The 26th anniversary of the June 12, 1993 election was commemorated for the first time as Democracy Day, yesterday. WALE ELEGBEDE, TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE and MURITALA AYINLA report on the issues that emanated from the commemoration across the country
For older Nigerians, no presidential election carries weight and significance than the annulled June 12, 1993 election, which the presidential candidate of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Moshood Abiola, was believed to have won and was viewed as the freest, fairest and most peaceful poll ever held in Nigeria.
After Nigerians have cast their votes, the election’s result was declared inconclusive before it was annulled on June 23, 1993 in a most bizarre manner. It was clear that MKO (as Abiola was popularly known) was coasting home to victory according to initial figures released by the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) before the military junta directed the electoral body to stop further announcement of results from the remaining few states.
The then Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, justified the annulment on the grounds that it was necessary to save the nation. He alleged that political activities preceding the election were inimical to peace and stability in Nigeria.
That prompted Abiola’s insistence that he won the poll although the claim was a subject of debate for years until Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, then Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), set the record straight 15 years later (June 12, 2008), when he affirmed that the Ogun State born business mogul won the election.
The annulment of June 12 marked the beginning of decades laced with struggle, anger, agitation and cries for restoration. Civil societies, ethnic groups and Nigerians from all walks of life demanded for the restoration of the mandate.
In the course of the struggle, Abiola, who would have been president between 1993 and 1997, and or beyond, died on July 7, 1998, in the custody of the Federal Government four years after he was arrested and detained by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, for daring to declare himself President-elect.
Upon the enthronement of the Fourth Republic, post-1999 administrations of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan failed to heed to the demand for recognition for Abiola.
Although Jonathan took a major step to immortalize Abiola, when he renamed the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) to Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAULAG) on May 29, 2012, his effort, notwithstanding, didn’t see the light of the day.
But, a step towards the campaign to get the government to declare Abiola president received a major boost last year, when President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the nation’s Democracy Day will, henceforth, hold on June 12 of every year as against the current arrangement, where the ceremony holds on May 29.
The declaration by President Buhari explains the nationwide observance of the June 12 anniversary yesterday across the country as it was also used as a means by political leaders, activists and Abiola’s associates to demand for a better governed country.
Sanwo-Olu, Akinrinade, Alake, others seek good governance
The Democracy Day celebration organised by the Lagos State Government at the Blue Roof, Agidingbi, was used by politicians and activists to celebrate the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Bashorun MKO Abiola. They also used the event to demand for good governance, which June 12 struggle was about.
Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while joining other pro-June 12 activists to honour Abiola, said the philosophy behind the June 12 struggle must continually be celebrated by ensuring that elected officers are accountable and every Nigerian is treated equally.
He also said that the citizens must be prioritised always in order not to lose the essence of June 12, noting that June 12 would continue to remind Nigerians that free and fair election was possible and that it also showed there was unity in diversity.
Speaking at the June 12 Democracy Day celebration, with the theme “Democracy and Restoration of True Federalism in Nigeria,” Governor Sanwo-Olu who was represented by his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, said June 12 will continue to remind Nigerians that free and fair election is possible and pursue of justice does not die, saying that said if the philosophies behind June 12 would be accomplished, it would require thinking differently.
In his address, former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Alani Akinrinade (rtd), who was the chairman of the occasion, said the essence of June 12 would be lost, if the people were not made the fulcrum of governance.
Akinrinade, who called for restructuring that would result in having local and state police, asked the Federal Government to declare herdsmen as criminal of the first order, adding that there was need for restructuring which should result in having local and state police.
“The President should not listen to those who have kicked against restructuring, and look into the political, physical and territorial re-alignment. Those against it are enemies of peace and they will stop us from joining the rest of the world in the race toward development, human dignity and comfort.
“I notice that you are trying to restructure the police, please do it snappily and do not allow it to turn to another talk shop. Please commence now because four years is enough to achieve it,” he said.
Akinrinade, who was a chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) during the struggle against the military junta and return of Nigeria to democratic path, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his courage and respect for the voice of the people by posthumously honouring the symbol of June 12, MKO Abiola.
Also speaking at the event, former Lagos State Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, argued that quality service delivery and eradication of poverty is key to celebration of June 12 because that was what June 12 stood for.
Gani Adams, Kanu, Okei-Odumakin harps on restructuring
Speaking at the 26th commemoration of June 12 held by the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) also in Lagos, the 15th of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, who is the convener of the summit; former Governor of Lagos State and chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd); President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, among others, were unanimous in their assertion on the significance of the annulled election as they canvassed for the restructuring of Nigeria to ensure the resonation of the June 12 election.
They also urged the federal government to declare Abiola as an ex-president, just as they hailed President Buhari for signing into law June 12 as democracy day.
Adams, who admonished President Buhari to go a step further by ensuring that Nigeria is properly restructured, said that is a must if the country must honour Abiola’s memory.
“If Nigeria is properly restructured, the spate of kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling and clashes will become history. It is a shame that in the 21st Century, states still go to Abuja, cap in hand, for monthly allocations. That action is, in itself, contrary to the spirit of federalism. Although we are in a democracy, Nigeria is still being governed through a unitary system,” he said.
The Aare Ona Kakanfo warned perpetrator of kidnapping in Yorubaland to be mindful of their act.
His words: “I want to say it with pride that the Yoruba were never conquered and nobody can conquer Yorubaland, never. Those behind this dastardly act should repent now or face the music soon. The patience of our people has been exhausted. As the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, I know that I must lead this battle but this battle will be fought and won in collaboration with our governors.
“As our elders say, discretion is the better part of valour. I am particularly happy that our governors are already on the same page with us on the need for a security summit. This will hold very soon. But I want to assure those enemies infiltrating Yorubaland that your days are numbered.”
In his lecture, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Dr. Dele Ashiru, who was guest speaker at the event, said Nigeria must be restructured to give room for the interest of grassroots and also ensure that hardwork and competence is rewarded.
The don noted further that immunity for some elected officials should be removed, just as he called for the reduction in the cost of governance, adding that there must be a sustained war against corruption at all levels of government.
His words: “We must discard a winner-take-all approach to our politics and adopt a win-win system. We have to organize ourselves and provide alternative paradigm for effective structure of governance.
“Abiola must be recognised as president, all his emolument must be paid and his photograph hung in Aso Rock. Until that is done, the mandate given to MKO is still hanging. He must be recognized posthumously as president of this country.”
While charging Nigerians not to relent in demanding for good governance from its leaders, Kanu said the country was subjected to militarism during the June 12 annulment, adding that nothing much has changed in the country 26 years after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
In her address, Okei-Odumakin, said June 12 was a watershed, adding that, “the election result must be announced and we call for a true federalism by way of restructuring.”
Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Mr Debo Adeniran, said he preferred June 12 to be named MKO Abiola Day.
His words: “Like the United States Civil Liberty emblem, Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr, equally assassinated while struggling for racial equality and non-discrimination, Abiola has come to make June 12 an unforgettable moment in Nigeria’s quest for social identity and political/ideological direction. This inform why we advise that the Government should declare the day (June 12) MKO Abiola Day, never to be forgotten and reiterate the lesson and occasion when we all chorus and say, Never Again.
Hamzat, Utomi, activists, hail Abiola’s courage
It was a moment of celebration at MKO Abiola’s residence in Toyin Street, Ikeja as activists and members of the family gathered for the 26th commemoration of June 12.
The event organised by June 12 Pro-Democracy Movement, was used to pay tributes to the late winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and also called on government to address basic challenges in the country, especially the state of insecurity in Nigeria.
Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the nation has what it takes to be great if the citizens can play their roles as expected and therefore urged Nigerians to continue to keep the wishes of the late Chief MKO Abiola in their memories by behaving rightly.
Hamzat, who made the call after laying a wreath in honour of Abiola, said making Nigeria a better country, which was the wish of the late politician and business mogul, requires the collective effort of both the government and the people.
“Today is about the wish, legacy and the good that Chief MKO Abiola had done. And may the wish of MKO continue to be in our memories. If we all, as a people can maintain our lanes by doing what is right in our different capacities, Nigeria will be great,” he said.
Hamzat also thanked President Buhari for declaring June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
“We must thank President Buhari for making us to understand our reality and that June 12 is our history. Even our children will hear the story and appreciate it. The Lagos State Government will continue to strive and uphold the ideals of June 12 by ensuring the expansion of the frontiers of democratic governance and social justice,” he said.
In his speech entitled: “Hope 93: Democratic Prosperity and Political Stability,” a Political Economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, urged political office holders and the elite to work together by creating wealth to avert the impending anarchy in the country.
According to Utomi, there are many challenges confronting the country today and the political office holders as well as elites need to proactively work together in order to create wealth and jobs to prevent the impending anarchy.
He said that the late Abiola’s ideology was hinged on economic prosperity, good healthcare, education and liberation for Nigerians.
If the nation must do memory of MKO any good, Utomi said Nigerian leaders must build economic justice, ensure peace, stability and prosperity for all.
The Convener of June 12 Coalition, Olawale Okunniyi, said Abiola’s picture as a former president of Nigeria, by the virtue of being conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), should be hung at the Presidential Villa.
Also speaking, former member of the House of Representatives and daughter of late Abiola, Hon. Lola Abiola-Edewor, urged President Buhari to do his best to address security challenges in the country, saying that the problem of insecurity was becoming a big issue which needed to be frontally tackled.
She also expressed the family’s gratitude to President Buhari for the posthumous award given to his father and for declaring June 12 as Democracy, noting that President Buhari by his action had demonstrated uncommon courage for taking the steps.
Her words: “We thank the president for the honour bestowed on our late father and the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day. We are very grateful for this honour done the family and the Nigerian people.
“However, I want to appeal to the president to address the security challenges in the country as the issue is getting serious. If the president could declare June 12 as Democracy Day despite denials of the past, I believe he could tackle the problem of insecurity in the country.”
Abiola-Edewor, who described her late father as a lover of the people and a firm believer in democracy, thanked Nigerians of all backgrounds for standing with the family all these years and helping to actualise June 12.
Former Vice-President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Issa Aremu also commended the president for recognising June 12 and declaring it a public holiday. He also commended the National Assembly for passing the bill recognising June 12 as Democracy Day.
He also described the June 12 as a watershed in the country’s history as it was the day Nigerians shunned all sentiments to vote for a man of their choice.
In their respective speeches, the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima and member of the 8th Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, commended President Buhari for honouring MKO Abiola with the GCFR Award and for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day. Sani, who commended President Buhari for renaming the National Stadium, Abuja as MKO Abiola Stadium, said efforts must be put in place to address fundamental issues in the country.
Former presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and Convener of BringBackOurGirls (BBOG), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, said democracy must be for the people and not for the political class, adding that people must build citizen political movement under which those who are passionate to offer public services can contest for public offices.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Iginni, also commended President Buhari for recognising June 12 as Democracy Day, declaring that “For us, MKO Abiola wrote his name in the minds of many Nigerians. June 12 is MKO Abiola Day.”
Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of the late human rights and lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, said the lessons of June 12 should guide the country’s democracy, noting that Nigeria’s democracy was still far from where it should be as leadership cared more that itself than it cared for the masses.
A human rights activist, Alhaja Aminat Irawo also called on the Federal Government to remember Abiola’s family by ensuring that the deceased family is compensated and also addressed poverty, which Abiola wanted to eradicate by contesting in the June 12, 1993 presidential poll.
In her remarks, one of Abiola’s wives, Bisi, thanked the Lagos State government and civil society organisations for keeping hope alive.
Politicians, activists ask FG to honour June 12 heroes
At another event, politicians and members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also called on the Federal Government to posthumously declare MKO Abiola as president of Nigeria and also honour all the heroes and heroines of the June 12 struggle.
Speaking at the 25 years remembrance of Epetedo declaration held at Epetedo Hall, Lagos, where MKO declared himself president on June 11, 1994, a Third Republic presidential aspirant, Hon Oladosu Oladipo, who received a Yoruba National Award on behalf of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said “If after 25 years, June 12 that has been bastardised by the previous administrations has now been recognised and Abiola has been given posthumous GCFR award, which is usually given to President of Nigeria, it shows Abiola has been given recognition and should be regarded as President of Nigeria.”
Also speaking at the event, the National Coordinator, Coalition for a Better Nigeria, Comrade Awa Bamiji, called on governments at federal and state levels to honour and recognise all the heroes and heroines of the June 12 annulment struggle for the roles they played in ensuring that Nigeria returned to democratic path on May 29, 1999.
The chairman of the occasion, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, who was represented by Hon. Bayo Adesanya, the son of late Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, said Tinubu deserve the Yoruba National Award base on his contribution to the June 12 struggle and fight for enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
No police, army can stop anger against injustice in Nigeria –Rev. Gado
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gado is a prominent Christian leader in Northern Nigeria. He was also a governorship aspirant in Gombe State during the 2019 generation elections. He takes a swipe at the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari while X-raying current challenges in Nigeria, in this interview with Tai Anyanwu
How do you feel about the state of the nation’s security?
The poem by W.B Yates “The Second Coming” describes how I feel about the state of the nation’s security. It says “turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence, is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity’’.
Late Professor Chinua Achebe used part of this poem to title one of his famous books Thing Fall Apart to describe the impact western culture had on the community life. The coming of Buhari has had an adverse effect on the security agencies of this country. The morale in the Army, the Police and DSS, and so on. is at its lowest ebb. The rank and file are doing their best with the antiquated arms and ammunition. His priority is on fulanization and Islamization. Look at how much he earmarked for the Fulani Radio Station and RUGA, see who he had or has for ministerial positions, National Security Adviser, and the Judiciary?
Who and who is being promoted, who is being appointed and who gets the contract and who and who is being prosecuted or not prosecuted?
The intention is clear, disarm the people and arm the herdsmen and the bandits so that the communities can easily be dislodged and taken over.
What is your take on the issue of Fulanisation and Islamization of Nigeria?
Fulanization and Islamization has been an open secret in Nigeria. Some of us have been shouting since college days. I am glad and thankful to OBJ for shining the spotlight on it even though OBJ and some of his powerful colleagues help Buhari get into office in spite of Buhari’s open confession for the implementation and expansion of the Sharia.
I am surprised though, at the reaction of Nigerians to the Fulanization and Islamization agenda of President Buhari. Fulanization and Islamization is alive and well. It has been going on before independence, at independence and after independence. Fulanization and Islamization is a done deal and we all are to blame for it from our military, political, community, religious traditional leaders and the electorate. Barely two weeks after our Independence, the Patriot Newspaper quoted Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto as saying “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our grand-father Uthman Danfodio. We must ruthlessly prevent the change of power. We use the minorities of the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to rule over their future”.
Sardauna of Sokoto provided the blue print that has been meticulously and judiciously followed without a single error. At about the same the West African Student Union based in the UK wrote a letter to the conference of Northern chiefs asking them to support the constitutional evolution of Nigeria into an independent nation. In reply to this letter the Chiefs declared that “holding the country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet. If they want unity let them follow our religion.”
Under General Yakubu Gowon’s administration missionary schools were forcefully taken over while in many instances their names were changed to Islamic names. In 1990 all members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council were Muslims except for General Ike Nwachuku an Igbo whose mother was a Fulani Muslim. Also in 1997 all commissioners of police during Abacha’s government were Muslims. General IBB surreptitiously registered Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference which up till today has not been changed.
When Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe the then second in command told the world that he only heard of it in the media like everybody else. He was promptly removed and forcefully retired from the Navy. The same IBB hosted the first Islam in Africa Conference in Abuja and he donated funds from the Federal Government of Nigeria for operations including the vision of transforming Nigeria to an Islamic State and enthroning the Sultan of Sokoto as its “Supreme ruler”
I wished General OBJ, who raised the alarm did so in his second coming because between 1999-2007 the Sharia Code of the Islam law was re-introduced in the North in an expanded version, Islamic Police (Hisbah) was introduced. Christian girls were abducted, forcefully converted and forced into marriage. Buhari has never hidden his desire to fully introduce the Sharia. In 2001 or so he called for the introduction of “total” Islamic law. He said “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country”. If he said that while seeking for office, we would be foolish or naïve to think that he will not fulanize and Islamize Nigeria in office. Just look at his appointments in his first four years and the current list of ministers. Among the ministers waiting to be assigned portfolios is one who years ago led a riot in a higher institution against the Christian body in the school (Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS). The leader was killed and some Christian students expelled simple for trying propagate their faith.
Some ethnic groups have resorted to self-help to tackle the issue of insecurity. What is the import?
That means these ethnic groups no longer trust the government to protect them. It is a vote of no confidence and a serious disappointment in the administration. It’s like the days before the civil war broke out in 1966. Loss of trust led to people taking the law into their hands. Before the coming of the colonial government ethnic groups had their own defensive mechanism in place and it worked. They relinquished that because the colonial government protected them from physical attack that could come from another ethnic group.
Now that it seems the centre is failing to hold, ethnic groups have to fall back to what they knew best. If they fail, they have nobody to blame but themselves. That has been the call from well-meaning leaders of the country that communities should protect themselves. The number and places of attacks are too many for the securities to handle considering the fact that they provide security at political rallies, for governors, Senators, House of Reps, Ministers and commissioners and since more police are busy protecting government functionaries the people are left to source for their own security.
Besides that, there is a serious allegation that the army is colluding with the Boko Haram or the herdsmen and bandits. Wow, when the protector becomes a predator it is every community for itself and God for us all.
Buhari is slamming those who are critical of his government, accusing them of not being patriotic. What is you take on that?
My first take is that he should thank and commend them just as he did when he was sick and Nigerians prayed for him. The same people who prayed for him and wished him well when he was sick are some of the people criticizing his government.
My second take is that I am not surprised at all because that is what we should expect from a Sharia based administration. It is absolutist and fascist in nature. 34 years ago, August 1985, Buhari’s government was toppled in a coup by IBB. I remember that coup very well. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing. In his inaugural address to the nation, IBB said that one of the reasons they staged that coup was because Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance and that his government arrogated to itself the knowledge of the problems and solutions of Nigeria.
To call critics unpatriotic instead of inviting them for a dialogue seems to suggest that Buhari has answer: I feel dehumanized, lied to, cheated and taken for granted. My dignity as a human being created in the image of God has not been treated with dignity especially when you factor the fact that these politicians and governments come in the name of God or claim to fear God. In the north alone we have over 13 million children who are rooming the streets and preyed upon by Boko Haran and herdsmen yet we have the richest man in Africa from the north and since Independence almost 60 years ago Nigeria has been mainly ruled by people from that area:- Tafawa Balewa, General Gowon, General Murtala, General IBB, General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalam, General Buhari 1983-85, Musa Yar’Adua and now Buhari again; and 13 million children are out of school, why won’t people feel disenchanted? I have said it and I say it again the problem of Nigeria is failed leadership as we are currently witnessing.
The bill seeking to transfer control of water banks to the Federal Government has been resubmitted for consideration by the legislatures. Do you see any hidden motive in the executive bill?
Everything Buhari introduces now is suspect even when it is good intention. The government should stay away from taking any land or water ways until the country is restructured. You know when you lose trust and integrity, it is hard to regain it back. I pray he recovers. The quickest way to recovery is restructuring. If he does then and only then would he regain some of his cult-like figure
What is your opinion about the feud between soldiers and the police over the killing of the policemen on the trail of a notorious kidnapper, by soldiers?
First, I empathize with the families of the dead police officers.
Their good testimonies will follow them. Nigerians are grateful to you and we pray that God through Nigerians and fellow human beings arewill not forget their families.
On the feud between the army and the police, it is rather unfortunate. I read in the print media that the Captain who gave the orders that killed the police officers communicated with the alleged kidnapper 191 times or so. You see that is what happens when there is no king as in the days of Israel everybody did what is right in their own eyes. President Buhari is quoted as saying only the army, the police, the NYSC and DSS, is keeping Nigeria united so when two of the four units that is keeping Nigeria unified are at logger heads then Nigeria is in deep trouble. As I said earlier the morale in the army and the Police is at its lowest (unfair promotions, issues related to payment of salaries and allowances, inadequate equipment, injustice) and now you add feuding within and between the army and police spells doom. I pray justice and equity will prevail. Bad things happen to all of us the difference is in how we address it. Justice and equity must not only be done must be seen have been done. This is called the rule of law.
Onucheyo: Nigerian has grown beyond RUGA
The RUGA Policy of the Federal Government has generated uproar across the nation prompting threats of violence from a number of different groups. In this interview, Dr Emmanuel Onucheyo, a veterinary doctor and a specialist in livestock production, tells ONWUKA NZESHI that the controversy was unnecessary as Nigeria had advanced beyond policies like RUGA having embraced cattle ranching many years ago.
What is your view on RUGA, a recent policy of the Federal Government that has generated so much controversy in recent weeks?
Well, my understanding of the policy so far is that the government is eager to establish some kind of agricultural transformation and they are looking at both crops and livestock, particularly cattle. For me as a professional in animal husbandry, if you look at what we had done before, I do not see any reason why we should be having all these controversies. We have come a long way.
The British colonial authorities tried to work on our livestock sector by establishing things like grazing reserves and grazing routes and we actually went through some transformation to the extent that the government introduced ranching which is the modern system for rearing cattle. I thought that having gone that far, we had actually gotten a technical solution to the old system of nomadic pastoralism.
As a young person, even as a young graduate, I used to work on a cattle ranch. This country had reached a situation where there was no longer any need to be going about with animals on the streets or along the roads, looking for grasses and water.
We had also moved beyond where you find some people pursuing a cow on the streets because they want to take it to the abattoir to be slaughtered for the beef market.
Increased population and urbanisation has made things like grazing routes, grazing reserves, cattle colony or RUGA really problematic. I’m sure that the British themselves didn’t want to get into the complications of land use issues, hence they went for the easy solution of grazing reserves and grazing routes.
Modernity and population explosion has made such policies archaic and untenable in the 21st century.
How did this technical solution you spoke about work?
Cattle breeding was supposed to be in the far North; cattle fattening was supposed to be in the Middle Belt where you keep the animals for a short while not exceeding three months. The cows were supposed to be kept in ranches and later slaughtered and moved as beef to the markets across the country.
The ranching option came up because there was need to phase out the nomadic system of cattle rearing.
Even as a fresh graduate, my first job was on a small ranch in Kaduna. We used to call it Kawo Cattle Farm. It was situated around where you now have the Kaduna International Trade Fair.
When I started work there, it was during the drought and we were buying pregnant cows from the cattle breeders and rehabilitating them in the ranch to save the calves when they are delivered.
When I came back from my post graduate programme, I was hired to go to the Mokwa Ranch in Niger State. The ranch was located on 7, 000 hectares of land. It had all the facilities. The Germans ran it as a pilot project of the National Livestock Production Company. There was also another project in Manchock, Kaduna. I was looking after the two projects which also included a piggery in Minna.
There was also the Bauchi Meat Factory and to serve that meat factory, you had the Galambi Ranch which was also located in Bauchi.
The Audu Bako regime set up an abattoir in Kano and the cattle were supposed to come from the Bunkuri Ranch in Kano. There was also a trail ranch at Umuahia in the South East and another at Fashola in the South West. These were small holdings to warehouse cattle brought down to be slaughtered and pushed into the beef market in the South.
In the case of Mokwa, it was a two in one location. It was actually called Mokwa Cattle Ranch and Abattoir because we had modern facilities to slaughter a hundred animals per day in order to produce quality beef for the Nigerian market.
What do you mean by quality beef?
I have had the opportunity to travel to other countries like Argentina where they have ranches and export beef to Europe. When we say quality beef, we mean beef coming from well-fed and healthy cows. You would have provided them with the right pasture; they are fatter and have better meat quality.
You allow them to rest in the evening before taking them to the abattoir to be slaughtered in the morning. It’s not these ones that you force to trek thousands of kilometres in search of food and water. You know our normal meat here is strong and you always need tooth pick after eating it.
The meat from Mokwa was soft because they were well fed and rested before slaughtering. Mokwa was on the railway so we could easily bring in spent grains from the breweries and molasses from Bacita Sugar Company. These feeds made the beef very tender, juicy and tasty. People were rushing for Mokwa Beef at Kingsway Stores in those days.
If you came to Mokwa at that time, all the 3000 animals would be bulls; no females because you were not expected to be breeding cattle there.
Were these nomadic Fulani herdsmen part of this process of modernisation of livestock farming?
They were not part of the process directly because we dealt with major cattle owners located mainly in the cattle markets of Maiduguri, Mubi and other places in the far North. But the government at that time set up the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) in Zaria to reach out to the nomadic herders and encourage them to adopt modern methods of animal husbandry.
There were ingredients in the NAPRI mandate to support these herders who were mainly of the Fulani ethnic stock. For instance, NAPRI had a Pasture Research and Development Department to produce improved grasses for them. The institute also had a mandate to introduce improved breed of cattle to these nomadic herders. The idea was that instead of these herders carrying a hundred animals to achieve their business targets, with improved breeds of cattle, they may not carry more than fifty animals to achieve the same goal.
In other words with less number of animal, the productivity will even be higher when they introduce improved breeds into their herds.
Where is NAPRI now? Is it still in existence?
It is still in existence. It has the technical solution to the challenges we are facing today.
I am sure that NAPRI has done a lot of research over these years and what we ought to have been doing at this time is making their research findings available to these herders and encouraging them to adopt the innovations and improvements required in modern livestock farming.
Perhaps, our policy makers have chosen to ignore the technical solution and have decided to play politics with this issue.
Are the pilot ranches which you mentioned earlier still in existence?
I can say for Mokwa Ranch because I’ve worked around the area in recent years; that facility is dead completely. Even Manchok Ranch is also dead.
The sad story is that all those facilities, built at huge cost, are no more. In the 1970s while I was there, Mokwa was like the headquarters of agriculture in Northern Nigeria. You had the 7,000-hectare Cattle Ranch and Abattoir and you had the National Grains Production Company, a 4,000 hectare facility producing grains.
There was also the Institute of Agricultural Research (Station) owned by ABU National Cereal Research Institute (Farm) and Savannah Forestry Station. Sadly, all these projects are no longer there.
Why did Nigeria abandon these facilities and allowed the projects to rot away?
I can’t really tell but I think that changes in government policy on agriculture over the years must have led us to this sorry path. I told you that I was an employee of the National Livestock Production Company and to show you that ranching was a policy then, we had subsidiaries of that company.
One of the subsidiaries was the Nigerian Ranches Limited and their business was to set up ranches.
Then there was Nigerian Diaries Limited, a subsidiary of Nigeria Livestock Production Company. I believe that if the policy on ranching had been sustained through these years, we would not have fallen into this so called farmer/herder conflict which is threatening to consume the entire country.
If you were to meet with our policy makers who are promoting the RUGA policy, what would you tell them?
The thing is that we can’t run away from resettling the nomads. We cannot run away from it. But, resettling them where? I think that is the question that our policy makers have not been able to provide a satisfactory answer to. Resetting them, where? If you are going to resettle them, you should resettle them where the environment is conducive even for the kind of agriculture that they practice.
If you want to embark on large scale maize production, do you go to the South? Is that the best place for such a crop? It is the same question we should be asking the policy makers who are pushing that grazing reserves, cattle colonies and RUGA should be taken to the South. Is the South the best place for the cattle?
Of course we are talking of increased agricultural activities in Nigeria but there are particular zones and places suitable for various agricultural activities. Our policy makers ought to look at the appropriate place for cattle. If you ask me, that scheme that was in place in the 70s where cattle breeding took place in the far North is still applicable because if you go to the far North, you have large expanse of land and numerous dams.
All you need to do is to utilize these dams by deploying them for irrigation of the land and planting improved varieties of grasses to feed the cattle in their natural habitat.
NAPRI has developed these improved varieties of grasses and what is left is for the cattle herders to embrace innovations instead of sticking to this old practice of nomadic cattle rearing.
Besides, if we really keep the cattle in their natural environment, we will not only prevent this perennial conflict between herders and farmers but the people in the far north will benefit from the process.
For example, if the herders embrace ranching it will create more business opportunities in the North because these ranches and abattoirs will employ hands to make the system work. The hides and skin business which is the foundation of the leather industry will bounce back. You will also have the blood meal and bone meal factories there and these will generate employment for the local people.
Around 2009, I was the Lead Consultant to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and we were investigating the cause of the food crisis at that time. We toured several agricultural infrastructures in this country. We were looking at the land, dams and silos. I remember at our last port of call in one of the far northern states where the Commissioner for Agriculture was escorting us and we were discussing. I told him that I know that the economy of their state is agrarian but from your own point of view: Is it crop or livestock? He said livestock. Then I asked him, you have the dams and large expanse of land, why are you not tapping into your area of your comparative advantage? Draw the water to the open land, plant your grasses and graze your cattle. You don’t even have to come to the Middle Belt to look for grass because you can grow your grass and feed your cattle, fatten them, slaughter them and retain all these job opportunities there.
If the governments of these far northern states are concerned about their local economy and want to create employment opportunities and generate revenue for their states, they should encourage their people to establish ranches in those states.
The beauty of it is that they can now become major producers and suppliers of beef to the rest parts of Nigeria. Right now, the way things are scattered we don’t know what each state is contributing to the national treasury.
Ordinarily, states such as Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano ought to be leaders in cattle breeding and beef production but they have not risen to the occasion.
Don’t you think that the oil boom and Nigeria’s over dependence on petro-dollars is responsible for the reluctance of these states to look inwards?
You know, when people blame it on oil, quite frankly, I think it is more than that. I have been to over 30 countries including Malaysia looking at agricultural projects and practices. Malaysia is in a rain forest region and they decided to utilise their forests for oil palm trees and rubber. They pursued the policy of agro-forestry. It is not as if they do not eat beef but they decided to concentrate on their area of comparative advantage.
Don’t we have oil palm trees here? Where are all our oil palm and rubber plantations? They are in the South East and South South regions and now we want to push our cattle there instead of making the North conducive for the cattle.
The West is known for cocoa and we want to send them cattle and set up RUGA settlements there.
Let the various states in Nigeria identify their specific areas of competence and comparative advantage and develop their productive capacities in such areas. By so doing, they will be creating jobs and contributing their quota to the national treasury.
Some states in Nigeria have their local economies anchored on crop farming. We know that states such as Benue, Plateau and Taraba produce most of the food that we eat because the people there are mainly crop farmers.
When you now insist on grazing cattle on their farms, you are disrupting food production as well as the cultural and economic activities of the people
What’s your final word on the RUGA controversy?
I maintain that there was a technical solution. We should go back to the ranching policy and end this conflict for good. I know ranching requires infrastructure and that is where the governments in those states where cattle rearing is a way of life should step in and make a difference by providing these facilities.
The primary facility is large expanse of land and where else do we have more land in abundance than in the far North? Water is the second most important resource and there are a lot of dams that successive governments have built in the far northern states. They should be put to use.
The moment you start pushing cattle down to the Middle Belt and Southern regions as we are doing now, you create suspicion and avoidable conflict. Land is a very sensitive issue across Nigeria. Even among people from the same community, village or kindred. There have been generational wars over land and we can’t afford to do things that would worsen the situation.
In countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa, we all know of the land disputes there. Why do we want to dabble into sensitive issues like land when we know the implications? Why do we want to set Nigeria on fire? We can still coexist as a heterogeneous country without necessarily disrupting the economy and culture of our neighbours.
It worries me that the various sections of our country are engaged in a heated argument about RUGA and cattle colony while the entire agricultural sector is suffering.
Nigeria has just signed on to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) but where are the agricultural products we have to offer the rest of Africa? We can’t export our yams or beef because we are not producing them and packaging them in a way that they can be marketable. We have neglected the real issues that can improve our agriculture and we are beating about the bush and fighting ourselves.
Nature has given us our own areas of comparative advantage but we have failed to seize the opportunities available in our country.
The people rejected Okorocha, family before elections –Imo PDP spokesman
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Spokesman in Imo State, Chief Damian Oparah is a journalist by training and a well known voice in the state. In this interview with STEVE UZOECHI in Owerri, he tells the story of events that led up to the victory of the PDP in Imo state in the last general election
After three years in office, what would you consider your achievements?
Well, in 2016 we had problems with the formation of the of the PDP state executives. We couldn’t hold our Congress when others were holding theirs. We held ours about two months later, precisely, on the 8th of August, 2016 and like you know, today marks my three years as the spokesman of this party.
In 2016 when we came on board, it was a big fight between the Makarfi and Sheriff factions of the PDP. And in Imo State, we had just lost a painful election the previous year. In that election, PDP had no reason to lose. We won the three senatorial seats and eight federal seats out of 10 and lost the governorship due to internal crisis and bad image of the party. By that time, the image of the party was thoroughly battered and at its lowest ebb. The morale of our members was also low and members were leaving the party in droves.
When we came on board, the first thing we did was to diligently clean up the party’s image working from inside out. We took charge of our image-making machinery and took steps to set up functional structures across the state to enhance the dissemination of the party’s image-building publications. And we were intentional about these.
With that we were able to clean up the mess that was left behind after the 2015 governorship election.
We didn’t stop there. The case of Makarfi and Sheriff created a very big gulf in the party between the Senator Hope Uzodinma faction and the Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha faction. While we were trying to build the image of the party, they were heating up the system. It was a challenge. Instead of putting the opposing APC governor in check, we were busy trying to manage the crises being created by the in-fighting in the party.
It was a double barrel problem for me. At a point I had to battle with the very recalcitrant group from the Sheriff faction who were bent on destroying the party on one hand and on the other hand contend with the incumbent APC governor who had vowed to run PDP out of town. It was in the heat of these crises that we discovered the then APC governor was paying the other PDP faction to destroy our party.
If anybody was in doubt, it was erased when we assumed work at the party’s secretariat. In the drawer of the then secretary of the party, Chief George Egu, we saw over 1000 APC membership cards. It was a shocking revelation to all of us because we didn’t know that the sabotage ran that deep.
I can tell you without mincing words that the victory of the PDP in Imo today was achieved the day the Sheriff faction of the PDP in Imo State was uprooted.
What led to the poor image of the party in 2015?
Internal sabotage. Having lost the 2015 election which we were supposed to have won, the image of the party took a nose-dive. We clearly won the 2015 election and from one angle, we were sabotaged and having lost the election or having been out of power for four years, the morale of became low and some people even wrote the party off. I remember this present governor was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives then and to some extent, we enjoyed some influence associated with the status of our candidate. Yet we couldn’t make it in 2015. Our party became the subject ridicule and the butt of every rude joke.
So, we became more occupied in building a new image for the party and we got it right to such an extent where the party became the darling of the state.
The ruling APC realised they were speedily loosing grip in Imo State and then deployed the Ali Modu Sheriff group in the state to unleash the most sadistic assault on our party.
They were well funded and given the impetus to criticize us as not being the authentic PDP. They even seized and took over our Secretariat and properties with brute force, happily creating image problems for the PDP at every opportunity. But we never missed an opportunity to place the records straight for Imo people. As such Imo people knew the whole truth and lined up firmly behind us in solidarity.
They repeatedly petitioned the Police alleging we were illegally parading as the authentic PDP and as always, we went back to the police to correct the false impression. There was no prank in the book they did not employ to undermine the PDP in Imo state.
These continued until we conducted our Congress in Port Harcourt and Sheriff was eased out of the party and Makarfi took over and the legal battle began. Their intention for going to court was obviously to discredit the PDP and portray the PDP as a party in crisis. In all and at all times, we never left the Imo public at the mercy of their vile speculations. And we always assured the people that we had the capacity to unseat then Governor Rochas Okorocha and reclaim the state.
Whatever happened then, we were always a step ahead of them. One of such masterstrokes we posted was when Uche Secondus came here to campaign to become the National Chairman of the party. Our state chairman, Barr. Charles Ezekwem told everyone that Imo PDP would adopt Secondus and Secondus was accompanied to Imo by the present governor of Imo state, Emeka Ihedioha, who we perceived as one of our own backing Secondus.
Immediately we published it that Imo PDP has endorsed Secondus as the National Chairman, all hell was let loose as I was hit by a barrage of calls coming from the other faction mainly questioning why the party took such position.
When Secondus won, it became a smooth sail for all of us. The Sherrif faction led by Nnamdi Anyaehie as State Chairman was promptly dissolved thereby paving the way for us to take full charge of our party.
There was nothing Sheriff’s men in Imo didn’t do to damage the image of the party but we were equal to the task. We matched them by creating radio programmes, addressing press conferences as the issues arise and disseminating well crafted press releases.
So, we were able to convince the people to key into the vision of the rebranded PDP. We were able to appeal to their conscience and were able to market the party and consequently, we were able to bring this government into place.
So, having rebranded the party, we were able to get the party to be number one in the lists of political parties in the state to the extent that despite the presence of such political heavyweights like Senator Hope Uzodinma, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, the incumbent governor’s in-law that were on ground or Ikedi Ohakim the former governor in other parties, we were able to win the election. This is not minding the fact that we did not control the security agents; have truckloads of money like Okorocha boasted nor had the clout to influence INEC. Rochas Okorocha boasted with all those but Imo people wanted PDP and eventually had their way.
Now, to what do you owe this success?
To me, it has been all about the PDP and the cleaning of its image and the resultant victory of the party at the polls. Recall that it was bad image that made us lose in 2011 under Ikedi Ohakim when they said he flogged a priest. It was a lie but the people believed it and it destroyed our image because that scandal was poorly managed. It was the same poor image that made us lose again to Rochas Okorocha in 2015 when Ihedioha was on the verge of winning.
Are you already resting on your oars?
Having come this far with proper image management of the party, the party is no longer seen as housing fraudsters but one that can now win election on the strength of its character and the credibility of its members
However, our structure is still intact. Then we had engaged 305 members for our social media team with each reporting to the activities of the party in every ward. The members actually grew from 10 to 305. I nurtured them and ensured that they were participating in workshops and seminars. In the seminars, we warned them sternly not to post lies.
What we are planning to do is very simple. We know a lot of people are angling for appointment but the most important thing is that the government activities should be properly reported in the media and that is what we are doing.
Your party Secretariat looks deserted. seems you havent been holding party meetings
Not at all, we have been holding meetings such as the state working committee meetings and state executive council meetings. What is happening is that when we have state functions, it is done in government house and the party joins them there.
Are you not worried that the crowd of politicians flocking around government may scandalize your government?
Let me tell you one thing, the governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and his deputy, Hon. Gerald Irona are thorough-bred politicians. Let’s start with Irona. He was a two term councillor for Oguta. He was also the executive chairman of Oguta Local Government Area and House of Assembly member representing Oguta State Constituency. He also went to the House of Representatives before becoming the Deputy Governor. So, he has seen it all. The story is the same for the governor. They know when to butter political bread and know those that are fair weather or food-is-ready politicians. They equally know those that brought them victory. So, from the appointments that have made, you can see that it is just a few outsiders. The rest have been with us and know the vision of the governor. Importantly, these men will not compromise competence and credibility for anything.
In the three years that you have worked as the Publicity Secretary of the party, what have been the challenge so far?
Some of the challenges I encountered as the Publicity Secretary of the party was the behavior of some members of the party which we were able to sort out. Another was finance to some extent and many others bordered on the dangers of engaging a ruthless government in power as was the case in the last administration.
In fact, when I was elected into this position, I was several reminded that the outgone governor would send people after me if we published what he was not comfortable with. But I replied by saying that I am a former police officer and that no such threats would move me. We quickly organised ourselves and dished out things that even the then governor and his handlers found difficult to disprove. The reason was that we told them the truth and our people in the new media were instructed not to post any picture that did not portray the true reality on ground. That was why Okorocha’s media team could not refute anything we published about their government.
The opposition is confident that the governorship election will be cancelled at the tribunal. What do you say?
When they say Uche Nwosu, Hope Uzodinma or Araraume is coming to take over, they should know that election is over and nothing will cancel it. Let’s look at Uche Nwosu, he was sitting on billions of Naira of Imo allocations and yet could not win the election. You had the money, you had the security, you had the INEC and could not win because the masses said you are unfit to rule. Is it now that they are no longer in power that he would return to government house? Even if there is such a situation where a rerun is called, the Imo people that rejected him are not all dead, they would still reject him again. Imo people rejected Rochas even before the election. That was what gave us victory. Again, having balkanized the APC, with Hope Uzodinmagoing to APC, Ifeanyi Araraume to APGA and himself going to AA, it became so easy for the people to choose and elect us. With the massive outcry from Imo people that our stolen properties and assets be recovered, how can Rochas Okorocha and family face the people again? Look at the revelations of Zigreat company that got all the contracts in that administration. How can they return? Is Uche Nwosu coming back to continue from where his father in-law left local government funds; is he coming back to continue to mess with our roads that they destroyed in the name of constructing them? They left Imo State in penury. They even demolished all village markets and took over the shops in the name of remodeling them.
So, the ‘Uche Nwosu is coming back’ slang that some people still use is simply to get extract some of our money they stole from them. I can assure you that Uche Nwosu will never come back to government house either by election or any other means.
2019 poll: Anxiety as Buhari, Atiku make final submissions
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal is set to deliver judgement in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, on August 21. ONYEKACHI EZE reviews the proceedings of the tribunal
The stage is now set for the adoption of final written addresses of both the petitioners and defence counsels in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the February 23 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari for second term in office.
Early last week, jitters seemed to have gone down the spines of the petitioners and defendants ahead of the August 21 date. For instance, President Buhari and the APC had asked the tribunal to expunge the 28,428 result sheets of election in 10 states presented by Atiku and the PDP before the tribunal. They want the tribunal to reject the testimony of the petitioners’ 40th, 59th and 60th witnesses.
Atiku’s spokesperson, Mr. Segun Showunmi, was the 40th witness; David Njorga from Kenya, who was described by the petitioners as their “expert witness,” was the PW 59; while Joseph Gbenga, a data analyst was the PW 60.
Buhari and his party also asked the tribunal to reject a separate set of 33 documents, which included the Certified True Copies of Form CF001 (personal particulars) submitted by Buhari to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the presidential candidate of his party, other INEC documents and some newspaper reports.
Among the 28,428 documents, whose admissibility was being challenged by Buhari and the APC, are 28,395 certified true copies of polling unit, local government, ward and state result sheets of 10 states. The states are Yobe (1,732 result sheets), Kebbi (2,106), Borno (3,472), Kano (5,806), Bauchi (3,599), Katsina (3,378), Jigawa (3,162), Kaduna (3,335A), Zamfara (eight) and Niger (1,797).
The Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-man tribunal had given the respondents in the petition, President Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), up till August 5 to file and serve their written addresses to the petitioners, while the PDP and Atiku would respond within seven days of the receipt of the respondents addresses. Wednesday, August 21 was set aside by the tribunal for the adoption of the addresses.
It was interesting the three weeks the petitioners and respondents presented their case before the tribunal.
Lead Counsel to the petitioners, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), before he closed their case on July 19, presented 62 out of 400 witnesses he listed. The defendants, however, dramatically, closed their case after three days of the over six days allotted to them to present their case.
While INEC and APC declined to call any witnesses, President Buhari called only seven witnesses before resting his case. The tribunal chairman, Justice Garba had no option than to call on the counsel to the case to present their written addresses while August 21 was set aside for the final adoption. The tribunal might as well, on that date, reserve judgement on the matter.
Going by the Electoral Act, the tribunal must deliver judgement in the case within 180 days (or six months) from the date of filing of the petition. Atiku and PDP filed the petition on March 18. This means that the judgement is expected on or before the middle of next month.
PDP and Atiku, in their 141-page petition, are seeking for the nullification of President Buhari’s election on five grounds. These are that: (1) The second respondent (Buhari) was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; (2) The election of the second respondent is invalid by reason of corrupt practices; (3) The election of the second respondent is invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended); (4) The second respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the said election; and (5) The second respondent submitted to the first respondent (INEC)) an affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.
Among the witnesses called by the PDP and its candidate were the National Collation Officer, Osita Chidoka, an Information and Communication (ICT) expert from Kenya, David Ayu Nyngo Njoga as well as some of party’s agents at collation centres.
President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, General Paul Tarfa (rtd) who enlisted the same year with him in the military, and Malam Suleiman Mai-adua, the president’s classmate at Katsina Provincial Secondary School, were some of the witnesses who testified for him.
Two major issues were strongly advanced during three-week trail: the alleged transmission of the result of the presidential election by INEC through its server; and President Buhari’s qualification for the election.
When they opened their case on July 4, PDP and its candidate presented a total of 5, 197 exhibits from Niger and Yobe States. These were mainly result sheets from polling units, wards and local government areas. Atiku had insisted that the results of the election were transmitted through a dedicated server by INEC, a claim, which the commission denied.
Njogu told the tribunal that he got the results of the 2019 presidential election from a server operated by INEC, which he claimed, was provided by an unnamed official of the commission. He added that he later analysed the report through a third party website, www.factdontlieng.com.
The witness went further to provide the tribunal with the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the server and other backend login details, adding that his analysis of the content of the server showed that Atiku beat Buhari by over 1.8 million votes.
PDP National Collation Officer, Osita Chidoka who was the petitioners’ star witness, told the tribunal that N27 billion out of N240 billion INEC budget for the last general election was for electronic transmission of results, and wondered why the commission could claim not to have transmitted the results electronically.
On the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC tendered a video before the Tribunal to counter the claims of the Petitioners that INEC transmitted election result to an electronic server. The video, which was Channels Television recording of INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu admitted by the presidential tribunal, however, discredited the allegation that results of the February 23 general election were transmitted to the commission’s central server.
Another video also showed Army officials, on Channels TV, denying Buhari’s claim that his West African School Certificate was with the Army. The third one showed INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Channels TV, meeting with members of Computer Professionals and Practitioners in Nigeria, and expressing hope that electronic transmission would be deployed for the 2019 general election.
Nicholas Msheliza, a presidential collation agent for PDP in Borno State, told the tribunal that virtually all the result sheets from the various local governments in the state were mutilated. He alleged that there was no accreditation of voters in over 200 polling units out of the 3,933 statutory polling units in the state.
He said: “Virtually all the results sheets that were brought to the state collation centre were mutilated. There was virtually no result sheet that was tendered at the state collation centre that did not have calculation error, and I did reject most of them.
“The Returning Officer of the first respondent (INEC), would always ask the local government collation officers to go outside the collation centre to reconcile figures, add them up and when they tallied, they should back to present them.” Msheliza who was the 23rd witness of the petitioners, said that the over 911, 786 declared by the INEC in the election was well over the accredited voters across the state.
Another witness also from Borno State, Kalid Kubu, told the tribunal that there were about five bomb explosions in his home town, Kalgamari while vote counting was going on, which dispersed everyone.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who testified for him, said he personally collected his Cambridge documents on July 18 this year. “I can confirm that I was the one that collected and signed the Cambridge University West Africa Examination Certificate on behalf of the president on July 18, 2019,” he stated. The Chief of Staff, however, admitted that no certificate was listed on President Buhari’s curriculum vitae, and that the documents from the Cambridge were “assessments.”
General Paul Tarfa (rtd), who enlisted at the same time with President Buhari into the military on April 16, 1962, described him as a brilliant student who always passed his exams in flying colours. He, however, denied that they were told to submit their certificate by Army authorities at the time of enlistment into the military.
Another witness, Malam Suleiman Mai-adua, who was Buhari’s classmate in Katsina Provincial Secondary School, came with a group photograph of class six set of 1961, to prove that the president graduated from Cambridge University West African Examination that year.
This case, nevertheless, is historical in Nigeria’s constitutional democracy. Though there were some presidential election petitions before it, it was the first to witness such high number of exhibits and witnesses, and has attracted interest of many Nigerians.
Foremost constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze said Nigerians expect the tribunal to rise to the challenge. He decried what he said Justice Kishna Iyer of the Indian Supreme Court referred to as “the tyranny of procedure, the horror of the doctrine of precedent, with its stifling and deadening insistence on uniformity, and the booby traps of pleadings.”
In his letter to the tribunal, Professor Nwabueze noted that generality of Nigerians believed that something was wrong in the conduct of the 2019 general elections, and expressed happiness that an election tribunal has be constituted to “out the truth about what happened.
“The Tribunal/Court owes it as a duty to the country to do so, as the discovery of the truth will help to set us free from the scourge of electoral malpractices.”
He said the previous election petitions decided by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, said that “election petitions are suis generis proceedings, established, not for the purpose of adjudicating disputes arising in dealings or transactions between individual persons, but for the purpose of enabling the political community to choose, in free and fair election, persons to manage public affairs on its behalf and for the benefit of all its members, which makes largely inappropriate the technicalities of law of pleadings and evidence applicable in ordinary case; it is suis generis, to which the technicalities of the law of pleadings and evidence may not be appropriate.”
Last week, Buhari and the APC prayers, urged the tribunal not to act on the 28,000 documents, contained in their separate objections to the admissibility of the petitioners’ documents earlier admitted conditionally as exhibits by the tribunal. In particular, APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), urged the tribunal to “expunge” the documents from the record of proceedings on the grounds that they were “wrongly admitted in evidence” when they “are legally inadmissible.
Also, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) faulted the evidence of the witnesses which he argued emerged “in express violation of a subsisting order of court, same germinates in stark abuse of the process of this honourable court.”
Meanwhile, PDP’s Deputy National Chairman, South, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, believes that in the weight of evidence, Atiku Abubakar “will reclaim his mandate and come victorious at the presidential tribunal.”
In a recent interview with Sunday Telegraph before the commencement of the case in court, he said the evidence presented at the trials along with the exhibits pointed in this direction.
“We have assembled our evidence, ward by ward, local government by local government and there are 774 local governments in Nigeria, and we have the facts on how they manipulated the results. For example, how do you explain a situation in Kano whereby a particular party scored eighty something thousands in the presidential election and the same party scored over one million votes in the governorship election two weeks after? How do you explain that, especially when you remember that it is the party they vote for and not an individual?
“From our own calculations, Atiku Abubakar won that election by 1.8 million votes, as against what they declared, but the fact is that nobody can hide behind one finger. Already they are jittery; you may not know but he who knows it feels it- that they will likely lose at the court and they are going to lose by the grace of God… The worse scenario that will happen is to call for repeat of the election, and we are not praying for that, rather we are praying that victory would be given to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,” he said.
Issues for determination
Extract from the PDP and Atiku’s final written address at the Presidential Tribunal in reply to the second respondent, (Muhammadu Buhari)’s final written address as obtained by Sunday Telegraph reads:
In paragraph 1.2 of the 2nd Respondent’s reply, with respect, he made a bane and baseless allegation that the petition is based on “assumptions, speculations and conjectures” but failed to demonstrate same.
*It is also rather instructive that the 2nd Respondent who called seven witnesses, RW1 – RW7, abruptly closed his case in a vainglorious effort to stop the grave but irredeemable damage to his case by his witnesses under cross examination. That was like bolting the stable after the horse had clearly galloped out of it.
1. Whether the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election.
2. Whether the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) submitted to the 1st Respondent (INEC) affidavits containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.
3. Whether from the pleadings and evidence led it was established that the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) was elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
4. Whether the Presidential election conducted by the 1st Respondent (INEC) on the 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reasons of corrupt practices.
5. Whether the presidential election conducted by the 1st Respondent (INEC) on the 23rd February 2019 was invalid by reasons of non compliance with the electoral act 2010 (as amended) and the electoral guidelines 2019 and the manuals issued for the conduct of the elections.
Argument in support of 1 and 2
The case is that the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) does not possess the certificates relating to qualifications, which he claimed in his form Cf001 That Buhari had listed his educational credentials in proof of his qualification to contest the election in the said form, which he then submitted to the 1st Respondent (INEC)
*The qualifications claimed by the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) were: (a) First Leaving Certificate; (b) West African School Certificate (WASC); and Officer Cadet (Whatever that means). None of the alleged certificates was attached to exhibit P1*
*The Petitioners submit that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the presidential election because the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) failed to satisfy the mandatory requirements of section 131 (d) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which provides that: a person shall be qualified for election into the office of President if;*
*”(d) he has been educated up to at least school certificate and its equivalent”*
The make the requirements clearer, Section 318 (1) of the constitution defines school certificates or its equivalent to mean:
(a)…A secondary school certified or its equivalent, a Grade II teachers certificate, the City and Guide Certificate or
(b) Educated up to secondary school certificate level; or
(c) Primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent and –
(I) Service in a public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years and
(II) Attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)for period totaling up to a minimum of one year and
(III) the ability to write, read, understand and communicate in English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission; and
(d) Any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission
*We therefore submit that to be qualified, the 2nd Respondent (Muhammadu Buhari) must produce his primary school certificate or West African School Certificate (WASC) or Officer Cadet, since those were the certificates he claimed in his form CF001 Exhibit P1*
*We submit that a candidate must choose the qualification or qualifications he wishes to rely on at the time of swearing to or submitting his form CF001. The 2nd Respondent duly exercised that choice and must swim or sink with his choice*
Why Anambra South should produce next governor –Emecheta
chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State, Chief Jude Emecheta, has defended the agitation for Anambra South Senatorial District to produce the next governor of the state in 2021.
Emecheta, who spoke in Awka on Friday, said that it was morally right to allow the South take its turn in 2021, while noting that APGA has scored its first victory in the election by ceding its ticket to candidates in the zone and applauded the leadership for the decision.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Emecheta, who is the National President of Willie Obiano Support Group, argued that Anambra Central has produced the governor for 11 years, while Anambra North would be completing eight years in 2021.
He said that Anambra South only produced Dr. Chinwoke Mbarinuju, who was governor for four years, plus the two years of Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, noting that, though zoning was not constitutional, it remained a moral agreement, which all the political zones and stakeholders must respect for equity, fairness and political peace to reign in the state.
“Anambra South governorship ticket is not under threat. APGA has committed to giving its ticket to a candidate from the zone, and we are fully ready for the battle in 2021. By the end of this administration, Anambra North would have completed eight years and Anambra Central cannot come out now, having produced governors for 11 years.
“It will not be politically wise for them to do that. We should not do things that will bring political bitterness in Anambra. These are the kind of things that lead to political rancour. In Anambra, there is some form of moral agreement,” he said.
Emecheta said that there was no need asking other political parties to consider Anambra South, adding that they ought to know the danger in fielding candidates from outside the zone.
“There is no need to warn anybody or any party, even in Nigeria, it is not written anywhere that power should rotate between North and South, it is a moral thing, so it is in Anambra. People are allowed to daydream, they are allowed to test the waters by making all manner of insinuations that it should be an open contest.
“Here in Anambra, rotation or zoning is beyond party, it a general thing, it is for zoning that governorship shifted to north in 2017. Central has done full tenure of eight years and another three years, North has done full tenure of eight years but South had only four years with Mbadinuju and two years of Ezeife.
“By 2021 we will be going into governorship election and we cannot do that successfully by fighting among ourselves, we have to be united,” the APGA chieftain said.
Your Environment Matters
our next 5 years will be determined by the books you read and the association you keep. The kind of people you surround yourself with and the environment you’ve created for yourself are predictions of your future. You can’t be aspiring to be very great while surrounding yourself with mediocre. You can’t be aspiring to become an eagle while surrounding yourself with chickens. You can’t be aspiring to have multiple streams of income and you have not read one book on finance. You can’t be expecting business expansion when you haven’t attended any seminar or workshop on business growth. Your environment determines your output. What kind of people have you surrounded yourself with?
As important as the soil to plant, so also the people we surround ourselves with and the environment we’ve created for ourselves – they determine our outputs.
Have you asked yourself some vital questions, such as: Who am I? What am I up to? What are my dreams and aspirations? Why was I created by God? Where exactly am I presently in the journey of my life? Or where am I in the map of my destination (if any)? Now, who am I friends? Who are my mentors? Who are the pictures of my future? What kind of people have I surrounded myself with?
These and many more crucial questions are important, friends. Your answers to these and more will speak a lot about you.
Life is more than wake up in the morning, eat, sleep, go to school, graduate, marry, have kids, grow old and die. There is more to you than you could imagine..
You were created for a purpose, to solve a particular problem; and until you discover that, you might as well be likened to one who’s on a journey without a known destination.
Discover why you are here. Garner every arsenals needed towards becoming who you were created to be. However, a major factor that will determine if the dreams will be achieved or not is the environment you’ve created for yourself.
YOU WERE CREATED FOR A PURPOSE.
Everything – living and nonliving were created to solve problem. The phone, laptop or computer system you are using to read this at the moment is solving a problem. The cloth you are putting on is solving a problem. The shoes you are wearing are solving problem. The AC or fan in your living room, the tv set, table and chairs and everything around you are solving one problem or the other.
Have you discovered the problem you were created to solve? Until you do, your existence could just be to add to the population on earth – And this, is not God’s plans for you. You are here for reason. Discover it. Pursue it. Become it.
Whatever you’ve seen or pictured yourself doing repeatedly is a clue to why you are here. The problem you always feel like solving is a clue to why you are here. The problem that get you angry is a pointer to why God created you.
Once you discover the reason you are here, then get people along that line, align with them, learn from them, so as to become who you want to be.
Someone has embarked on the journey you want to embark on. Someone has done or presently doing that business you dream of operating. Someone has been to where you want to go. Find them and learn from them.
You can’t be going to Abuja and at the same time following someone going to Maiduguri. You can’t be aiming to win a 3,000 meters race and you are rehearsing with people who are going for a 300-meter competition. Any correlation?
This year, don’t be apologetic in getting yourself into the right environment. Don’t be apologetic finding people of like minds who are going same route with you. Don’t be ashamed to cut off friends who are not helping or adding to your value positively.
Stay away from negative minded persons. Stay away from gossips and backbiters. Stay away from people who do not see or say good about others. Stay away from people who have been possessed with the “pull-him-down” spirit. Stay away from anyone who’s not adding to you positively. Remember, you environment matters.
APC will regain victory in Benue, says Rep Dyegh
Hon. John Dyegh represents Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency of Benue State and is Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights. He was in the race for speakership of the 9th House but withdrew at the last minute. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on the ministers-designate, the last election in Benue State and a host of issues.
You were in the contest for the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives and at some point people believed you will vie for Deputy Speaker. What happened to your ambition?
It is quite true I was in the race for the position of Speaker, which you and I know that I have the right to contest and of course, I do possess the requisite experience and competence to lead the 9th House of Representatives having been in the Green Chamber for eight years.
My decision to contest for Speaker was, however, not for selfish reasons; it was an attempt to offer myself for higher service for my constituents and Nigeria at large. I was offering myself, my competence, my experience, my time and talents and indeed my readiness to make sacrifices for the good of every Nigerian. So, it was not for pecuniary interest.
You are also aware that along the line, my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in its wisdom decided to zone the position of Speaker to the South-West and gave the Deputy Speaker to North Central. And I want you to know that as I have always said, I am a loyal party man, who believes in the supremacy of the party; I am a team player who strongly believes in the cooperation of party members and unity of purpose.
Yes, I would have contested for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was for the North Central, but I had to defer to the persuasion and plea from party leaders and elders to drop my ambition so that the wish of the party would prevail. So, I withdrew in respect to the directive of the party.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila released the names of committee chairmen and deputies before the House proceeded on recess; and many of the experienced lawmakers were not considered. Some analysts also expressed shock that some of the ranking members were not given juicy committees. How comfortable are you with the development?
First of all, I would say a legislator has three primary functions: that of representation, lawmaking and oversight. So, one necessarily does not have to be a committee chairman to function. But I think why lawmakers seek for committee leadership is for them to be in a vantage position to attract development to their constituency and also assist their constituents in terms of employment and so on.
So, when people talk about juicy committees, I really do not understand. May be some would want to get what you called juicy committees for other reasons, but to me, I am not in the House to make money. I contested election to come and serve the people. This is my ninth year in the House of Representatives and for eight years, I never headed any committee, but I was able to work for my constituents. Now, the appointment of committee chairmen is at the pleasure of the selection committee, which is headed by the Speaker. So, if in the wisdom of the Speaker and his team decided to make appointments, I do not have any problem with it.
However, we must not lose sight of experience in the parliament, it is also very important. Although, we have only 105 committees that are to be shared amongst 350 members, that is when you take out the ten principal officers; so certainly the committees will not go round. But I can only speak for myself.
Again, some analysts expected that people like you and Hon. Umar Bago should have gotten bigger committees…
Well, the Speaker has made me chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and I am not complaining. Like I said, I am here for service and I see human rights committee as another avenue for me to speak for my constituents and the people of Nigeria. There are a lot of human rights issues around us. Take for instance, Benue State where thousands of people have been killed and left many more displaced and thousands of them are in internally displaced camps living under very inhuman conditions. For me, working for these hapless Nigerians is more dignifying than going to lobby for a committee with the intent of lining my pocket.
Look at the case of states in the North-East: Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and in the North-West, Zamfara State where so many people have been killed and the surviving victims are also in IDP camps wallowing in abject poverty. There are also disturbing issues of human trafficking and modern slavery; there are issues illegal migration of Nigerians dying in the desert. In fact a whole lot of issues- suspects who are allegedly maltreated by security agencies; suspects who are rotting away in detention awaiting trial for dozens of years.
I will be happy if I can make an impact in the lives of these people who are suffering, some for not fault of theirs, but for the evil being perpetrated against them for reasons we cannot comprehend. And I cannot speak for Hon. Bago; I don’t even know the committee he is chairing.
What is the relationship between you and Speaker Gbajabiamila and in fact the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris?
Oh, very cordial. I do not have any problem with any of them. I have a lot of respect for both of them and we have had a great working relationship and we will continue to work together for the benefit of the House and Nigerians.
President Buhari’s ministerial list has generated a lot of criticism from a cross section of Nigerians, that it is made up of recycled politicians who have nothing fresh to offer the nation…
I think Nigerians have the right to assess the quality of ministers nominated by their President to serve the nation. So, for me, when they raise issues about particular nominees, they may have reasons for their actions. But we must also recognise that the constitution has empowered Mr. President to choose his ministers and he does that based on who he feels will be able to deliver on his agenda.
President Buhari promised us Next Level and if the people he has chosen are the ones he believes can help him attains that Next Level, we should give them a chance before criticising.
I would like to speak about the minister from my state, Distinguished Senator George Akume. Senator Akume is by every standard fit to be a minister of the Federal Republic and I do not think there is any other person more deserving of that nomination from Benue than him. This is a man who had a meritorious career in the civil service and rose to the peak as Permanent Secretary. He served as governor for eight years and served as a senator for 12 years; four of which he was Senate Minority Leader. He is a grassroots politician and a leader who is loved by his people and has in fact touched the lives of many. So, I believe his nomination could not have come at a better time than now.
Apart from him, there are equally other distinguished Nigerians who have excelled in different fields and previous national and even international assignments that have been nominated by the President. Perhaps, people have issues with one or two of the nominees and that is natural; but I think the president has the final say and most especially if they had been screened and confirmed by the senate, we should give them a chance.
Talking about screening and confirmation, many Nigerians picked holes in the ‘bow and go’ process adopted by the senate in screening most of the nominees. Don’t you think the Senate should have subjected the nominees to a rigorous screening?
Well, I am not the spokesperson for the senate, but like I earlier said, Nigerians have the right to question their representatives, when they feel certain things are not going the way they expect. I know some Nigerians would have wanted a situation where all the ministers would be subjected to a question and answer session, but the Senate felt otherwise. The Senate has its own rules and standing orders; but it is also traditional to parliaments all over the world to allow ‘their own’ to take a bow. So, the practice of bow and go is not peculiar to Nigerian parliament.
Again, I would like to make reference to the nominee from Benue State, Distinguished Senator Akume. He was one of those who were asked to take a bow and go. For such a highly experienced leader, we do not necessarily expect that he be put to test again. He is eminently qualified and has proven time and again that he is capable and can fit in perfectly in the Next Level agenda of the President. He has been a loyal and hardworking member of the APC; he was there from the beginning and understands the party’s manifesto as well as Mr. President’s philosophy of leadership. I believe he is an asset to this administration.
The DSS finally obeyed court ruling permitting leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky to travel for medical attention. What’s your take on this?
It is a welcome development and I believe that with the DSS’ compliance with the court order, the restiveness, we have had in the past would have been put to rest. The protest from Shi’ite members would cease and the tension generated by their activities will end too. It means the government is conscious of her responsibility as regards respect to the rule of law.
As a human rights committee, we will be working round the clock to ensure that the right of no Nigerian is being trampled upon. We must respect human dignity and fundamental rights of every Nigerian irrespective of their social, religious or ethnic inclination. At the same time, we will be engaging the people on the need for them to always respect the laws of the land and endeavour to act within the ambit of the law at all times.
There is general insecurity in the land and everybody seems too scared. What do you think the government should do to bring sanity to the nation again?
The level of insecurity is actually disturbing; killings by bandits, kidnapping by armed robbers and even inter-tribal clashes. It is really scaring and I believe every Nigerian is concerned. I believe the security agencies and the government is doing their best to nip this terrible situation in the bud. I will advise the government not to rest on its oars. The government should also review its security tactics and approach; inject new blood where it is desirable and seek alternative strategies. There is too much of blood spilling in the country. These are indeed trying times for the nation and I do not think anybody envisaged that we may be in this state today. But like they say nobody knows tomorrow and the problem is now with us; we have to face it squarely. I think we should eschew divisive politics at this time and work as one. All hands must be on deck so that we can overcome this problem as a nation. Nigeria is a great nation and we must all work to maintain that status. President cannot do it alone; he needs the input of other stakeholders across party lines.
Your party, the APC seems to have lost steam in Benue State during the last general election; can it bounce back at all?
I don’t think I will agree with you that the APC lost steam in the last general elections. Certain factors fueled a lot of blackmail, couple with electoral irregularities including rigging and vote buying. But we did our best and most of our people who lost are in the tribunals, which hopefully we believe we will be able to reclaim the positions that were fraudulently taken away from us to other political parties.
I want to say that Benue is an APC state any day any time. We have a track record of high performance and that stands us out from other political parties. We are very confident that the courts will give us justice at the end of the day, so that we can continue with the good work we have been doing in the state.
The Federal Government is being criticised over the arrest of former presidential candidate and the convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore. What is your take on this issue?
Well, this issue is before the court and the security agencies are still investigating so I will not want to comment on it. But I want to say that every Nigerian is entitled to the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and the right to protest, but these rights, however must be expressed within the ambit of the law. So, it is for the courts to determine if that was done in this instant. I will also advise the security agencies to always adhere strictly to the rule of law in dealing with the people.
Aspirant identifies six core areas of concern in Bayelsa
governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Bayelsa gubernatorial election, Mr. Keniebi Dotun Okoko, has identified six core areas including massive investment and security as his primary concerns if elected into office.
Rolling our his programmes recently, the Economics and Political Science who led a strong consortium to win the bid for privatization of the National Integrated Power Plant in Gbarain in Yenagoa Local Government, said the redemption core six focus areas are security, education, health, economic growth, Urbanization and development.
Okoko, a young popular entrepreneur and industrialist who handled a multi-million naira investment on oil and gas called KDI group, said without security, investment would be a ruse in the state created 23 years ago, lamenting that up till now it is yet crying for development.
He said that looking at the security situation in the state today it is not yet Uhuru for the residents but he promised to improve on the security situation of the state if given the opportunity, arguing that no society can prosper in an insecure and unsafe environment.
He said: “We will create new security architecture that is people-centered and constructed on the basis of promoting state, human and societal security; ensure oversight and accountability of all security apparatus in the state; support a strong human rights approach to build partnerships and create trust amongst citizens and corporate bodies.
“Strengthen the rule of law throughout the State, ensuring the pillars of criminal justice system function effectively, and that citizens have a functioning and reliable justice system. Improve coordination of the security agencies, safety and security are achieved as a result of many different agencies, institutions and actors working together, poor coordination, or a failure to consider all elements contributing to our society to ineffectiveness, inefficiency, as well as increasing insecurity.”
On communications, he said strategic communication programmes will be devised to support the implement of our security policy. These, he said, will include but not limited to developing partnerships and establishing local bodies/councils where citizens can voice their concerns, question the police and other agencies, and give feedback on the performance of the police and other protective agencies.
On education, the philanthropist said the value of education to the prosperity of any society is well known, “significant investment have been made in the area of education especially in the area of infrastructure and establishment of learning institutions., however, there is still more to do to reflect the contemporary times and prepare our citizens for the future of work and gain global reputation as innovation, strategic and deliberate investments will be made to improve the knowledge, skills and attitudes of all Bayelsans and ensure they become life-long learners.
Okoko said he will make a historic investment each year in high quality education for all by increasing the education budget by at least 20 per cent and also carry out a review and upgrade the standards to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education in the State. Increase the supply of qualified and well-paid teacher. Emphasize on a reading culture by decentralizing the state library system, renovate, equip and transform the Bayelsa State Library to on e-Library.
I’m not threatened by Obaseki’s rumoured defection –Imansuangbon
Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is fondly called ‘Rice Man’ because of his magnanimity. He has contested governorship elections in Edo State under various political platforms. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, the Abuja based business mogul speaks on his ambition to govern the state, among other issues. Excerpts…
Why do you want to run again as governor in 2020?
This is your fourth time of vying for governorship position in Edo State, why are so keen about being governor of Edo State? Edo is my state, I’m not a foreigner in this state, I have equal rights as other citizens of the state to vote and be voted for.
As a known politician, I have paid my dues; I have used my hard earned money to help millions of the rich and the poor in Edo. I was born from a poor family, so each time I see people who cannot afford one square meal; a day I feel touch in my mind.
I have human feelings, I feel the pains of the poor and the homeless, I see the aguish and hunger on the faces of our people, I feel our leaders are not doing what is expected of them, I want to come and give millions of our poor masses hope for tomorrow, I want to come and put smiles on their faces, I want to come and make them feel that they are human beings created by God to be great and live good and comfortable lives within their immediate environments.
You have been moving from one party to the other. Now, under the PDP umbrella, what are your plans for Edo State if given the mandate? Any God-fearing leader in Nigeria who has conscience would agree with me that all is not well with us. Our leaders have lost touch with reality. Look at the rate of suicide being committed by Nigerians today.
What makes people commit suicide?
Is it not frustration, depression, suffering and total loss of existence?
So, I’m coming to give back to Edo people, respect, dignity and honour that we are known for.
I’m coming to create jobs, take the boys and youths off the streets. Edo people are peculiarly created by God Almighty and given special gifts, but today we are decimated and degraded.
A man who wakes up in the morning and has no hope of his next meal, is that person not good as dead?
You cannot pay your child’s school fees, is it live that you are leaving? If your child graduates from school and he has no job and he keeps roaming the streets, what will be the end product of such child?
By the time a child is frustrated, he will have no option than to take to crime and cyber crime fraudster. Our people have thrown away humanity, so if I become governor of our great state, I’m going to rewrite the wrongs that had been done to our great generation so that the next generation to come will have an Edo of their taste and choice. Insecurity challenges is sweeping across the country.
How would you tackle the menace on the home front? Any serious government would secure his people because the primary purpose of governance is to protect lives and property of its citizenry. My first primary assignment is to secure Edo State. In my time, Edo would be secured. I will collaborate with the most powerful country in the world to secure Edo state. I will not disclose the details. In the area of security, I know where to go and what to do. In your previous attempts, Esan people have always disappointed you at the primaries, how are you sure they would not do the same in the coming primary? As we speak now, I’m the most popular PDP aspirant in Edo that has showed interest to run for the governorship position.
Edo Central will speak with one voice; they are not coming to the party primaries with divided minds. Yes you will agree with me that the average Esan man has always been treated like a second-class person in the state. This fight is not for me alone, it is for all the peace loving people of Edo State. I have a good political structure in Edo State and good track records; I have the people with me, before I made up my mind to run I have consulted with major stakeholders across the state, if they had told me to stay away I will gladly accept.
This is the time for PDP to get it right, government house is beckoning on us to come and take over our position.
So I’m very confident that we would regain our lost glory. And the only candidate that has what it takes to give the APC a good fight for their money is Kenneth Imansuangbon.
Now that there is crisis in APC, and there is rumour making the rounds that Governor Godwin Obaseki may likely to decamp to the PDP. If that happens, won’t that act as impediment to your ambition?
I am not bothered or moved by whoever is decamping to PDP, be you a seating governor or president; it is the people that would determine who they want as governor. With my level in politics, I do not think that I should be scared of anybody, I have my people beside me, and I have my plans also.
Look, PDP is a political party with high political generals, we are not APC that does cut and paste politics. All I know is that PDP cannot to throw away this golden chance, the state party chairman has said that the ticket is open for people that has what it takes to make the party proud. So it is not a question of whether you are from Edo South, Edo North, or Central.
An Edo person knows that it is our turn to take over. If PDP allows a free and fair party primary, I will beat anybody.
Some people are saying that Esan should wait for their turn, do you agree with them?
What turn are they talking about? Is Edo State for one particular people?
Do you like the way our people have been marginalised and driven from the political scene for the past 16 years? Are we slaves in our state? Those who are saying that is not our turn, they should also step outside. Esan have more than enough competent people who have everything it takes to be governor. For Kenneth Imansuangbon, I’m fully ready for the 2020 election. Let us go to the primaries.
The APC government has failed us both at the federal and state levels. Nobody can cow us anymore; our so-called leaders of today have no plan for the poor masses.
How many of these top government functionaries can walk to hospitals and pay hospital bills for those who are not able to pay their bills? How many of these big men that ride on convoy with tight security can work to prisons to give food to those there, how many of these politicians can go to the market scene with a tuck of trailers loads of rice and share to those in need, how many of these big men have taken up payment of school fees for the poor parents that cannot afford to pay their children’s feels?
These are things I have been doing with my hard earned money. I’m the only politician in Edo that has spent billions of monies on people without doing government contract or holding any political position. This is why I’m confident that Edo people want me to come and rescue them from their predicament position of abject poverty, homelessness and joblessness that has become a daily meal for our people.
We need to restructure our minds before restructuring Nigeria –Bishop Dachenem
Most Reverend Hillary Nanman Dachenem is the Catholic Bishop of Bauchi Diocese. In this interview with ALI GARBA, he speaks on restructuring, unity of Nigeria and his vision for the country. Excerpts…
What is your take on the agitation for restructuring of the country?
We need to restructure our minds first, all of us, beginning with Mr. President. Let us restructure our minds. We all need to restructure our mindset, that is the first thing. If you are thinking of restructuring in terms of unitary system of government, are you talking federalism, are you talking about oligarchy are you talking about fascism or democracy?
What kind of government are you talking about? How do you want to restructure it when the mindset of the people is not at best? We lack the correct mindset. We have to restructure our minds, when we restructure our mind first, we will know what we want, we will know what is ideal for this place.
That is the first thing, let us restructure our minds and make it normal because our minds are not normal for now. Everything that works elsewhere, when it comes to Nigeria, it wouldn’t work. Most of the things that they enjoy in other countries, when you get to Nigeria, you have all these bottlenecks.
Why is it like that? If we go abroad, we will be in a queue to board a train, including some of us you call Bishops.
In London underbridge, like any other, you sit on one seat not like these three seats you kept for me alone. Rule of Law is what we need. We need to understand the Rule of Law. What are the principles? Equality before the law, supremacy of the law and fundamental human rights.
The third is being trampled completely. Now a person returns from abroad and he was waylaid, kidnapped and he swore they will never come back to this country. This is like a curse.
What we are saying is that let us restructure our minds, lets structure our thinking, let us say what we want. If we don’t restructure our minds because we are full of prejudice here and there, we will come with an existing mindset.
Some are saying that I’m Igbo, these people are Hausas, some are Muslims and we have to restructure all these now. We can’t progress with all these prejudice. Restructure them, now you want to set up a government with ministers, more than half are Muslims. Is that how you restructure Nigeria?
With a prejudiced mind?
How will you restructure?
You are partitioning it not restructuring it. When you are a president and you are Christian, you want to make everybody Christians, no! It is unacceptable in a secular state.
We need to go back to the fundamentals. What does the provision of the constitution say? Have we really finished applying the fundamental human rights? We apply them, we have not applied them. People are dying and we are talking about restructuring, let’s restructure our minds.
Is it right to say the church is under attack?
Yes. This is a worldwide phenomenon. That is not new really, the church had always been under attack because it teaches the truth, that is the mission. It is under attack and if I want to add, I will say more so, the Catholic Church. The church has always been under attack.
She is the first revealed religion, the first one before Islam, before Protestantism. It started 500 years before Islam, then 1500 years as just one church until 500 years ago when we had pockets of churches coming. She preaches the truth, she is what we call a sign of contradiction we are not surprised she has always been under attack because she is a sign of contradiction. Her ways, her teachings, her ideals, are not always in tandem with what the worldly people seek. That is why in different ages, she experiences different attack.
Based on what you have, looking at the current events in the church, is the church going through a moment of confusion, particularly the clergy?
Yes a lot of it, that is what we are saying she is under attack but also I will say she is also going through some bit of purification because globally speaking, there are cases that have been traced back to the church, cases of abuses and the rest of them. The cases of abuse, if we are to be sincere, are not particular to clergy. These things are because the clergy are supposed to be above board.
That is why their matter has become serious. That is happening surely, we are not comfortable with that development; that is not supposed to be the case because we are supposed to be models to other people. But we also understand there is an undue interest in the matter by specific groups because there are some abuse cases that have been discovered to be false, but meanwhile, the person’s reputation has been dragged to the dregs. So, we have to be careful in trying to discern this matter properly.
There are people who really want to attack the church and attack the clergy and make sure those things we stand for are watered, down that is another extreme. While we are not saying the clergy themselves are perfect, we are not, but I think sometimes also we expect too much from the clergy. Just like me, you belong to the same family the same two hands we are both born in the same family, maybe you are older than I am, maybe in the house you are more intelligent than me.
My conscience, my human emotions are there intact. So, you imagine that I went to a seminary; there is kind of spiritual laboratory where they will remove all my emotions but it’s not like that, I still remain a human being like you, a toddler in the way of God. I’m struggling, so sometimes we forget all those things simply because I answer clergy, you feel that this guy should be next to God I mean he is almost God. Yeah, we are closer to God; there is no doubt but we are humans. We are always struggling to live above board.
So don’t just crucify us and think when we make one little mistake you forget all the good we have been doing, that is not fair to us. What roles then should the spiritual leaders play in remodelling the Church? Well I thank Pope Francis, he has organised several international conferences.
He has called clerics to sit down and look at some of these issues because we can’t run away from them. We must sit dow, we must talk about those issues, when you talk about the Church I hope you are not referring to me alone.
As a Christian, so when talk about Church you’re involved also that is the thing, we are talking about all of us. All of us have to sit down. We must condemn the condemnable at the same time we must work out the modus operandi and sanction people who have deviated and make sure we create a system that does not make room for these lapses and abuses.
In Europe, they have started what they called child protection committee. They set it up in most of the churches not just about clerics but there have been people who have been abused by their parents, the people abused by some elders.
Those things cut across, we need to have a committee that has to look into these issues and make sure that these abuses are curbed to a very reasonable essence. It is the ugly side of the Church. If you sleep today what Nigeria do you want to see? Very interesting. Well there are many elements that will constitute the kind of Nigeria that I want to see.
First of all, we need to look at leadership. Secondly, we look at policies; thirdly, welfare. Fourthly, we look at infrastructural development and then fifth, we look at provisionss of the constitution.
All these are serious issues I have mentioned that need serious surgery for us to really have a Nigeria of our dreams. If you want my opinion I will say people at 70 shouldn’t rule this country maybe that is too much but I believe strongly that I’m a Bishop, now I need physical energy , I need mental alertness. I don’t believe that someone at 80 can rule this digital Nigeria especially if the person has been turned under an analogy Nigeria.
So, we need somebody, that should be detribalised, not based on religion and not based on just party.
We know political parties; they are the instruments which a government is installed but the machinery INEC and others have to look into so many things we have to look at competence, competence here has to do with knowledge, pedigree has a lot to do with resourcefulness, vision, and clear sense of mission and direction that is for the leadership side. I want to see a Nigeria where the leader comes out, does not even need a script to talk about his nation or to talk about his vision and to say this is where I am going.
His clarity about his policie, his dreams about what development plans he has, that is the kind of leadership I want. I spoke about policies, yes as a policy analyst, ours has not been policies. I have discovered.
There is what we call policy circle or stages or process, I locate the problem of Nigeria under lack of policy formulation, there is policy propagation and then there is policy implementation, that third point policy implementation, that is the problem here. Policies should be implemented seriously, and the policies should be transformative. The policies that must come up must transform lives; must impact positively, concretely on the common man.
The policy should be people friendly. When I say people friendly, just go to overseas, you will see how cities are tarred. The tarred the roads for vehicles. They also tarred them for the convenience of pedestrians too. What does that mean, is a people friendly policy. If you go to the airport, you go to the cars, the buses there is a place for the people we call the handicapped, the disabled.
They are the weak, so called weak, there is a place in the society for them. But the way Nigeria is, is wrong. If you go, they will kick the hell out of you and you will fall with your back, the weak have no place, but the weak are humans, they are human beings. The implementation, formulating good policies and implementing them to the core are still a problem in Nigeria. The policies should be people friendly. This is the Nigeria that I am dreaming to see.
And I talk about welfare. Honestly we are like slaves, we are like sardine lumped together. What is governance?
In all sincerity, governance is a bargain. You don’t govern me if I don’t choose to. I have the right to belong where I want belong particularly in modern contemporary system, where governance and democratic, government by the people, the power is moving from the hands of some hierarchical fellows down to the people, but we are just seeing that it’s a hierarchy upside down or less in Nigerian democracy. You say OK during election we go and vote at end you see our Democracy is hierarchy upside down more or less.
The welfare of the people is important. When we are sick where do we go to? You recall that when Obama came to power in America, the first policy he brought up was about what they called Obamacare in order to ensure the poor have access to healthcare. What have we done here about health care?
Where can our people get that?
Education is another sector that we need to do something drastic abt.
The most burning issue is the issue of our young persons who now finish and they are jobless. While there are so many things to be done in this country, the energy that is vibrant, creative and energetic is being dissipated for irrelevant things, whereas this energy could be garnered together, channelled in industrialisation in so many positive things.
The good thing about the circle of nature is the multiplier effect. If you are developing an industry if you are constructing roads, you’re employing people, so people are eating. But you are employing; those things are not happening. I can’t say precisely what is the GDP of Nigeria now but I am sure it is nothing to write home about.
I am looking for a Nigeria that the welfare of the people is paramount. If you want to move here and there, you don’t go through stress because buses are available for you. In London, to move you don’t really need your car, just on the streets there are fleet of buses every five minutes. You have your card, you just press the button you pay. It makes life easy for the people.
This is the kind of government that cares for the people. Could you tell us about the infrastructure?
Do you care about how people move here? Now, we don’t even have one single undertrain, we don’t have those buses, a government without welfare is no government, they are a band of cheats. The fourth one is infrastructure.
A government I want to see is a government that can put structures on the ground. If you go round most of our roads most of them are in very bad shape. And I say this thing is not too much. This country is into 6 geopolitical zones .You can get Julius Berger Link up all these roads give them the duration of 3-6 years, these things will be okay, they will fix all these roads.
All these states like Jigawa, Bauchi, Adamawa, Borno can be connected together. A government that wants to develop infrastructures will do that.
There are also political structures, there are also government structures, like civil service structures. All those structures, today we talk about civil service reforms.
There is also need to reform the civil service structure. The civil service structure we have today is still analog, if you go back now you will see, now we are in a digital order, but today you can pick up documents here and there. Posting is now unnecessary, computerisation of these systems is necessary.
We don’t have a flight, we don’t have a concrete national carrier that can flyus. Ethiopia has and a few has. Is it that we don’t have money? Why are unable to get a formidable structure of aviation system?
Why is it impossible?
So those structures like that, getting the correct flight that connects, that can fly us to any country. Most of the flights we take overseas are not from Nigeria and yet this is a source of economy for many other countries. I need a Nigeria that we have serious structure.
When I say structure I mean tangible structures, I mean structures in terms of transportation, train, land, water and air. I mean structures of government, governance. The system itself, where the system is not cumbersome, you just want to deal with something, overnight you get it done for you, you don’t have to wait for a long time.
These are the structures I am talking about. This is the kind of Nigeria I want to see. The last one a Nigeria that follows the constitution. Not Nigeria where somebody I’d above the constitution.
You see in America, we must quote that because things are better.if you go there there is traffic light, if it is showing red and you pass your number is taken and you gonna get your bill right there in the house and then you must pay, that is the law.
The law must be effective, the law must be efficient, the law must take its course and it foes not matter that the car that passes across whether its the president car.other issues connect to it, immunity, too many immunities, every body wants to get immunity, the President, governor, senators they want to be treated differently.
Where is the rule of law, the rule of law it says the supremacy of the law, equality before the law then back to the fundamental human rights, that is where the issue of kidnapping comes.
There is no freedom of movement. Now in those days I know I live in most parts of Nigeria before at least in the 90s 96,97, I was in Lagos 1,2a.m we will just go to lekki, have small sight of the ocean, take whatever, no problem, that was the security situation.
But today everybody travelling, the moment its 6 oclock you’re rushing to go back, why? In other countries, people’s work begins from nine, ten in the night, so I shouldn’t go freely to do my work and come back. In other countries they travel by, I remember travelling in the U.S by car from Pittsburgh in pensylvania by car down to Virginia.
It was a whole day’s journey, 13 hours, we traveled through the night till3,4a.m, nothing. You stop, there is a cafe, you take whatever you want, you want to ease yourself, you take coffee, nothing to be afraid of. No policeman stopping you on the road.
We need a crime free society and that is the first job of government. These are the issues of the kind of Nigeria.
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