The separatist agitation in Cameroon following the declaration of the Republic of Ambazonia appears to have escalated since Nigeria deported some Cameroonian freedom fighters and refugees to Cameroon. In this interview with ONWUKA NZESHI a lawyer and human rights activist, Abdul Oroh, who was in Cameroon recently, says the crisis could degenerate into a full blown civil war if Nigeria does not intervene
What is the situation of the Cameroonian freedom fighters who were deported to their country by Nigerian security forces early this year?
The situation remains very critical. Apart from those who were arrested and detained, about eight other refugees in Ikom, Cross River State, were also deported on March 3, 2018. As we speak, about 100 detainees who were previously in Nigeria are being held by the Cameroonians. Among them is a 23-year-old girl and a one-year-old child. They are still in detention and in very harrowing conditions in Cameroon.
Based on the information that we have now, after they were arrested here by about 20 armed security operatives around 6.45 pm on January 5, 2018, they were taken to the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and held at the third floor, underground cell. For the period they were in detention, they did not see sunlight except when the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) visited them and that was after they had been detained for two weeks.
At what point and in what condition were they deported?
They were deported on January 24, 2018. As they were being taken away at around 9.00 pm, they were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to the airport by armed soldiers . They were handed over to heavily armed and masked Cameroonian gendarmes. At the Abuja airport, two of the detainees were released because they were actually Nigerians. Their fathers are Nigerians but maybe their mothers are Cameroonians.
They were not deported alongside the others because of their Nigerian nationality. The other 10 were thrown into the Cameroonian military plane. While in the plane, they met about 25 heavily armed hooded soldiers in black uniform. These people were very hostile to the detainees and did not allow them to talk to each other. They kept abusing and harassing them menacingly until they go to Yaoundé that night. They were detained and held incommunicado at the headquarters of the Cameroonian Police for about for 13 weeks. They were not granted access to lawyers or family members. Nobody knew their whereabouts by the time we went to Cameroon based on information, they were held in solitary confinement without sunlight and fresh air. Some time in February, another 40 youths who were arrested in Gembu and also deported to Cameroon were reportedly tortured. They were beaten every now and then for a few weeks. But the other 10 were not subjected to the same torture. In March, an additional eight persons were arrested and detained there.
How did you get to know all this, especially as some one living in Nigeria?
I was monitoring the situation through some of my contacts. However, by the time I travelled to Cameroon, the information I had was that about 100 detainees were with the gendarmes.
I was worried about the state of these people; Femi Falana and I went to the Cameroonian High Commission in Nigeria here to request to be allowed to visit them in Cameroon. They said we should bring a letter. We sent a letter and actually met with the High Commissioner, His Excellency Salaudeen and he said they would contact us when they are ready to receive us in Cameroon. After a while, I didn’t feel comfortable that these people were in detention and I had no access to them. We weren’t hearing anything about them and no one knew what was happening to them.
At that same time, we were receiving reports of massacres, burning of villages and many people were either being killed or buried alive. In fact we were receiving reports of genocide in the South East and North West Provinces of Cameroon. I then decided to brave the odds and travelled to the Ministry of Justice in Cameroon and asked to see the minister. I reported to them that I was the lawyer of those people who were detained. Well, they received me but they said that I didn’t give any advance notice or book an appointment.
What about the letter you wrote earlier?
Yeah, I told them that I wrote a letter but apparently they were not aware of the letter, they didn’t receive it. It is either their High Commissioner did not transmit it to the Ministry of Justice or he transmitted it to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they didn’t act on it. It may have also been lost in transit.
So I now submitted another letter which they acknowledged by stamping a duplicate copy if it.
I then proceeded to their Human Rights Commission; they kept me waiting for almost two hours. Eventually, I met Dr. Banda, Chairman of the Cameroon National Commission for Human Rights and Freedom. Later, I visited the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross to see the Co-ordinator in charge of Central African region. I also met some lawyers, journalists and some civil society people with whom I exchanged views on the situation in their country. Although, I wasn’t allowed to see my clients where they were being detained but I was able to speak to some members of their families on phone. Many of these relatives were in places such as Bamenda and Douala. After about five days, I returned to Nigeria.
So, what were your findings?
I discovered that Cameroon was like a state under siege. It was like how Nigeria was during the Gen. Sani Abacha regime. Even taxi drivers were afraid to talk to me about happenings in their country. Even journalists were afraid to talk even inside the car. We were in a restaurant in a hotel and I wanted to speak with some people, they were reluctant, hence we had to leave and took a walk down the road to a quiet area before they could talk because there was security everywhere.
Although, people were worried for my safety but I think that Cameroonian authorities were smart enough to know that I didn’t come to interfere in their crisis. My sole interest was the liberty of my clients. I was there to know the way they were being treated by the security forces. I didn’t go there to join issues with anyone or any group about their internal affairs. I was concerned that these people were taken from Nigeria and detained in an unknown location and I have a duty to know about their condition in detention. I was hired by their families and these families need to know that we haven’t abandoned them but that we are still working to ensure that they are released.
What’s your next line of action?
I must say that the Nigerian government should intervene in the Cameroon crisis. The international community should intervene in the crisis in Cameroon because massacres are reported on a daily basis. People are killed on a daily basis. Villages are being burnt on a daily basis. I am happy that the United States has already started showing interest and they have warned Cameroon not to use the military equipment they gave them to fight the separatist struggle in the South West but they can be used to fight Boko Haram. They gave them two aircrafts. Of course, the British Parliament has also shown concern. The United Nations and a number of international human rights and civil society organisations have equally shown interest in what is happening in Cameroon. But in Cameroon now, they see Nigeria as a collaborator; they blame Nigeria for everything.
Who are these people?
Yes. They believe it is Nigeria that deported these people and because of their deportation, the crisis has escalated. According to them, the role Nigeria ought to have played was that of a mediator in the crisis. Since all these people were resident in Nigeria, we should have intervened in such a way that the liberty of these detainees would have been protected instead if handing them back to Cameroon to undergo torture.
Our government should have leveraged on their presence here in Nigeria to see how they can promote dialogue between them and the Cameroonian government. Nigeria could have been in a better position to negotiate for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Cameroon. I also think that that is what Nigeria should have done and it’s not too late. We’ve made a mistake by deporting them to a hostile environment and I think it’s our duty now to de-escalate the crisis in Cameroon by playing a mediatory role. Already a lot of people are being killed, massacred, thrown into burning houses or sometimes buried alive. The situation is so bad that if a single gendarme is killed, they attack a whole village. People who are running away are thrown into burning house,
whether they are men, women or children. Many people have actually fled their homes into the forests and many of the communities are now ghost towns.
According to the United Nations, about 150, 000 people have been displaced since the crisis escalated in January. Over 20,000 refugees from Cameroon have been registered in Nigeria. Some have escaped to Ghana and other neighbouring countries. Some have also escaped to Europe, America and other parts of the world. So, I think that Nigeria has a duty to intervene and persuade the Cameroonian authorities to consider the dialogue option with these people and resolve whatever problem they have internally.
What do you think will be the fate of these detainees?
No one can tell now what may happen to them. If we don’t act fast, they could be executed. What I see now is like the late Ken Saro Wiwa situation. People thought it will not happen but then it happened. My observation during my stay in Cameroon is that unless the Cameroonian government released these people the situation in Cameroon will continue to escalate. It’s now very deadly serious. People are being killed every day. The militants or freedom fighters are killing the gendarmes and the gendarmes are killing the civilians.
Do you know whether the Cameroonian authorities have charged them to court?
We did not receive such information. But we know that some activists that we’re in detention were tried recently by the military tribunal and sentenced to various terms of imprisonments. These were lawyer and journalists; they didn’t run away from their country, but even the lawyers who were defending them were arrested and also put on trial. Some were also harassed to withdraw their cases from the courts.
Why do you think the Cameroonian government does not seem disposed to negotiating with these people for peace to reign?
There are so many issues involved in this crisis. It’s just like the Nigerian government saying that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. They are supposed to be two separate countries coming together with different cultures, different orientations, different languages and different attitudes. But now one part is being dominated and marginalised by the other group. Now they are trying to impose a culture and a language on the other. This is the crux of the matter.
Specifically, the Francophone Cameroon is trying to dominate and super-impose itself on the Anglophone Cameroon. They had two legal systems but there is a policy of assimilation which is threatening to obliterate the Anglophone culture and legal system. One of the lawyers told me that as a lawyer, if you file a case at the Ministry of Justice in Cameroon, unless it us written in French, they won’t treat the case. What you now do is to go and look for somebody who can translate it into French. There is so much anger and bitterness in that country.
Do you think that Nigeria with its own load of challenges particularly insecurity, internal contradictions and poor economy has the capacity and moral authority to intervene in the crisis in Cameroon?
We were under military rule when we intervened in apartheid South Africa. We were under military rule when we stepped out to restore democracy in Sierra Leone and Liberia. We have been carrying out peace-keeping operations, not just within but even outside Africa. We are talking about our immediate neighbours whose citizens are pouring into our country as refugees on daily basis. These refugees are putting pressures on our lean resources. If we don’t help them to solve that problem, it will continue and could get to a stage when it could even become a threat to our own security too. So, it is not a question of moral right because human lives are involved in this conflict. It is true that we have our own challenges but I am not saying we should deploy our troops there to help one side to defeat the other side. I am saying we should help them to get to talk, negotiate peace and resolve their differences amicably.
Why do you think the international media is not focusing on this crisis in Cameroon?
No. They are but it’s just that the Nigeria media is not following the events closely. I do not see the reason the foreign media from Europe and America will be reporting what is going on at our backyard and the Nigerian media is standing aloof You don’t need a visa to visit Cameroon. From Lagos to Yaoundé is about one hour, 25 minutes; it’s like travelling within Nigeria. You can even go by road if you want. Go there and find out what is happening. Right now, there is genocide going on under our nose. While I was there, I met several foreign journalists; why can’t we have Nigerian journalists there as well?
We must realise that for the two countries to be peaceful and relating with each other is a win-win situation. There are more than four million Nigerians living in Cameroon. Ninety per cent of the auto parts dealers in Cameroon are Nigerians. We don’t just have an Embassy in Yaounde; we also have a Consulate in Bouyer. We have many Nigerians doing businesses in Cameroon, and it will be a win-win situation if we have peace in that country.
INEC, 2019 election and server debacle
The legal fireworks in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his party against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last February 23 general election before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja is getting more intense by the day .
After the said election, Atiku and PDP had through their team of lawyers headed by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, (SAN) filed a joint petition challenging massive irregularity in the conduct of the election. It was the contention of the petitioners that they won the election, based on the results transmitted to the INEC server electronically.
The electoral body, however, denied the using of server for the election even as the petitioners had indicated in their petition to call 400 witnesses to testify against the election.
However, so far, the petitioners have been able to call about 36 witnesses. The Petitioners’ Witness 2, Peter Uzioma Obi last Monday while giving evidence confirmed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) transmitted the result of the February 23 presidential election electronically.
Obi, however, told the tribunal that it will be wrong to say the results of the presidential election were not transmitted electronically. He told the tribunal that he functioned as Registration Area Technician at a ward level in Rivers State during the election and stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission trained him and others to transmit the results of the poll.
“You are not supposed to transmit results because you are not a presiding officer,” INEC counsel asked, to which Obi said: “You are wrong Sir. INEC trained us to transmit results. I was not a presiding officer. I was not a polling agent. I was a registration area technician appointed by INEC. I was trained by INEC.”
Being cross-examined by Buhari’s Counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Obi said he was not aware of the guidelines used by the INEC for the presidential election, but noted that there was a specific guidelines booklet issued for his roles as a RATECH. “I was a RATECH in charge of the use of card reader,” he said.
Under cross examination by APC’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Obi said the lawyer was not entirely correct to say that it was the duty of the Presiding Officer “to do accreditation, verification authentication, and collation at the Poling Units.”
“You are not entirely correct Sir, because we were told at the training that the Assistant Polling Officer 1, was in charge of accreditation. I did not serve as APO1 and I did not serve as the Presiding Officer,” he stated.
Similarly, Petitioners Witness 5, Mohammed Tata who served as an agent of PDP in Jigawa State alleged before the tribunal that he was compelled under duress to sign result of the presidential election in his polling unit.
The witness equally told the tribunal that he was threatened to either sign a copy of the result or have his name removed as a beneficiary in the N-Power scheme. Under cross examination by INEC counsel, Usman, Tata said: “I was harassed and intimidated to sign the result sheet under duress. I was told that if I refuse to sign, my name will be removed from the N-Power Program.”
When asked if he was dissatisfied that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC scored over 700 votes in his polling unit, the witness said: “There was no score because there was no election.
“I am a Muslim. I believe in destiny and what God decides will happen. Whether PDP wins or the APC does, I don’t have a problem with that. All I want is that I need justice in my country. I don’t care whether my party won or lost, but I am not happy about what happened.”
Furthermore, Petitioners Witness 1, Buba Galadima, who is a former ally of Buhari, told the Tribunal that he fell out with the President because of injustice in his administration and not because he was not appointed a minister.
In addition to injustice, Galadima said that lack of inclusiveness and failure of the administration to secure Nigeria, also added to why he left the camp of the President. Galadima made the submissions under cross-examination, after he had adopted his statement on oath.
Olanipekun: “You fell out with the 2nd respondent (Buhari) because he did not make you a minister in 2015.”
Galadima: “No. You should know that I fought all the previous governments since 1999 because of injustice.We made good promises to Nigerians, including justice, inclusiveness, and to secure the country, which he has failed to do. It has always being part of my characteristics to fight injustice. I supported Buhari in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 election cycles until the 2019 election.”
However, while being cross-examined by Fagbemi, Galadima said he was aware that there was no registered party called the Reformed APC, but maintained that he was still the chairman of the group.
Petitioners Witness 8 on Tuesday, however, told the tribunal that the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar won the said election in Katsina State. The witness, who is the State Chairman of the PDP in Katsina, Salisu Maijigiri, said that Atiku defeated President Muhammadu Buhari, in the state.
Maijigiri told the tribunal that he served as the party’s collation agent in the state for the presidential election in Katsina State. Under cross-examination, by respondents’ counsel, Maijigiri said contrary to the results declared by the INEC, the results collated by his party in the state showed that APC polled 872,000 while PDP scored 905,000.
Meanwhile, the results INEC declared for the state, showed that PDP polled 160,203 votes while the APC polled 1,505,633. But contradicting INEC’s results, Maijigiri said: ”We (PDP) are the one who won the election not APC. APC scored 872,000 and PDP scored, 905,000. These are our own results, we collated in our state not the ones from the server.”
Petitioners Witness 17, Uchena Umeh said in his own testimony to the Tribunal that as an Assistant Presiding Officer 1 during the last presidential election in Gwarinpa, Abuja, he transmitted the results of the poll to INEC’s server.
Under cross-examination by Buhari’s counsel, Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), Umeh said he was on the day before the election given the code with which he will use transmit the results of the poll at his polling unit to INEC server.
He said: “In the course of the training, they told us there was an INEC server. A code was given to us and they told us that only APO I should know the code.”
In furtherance of the hearing, Prosecution Witness 23 told the tribunal that all the result sheets in Borno State was mutilated to favour Buhari and his party. The witness. who was collation agent for the PDP, Nicholas Msheliza, added that virtually all the result sheets from the various local governments in the state were mutilated.
He equally stated that there was zero accreditation of voters in over 200 polling units out of the 3,933 statutory polling units in the state. He further told the tribunal that there were a total of 5,078 voting points, including the polling units. Msheliza also said the total votes of 911, 786 declared by INEC was well over the accredited voters across the state.
However, Prosecution Witness 21, Jafaru Usman, who served as the PDP local government collation agent for Zaria, Kaduna State, in witness told the Tribunal that results in his area were rigged in favour of the APC. But the witness, who is a lawyer, said he signed the Form EC8C, the local government area result sheets, not as authentication of what was contained in it but as a mere witness.
Under cross-examination, Usman said the polling unit results contained in Forms EC8A ought to be transmitted to the ward result sheets, Forms EC8B, and then transmitted to Form EC8C, which is the local government result sheet, but that was not the case in his area.
“The correct results were not transmitted,” Usman said. But when asked if he signed the Form EC8C, he said: “I signed in line with the provision of the Electoral Act. I signed it but I did not authenticate what was contained in it. I only signed as a witness in line with the Electoral Act. What I signed was not a contract. All those who were in attendance were required to sign in line with Electoral Act.”
Asked if any of those who perpetrated the rigging were convicted in court, he said: “I made complaints, they did nothing.”
Prosecution Witness 24, John Makama, who served as the PDP collation agent in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State in his own testimony said the results of the poll in the stronghold of his party were cancelled by INEC officials.
He alleged in his evidence-in-chief that the election in the area was marred by illegal cancellation of votes. Under cross-examination by the respondents’ counsel, Makama said the results were cancelled in his presence at the local government collation centre by the INEC’s local government collation officer and not at the polling units where the election took place.
He said of the 11 wards in Sanga Local Government Area, the APC was only strong in three. Still under cross examination, Makama could not find an answer when told that cancellation of results in the council area was not part of the case presented by the petitioners in their petition.
Meanwhile, one of the twist, in the case was an attack on the petitioners’ witnesses by unknown gun-men on their way to Abuja from Zamfara State. The witnesses were billed to testify in the ongoing hearing of the petition jointly filed by Atiku and PDP against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In his own evidence, Olufemi Ogunride, who was ad-hoc staff of INEC during the election confirmed to the tribunal that he along with other Assistant Presiding Officers transmitted election results into the server of INEC using the smart card reader.
The witness told the tribunal that two hours to the election, Assistant Presiding Officers were assembled and trained by a consultant to INEC on how to transmit election results into the INEC server with the smart card reader.
Ogunride, who said that he received his own training on how to transmit election results to server in Abuja, admitted that he personally transmitted results provided by the Presiding Officers into INEC’s server.
Cross examined by counsel to APC, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN), the witness confirmed that INEC guidelines and regulations were released to him and others. In his own evidence, Peter Sabo from Yobe State told the tribunal that both Buhari and APC used the security challenges in the state to perpetrate election fraud.
The witness alleged that voters were mobilised to selected areas to cast their votes instead of their polling units and under the guise by APC of securing their lives. Sabo further alleged that PDP agents were chased away at the selected voting points after which ballot papers were freely handed over to APC agents to cast unlawful votes.
He said that he refused to sign result sheet because the ballot papers used for the purported election were for APC only without a single void votes. Sabo further testified that out of anger he wrote a petition to the DSS, Police and civil defense but that up till now nothing had been done.
In his own evidence Hassan Maisarafa, who named some state government officials that perpetrated alleged election fraud, claimed that voters in Yobe were bought over with huge sums to sway them to the side of the APC.
However, when hearing resumed last Monday, the petitioners played a video recording at the Tribunal where a Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini admitted that the electoral body would transmit election results with the use of smart card reader to the INEC central server.
The Petitioners had tendered the 48 video recordings through their PW 40, who was also one of their star witness, Segun Showumi, one of the media aides to the PDP presidential candidate.
The videos played, however, showed Mr. Mike Iginni, granted on Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television when he said the results of the election would be transmitted to INEC’s server.
Another one showed Army officials, on Channels TV, denying Buhari’s claim that his West African School Certificate was with the Army. The third one showed INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Channels TV, meeting with members of Computer Professionals and Practitioners in Nigeria, and expressing hope that electronic transmission would be deployed for the 2019 general election.
On the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC tendered a video before the Tribunal to counter the claims of the Petitioners that INEC transmitted election result to an electronic server. The video which was Channels Television recording of INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu admitted by the presidential tribunal, however, discredited the allegation that results of the February 23 general election were transmitted to the commission’s central server.
A day after that, the Tribunal ordered Prof Mamud Yakubu and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Zamfara State to appear before it to clarify some issues in the ongoing petition filed the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar and his party challenging the election .
The duo had been earlier subpoenaed by the Tribunal for presentation of some documents but refused to honour the summon. However, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, issued the order following complaints by the Petitioners that their petition against the election of President Buhari was been sabotaged by the INEC Chief following his refusal to appear before the Tribunal to tender some unnamed documents.
Atiku through his counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) had complained to the Tribunal that Yakubu and INEC Commissioner in Zamfara have been frustrating him in the 10 days hearing notice given to him by the Tribunal to substantiate his allegations and claims in his petition jointly filed with the PDP.
Responding, counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), told the tribunal that he was not aware of the subpoena on Yakubu but that of the Zamfara REC has been complied with, adding that they are waiting for the petitioners to pay the normal fee and collect the said documents.
But in a short ruling, Presiding Justice of the five-man panel, held that orders of court are sacrosanct and must be obeyed. However, Yakubu failed to appear before the Tribunal on Thursday as summoned, but sent a letter to the Tribunal along the said subpoenaed documents.
Uche, while commending Usman for the efforts, however, requested for a copy of the letter to enable him ascertain if the documents were complete and same as the ones requested for.
The Tribunal had consequently adjourned till July 29 for the respondents to open defense.
Meanwhile, in his testimony, Petitioners’ Witness 62, Osita Chidoka, who served as PDP collation agent at the National Collation Centre for the February 23, 2019 presidential election, told the Tribunal that he had never seen INEC server.
He, however, added that Yakubu, consistently told them about the server and also acknowledged its existence during the collation of the presidential election. Under cross examination by INEC counsel, Yunus Ustaz (SAN), the witness said that: “I have not seen the server but INEC consistently told us of the server and the INEC Chairman at the national collation of results of the election acknowledged the existence of the server.”
He further admitted that he was not born as at 1947 when President Buhari was born and to that effect he could not biologically state categorically the age of the President. There was, however, a mild drama when counsel to Buhari, Chief Olanipekun (SAN) accused Petitioners’ Witness 60, Joseph Gbenga, of issuing a report which conflicted with the claim of the petitioners in their petition challenging the outcome of the election.
Olanipekun said the witness in his report awarded a margin of victory which the petitioners never claimed in their petition.
He added that while the petitioners conceded defeat in Katsina State, the witness in his report of analysis of the results gave victory to the petitioners. The witness who is an Industrial Chemistry graduate from the University of Ilorin, who described himself as a Database Analyst and Designer, under cross-examination by the respondents’ lawyers, said he was engaged by the petitioners to analyse the results of the presidential poll in 11 out of the 36 states of the federation.
The witness said he was not aware the petitioners conceded defeat in eight out of the 11 states which their presidential election results he analysed in his report. He equally added that he was unmindful of who won or lost in the 11 states, in order to be able to do a professional and unbiased job.
He said he had not gone through the pleadings contained in the petitioners’ petition. Olanipekun also asked: “But are you aware that you have given them a margin of win in 11 states that is more than what they are claiming in the 36 states excluding the FCT?”
Responding, the witness said: “I am not aware. I worked on documents provided for me.” Asked, again, he said he was not aware that the petitioners conceded defeat in Katsina State.
But by your analysis you gave them victory,” Buhari’s counsel said.
Asked, the witness said he had been receiving trainings in data analysis but had not been certified. He, however, said he had previously been engaged by the World Health Organisations (WHHO), among other organisations.
He confirmed that he was engaged to do analysis of results of the election in Yobe State and that was the first he ever took up in respect of elections before his engagement for the presidential election.
Answering questions from the APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the witness said the job he did was not something any literate person could do as suggested by the lawyer. The witness also said he was aware that hacking of websites was a global phenomenon.
Earlier, the Petitioners told the tribunal that they had 1,353 additional result sheets to tender before the tribunal. Uche (SAN) added that the result sheets include the polling unit results (form EC8A) and results from ward collation centres (form EC8B). As the petitioner closed the case Friday, the show seems set for the defendants to open their defence in the next adjournment.
I was a bicycle repairer, bus conductor –Rep Lawal
Hon. Kolawole Lawal represents Egbado South/Ipokia Federal Constituency of Ogun State and is the only member of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), in the House of Representatives. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on the minority leadership crisis and other issues
The composition of the minority leadership in the House created some crisis leading to the suspension of Hon. Ndidi Elumelu and other lawmakers by the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What really happened?
The issue of the minority leadership of the 9th House is a collective decision. Order 8 (4) of the House Standing Rules and Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended has given us the powers to choose our leaders from within ourselves.
In other words, the majority party members are required to pick their principal officers among themselves and we the minority parties are also required to pick our minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip among ourselves in the House of Representatives.
The Rule does not in any way confer on any political party the right or powers to choose leaders for us. I am not a member of the PDP, but I belong to the minority caucus; I am of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and I am the only lawmaker on the platform of the party nationwide. But by virtue of that provision, I have the right to be part of the decision of who holds any of the minority positions in the House.
The question now is, was I contacted by the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus before sending a letter to the Speaker nominating Hon. Kinsley Chinda as Minority Leader? Did he contact me as a member of the minority? Did he contact me as a person? No such thing took place. But we sat as a group of all minority parties, including majority of the members of PDP and we elected Hon. Ndudi Elumelu as our leader; Hon. Toby Okechukwu as our Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Gideon Gwanias Minority Whip and Hon. Adesegun Adekoya as Deputy Minority Whip.
So, if the PDP is bringing any other leaders, they are on their own because we the minorities in the House have chosen our leaders in line with the law.
But Hon. Chinda had alleged that he was initially chosen at the two meetings held by the minority parties before the Elumelu group went and connived with the House leadership to adopt a different leader. Did you attend any meeting with Chinda?
Let me make it clear that I did not attend any meeting with the Chinda group. Yes, there was a meeting organised by the Hon. Chinda group but I was not invited and I did not attend. Maybe, because I belong to a micro minority party, nobody cared to reckon with me to even invite me to a meeting of the minority parties. I understand that those who attended that meeting signed an attendance register and the attendance was eventually changed to endorsement. But I was not there, so I did not sign anything. So, if the attendance at that meeting now turned into endorsement, I am not part of that endorsement because I did not attend the meeting.
Different forms of killings across the country: either by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers it is a major source of worry to not a few Nigerians. In fact, the killing of Mrs. Foluke Olakunrin, daughter of the Afenifere leader has sparked so much anger in the country. What is your take on this unfortunate development?
It is unfortunate that we are having these crisis and killings in Nigeria. We have never had it so bad. I will say we have to condemn the kidnappings and all the killings going on in the country. But having said that, let me point out that you cannot give what you do not have.
Therefore, we cannot be doing the same thing and expect to get a different result. We need to review our security strategy because the one we have adopted in the last five years seems not to be working and that is why we are where we are today. The government needs to review its security architecture, change it and adopt a new method. If the other method does not work, we change it again until we start seeing results. We need to invite security experts.
In the case of Mrs. FolukeOlakunrin, we hear it was stray bullets, but whether is stray bullet or not, there was shooting and she died. I wish Pa Reuben Fasoranti well and pray God to grant him the strength to bear the loss of his daughter. But our security network must be overhauled because we are not getting positive results now. The service chiefs need to change their tactics. We all know that when we have new leaders in place, there is always enthusiasm on their part to at least impress. So, if the current service chiefs cannot deliver, the government should change them and bring in new set.
You said you belong to a micro minority party. How do you intend to survive in the parliament? Do you intend to defect to any of the bigger parties as it is always the case with members who find themselves in small parties?
In fact, I am the only APM lawmaker in the whole country. But for me I have my party and leaders and whatever they ask me to do I will do.
Secondly, I strongly believe in God and there is nothing I want from Him that I do not get. My Quran, Chapter 3 verse 26 is my guide. So, God will direct me on what to do, but for now I am just settling down. The party that brought me here is APM and I remain a member of APM.
How were you able to get elected to the House under a relatively new party like the APM?
Look, I have come a long way. I worked with Mobil for 20 years and resigned voluntarily in 2010 to contest for the governor of Ogun State. And when I came everybody in the state knew that KLM has arrived. Since then I have been consistent. When I contested I had no problem winning because of the support I got from our gubernatorial flagbearer, Hon. Abdulkareem Akinlade and my own governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. I thank God almighty and I thank these leaders too for the roles they played.
Last week, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), also known as Shi’ites invaded the National Assembly protesting the continued detention of their leader, Sheik El-Zakzakky, and the following the day the House passed a resolution urging the Federal Government to dialogue with the group. Do you think this is the best way to resolve this imbroglio?
I am a member of the House of Representatives and I was present when the decision was taken, so I am part of the resolution. But as a nation we should not choose which court order to obey and which to disobey. In other words, the rule of law should be sacrosanct. But if there is any reason that we should do things differently, people should be made to know. If there is intelligence report that we are not aware of, we should also be told.
As a first timer in the House of Representatives, what plans do you have for your constituents?
I have an agenda called AHEAD, which means Agriculture, Health, Education, Accountability and Development. Agriculture; you know we are predominantly agrarian in nature and I have over 2000 hectares of land that I am developing. So, I intend to encourage and support my people to engage in large scale farming. As we speak, I am already talking with some people and making arrangements on how to get tractors and other farm implements.
On health, we are looking at the state of all the primary healthcare centres in the constituency.
On education, it is an area that I am so passionate about because without education I would not have been here. I started off as a bicycle repairer; before I went to secondary school. And I learnt the trade for eight years. Later, I became a bus conductor and then Danfo driver, before I went to school. So, I like education and I want my people to be well educated. I am presently studying law and I hope to do a programme with the National Institute for Democratic and Legislative Studies before I leave the National Assembly.
So, I will ensure our schools are refurbished and we build more schools to educate our children to become better individuals in life.
Then Accountability; I will be having regular town hall meetings with my people so that my constituents would know everything I am doing.
Then Development; we will work towards having infrastructure; we make sure our roads are graded and motorable.
Herdsmen attacks threatening food security, says Rev. Ogu
Apostle Eugene Ogu is the founder of the Abundant Live Evangel Mission, (ALEM) and former Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, (PFN), Rivers and Bayelsa states chapter. In this interview with EMMANUEL MASHA, he speaks on insecurity in the country and killings by Boko Haram sect, the Fulani herdsmen and other issues
Nigeria at the moment appears to be on the precipice following the palpable tension created by the rural grazing area, RUGA, policy of the Federal Government, what in your opinion is the effect of this to the peaceful co-existence of the nation?
I want to say that Nigeria has come to a point where the truth must be told or the truth itself will tell itself. We must tell the truth or the truth will tell us the truth. Every government and leadership owes its people the truth. That truth constitutes a direction that guides the flow of the people whether politically, religiously or otherwise. Nigeria has been living in a fool’s Paradise over the years where various leaders come and tell us what they want us to believe. We believed them only to later discover that the actions of the leaders are towards a different game from what they wanted us to believe. The issue of Boko Haram right from the arrest of their former leader (Mohammed Yusuf) and the sudden disappearance of that same leader brought a question of trust on the government.
What is the government truly up to? First and foremost, we had a man who was in the position to tell us so much about Boko Haram and its formation, about its intention and about his sponsors. We had a man who ought to have given us the evidence through which the developed countries would have used in a way that it would have saved us from what we are into today. But within the same security agencies, that man was mysteriously killed.
The same government that arrested him was the same government in which he was killed. Killing him means that he died with all the information that would have helped Nigeria to forestall all that is happening today. You can see that we have a government that cannot investigate the high profile killings in this country. Chief Bola Ige under the watchful eyes of the security agencies was killed and up till today nobody has been indicted for that. Marshal Harry was killed, no investigation. All of these happened in a country that invests so much in security.
The question is, is it true that the Nigerian security agencies cannot find out who these killers are? Whether they are Boko Haram or cattle herdsmen, we don’t know. In Dogo Naawa, for instance, 362 persons were killed in one day in March 2010. In Miango, 37 and later 72 persons were killed in Bassa Local Government. Go to Benue, Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba states and many other places, people are being killed without anybody asking questions. Is it true that the security agencies that billions of naira was invested in both at state and national levels are sincere that they cannot find out who these people are!
We have come to a point where we must tell the truth or the people will tell us the truth. So, having been deeply involved in the sense that social burden of the people of this country in their thousands has come to my shoulders to do something to uplift then lives of the needy. Go to Benue, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, to Nassarawa, Kaduna, mention it, you will see children going to school because I am alive. I built a secondary school in Dogo Naawa in 2010 that is free. I pay the teachers up till date. I am not a government employee. Government does not do anything for me. I am a citizen of this country who is concerned about the goings-on in this country. How can a government that was supposed to protect its people now by its body language and actions allow people to insinuate certain things?
What do you make of government’s response?
The governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, once said that they paid money to some people so that they don’t come and kill and invade Nigeria. He said it. Who did they pay the money to?
First, they said they were Libyans, later on they said they were Malians. How did they know these people were Libyans if they did not see them? How did they give them the money?
Now, the Federal Government is determined to bring RUGA for these same people to settle. Does the government think that for killing Nigerians, you will appease the people? What part of the constitution that backs government action allows us to be killed and then give these killers a settlement?
Go to the market now, before the President Muhammadu Buhari regime, in the month of March new yam has come out. In April, May, you will see new yam everywhere. This is July and new yam is yet to come out, why? It is because those who used to go to farm are no longer going to farm for fear of being killed by herdsmen… Here, we allow our farmers in the North, in the East and the West to come under threat. This is the worst warfare.
Go to the Bible and see the history. What this implies is that, you are gradually turning young people to criminals, kidnappers, prostitutes and all forms of social vices and crimes. This is the effect of the herdsmen not allowing the farmers to access their farms. These people come to Rivers State and all the Niger Delta states with their cattle even in Abuja in a broad day light embarrassing the people with their cows. This shows that Nigeria is a cattle farm.
Are you satisfied with the responses of the southern governors so far?
I have heard the South-West governors saying they don’t have land for RUGA. South-East governors have said they don’t have land for RUGA. It is only governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that said I don’t have. This is not an “I” thing. The South-South governors should also say that they don’t have land for Ruga. Benue, Taraba and other states up North have said they don’t want it. In most states, they don’t want it. Nigerians are watching as things unfold. You can take our oil money in billions and invest in cattle colony for them in the North; we will collect it back when the time comes.
The Federal Government should take off its hands from private businesses. You don’t invest billions of public funds in private business because tomorrow a South-East person, South-West, South-South person will be there. You are telling people that anybody who becomes president should fend for his family first. From your kitchen cabinet to the military and security agencies appointments are one sided. You are building a structure on false foundation and it will fall. Buhari should not destroy the image we used to know he had. One day he will not be in that office and the truth will be told. How can a government allow people to herd their cattle into somebody’s farm?
President Buhari should tell the police to arrest those people who are killing farmers and innocent Nigerians. There is nothing like communal clash in Nigeria. What we are having now is terrorist invasion. You call them bandits…
Bandits used to break into people’s houses and steal things. It is only under Buhari that bandits are now killing and maiming people. These bandits have done worse than Boko Haram. But if it was IPOB, you will brand them terrorists and you sent the military to destroy their place and kill them.
There has been this out cry for restructuring of Nigeria, do you subscribe to that agitation?
The question is, why are Nigerians asking for restructuring? It is because we think that corruption is only when people steal money. Corruption is when you corrupt a genuine process that should show an equitable flow of the process for everybody but you corrupt it. It is not just stealing money.
Restructuring is because we have seen that everything about Buhari government is lopsided. We have a government where three or more persons dictate who becomes what in this country. This is not supposed to be so. This is a country of about 200 million people with different tribes of equal stake. So, no cabal should be seen dictating things for other tribes in this country.
It is sad that just two or three persons are just there in this government deciding the fate and destiny of this country. It is bad. Aba is one city where all the spare parts are being manufactured. Today, if you want to go to Aba, you must pass through Etche and that road has been bad for so long.
Which major road do we have in South-South? Look at the East West Road. The way former President Goodluck Jonathan left it, that is how it is today. Go to the North, they are using Julius Berger to construct roads everywhere there. What is wrong with the South-South region that produces all the money you are using to develop and beautify the North!
We have seen quite a number of church pastors being accused of rape or one form of sex crime or the other. Is this not corruption too?
I totally disagree with you on that. That argument has no basis whatsoever. What is happening now is an orchestrated plan by agents of the Devil to destroy the body of Christ and I can tell you that they have failed. If not for the church, this country would have completely gone down.
The church is like a candle on the mountain. It takes a beast to rape somebody. The Pastor of COZA said he did not do it. And I want to say to him, my friend go back and pastor your church. As far as I am concerned, that was just a satanic plan to push COZA out of where they are. If you have gone to where COZA is, it is located at where elites live. A plot of land there is between N200 to N300million. The Devil will not be happy to see that church there. When they have a programme, you cannot pass through that road because of heavy traffic.
The presidential election tribunal is current ongoing. What is your expectation from that tribunal?
In Nigeria now, anything you see, you take. I’m just praying that God should see us through at this point in time. Are those people in the tribunal not Nigerians? I don’t have confidence in these people. A criminal who defrauded me went to court and the court was playing games with me. Come today, come tomorrow until the judge retired.
One day, the truth that has been hidden in this country would be told. We have been covering a lot of things. That is why we cannot prosper as a country. It is only in Nigeria that you can hear that animals swallow money. The world is watching and laughing at us. Shame. If God has helped you to stand firm where you are, don’t let anybody to push you down.
RUGA: X-raying the 30-day ultimatum to govs, Buhari
Politicians, particularly in Africa today, continue to face hard times in seeking common grounds, making compromises and balancing self-interest in leadership towards achieving democratic progress. The call by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, in her last address as she prepares to quit office, on leaders around the world, to strive in addressing the genuine concerns that citizens hold, without absolutism becomes very apt.
For too long, both leaders and the led in Nigeria have allowed sentiments to overshadow debates on critical national issues of development. Quite painfully, our choice of leaders to date at federal, states, and local levels is hinged on religion and region rather than competence, which compounds the problem. It didn’t start today. We laid this faulty foundation right at the beginning of the current democracy in 1999, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was presented to Nigerians. This is without prejudice to the experiences in the days of the military junta.
Former President Obasanjo did not emerge on the strength of his competence but based on sentiments, primarily, to assuage the ill-feelings of the South-West region who had lost an earlier opportunity of producing Nigeria’s leadership in MKO Abiola. He was seen more as a stabilising factor.
Although Obasanjo appeared detribalized in his leadership style, the South-West saw the eight years of his government as their time. Any criticism of the Obasanjo administration with or without merit, from persons other than the Yorubas was deemed to be subjective. It is a typical aberration that has permeated through the periods of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and now President Muhammadu Buhari.
I remember with nostalgia, listening to President Buhari at the popular Eagle Square in Abuja on 29th May 2015 when he delivered an inaugural speech shortly after taking the oath of office and allegiance. ”I belong to everybody and belong to nobody, ” he said. This singular statement assuaged the fears of many Nigerians who had earlier expressed concerns of ’religious and ethnic bigotry’ as allegedly being part of his personality in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.
Two weeks ago, a coalition of northern groups (CNGs) issued a 30-day ultimatum to the federal government and governors who are opposed to the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan also called RUGA across the country. The group warned the governors to reverse their decisions immediately to give peace a chance.
Spokesman of the coalition, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman at a press conference in fact, placed President Buhari specifically on notice to stop the resistance from the governors which his group described as outright madness. The statement by the coalition on 4th July 2019, reminds one of a similar group also referred to as CNG two years ago in Kaduna, which gave an ultimatum to Igbos residing in the North to vacate the region. For the prompt condemnation of the group by the Federal Government under Professor Yemi Osinbajo then as acting President, the situation was brought under total control. It was at the height of the agitations by members of the Indegenous People of Biafara (IPOB).
Southern leaders have been threatening fire and brimstone over the suspension of RUGA since the fresh ultimatum to both the governors and the President was issued. No one at the moment knows the intent of the latest ultimatum. As far as political commentators are concerns, it is a treasonable action against the state.
Despite failing to state clearly what action they would take if the governors do not reverse their positions on the suspended policy, an act which stokes hatred among Nigeria’s nationalities is a serious offence that should never be treated with kid gloves. Surprisingly however, neither did the Federal Government nor the presidency condemn the said ultimatum by the coalition until two weeks after, when they were backed by the Northern Elders Forumn (NEF). Maybe, President Buhari did not consider the CNGs seriously as to warrant a presidential response.
How can an issue raised by the CNGs that a major tribe in Nigeria ’Fulani’ are today being singled out for profiling and denied access to ordinary grazing lands and the right to thoroughfare in the South not be taken seriously by the government? Again, the coalition insists that Fulani are being hunted, expelled or slaughtered while southerners are comfortably hosted in northern cities and towns.
Considering how weighty the concerns of the coalition are and the fact that they have called on these group of northerners to quite the south, rather than wave it with the back of the hands, the government ought to have demanded the arrest of those behind such calls. It is hate speech.
As it stands currently, the ultimatum days by the CNGs are still counting. No one knows what will follow next. By encouraging Fulani to remain wherever they are, without first, condemning the actions of the two groups, President Buhari may be giving credence to allegations that he is only building confidence in his kinsmen as a Fulani man himself while ignoring the real issues. Inclusion of sentiments in handling the crisis also compounds the problem rather than address it.
Mr. President remains the leader of all Nigerians, he should never be seen to showing partiality in the discharge of his functions. The presidency also needs to accept objective criticism from well meaning citizens as their modest contribution to enriching the polity.
In pushing for the unity of the country also, the government should adopt the idea of Vice President Osinbajo that all hate speech in the country be treated as terrorism. Any silence from our leaders at this critical time of insecurity will definitely be a grave disservice to the country, its peace and its future.
This week’s Aso Rock guests
President Muhammadu Buhari’s first guest in the week was the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege. The lawmaker after a closed door meeting with the President announced the parliament’s support to a call by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for the deployment of military personnel on major high ways across the country to fight insecurity. Omo-Agege explained that the upper legislative chamber would buy into the idea in view of the “exigencies of the moment.”
The President on Tuesday also played host to the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) led by the President, Dr Francis Adedayo Faduyile. NMA had come to make a case for National Health Insurance Scheme to be made compulsory for all Nigerians, including those in the informal sector. In their view, some special treatments, like cancer, will require funds that might be beyond the reach of many. Same day, the President met with the leadership of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) who raised concerns with Buhari on multi-taxation challenges facing businesses in Nigeria. In their opinion, if this not addressed, the country may face difficulty with the recently signed AfCFTA.
Other prominent guests of the President within the week were the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. Both leaders engaged President Buhari on issues relating to security of the national and other matters of national development.
The Daniel’s grace
For many who are familiar with the Bible, the name and story about Daniel won’t be too strange to them I’m sure. And for many of us who did Christian Religion Studies (CRK) in our secondary schools, we feel in love with the man Daniel because of the lion’s den part of his story.
How would a man be thrown into a lion’s den and not be eaten up? That must be a Superman
I remember vividly, it was after one of such classes in my secondary school days that I was overwhelmed with this man, Daniel’s story and I decided to start bearing that name as my middle name.
My recent studies about him made me discovered greater revelations about him.
Daniel won every war he was confronted with; he survived every attack directed at him and finally, he excelled beyond imagination, even in the presence of his enemies.
So what is the Daniel’s Grace? You may want to ask. In chapter 2 of the book of Daniel, the king had a dream but couldn’t remember what the dream was all about. He needed someone who would tell and interpret his dream.
How would you interpret a dream you don’t know?
Magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers were all summoned to the palace to tell and interpret the dream.
Many of these persons were left dumbfounded, as no one knew the dream talk more interpreting it. Long story short, Daniel pleaded for patience with the king; and with time, God Almighty revealed the dream and its meaning to him.
Now, this is the main thing, the moment Daniel began to achieve results, most people around him began to hate and envy him. Instead of them to ask him for the secrets, they began to devise means to bring him down; and this played out in chapter 6 of same book of Daniel.
The moment you begin to achieve some level of results, some persons would no longer be comfortable around you. An average mind prefers an average or low life. Once you begin to aim for uncommon feats, expect to lose some close friends.
Sometime, some persons just hate you for no reason. Ask them what your offence is, they can’t lay hand on any tangible thing. Check the root, it is envy, bitterness, hatred and unnecessary rivalry.
These magicians, enchanters and others whom I call “The Cabal” of the government then, knew that Daniel loved God so much. So they needed to come up with a policy which would make Daniel go against the things of God. They came up with one and cunningly passed it to the king to sign. The king signed without knowing the grand plans – which was to destroy Daniel.
In summary, Daniel was found guilty based on the law signed by the king, which could not be reversed. And what was Daniel’s offence, you may want to ask?. He prayed to his God three times daily; and for this reason, he was thrown into the lion’s den. You know the rest of the story…
Because of the grace upon his life, instead of the lion to devour him, they began to play with him and treated him well. That is what I call GRACE.
I pray that same grace will locate you. What was meant to destroy you will be the source of your elevation. Someone reading this now, like Daniel, your enemies thought it’s all over for you based on the present situation you’ve found yourself. But guess what, they didn’t know you are a seed. Your comeback will shock them. Your present situation won’t consume you. May grace locate you.
Lastly, everyone who was part of that plans to destroy Daniel were used as exchange for Daniel’s position in the lion’s den. They and their families took his place, and of course, they were devoured.
The same pit they dug for you will be what would destroy your enemies. Instead of you going down, you will go forward and upward. What was meant to consume you will announce you. And those who felt it’s all over for you will never recover from the coma they will go into as a result of the great things they’ll hear about you.
I see you rising. Receive the Daniel’s grace.
Have a blessed week.
PDP denies own ‘candidate’ at Reps Election Tribunal
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has admitted that her candidate’s name was never published ahead the 2019 poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the February 2019 general election for the Njikoka/Anaocha/Dunukofia Federal Constituency seat of Anambra State.
This clarification was dropped before the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal One sitting in Awka by Mr. Ntiham Niam – a top administrative officer at the PDP headquarters while giving evidence as a defence witness in a petition by the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)-Chief Dozie Nwankwo.
He is challenging the declaration of PDP’s Valentine Ayika as winner of the instead of himself. Nwankwo said Ayika was never a candidate of any political party when he was cross-examined by the lead prosecution counsel Dr. Kayode Fatoke.
Ayika in his evidence-in-chief while reading out the copy of PDP National Assembly Primaries Appeal Panel’s report stated that it the primary contest was won fair and square by Dr. Richard Egenti for the Federal Constituency, not himself.
According to the panel, that at the end of the primary election when the committee that organised and supervised it has concluded counting and recording proceedings and was about to announce Egenti as winner, “ alleging that one of the candidates connived with the Returning Officer and ran away with the result.
He also said that the PDP Appeal panel recommended that Egenti’s name be restored and forwarded to INEC, but that was curiously not done, lead to a battery of law suits, even up to Supreme Court.
Ayika admitted that his name was not listed in the Supreme Court judgment which he has been laying claim to because he was not joined in the suit.
While being cross-examined by the INEC counsel, Mr. E.E. Udeh, who earlier claimed his name was published by INEC as a candidate, admitted he got to know his name wasn’t in the list used for the election only on the actual day of the election.
With the conclusion of presentation of witnesses with Ayika as star defense witness, the proceedings wounded up while the respondent was given up to July 25,2019 to file final defense address, while the prosecution will follow on Aug 1,2019. Adoption/argument of final addresses was fixed for Aug 3,2019.
We stopped fulanisation of the South in the First Republic, we’ll do it again –Amaechi
Chief Mbazulike Amaechi was a Minister of Aviation during the First Republic. He spoke with KENNETH OFOMA on the spate of insecurity in the country amidst the RUGA controversy. Excerpts…
What is your take on the recent killing of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti?
I am very concerned about the statement by the Commissioner of Police, that she was not killed by Fulani herdsmen, but by other kidnappers and armed robbers, when the police had not even started investigation. I have been telling people; this Fulani thing is sponsored by some people in government, it is part of an agenda; fulanisation of Nigeria. I have been saying it, they started this thing at the time of Uthman Danfodio, it stopped at Lafia. Again, in 1962, some people wanted to extend the fulanisation agenda to Benue and from Benue to Nsukka, Cross River and Ogoja area. But because we were in government, we stopped it, and particularly with the help of the then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, who did not support the Sardauna’s programme.
The thing stopped. Now, there is a Fulani man who fanatically believe in the resuscitation of Uthman Danfodio’s conquest, and he wants to extend the whole thing, using some minions in the South. The government of Nigeria is responsible for what is happening and they will be held responsible if they break up this country.
They are moving towards breaking up this federation.
But the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, also said the Fulanis should not be stigmatised for the killing. Don’t you agree with him?
Who is taking Tinubu seriously?
Apart from being a governor in Lagos State, what is Tinubu in Nigeria? Nobody should take Tinubu serious at all.
Your friend and contemporary, Tanko Yakassai, was quoted to have said that Ndigbo should support the RUGA settlement or forget 2023 Igbo presidency. How do you see that?
The Igbos should first of all get ready to fight for presidency in 2023.
Are they seriously working towards it?
They should start first of all now to organise and mobilise; I have asked them to come to me, they don’t want to listen.
Each person is pursuing his own life; presidency cannot just come to them because they said we want to be president. You have to organise, you have to work, you have to strategise, you have to mobilise and they are not doing that.
But should the Igbo support RUGA settlement in the South East even when they don’t have land for it?
Of course it cannot be. The Fulani RUGA cannot work. Our governors are playing hide and seek game but if they fail to oppose it, the people of Igboland will fight to protect their territory.
We have done it before and we stand to do it again.
Since the suspension of the RUGA programme, some northern groups, youths and elders have taken up the fight, issuing threats, ultimatum and quit notices. Aren’t you worried about this development?
It is for the Nigerian people to decide. By their action, they are provoking action.
They are provoking a rebellion in the country and the rebellion or revolution might come. Nobody wants it, I don’t want it; I fought for the freedom of this country, for the unity of this country. I believed in a party that had the slogan of one Nigeria, we never wavered, I believe in that. But not in a one Nigeria where I will be a slave.
So, what they are doing now, they are already telling the people of Southern Nigeria that its either they accept the position of slavery or whatever happens, let it happen.
That is the policy now. That the people of Southern Nigeria, including the Middle-belt area, the Christian areas of Nigeria should accept the position of slavery or colony in this country, but it will never happen!
Baylesa guber: Intrigues as PDP ticket tears Dickson’s group apart
PAULINE ONYIBE writes that the coming Bayelsa governorship election has put so much unrest in the Seriake Dickson camp and that some PDP bigwigs seems not to be on the same page as far as the choice of who succeeds Dickson is concerned.
Since the last governorship election in Bayelsa State in 2015 which brought the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson back to Creek Haven, plans had been on to pick someone who succeeds him as the restoration government rounds off. Political pundits have analysed that the incumbent governor wants to pick his successor by all means to indirectly continue having a voice after his tenure but other powers that be are blocking that. They believe that he has not done so well to bring in a successor.
Ofcourse that has created a very big space in the PDP family as the ticket to Creek Haven is now being sought by every Tom, Dick and Harry, something that had never happened in the history of Bayelsa politics.
Already so many persons from the restoration government had purchased nomination forms including the Deputy Governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah, a decision Bayelsans believe must have created a negative impact in the government. Others that have also purchased the form include Ambassador Boladei Igali, Barrister Kemela Okara, Chief Benson Agadaga, Honourable Konbowei Benson, the immediate speaker of the state House of Assembly from Southern Ijaw local government.
Others are Senator Douye Diri, Talford Ongolo, the chief of staff to the governor, Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai, Fred Agbedi, Reuben Okoya, Pastor Kenebi Okoko, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe and Joshua Maciver. Yet others are on the way as it has been alleged that the person the sitting governor wants to hand over to is yet to pick the form in the person of Dr Nimibofa Ayawei the chairman of Bayelsa State board of internal revenue, who is from Southern Ijaw and a cousin to Dr. Ereepamu Osaisai.
Also in the race is Kemela Okara the current Secretary to the State Government, who incidentally is from Bayelsa central and a son of Ekpetiama kingdom where Architect Reuben Okoya and Keniebi Okoko hail from.
Another person is Talford Ongolo the Chief of Staff Government House also from Bayelsa Central Southern Ijaw local government who is adjudged by many as not well known and might had been put in the race to dislodge those from that axis. Then comes Douye Diri an incumbent senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District at the 9th National Assembly who also is from central from the same local government with Timi Alaibe who has already bought form. PDP in the state as we know has two camps; that of Jonathan and that of Dickson.
While the former president seems to be supporting some aspirants, the governor has his own people that he is supporting. Of course, the APC had earlier opined that the PDP was in disarray but the umbrella party had refuted the allegation saying the party was in order until the recent intrigues that exposed and confirmed the allegation.
The restoration government through the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs, Fyneman Wilson, had recently mentioned some names that are being supported by the restoration government.
All these are happening after the conclusion of praying and fasting organised by the restoration government to choose the next governor of the state.
This, according to some people is an attempt by Dickson, technically trying to dislodge men that have already bought forms as he had repeatedly said that people cannot be outside watching while others are busy making the party attractive only for them to come and pick tickets to become governor. In less than a month, the national secretariat of the PDP has raked in about N364m from the sale of forms, in a state where there had been cry of hunger and poverty.
However, the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Governor, Fyneman Wilson, described the increasing governorship aspirants on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as healthy process to filter the best from the pool.
He told journalists in Yenagoa that every member of the party who has the requisite qualification is entitled to contest that election, stating that the party has no preferred candidate in the upcoming election. He said that it is in Dickson’s interest to have as many persons that are willing to contest the election and that they must not be intimidated by others who claim to have been anointed.
He denied rumours making the rounds that the restoration government and the PDP has banned people who recently decamped from opposition parties from contesting the election.
But a staunch PDP member of the restoration government and Dickson’s representative in Southern Ijaw Local Government, Chief Frank Dogood Bekebo, lamented the nature and manner in which Dickson wants to bring up his successor. Bekebo advised Dickson to be weary of those he called the enemies of the party whom he said the governor has anointed to take over from him both at the local government and state levels.
Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, Bekebo advised the governor to remember those that worked for him during his last governorship election instead of trying to anoint those that didn’t work for him. He knocked the governor and the party for denying him the opportunity to test his strength during the forthcoming local government election disclosing that instead of the party to make the buying of the form open, they sold the forms to only one candidate from each of the local governments.
He therefore wondered why the PDP now made the picking of the governorship form open for every body adding that they should have also made the local government form open too. In his words, he said: “The government that we supported betrayed my right by appointing people that did not even bring one vote and made them to be flag bearers of the party.
We are the people that worked for Dickson to make him governor. When came on board, people were afraid of the governor at that time and we came up and worked for him and places that did not even bring one vote, those are the areas the governor is looking unto. “But we that went and faced the guns, today we are not being carried along. That is not good. First tenure, we worked for him, the second tenure, ward 15 brought the second highest votes in the whole of Bayelsa and I was the ward coordinator. Nothing to show for it. “People that he appointed as commissioners and caretaker chairmen didn’t even bring one vote for him.
And if they had killed us that time, our families would have lost us. I wanted to contest for local government election as chairman and to my greatest surprise, I was denied the privilege to buy form
. If they had been stopping people from buying forms in the past, would he have been the governor. It is my right. “I even pity the former speaker, some hoodlums wanted to kill him and he ran to my place and those places did not even bring votes.
some hoodlums wanted to kill him and he ran to my place and those places did not even bring votes. Let him go to his records; how many wards brought votes in his second tenure and people that betrayed Mr Speaker during House of Reps election, those are the people that want to contest election.
“Then they expect us to come and work for the party. How can we work for the party? If you want to consider somebody, if he wants to do the real thing, the first person the governor should consider is kombowei, but today we have not seen anything even among the three persons he selected, his name was not there. “Upon all he did to kombowei and his group, today they don’t have anything to say.
A serving speaker cannot even install a local government chairman in his own local government. He does not even have one person in the cabinet. That is not the way politics is played. If somebody worked for you, you have to consider those people. “And even him too, they betrayed him in is election and the assembly election. If not because of him, the assembly member would not have won.
He brought almost 8,000 votes. Even Douye Diri failed in Kolokuma Opokuma in his own place. He failed in Yenagoa local government, then speaker begged that he can’t disappoint his governor and Douye Diri became the flag bearer. He is in the Senate but Mr speaker’s own, they betrayed him. It is now that he is going to court. If I were him, I will leave this case for the party.
“When army came to Ogbimbiri, governor was talking to me, after the election. Governor’s Rep that he gave to me, am I really representing the governor, governor’s Rep is only in salary and the salary too is not encouraging. That is not the way to do things. “He supposed to consider those that fought for him. If we were killed at that time, the governor would not have come out to do anything for us. It is not good. Let him try to consider those people that fought for him. Not the people that betrayed the party. Those people that are contesting election now those people betrayed the party and it is not fair.
“At that time if you go Southern Ijaw constituency four, you can hold on to Kombowei and you can hold on to Frank Dogood Bekebo. We were putting heads. Which other person in Southern Ijaw that will come and boast that he brought votes in constituency 4 today we have seen thousands of people. “We are the giant of Southern Ijaw where were they when we brought these votes. We went to the lion’s zone. We frustrated all our business because of this party my businesses have been frustrated nobody helped me. Im a friend to David lion but because of party issue we are no longer close. I have now seen that if you listen to this party (PDP) your family will suffer. Now we have served him for eight years we that brought the votes what did we achieve
Edo people are firmly with Obaseki –Onobun
Honourable Marcus Onobun is one of the inaugurated members of the Edo State House of Assembly, representing Esan West constituency. The former Special Adviser to Adams Oshiomhole is now a diehard supporter of Governor Godwin Obaseki. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on the current political brawl between the godfather and the godson. Excerpts:ß
You were known to be a staunch supporter of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, but you are now on the side of Governor Godwin Obaseki. What is your take on the conflict of interest between the duo over 2020 guber?
I don’t want to believe that there are issues between the governor and his predecessor. What we are seeing is the handiwork of some people beating drums of war, dropping names and saying, ‘oh, that is involved, this is involved’. I have worked with the former governor and by the grace of God today, I am a legislator under the present governor, who I understand meant so well for Edo State.
The former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has contributed his quota and the present governor has taken off from where comrade stopped, and he is doing very well. Edo people are happy with him. If there are issues, the party has its own internal mechanism to deal with those issues.
The situation in Edo today is not above the APC National Working Committee, it is just that some people are trying to be more holier than God Himself.
But I want to assure you that at the end of the day, the issues will be finally settled and those of them who want APC to be scattered will be put to shame.
Do you support the call for the abolition of godfatherism in our political system?
Nigerian electorate are becoming politically conscious of their environment.
We cannot continue to be slaves to a particular system. So if the people of Edo State are saying no to godfatherism, who am I to say no.
You are acclaimed to be the youngest lawmaker in the 7th Assembly of Edo State. How do you feel having your dreams fulfilled as a politician?
I feel very elated to be a part of the 7th Assembly in Edo State.
It is something one has always wished to be part of. If you take a critical look at this 7th Assembly in Edo State, it is full of young and talented men, full of wisdom and knowledge, people that God has sent to help our amiable governor, Godwin Obaseki achieve the set out goals of taking Edo State to its pinnacle.
After such a long wait, I am thankful to God that at the end, I have joined my colleagues to commence the work we were elected to do. I feel good because it has given a good opportunity to get closer to my people and at the same time, give my best to the people, because it is said that to whom much is given, much is expected.
My people have already lifted me now, it is my own responsibility to give them the best of representation.
You are still in your young element, do you think you can surpass the records of your predecessors?
I wouldn’t want to go into records of those that have represented this constituency before.
What is most important to me is going there to do a good job and surpass their records. I make bold to say that I will surpass their records. Among all the legislators that had represented Esan West in the past, the difference is that, I am a young man. This is the first time my party is winning Esan West, and we won overwhelmingly.
So, I am here with a burning desire to give my best, and I believe that by the end of the day, I would have surpassed the records of the past legislators. Again, being the party in government, I am going to collaborate with our governor to see how we can bring about the dividends of democracy to the entire Esanland.
Now that Esan has the speakership of the state assembly, can you still complain of marginalisation?
I want to say that the outcome of the 2019 general elections in Edo State is an attestation of the good work the governor is doing in the state. This is why you see almost all the representatives of Esan land supporting the governor because that is what gave us the gateway to coming to the House of Assembly.
The entire people of Esan voted for us because they want us to come and join hands with the governor to take Edo State to an enviable level, so that by the time we leave office, our names would go into the good book of records. And now that Esan people have clearly show to the governor that we love him, Esanland will be better for it.
Buhari should retain top performing ministers –Olokoba
Comrade Razaq Olokoba is the National President, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), a coalition of over 70 civil society organisations. In this interview with some journalists in Lagos, the pro-democracy activist took a critical look at the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, among other issues. OLALEKAN OSIADE brings excerpts…
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari is set to appoint ministers and properly kickstart his second term, what is your assessment of his first term, especially in terms of infrastructural development?
We must first appreciate the challenges we have in Nigeria about the state of infrastructure. There are data that were put out by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, that they have constructed over 4000 kilometres of roads.
That is the distance between Nigeria and London! That is in a way comical and confusing to Nigerians. But at the moment, the Ministry of Works under Babatunde Raji Fashola has constructed over 1000 kilometres of roads besides rehabilitation and repairs across the nation and that is huge. It is huge because of the peculiarity of the moment, the challenge of fund.
We are at a time when Nigerian government declared to be broke because in terms of prosperity, the prosperity of Nigeria has not been this bad giving the income we are making from oil, $14pb, $26pb. It kept fluctuating.
What that means is that the expenditures were in trouble, and budget ran into crisis. So, even within this financial turbulent, the Buhari administration was able to tar over a thousand kilometres of road and also repaired some. That is huge for the kind of purse of the Federal Government. So, what I am saying in essence is that, it doesn’t stop there.
There are also mass action programme that is going on across the country. There is no state in this country that is not going through Federal Government’s mass action programme, except Lagos State that is yet to give land to the Federal Government.
What I am saying in essence is that, this technical intelligence to infrastructure is unique and peculiar.
Whatever it takes, Nigeria should support President Muhammadu Buhari. There is also a nightmare that Nigerians pass through during rainy sessions just as the situation we find ourselves now across the country.
There are crises on the Badagry Road and other places because of the rain. But our consolation is to look at where we are coming from. Five years ago, when the rainy session was not as disturbing as now, the last administration could not achieve much.
And today, the story of good roads might had been forgotten if not with the effective efforts of the Buhari administration. So, people should be assured that any road that had not been done is definitely on the list of those to be done. If you look at difficult terrains that are enjoying good roads now, what comes to mind is that the past administration was governing as if development is not possible in Nigeria.
In your opinion, should Buhari bring back some of his old ministers?
Buhari’s team should be empowered more and given more support this time to do more. Some of them are exemplary. This is possible because Buhari gave us some good guys. In his first term, he would have done better than this if we had a patriotic parliament.
In the first instance, I will not want Buhari to dismantle the winning team. The first term of Buhari enjoyed the services of a winning team from the president to the cabinet members, his advisers and by extension many of the public officers and the civil servants. They were fantastic. And when you are in that situation, it is not tactical, it is not strategic, and in governance, it is not proper to assume that changing those winning hands is the best thing to do. He gave us somebody with mathematical knowledge of road construction and repair in person of Babatunde Fashola (SAN).
Even as a lawyer, he did well in the Ministry of Works, and because of Fashola’s example, you would not be shocked if you see a medical doctor doing well in the field of environment. Fashola, a lawyer, has done equally well in the field of engineering just as a qualified engineer could have done.
So, there is a bigger assurance now that infrastructure development will be sped up now than the first term because the challenges are over. He should hit the ground running now. That should be the target now because there will not be budget delay.
Lagos/Ibadan Expressway was spilt into three sections. By now, we would have got a brand new road between Ibadan and Lagos but it was sabotaged by the immediate past parliament.
What I am saying in essence is that the required level of understanding should be given to the Federal Government by the people so that it will be able to double what it has done in the first term.
Are you implying that Fashola has the record of performance to return?
We must not deny the efforts and foresight of Mr President who saw the quality in Fashola.
So, immediately we appreciate that, we have to also commend the role of the immediate past Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. He is a very patriotic public officer. He did very well and many people are not surprised about his superlative performance in office. He did same when he was the governor of Lagos State.
So, it is not a surprise to an average Nigeria that he performed wonderfully as a minister. I was not surprised either because immediately he was appointed Minister of Works, Power and Housing, I knew bad roads, and pot holes in Nigeria were in big trouble.
We must also commend the civil servants for giving him the needed support to excel.
Other people should learn from what the President and Fashola did by giving the public officers and civil servants the right environment, right motivation, right encouragement and right tools to work. Such attitude would bring out the best in them and the country will be better for it.
With right leadership, Nigerian public officers will perform well like their counterparts anywhere in the world. The President, the minister and public officers in the three sectors, Works, Power and Housing should also be commended for a job well done.
But there are still challenges with our roads. Don’t you think so? The appeal I will make to Nigerians is that there is no 100 per cent solution for traffic challenges all over the world wherever roads are under construction. And so, we should bear with the government when some roads are partially closed against the traffic now. There must be a sacrifice for development.
The second Niger Bridge will be beneficial to all after completion but people should exercise patience because there is always pain before gain.
By saying that he will only appoint the people he know, do you think the President has preference for some people in the yet to be constituted cabinet?
From the public assessment that we have seen, there were top ministers that have done fantastically well. Fashola was one of them. Rotimi Amaechi was one of them.
The Minister for Agriculture was one of them. Abike Dabiri, Boss Mustapha are also there without forgetting the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
And that is why our group and other civil society organisations worked assiduously and vigorously to mobilise Nigerians, to mobilise the youth and I travelled virtually to all the states of the federation to campaign for Team Buhari on the platform of our organisation. Our structure is still intact. Before the election, we organised several rallies. During the electioneering, we went round to test Buhari’s popularity and discovered he was a God-sent leader.
The impressive feedback we got even from difficult terrains like the South-South and South-East showed that Buhari did not do it alone.
It showed he did it together with all his team members. Against this backdrop, Buhari should parade many of his first term team members so that this second term would witness triple performance and surpass first term achievement in multiple folds. That is my candid advice to Mr President on his new cabinet composition.
If per chance he wants to return some of them, would you advise that they retain their old portfolios?
We are not supposed to mystify governance. President of Nigeria oversees all the ministers.
He oversees all the advisers. He reads security reports from Police, from DSS, from border intelligent personnel, from the army and so on. And the President has 24 hour a day like other Nigerians.
He does so many things within a day. So, if the job is not too much for the president and is not too much for the governor that oversees the affairs of the state, how then can only three portfolio be too much for a minister like Fashola, who had been tested, trusted and had done so well? Let us look at where we are coming from on power. Let us watch clearly the improvement.
It is not proper for people to pretend as if there is no improvement in all the sectors in the country! Such pretence confuses the government. There are fundamental advancement in power sector apart from some apparatus like DISCO and others that are not doing well. There is tremendous improvement in power. Again, there is a mass housing programme that has not been pursued for over 30 years.
The last administration that has pursued mass housing scheme was Shagari administration. At the moment, a mass housing programme is going on in all the sections of the country except Lagos. Then, if you look at roads, it is difficult for you to pretend as if you don’t notice what the ministry of works has done throughout the federation. There is a long list of what they have done across the nation.
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