Hon. John Dyegh holds a doctorate degree in Economic History and represents Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency of Benue State. He is a top contender for the position of Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, the third-term lawmaker speaks on his ambition and why the North-Central should produce the Speaker
Why did you throw yourself in the ring to contest for the office of Speaker? How prepared are you for this position?
I believe that I have the requisite experience and competence to lead the 9th House of Representatives having spent eight years in the Green Chamber. I am mentally, physically and psychologically prepared and it is my conviction that my colleagues who know my abilities and capabilities would like to have a Speaker like me.
Remember, I am coming in for the third term and in the legislature, the longer you stay, the more experienced and efficient you become. So, I am coming into the race with a rich wealth of legislative experience that will benefit Nigerians.
Again, my decision to contest for Speaker is also a response to the clarion call by my constituents, honourable colleagues in the House across party lines, party faithful and other stakeholders in the North-Central and Nigeria in general, for me to offer myself for this office. And like I said, when I was making my declaration, I am ready to offer my time and talents, and make sacrifices for the good of every Nigerian. Also, my decision to join this race is based on my unyielding faith in a united and prosperous Nigeria.
So, what exactly are you bringing to the table should you be voted as speaker?
We intend to initiate and implement a Seven-Point Evidence-Based Legislative Agenda. The first item on our agenda is to pursue the amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) to ensure Legislative experience counts by extending the four-year tenure to six-year tenure for the Legislature.
We will also ensure enhanced capacity of legislators and legislative support services through training and retraining to enable the 9th National Assembly pass National Priority Laws in critical sectors such as security, employment and productivity, power and agriculture.
Thirdly, we will deepen oversight processes of the National Assembly to ensure value for money and project performance by MDAs in compliance with the Appropriations Act. My administration will also instill openness in the financial operations of the National Assembly to guarantee accountability, transparency and responsiveness.
Most importantly, we intend to initiate legislative measures and laws that will promote and engender national unity, providing equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, political, social and religious affiliations; and work with legislators in a multi-partisan manner for the stability of the House and Nigeria at large.
We will also work round the clock to create effective collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Groups and Development Partners for active participation of all sectors of the society in the lawmaking and legislative processes.
Then, we will sustain and deepen independence of the National Assembly and ensure harmonious interdependent working relationship with the Executive arm of government without undermining the principles of Separation of Powers.
Your number one agenda is to seek for the amendment of the Constitution to prolong the tenure of legislators from four to six years. How feasible is this?
It is not a personal or partisan stand. It is a proposal that when implemented will benefit Nigerians; it is an idea that will deepen and strengthen our democracy. Don’t forget that the legislature is the only arm of government that has suffered so much interruption and legislative knowledge is garnered over time. But with what we have today, not much of the institutional knowledge is there because of the high turnover of legislators.
Lawmakers are elected for four years and most of them are not returned and then we have a new set, so a lot of experienced lawmakers are thrown out. If you look at the judiciary, judges spend many years on the bench and this gives them enough experience to deliver quality judgements. Again, look at the executive; for example the civil service. Civil servants are allowed to grow on the job and by the time they get to the position of directors or permanent secretaries, they become authorities in their fields. This is adding value to their job. But when a lawmaker comes in and spends only four years and leaves, Nigeria loses her investment in the person. So, straight six year tenure can help to improve our legislators.
You said you are 100 per cent loyal to the party, but why did you join the race for Speaker less than 24 hours after the APC publicly zoned the position to South-West and even endorsed Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila?
My loyalty to the party is not in doubt. I did the party’s bidding in 2015, in spite of the odds against us then. I worked for Gbajabiamila and supported him fully. But this time around, we are giving the party an option. We are giving members of the Green Chamber an option to look at fair play. We are insisting that there must be fair play in Nigeria. We are insisting there must be fair play and justice in the Green Chamber. We have no quarrel with that. My loyalty to the party is 100 per cent. When I was doing the party’s bidding in 2015, everybody said I should go the other way, I said ‘no let me do the party’s bidding.’ I am a party man. So if I am giving the party an option today, they should also look at what I did for the party yesterday.
What is your relationship with Speaker Yakubu Dogara?
The Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara is our leader in the House of Representatives even though he is one amongst equals. I have nothing against him. It is true that I worked against him in 2015, but the moment he was elected Speaker, we accepted him and we do not have any problem. We relate very well. That is politics; the fact that I did not vote for him in 2015 does not make us enemies.
There are insinuations that you belong to a coalition of lawmakers led by Speaker Dogara, which is looking for a North-Central candidate for Speaker, and you are being favoured by the group. How true is this?
I will be happy if this is true. But I want people to know that when you are canvassing for votes, you do not restrict your campaign to a particular group or political party. We are 360 in the House and each of us has a vote; but we are from different political parties. So, being an APC member should not make me to limit my campaign to only APC members I must seek for votes from my colleagues in APGA, Labour Party, SDP, PDP, AA, APM, APC and indeed from all parties.
In fact, the coordinator of my campaign in Benue is a Labour Party lawmaker. He is not even an APC member. I am the only APC lawmaker from Benue State in the House, so if I say I will go only for APC members, it means I will lose all votes from my own state. You have to understand that if I become Speaker by the grace of God, I will not be the Speaker of APC, I will be the Speaker of the House of the Nigerian people and that is the House of Representatives. So, we have to get this right in our minds.
I don’t think there is any of us contesting for Speaker that would not seek for votes across party lines. Even in the general elections, it was not only APC members that voted for me to return to the House for the third time. The votes came from party members and non-party members.
People from different walks of life voted for me. I know as a fact that PDP and SDP members voted for; It is a fact that Labour Party and APGA members voted for me; PRP members voted for me, ADC members voted for me and so and so forth. So, don’t expect me to be a divisive speaker; I will be a speaker that will unite the House to be able to pass quality laws that would stand the test of time and improve the lot of our constituents.
Why are you defying the party’s zoning arrangement by contesting for Speaker, knowing very well that the North Central where you come from has been given Deputy Speaker?
I am still contesting for Speaker because the zoning arrangement as announced by the National Chairman of our great party is lopsided. It is not fair and that is injustice; that is why we are given the party an option. It is not fair because you said you are taking the speakership to the South West but you have failed to give us convincing reasons why those of us from the north central should not contest.
But we are saying the South West already has the office of vice president and the North Central has nothing at hand. It will only be fair, if the position of Speaker is given to the North-Central, having taken away the seat of Senate President to the North-East.
We do not have problem with that. All we are saying is, if you are taking away number three from us, give us number four and not number six. But I want Nigerians and in fact our party to know that the North-Central has neither produced a Speaker nor Deputy Speaker since 1999. We are saying that reward in politics is based on what you bring to the table and the North-Central brought the third highest number of votes in making President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term a reality and enabling the APC to form Federal Government.
We are not quarrelling; we are only appealing to the party to take a second look on its zoning arrangement based on the facts we have put before the leaders, perhaps they were not aware of this. But these are the facts on ground.
Most importantly, I want our party to also take a closer look at the provisions of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), which states that: “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies”. Does the present zoning arrangement conform to this provision?
How do you intend to resolve the perennial unhealthy fight between the legislature and the executive?
Everybody is concerned about the constant misunderstanding between the legislature and executive arm of government. I believe there is no harm in disagreeing in order to agree; but when it degenerates to a level that the Nigerian people are left to suffer, it does not augur well for us as a nation.
We intend to run a responsible House that will be anchored on the principles of separation of powers and check and balances. We will work for Nigerians and Nigeria. Whatever decision we would take will be in the interest of the nation. We will not allow our personal biases or interest to override national interest.
Cleric slumps, dies after defection to APC in Edo
Cajetan Mmuta, Benin
A Pastor with one of the Pentecostal churches in Edo State on Thursday slumped and died in Benin the state capital
The cleric, identified as Pastor Aimola John, met his sudden death shortly after he joined former governorship candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and ex-Secretary to Edo State Government Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and others to defect to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Aimola was rushed to the hospital moments he slumped but was confirmed dead on arrival at an undisclosed hospital in the capital town.
The deceased was said to have attempted to board a vehicle that brought him to the venue of the defection ceremony in Amagba community when the ugly incident occured.
He had left the APC alongside Pastor Ize-Iyamu in 2015.
The victims was a former chairmanship candidate for Owan East Local Governemnt Area.
A former Secretary of Owan East, Mr. Godwin Imoudu, who confirmed his death said the late Aimola was in Benin to defect to the APC.
LG elections: Vigilante group apprehends vehicle with sensitive materials in Niger
Daniel Atori, Minna
Barely a week to the local government elections in Niger State, a vigilante group has arrested a vehicle ladened with various election materials in Mashegu Local Government Area of the state.
The vehicle loaded with sensitive materials was intercepted by youth on its way to Mazakuka ward, a far distant terrain from the state capital.
It took the intervention of community leaders to save the six occupants of the vehicle who might have been lynched on Friday.
In a statement, State Secretary, Bar. Sulaiman Zhigun, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said moves are already being made to release the arrested vehicle and the culprits.
According to the PDP: “We are resounding it that the scheming by the rulling APC to rig and, or doctor the local government election results to favour its candidate will be resisted, all actions will be matched with double reaction.
“We call on security agencies not to take sides, but side with the law as surreptitious moves are already being made to release the arrested vehicle and the six persons who were arrested which includes the staff of the state election commission (NSIEC)”.
Senate: Furore over controversial bills
CHUKWU DAVID reports that the Ninth Senate is currently processing two bills, which have provoked a lot of contentious opinions in public domain
There are two controversial bills currently undergoing legislative action in the Ninth Senate. They are the Hate Speech Bill and the Finance Bill. While the bill on the hate speech is a private member bill, the Finance Bill is an executive bill.
The bill on hate speech is entitled: “Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches”, and is being sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger North) while the executive bill, which came from the executive arm of government, was presented in the name of the Senate Leader, Abdulahi Yahaya.
The hate speech bill, which was first introduced on Tuesday last week, has as one of its cardinal objectives, the elimination of all forms of hate speeches; promoting the elimination of hate speeches against persons or ethnic groups, as well as advising the Federal Government on the matter.
The bill intends to curtail hate speech by imposing stringent punishments on offenders. One of the punitive sanctions being recommended by the bill is death by hanging for those convicted of the offence in any court of law in the country.
The proposal, which was introduced and read for the first time in the Senate also provides life jail sentence, five years imprisonment, depending on the degree of the hate speech committed by the convict.
The Bill however, provides an option of a fine of N10 million for those found guilty just as it also seeks the establishment of a commission that will enforce the law on hate speeches in the country.
According to the proposed law, hate speech is defined as comments that insult people for their religion, ethnic, linguistic affiliation and racial contempt among others.
According to the bill, the Commission will be headed by an executive chairperson to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Council of State, subject to the confirmation of at least two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
The Commission is also to be charged with the responsibilities of discouraging persons, institutions, political parties and associations from advocating or promoting discrimination or discriminatory practices through the use of hate speeches.
It will also have a duty to promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance of diversity in all aspects of national life and encourage full participation by all ethnic communities in social, economic, cultural and political life of other communities.
However, immediately the bill was read for the first time and the news filtered into the public domain through the social media, individuals, human rights groups and Nigerians of walks of life began to rain insult on the Senate for contemplating the law in the first place.
Many public affairs analysts who have expressed their feelings on the proposed law, descended heavily on the apex legislative Chamber, accusing it of fighting to suppress opinions of the electorate who voted them to power by gagging free speech.
However, the Senate Spokesman, Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC, Nasarawa North), who addressed journalists in Abuja on the raging controversy, distanced the Senate as an institution from the bill, saying that the proposal was entirely that of the sponsor, Senator Sabi, and not an initiative of the Senate.
He argued that, like other bills, the merit or otherwise of its intendment, would be decided by the Senate during the stage of second reading, claiming that the bill had nothing to do with the executive or any hidden agenda.
“The anti-Hate Speech bill before the Senate is a private member bill from Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi. It has nothing to do with any hidden agenda from the executive and the Senate will apply all its legislative mechanism on it in deciding its usefulness for Nigerians or not”, he said.
However, he pointed out that the Senate might kill the controversial hate speech bill, if Nigerians expressed serious opposition to it.
He assured that the contentious proposal would be subjected to intense legislative scrutiny, stating that it might be killed if the lawmakers discovered that it would be inimical to the wellbeing and encroach on the fundamental rights of the citizens.
He said: “a bill is just a process; it will be subjected to debate by lawmakers. If the bill will create hardship, it will be killed on the floor of the Senate. So, I appeal for patience, and when the bill comes for second reading, we will know the direction, whether the bill will be passed or not”.
Meanwhile, in the midst of these controversies and attacks trailing the bill, Senator Sabi has said that he would not surrender or retreat from pursuing it to its logical conclusion.
According to him, the bill which he earlier sponsored during the 8th Senate but couldn’t push it further after first reading due to political exigencies of the time, was aimed at stopping the blood letting in the land promoted by hate speech.
He said: “the intendment of the bill is to provide a platform for dealing with those exploiting the two fault lines in the country, that is religion and ethnicity, to cause crises which often lead to loss of innocent lives.
“Available records clearly show that largest percentage of ethno-religious crises in the country within the last 15 to 20 years, were caused by hate speech with attendant loss of hundreds of innocent lives.
“This to me as a federal lawmaker, should not be allowed to continue and the best way of doing this is to come up with appropriate law to arrest the ugly trend which the Anti- Hate Speech Bill is proposed to address.”
The politician explained further that contrary to insinuations flying around that the bill was being sponsored in collaboration with the executive for hidden agenda, the executive has no input in the bill at all.
“I have read write-ups of those antagonising this bill and listen to those colouring it with hidden agenda from the executive in form of third term. All these to me, are even hate speech or speeches on their own.
“My intension as a patriotic Nigerian is to tackle the spread of hatred in the land along the lines of religion and ethnicity, willfully being promoted by hate speeches. The bill is not peculiar to Nigeria as countries like Canada, Kenya, Japan, etc, already have laws against hate speech”, he said.
He added that though there are extant laws in the land against defamation of character, incitement, slander, etc but the proposed anti-hate speech law would focus strictly on exploiters of religion and ethnicity for avoidable mayhem.
On the other hand, the executive bill, which principally proposes a 2.5 per cent increase in Value-Added Tax (VAT) has been generating a lot of debate and controversy among analysts, as most of them expressed fears that if passed into law, it would further aggravate the sufferings of Nigerians.
The bill recently passed for second reading in the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Finance for further legislative action. Critics are of the opinion that increasing VAT from the present 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent would further aggravate the sufferings of the people. Many have protested that the bill be killed.
With these two controversial legislative proposals in the Senate, it is up to the lawmakers to reconsider its position on the bills and see the need to withdraw them in the overall interest of the people who voted them to power.
Edo APC crisis: Awaiting party’s NWC verdict
Cajetan Mmuta reports on the twist in the lingering crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over battle of the party’s structure between the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki
The bell of uncertainty is tolling to announce the impending doom presently hanging in the air in Edo state. This follows an intractable feud that has been rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state for over six months.
Beyond the pretenses and game of hide and seek by the major actors, the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his estranged political godfather and National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, it is evident that the strong bond of confidence and unity that once held the two and members of the same APC family has been damaged, and consequently, the centre can no longer hold.
The state is no doubt overwhelmed by untold apprehension and suspicion as members of the party are now factionalized along two lines – Obaseki’s loyalists and those inclined to Oshiomhole. Both sides are spoiling for war and stopping at nothing to gain absolute control of the soul of the party and the exalted number one seat at Dennis Osadebay Avenue, presently occupied by Obaseki.
In 2016, Oshiomhole handed over the reins of power to Obaseki, who served in his administration as chairman of Edo State Economic Committee. Today, both close friends are now sworn enemies and at daggers drawn with their loyalists, who are out for the blood of whoever dares each side.
At the center of the brouhaha is the perceived poise by Oshiomhole to be in firm control of the party’s machinery in the state, a move, Obaseki and his key cabinet members have vowed to resist.
While the APC national chairman is joined in the battle of wits, funds and might, with members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which fangs are dangerously being dangled about for a possible kill by its convener, Barr. Henry Idahagbon (a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during Oshiomhole’s government), Obaseki’s political structure is under the watch of members of the Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM).
Obaseki’s frontal war against Oshiomhole peaked during the inauguration of the seventh Edo State House of Assembly at which 12 lawmakers-elect presented themselves, while 12 others have opted to stay away from the businesses of the House for about six months. The 12 inaugurated members were later joined by two of the “rebels” who have since June this year holed up in Abuja to swell their rank to 14.
Sadly, the business of the hallowed chamber has progressed without the input of the Oshiomhole loyalists as appropriation bill for the year 2020 was presented last week to the House by Governor Obaseki without inputs from the yet to be sworn-in members-elect.
While the Assembly crisis remains unresolved due to pending suits in courts and yet to be determined next move of members of the National Assembly after the ad hoc committees of both chambers of the federal legislature visited Edo State to investigate the impasse, the Edo APC crisis recently witnessed a fresh twist, following the recent suspension of key leaders and actors in the Obaseki and Oshiomhole camps.
It would be recalled that following the escalation of the internal wrangling within the party, increased suspicion and perceived acts of sabotage, Governor Obaseki recently weeded out of his government, those perceived to be sabotaging it as well as known foot soldiers of Oshiomhole, especially, protagonists of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM).
The suspension stroke was first lashed on the state Secretary of the party, Mr. Lawrence Okah, who is said to have had a running battle with Governor Obaseki and leaders of the party in his ward over alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the 2019 election and affairs of the party which he absolved himself of.
The party’s scribe is now former Assistant State Secretary, Mr. Anthony Ikuenobe, following a vote of no confidence on Okah by the State Executive Committee on November 12, in line with Article 17 (v) of the constitution of the party.
But, the Oshiomhole/Okah camp swiftly regrouped and pronounced suspension on the state chairman of the party, Barr. Anselm Ojezua.
In a counter-reaction, the Obaseki camp slammed suspension on Oshiomhole over his role in the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party.
The decision to suspend Oshiomhole followed another vote of no confidence passed on him by chairmen of the party in the 18 local government areas of Edo State. A statement signed by Ojezua and Ikuenobe to that effect read: “Consequent on the development, the State Executive Committee has adopted the vote of no confidence passed on him (Oshiomhole) and the subsisting suspension order from the organs of the party in the state.”
They said the decision was necessary to prevent a repeat of what happened in Zamfara State, where the party was unable to field any candidate in the 2019 elections.
But, another group of chairmen of the party in the local government areas described as untrue the purported vote of no confidence passed on Oshiomhole.
A statement signed by the chairman of chairmen of the party in Etsako West, Mr Ibrahim Akokia and Etsako Central, Suleman Bagudu, said: “We are not aware of the meeting where a vote of no confidence was passed on the national chairman of our party, Comrade Oshiomhole who is doing very well. Rather, we are aware that majority of the chairmen have suffered intimidation, harassment and assault in the hands of the Godwin Obaseki-led administration.
“Therefore, we chairmen have passed a vote of no confidence on Governor Obaseki, the suspended state chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua. They have not only failed the party but also the people of the state. Besides, from the disclosure from some PDP leaders, Obaseki and Ojezua have been involved in anti-party activities, therefore, they lack the moral rights to remain in this party. Oshiomhole remains our leader and we pass vote of confidence on his leadership.”
As it stands, the road to the Dennis Osadebay Avenue Government House in Benin City appears bumpy as Obaseki and Oshiomhole lock themselves in a fierce war for the party’s structure and the state legislature and indications are rife of discreet moves by Oshiomhole to pull the rug off the feet of Obaseki for not keeping terms with what has held them together.
Oshiomhole is alleged to have failed in the scheme to draft billionaire businessman from the populous Edo South, Captain Hosa Okunbo, as Obaseki’s replacement come next year. Okunbo was said to have backed out despite pressure from Oshiomhole and his close allies.
The same plot is believed to have given way for a former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a strong ally of Oshiomhole before they fell apart.
Pressure is piling up on Ize-Iyamu to begin to oil his political structure for the 2020 governorship contest. Ize-Iaymu is believed to be Captain Hosa’s faithful apostle.
Another gladiator also said to be eyeing the APC ticket is General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) should the odds work against Obaseki. Not left out in the race is a former Executive Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and ex-Minister of State for Works, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, among others from the Edo South Senatorial Zone, where Obaseki hails from.
However, the Obaseki/Shaibu ticket next year seems to dominate discussions of many in the state, who seem to have settled for the duo despite the intrigues. This stems from the endless testimonies of achievements of the governor in various sectors of economy of the state.
But jolted by the strong will, courage and poise by Governor Obaseki not to go back to the old order of doing the business of governance and to secure the second term ticket unstoppably in order to continue to give his best for improved wellbeing of all Edo people, stakeholders of the party drawn from across the three senatorial districts of the state at an enlarged meeting held in Benin, in retaliation has pronounced suspension on Governor Godwin Obaseki, his deputy governor, Philip Shaibu and the Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie for alleged anti party activities.
A chieftain of the party, Hon Patrick Ikhariale who briefed newsmen on the development after a meeting of the stakeholders where they accused the governor of allegedly hobnobbing with the opposition PDP, divisive tendencies, operating an illegally constituted House of Assembly and other allegations, noted that the inability of Ojezua to run an all-inclusive party in the state is gradually creating hopelessness among party members over issues that could have been amicably resolved.
He stressed that Ojezua was not known to have been able to settle any party disputes no matter how minor, thus making his continuous stay in office as state chairman a clear and presents danger to the cohesion of the party and therefore unacceptable to the majority of members.
But, Obaseki in a reaction through his Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie said: “What they did is not known to the party, firstly, that meeting which was held in house of an individual is not a party meeting, they should have held the meeting in the party secretariat if it was real, some of them have been suspended from the party so they do not have the right to do what they did.”
Despite this, Obaseki has consistently made public his resolve not to leave the party and that the “APC is in government, and the aim of the party is to ensure that the government performs well; our government is to make life better for everybody in the state.”
He also declared during the just concluded 2019 Alaghodaro Summit, his readiness to die in the service of the people even as there is no going back on his second term bid.
Meanwhile in an attempt to resolve the Edo APC crisis, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday appointed the Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje to head the party’s five-member fact-finding committee for the APC chapter in Edo State.
Other members of the committee are: Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Masari; former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; former governor of Borno State and serving senator, Kashim Shettima and Hon. Ahmed Wadada (Secretary).
The Committee is expected to meet with all disputing interests and present its findings to the party.
It would be recalled that the party took a decision earlier in the week to constitute a committee of prominent party leaders on the lingering crisis in our party in Edo State.
According to APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the decision taken by the party is another step in the party’s effort to find a lasting solution to the crisis and ensure the party comes out of it even stronger.
Capacity, not zoning should determine who becomes president– Akinosun
Mr. Dapo Akinosun, a legal practitioner, is the Managing Partner at SimmonsCooper Partners. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on recent rulings by the election petition tribunals, the 2023 presidency and need to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others
What is your take on the Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election?
At the Court of Appeal level, it was very clear what the judgement was and if you understand what the petition was all about, the main plank of the petition was that there was a server, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had and from which Atiku Abubakar got the result. Buts, INEC came to court and said ‘we do not have a server like that.’ Atiku said ‘we would prove you had a server.’ They brought a witness and the witness said he couldn’t ascertain whether the server exists.
That was the main plank of the petition itself, but they dabbled into other areas about the age of President Muhammadu Buhari and whether he has the qualification to run. The Court of Appeal had interpreted that already. What the constitution says is that you must have education to secondary school level; nowhere in the constitution does it say you must present your certificate and they clarified that. So, I believe that petition was brought in dead; it was not even dead on arrival, it was already dead before it was brought into court. The answers were clear, so there was no way it was going to fly.
President Buhari recently travelled out of the country without handing over to his vice and some people even said the President can govern from anywhere. What is your opinion on that?
There is no law that says the President must hand over if he is traveling. He is the president; he determines what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. The power of the president is executive and unchallengeable; he can exercise it whichever way he wants. However, there is an argument that if he is going to be away for a period that will be longer than 21 days, then he should handover otherwise the legislature could look into it and determine a way forward. Ordinarily, the president determines where he goes and when he goes; he is not bound by any rule in the constitution to hand over.
How would you respond to the perceived internal wrangling in the presidency?
I will say that the perception is wrong. There are issues like in every organisation about realignment and repositioning, but I don’t think there is any serious wrangling in the presidency.
But recent developments in the polity tend to show that there are moves against the vice president..
I don’t know the moves you have seen?
First, he was removed from heading the economic team, some of his aides were sacked and in some places he was meant to represent the president, others did that…
The President determines who represents him and where he would be represented. If I say you should represent me, it is in my interest to determine who is representing me.
What about the intent to whittle down the power of the vice president?
What are the powers of the vice president? The constitution is specific about the powers of the vice president and what the vice president can do and I am not sure anybody has taken what the constitution said the vice president can do. The constitution is also clear that every other thing dependent on what the president says he (vice president) can do. But as far as the constitution is concerned, his powers have not been tampered with.
Are you saying there is no wrangling in the presidency?
I believe so.
But, this is not how he was treated some years ago considering the relationship that existed between him and the president.
I believe the relationship between the President and his vice is very cordial. The Vice-President enjoys the mutual respect of the President. You heard that when the Vice-President visited the President’s hometown, the Emir of Daura said he is the best man and we have that kind of comment from people who are seated in some kind of spiritual or local authority over the President. They have always commended the Vice-President. I suspect that it is even the media that is creating the hype in the relationship, which is however intact.
Some people are saying that what is happening in the presidency is all about the politics of 2023, how true is that?
I think the rush towards 2023 is being too much in a hurry. We are still in 2019, there is still, 2020, 2021 and 2022; we still have more than three years to 2023. I think we should let people do the work that they were elected to do. The problem here is the way the media are hyping 2023. Let them do the work for now and I am sure the Vice-President has shown consistently that he is not interested in all this stuff. He has consistently been doing the work and I think everybody should emulate that.
But campaigns for the 2023 presidency have already started…
I have not heard of it and I am not part of it, but I do know that there are works to be done before then. What can help them to come back in 2023 is the magnitude of work they are able to do between now and 2023. It is not about the campaign, it is about the result of what they did. If people are happy, they will vote them in the next election. If they are unhappy, they will not vote for them. No matter the campaign, if you have not governed well, there will be no comeback.
How do you see the battle for the presidency between the South and North?
It has always been a battle between the South and North on who should be the next president. The North says it is their turn, the South says it is theirs. They said there is a sharing formula agreed within the party; that is internal politics. If I am in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I don’t have to align with what All Progressives Congress (APC) says; each party has its own zoning policy.
Is rotational presidency healthy for our democracy?
Every geo-political zone has a potential president, so I don’t think it should be restricted by reason of where you come from, but it should be more about your capacity to lead. We should be looking at capacity now not where you come from really. There is an allusion to that in the recent court judgement that said students should not be admitted into schools based on geo-political zone, changing their choice of school or give preference based on where they come from. We should look at capacity.
How would you react to the call that Nigeria should adopt unicameral legislation and that cost of governance should be reduced so that the country can have more money for capital projects?
I quite agree with that but who is going to make the law? The legislature will make the law. I have said it at some fora before that legislators always say that they have constituency projects to embark on, they are taking money so that they can take care of their constituencies and I have asked: ‘Your constituency has been complaining that your allowances are too much.’ I have never heard them once debate that. Maybe we should encourage them to debate the allowances and encourage them to examine the actual value of having a legislator.
I was at a forum where one legislator said many of the legislators are not really educated, trained or understand what democracy is really about and they need to be trained consistently. The questions are: ‘Can’t we increase the educational qualification required to be a legislator; can’t we reduce the amount and make it part-time? There are different modules, but we still have to go back to the legislators to change it.
Nigerians seem to be going through difficult moments over the closure of the borders by the Federal Government. What is your view on that?
I honestly thought it was a bad thing to close the border. However, listening to people like the manufacturers and importers, who should be the ones complaining; they are the ones commending the government that they are happy with the border closure. And I have looked at it that the arguments are either way. There are some people saying what has been the effect.
We said we are protecting our local industry and I will take cement as one of the examples that have been used. At a time, we closed the boarders against importation of cement, now we have a lot of cement being homegrown. So, the fact that we shut down our border can also help us to develop our rice industry. The other question is that even the cement we do now, is it cheaper than what we were importing before and will the rice become cheaper ultimately. But those are questions we can only find out with time and then we can review policy, but right now, we need to be able to manufacture and grow it in our country.
What is your view about the speculation of President Buhari is scheming for a third term?
It is only a funny speculation. The man has not even done 2020; we are talking about 2023. Let them do the work they need to do now.
Some people are also saying there is need for a six-year single tenure…
I don’t agree with six-year single tenure. I think there should be opportunity for a man to come back and test his popularity if he has done well.
Looking at the issues surrounding some of the outcome of the 2019 elections; rulings of the court, malpractices and electoral fraud, how do you think we can strengthen INEC?
It is a multi-throng approach. The first thing is to make sure that crime does not pay and unless people are punished for bad behavior, they will always behave badly. But because punishment takes a long time to come, people still get away with crime. Our judicial system should first of all be strengthened and corrected. The real challenge of the judiciary is that they are underfunded and underpaid and it is easier to compromise people when they are not well paid. We should therefore restructure the judiciary and make sure that they are well remunerated. Then you will find out that whenever there is situation that needs to be adjudged without any bias; they will give the right judgement.
IPMAN to FG: Rescind decision banning supply of fuel to border communities
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has called on the Federal Government to rescind its decision suspending the supply of petroleum products to filling stations within 20 kilometres to all Nigerian borders.
In a press statement signed by the Publicity Secretary of the association, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, the group under the leadership of Alhaji (Engr) Sanusi Abdu Fari stated that the decision has brought untold hardship to residents of most Nigerian communities located close to the border as they now have to travel between 30 to 50km to source for petroleum products for their personal uses.
The statement read in part: “Majority of the petrol stations operating in this Nigerian border towns are owned by our members who are duly licensed in line with the relevant laws of Nigeria. They are now seriously affected because their source of livelihood has been shut down by the federal government and they are finding it extremely difficult to survive.
“We therefore, call on the Federal Government to reconsider the suspension and allow the supply of petroleum products to these Nigerian communities close to the border, but this time around, intensify the monitoring of petroleum products supplied to these communities by improving the communication and relationship amongst her various agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Civil Defence to curb incidents of diversion.”
Coalition of observers call for cancellation of Bayelsa guber poll
The Coalition of Civil Society Election Observers Group has called on the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to cancel the results of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa and conduct a fresh poll.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos on Thursday, the Chairman of the coalition, Olufemi Lawson and the Secretary, Ologun Ayodeji, said the high rate of violence and killings of innocent people are enough reasons for the electoral commission to cancel the election.
They said the result should not be allowed to stand, as it did not reflect the wishes of Bayelsans, adding that if the election is allowed to stand, it would be setting a bad precedence for future elections where politicians would get more daring if they know that there would be no consequences for their actions.
Lawson disclosed that reports by the coalition, comprising civil society groups, which monitored the election, and some other local and international observers revealed that the election was not credible as it was characterised by irregularities.
He said there were many proven cases of violence during the election as well as many cases of ballot snatching and stuffing.
“The result of the election cannot be said to represent the aspirations of the genuine voters in the state and we therefore call for the cancellation of the results of the governorship election,” he said.
Bayelsa, Kogi polls: PDP calls for travel bans on police high command, NEC officials
*Says outcome, products of bloodshed
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the international community to place travel bans on officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and police high command for the roles they allegedly played during last weekend’s governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
The party also demands the cancellation of the entire election, including the Kogi West senatorial poll, describing the outcome as products of bloodshed.
PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, at a press conference in Abuja Thursday, said the elections were “the biggest fraud of the century.
“The PDP, standing with millions of Nigerians also holds that the INEC and the police high command must be made answer charges of electoral fraud and crime against humanity at the appropriate quarters.”
Condemnations have trailed the November 16 governorship, including from the United Kingdom and the United States, which decried the violence that characterized the elections.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have equally called for the cancellation of the entire elections, alleging that the conduct fell short of acceptable standard.
Secondus at the press conference, which was attended by other members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), said the results of the elections did not reflect the true wishes and aspiration of the people of the states.
He noted that the primary duty of INEC and the police is to ensure free, fair and credible election.
“This they observed in the breach as even reported by agents, voters, stakeholders and independent observers in the elections. They must therefore be made to face the consequences to serve as deterrent to others.
“The PDP therefore calls on the international community as well as international organisations including, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union (AU), ECOWAS, to immediately impose sanctions, including travel bans, on the INEC and the police high commands for abusing their offices and allegedly aiding or allowing acts that led to electoral fraud and violence in the elections,” Secondus said.
APC to Dickson: Don’t blame Army, Police for PDP’s election defeat
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Yekini Nabena Thursday dismissed the claims by the governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson that security agents connived with the APC to hijack electoral materials in many local government areas in Saturday’s governorship election.
The deputy party spokesman charged Nigerians to disregard the claim, adding that: “It was obvious that the people of Bayelsa state have chosen to embrace the change and massively rejected governor Dickson’s stooge.”
Speaking at a brief interactive session with a select newsmen in Abuja, Nabena said he understood Dickson’s frustration after his rigging plans failed.
He, however, advised the governor to concentrate on the preparation of his handover notes.
He said: “Governor Seriake Dickson has decided to take out his frustration on security agencies, particularly the Army and Police following the loss of his candidate in the recent Bayelsa governorship election. Why will Dickson blame security agencies for his loss? Bayelsans rejected Dickson, his candidate and the PDP. Governor Dickson can choose to hide under his media show after the election, but he knew defeat was imminent. That is why he tried unsuccessfully to use all manner of illegal tactics to rig the election including vote buying and violence.
“While Governor Dickson must be commended for swiftly inaugurating the 41-member Bayelsa governorship transition committee, I advise him to concentrate on preparing his handover notes with the remaining time he has left in office.”
The APC candidate Chief David Lyon won the election and is slated to assume office on February 14, 2020.
Bayelsa decides: INEC gives Lyon Certificate of Return
Pauline Onyibe, Yenagoa
The newly elected governor of Bayelsa State David Lyon and his Deputy Biobarakuma Eremieyun Degi on Thursday recieved their Certificates of Return following their victory in last Saturday’s election
Receiving the certificate, the governor elect in his remarks thanked Bayelsans for deciding to cast their votes for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which he said made the state to record the most peaceful election in the history of Bayelsa State.
He assured the people of the state that Bayelsa’s money was not his money nor Deputy Governor’s money but assured that the money will be used judiciously to make sure that the state is developed.
“Today we are signing a contract with Bayelans. You should understand David Lyon and APC are signing a contract and that contact is to develop Bayelsa State. The contract is to bring peace so that investment will come on board in the state.
“I assure you that David Lyon, his team and APC will not disappoint Bayelans. Let me also say this, in an election, we have alot of contestants and today by the will of God, I have emerged the winner.
“That does not mean that other contestants did not win. All of us won the election and there are no losers. This is the time for us to come together, ” he said.
He also thanked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies maintaining that they did a very good job.
Speaking earlier, the INEC Commissioner supervising Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers states, May Agbamuche Mbu in her remarks said: “Today we are here to celebrate the end of a process which started seven months ago.
“I’m proud to report that the electionl conducted on November 16, 2019 in Bayelsa was largely peaceful free, fair and credible.
“The Commission is hopeful that this commendable gesture will continue to be part of the electoral process in Bayelsa State.”
Metro and Crime18 hours ago
Suspect: We abducted Turkish citizens, joined police to search for them
Metro and Crime14 hours ago
Protests rock Kano as court sacks four new emirs
Metro and Crime18 hours ago
Nigerian undergraduate arrested for killing mother in U.S.
News14 hours ago
Presidency lobbies Senate for Magu’s confirmation
Metro and Crime16 hours ago
Two traders collapse after fire guts shops in Lagos
News14 hours ago
We’ll meet labour’s Dec deadline on N30,000 wage – Govs
Arts & Entertainments18 hours ago
Tonto Dikeh still in Dubai prison, while she may not return soon
News12 hours ago
Navy veteran dead for 3 years before body found in his apartment