BY OMONU YAX-NELSON
Be it for good or bad, some political characters have contributed in one way or the other to shaping the political pattern and government policies in the fourth republic. OMONU YAX-NELSON pinpoints who played what role in the making of the fourth republic.
e movers and shakers of government policies and programmes. This group, to a large extent, determines who gets what appointment, when, where and how. In some climes, members of this group are called political godfathers.
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, its policy and programme direction has been largely built around the clout and charisma of individuals. It all began with the struggle for the control of the legislative arm of the Nigerian government. The struggle was between the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), a political group established by late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and inherited by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and President Olusegun
Obasanjo’s relatively unorganized political group.
While Atiku’s camp was disposed to having one of their own, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo as the senate president, Obasanjo’s camp was bent on enthroning Chief Evan Enwerem. Obasanjo used presidential power to bulldoze his way through and installed Enwerem as the first senate president of the fourth republic.
But hardly had Enwerem settled down to office than the Atiku’s group ambushed him with furniture scandal. He was removed and in his place, the flamboyant Okadigbo was elected in his stead. But Obasanjo, who considered Okadigbo too stubborn, unbendable and loyal to his vice president’s camp immediately commenced his own plan to topple him.
Okadigbo did not survive the proverbial ‘banana peel’ and went down soon afterwards.
Senator Anyim’s emergence brought some measure of stability to the upper legislative chamber.
Just when political book makers were predicting stability at the National Assembly, the House of Representatives was hit by a scandal. Its speaker, Salisu Buhari was discovered to have cloned certificate from Toronto University, Canada. He was also discovered to have falsified his age to qualify him to contest the House of Representative seat. He resigned eventually and in his stead, Hon Umar Ghali Na’aba was elected.
At the executive arm, the president, in a bid to garner support for Nigeria in the international community, engaged in diplomatic shuttles round the world, leaving his deputy, Atiku Abubakar to preside at the home front. Atiku used this to his advantage and amassed a lot of influence and support among the state governors.
In the buildup to the 2003 general elections, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) became covertly factionalized between the re-election ambition of Obasanjo and Atiku’s bid to unseat his boss. Majority of the PDP governors were said to be favourably disposed to Atiku’s leadership. In a bid to achieve a middle ground, OBJ, as Obasanjo is fondly called, begged Atiku to drop his ambition.
Amongst the henchmen of the president was Chief Tony Anenih, who became so influential politically, that he was called ‘Mr Fix it’ because of his knack for forging unthinkable political bridges.
Another vibrant foot soldier of the president was Sir Peter Odili, then governor of the oil rich River State, who was accused by Na’aba of sponsoring his removal as speaker of the House.
Another political character that cannot be forgotten in the making of the fourth republic is the Igueben high chief, Tom Ikimi. He was one of Obasanjo’s henchmen.
After President Obasanjo got re-elected into office in the 2003 presidential election, he began to alienate Atiku from his government, stripping him of all his duties as vice president and eventually declaring his seat (Atiku’s) vacant. It got so bad that Atiku decamped from the PDP to Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), a decision the Supreme Court later nullified.
Obasanjo thereafter turned the heat on Atiku political friends and governors seen to be loyal to him. The impeachment of Bayelsa State’s DSP Alamieyeseigha was in connection with Atiku-Obasanjo political rift.
Angered by his persecution, Atiku moved to pay Obasanjo
back in his own coin and in this regard spared no effort in truncating the third term agenda by which Obasanjo had hoped to extend his stay in office. He mobilized the traditional
institution, former leaders and many political heavy weights across the country the ‘third term’ bid of the former president.
When it was time to go, against all odds and resistance from within the PDP, Obasanjo was able to foist Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan on his party. In an election that Yar’Adua himself acknowledged was anything but credible, Yar’Adua/Jonathan emerged as president and vice president respectively.
Obasanjo was able to influence the choice of the first female speaker of House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh. She was however forced to resign in October 2007 because of an allegation bothering on renovation of her official residence and body massage machine. Hon Dimeji Bankole, who himself was enmeshed in all manner of corruption allegations replaced Etteh.
But two years into his administration, Yar’Adua’s health got so bad, culminating in his death on May 5, 2010. But one significant feature of Yar’Adua’s government was the rise of a ‘cabal’ in government and the exploits of first lady, Turai Yar’Adua. Members of the cabal comprised then attorney-general of the federation, Michael Aaondoaka, the former FCT minister Adamu Aliero and former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.
Jonathan administration appointed Prof Attahiru Jega to the chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He superintended over an election that led to the defeat of seating President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 general election, thus ending PDP’s 16 years rule.
One of the most outstanding characters of the Jonathan era was Senator David Mark, the senate president. He is known to have played significant role in that government.
In the first 16 years of democratic governance in the fourth republic, one major feature of the political landscape was the high turnover of the leadership of the political parties. The reign of impunity is believed to be greatest undoing of the key political parties we have had in Nigeria. It began with Chief Audu Ogbe who was said to have been forced to resign at gun point as the PDP national chairman.
In the build up to the 2015 election, select opposition parties rallied round themselves and formed a mega opposition party. The arrow head of the move was the former governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Bola
Tinubu, who was in constant friction with the Obasanjo government throughout his eight years in office.
Since coming to power, the APC government led by President Muhammed Buhari has been bogged down by numerous challenges. But the failing health of President Buhari has been a major setback. This has conferred the burden of leadership now on Vice President Yemi Oshinbajo who has since emerged as the acting president in the absence of Buhari who is away in the United Kingdom for this reason.