The National Assembly polls have come and gone, but the elections have created no little rancor in Idemili North Federal Constituency, threatening its peace, writes BIYI ADEGOROYE
The last may not have been heard of the crisis rocking the commercial city of Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State as the political crisis which emanated from the last National Assembly rescheduled supplemental poll in specific wards within the council area including Obosi, has escalated and is now threatening the traditional ruler’s stool.
The political crisis, which has now dovetailed into community/traditional stool crises, had seen the brutal killing of two young male political activists from Obosi, when the supplementary election between the two top contenders for the Idemili Federal Constituency-Chief Obinna Chidoka of the Peoples Democratic Party and son of the community and Chief Ifeanyi Ibezi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Like what happened in many parts of the country on that day, the election was said to have been very violent as massive shooting took place both on the March 23, 2019 and the date of the supplementary poll all over the constituency. Chidoka lost the chance to return to the National Assembly where he is currently the Chairman Committee on Environment, for a record third time.
Apparently angered by the loss of Chidoka in the election in addition to the loss of the two sons, angry youths from Obosi who accused their monarch, HRH Igwe Chidubem Iweka of political meddlesomeness which alleged led to the ugly losses stormed his palace where they dumped the two corpses.
In a quick reaction and describing the action as sacrilegious, the palace announced immediate suspension of three palace chiefs suspected to have had a hand in the ugly incident. They included Chiefs Osita Chidoka, elder brother of Obinna; Linus Ngbakaogu and Hyacinth Udemba- “…for their act of sacrilege and the abomination they committed against the revered age old customs of the people and ancient Obosi Kingdom.”
So, in a meeting, the Okpo na Ezeani family, kinsmen of one of the allegedly suspended traditional chiefs, Chief Linus Mgbakogu (Attah Obosi) resolved to denounce and formally condemn the action of the traditional ruler.
In a written resolution, signed by Nze Goddy Onubogu, chairman of the family meeting, the kinsmen expressed concern over what they saw as the numerous crises, killings in Obosi community which they said aggravated since the enthronement of Igwe Chidubem Iweka III. They said the palace’s action was unacceptable to the family.
“The so-called suspension of our highly revered Attah Obosi is illegal and unacceptable to us. More so, the suspension of Ndi-Ichie is sacrilegious in all ramifications, because the customs and traditions of the community bestowed a kind of immunity on them that they cannot be said to have committed ALU in Obosi land, hence they are “Ome abu Nso”. May be the Igwe is not aware of this.
“The family is also totally disappointed, disillusioned and utterly saddened that the death of our sons, which should evoke a solemn and sober reflection, is being used by Igwe to further heat-up the polity and aggravate the endemic crisis in his cabinet.
“The family regrets that this particular crisis was accentuated by partisan political position held by the Igwe. This made the situation to be handled without discretion and caution,” the statement said.
But the Igwe had already presented his position after an emergency meeting held at the palace, a prepared resolution signed by one Prince Bennett Mozie was presented to journalists and read by Mozie.
Handing down the suspension, Mozie said: “After due consultations and deliberations with all the relevant ancient traditional bodies of Obosi, the Igwe-in-Council hereby announce the indefinite suspension from the Igwe’s Royal Cabinet of the above mentioned Ndi-Ichie Obosi- Chief Osita Chidoka, Chief Linus Ngbakaogu and Chief Hyacinth Udemba for their act of sacrilege and the abomination they committed against the revered age old customs of the people and ancient Obosi Kingdom.”
But another faction of the council swiftly denied that there was ever a meeting where the action leading to the resolution was decided.
The Onowu of Obosi, Chief Anthony Eze Nwabude, said that there was never a meeting held in respect of the resolution, adding that since the killing of the two Obosi sons, the Igwe-in-Council had not met on the matter let alone taken any position on the issue in contention.
“Since after the incident that claimed the lives of our two young men, the Igwe-in-Council has not had any meeting where the matter was discussed before making any resolution on the matter. That is why I am against what the Igwe and some members of the cabinet did by suspending the three members of the cabinet. In fact I am not in support of the resolution,” he said.
The suspension also opened a can of worms about the validity of lgwe Chidubem Iweka’s throne as according to one of the affected Ndi Ichie, Chief Linus Mgbakogu, the throne is still in dispute and there are several litigations in the court challenging his emergence as the Igwe of Obosi.
“The resolution is a kangaroo one and there was never a time that the Igwe-in-Council met on that. He has no right to suspend any member of the cabinet. I have been the Attah of Obosi for 10 years and the emergence of the Igwe of Obosi is still in contention because there are several cases in the court challenging him.”
“We have already lost confidence in him because since he became Igwe in the last five years we have witnessed series of shootouts leading to the death of … Obosi youths,”
“He has been relating with the APGA candidate who contested against our brother, Obinna Chidoka even when the boy stormed the Awada polling units with thugs who were shooting indiscriminately and five of the cabinet members escaped death by the whisker on that election day.”
“I reported the incident to Igwe and he did nothing about it and the following day, the APGA candidate was at the palace of the Igwe, holding meetings and …our traditional ruler has not said anything about the shooting or killings in our community.”
One of the members of the cabinet Chief Charles Umolu, in a telephone chat with newsmen said the suspension is illegal, adding that the signatory to the resolution is an impostor who is not a member of the cabinet and has no right to speak or sign any document on behalf of the cabinet members.
“The issue is not about dumping the bodies in the palace because the youths were angry over the killings; that is why they took the dead bodies to the palace,” he said.
Efforts to speak directly with any or both Chidokas failed as none picked his call or responded to the text messages. But one of their media aides described the crises as beyond Chidoka family as it is presently. That it’s a matter for the community and the people.
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.”
Why North’ll not relinquish power in 2023 – Idahosa
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, Chief Charles Idahosa, in this interview, speaks on recent political developments in the country as well as the crisis rocking the state’s chapter of the party. Felix Nwaneri reports
What do you make of the recent sack of 35 aides of Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo, which some Nigerians saw as part of the plot believe there are attempts to whittle down his powers?
Nigerians like blowing things out of proportion. The President employs the aides of the Vice-President. If for any reason the President wants to downsize, why should anybody read any meaning to it? The number of staff of the Vice-President was more than that of the President and therefore they felt there is a need to reduce it. I don’t think anybody should read any meaning to it. I don’t see anything Osinbajo has done that will bring confrontation between him and anyone.
I think what is confusing Nigerians is what happened during Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar’s presidency. Obasanjo started sacking Atiku’s staff and that culminated in the open confrontation, which led to Atiku going to court and even contesting for the presidency under another the platform of another political party, while still in office as vice-president. Buhari is not as complicated as people think he is.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t think there is any problem. I am not close to the presidency, but as an observer from a distance, if the President says the number of staff of the Vice-President is too much and decided to reduce it, I don’t see anything wrong in that. People are just trying to make a mountain of a molehill. Don’t forget that the opposition will always take advantage of everything to fight back, but I don’t see any issue here. It is just politics.
Some people are alleging that President Buhari is scheming to get a Third term in office. Do you think that is realistic?
Buhari is not that kind of person. I have also read it and I believe that it is the handiwork of fifth columnists. The President is a democrat and will not do anything to subvert the constitution.
How about the plot by the North to retain power beyond 2023?
We have not gotten to 2023 yet, but I see a situation where the North will not let go of power. They will still go for the presidency in 2023 after President Buhari’s tenure. If that happens, I am going to support a northern president.
Do you mean you will support a northerner as president after Buhari would have completed eight years?
Yes, I will support a northern president because there is something funny about southerners. We think we know more than northerners, but they are more politically sophisticated than us. I think the leaders who by 1998 agreed to a clean slate after so many years of military coup and after the MKO Abiola debacle agreed that the South and North will rule for eight years and it will continue like that on a rotational basis. We were all very happy with that arrangement. I believe that anybody saying that the northerners have dominated us is talking bunkum. The northern heads of state got to power by coups. For all the coups that failed, those involved were tied to the stakes and shot and they were 90 per cent northerners.
Southerners were scared of coups. I remembered the case of Obasanjo. He was so scared to be Head of State after Murtala Muhammed was assassinated. If Theophilus Danjuma wanted to be Head of State that year, it would have been so easy for him. I remembered Danjuma was quoted to have told Obasanjo: ‘How can you be alive as second-in-command and you said you don’t want to be Head of State? Let me take over and we tell Nigerians that we eliminated you.’ That was when Obasanjo panicked and accepted to become Head of State.
By 1999, most of the people who were in power came in through military coup and that cannot be used to judge a democratic government. In order to appease southerners, especially the South- West over what happened to Abiola, they brought Obasanjo out of prison, cleaned him up, gave him money and he became president of Nigeria. Obasanjo became president with northern votes because he lost his polling unit, his ward, local government, his state and his zone.
Alliance for Democracy (AD) took all the states in the South-West, but when Obasanjo became president, he consolidated by plotting against the North. After doing his eight years, he wanted a Third term but it failed. He then decided to pick a sick northerner in the person of late Umaru Yar’Adua, knowing full well that he cannot last eight years as president. He also picked a weak politician in the person of Goodluck Jonathan as vice-president, leaving people like Peter Odili and Donald Duke who were very effective. Obasanjo’s plan was that if Yar’Adua dies, Jonathan will take over as president, so that he can continue his third term agenda through him. He, however, forgot to put into consideration that Jonathan had people like Chief Edwin Clark and other Ijaw leaders.
So, immediately Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua as president, they took control of him and Obasanjo got stranded. He became so angry and started fighting Jonathan and brought Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari also pushed him aside and he also became angry and endorsed Atiku, thinking that whoever he supports will win the election. For the first time, Buhari won election without his support. What I am trying to say in essence is that northerners did not complete their tenure between 2007 and 2015 and it was a deliberate act by Obasanjo.
We must ensure that North completes the six years that Jonathan ruled after Yar’Adua died, so that the equation would be balanced. That is why I will support a northern candidate if the North decides to contest in 2023. I will not support a southern candidate because we must respect our northern brothers. That is my position as regards the 2023 presidential election.
What about the agitation for Igbo presidency in 2023?
Forget the Igbos! They have shot themselves in the leg. It is a very funny demand. Why will anyone want to give Igbos presidency when there is no APC in the zone at all? The only party that could have given Igbos presidency is the APC. Buhari told them but they decided to vote for PDP. Now, from all indications, they will rather support Atiku for presidency again because the position of vice-president will still go the South-East.
I see Atiku running again because the 2019 presidential election is the nearest he has come. I don’t think the Igbos deserve presidency because if they do, they ought to have planned properly. The late Emeka Ojukwu gave them APGA, but they threw it away. So, under which party will they get presidency?
The political battle between the National Chairman of your party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki is assuming a frightening dimension. What do you think really went wrong between the two friends?
I have said a lot on this matter and I don’t want to be sounding like a broken record. But I want to assure you that nobody can stop Obaseki from doing his two terms. I am behind him morning, night and day. Uhunmwonde people are behind him. Oshiomhole said Obaseki is not carrying people along, I don’t know what he meant by that. I just discovered that this whole thing will not end now.
If two friends are quarreling and you cannot settle the quarrel, there must be something behind it that nobody can talk about and that is envy and jealousy. What is happening is that Oshiomhole is envious and jealous of Obaseki’s achievements and there is no way he is going to come out boldly to say that is why they are quarrelling. Oshiomhole was governor for eight years, nobody challenged him, the ones that tried it, he messed them up thoroughly. He brought Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and messed him up; he brought Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and messed him up.
In the state expanded caucus of the party, he messed him up thoroughly, I was there and in anger I just walked away, not to talk of Lucky Igbinedion or Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who were the ones that brought him to power with their resources. Obaseki has not opened his mouth to insult anybody or Oshimhole. How can Oshiomhole in an interview say that Obaseki brought people with computer to be collecting revenue? Does he prefer a situation where some bunch of illiterates will use sticks, iron and break people’s head in the name of revenue collection?
Oshiomhole said in one interview that there are four million people in Edo and he is just one and that when he leaves government, he will not intrude, but today what is he doing? He said the governor should take care of politicians, how many are we? We are less than 20 per cent of the total population of the state; the people outside are happy. Today you don’t see pensioners sleeping on the streets with mattresses; they don’t block roads anymore, is that not enough to make him happy.
As the national chairman of the APC, he has 36 states to supervise; why is he more interested in Edo? Why does he want to continuously be the governor of Edo State, when he has completed his tenure? When Oshiomhole came, 30 per cent was a pass mark; there was nothing, so he became an instant hero. Edo South produced somebody who scored 20 per cent and Oshiomhole managed to score 45 per cent, Obaseki within three years has scored 85 per cent with a year to go, so jealousy and envy entered.
Are you not worried that your party may lose the forthcoming governorship election as PDP is scheming to benefit from the crisis?
The state is still safe under APC, so we will still win. One thing you must understand is that the politicians that are making noise now are not up to 20 per cent. Will you tell me that Obaseki is not popular? Look at Edo State Traffic Management Agency, now under Obaseki and then under Oshiomhole; peoples’ cars were vandalised, screens were smashed and thugs were all over the place in the name of many mushroom associations extorting money from the ordinary people, but now we don’t have that kind of thing because Obaseki said he doesn’t want it.
Edo people’ll stop reactionary forces against my govt – Obaseki
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in this interview, speaks on three years of his administration and recent political developments in the state. Felix Nwaneri reports
How has it been in the last three years you have been in the saddle as governor of Edo State?
For me, coming to power and seeing the rot in the system, it was clear that any pretense that we can continue with the way things were was going to be for a short period before everything comes down like a pack of cards. When I realised that I had about 40,000 Edo boys and girls in Libya, waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, I know we had a human crisis. First, they were not trained, they were not properly educated, so they have lost hope and they never understood that they were being sold into slavery.
So, I said if we allow this to continue, we would not even have a state to govern. More importantly was the social effect of this on the society. If you go to some communities, you won’t find young persons; everybody has moved to the fringe of Benin, so that from there, they can take off and travel. Even when you look at the data, women are not being trafficked the way it used to be; there are more boys migrating regularly now than women, who were then being trafficked and lured into prostitution.
However, the key to all these problems is knowledge and education. If people knew and felt that that they have option, they will not opt for dangerous migration to Europe. This was what triggered the huge investment we are making for the future. What does it take to train our children? With technology today, we can determine whether a teacher is class or not and if a teacher is not in class, will the child learn? Also, if a teacher is not trained and doesn’t know what to teach, will the child learn? So, with the benefit of technology and good governance, we can solve most of our problems.
How far have you gone in solving some these problems?
As a nation, we have enough money because many African countries don’t have a fraction of what we have. It is about how we as a people, decide on our priorities and what most of us should realise is that the priorities of the common man are not too complex. However, the priorities of the political class tend to be in conflict with those of the masses. That is why governments at the various levels cannot fund education and healthcare, among others.
How ready are you for the 2020 governorship election in the state, which according to many, is responsible for recent political developments in the state?
Politics is supposed to be bottom up and not the other way round. If I have the people with me, there is nothing to be afraid of because election is not a war that requires deployment of the military for possible take-over of a territory. If God had wanted things to continue the way they were in Edo State, He would not have brought a total stranger like me; He would have selected one of the subsisting faces in politics. I am a different person, so I have to do things differently. But, if some reactionary forces feel that we must go back to where we were before now, they have the people of Edo State to battle with.
How did you receive the suspension of your predecessor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, by the leadership of the party in Edo State?
It is disheartening that some people are trying to create opposition within the party. Given what we have suffered as a party, losing some states as a result of internal wrangling, it is unfortunate that a group of people, especially those who are supposed to wield the party together are the ones creating division.
What would you say are the gains of the 2019 Alaghodaro Summit?
It was a platform for us to communicate with the people; everybody came together to talk about the state and the issues. Beyond that, it is a platform that we intend to deploy for constant communication and collaboration with the rest of the society because government cannot exist on its own and gone are days, when government would say this is what it wants. The old paradigm of government saying this is what it wants and have it same way is no longer working.
In any case, how much do you have as your budget? If you look at our financing structure, next to crude oil is remittances from abroad. Report had it last year that about $25 billion came into Nigeria through remittances from Diaspora Nigerians. Given the size of Edo Diaspora, we will easily account for 10 per cent of that amount. So, about $2.5 billion would have come into Edo State. The question against this backdrop is: How much is our total budget as a state? At best, it is about $500 million a year.
So, here is a government that is spending $500 million annually, but in that same economy, private individuals are bringing in about five times – $2.5 billion – what the government is offering. There is no doubt that any responsible government should create a platform through which it will continue to communicate with the segment of the society. So, the summit helps us to throw more light and communicate what we are doing as a government to the people.
Our plan as a government was, first, to work before we begin to talk. A typical model our Nigeria’s politics is that people come in as a government and keep talking, commissioning projects, so that people will say that they are working. But, for us, we said, let’s evidence what we are doing. So, there was no politics in the first three years, but after that, we can begin to talk politics.
What should Edo people expect if you win election a second term?
I hope you intended to say when I win a second term because I am going to win the election given my achievements? That aside; to answer your question directly; you and I know very well that Nigeria is in search of models that can work. If Edo works the way it should; if we are able to drive our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to exceed what we receive from the federation account, we will be able to have a sustainable economy, which would be an example for other states. You may find 10 or more states that will say ‘if Edo can do it, we can equally do it.’
As it is, we have laid a solid foundation for the growth of Edo State because we have made significant investment in education and infrastructure, among others. It will interest you to know that we are building an industrial park that is bigger than what you have in Agbara, Ogun State and which has its source of power supply already in place. We are also working with the Chinese on building a river port, which will be the closest port to the belly of the country that has about 70 million people. So, second term for me, is for consolidation of what we have achieved so far.
By my second term, the children now in our restructured primary school system would be going to Junior Secondary School (JSS), which we will start its restructuring soon in order to meet with the objectives of those who designed our 6-3-4-4 Education System that has never been implemented in real terms. My aspiration is that by the time a child goes through his or her first nine years in school in Edo State, he or she would have be ready for life.
Even if that child doesn’t have the opportunity to continue with his or education, he or she would have been prepared for life. A child must leave school with a skill, so that he or she doesn’t end up on the street as a tout as the case was before now. In doing this, we will be building human capital because human beings make things happen.
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