah in the hand of Mallam Garba, the Imam of Rabah Village in his early teens who taught him the basic rudiments of his religion and the Qu’ran.  He attended Sokoto Provincial School and the Katsina Training College, during his school days, he was known as Ahmadu Rabah. 

He finished school in 1931 and subsequently became the English master teacher in Sokoto Middle School. In 1934, he was made the district head of Rabbah within the Sultan’s administration. Four years later, he was promoted and sent to Gusau to become a divisional head.

In 1938, he made an unsuccessful bid to become the new Sultan of Sokoto. The successful sultan immediately conferred on him the traditional, now honorary, title of “Sardauna” and elevated him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council.

Political Sojourn

Bello first became politically active in 1945, when he helped to form a Youth Social Circle, which later (1948) affiliated with the NPC (Northern Peoples’ Congress) of which he became President-General in 1954.

In 1948, Ahmadu Bello visited the United Kingdom where he studied Local Government Administration, thereby widening his intellectual horizons and honing his administrative skill and competence.

In the first elections held in Northern Nigeria in 1952, Ahmadu Bello won a seat in the Northern House of Assembly and became a member of the regional executive council as minister of works.

https://www.thehistoryville.com/2019/05/50-interesting-facts-you-did-not-about-ahmadu-bello/

Bello was successively minister of Works, of Local Government, and of Community Development in the Northern Region of Nigeria. In 1953 and in 1957, he led the Northern delegation during the independence talks in London.  In 1954, Bello became the first (only) Premier of Northern Nigeria. In the 1959 independence elections, he led the NPC to win a plurality of the parliamentary seats.

In forming the 1960 independence federal government of Nigeria, Bello, as president of the NPC, chose — although arguably one of the most influential politicians in Nigeria — to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and devolved the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to the deputy president of the NPC, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

He apparently did not want to live in Lagos and preferred the political climate of the North from that of the South. His disinclination to head the national government also suggests that he was not interested in power for the sake of power but in serving the people whose votes had elected him to office.

Death and Legacy

Bello’s many political accomplishments include establishing the Northern Regional Development Corporation (NRDC)(subsequently the later the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), the Bank of the North, the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) and the Nigeria Citizen Newspapers. 

The North was less developed economically than the South, and Bello argued that it was necessary for the North to catch up with the South for the sake of national unity. He traveled constantly across the North, meeting people and listening to their concerns.

Bello, at the age of 54, was assassinated during the January 15, 1966, military coup that toppled Nigeria’s post-independence government. He was still serving as Premier of Northern Nigeria at the time. The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is named after him and his portrait adorns Nigeria’s ₦200 note.

Premier of Nigeria’s Northern Region and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello speaks on the domineering nature of the Igbos and on why he would employ a Northerner before any other Nigerian to the Region’s civil service, 1964.

Further Reading

How Bello, Balewa, others were killed in January 1966

How Nzeogwu killed Ahmadu Bello and wife

Pondering on the life of Sir Ahmadu Bello

Yar’Adua’s Ailment, Jonathan’s Quandary and the Doctrine of Necessity

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yar'adua-jonathan-doctrine-of-necessity
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (sitting) with his Vice, Goodluck Jonathan, 2008.

I will not sign it and I will not swear-in the Chief Justice-designate. My lawyers have told me it’s an impeachable offence,” Acting President Goodluck Jonathan boldly told members of the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s presidency who had come to persuade him into signing the 2010 budget and to swear-in Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu as the 17th Chief Justice of Nigeria.

A Storm in a Teacup

Goodluck Jonathan, as Nigeria’s Vice President, was supposed to act as President and discharge the duties of the office as Acting President whenever his boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was not around in reference to Section 145 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. Unfortunately, the President who had been battling with diverse life-threatening diseases “failed” to transmit a letter to the National Assembly under the afore-quoted section of the constitution which states that:

“Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on a vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”

Jonathan’s lawyers and advisers argued that until the President transmits a letter, he had no power to act as President. Thus, according to them, any actions he carried out as Vice President that was required by the President, such as the signing of the budget and swearing-in of the Chief Justice of the Federation, would amount to usurpation of power which is impeachable under Section 143 (11) of the constitution.

To be fair to President Yar’Adua, he did write a letter to be transmitted to the National Assembly through the Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa. Unfortunately, the latter who was part of a kitchen cabinet or a faceless cabal failed to transmit the letter to the National Assembly. They felt the power of the President is too immense to relinquish just like that.

Besides, to hand over power to a “minority” (in this case, Goodluck Jonathan) was a risk too high for them to take. Earlier in the tenure, Jonathan had been sidelined from the scheme of things as Vice President but the President’s advisers kept stressing on “One Presidency”. However, Yar’Adua’s ailment served as a distraction to him and the cabal “had their way”.

Yar’Adua’s Ailment

On Monday, November 23, 2009, the President was flown out of the country to a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to receive treatment for pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium (the fibrous sac surrounding the heart). That was the last time the President was seen in public. He had left a power vacuum that nearly destroyed the country. The nation was at a standstill. The ministers did not know who to report or answer to. Leadership was rudderless.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) argued that the President should have transmitted a letter while some prominent Nigerians like, the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, called on the cabinet members and the National Assembly to declare the President incapacitated and subsequently impeach him. Protests against the Yar’Adua presidency sprung up in the major cities of Lagos and Abuja by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), led by Pastor Tunde Bakare, Professor Wole Soyinka and Dr. Joe Odumakin. They demanded the elevation of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President pending the time the President would resume and discharge duties of his office.

The December 25, 2009, Christmas Day, failed terrorist attack of an American bound airplane by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Underwear Bomber”, further exposed the absence of the President. The United States of America did not hesitate to put Nigeria on her list of terrorist nations and travel restrictions were imposed on Nigerian travelers.

Jonathan’s Quandary

Back home, the heat was getting more intense. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi was to retire as he was approaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years.

Image of President Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria (May 6, 2010 – May 29, 2015).

After the National Judicial Council (NJC) had nominated Katsina-Alu as the next CJN and was to be sworn in on December 30, unfortunately, the President was not around. He was in a Saudi hospital and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan did not have the powers required to swear in a Chief Justice.

When Aondoakaa and other aides of President Yar’Adua approached Jonathan to swear in the CJN-designate, Jonathan declined and did not give in to their pleas. The AGF himself had argued that the President could rule the country from anywhere.

However, they reached a compromise in Section 10 (2) of the Oath’s Act and argued that either the President or the Chief Justice could swear in the incoming Chief Justice. In the end, it was agreed that Justice Kutigi should swear-in his successor; the first and only time in the nation’s history. A relief to the Yar’Adua’s loyalists.

Two Chief Justices in One Day

Therefore, on Wednesday, December 30, 2009, a day before he was due to retire, Justice Kutigi swore in his successor, Katsina-Alu as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

It was a misnomer and there were some controversies over the ceremony because there has never been a ceremony like that, before it or after it till this day, in which the Oath of Office for the CJN was not administered by the President/Head-of-State or someone vested with the powers of the President.

This was one of the ripple effects of the power vacuum left by the ailing President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

By implication, it meant that Nigeria had two Chief Justices the same day (December 30, 2009) as Kutigi himself declared during the inauguration, which witnessed the absence of seven out of fifteen justices of the Supreme Court, that he was still in charge until 12:00 am the next day when he would clock the statutory age of 70.

The Guardian newspaper of Thursday, December 31, 2009, quoted Kutigi thus:

By 12 midnight today, I will be clocking the statutory retirement age of 70 and that means I will be retiring then. But for the interest of mischief makers who may go about writing that we have two Chief Justices of Nigeria, let me make it clear that for now, I am still in charge.

The President has always been there to do the inauguration, but this time he is not there. So I, as the Chief Justice, have performed that duty. The Judicial Oath of Office and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, confer the power to swear in any judicial officer on the President and the Chief Justice. So there is nothing wrong with that. 

A Cabinet Divided

Nevertheless, the Minister for Information, Professor Dora Akunyili, felt cabinet members should invoke Section 144 of the Constitution. However, many of them, especially the Minister for Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, disagreed. They felt it would be “unfair” on the President to remove him from office; besides, Section 144 was too hasty a decision at the moment.

On the other hand, Section 144 of the constitution wouldn’t have removed President Yar’Adua from the Office per se, it would only have declared him incapacitated. But none of the ministers wanted to take the risk of being disloyal to his or her boss except Professor Akunyili who stood her ground that the Vice President should take charge pending the President’s return on the basis that the nation was at a standstill.

The Doctrine of Necessity

In light of the recent events, on Friday, January 22, 2010, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which made up the ministers appointed by the President, had fourteen days to decide a resolution whether Yar’Adua was incapable of discharging his duties as President after an opposition activist, Farouk Adamu Aliyu, represented by his lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, brought a law-suit before it which asked the judges to sack the President over his failing health and for failing to abide by the provisions of the constitution.

Senate President David Mark was at an impasse with his colleagues and members of the then ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, about the matter. Many of the President’s loyalists had thwarted any move the Senate might want to make in removing or dissipating the powers of the President. The President had not been heard of for weeks and many rumours were rife that he had been dead since December of 2009 in the Saudi hospital and that the nation was being run by a faceless cabal.

With the fears that the power vacuum would lead to anarchy and a possible military takeover, Mark then had a meeting with the Senators who had an educational background in Law and they reached a compromise by adopting the Doctrine of Necessity.

According to Wikipedia:

“The doctrine of necessity is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order are found to be constitutional.”

Therefore, on Tuesday, February 9, 2010, the Red Chambers of the Senate and the Green Chambers of the House of Representatives, like a clock’s hands at twelve o’clock, joined hands and passed a resolution which empowered the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Mr. Acting President, Sir!

This act by the National Assembly members did not go down well with loyalists of the President and they protested their disdain, on pages of newspapers and other media of information, citing abuse of the constitution.

They were right. There’s no provision of such action in the Nigerian Constitution which empowered the National Assembly to pass such resolution.

Nevertheless, Jonathan’s lawyers had anticipated this. The Acting President got wind that the embattled AGF had been working behind the scenes to challenge the ruling in court which, ceteris paribus, he was bound to win because the Constitution does not provide for an Acting President through a transfer of power to the Vice President by the National Assembly.

What is your take on the National Assembly to make me the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief?” Jonathan asked Aondoakaa after he had summoned the later to his office.

I think it is a good decision, sir.

Well, I have decided to make a minor reshuffle of the cabinet. I’ll be deploying you to another ministry.

That’s good. But I’ll appreciate it if you can stay the action for now. There are some things I still need to sort out in the Justice Ministry,” Aondoakaa pleaded.

When the Cat’s asleep…

However, at the Federal Executive Council Meeting the next day after the Acting President had shocked everyone present by rejecting his seat and chosen to sit on the President’s seat, Jonathan announced the minor cabinet reshuffle.

He redeployed the AGF to the Ministry of Special Duties and transferred the Minister for Labour, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, as the new Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Everyone got the message, Jonathan was now fully in charge. The Yar’Adua presidency was coming to an end. Many of the ministers, who were hitherto Yar’Adua’s loyalists, started gravitating towards Jonathan.

But the President’s handlers would not give in without a fight and Saudi Arabia got the message.

Around 3:00 am on Wednesday, February 24, 2010, less than fifteen days Jonathan assumed the presidency in acting capacities, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua made a surprise return to the country via the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to the Presidential Villa. This was seen as a calculated move by his handlers to upset the growing influence and stability of a clear fledgling Jonathan administration.

As Acting President, Jonathan bore the insignia of the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also added the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) title to his name. In fact, the National Anthem preceded any address he had to make as Acting President.

Would that change, now that the President was back?

President Yar’Adua’s aide, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Olusegun Adeniyi made matters worse when he addressed the Acting President as “Vice President Goodluck Jonathan”. In a counter move, the same day, Jonathan’s spokesperson, Ima Niboro, issued a statement and addressed Jonathan as “Acting President”. There was now a power-play in the villa as the secrecy surrounding the return of the ailing President threw up questions who was really in charge.

dora-akunyili-awards
During her lifetime, Dora Akunyili received 820 awards. In 2016, two years after her death, her husband discovered 110 more awards packed safely in her boxes, bringing the total to 930. No other Nigerian has won more.

Jonathan’s advisers warned that he could be shot by the Presidential Guard Brigade, whose responsibility is to protect the President if he carried on using the President’s insignia since he was now around. However, the Minister for Information argued that Jonathan was still the Acting President as he was mandated by the National Assembly that the only way he would revert to the title of “Vice President” was if the National Assembly revoked their endorsement of Jonathan.

Not many activities took place for the next few months other than Jonathan who tried his best to see his ailing boss but was denied by the First Lady, Mrs. Turai Yar’Adua.

A Passing Cloud

In late April 2010, Christian Clerics in the country who visited and prayed for the President reported to Jonathan that it would be a miracle for the President to resume and discharge the functions of his office.

One week later, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died. He was the first elected President to die in office and the second Head-of-State to die in Aso Rock after General Sani Abacha. It was not until after his death that Jonathan was able to see him.

The next day, Thursday, May 6, 2010, the Acting President was sworn into office as the 14th Head-of-State and the 4th Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. President Jonathan was now granted full powers of his office as enshrined in the Constitution.

With Yar’Adua gone, all the controversies, about who was President and who was not, were laid to rest. The rest, they say, is history.

You can follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

Sources

Olusegun Adeniyi (December 13, 2011): Power, Politics, and Death

Sahara Reporters (February 13, 2010): The Doctrine of necessity in perspective

The Guardian (December 31, 2009): Kutigi makes history, swears in Katsina-Alu

21 Interesting Facts you did not know about Sani Abacha

sani-abacha

Today marks 21 years since the demise of General Sani Abacha and the history of Nigeria is incomplete without a succinct recourse to the man Sani Abacha. Nigeria’s 7th military Head-of-State, Sani Abacha died on June 8, 1998, while at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He was flown to Kano and buried the same day, according to Islamic rites, without an autopsy. This fueled speculation that he might have been executed extrajudicially by way of being poisoned by political rivals via prostitutes.

On the contrary, the government cited his cause of death as a sudden heart attack. It is reported that he was in the company of two Indian prostitutes imported from Dubai. It is thought that these prostitutes laced his drink with a poisonous substance, making Abacha feel unwell around 4:30 am. He retired to his bed and was dead by 6:15 am.

Sani Abacha Facts

1. General Sani Abacha was born on Monday, September 20, 1943, in Kano and also died and was buried on Monday, June 8, 1998. A Kanuri originally from Borno State, he was brought up in Kano state, where he made his home.

2. He married a Shuwa Arab, Maryam, also from Borno state, in 1965 and together they had six boys and three girls. The first child, Ibrahim, died in a plane crash in 1996.

3. The last of their children was born in Aso Rock in 1994 when Abacha was 50 and his wife, 47. The boy was named Mustapha, supposedly after Abacha’s chief security officer, Hamza al Mustapha.

4. Sani Abacha was the first and only military Head-of-State that never skipped a rank to become a full-star General.

Image of Sani Abacha, GCON
Gen. Sani Abacha: Arrested and charged Abiola with treason.

5. Abacha is by some records the most successful coup plotter in Nigerian history. The late general participated in every single successful coup carried out in the country and was instrumental in the coups which brought and removed Major-General Muhammadu Buhari from power in 1983 and 1985 respectively.

6. Abacha announced the coup that brought an end to the government of President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, which eventually brought Major-General Muhammadu Buhari to power. Also, after Buhari was overthrown in a palace on August 27, 1985, it was Abacha that announced the chief of army staff, Major-General Ibrahim Babangida, as the new military president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces in an evening broadcast (the coup speech was read by Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro).

7.  Abacha was known as a man of “few words and deadly actions”; he demonstrated this as Head-of-State with one of the most brutal regimes Nigeria has ever had. There was a massive crackdown on the media, civil rights groups, and pro-democracy campaigns.

8. Officially, he did not overthrow the interim national government in 1993. The head of government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, resigned and Abacha as the secretary of defence and the most senior member of government took over. Unofficially, it was a bloodless coup.

In 2004, Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history.

9. Two of the most important recommendations of the 1995 constitutional conference he set up are 13% derivation for oil-producing areas and six geo-political zones.

10. Abacha never held a non-military appointment in his career until he became minister of defence in 1990 (later re-designated secretary of defence in 1993). He was a Lieutenant-General then.

Image of General Sani Abacha
General Sani Abacha (1943–1998), Nigeria’s Head-of-State (1993–1998).

11. Abacha’s supporters describe him as a good economic manager and that he stabilised exchange rate at N22/$1 but the unofficial rate was N80/$1. This created colossal rent-seeking, with many “chosen” associates buying at the official rate and reselling at four times the rate in the black market.

12. Abacha increased fuel price just once in his four-and-a-half years in office and set up the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, which was widely acknowledged to have performed well in infrastructural development and intervention programmes in education, health, and water.

13. His wife, Maryam, set up what is now known as the National Hospital, Abuja. It was originally named National Hospital for Women and Children before it was upgraded into what is intended to be Nigeria’s number one public hospital.

14. It was under Abacha that Nigeria became a perpetual importer of petroleum products, as all the refineries packed up. However, 20 years after his death, Nigeria is still heavily dependent on fuel imports.

15. An unforgettable phenomenon under Abacha was the importation of “foul fuel” which had an offensive odour and damaged car engines.

16. Sani Abacha was instrumental to the restoration of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone and Liberia after years of civil wars.

17. In 1995, after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Time magazine named Abacha “Thug of the Year.” In 2004, Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history.

18. Abacha rarely appeared in public, refused to grant interviews or allow the publication of any personal information about him, and developed a habit of working only at night.

19. General Sani Abacha remains the shortest Head-of-State in Nigerian history. He was around 5 feet, 5 inches tall.

Image of Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ken Saro-Wiwa pictured with his father and two sons, c.1990.

20. Abacha’s death still remains shrouded in mystery: the most popular version is that he died in the midst of Indian prostitutes flown in from Dubai but the official version is that he died of a heart attack. A more likely story is that he was “eliminated” to end the political crisis in Nigeria. Abacha was survived by his wife, eight children, and fifteen grandchildren.

21. Astonishingly, the Nigerian government is still recovering many of the loots Abacha reportedly stashed in foreign accounts around the world.

Are there other facts about Abacha that you know of? Kindly let us know in the comment box below.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

Further Reading

Biography of Sani Abacha

Sani Abacha: Timeline of the late Nigerian dictator’s life – BBC News

Reactions as UK seizes fresh N82bn Abacha loot

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