CHUKWU DAVID reports on the power play that might determine the outcome of today’s election of the President of the 9th Senate
The die is cast in the nation’s political theatre, as members of the 9th Senate, billed for inauguration today, elect presiding officers, who will pilot their affairs. The battle in the Red Chamber is between two political giants, Senators Ahmad Lawan and Ali Ndume, all of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Both are from the North East geopolitical zone, where the party zoned the Senate presidency to. While Lawan is the anointed candidate of the APC leadership and the presidency, Ndume is seemingly, defiantly running independently and in fact, against the wishes of the party and the presidency.
The stepping down of Senator Danjuma Goje from the race on Thursday last week, reduced the tension and complexity earlier generated in the jostle for the number three highest political office in the land. Although Goje never publicly declared intention to run, there were however, insinuations and unexpressed signs that he was interested and indeed being backed by senatorselect of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were allegedly preparing him as the dark horse to spring surprises at election today. Now that the inclemency of the political atmosphere has been cleared, with Goje publicly announcing that he has stepped down from the race, the contest is strictly between Lawan and Ndume, a situation that makes the election much easier for the senators in choosing their leader.
It is pertinent to note that Lawan, who is also the outgoing Leader of the 8th Senate, is the most ranking among all the senators-elect that will be sworn in today. He has been in the National Assembly since the nation’s return to civil rule, beginning from the House of Representatives, where he served for two terms (1999-2007), before joining the Red Chamber after winning the Yobe North Senatorial seat in 2007. He sought to clinch the office of Senate President in 2015, but lost it in a controversial circumstance that saw Bukola Saraki emerging through an alliance with the opposition PDP, which produced Ike Ekweramadu as the Deputy President of the Senate.
Ndume, on his part, joined the National Assembly in 2003, where served two terms in the House of Representatives (2003-2011) before winning election to the Senate in 2011, where he just completed two terms and has been re-elected into the 9th Senate. He was nominated by the APC Senate Caucus of the 8th Senate as the Majority Leader of the apex legislative chamber, a position he held until January 2017, when he was removed and replaced with Lawan.
Ndume, who described the party’s adoption of Lawan as undemocratic, rolled out a nine-point agenda that he would implement if elected, among which is to make the office of the President of the Senate unattractive by reducing most of the unnecessary privileges attached to it.
He also promised to uphold the independence of the legislature, while at the same time working harmoniously and inter-dependently with the executive without undermining the principle of Separation of Powers. In the face of Ndume’s resilience towards the election today, Lawan appears to be more visibly mobile, meeting with relevant stakeholders, particularly the senators-elect across party lines, assuring them that he would run an inclusive leadership in the 9th Senate as well as ensure rancour-free executive/legislature relationship, while also upholding the upholding the independence of the parliament. Lawan and his Campaign Organisation addressed a press conference in Abuja at the weekend in Abuja, where it was revealed that Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central), who stepped down from the race and 60 other senators-elect had endorsed the former Senate leader for today’s 9th Senate presidential election.
The campaign organisation had earlier explained that out of the 62 APC senators-elect, 60 of them had endorsed Lawan by appending their signatures against their names on a list, which was presented to the press at the briefing. Ifeanyi Ubah, who was elected on platform of Young Progressives Party (YPP), had earlier declared his support for Lawan, making the number of senators supporting him to be 61. Lawan also said that about 35 to 38 senators-elect on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have endorsed him, noting that for obvious reasons, they did not sign the endorsement document signed by the 61 senators. However, in a swift reaction, Ndume said that he was not moved by the news of senators endorsing his opponent, expressing confidence that the purported endorsement notwithstanding, he would emerge the winner.
His words: “Well, I’ve said it before that I am not looking for endorsement. but looking for votes on election day. You know clearly that there is a difference between endorsement and election. You would recall too that in 2015, that story of endorsement was canvassed.
“He had the endorsement, but what happened on the floor of the Senate was different. This kind of thing has been there all along; we have seen endorsements against several elections. We are there already and shall become past in question of hours from now.” It was learnt that the two senators that didn’t endorse Lawan are Ndume and surprisingly, a supposed Lawan’s kinsman, Senator Ibrahim Mohammed Bomai (Yobe South). It will be recalled that the spokesperson of the 8th Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi, had on April 10, told journalists in Abuja that Senator Ahmad Lawan would emerge the president of the 9th Senate in June with two-third votes of members. According to him, negotiations were already on to garner support for Lawan to emerge president of the next Senate, assuring that Lawan’s leadership would be inclusive, in which all the lawmakers would be carried along irrespective of party affiliation.
He said that partisan politics among senators-elect, notwithstanding, the decision of the lawmakers would definitely be in favour of Ahmad Lawan, stating that from the track records of Lawan as an opposition member of the National Assembly for 16 years, he understood the feelings of the opposition and would not abuse the privilege if elected. Going by the turn of events in the Senate presidential contest so far, and if indeed that the PDP senators-elect truly endorsed Lawan and there is not going to be any betrayal of trust in the negotiations that have taken place between Lawan’s camp and other stakeholders, the election may be an easy victory for Lawan today. In the race for the office of the Deputy Senate President are former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North); Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo North) and Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central). Kalu has severally stressed the need for the ruling party to allow the South-East a presiding officer’s slot in the 9th Senate in order to give the zone a sense of belonging in the nation’s political equation under the present administration.
On his part, Omo-Agege has expressed confidence that he would emerge as the Deputy President of the Senate in today’s election, claiming that he has the backing of the APC leadership and President Muhammadu Buhari. He also said the National Assembly would not use the 2015 Senate Standing Orders (as amended), stating that the document did not pass through the prescribed legislative process of amendment, and should therefore, not be used again in the coming elections. Senator Alimikhena, on his part, claims he is the candidate to best in today’s contest to the number two highest office in the Upper Chamber, insisting that he will not step down from the race.
Alimikhena was the Deputy Whip of the 8th Senate. As twhe various contenders file out today, the belief in APC quarters is that if at the end of the day, Lawan emerges, irrespective of whoever is going to be elected as his deputy, it is almost certain that the 9th Senate will experience stability and enjoy the cooperation and support of the presidency.
It is also expected that when there is harmony between the executive and the legislature, Nigerians will be better for it, provided that there is no attempt to make the parliament an appendage of the executive, to a point that the wishes of the people are subjugated to the whims and caprices of anti-people cum anti-democratic forces within the executive arm.
Bayelsa guber: Election didn’t hold in 25% PUs – YIAGA AFRICA
YIAGA AFRICA said its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology showed that the last Saturday’s governorship election did not hold in at least 25 percent of the polling units of Bayelsa State.
At a press statement in Abuja Monday, YIAGA AFRICA said it deployed 21 mobile observers and 500 citizen observers for its PVT to a statistical sample of 250 polling units located across all eight local government areas of Bayelsa State.
It also disclosed that eight LGA result collation observers were deployed to the LGA collation centers.
The statement, which was signed by Dr. Aisha Abdullahi and Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chair and Co-Chair respectively of YIAGA AFRICA, alleged that the collation process for the Bayelsa governorship election was manipulated, particularly for Southern Ijaw local government.
“This calls into question the official results announced by INEC and credibility of this election,” the statement added.
Although it said its PVT could not determine who has won the governorship election for Bayelsa, “regardless of the outcome, the PVT estimates suggest that the official results were manipulated during the collation process.”
Bayelsa decides: Declare me winner, Diri urges INEC
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)in the just concluded Bayelsa State governorship electin, Senator Douye Diri on Monday called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare him winner of the election.
He said since INEC could not produced the Appeal Court’s stay of execution order that All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed allowed them to partake in the election, he authomatically becomes the winner of the election.
Speaking in Yenagoa during a press conference to express his displeasure on the outcome of the electionl, he said: “PDP contested with other political parties and not with APC because they were not supposed to be on the ballot paper by law based on the judgement of a high court in Yenagoa”.
Hear him: “INEC should declare me winner of the election. It is a shameful and laughable act by INEC to declare 83,041 votes in favour of the APC in Nembe where they had driven away almost everybody out of town. I have the results from our monitoring room.
“Based on the results from our monitoring room, APC scored 55,903 while PDP scored 98,582. Based on this result, PDP is the winner of that election .
“The PDP agent at the collation center, Odiyovwi Osusu wanted them to provide a stay of execution judgement but they couldn’t provide it.
“Ogbolomabiri materials were hijacked by Gabriel Jonah. I see those figures that were used to declare David Lyon winner as a charade and rouse. No PDP supporter should mourn that we lost. We won the election. INEC will surely announce PDP winner whether today or tommorow.
‘”Democracy is under threat, raped and anarchy is looming because soldiers have become thugs working for the APC as they militarialised the electoral process in Bayelsa State.”
Group tackles call to cancel Kogi election
A coalition of 16 governorship candidates in Kogi State Monday, condemned the call by some civil society groups for the cancelation of Saturday’s gubernatorial election election in the state.
Some civil society groups, who monitored the election, have been calling for the cancelation of the already declared poll, claiming the insincerity of the entire exercise.
But the group, at a press conference in Lokoja, the state capital, said the idea of calling for rerun, might lead to more loss of lives.
Addressing journalists at the conference, the governorship candidate of the Young Democratic Party, Dr. Sanni Shaibu Teidi, said the 16 candidates have since accepted the the result of the election, urging the losers to work with the winner of the election towards achieving accelerated development in the state.
“We congratulate His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello for the overwhelming victory at the poll and all others that participated in the election.”
While appealing to the winner of the election to be magnanimous in victory and prepare to mend fences for an all-inclusive governance, Teidi urged all Kogi stakeholders to accept the winner for participatory governance.
Governor Yahaya Bello, was on Monday declared winner of the November 16 gubernatorial election in Kogi State, a victory that has been rejected by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Kogi guber election, a declaration of war – Wada
*Heads to tribunal
Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State, Egnr. Musa Wada has described last Saturday’s election in the state as declaration and execution of war against Kogi people.
Wada, who addressed press conference in Abuja Monday alongside his running mate, Bamidele Aroh, said he would challenge the outcome of the election at the tribunal.
He said what happened in Kogi State on Saturday was an organised ‘war against democracy’; “coup against the people and seizure of power through brigandage and the barrel of the gun with members of the police and other security agencies coordinating the stealing of the people’s votes.”
The PDP candidate accused the police of aiding alleged armed thugs of All Progressives Congress (APC) to invade polling units with impunity, shoot and kill voters and carted away ballot boxes to government facilities where results were written in favour of APC and handed over to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce against the will of the people.
“Police helicopters were used to attack polling units, fire tear gas on voters and provide cover to APC hoodlums and policemen who brutalized the people of Kogi State and stole their mandate.
“The APC turned our state into a theatre of war. No fewer than nine innocent Nigerians were killed. Many more were maimed and injured by the APC in their desperation to seize power at all cost.
“It is therefore distressing that INEC went ahead with a shameful collation and declaration of fabricated results despite the glaring disruptions that characterized the shambolic exercise.
“In order to achieve this ignoble goal, INEC cancelled our votes in areas of our stronghold, subtracted from our votes in many other areas and padded the votes of APC to give a semblance of victory for APC,” Wada Stated.
He said people of Kogi were horrified, brutalized and dehumanized, adding that there have been weeping across the state since the announcement of another four years of Yahaya Bello was made.
Gov Bello dedicates victory to his mother, Kogi people
* Appreciates Buhari, Osinbajo, Tinubu, Oshiomhole, others
Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello has dedicated his victory in the last Saturday’s governorship election to his mother, Hawawu Bello.
He said the people of Kogi State are the winners of the election for breaking ethnic, class and age difference in the state by re-electing him during the poll.
Governor Bello while giving his acceptance speech during a press conference at Government House in Lokoja, shortly after he was declared winner on Monday, assured the people of the state that they will all benefit from the state resources.
The governor, who condemned the violence and killings in different parts of the state during the last poll, consoled with those who lost their love ones.
He therefore called on Inspector General of Police and other security agents to go after those behind the violence and killings, and bring them to book.
He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; APC National Leader, Asiwaju Tinubu; the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; the Chairman of APC Kogi State Governorship Campaign Council, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and other governors and party leaders for the role they played and contribution to his victory.
Kogi poll: Join hands with Bello to attain next level, APC tells PDP
The Kogi State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdulahi Bello, has called on the opposition especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to join hands with the party and Governor Yahaya Bello to move the state to the next level.
Bello made the call on Monday shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission returned Governor Bello as the winner of the Saturday election.
The APC chairman told our correspondent on telephone that the victory was “well deserved.”
“Considering the efforts put in place by APC during electioneering campaigns, we are not surprised that victory is achieved today.”
He said that Bello’s victory was not only for all Kogi citizens but for lovers of democracy all over Nigeria.
Reacting to PDP’s refusal to sign the final collated result, the chairman said that it does not in any way take the shine away from the victory as PDP did not campaign anywhere near the home ground of the governor.
“It shows that they are good politicians who know their areas of strength and weakness and decided to restrict themselves to his area of strength.”
JUST IN: Court of Appeal begins hearing Ganduje/Abba’s case
Muhammad Kabir, Kano
The Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna on Monday commenced hearing of the suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Kano State, Abba Kabir Yusuf challenging the electoral victory of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
In an earlier judgement, the Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, headed by Justice Halima Shamaki, had on October 2 upheld the electoral victory of Ganduje.
But the PDP and its governorship candidate, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, not comfortable with the judgment appealed the ruling.
Barrister Ma’aruf Yakasai is representing one of the defendants, Abdullahi Ganduje, Barrister Bashir Yusuf Tudun Wuzirci is representing one of the petitioners, Abba Kabir Yusuf and Abdulkarim Maude Minjibir is standing for INEC, another defendant in the suit.
Kogi decides: Yahaya Bello sweeps 12 LGAs
Based on results from the 21 local governments of Kogi State so far declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has won in 12 local governments while Engr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has so far won in nine local governments.
Revenue shortfall: Govs at a crossroads
Onyekachi Eze reports on the challenges being faced by state governors as a result of the dwindling revenue in the face of increasing wage bill and infrastructure need
t is really not the best of time for Nigerian governors. In the face of dwindling revenue, the state chief executives are grappling with increasing wage bills. This is also affecting socio-economic development in most of the states.
Of recent, some policies of the Federal Government and its agencies have taken huge tolls on the finances of state governments. A mention of this could suffice.
On June this year, commercial banks across the country began the implementation of the Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) directive, barring state governors from tampering with funds meant for local government councils.
Three months later (September), deductions for the repayment of N614 billion bailout fund granted to the states by the Federal Government began. Also, organized labour has given directive for the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage to workers by state governors by December 31 this year.
All these were happening at a time Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) accruing to the states is less than 40 per cent.
The N614 billion bailout fund was given to the governors in 2015 by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay salary and pension arrears of workers. The repayment process generated a lot of concern when the Federal Government announced plans to begin the deductions from the monthly allocations to states from the federation account.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the governors did not object to the deduction, but the repayment plan during last month’s National Economic Council (NEC) meeting. The meeting was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The minister said the governors unanimously opposed the two repayment plans proposed by the Federal Government.
She said: “The budget support facility was initially for a 20-year repayment period. And when we made the first deduction in September, the states had complained that the amount deducted, which was N252 million, was too harsh.
“So, since then, the Central Bank of Nigeria has revised the condition to make the repayment period longer. And so the new repayment period is 30 years. This means that the states will be paying N162 million monthly. But again today, the states still were not satisfied with the condition.”
The deduction is expected to remove a huge chunk of money from monthly allocations to the states from the federation account, and so means a big revenue loss to the states.
NFIU, an arm of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on May 6, issued what it called “Guidelines to Reduce Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawals from Local Government Funds throughout Nigeria.”
This guideline, which came into effect on June 1, directed that state and local government joint accounts should be operated solely as transit accounts from which funds will be distributed directly to the accounts of the local governments.
In other words, state governors have been removed from the management of the allocations accruing to the local government councils from the federation account. Attempts by the governors to reverse this directive failed.
In a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 15, shortly after the directive was issued, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the umbrella body of the 36 state governors in the country, accused the NFIU of mischief and deliberately seeking to cause disaffection in the polity.
The letter, which was signed by the then chairman of the forum, Abdul’aziz Yari (then governor of Zamfara State0, described the guideline as illegal and total disregard for the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Yari argued that Section 7 (6) (a) and (b) of the constitution confers on the national and state Houses of Assembly the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to the local councils.
His words: “Similarly, Section 162 (6) of the Constitution expressly provides for the creation of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.
“Section 162 (7) of the Constitution goes on to canter on the National Assembly the power to prescribe the terms and manners in which funds from the SJLGA may be disbursed, and in sub-section (8), the Constitution empowers the state House of Assembly to prescribe the manner in which the amount standing to the credit of the local councils in the state shall be distributed.”
He further argued that local governments are creation of the constitution and not a financial institution nor a reporting entity, which could be brought under the NFIU in the manner contemplated by the guidelines.
“We appeal to Mr. President to direct that the said guidelines be disregarded in view of its unconstitutionality and total disregard for due process.”
The President, however, refused to act, and on June 1, commercial banks in the country compiled with the directive, and the governors lost the battle and also a major source of revenue.
They equally fought against the N30,000 increase in workers’ salaries and lost. During the negotiations, the state chief executives said payment of N30,000 minimum wage was impracticable unless labour would agree to a downsizing of the workforce “or Federal Government accedes to the review of the national revenue allocation formula.”
Yari who led the NGF during the negotiations, argued: “We still said that we want to pay, but the issue is the ability to pay. If we say no, just pay, I don’t know how this formula will work and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue.
“Today it is N18,000. In 2015 when the President assumed office, 27 states were not able to pay, not that they chose not to pay. Now you say N30,000, how many of us can pay? We will be bankrupt.”
The governors proposed a N4,500 increment, which amounted to N22,500, but said the tripartite committee on the minimum wage set up by the presidency on the review of the minimum wage did not include their submission on the claim that it came late.
At the moment, the battle has shifted to the implementation. Although the governors agreed there would be “consequential adjustment,” which “will be determined on what happened on the state-by-state basis because there are different number of workers at state level and there are different issues at the state level,” organised labour has already set the template for negotiations by its members.
Despite the financial challenges facing the states, IGR is still a big problem. Before last month’s NEC meeting, commissioners of Finance from the 36 states of the country converged on Abuja, for a peer-learning workshop, which was the fifth in the series. The purpose was how to generate more revenue for the states in order to meet increasing demands.
World Bank Country Director in Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri and a representative of the Department for International Development (DFID), a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid in Nigeria, Chris Okeke, were among experts invited to tutor the commissioners on revenue generation.
Minister of Finance, Ahmed, who addressed the commissioners before they went into a technical session, said Nigeria needs fiscal sufficiency and buoyancy, which must come through domestic revenues, to be sustainable.
Her words: “We currently have a pervasive revenue generation problem that must change to successfully finance our development plans. Our current revenue to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of eight per cent is sub-optimal and a comparison of oil revenue to oil GDP and non-oil revenue to non-oil GDP performance reveals the significant area that requires immediate and dire intervention as the non-oil sector.”
On his part, the incumbent chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi, called for expansion of the revenue base, so that governors can provide to citizens, quality health care, education and world class infrastructure.
“We must work towards closing the wide revenue gap in order to position the country to meet the growing development needs. This responsibility lies in the capacity of our revenue authorities to improve tax administration capacity and governance especially in the non-oil sectors of the economy,” the Ekiti State governor said.
The general believe is that the country’s IGR is hampered by over reliance on oil revenue. This explains the consequent effect on the economy whenever there is a fall in the price of oil in the international market.
Both the World Bank and DFID agreed that low revenue mobilisation in Nigeria is as a result of over reliance on oil revenues and the absence of a social contract between the government and citizens.
World Bank’s Country Director, Chaudhuri, said he had always argued that the best measure of development of a country is not per capita GDP, but the quality of the services that the sub-national government could provide.
He advised the Nigerian government to invest in the people – the youth, children, health care, education and social protection – as well invest in infrastructure which requires revenue.
He, however, noted that right now “Nigeria does not have enough of it, most of the investments will come at the state level.”
For Okeke of DFID, the low level of domestic revenue mobilisation of the states is inadequate to support growth and development of key sectors of the economy, including health and education.
He sees the current fiscal crisis as good opportunity for both the federal and state governments to take difficult decisions to reform the oil sector, reduce dependency on oil revenue, diversifying the economy, tackle corruption and vested interests, and improve IGR.
He said: “We must resist the temptation to focus on raising IGR without understanding that taxation is a core component of the social contract. For people to willingly pay tax, they have to be convinced that the government will provide them with quality services.
“Global evidence on domestic revenue mobilisation shows that government can optimise IGR by focusing on equitable, diversified and sustainable sources, securing better links between taxes and public services, encouraging civil society support, educating citizens on tax, strengthening taxpayer’s rights and improving the capacity of revenue agencies.”
No doubt, this is food for thought for the governors in their quest to improve the revenue base of their respective states. They should also guard against leakages in revenue, which is a common trend at both federal and state levels.
Humiliation of Ndigbo, now a state policy – Ukoh
The founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Evang. Elliot Ukoh, in this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, bares his mind on so many national issues in Nigeria including the need to restructure Nigeria, among others
The 20th anniversary of your group was quite interesting, what actually has been the driving force of IYM?
IYM was founded and established by God for a particular purpose and He has been directing the affairs of the group since 1999. What started as a youth organisation designed to promote Igbo language and good behaviour amongst Igbo youths gradually began to accommodate questions on the precarious Igbo condition in Nigeria. Slowly, IYM began to enlarge the discussion from the importance of education and other issues to the need for Nigeria to ensure justice for Ndigbo.
IYM is not only fearlessly defending the rights of Ndigbo, but has metamorphosed to the authentic and trusted voice of the oppressed and voiceless Ndigbo. Because the Igbo elite can meander their way to survive in Nigeria, they do not care about the plight of the downtrodden. So, IYM initially wasn’t created to inspire the younger generation of Ndigbo, to wake them up from slumber, to make them understand that if they do nothing about their condition in Nigeria, they will only be shifting that job and responsibility to their progeny. But that is exactly what IYM became with time.
How far has the group been able to go in this set goal of sensitizing Igbo youths?
Nobody seemed to care about the younger generation of Ndigbo. So I took up the gauntlet. My target was purely the younger generation; to prepare them for the task ahead. I travelled across the country, preaching to Igbo youths to organise themselves and fight for their rights. I told them that nobody would fight for them if they don’t fight for their rights. I showed them glaring instances of clear oppression and subjugation of Ndigbo in Nigeria. I moved from school to school, compiled details of brazen suppression of our rights and denial of our dues as part of Nigeria. It was only a matter of time before they woke up from their slumber. I was fortunate, respected elders honoured my invitation to speak to the youth at every of my seminars. We had questions and answer sessions. It was those questions and answers sessions that opened my eyes to the depth of the frustration of the Igbo younger generation and I became alarmed.
Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu, who generously and kindly attended dozens of IYM seminars, confided in me that he wasn’t shocked at the bitterness in the hearts of the youth. He told me that he knew the younger generation will be very angry at the treatment they are receiving from Nigeria. He said the rest of Nigeria do not care about the frustration of Igbo youths because Nigeria is still busy celebrating the defeat of Biafra but that the younger generation will not accept the suppression of Ndigbo much longer. He knew that something was bound to happen. He posited that the envy and fear of Ndigbo was largely responsible for the conspiracy to hold Ndigbo down perpetually.
So, by the late 1980s, I had known that the younger generation will reject and resist the position of servitude designed for Ndigbo by the victors of the civil war. I happened to know this not because I am a very smart person. I found out simply because I organised seminars for Igbo youths and during question and answer sessions, young Igbo men would lament that they are tired of Nigeria and wished for a separate state, where they would be treated like human beings. Students will say the same thing traders at Aba and Lagos as well as civil servants would say and these people do not know each other.
Why do you think the lamentations of Igbo youths are not heeded to by successive Nigerian governments?
The Nigerian state was clearly deceived by the “desperate hustling” of the Igbo elite club, who are desperate for anything that they are willing to execute a contract through subletting, even crawling from office to office licking boots for crumbs. Nigeria’s leadership erroneously concluded that Ndigbo have finally accepted the humiliating position designed for them as their proper place in Nigeria. Accordingly, the humiliation of Ndigbo became state policy but they forgot that Igbo elite represent only one per cent of Ndigbo. They also forgot that Igbo are republican in nature; that every Igbo reacts according to how the shoe pinches him and the Igbo are never controlled by the announcement from somebody somewhere.
They also did not realise that the elite accepted the continuous humiliation in Nigeria because of two reasons. One, they are educated and therefore can always find a way to survive in Nigeria known globally as a very corrupt playground for Asian and Middle East scammers, masquerading as business men and who boast all over the world, how Nigerian officials are the easiest to compromise their positions to the detriment of their own citizens. Secondly, the trauma of the civil war created two different classes of Ndigbo – those who are willing to accept the continuous humiliation of Ndigbo and those who are willing to do anything to restore their lost dignity. This fact, sadly, remains lost on the Nigerian state, which regrettably believes that force and intimidation will subdue the angry Igbo younger generation to accept the continuous humiliation Ndigbo have been facing since 1970.
Could that be why the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are agitating for Biafra and is that the way out for Ndigbo?
I have repeatedly screamed the way out for decades. I have been screaming long before Ralph Uwazurike established MASSOB. If I had joined my friends and classmates to hustle for political accommodation in Nigeria, I would not have known the shocking discovery I found out during the seminars organized for Igbo youths by IYM. If those friends parading as themselves successful politicians had found time to organise seminars for Igbo youths like I did in the 1980s and 1990s, they too would have discovered the degree of anger burning in the hearts of the younger generation. They also would have known that even their sycophants are not happy with Nigeria. They would have known that the only people happy with Nigeria are those benefiting from the misery in the land. They would have known that these agitations were inevitable. It was bound to happen. Nigeria was bound to come to this.
In all these, what is the way out?
I would only be repeating myself. 25 years ago, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu asked Bob Onyema to bring me to Villaska lodge, Ikoyi for a meeting. At that time, I was leading a coalition of Ndigbo Youth groups in Lagos. What came out from that very important gathering of very important leaders was actually packaged for the General Sani Abacha constitutional conference of 1994/1995. What some people at that time called Afenifere agenda simply because the Senator Abraham Adesanya-led National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) amplified it at that time. I am yet to see any superior argument till date.
Nigerians have no better choice. Nigeria is not working. There are reports of past conferences, many sections are bitter and angry with the current structure, some even want to opt out of Nigeria. The system that worked from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s gave everyone a sense of belonging. Those lying to themselves that they can hold Nigeria together under this unitary structure are the problem. Why they choose to deceive themselves beats me. Nigeria cannot grow under this military constitution. If the political structure is not reconstructed to true federalism by devolving powers to the federating units, Nigeria will collapse. Going back to the 1963 Republican Constitution is the way out.
Former minister, Prof Chinedu Nebo said recently that Igbo political leaders are responsible for the woes of Ndigbo. Do you agree with him?
Prof. Nebo is a highly respected intellectual and leader of men. It depends on what context he spoke. Everybody knows the Igbo political leadership has not done well. Just look at the zone. No seaport, no airport, no rail services, no motorable road. That’s not all; there is no clear political direction. Add this to the popular narrative all over the country that a certain influential politician from the South-West drafted President Muhammadu Buhari for the top job six years ago due to what they termed, the unbridled arrogance of Igbo politicians who encircled then President Goodluck Jonathan at the time, fending off everybody else, so the story goes. This politician from the South-West was very bitter with the Igbo politicians who surrounded Jonathan at the time.
He lamented how he abandoned his own presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, and entered into a deal to return Jonathan in 2011, only to be dealt a bad card. He is said to be willing to forgive Jonathan, but remains unforgiving to the Igbo politicians who he believed misled Jonathan. Out of anger and frustration, he entered into alliance with Buhari, to get back at Ndigbo. Now if this narrative is true, it then throws up the question: What did Ndigbo benefit from Jonathan for which we are presently suffering so much isolation over the conduct of Igbo political class over which some people do not wish to forgive Ndigbo?
It could only mean, that those Igbo politicians who shepherded Jonathan and allegedly blocked this angry South-West leader from receiving any patronage whatsoever from Jonathan hijacked Jonathan for their personal benefit as there is nothing to show for Igbo unalloyed support for Jonathan. Absolutely nothing! It is even said that Igbo sons and daughters in that government mindlessly helped themselves with funds meant for infrastructural development in Igbo land. Pathetic! In that case, Prof. Nebo is absolutely correct. He must know what he is talking about as he was an insider as minister in Jonathan’s government.
Metro and Crime21 hours ago
Mother of four killed in presence of her pleading children
Metro and Crime20 hours ago
Police discover lion at residential building in Lagos
Metro and Crime4 hours ago
At last, Lagos evacuates lion to Lekki Zoo
News20 hours ago
Yenagoa residents: We voted against PDP over Alaibe’s humiliation
News20 hours ago
Kogi guber: Bello leads Wada with 233,672 votes
News8 hours ago
Senate disowns Hate Speech Bill, says it’s Abdullahi’s idea
Law20 hours ago
EFCC arraigns 2 for defrauding FCMB of N450m
Politics10 hours ago
JUST IN: Court of Appeal begins hearing Ganduje/Abba’s case