PHILIP NYAM recounts how members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) engaged in fisticuffs over the announcement of Hon. Ndudi Elumelu as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives
Less than one month after the 9th House of Representatives was inaugurated, lawmakers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other minority parties last Thursday disagreed on the choice of leaders, leading to a fracas on the floor of the chambers. It was indeed a baptism of fire for Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who was presiding over a rancorous session for the first time as speaker.
It was a litmus test, which the speaker, from the assessment of many analysts, played his cards well and in fact won the day. As an experienced lawmaker, Gbajabiamila stuck to the provisions of the House Standing Orders and Rules and was able to steal the show. He asserted his powers as the presiding officers, thereby piercing the soul of the leadership of the PDP.
Before the disagreement that caused the fight, three ranking PDP members were locked in the battle for the position of minority leader. The immediate past chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Hon. Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State, erstwhile chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, from Delta and Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, then Chairman of the House Committee on Power that investigated allegations of wasteful spending of $16 billion on power by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration without commensurate result. But as the days progressed, Hon. Ossai slowed down his campaign apparently to allow the will of the party to prevail. However, Elumelu remained adamant and stood eye to eye with Chinda.
There were allegations that while Chinda had the backing of the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike and the National Chairman of PDP, Elumelu enjoyed the patronage of his governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and other PDP governors who felt the Rivers axis of the party was becoming overbearing and needed to be cut to size.
Consequently, analysts held that while Elumelu was traversing the length and breadth of the country soliciting for votes from governors and other minority stakeholders, Chinda was instead engrossed in the euphoria of being endorsed by the party, oblivious of the fact that some powerful stakeholders within the party only acceded to his choice in order not to offend the national chairman and his group. It was, therefore, clear that Chinda’s choice as the minority leader would not fly.
But like Chinda, the PDP never had any inkling that a parliamentary coup was being hatched against its preferred choice, perhaps with the knowledge of the House leadership. Hence, after submitting the letter nominating Chinda and his leadership, the party went to sleep and never followed up; and since the principal officers from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were not announced, the apparatchiks at Wadata House stayed glued to their comfort zone.
However, at the plenary of last Thursday, fight broke out when a faction of the PDP controlled by Chinda attempted to remove the mace in order to prevent Speaker Gbajabiamila from announcing minority leaders chosen by the nine opposition parties in the chamber. The minority leaders were Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu (PDP, Delta) Minority Leader; Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) as Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Gideon Gwani (PDP, Kaduna) as Minority Whip and Hon. Adesegun Adekoya (PDP, Oyo) as Deputy Minority Whip.
The PDP national leadership had in a letter to the Speaker nominated Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers) as Minority Leader with Hon. Chukwuka Onyema as Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Yakubu Barde (Kaduna) as Minority Whip and Hon. Muraino Ajibola as Deputy Minority Whip.
But 111 out of 145 members of all the eight opposition parties in the House in a counter elected Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) as Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Gideon Gwani (PDP, Kaduna) as Minority Whip and Hon. Adesegun Adekoya (PDP, Oyo) as Deputy Minority Whip.`
Trouble, however, started at plenary when Speaker Gbajabiamila recognised the letter from the minority parties announcing Hon. Elumelu as the Minority Leader. Chinda had raised a point of order citing Order 7 (14) to draw the attention of the speaker to an earlier communication from the PDP endorsing him and others as principal leaders of the minority in the House. According to Chinda, the letter was received by speaker on June 26.
He argued that it was the responsibility of the party to write to the speaker nominating principal officers, but was ruled out of order by Gbajabiamila, who explained that by provision of Order 7(8), it was the went ahead to read the opposing list. In ruling Chinda out of order, the speaker explained that “I will take the burden of reading Order 7(8), which talks about minority leadership.
It says clearly and unambiguously that it is all the minority parties that shall nominate. However, you want to slice it and read, there is no ambiguity.”
And Order 7(12) that talks about eligibility and not the process; and the names I have here has nobody without legislative experience. There are eight minority parties in this House and if you are telling me that the PDP had written a letter to me stating who the minority leaders should be, it is outside the scope of PDP because PDP is only one of the minority parties.
“Other minority parties must by our rules be involved in the nomination of minority leaders.
The letter I have here has the signatures of several their members; other minority members have signed into this and it is important we stick to the rule of law.
“So, Hon. Chinda, based on what I have read from the law, there’s no lacuna and you are ruled out of order” Immediately, the speaker proceeded to read out the names of minority leaders nominated by the eight parties but members loyal to Chinda group surged towards the mace but were prevented by those in support of Gbajabiamila. Hon. Gogo Tamuno from Rivers, however succeeded in lowering the mace, which is the symbol of authority before he was over powered by the sergeant at arms and other lawmakers opposed to the emergence of Chinda as minority leader.
They quickly formed a barricade around the mace even as the lawmakers engaged one another in a free for all. In the rowdiness, Speaker Gbajabiamila read out the names and hit the gavel inviting for a motion to adjourn the House. “Honourable, move the motion for adjournment.
Honourable move motion for adjournment. Move motion for adjournment my friend”, he repeated. The motion was moved and House adjourned abruptly; with members guiding and providing cover for the speaker to leave the chambers. Elumelu Briefing the media after plenary, Hon. Elumelu said his faction was the leadership recognised by 115 out of the 145 members representing all the eight opposition parties in the House. “We are here to speak to Nigerian and also to reaffirm the newly appointed minority leaders of this Green Chamber.
“Graciously, God has made it that my colleagues from nine minority parties have nominated me as their minority leader. We are all from nine political parties. For us who are from PDP we are very loyal to PDP. We believe in PDP. And of course we no other party than PDP and we have followed what has happened and have accepted our nomination based on Order 7 Rule 8.
We have complied with the position of the rule of the House”, submitted. Representatives of other political parties also affirmed the submission of Hon. Elumelu insisting that the PDP cannot choose leaders for all minority parties since it was just one among equals. Hon. Leke Joseph Abejide (ADC, Kogi), Hon. Ojo Kingsley China (AA, Imo), Hon. Ifeanyi Anthony Ibezi (APGA, Anambra) and Hon. Tajudeen Adeyemi Adefisoye (SDP, Ondo), all confirmed the position of all minority parties on the nomination of Elumelu as minority leader.
At a counter media briefing, Hon. Chinda said the minority leadership announced by the speaker was unacceptable to them. He said the APC cannot chose leaders for the minority parties.”We speak to you as members of the minority caucus in the House of Representatives. Let us very sincerely apologise to you and to Nigerians for the fracas that took place today. It is not in our character as very responsible people.
“It is not in our wish that it should go that way. It is also not proper that as parliamentarians, we will seat down and see our rights been trampled upon.
So, we apologize to Nigerians” Chinda stated. Chinda said: “The issues are that of minority leadership. It is standard parliamentary practice, that in parliament minority leadership comes from among the minority parties and a correspondence is always sent – letter from the major minority party. In our case, that was followed.
“The PDP in discussion with other minority parties agreed on her leadership in parliament, and forwarded a letter to Mr. Speaker dated June 21 2019.
A copy of the letter was received on June 26 in the office of the Speaker. “We came today only to hear our dear speaker attempting to read what he themed as correspondence from a congregation of political parties. That, some honorable members have endorsed some other persons as minority leader outside what was forwarded to him.
And that he would want to adopt that. “From our rules, particularly Order 7, Rule 8, member of the minority parties shall among themselves nominate the minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy whip. We have all met as members of minority party twice. Did our nomination and we agree that the party should go back and choose among the nominee’s and get back to us.
“The party did exactly that and we reconvened and received the report of the party and we left satisfied; only for us to attend plenary today and see this ambush. It is unfortunate as this is very unparliamentary. We are not going to take it. We must do things properly. We are members of the minority party. “Our leadership will not be determined by the majority party.
We are aware of the scheming of the APC that the target is to decimate the minority party in parliament and that they will decide who becomes minority leader. We will not allow that to happen.
“We stand on the letter from the party. As far we are concern our leaders have been selected and appointed by the party. It is only for the Speaker to read the correspondence that he has. We don’t have any issue with our leadership”, Chinda insisted.
As the House reconvenes this week, many believed that the fight may just be beginning as the PDP has aggravated the crisis by hastily suspending Elumelu and his close supporters, without hearing their part of the story. With the leadership of the House led by Gbajabiamila being accused of complicity in the plot to forestall the PDP from foisting a leadership on the minority, it may be too early to guess when and where the pendulum will swing.
Capacity, not zoning should determine who becomes president– Akinosun
Mr. Dapo Akinosun, a legal practitioner, is the Managing Partner at SimmonsCooper Partners. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on recent rulings by the election petition tribunals, the 2023 presidency and need to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others
What is your take on the Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 presidential election?
At the Court of Appeal level, it was very clear what the judgement was and if you understand what the petition was all about, the main plank of the petition was that there was a server, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had and from which Atiku Abubakar got the result. Buts, INEC came to court and said ‘we do not have a server like that.’ Atiku said ‘we would prove you had a server.’ They brought a witness and the witness said he couldn’t ascertain whether the server exists.
That was the main plank of the petition itself, but they dabbled into other areas about the age of President Muhammadu Buhari and whether he has the qualification to run. The Court of Appeal had interpreted that already. What the constitution says is that you must have education to secondary school level; nowhere in the constitution does it say you must present your certificate and they clarified that. So, I believe that petition was brought in dead; it was not even dead on arrival, it was already dead before it was brought into court. The answers were clear, so there was no way it was going to fly.
President Buhari recently travelled out of the country without handing over to his vice and some people even said the President can govern from anywhere. What is your opinion on that?
There is no law that says the President must hand over if he is traveling. He is the president; he determines what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. The power of the president is executive and unchallengeable; he can exercise it whichever way he wants. However, there is an argument that if he is going to be away for a period that will be longer than 21 days, then he should handover otherwise the legislature could look into it and determine a way forward. Ordinarily, the president determines where he goes and when he goes; he is not bound by any rule in the constitution to hand over.
How would you respond to the perceived internal wrangling in the presidency?
I will say that the perception is wrong. There are issues like in every organisation about realignment and repositioning, but I don’t think there is any serious wrangling in the presidency.
But recent developments in the polity tend to show that there are moves against the vice president..
I don’t know the moves you have seen?
First, he was removed from heading the economic team, some of his aides were sacked and in some places he was meant to represent the president, others did that…
The President determines who represents him and where he would be represented. If I say you should represent me, it is in my interest to determine who is representing me.
What about the intent to whittle down the power of the vice president?
What are the powers of the vice president? The constitution is specific about the powers of the vice president and what the vice president can do and I am not sure anybody has taken what the constitution said the vice president can do. The constitution is also clear that every other thing dependent on what the president says he (vice president) can do. But as far as the constitution is concerned, his powers have not been tampered with.
Are you saying there is no wrangling in the presidency?
I believe so.
But, this is not how he was treated some years ago considering the relationship that existed between him and the president.
I believe the relationship between the President and his vice is very cordial. The Vice-President enjoys the mutual respect of the President. You heard that when the Vice-President visited the President’s hometown, the Emir of Daura said he is the best man and we have that kind of comment from people who are seated in some kind of spiritual or local authority over the President. They have always commended the Vice-President. I suspect that it is even the media that is creating the hype in the relationship, which is however intact.
Some people are saying that what is happening in the presidency is all about the politics of 2023, how true is that?
I think the rush towards 2023 is being too much in a hurry. We are still in 2019, there is still, 2020, 2021 and 2022; we still have more than three years to 2023. I think we should let people do the work that they were elected to do. The problem here is the way the media are hyping 2023. Let them do the work for now and I am sure the Vice-President has shown consistently that he is not interested in all this stuff. He has consistently been doing the work and I think everybody should emulate that.
But campaigns for the 2023 presidency have already started…
I have not heard of it and I am not part of it, but I do know that there are works to be done before then. What can help them to come back in 2023 is the magnitude of work they are able to do between now and 2023. It is not about the campaign, it is about the result of what they did. If people are happy, they will vote them in the next election. If they are unhappy, they will not vote for them. No matter the campaign, if you have not governed well, there will be no comeback.
How do you see the battle for the presidency between the South and North?
It has always been a battle between the South and North on who should be the next president. The North says it is their turn, the South says it is theirs. They said there is a sharing formula agreed within the party; that is internal politics. If I am in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I don’t have to align with what All Progressives Congress (APC) says; each party has its own zoning policy.
Is rotational presidency healthy for our democracy?
Every geo-political zone has a potential president, so I don’t think it should be restricted by reason of where you come from, but it should be more about your capacity to lead. We should be looking at capacity now not where you come from really. There is an allusion to that in the recent court judgement that said students should not be admitted into schools based on geo-political zone, changing their choice of school or give preference based on where they come from. We should look at capacity.
How would you react to the call that Nigeria should adopt unicameral legislation and that cost of governance should be reduced so that the country can have more money for capital projects?
I quite agree with that but who is going to make the law? The legislature will make the law. I have said it at some fora before that legislators always say that they have constituency projects to embark on, they are taking money so that they can take care of their constituencies and I have asked: ‘Your constituency has been complaining that your allowances are too much.’ I have never heard them once debate that. Maybe we should encourage them to debate the allowances and encourage them to examine the actual value of having a legislator.
I was at a forum where one legislator said many of the legislators are not really educated, trained or understand what democracy is really about and they need to be trained consistently. The questions are: ‘Can’t we increase the educational qualification required to be a legislator; can’t we reduce the amount and make it part-time? There are different modules, but we still have to go back to the legislators to change it.
Nigerians seem to be going through difficult moments over the closure of the borders by the Federal Government. What is your view on that?
I honestly thought it was a bad thing to close the border. However, listening to people like the manufacturers and importers, who should be the ones complaining; they are the ones commending the government that they are happy with the border closure. And I have looked at it that the arguments are either way. There are some people saying what has been the effect.
We said we are protecting our local industry and I will take cement as one of the examples that have been used. At a time, we closed the boarders against importation of cement, now we have a lot of cement being homegrown. So, the fact that we shut down our border can also help us to develop our rice industry. The other question is that even the cement we do now, is it cheaper than what we were importing before and will the rice become cheaper ultimately. But those are questions we can only find out with time and then we can review policy, but right now, we need to be able to manufacture and grow it in our country.
What is your view about the speculation of President Buhari is scheming for a third term?
It is only a funny speculation. The man has not even done 2020; we are talking about 2023. Let them do the work they need to do now.
Some people are also saying there is need for a six-year single tenure…
I don’t agree with six-year single tenure. I think there should be opportunity for a man to come back and test his popularity if he has done well.
Looking at the issues surrounding some of the outcome of the 2019 elections; rulings of the court, malpractices and electoral fraud, how do you think we can strengthen INEC?
It is a multi-throng approach. The first thing is to make sure that crime does not pay and unless people are punished for bad behavior, they will always behave badly. But because punishment takes a long time to come, people still get away with crime. Our judicial system should first of all be strengthened and corrected. The real challenge of the judiciary is that they are underfunded and underpaid and it is easier to compromise people when they are not well paid. We should therefore restructure the judiciary and make sure that they are well remunerated. Then you will find out that whenever there is situation that needs to be adjudged without any bias; they will give the right judgement.
IPMAN to FG: Rescind decision banning supply of fuel to border communities
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has called on the Federal Government to rescind its decision suspending the supply of petroleum products to filling stations within 20 kilometres to all Nigerian borders.
In a press statement signed by the Publicity Secretary of the association, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, the group under the leadership of Alhaji (Engr) Sanusi Abdu Fari stated that the decision has brought untold hardship to residents of most Nigerian communities located close to the border as they now have to travel between 30 to 50km to source for petroleum products for their personal uses.
The statement read in part: “Majority of the petrol stations operating in this Nigerian border towns are owned by our members who are duly licensed in line with the relevant laws of Nigeria. They are now seriously affected because their source of livelihood has been shut down by the federal government and they are finding it extremely difficult to survive.
“We therefore, call on the Federal Government to reconsider the suspension and allow the supply of petroleum products to these Nigerian communities close to the border, but this time around, intensify the monitoring of petroleum products supplied to these communities by improving the communication and relationship amongst her various agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Civil Defence to curb incidents of diversion.”
Coalition of observers call for cancellation of Bayelsa guber poll
The Coalition of Civil Society Election Observers Group has called on the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to cancel the results of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa and conduct a fresh poll.
Speaking during a press conference in Lagos on Thursday, the Chairman of the coalition, Olufemi Lawson and the Secretary, Ologun Ayodeji, said the high rate of violence and killings of innocent people are enough reasons for the electoral commission to cancel the election.
They said the result should not be allowed to stand, as it did not reflect the wishes of Bayelsans, adding that if the election is allowed to stand, it would be setting a bad precedence for future elections where politicians would get more daring if they know that there would be no consequences for their actions.
Lawson disclosed that reports by the coalition, comprising civil society groups, which monitored the election, and some other local and international observers revealed that the election was not credible as it was characterised by irregularities.
He said there were many proven cases of violence during the election as well as many cases of ballot snatching and stuffing.
“The result of the election cannot be said to represent the aspirations of the genuine voters in the state and we therefore call for the cancellation of the results of the governorship election,” he said.
Bayelsa, Kogi polls: PDP calls for travel bans on police high command, NEC officials
*Says outcome, products of bloodshed
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the international community to place travel bans on officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and police high command for the roles they allegedly played during last weekend’s governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
The party also demands the cancellation of the entire election, including the Kogi West senatorial poll, describing the outcome as products of bloodshed.
PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, at a press conference in Abuja Thursday, said the elections were “the biggest fraud of the century.
“The PDP, standing with millions of Nigerians also holds that the INEC and the police high command must be made answer charges of electoral fraud and crime against humanity at the appropriate quarters.”
Condemnations have trailed the November 16 governorship, including from the United Kingdom and the United States, which decried the violence that characterized the elections.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have equally called for the cancellation of the entire elections, alleging that the conduct fell short of acceptable standard.
Secondus at the press conference, which was attended by other members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), said the results of the elections did not reflect the true wishes and aspiration of the people of the states.
He noted that the primary duty of INEC and the police is to ensure free, fair and credible election.
“This they observed in the breach as even reported by agents, voters, stakeholders and independent observers in the elections. They must therefore be made to face the consequences to serve as deterrent to others.
“The PDP therefore calls on the international community as well as international organisations including, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union (AU), ECOWAS, to immediately impose sanctions, including travel bans, on the INEC and the police high commands for abusing their offices and allegedly aiding or allowing acts that led to electoral fraud and violence in the elections,” Secondus said.
APC to Dickson: Don’t blame Army, Police for PDP’s election defeat
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Yekini Nabena Thursday dismissed the claims by the governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson that security agents connived with the APC to hijack electoral materials in many local government areas in Saturday’s governorship election.
The deputy party spokesman charged Nigerians to disregard the claim, adding that: “It was obvious that the people of Bayelsa state have chosen to embrace the change and massively rejected governor Dickson’s stooge.”
Speaking at a brief interactive session with a select newsmen in Abuja, Nabena said he understood Dickson’s frustration after his rigging plans failed.
He, however, advised the governor to concentrate on the preparation of his handover notes.
He said: “Governor Seriake Dickson has decided to take out his frustration on security agencies, particularly the Army and Police following the loss of his candidate in the recent Bayelsa governorship election. Why will Dickson blame security agencies for his loss? Bayelsans rejected Dickson, his candidate and the PDP. Governor Dickson can choose to hide under his media show after the election, but he knew defeat was imminent. That is why he tried unsuccessfully to use all manner of illegal tactics to rig the election including vote buying and violence.
“While Governor Dickson must be commended for swiftly inaugurating the 41-member Bayelsa governorship transition committee, I advise him to concentrate on preparing his handover notes with the remaining time he has left in office.”
The APC candidate Chief David Lyon won the election and is slated to assume office on February 14, 2020.
Bayelsa decides: INEC gives Lyon Certificate of Return
Pauline Onyibe, Yenagoa
The newly elected governor of Bayelsa State David Lyon and his Deputy Biobarakuma Eremieyun Degi on Thursday recieved their Certificates of Return following their victory in last Saturday’s election
Receiving the certificate, the governor elect in his remarks thanked Bayelsans for deciding to cast their votes for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which he said made the state to record the most peaceful election in the history of Bayelsa State.
He assured the people of the state that Bayelsa’s money was not his money nor Deputy Governor’s money but assured that the money will be used judiciously to make sure that the state is developed.
“Today we are signing a contract with Bayelans. You should understand David Lyon and APC are signing a contract and that contact is to develop Bayelsa State. The contract is to bring peace so that investment will come on board in the state.
“I assure you that David Lyon, his team and APC will not disappoint Bayelans. Let me also say this, in an election, we have alot of contestants and today by the will of God, I have emerged the winner.
“That does not mean that other contestants did not win. All of us won the election and there are no losers. This is the time for us to come together, ” he said.
He also thanked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies maintaining that they did a very good job.
Speaking earlier, the INEC Commissioner supervising Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers states, May Agbamuche Mbu in her remarks said: “Today we are here to celebrate the end of a process which started seven months ago.
“I’m proud to report that the electionl conducted on November 16, 2019 in Bayelsa was largely peaceful free, fair and credible.
“The Commission is hopeful that this commendable gesture will continue to be part of the electoral process in Bayelsa State.”
Why North’ll not relinquish power in 2023 – Idahosa
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, Chief Charles Idahosa, in this interview, speaks on recent political developments in the country as well as the crisis rocking the state’s chapter of the party. Felix Nwaneri reports
What do you make of the recent sack of 35 aides of Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo, which some Nigerians saw as part of the plot believe there are attempts to whittle down his powers?
Nigerians like blowing things out of proportion. The President employs the aides of the Vice-President. If for any reason the President wants to downsize, why should anybody read any meaning to it? The number of staff of the Vice-President was more than that of the President and therefore they felt there is a need to reduce it. I don’t think anybody should read any meaning to it. I don’t see anything Osinbajo has done that will bring confrontation between him and anyone.
I think what is confusing Nigerians is what happened during Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar’s presidency. Obasanjo started sacking Atiku’s staff and that culminated in the open confrontation, which led to Atiku going to court and even contesting for the presidency under another the platform of another political party, while still in office as vice-president. Buhari is not as complicated as people think he is.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t think there is any problem. I am not close to the presidency, but as an observer from a distance, if the President says the number of staff of the Vice-President is too much and decided to reduce it, I don’t see anything wrong in that. People are just trying to make a mountain of a molehill. Don’t forget that the opposition will always take advantage of everything to fight back, but I don’t see any issue here. It is just politics.
Some people are alleging that President Buhari is scheming to get a Third term in office. Do you think that is realistic?
Buhari is not that kind of person. I have also read it and I believe that it is the handiwork of fifth columnists. The President is a democrat and will not do anything to subvert the constitution.
How about the plot by the North to retain power beyond 2023?
We have not gotten to 2023 yet, but I see a situation where the North will not let go of power. They will still go for the presidency in 2023 after President Buhari’s tenure. If that happens, I am going to support a northern president.
Do you mean you will support a northerner as president after Buhari would have completed eight years?
Yes, I will support a northern president because there is something funny about southerners. We think we know more than northerners, but they are more politically sophisticated than us. I think the leaders who by 1998 agreed to a clean slate after so many years of military coup and after the MKO Abiola debacle agreed that the South and North will rule for eight years and it will continue like that on a rotational basis. We were all very happy with that arrangement. I believe that anybody saying that the northerners have dominated us is talking bunkum. The northern heads of state got to power by coups. For all the coups that failed, those involved were tied to the stakes and shot and they were 90 per cent northerners.
Southerners were scared of coups. I remembered the case of Obasanjo. He was so scared to be Head of State after Murtala Muhammed was assassinated. If Theophilus Danjuma wanted to be Head of State that year, it would have been so easy for him. I remembered Danjuma was quoted to have told Obasanjo: ‘How can you be alive as second-in-command and you said you don’t want to be Head of State? Let me take over and we tell Nigerians that we eliminated you.’ That was when Obasanjo panicked and accepted to become Head of State.
By 1999, most of the people who were in power came in through military coup and that cannot be used to judge a democratic government. In order to appease southerners, especially the South- West over what happened to Abiola, they brought Obasanjo out of prison, cleaned him up, gave him money and he became president of Nigeria. Obasanjo became president with northern votes because he lost his polling unit, his ward, local government, his state and his zone.
Alliance for Democracy (AD) took all the states in the South-West, but when Obasanjo became president, he consolidated by plotting against the North. After doing his eight years, he wanted a Third term but it failed. He then decided to pick a sick northerner in the person of late Umaru Yar’Adua, knowing full well that he cannot last eight years as president. He also picked a weak politician in the person of Goodluck Jonathan as vice-president, leaving people like Peter Odili and Donald Duke who were very effective. Obasanjo’s plan was that if Yar’Adua dies, Jonathan will take over as president, so that he can continue his third term agenda through him. He, however, forgot to put into consideration that Jonathan had people like Chief Edwin Clark and other Ijaw leaders.
So, immediately Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua as president, they took control of him and Obasanjo got stranded. He became so angry and started fighting Jonathan and brought Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari also pushed him aside and he also became angry and endorsed Atiku, thinking that whoever he supports will win the election. For the first time, Buhari won election without his support. What I am trying to say in essence is that northerners did not complete their tenure between 2007 and 2015 and it was a deliberate act by Obasanjo.
We must ensure that North completes the six years that Jonathan ruled after Yar’Adua died, so that the equation would be balanced. That is why I will support a northern candidate if the North decides to contest in 2023. I will not support a southern candidate because we must respect our northern brothers. That is my position as regards the 2023 presidential election.
What about the agitation for Igbo presidency in 2023?
Forget the Igbos! They have shot themselves in the leg. It is a very funny demand. Why will anyone want to give Igbos presidency when there is no APC in the zone at all? The only party that could have given Igbos presidency is the APC. Buhari told them but they decided to vote for PDP. Now, from all indications, they will rather support Atiku for presidency again because the position of vice-president will still go the South-East.
I see Atiku running again because the 2019 presidential election is the nearest he has come. I don’t think the Igbos deserve presidency because if they do, they ought to have planned properly. The late Emeka Ojukwu gave them APGA, but they threw it away. So, under which party will they get presidency?
The political battle between the National Chairman of your party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki is assuming a frightening dimension. What do you think really went wrong between the two friends?
I have said a lot on this matter and I don’t want to be sounding like a broken record. But I want to assure you that nobody can stop Obaseki from doing his two terms. I am behind him morning, night and day. Uhunmwonde people are behind him. Oshiomhole said Obaseki is not carrying people along, I don’t know what he meant by that. I just discovered that this whole thing will not end now.
If two friends are quarreling and you cannot settle the quarrel, there must be something behind it that nobody can talk about and that is envy and jealousy. What is happening is that Oshiomhole is envious and jealous of Obaseki’s achievements and there is no way he is going to come out boldly to say that is why they are quarrelling. Oshiomhole was governor for eight years, nobody challenged him, the ones that tried it, he messed them up thoroughly. He brought Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and messed him up; he brought Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and messed him up.
In the state expanded caucus of the party, he messed him up thoroughly, I was there and in anger I just walked away, not to talk of Lucky Igbinedion or Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who were the ones that brought him to power with their resources. Obaseki has not opened his mouth to insult anybody or Oshimhole. How can Oshiomhole in an interview say that Obaseki brought people with computer to be collecting revenue? Does he prefer a situation where some bunch of illiterates will use sticks, iron and break people’s head in the name of revenue collection?
Oshiomhole said in one interview that there are four million people in Edo and he is just one and that when he leaves government, he will not intrude, but today what is he doing? He said the governor should take care of politicians, how many are we? We are less than 20 per cent of the total population of the state; the people outside are happy. Today you don’t see pensioners sleeping on the streets with mattresses; they don’t block roads anymore, is that not enough to make him happy.
As the national chairman of the APC, he has 36 states to supervise; why is he more interested in Edo? Why does he want to continuously be the governor of Edo State, when he has completed his tenure? When Oshiomhole came, 30 per cent was a pass mark; there was nothing, so he became an instant hero. Edo South produced somebody who scored 20 per cent and Oshiomhole managed to score 45 per cent, Obaseki within three years has scored 85 per cent with a year to go, so jealousy and envy entered.
Are you not worried that your party may lose the forthcoming governorship election as PDP is scheming to benefit from the crisis?
The state is still safe under APC, so we will still win. One thing you must understand is that the politicians that are making noise now are not up to 20 per cent. Will you tell me that Obaseki is not popular? Look at Edo State Traffic Management Agency, now under Obaseki and then under Oshiomhole; peoples’ cars were vandalised, screens were smashed and thugs were all over the place in the name of many mushroom associations extorting money from the ordinary people, but now we don’t have that kind of thing because Obaseki said he doesn’t want it.
Edo people’ll stop reactionary forces against my govt – Obaseki
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in this interview, speaks on three years of his administration and recent political developments in the state. Felix Nwaneri reports
How has it been in the last three years you have been in the saddle as governor of Edo State?
For me, coming to power and seeing the rot in the system, it was clear that any pretense that we can continue with the way things were was going to be for a short period before everything comes down like a pack of cards. When I realised that I had about 40,000 Edo boys and girls in Libya, waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, I know we had a human crisis. First, they were not trained, they were not properly educated, so they have lost hope and they never understood that they were being sold into slavery.
So, I said if we allow this to continue, we would not even have a state to govern. More importantly was the social effect of this on the society. If you go to some communities, you won’t find young persons; everybody has moved to the fringe of Benin, so that from there, they can take off and travel. Even when you look at the data, women are not being trafficked the way it used to be; there are more boys migrating regularly now than women, who were then being trafficked and lured into prostitution.
However, the key to all these problems is knowledge and education. If people knew and felt that that they have option, they will not opt for dangerous migration to Europe. This was what triggered the huge investment we are making for the future. What does it take to train our children? With technology today, we can determine whether a teacher is class or not and if a teacher is not in class, will the child learn? Also, if a teacher is not trained and doesn’t know what to teach, will the child learn? So, with the benefit of technology and good governance, we can solve most of our problems.
How far have you gone in solving some these problems?
As a nation, we have enough money because many African countries don’t have a fraction of what we have. It is about how we as a people, decide on our priorities and what most of us should realise is that the priorities of the common man are not too complex. However, the priorities of the political class tend to be in conflict with those of the masses. That is why governments at the various levels cannot fund education and healthcare, among others.
How ready are you for the 2020 governorship election in the state, which according to many, is responsible for recent political developments in the state?
Politics is supposed to be bottom up and not the other way round. If I have the people with me, there is nothing to be afraid of because election is not a war that requires deployment of the military for possible take-over of a territory. If God had wanted things to continue the way they were in Edo State, He would not have brought a total stranger like me; He would have selected one of the subsisting faces in politics. I am a different person, so I have to do things differently. But, if some reactionary forces feel that we must go back to where we were before now, they have the people of Edo State to battle with.
How did you receive the suspension of your predecessor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, by the leadership of the party in Edo State?
It is disheartening that some people are trying to create opposition within the party. Given what we have suffered as a party, losing some states as a result of internal wrangling, it is unfortunate that a group of people, especially those who are supposed to wield the party together are the ones creating division.
What would you say are the gains of the 2019 Alaghodaro Summit?
It was a platform for us to communicate with the people; everybody came together to talk about the state and the issues. Beyond that, it is a platform that we intend to deploy for constant communication and collaboration with the rest of the society because government cannot exist on its own and gone are days, when government would say this is what it wants. The old paradigm of government saying this is what it wants and have it same way is no longer working.
In any case, how much do you have as your budget? If you look at our financing structure, next to crude oil is remittances from abroad. Report had it last year that about $25 billion came into Nigeria through remittances from Diaspora Nigerians. Given the size of Edo Diaspora, we will easily account for 10 per cent of that amount. So, about $2.5 billion would have come into Edo State. The question against this backdrop is: How much is our total budget as a state? At best, it is about $500 million a year.
So, here is a government that is spending $500 million annually, but in that same economy, private individuals are bringing in about five times – $2.5 billion – what the government is offering. There is no doubt that any responsible government should create a platform through which it will continue to communicate with the segment of the society. So, the summit helps us to throw more light and communicate what we are doing as a government to the people.
Our plan as a government was, first, to work before we begin to talk. A typical model our Nigeria’s politics is that people come in as a government and keep talking, commissioning projects, so that people will say that they are working. But, for us, we said, let’s evidence what we are doing. So, there was no politics in the first three years, but after that, we can begin to talk politics.
What should Edo people expect if you win election a second term?
I hope you intended to say when I win a second term because I am going to win the election given my achievements? That aside; to answer your question directly; you and I know very well that Nigeria is in search of models that can work. If Edo works the way it should; if we are able to drive our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to exceed what we receive from the federation account, we will be able to have a sustainable economy, which would be an example for other states. You may find 10 or more states that will say ‘if Edo can do it, we can equally do it.’
As it is, we have laid a solid foundation for the growth of Edo State because we have made significant investment in education and infrastructure, among others. It will interest you to know that we are building an industrial park that is bigger than what you have in Agbara, Ogun State and which has its source of power supply already in place. We are also working with the Chinese on building a river port, which will be the closest port to the belly of the country that has about 70 million people. So, second term for me, is for consolidation of what we have achieved so far.
By my second term, the children now in our restructured primary school system would be going to Junior Secondary School (JSS), which we will start its restructuring soon in order to meet with the objectives of those who designed our 6-3-4-4 Education System that has never been implemented in real terms. My aspiration is that by the time a child goes through his or her first nine years in school in Edo State, he or she would have be ready for life.
Even if that child doesn’t have the opportunity to continue with his or education, he or she would have been prepared for life. A child must leave school with a skill, so that he or she doesn’t end up on the street as a tout as the case was before now. In doing this, we will be building human capital because human beings make things happen.
Bode George’s day of honour in Lagos
Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, was recently awarded the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Lagos Station Personality of the Year 2019. WALE ELEGBEDE writes on the significance of democratic leadership award to the PDP chieftain
It was an auspicious gathering at the Ikoyi office of the former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George on Tuesday, November 12 when the former Military Governor of Ondo State became the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Channel 10, Lagos, Personality of the Year award.
Ordinarily, the recognition could have been one of the many plaques lying on the shelf of the PDP chieftain, but he told the August visitor that the award came at a time of burdensome perplexity and frustration, adding that the gesture lifted his soul to do more for the country’s budding democracy.
Interestingly, the recognition came less than one week to Chief George’s 74th birthday which holds on November 21.
Leading the line of the NTA crew that bestowed the award on Chief George was Mrs Funmi Adeniran, who eulogized the core attributes of the awardee saying that he has braved all odds of partition to preach the gospel of a united, peaceful and progressive nation.
Adeniran, who waxed lyrical on the attributes that made George tick, said as the coordinator of the popular Yoruba programme on the station, ‘Loyin Ladun’, they took a catbird seat to monitor the activities and utterances of the PDP chieftain before zeroing on him as the recipient of the award which is now in its 9th year.
Going down memory lane when Chief George was Governor of Ondo State about 30 years ago, she disclosed that as a new intake at NTA Channel 11 Akure, she witnessed how the PDP chieftain transformed Ondo State from a more or less rural town to a more condusive urban area due to his landmark projects and innovations.
She said Bode George was being honored because of his immense contributions to the development of the nation both in time past and present playing the role of a good leader and role model to both old and young in the society.
Earlier in an address at the gathering, Prince Uthman Shodipe, the Special Adviser to Chief George, commended the station for not using political affiliation in its choice of recognition for deserving Nigerians.
He said, “Regardless of party affiliation, the NTA deemed it fit to say that Bode George deserves the honor for his contribution to nation-building and for standing by to be the voice of the voiceless to rectify the wrongs on the ground.”
Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George is a distinct man of many parts. For those who know him, the allure of his humanity and forthrightness of his personality, are just too irresistible to be ignored.
Although he is a professionally trained military man, the candor of simplicity that he exudes to both low and high is always a talking point at every discourse. His senses of loyalty, rich intellect, heart of gold and above all, incurable optimism in a united and progressive Nigeria has always made him one of the few respected who builds bridges as against walls.
From being a trained engineer to a military general of repute and rising through the ranks to be a prominent politician in the Fourth Republic, Chief George detests incompetence, tribalism and religious bias in any situation.
Speaking on the import of the award, George who received the award alongside his wife, Chief Mrs Roli, said he is privileged and greatly honored to be deemed fit for the award over his humble contribution to the growth and the enhancement of participatory democracy in Nigeria.
“I am indeed grateful that the NTA, a very significant and respectable information platform in this nation has singled me out for this honor. This is quite rewarding and ennobling. You are galvanizing me to do more. You are strengthening my resolve to grapple with all inequities and fight for what is just and right.
“I must, however, acknowledge that this award has come at a time of burdensome perplexity and frustration. But we remain steadfast and strong, sworn to strengthen our democracy.
“It can be quite worrisome when our efforts are being frustrated. But we remain determined, sure-footed, resolved that what is right is right.
“We will never be disillusioned in our moral and patriotic duty to uphold honor, integrity, truth, decency, and all the natural dictates of civility to ensure that the ingredients of constitutional democracy remain firm, strong, unshaken in our nation.
“We insist on the return to the nobility of the First Principles: Decency must prevail over abnormality. Truth must triumph over falsehood. Greed, self-obsession, reckless fixity on personal obsession over the greater good must all be discarded. We must turn a new leaf of redeeming the values of excellence, sacrifice and selflessness,” he said.
Notable among dignitaries that witnessed the award ceremony was the former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; PDP BoT member, Dr Remi Akintoye; Chairman of the Lagos PDP, Dr Adegbola Dominic; among others.
Lagos Assembly cautions Customs against harassment of Badagry business owners
Activities of the officers and men of the Nigerian Customs Service have been condemned by the Lagos State House of Assembly over unwholesome treatment towards coconut traders and other business owners in the State.
The service was condemned by the Lawmakers sequel to a motion moved by Hon. David Setonji who sought his colleague support to condemn the incessant harassment of coconut trader and seizure of locally sourced coconut product by the Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
With the continuous harassment of the Lagos State coconut and Traders Association and seizures of their products by the Officers and other security agencies operating within Badagry and its environs, the prime mover, expressed his displeasure over the incessant harassment that has affected the economic activity of the Communities.
Hon. Setonji narrated an incident that occurred on 27th October, 2019, when two (2) trucks and a pick-up vehicle loaded with 1,450 bags of locally sourced coconut were seized by the officer of the Border Drill Operations, Zone “A”, Ikeja of the service at Agbara Customs Point, after crossing the popular Agbalaka Central Coconut market, beside the Nigeria Customs Marine Base, Badagry.
The Badagry Constituency 11 representative added that this case of harassment in recent time is not limited to coconut traders but has also extended to other businesses including automobile as well as Communities; while efforts made by the Association to secure the release of the trucks with goods prove abortive.
“There are more than Ninety-Six (96) Communities within Badagry whose sole means of livelihood in coconut, coconut products and fishing business; unless the activities and excess of these operatives are urgently checked, a lot of small and medium scale businesses would collapse with their consequences on the economy of the State.” He said.
In his contribution, Hon. Bisi Yusuff, stated that it is unfortunate that such incidents still happen in the Country, urging the government to encourage the public to embark on local production and not terrorize them while conducting their businesses.
Hon. Abiodun Tobun, noted that most coastal areas are involved in Coconut cultivation and distribution, while advising the Customs to engage themselves on how to improve on the activities and generate more revenues for the Government rather than manhandling the citizens.
In the same vein, Hon. Okanlawon Sanni, explain that the Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA) was established to stimulate and regulate economic activities in order to bring growth to the business.
He also opined that the current activities of the Customs in Badagry does not encourage diversification and is contrary to the objectives of which the LASCODA was founded on.
Conclusively, Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade stated that there is need to confirm if the seized goods were actually auctioned and the motives behind it, when it is not the duty of the Customs to confiscate indigenous local goods.
In his ruling, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, observed that the actions of the Custom Officers do not conform to the context of the Nigeria Laws.
He therefore instructed that a letter be written to the National Assembly to direct a letter to Mr. Governor to call on the State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry to organise a Stakeholders’ Meeting with the Custom Service and the business owners affected.
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