In this analysis, BIYI ADEGOROYE looks at the recent political development in Benue State and Governor Samuel Ortom’s strides reminiscent of that of legendary JS Takar, one of the state’s previous leaders
he 2019 governorship election in Benue State marked a watershed in the history of second term election for a sitting governor in the state. The reason is not far-fetched; it is a known fact that no sitting governor in the state wins his second term election on a platter.
Former governors George Akume and Gabriel Suswam readily come to mind when in 2003 and 2011 respectively they both struggled and had bouts with the electorate to secure reelection despite their huge financial war chest at the time.
However the 2019 reelection of Governor Samuel Ortom changed all that narrative about second term elections in the state. It marked the first time a sitting governor curried the favour and support of the ordinary Benue man across political party line despite facing the challenge of backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions and gratuity and the opposition was making a capital out of the issue in a bid to oust the governor.
In 2015 that same issue accounted for the inability of former Governor Gabriel Suswam to win his first senatorial election bid after leaving office that year and his inability to secure the victory of his preferred Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), successor at the time.
The story of Governor Ortom would not have been different but for one masterstroke that crashed every known precedence and altered every known political equation and permutation in the state.
The Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Act of 2017 which was put together by the people of the state themselves and willingly assented to by Governor Ortom was all the vast majority of the people of the state needed to galvanize passionate support base for his political course. The law which the governor did not hesitate to assent to came into being as solution to the protracted herdsmen killings in the state.
However, powerful forces from outside the state and their collaborators within who were bent on not allowing the law see the light of the day and several herdsmen groups and their sponsors moved against the governor hoping to cripple his political carrier after several lives had been lost to rampaging marauding herdsmen who turned several Benue communities to theaters of war all in a bid to take over the Benue valley.
These forces were bent on having the law repealed but the people of the state irrespective of political affiliation stood with the governor despite the killings and supposed threats to his life and those of his family members.
Even when the All Progressives Congress, (APC), moved to deny him the platform to seek reelection and the governor decided to defect from the party, the people of Benue moved in droves with him vowing to sink or swim with him in the face of adversity.
It was from that point that a new Benue was born and the people birthed a new JS Tarka in the person of Governor Ortom to champion the course of the people of the state and indeed the Middle Belt against the alleged oppressive tendencies of the oligarchic of the far north.
The quest to have ranching of cattle as the only recognised mode of animal husbandry, as being championed by the state governor, which today is obviously being adopted across the country as panacea for the ceaseless herdsmen killings in country, saw the people irrespective of political inclination, rallying round the governor who unwittingly became the face of that struggle not only in his state but across the Middle Belt states, and indeed across the country where the menace of herdsmen had become problematic, reminiscent JS Tarka era.
It was also on the strength of that struggle for the safety and security of lives and property of the poor Benue farmer that the people rallied support for the governor and gave him a seamless victory in his second term bid.
That victory came despite the gang up from within and outside the state and the deployment of ‘federal might’ apparently to deny him victory but the might of the prevailed in what pundits adjudged one of the fairest and freest election ever held in the state despite the unnecessary hiccups of declaring the initial poll inconclusive.
His overwhelming victory in that poll with 434,473 votes against the runner up, Mr. Emmanuel Jime of the APC’s 345,155 was all Benue needed to announce to Nigerians and indeed the world the emergence of a new JS Tarka in the political terrain of modern day Nigeria.
For many Benue people, with the kind of massive support the governor enjoys across political party lines in his home state and indeed the Middle Belt zone, which prepared grounds for his resounding victory in his second term bid, a change of political equation has been triggered in the state and the Middle Belt.
According to Convener of the Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, Comrade Joe Bukka, “whether we like it or not Governor Ortom is a leading voice in the Middle Belt and when he speaks the people listen.
“The fact that he stood for the people and didn’t abandon them at the peak of the herdsmen killings stood him out among his colleagues in this part of the country. That was why he enjoyed the massive support he got during the elections and the people came out in their numbers to cast their votes for him to express their love and also pay him back for the sacrifices he made for his people.
“He is now being regarded as the one who has effectively stepped into the shoes of the legendary JS Tarka because despite all intimidation he speaks and defends the cause of his people even at the detriment of his safety and office.
“Like JS Tarka he did not sell out when others were selling out and accusing their people for being responsible for the herdsmen killings across the state including the murder of the two Catholic Priests and 17 worshippers at Mbalon just for political patronage.
“That is leadership at its best and that is the more reason why majority of the stakeholders in Benue and even the Middle Belt zone felt disappointed when we learnt that his victory at the poll is being challenged at the tribunal.”
Continuing Bukka said: “If you recall when I spoke before that election I said Ortom was going to win even if he decided to contest on the platform of an unknown political party because it was obviously that the vast majority of Benue people would use that election to say thank you to the governor.
“Are you not surprised that despite the deployment of federal might which the leaders of the opposition in the state boasted would give them victory and the drafting of three Police Commissioners and one DIG of Police to supervise the election, Ortom and PDP still came out victorious?
“Apart from wining the governorship election PDP also won the three senatorial seats, six House of Representatives seats and 23 State Assembly seats. That was the reward and big thank you the people gave Governor Ortom aside crowning him the new JS Tarka of Benue and Middle Belt zone. So for me, contesting a victory freely given to such a man is like embarking in a mission of self ridicule.”
Edo 2020: We’ll teach Obaseki bitter side of politics –Idahagbon
Mr. Henry O. Idahagbon was the Attorney-General during Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s administration in Edo State. In this Interview, he spoke on the current crisis in Edo APC, among other issues. Excerpts…
There was news making the rounds that your health was failing and you were rushed abroad for treatment. How true is this?
Even if it happened, I am human, so as a human being, I can be sick and anybody can fall sick. I am an adult, I can be ill. But it can be verified, London is not very far, anyone can go and find out if I was in the hospital. In any case, I didn’t go for any treatment, London is not a place where facts can be hidden, it is not like Nigeria. I went to London because my son gained admission into a university, and I had to be there. I took him to the primary school, I took him to the secondary school, so now that he got admitted into the university, it is my duty as a father to see him and congratulate him. I was just there for my son, I went to play the role of a responsible parent. So, if my distractors were wishing me sickness in London, I leave them in the hands of God. God gives life, he gives good health, and I thank Him for the adequate good healthy He has given to me.
How do you see the statement credited to Governor Godwin Obaseki that his second term is not negotiable?
There is no fighting whatsoever; he is free to say anything if that is what he thinks of himself. Obaseki is a very poor student who has refused to learn the political process. It is unfortunate that he is taking the goodwill of Edo people and the political class for granted. Obaseki got the governorship on a platter, he didn’t work for it, he didn’t know how he became governor. He woke up suddenly and became the governor and he thinks it is that easy. Let me tell you that it is easier to win a first term election than win a second term election. When you are contesting the first term, people don’t know you, people voted for you based on the promises you made, but when you have spent three years in office, we now know you. We now know that Obaseki is capable of sleeping at ma- j o r m e e t – ings and e v e n t s . P e o p l e n o w know that there is a disparity between a spoken word and performance. Like Adams Oshiomhole often say that government is not about earmarking, is about eye marking, tell me one single project that he has executed that can be eye marked, everything about Obaseki is earmark. Edo people want eye mark. The eye mark is that Benin – City became one giant River Niger whenever the rain falls, some of the roads he constructed have been washed away because they were poorly executed. He gives out contracts without supervision, those are the things that we can eye mark in this government. You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. We were deceived three years ago, we can’t be deceived the second time. He has randomly condemned the political class in Edo State; he has called us thieves, robbers, greedy disgruntled people, beggars and all kinds of names. Thank God he has not being sharing money with us; he should tell Edo people what he is doing with their money.
What if he wins?
This time around he will not have an easy ride, yes it is not negotiable, he is going to vote for himself. How many of his family members will vote for Obaseki? I spoke with one of them recently and he told me to stop calling him Godwin Obaseki, that I should just call him God-win. He can become boastful and says whatever he likes, it is a democracy, the minority will have their say, and the majority will have their way. He can talk as much as he likes, but on the day of the primary election, we will teach him the bitter side of politics, a political lesson he will not forget in his lifetime.
Some people have described the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) as disgruntled people. What is your take?
He is very free. If we are disgruntled we have the right to be disgruntled. We brought him from political obscurity to national and International political limelight. Then after doing that for him he abandoned us, called us names and he expects us to be happy with him? We cannot be happy with him. The only thing that could have pacified us is if he had performed. In the whole of metropolitan Benin – City, Obaseki has only done three roads. If you know of any road that he has done, I challenge the ingrates and his errand boys to come out and tell Edo people. I mean major roads, not the 200 unfit roads that had been washed away by the rains.
The majority of Edo people are saying that Obaseki is doing very well. Don’t you agree?
Pride goes before a fall. When the chips are down we will know what to do. We know what we did three years ago, and we know what to do again. Let them go ahead and be praising him, NUT has given him award, let NUJ give him award, let NMA give him award, let NWWW give him award, we don’t care. Oshiomhole in order to get Obaseki to be governor three years ago, worked on the centripetal and centrifugal forces, he brought together all these forces, he brought together the men, the women, the boys, the girls, the youth, the traditional institutions, he brought everybody together and offended the majority of the political class in Edo just for Obaseki to be where he is today. Today, all those forces are fighting among themselves because they have been used and abandoned, they have seen that is the nature and character of Obaseki: to use people and dump.
A group of of APC members placed an advertorial disowning EPM. Are you comfortable with that?
That is the handiwork of the state chairman who does not know what he is doing. Our state chairman is a man that has never contested any election in his lifetime, that is a man that has never won his ward in his local government. He is the worst state chairman Edo state and Nigeria has ever produced. Can you compare him to the vibrant PDP state party chairman? You can see Chief Dan Orbih going everywhere criticizing, doing his job as an opposition. Let no one be deceived, the EPM is the conscience of the Edo APC, we are the conscience. We have a party that had been decimated by the state chairman, and we have a government that has lost touch with the people. The EPM is the sole of APC in Edo State, we will determine who becomes the next governor of Edo State in 2020. We told our state chairman over two months ago to call a leadership meeting of the party where we can tell ourselves the truth, till this moment, he has not been able to do it. Our state party chairman is a failed chairman, he cannot summon the courage to do it, and he has become the mouthpiece of the governor. The party is superior to the governor; the state chairman is bigger than the governor. He supposed to seat in his office and call the governor to come and explain his government policies. He has forgotten that there is a great difference between the party and the governor. In a democratic setting, the party is supreme. In any case, when we get to the bridge we know how to cross it.
Edo people will decide Obaseki’s fate, not rebellious group –Edaghese
Mr. Edaghese Matthew is an Edo-based lawyer and human rights activist. In this interview, he spoke on the political crisis in Edo APC towards the 2020 gubernatorial election and the need for the party to put its house in order. Excerpts…
What is your take and interpretation of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s words when he said; “my second term bid is not negotiable”?
When interpreting a statement, we look at the contextual usage, the intension or intendment of person who made that statement. It is the intention that counts more than the meaning you read into a statement. From my own perspective, he would have been saying; ‘I would not negotiate with those who claim it is their birthright to allocate powers to people’. If you look at the history of political drama that is unfolding, you can easily conclude that he was referring to those self-acclaimed godfathers. He may be saying that, if he doesn’t negotiate with them, his chances of becoming a second-term governor would not be dashed, or it could be a mirage. He couldn’t have been saying that the people that have the powers to hire and fire, people who lead through the ballots are not going to be negotiated with, that couldn’t have been his intention. I want to believe that what he meant is that he has a pact with the people.
With what is gradually playing out, don’t you think that the battle line has been drawn between Obaseki and the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM)?
The EPM, the way I look at it, is a pressure group, and a pressure group has to operate on its own. I do not think it is proper for a political party to have a pressure group within the party; that will amount to working against the party leadership or the structure. That itself appears to me a rebel group. If there is a rebellion and the rebels are trying to pull down the roof in a political party that they belong to, for the reasons that they have stated, that the governor must not come back, it is now left for the governor to act. The governor is the political head of the state, by virtue of the constitution. If they do not want to sheath their sword, he has to stamp his authority. The governor can say; ‘well, I will not be conditioned to succumb to a certain group of persons’. I think that is why Obaseki is asserting himself politically and it is only wise that he does that.
As a voter and somebody who has been following the proceedings in the Edo State, do you think Governor Obaseki deserves a second term?
If we go by public opinion, what the people of Edo State are saying, in terms of evaluating his performance and going by what the people are saying about Godwin Obaseki, I think his ratings in the court of public opinion are already above average. And if that is the situation in terms of assessments, politically, such a person stands a chance of being re-elected, because the incident of the election will be determined by the people who are the governed. And if they are rating you high based on your performance, definitely the coast is clear for a possible re-election.
As it is, the powers that be may frustrate him during the primary election. If he doesn’t get the APC ticket, do you think Obaseki should defect to another political party?
I do not want to believe that any certain individual within a political party have the monopoly of power to dictate against the will of other members of the party. Talking about the congress, a party is made up of people. The leadership is just people who are put there to pilot the affairs of the party, not to dictate for the party. If you are looking at democracy the way it is unadulterated, the leader of the party has no option but to bow to the will of the people who made up the party, and that is the congress. The congress is the supreme body in a political party. And if the people of a political party say this is what we want, I do not think it is possible for the party leadership to go the opposite direction.
Governor Godwin Obaseki rcently sacked some council chairmen and secretaries as well as some of his political appointees. Isn’t this a minus for him?
They said he is doing that to form a political structure, but I do not agree with people saying that. It is known that the entire APC political structures in the state are fully behind the governor. We are not aware of any local chapter or the state chapter of the party working against the party, so I do not think anyone is against Obaseki. The entire party system in the state has been singing a harmonious song in support of the governor, and the people kept saying that Obaseki is the preferred choice. So, we are not aware of people fighting him. If at all they are, they do not control the party structure in the state; they are only aggrieved for their personal interest. They do not hold any meaningful position in the party, so we cannot be associating them with having control of the party. They are party members not the controllers of the structure. Look, let me tell you, as governor of the state, his powers are enormous, he can decide to hire and fire anybody, especially if he thinks that the person is no longer relevant to his government. It is not a thing to be debated or argued about, government position or office is not a family property or personal empire. To me, I do not think it is aimed at fighting Oshiomhole and his group. It is not an exclusive right of some people to hold on to government positions; there are others who are qualified to work in those positions too. So, if you are asked to vacate the seat, it is not something that will generate heat. I’m seriously in support of the governor in his strive. Those who are against the wheel of progress in the Niger-Delta should be exposed and made to face the full wrath of the law. Any attempt to deny Obaseki a second term ticket, will mean denying the entire Edo State people the dividend of democracy. That will amount to setback for the people.
Bayelsa polls: Impeach me if I don’t fulfill campaign promises in 2 years –Ibiene
35-year-old Stephen Ibiene is the governorship candidate of the United Peoples Congress (UPC) in the November 16th governorship election in Bayelsa State. In this interview with PAULINE ONYIBE, he speaks on his plans to govern the state, among other issues. Excerpts…
What gave you the urge to want to govern Bayelsa State?
I saw an online journal about the political history of Bayelsa State from 1999 till date and I found out that, aside those that have died, some key players at that time are still very much around today. So it got me asking. When is tomorrow coming for us to be leaders? And it gave me this awakening that tomorrow is today. So, that is what gave me the nod.
What is your agenda and manifesto?
We have our security plan, which cuts across all spheres; education, job creation, etc. In education, we look at it that the schools we have today, many of them are dilapidated even with the kind of allocation that comes into the state. I don’t see any reason why we can’t actually give children free education from primary to secondary school. I can’t see any reason why in our state, we cannot bring down the fees of our tertiary institutions because all these things are contributing to why people are committing crimes. The ones that are still in secondary school can’t go to tertiary schools because their parents can’t afford it, so, they roam the streets. What we want to do is to bring down the fees in the tertiary intuitions, pay bursaries so that those in schools can have something to assist themselves. We will make primary and secondary education free; we can afford it. Yes, we know that the state is going to be indebted by the time the present administration is leaving but with the plans of infrastructural development and job creation, revenues are going to be created.
How will you generate IGR?
We have the Bayelsa plastic industry; we are going to revive it so that it will start functioning. We no longer bring in pure (sachet) water from outside, meaning that we have bottled water and pure water factories and these people use plastics and rubbers, which the factory is going to be producing. The factory will be generating revenue for the state. If the Bayelsa plastic industry gets functional while it is generating revenue for the state, we are going to employ youths, even some of our parents. People won’t be thinking of running to ministries to just pile up and be doing nothing. We have the Bayelsa palm. We are blessed with it and we are saying that the allocation coming is not enough then why don’t we get Bayelsa palm back? If that place is working, do you know how many Bayelsans that are going to get jobs there? And we have palm produce, which will be generating revenue.
What are your plans for youths that don’t want to further their education?
I am a product of entrepreneurship. I learnt being a Disc Jockey at 19. I have trained lots of youths who are making money from that business. Even when I have that skill of DJ, in 2010 when I was serving, I started making money from beads. I learnt advanced beads making and I was given a starter kit. My plan is that if you don’t want to go to school, we will train you. We will have a financial institution to follow it up and give soft loans.
So many have said all these in the time past yet no result. What is going to be different?
You know what differentiates me from them; I’m a product of the street. I told people that I am not even going to use my young age to campaign. I’m there already on the street. I know everything you people are facing. I don’t have security guards till now, even as I’m contesting. I know how many times these guys have pointed gun at me to collect my phone. The so-called big candidates don’t even know what it feels to be pointed gun at. I have a small bar, I had to close the one in Yenagoa because I could no longer buy fuel. Insecurity has closed that place because boys will just come in broad daylight and point guns at people and people stopped coming. My mother was one of the civil servants that were dropped for no good reason. Imagine if I have not gotten a handiwork and started making little money, I would have dropped out of school because she was sacked when I was still schooling.
How do you intend to stop multiple taxation?
I am also feeling it. There is a court case going on and I am sure that the governor is not going to honour the outcome of the judgment if the government loses. If I become the governor, that is one burden that I am going to face, because I must obey court orders. I’m going to be the first governor in the history of Nigeria to pass a bill to be put to law that, from my tenure, any governor that doesn’t achieve 50 per cent of his campaign promises in two years should be impeached. You cannot appeal it. It is achievable. Even if the allocation drops, there are plans of getting revenues. Many of the things that I want to do in the state will be under PPP and BOT to remove the financial burden on the state government.
With youths asking for money, can you win without a godfather?
I know I will win, I know that youths are money conscious. I don’t have any godfather but I still believe in our youths. Before November 16, things will start turning around because their thinking are beginning to change. They know that the level of being used and dumped is too much. I use to ask people that; those spending N15, 000; do you know that they will not remember you because they will want to recover their money first? That is the reason we are trying to generate revenue and that will be our topmost priority. Let the state have its money and we can run the state adequately. And that is why I don’t have anybody financing me, because they are the ones that would want to control me. I want the people to be my godfathers. The masses should be my godfathers. Godfatherism is the reason why we are in darkness in Bayelsa.
What are your plans towards the new Yenagoa city?
I am keying into the new Yenagoa city project. That plan has always been there since the time of the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Is it now that the governor is leaving that he remembered it? And he has not started doing anything and he won’t do anything, but if he succeeds in bringing his successor, that person will still not do it. Look at the plan; they have not started building roads. Even if they do, who will build house in that swamp when they know that the cost of sandfilling is very high. And the money for that airport project would have done this but it is just a misplaced priority. The money for the airport would have done these things. The airport isn’t a good investment. The airport is not coming at the right time. Who is going to fly through the airport?
But he said that in three week’s time, it would be put in use.
Even if the airport is functional tomorrow, how many people will come and park their planes here? How many passengers are travelling from Bayelsa? It is not what we need now and even if we need it now, it is not where it is supposed to be.
How do you intend to form your cabinet bearing in mind that you are going to work with people older than you are? How do you intend to checkmate those elderly ones?
The difference is that if you are 40-year-old, you wont be a commissioner in my cabinet. You can only be a special adviser. Let them advise us. Our parents have tried, we want to take over from them and take care of them. You don’t need to have a portfolio in government to enjoy life as a senior citizen.
What advice do you have for youths that would be used for election violence?
It is time we all stood and changed the narrative and say enough is enough. These people have children but you don’t see them out there, doing these things. The money they give in perpetrating violence on election day, when you check it out, that money will finish that day. You have your PVCs. If they say our votes don’t count, why are they looking for us? Some youths die in the process and the politicains don’t even attend their burials. But you died for their sake. Let’s rise up and ‘shine’ our eyes. Don’t allow them to use you.
Kogi polls: Voters interested in personalites,not political parties –Prince ‘Elephant’ Muhammed
Prince Abdullahi Muhammed is generally known as Elephant, not because of his size, but because of his philanthropic gesture to the people and the less privileged. In this Interview with MUHAMMAD BASHIR, the governorship candidate of the Accord Party in the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election, reeled out his programmes. Excerpts:
You are aspiring to be the governor of Kogi State, that means you will be going into the governorship race on November 16. What are your chances?
Judging by the reach of our party in the state and my endorsement by several political and cultural groups across the state. I can confidently say that my chances of victory are very bright
How strong is your party in the state?
Accord Party is the third largest political party in Kogi State, with structures and presence in all the 21 Local government areas.
What would you do differently if elected as the governor?
My agenda is to restore Kogi State to its former glory, hence my campaign slogan; ‘Restoration’.
How do you mean?
In order to restore the state to its former glory I have gathered experts from all facets of human endeavours, all whom are of Kogi State origin. And after series of meetings and well thought deliberation, they have formulated the ‘Restoration Masterplan and Policy’ document.
How effective will the document be?
The document contains 18 economic agenda and blueprint for total restoration of Kogi State. I will make it public at our party campaign rally, which will commence soon.
What is the main thrust of the programme?
You will see it in the restoration document; it covers jobs, war on corruption, and gender equality, just to name a few. That is just the few among many others.
Specifically, what are your programes for the state?
My programmes are contained in my 18 points economic agenda and the blueprint for total restoration of Kogi State. We are going to cover agriculture, fiscal framework, youth development, crime eradication, education, health, human settlement, water and sanitation, people with disabilities, traditional institution, Science & Technology, sports, arts, culture & recreation, Information Communication Technology, road infrastructure, social development and state capacity.
The major issue in the state is said to be absence of human and physical development, do you have the capacity to rewrite the narrative?
Most definitely, I have the capacity and I am very capable to change the narrative of Kogi State and build both human and physical development. My primary objective of putting myself forward for the office of the governor of Kogi State is to bring infrastructural development and build the human capacity of the state
Many people have been raising concerns over the coming election. Their fears are that the polls would be violent. Aren’t you nursing such fears?
I am of the opinion that violence is never an answer to any problem. Also elections in Nigeria had been fraught with cases of violence, but it is my belief and hope that on November 16th, 2019, we shall witness a violence-free election in Kogi State. I strongly believe that this election will set the standard as a good example, which other states shall learn and emulate.
Many believe that the major contenders in the coming election are the ruling APC and main opposition, the PDP. Can your party spring any surprise?
All the parties in the coming election are major contenders. I say this because the political landscape in Nigeria is changing and voter literacy is on a steady rise. This is mostly due to influence of social media which made it possible for candidates to reach out to voters, and pass across their campaign messages. Also, judging by the outcome of the last general elections in February 2019, it is evident that voters are more interested in personalities and not the political parties. Therefore, it is erroneous to say APC and PDP are the major contenders in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in our dear state. A major reference point is that of a former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party, who despite the odds and that Labour Party was not a major contender defeated the PDP and the ACN to emerge winner and governor of Ondo State in 2009.
Many have expressed lack of confidence in the leadership of INEC and the police. Are you part of those that are skeptical?
As a law-abiding citizen of this nation, I reserve my comment on INEC and police in the state. This is because I am still observing the situation very closely.
What are your expectations for the coming election?
It is my expectation that the election will be credible, free, fair and devoid of violence. Therefore, I urge INEC and security agencies to ensure that no stone is left unturned in ensuring that we have a free, fair and violencefree poll in the state on November 16.
What is your advice to the electorate?
I will advice the electorate to be lawabiding. They should resist the urge to get involved in any from of violence and irregularities during the polls. I will also encourage them to come out and vote for the Accord Party and defend their votes.
Ex-commissioners: We didn’t indict Ambode before Assembly panel
Former Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in the immediate past administration in Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Banjo and his Energy and Mineral Resources counterpart, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, have denied reports that they indicted ex-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode before an ad-hoc committee of the state House of Assembly.
The commissioners, who debunked reports in some sections of the media that they indicted their principal in the ongoing probe of 820 buses purchased by his administration, in separate statements, noted that the reports were deliberate misrepresentation of what transpired during at the proceedings of the investigative committee probing Ambode’s administration.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, had constituted a nine-man ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of Hon. Fatai Mojeed (Ibeju-Lekki I) to probe the procurement of 820 high occupancy vehicles by the Ambode administration under its Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).
The House had claimed that the Ambode administration did not seek its approval for the procurement of the vehicles and directed the committee to ensure that Banjo and other top functionaries, who were involved to explain their roles in the procurement.
At the proceedings, reports had claimed that Banjo indicted the former governor and that Ambode sidelined his ministry in the controversial purchase of 820 mass transit buses as the way the ministry was structured under Ambode did not allow him to function well.
In his statement, however, Banjo denied the report, noting that he did not say anything before the committee to condemn or indict the Ambode administration under which he served as the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning between February 2018 and May 2019.
He explained that he appeared before the committee on October 15 based on a letter of invitation dated October 11, requesting him “to answer some questions on the purchase of 820 buses as they relate to the function of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget headed by me during the last administration.”
Banjo said he told the committee that he was appointed in February 2018, at a time the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground. He further said that he pointed out before the ad-hoc committee that the bus issue was not contained in the budget he managed, though it could have been in earlier budgets.
The former commissioner said: “I am deeply saddened and disappointed by such sensationalism by a section of the press and by its uninhibited and deplorable abdication of a basic tenet of professional journalism – impartial reportage.
“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in government, when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the Bus Steering Committee on assumption of duty in February 2018.
“My response to questions asked by the committee under oath was intended to explain technical issues pertaining to the operations of the ministry and explain the anomalies they noted and seek explanations to, and nothing said by me there was intended to or said in any manner as to condemn or indict anyone.”
However, Banjo said he brought to the attention of the ad-hoc committee that the operating system of the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning should be reviewed, He added that he pointed out mentioned other weaknesses of the ministry’s operating system in a professional manner.
His words: “It is pertinent to note that these observations had earlier been included in my handing over note to the new administration and as it affects all arms of government and not the executive alone. I was therefore, contrary to the impression sought to be portrayed by the press, not saying anything new that had not been said before.”
In his own statement, Oluwo acknowledged that he attended the second session of the committee proceedings on October 15 alongside former Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Toyin Suara, noting that reports in some sections of the media over what transpired were not true.
According to him, Suara and I were called into the conference room at the same time. The lawmakers asked both of us questions in the open. While Suara was asked questions about Lagos Rice Mill Project in Imota, I was asked questions about the LED-UK streetlights installation, a UK Exim Bank funded project.
The former commissioner said it was strange “to read reports that Suara and Oluwo said many of the projects including Oshodi Transport Interchange and others were never captured in the state budget. This is rather strange.”
He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I did not and could never have indicted former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility.”
He, therefore, noted that the reports were completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings of the ad-hoc committee of the State House of Assembly.”
Anambra South: Uba brothers take battle to Appeal Court
Following the last month ruling of the Anambra State National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal, which upheld the victory of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah in Anambra South Senatorial District, the Uba brothers – Andy and Chris Uba, who were his main opponents, have taken their case to the Court of Appeal, OKEY MADUFORO reports
Senator Andy Uba, the immediate past senator for Anambra South Senatorial District may have underestimated the enormity of the last general election in the area and may have gone to sleep oblivious of the capacity of Ifeanyi Ubah, who was the senatorial candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the February 23 National Assembly elections in Anambra South.
As a result, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officially declared the oil magnate winner of the election, it came like a shocker to Senator Uba and many people in Anambra State, considering how Ubah defeated Andy and his younger brother, Chris, in the senatorial poll.
Andy, who was then the incumbent senator representing Anambra South in the Red Chamber, contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while Chris was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ifeanyi Ubah’s victory without any iota of doubt was a surprise to many people in Anambra State. For Chris Uba, the self-styled political godfather of the state, his loss at the senatorial poll painted a picture of a grand master beaten in his own game in a local derby. Chris, who had installed some public office holders in Anambra State as a political godfather in the past failed to actualise his own political aspiration. His brother, Andy, also failed to return to the Senate for third consecutive term.
The businessman turned politician, polled 87,081 votes to defeat 26 others. His closest rival was Chris (PDP), who got 62,462 votes to place second. Nicholas Ukachukwu of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) came third with 51,269 votes, while Andy (APC), got 13,245 votes to place a distant fourth.
The Uba brothers, who felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the February 23 National Assembly election, took their case to the state’s National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Awka. But rather than getting succour at the tribunal, their predicaments deepened further, as the three-man panel affirmed that Ifeanyi Ubah was validly elected and that the two petitioners, Chris and Andy could not prove their respective cases beyond reasonable doubt.
The tribunal dismissed all the 19 witnesses called by the petitioners, observing that the testimonies of the witnesses have evidential value and that it was bound to reject the evidences because the prosecution witness 1, who relied on the card reader did not prove the allegations leveled against the respondent.
Reacting to the ruling, Senator Ubah, who dedicate the victory to God, his wife, children and party, said the verdict in his favour is an attestation of both “the perfect will of God and the irrefutable choice of the good people of Anambra South at the February 23 polls”.
He described the judgement as victory for not only his senatorial district, but also for the entire people of Anambra State. He further stated that the ruling reinforces the confidence the people have in the judiciary.
He added that his victory is a good development for the advancement of democracy in Nigeria, noting that the judiciary has shown that it is indeed the last hope for all.
But, the Uba brothers were dissatisfied with the ruling of the tribunal and the duo has approached the Court of Appeal praying it to upturn the judgement on the ground that the tribunal erred in the process.
Ever since tribunal ruled on the petition instituted by the Ubas against Ifeanyi Uba, people have been x-raying the judgement placing the appeal alongside the ruling of the lower court.
This x-ray of the tribunal’s judgement is being considered by legal analysts on the submissions of the 19 witnesses and prove of manifest rigging and falsification of election results, which Justice Okara Ebimie Thelma, who delivered the judgement took time to elucidate as grounds upon which he gave his ruling.
The judge had held: “General comment on the Petitioner’s witnesses testimonies. PW1, PW10, PW14, PW16 and PW17 out of the 19 witnesses that testified for the Petitioner only five witnesses were polling unit agents for APC who gave evidence on what transpired in their polling unit but their testimonies were all impeached under cross examination. The tribunal therefore attaches very light weight to their testimonies only to the fact that they were within the Senatorial District on the day of election.
“The evidence of PW2, PW3, PW4, PW5, PW6, PW7, PW11, PW12, PW13, PW14, and PW18 who were ward collation/supervisory agents cannot be reliable as the evidence of the polling unit agents who were eye witnesses of all facts in their deposition. Having admitted under cross examination they were not at all the unit at the same time as they were moving round from one polling unit to the other. We therefore attach no probative value to their testimonies as roving agents.
“PW8 and PW9, these witnesses could not substantiate the allegation made in their depositions which were also badly discredited under cross examination. Their reference to voters reward voucher was vague and unsubstantiated and could not be linked to the 1st Respondent.”
“PW6, PW7, PW8, PW9, PW15, PW16, PW 17, PW18 and PW19 all deposed to the same set of facts in their affidavit. The question that comes to mind is could the same set of facts have happened in all the wards same time on the Election Day? This goes to show that such evidence is well rehearsed and makes such evidence unreliable see the holding of the court of Appeal.”
Another very curious finding of the tribunal in the evidence of these aforementioned set of witnesses is that a common denominator in their affidavit is the fact that card reader did not work during the February 23 elections.
Paragraph 3 of PW4, PW7, PW8, PW9, PW15, PW16, PW17, PW18 and PW19 witness statement on oath states: “The 11 witnesses as outlined above took a nose dive in their respective depositions of the 26th day of April and all relied on the ‘smart card data analysis’ product of a smart card that was not put to use during the elections. It is sure not the responsibility of this tribunal to choose and pick which line of evidence to follow between the two contradictory evidences of the above listed witnesses. This no doubt, has rendered the evidence of PW4, PW6, PW7, PW8, PW9, PW15, PW16, PW17, PW18 and PW19 very unreliable, no probative value or evidential value can be placed on such evidence of these witnesses.”
Be that as it may, the Uba brothers are indeed optimistic that the Appeal Court will give them justice, but the duty of the court is to weigh the judgement of the lower tribunal in order to reaffirm the victory of Senator Ubah or to call for a fresh election, which in recent times has become unfashionable.
As it stands, the appellate court also has that task of proving to the people of Anambra South Senatorial District that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah did not win the said election or to uphold the rulings and submissions of the lower tribunal.
Voter inducement on the prowl, says YIAGA Africa
YIAGA Africa, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), has alleged that voter inducement is already ongoing in Kogi and Bayelsa states ahead of the November 16 governorship polls in the respective states.
Executive Director of the group, Mr. Samson Itodo, in a statement, yesterday, said that the organisation noticed voter inducement during its voter education campaign and pre-election observation.
Itodo said that YIAGA Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) project deployed long term observers to local government areas in both Kogi and Bayelsa state to observe pre-election environment.
He said that some findings were in the areas of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) preparedness, political campaign, voter education and participation of marginalised groups, and early warning signs of electoral violence among other things.
The statement reads in part: “Generally, voter inducement was reported in at least one in every three of the 21 LGAs in Kogi, and in all LGAs in Bayelsa.
“WTV observers witnessed or heard of cases of voter inducement in Kolokuma, Opokuma, Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa, Brass, Ogbia, Nembe and Sagbama LGAs in Bayelsa State.
“They also observed or heard of voter inducement in Adavi, Ogori, Mangogo, Okehi, Okene, Bassa, Ibaji, Idah, Kabba/Bunu and Kogi K.K LGAs of Kogi State,” he said.
Itodo said that observers also monitored the pre-election environment relating to the activities of INEC from September 9 to October 3.
According to him, it was noticed that Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) distribution were conducted by INEC and voter education was also conducted in collaboration with National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) across the states.
He recommended that INEC should ensure inclusion, especially for all marginalised groups because there was need for proactive and targeted communication using different channels of communication on the electoral process.
He also urged INEC to beef off its oversight and monitoring mechanisms to further strengthen and ensure compliance to the electoral laws and guidelines, while avoiding unnecessary postponements of poll.
Itodo further called on the electoral umpire to come up with robust mechanism and collaborate with both state and non-state actors to curb the menace of buying and selling of PVCs and other forms of voter inducement.
He also advised security agencies to be more intentional in addressing early signs of violence like hate speech, physical attacks, communal crises, voter inducements, and other criminal activities ongoing in the pre-election environment.
According to him, security agencies must engage in active communication with citizens on the principles regulating security deployment and operations ahead of the election.
He encouraged candidates and their supporters to ensure that they promote unity and peaceful election by refraining from any form of physical or verbal attacks on opponents or their supporters.
PDP is drowning in its own lies – APC
The spokesman of the Bello/Onoja Kogi State Governorship Campaign Organisation, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, has described the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a party drowning in its own lies.
Fanwo stated this in Lokoja, while responding to an allegation by the Kogi PDP that Governor Yahaya Bello has imported tainted vehicles for possible rigging.
According to Fanwo, who is also the Chairman of the Media Committee of the Kogi State All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship Campaign Council, the allegation was “another PDP-made garment of falsehood.”
Insisting the Bello has already “shown capacity and readiness to win the election,” Fanwo added: “Combining Governor Yahaya Bello with the master strategist, Chief Edward Onoja, is too hot for the PDP to handle. They don’t even know if they will have a candidate yet as there are litigations challenging their bloody and inconclusive midnight primary.”
He further said: “It is therefore understandable that they have chosen the ignoble path of promoting lies to mislead the good people of Kogi State. The November 16 governorship election will be the most peaceful, fairest and freest in the political history of the state.
“All their lies and allegations of non-performance against the governor have been pummeled by the reality on ground. We have developed their villages and towns and it has become obvious that the PDP is striving to avoid an issue-based campaign.
“We are prepared to engage the PDP because the records of the Governor speak for itself from water provision to road construction, education, health and security. Let them come up with issues and stop creating further confusion for their party.
“The PDP has been dazed by the mass defections from their party to APC. They know the game is up. Kogi State will never go back to the terrible era of PDP.”
Fanwo also warmed the opposition party of the consequences of giving misleading and false information, challenging the party to show proof of their allegations.
“Security agencies are fortified to deal with insecurity in the State. The governor will never subscribe to violence. This election is about the good of the present and the evil of the past,” he said.
He urged Kogites not to panic as security agents have been charged to ensure the security of lives and property before, during and after the election.
APC accuses Dickson of procuring arms
A head of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused the state governor, Seriake Dickson of stockpiling arms.
APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, who made the allegation, while speaking Abuja, said: “Bayelsa State is being transformed to a war zone ahead of the election. Governor Seriake Dickson has seen clearly that defeat is imminent for his candidate and has now resorted to deploying violence to force his will on the people.
“Recently, traditional rulers in Bayelsa State reported to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the arms stockpile in the state which is happening on the watch of the current state government. As the INEC chairman stated, traditional rulers don’t belong to any political party, and they don’t support any candidate, so our security agencies cannot afford to fold their hands on this, we must take their reports very seriously. We have a duty to protect INEC and the voters to ensure free and safe elections.”
Nabena therefore called on heads of security agencies to closely monitor the operations of their personnel in the state before and during the governorship election.
“Coupled with the state security outfit, Operation Doo Akpo, which Governor Dickson is using to harass political opponents in his party, PDP and APC members, supporters and leaders in the state ahead of the governorship election, the governor has also boasted openly that he has the money to pay the police and army, including their retirement benefits if they work for him in the election. He has gone ahead to set up an army and police base in his village (Toru-Oras). The Inspector General of Police and Chief of Army Staff must not allow this happen.
“Which money is Governor Dickson relying on to rig the election? It is the federal allocation meant for Bayelsans. I call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and particularly the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to monitor deployment of Bayelsa funds,” he said.
The APC chieftain said the people of Bayelsa State are ready to defend their votes and to reject the PDP’s candidate, who according to him is Governor Dickson’s stooge.
“The popular APC candidacy of David Lyon has thrown the camp of Governor Dickson into disarray. The recent wave of high profile defections from the PDP to the APC is clear proof that the wind of change is blowing across the state. Governor Dickson’s rigging and intimidation plans will fail because Bayelsans are ready to defend their votes,” he said.
Epie/Attissa denies endorsing any candidate, says APC
The Chairman of Bayelsa State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Peace/Reconciliation Committee, Diekivie Ikiogha, yesterday, declared that the Epie Attisa people of the state have not endorsed any candidate for the forthcoming governorship election.
The reconciliation committee chairman therefore stated that his party ss in good shape to face other parties in the governorship election.
“There was no endorsement or adoption, but people just went to pay a courtesy call. APC will also go and pay courtesy call on the traditional rulers and they are going to also bless APC. That is a normal protocol within the traditional council and they do it everywhere. There was no adoption,” he said.
Speaking to New Telegraph in Yenagoa, Ikiogha maintained that in order to make sure that the party was in good shape before the election; his committee has tried to reconcile all the aspirants except few cases, which the committee is still working on. He added that the matter in court would soon be resolved.
He said: “We have tried to reconcile all the aspirants. There are two cases that Mr. President himself or the National Chairman of the party will have to handle, but as far as I am concerned, we are one big family.
“And if you talk of integration, we are still making contacts. It is a continuous process even one day to the election. That is why we are going out to campaign. We will continue to make contacts and we solicit for supports.”
He also stated that the issue of suspension and counter-suspension that rocked the party recently was due to misunderstanding, insisting that it has been resolved.
Boasting that the APC will win the November 16 election, Ikiogha said: “If I were in PDP, I will be very cautious, if I were the governor, I would have been very cautious to spend money because the picture is glaring right now.”
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