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Ned Nwoko: Supreme Court’s Purity on Trial Again

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Ned Nwoko: Supreme Court’s Purity on Trial Again

Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia and one of the most defining figures of the East African country, once said: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

 

On Friday, July 5, 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria erred in the discharge of its sacred duty by giving in to fear – an alien element never known to the apex court- when it gave victory to the Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, in the election petition case before it. The crux associated with the ruling was not based on the power of the apex court to determine the case but most importantly, its failure to determine such on merit, ending up with the convenient compass of technicality. This sudden approach of convenience is an anathema to every known doctrine of justice. If for anything, it negates good conscience. But now, will there be a reoccurrence to this newly found travesty against Lustitia?

 

On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria will once again be put to test when the case between Ned Nwoko and the Peter Nwaoboshi appears before it. Will the apex court give in to convenience or stand on the footprints of many Justices of its making by adhering to its own stand of ensuring the prevalence of true justice?

 

In its ruling in the case between Akeredolu vs Olusegun Abraham (2018) 10 NWLR Part 1628, the Supreme Court itself speaking on the travesty of justice stated: “Technicality in the administration of justice shuts out justice. A man denied justice on any ground, much less a technical ground, grudges the administration of justice. It is therefore better to have a case heard and determined on its merits, than to leave the court with a shield of victory obtained on mere technicalities.”

 

The case between Ned Nwoko and Peter Nwaoboshi beyond the evidences presented before the Federal High Court and Appeal Court, is a case between impunity and integrity. What is on trial is the integrity of the electoral process of Nigeria and the highhandedness of the political parties against the sanctity of law guiding the entire process of free and fair election.

 

It is a case between a man who contested for the Senatorial primary of his party- the Peoples Democratic Party, scored 453 votes and declared the winner of the Party primary against another who came second, scoring 405 votes but miraculously had his name forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the primary.

 

The Federal High Court in Abuja in protest to the crass impunity of the Peoples Democratic Party, ruled that Mr. Peter Nwaoboshi should never have been declared winner of the Delta South Senatorial seat as he was not duly elected by members of the party at the primary. It then ruled that the electoral commission should without further delay, issue Mr. Ned Nwoko the certificate of return.

 

This is a déjà vu in the corridor of justice as the wisdom and heroism of the apex court was once tested in 2007 when it ruled on the case between Rotimi Amaechi and Celestine Omehia. That landmark judgement checked the excesses of power mongers and emperors of political parties who have turned themselves to gods, cherry-picking which of the electoral laws to obey and disobey. If these new categories of emerging gods are not shown the path of law, then we are a step towards enthroning dictatorship and burying our hard earned democracy.

 

The new Supreme Court must stand and remain standing for the oath it took to promote all manner of men and most importantly, protect our institutions and laws which are the nucleus of our Federation.

 

Party primaries are an integral part of the electoral process protected by laws and affirmed by same. Doing anything short of protecting its sanctity will be rewarding impunity and disregard for the electoral process.

 

If results of primaries are no longer sacrosanct then maybe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should then simply ask political parties to write names of its candidates on a sheet of paper and forward same to it. If party primaries are now shambolic symbols that holds no weight, then the electoral guide of having electoral officials, representatives of security agencies at party primaries is merely a coven for jollof rice feast and merriment.

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Restructuring for a better life – lessons from Brexit

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Restructuring for a better life – lessons from Brexit

The quest for a better life has been an unending aspiration of the human civilization and will remain so till the end of time – that is if time ever ends.

From the agrarian to the industrial and now the information technology age, all the peoples of all nations are seeking a better life.

But the quest for a better life has led to many choices, sometimes well thought out and in some cases not so well thought out.

Some have sought constitutional amendments only to realize that a new document does not a better life procure. Some have sought geographical demarcations and creation of new nations, states and local governments only to realize that a new territory does not necessarily deliver a better life.

Some have sought increased control of resources and wealth only to find out that more wealth does not necessarily translate into a better life. These are facts of life, yet the quest for a better life, being a natural human longing and seeking, must continue.

There are a few things that Nigeria and Britain share in common in their quest for a better life and their coincidental reach for new political and economic realignments that currently dominate their public discourse in the name of “Restructuring” and “Brexit” respectively.

First to be noted is that both nations as they currently exist are not originals and this is true of many nations (Texas). (Netherlands).

Nigeria’s recent history of statehood or nationhood is still very fresh in the memory as having evolved as an amalgamation of many territories of diverse ethnic and religious dispositions in 1914.

But it is a story that dates back much longer; first to the British conquest of Lagos in 1861, the Berlin Conference of 1883-1885 and then to the Southern and Northern Protectorates that were the predecessors to the 1914 amalgamation.

This saw many Muslims, Christians, animists and people of diverse languages bound together in a household where a better life has now become a common aspiration.

It is important to point out that in Britain or the United Kingdom as they are also known, England was the kingdom, and that is why till date there is only a Queen of England not of Britain. The Scottish, Welsh, Irish who together with England constitute Britain are not English people. They have Christians and Muslim citizens, Anglicans, Catholics and Protestants.

While this speech may not be able to delve into the detail of their diversity and historical origins, it will suffice for comparison to point out that crude oil is largely to be found on the soil of the Scottish who continuously express an intention to leave the union.

And Britain as we know it today first emerged in 1801 when it united with the neighbouring Kingdom of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922.

In perhaps the same way that Nigeria has moved from two protectorates and one colony to three regions, four regions, 12 states, 19 states to 36 states, Britain in its original form has had to concede independence to the southern part of Ireland now known as the Republic of Ireland while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom.

This was the result of the Good Friday Peace Agreement that secured a truce after many years of conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland which spilled to several parts of the United Kingdom and resulted in bombings and acts of terror in the 1970s, similar to some of what we have experienced in the North-East of Nigeria.

In spite of these political realignments, the quest for a better life exists in both countries – Nigeria and the UK. There are problems of unemployment, security, health care, homelessness, quality of education, cost of living and business competitiveness to mention but a few in both countries.

What is different is the scale of the problem, characterized by how the resources have been invested or misused, the level of development, which is manifest in the quality of infrastructure that supports transport, energy, health care, education and law enforcement.

What does not change is the quest for a better life on both sides, and interestingly, the political leadership has weaponized this quest for maximum benefit.

In the United Kingdom, the answer to the quest for a better life is in seeing Britain leave the European Union, a union they joined reluctantly in 1973.

So, to the people of Britain, “Brexit” (one word) was sold as a politically nebulous term that suggested to the ordinary people that the free movement of other Europeans into Britain was responsible for the lack of jobs.

That the amount they were paying as membership fees of the union was part of the reason why there was not enough money to spend at home on British education and healthcare.

That the need to subordinate their laws to the European parliament affected the British government’s ability to properly protect their own people.

It was a fascinating proposition. Their constitutional arrangement required that a referendum be conducted to ask the people to decide.

In the quest for a better life, the people voted in the referendum that Britain should leave or exit from the European Union. So was formed Brexit.

The people voted for a political rearrangement in the belief that it would deliver economic and social benefits, and therefore a better life.

But, at the time they were voting, nobody told or reminded the people, that:

Most of the insulin that diabetic patients used to treat themselves in Britain came from France and the cost might go up.

Some of the best medical personnel in Britain were Europeans who might leave; 5,000 Nurses from Europe have since left the United Kingdom, as alleged by a member of Parliament on the 29th October 2019 and Nigeria and some other countries are paying the price with 2-3 year contracts being offered to their medical personnel to fill the gap.

Forty per cent of their food comes from Europe.

If they travelled to European cities, they may require visas to enter, or will have to share the same queue with Asians, Africans and other nationalities at immigration points at airports and may lose their right to use the European entry point.

Needless to reiterate, while it is doubtful that the people will all have voted for the risk of high cost of insulin, high cost of food or loss of their right of entry, the vagueness of the details of Brexit as presented by the political spin masters, has certainly left the country in some quandary.

Some people are now saying it was not well explained to them. Some have gone to court to stop the process but were unsuccessful and some are now saying they want a fresh referendum.

The political class that set the stage for Brexit now say there is no going back. The people have spoken in a referendum, and that it is a threat to democracy not to do their bidding.

Here is the tyranny of democracy’s fixation with the will of the majority and its supremacy. The majority is not always right while their supremacy is not always unimpeachable.

While this debate goes on about how to Brexit after three years of the referendum to leave, businesses are either relocating or shutting down, jobs are also being lost, and uncertainty is hobbling investment decisions.

Of course, because things are no longer what they used to be, those who described us as “fantastically corrupt” are now “visiting us fantastically”. The Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales have been here.

Their views have not changed. We are simply a market that can replace what they might be losing in Europe as a result of Brexit.

So, while we roll out cultural troupes, take them to entertainment spots and queue to take selfies, they are looking for where there is food supply, skilled labour, and possibly a new source of insulin that will be cheaper than that of France, post-Brexit.

How we react to this opportunity is another matter for another conversation, but it is one that must take place very quickly. This new friendship must be defined by mutually beneficial parameters.

But this takes me now to restructuring, which is also one word, like Brexit.

The proponents of restructuring have not been specific. Some of them, with very great respect, it appears that some of them simply want what they were used to in their more youthful days which was a parliamentary system of government and not a presidential system of government. There is nothing wrong with this, after all we are often victims of habits that are difficult to change.

However, a much younger generation did not experience the parliamentary system and may be taken in by some arguments such as cost of getting elected and the cost of legislative work. In a parliamentary system, you may have a Prime Minister in the saddle for 16 straight years for as long as he is the leader of his party. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister for 16 years for example. Given our current realities and diversity as a people, is that desirable in our land?

True as the cost of legislation may be as a factor, this generation must be told in clear terms that it was during the Parliamentary system that the political crisis of the 1960s started, and with a combination of other factors, led to a civil war in which many died.

They must read up about it, and demand more explanation as to why it did not prevent our division from resulting in a full blown civil war.

Of course we must not forget that the UK Parliamentary system has produced four Prime Ministers in the last 12 years including the incumbent. Do we want such rapid political leadership changes like this? What does it portend for policy consistency and continuity?

All I can add is that empirical evidence has shown that diversity such as we have, is better managed with a federal arrangement and that this generation should look before they leap.

A federal arrangement reduces suspicion, hate, and acrimony and prevents hostilities. It makes for greater stability overall and collaborative working of the federating units, forging a sense of belonging in its trail and setting the tone for competitive spirit.

However, when the protagonists of restructuring are pressed to say what they mean, some say they want a more federal union and that what we have is a unitary government masquerading as a federal one.

So, their argument becomes an argument of political arrangement. The issue is, therefore, not so much the objective but the artery road, shun of bypass to the objective goal of restructuring.

When the constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of state police was voted down, very few of the champions of a wholly federal arrangement raised a whimper. This was a big item of restructuring to reform law enforcement.

I have previously said and I repeat my views that multi-level policing by whatever name called, is something that I agree with.

What is a true federal arrangement without decentralized law enforcement, when you have a decentralized judiciary and law-making arrangement? Shouldn’t states that make their own laws have their own agencies to enforce them and local governments that make bylaws have their own community policing?

Put simply, it seems that some of the protagonists of restructuring want a true federation but prefer a unitary police. Even at that, the structure of the police system is not on its own a guaranty of efficiency.

The unitary British political system has operated a decentralised policing system which is now being considered for wholesale merger in order to save costs.

With rising crime, especially gang violence and knife attacks, such as a recent report of 13 knife stabbings over a 24-hour period, thorough reflection requires one to ask whether simple structural re-arrangement will resolve the knife attack problems.

As we grapple with the issue of a minimum wage, I expect the voices of the restructurers, apostles of true federation, and those who want control of resources to stand with reason, that the wages should not be uniform if the resources and the cost of living are not uniform.

This is a position I have previously advocated publicly, that states must be allowed to decide their own wages, and that wages must move from the Exclusive to the Concurrent list of the Constitution.

Sadly, I have not heard those voices raised at the same decibel as they have argued for restructuring.

My position on state police, wages and other issues also make a protagonist, but not all protagonists will agree with me, because they also want something different.

For yet some other people, the appeal of restructuring is the opportunity to agitate for more states and more local governments. That may be legitimate.

But the aspiration must answer some questions like, which states will be carved up? What is their viability?  How do we solve the problems of existing ones that are at the point that wages of the public servants cannot be paid?

It might interest members of the public to know that boundary disputes from states creation that took place in 1967 and after that are still unresolved before the National Boundaries Commission, as some asset sharing and ownership issues have also persisted from states created after the 1967 episode.

It is perhaps helpful to also point to the fact that some of the states created over two decades ago such as Anambra, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Ekiti feel that they are not fairly treated because there are no Federal Secretariats in their state.

The Buhari administration is now completing and in the process of furnishing some of these secretariats while new ones have recently been awarded.

For yet another group of the protagonists of restructuring, the argument is in favour of a weaker centre and stronger states as federating units.

Apart from the case which is appropriately made for a change in the revenue allocation formula, they hinge the argument on the case that the President is too powerful. In fact, some have argued that the Nigerian president is the most powerful in the world; however, recent facts do not support this assertion.

We are witnesses to the fact a president once seized local government funds and the Supreme Court, an arm of government that is set up as a check and balance on excessive powers and abuse of same, rightly declared that there was no constitutional power to do so.

Although the order to release the money was not immediately complied with, another president who recognised the limits of presidential power appropriately ordered the release of the funds.

We are living witnesses to how difficult it has been for these so-called all powerful presidents to get their budget passed without alterations (some of which are so fundamental) by the parliament.

I leave you to decide whether the all-embracing “powers” of the Nigerian president is a “fact” or a contrived “myth” to bolster the case for restructuring.

I also urge you to read the Nigerian constitution and see for yourself the power and duties of the Nigeria president. If you do, as I have done, you will find 48 items of mention concerning the office of the president (Duties, functions of the President- See Annexure I).

It seems that in the determination to support the unfounded argument about the enormous powers of the President, those who make the case, conveniently lump Powers with Functions and Duties.

Power is the legal right or authorization to act or not to act. It is the ability conferred on a person by law to alter, by an act of will, the rights, duties, liabilities and other relations, either of that person or another. On the other hand, the term ‘Function’ is the duty of the office.

The summary of references to the President show:-

a)  Powers exercisable by the President   = 23

b) Powers exercisable by the President, subject to National Assembly   = 9

c) Power exercisable by the President, subject to other institutions          = 4

d) Duties and Functions   = 9

e) Restriction on the powers of the President   = 3

          Total= 48

For yet another group of restructurers, they want their own country created by excising their zone. I only need to say that they should look closely at the break-up of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and lately Sudan, to see whether it has delivered on the expectation of a better life.

In addition to that, they must look at the potential of what they might gain as being separate nations, to what they might leave behind from inter-marriage and families that they have created in other parts of Nigeria.

Recently, the Cable News Network featured the story of the emotional reunion of an octogenarian mother with a son she had left behind when Korea was broken up into North and South as different nations in the 1940s.

And it is not just about people, it extends to resources and sustenance that contribute to better life. Think of whether you want to live in a new country and have to spend money to import some of the things you could get by driving just an hour without a border or the need for a visa.

That is the reality of Brexit today.

Before writing this piece, I thought it might be worthwhile to find out what ordinary Nigerians, as distinct from political actors know about restructuring.

I commissioned a survey, in December 2018, which was a repeat of a similar one, in late 2017.

Just over 2 in 5 of the respondents are aware of the ongoing restructuring debate in the country. Even after prompting, a third of the sample still remain unfamiliar with the term (Restructuring.)

*33% don’t know what restructuring means.

*15% think that it means amending the constitution.

*14% think that it means reorganising/rebuilding the country.

*8% think that it means devolution of power to the states.

*6% think that it means changing the revenue allocation formula.

*6% think that it means reverting to regional government.

*3% think it means increasing federal resources to selected states that are viable.

*2% think that it means abolition of Federal Character and adoption of merit based appointment.

*2% think that it means restructuring the economy.

While the findings may not vitiate the imperative of restructuring, what these point out is that there is a great deal of work to be done by its protagonists. Restructuring is inherently desirable. Those not overtly enthusiastic even when they grasp what restructuring means, what are their fears? We must make efforts to allay their fears. Because a leader leads, carrying his vision of a higher goal and a better life even when a larger section of the citizenry are yet to see his cause clearly, it means the call for restructuring requires greater public education. It is in this way we would not plunge the country into intractable confusion, to put it mildly.

Let me say emphatically that the quest for a better life in Nigeria is legitimate and salutary. That is because there is so much more that we can do and will do.

However, it seems to me that while the quest for a better life may be assisted by amending some parts of the constitution, on its own it will not deliver a better life. A better life is the commonwealth that is produced by what I call common contribution. In other words, it is the result of hard work and dedicated productivity. It is what we produce that we can distribute.

For example, how much do we produce in terms of human activity and how will amending some parts of the Constitution on their own, translate to increased national productivity?

How many of our people in public and private sector who are contracted for an eight hour daily work shift, actually work for four hours?

A better life is not a miracle product. It is the harvest of the investment of labour.

While considering numbers, it might be useful to see how they impact education.

The default argument for poor quality education is government.

That is true to the extent that government is the regulator, responsible for setting standards and all. But how many schools does government own? The record indicates that there are a total of 165 universities in Nigeria (not including a few recently approved ones); 43 belong to the Federal Government; 47 to the state governments and 75 are private universities.

At the secondary level, there are 104 unity schools owned by the Federal Government; this is a drop in the ocean, compared to the number of secondary and primary schools owned by state governments and private organisations nationwide.

Let me use the data from Lagos that I can claim some degree of familiarity with to make this case of responsibility.

There were a total of 8,274 schools primary and secondary in Lagos State. The state government owned a total of 1,681, made up of 1,045 primary and 636 secondary, representing 20 per cent of the total number of schools.

The remaining were owned by the private sector, individuals, non-profit organisation and religious missions. These numbers show where the bulk of responsibility for foundational education lies, with us, the private people, entrepreneurs and less with government.

The same is also true of the health sector where critical life-saving intervention, like ante-natal care, immunization of babies, sanitation and refuse management all lie with the local government system under our constitution.

Do we wish to restructure and pass these to the Federal Government, whose powers we say are already too much, or will we get down to work and make these primary health centres do their work of preventing disease, supporting wellbeing and deterring illness, or do we want to blame the constitution?

Let me remind all of us that we already have in our constitution a provision that seeks to promote the equitable distribution of opportunities called the Federal Character provision.

Has it solved the problem of access to opportunities and jobs?

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has also advanced the cause for restructuring in its judgement in the case popularly called the Resource Control Case by which certain oil producing states get 13% extra revenue from the distribution pool.

Has it achieved a better life for the peoples of those states?

I think the jury will be out for a long time on this one.

These are some of the hard facts.

They point clearly to where the responsibility for a better life lies. While admittedly a document may point the way; while it may show direction, it is we who must tread the path it shows to us. A good document not backed by the right attitude does not take a people far.

So, in addition to restructuring our political and administrative arrangements, we must restructure our attitude and our mindset. A better life does not necessarily exist in a new document without the right political education, a change of attitude and our inflexible commitment to public good.

λFashola (SAN), the Minister of Works and Housing delivered the address at the 2019 Island Club 76th anniversary lecture, on Friday 15th November in Lagos.

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NDDC: Forensic audit and attacks on Akpabio

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NDDC: Forensic audit and attacks on Akpabio

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is reportedly a cesspool of corruption where the major business of the day for the management is the award of contracts, many of them “fathom” in nature.

It’s the reason there’re tens of thousands of uncompleted and abandoned projects in the nine oil-producing states, loosely refer to as the Niger Delta, which traditionally comprises six states.

Take, for instance, the revelation that “a serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts” for the NDDC, with 120 of the contracts “fully paid for.” But is there evidence of any of the jobs partially or wholly executed?

Where such “evidence” exists, and “certificates of completion” obtained therein, the jobs are poorly done, as it takes a few weeks or months to reveal their shoddiness. And why not?

How can an individual, no matter their expertise, equipment outlay, and the number of companies they control, secure a large number of contracts from a single entity? That’s corruption at its zenith!

This disclosure by the Acting Executive Director of Projects of the NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, may be a tip of the iceberg. There might be thousands of similar contracts, also fully paid for, but not executed, partially executed or poorly executed.

What about a contract awarded for the clearing of water hyacinths, and de-silting of the riverine areas, valued at N2.5 billion, which suddenly rose to about N65 billion? How, when and who reviewed the contract upward?

No wonder the NDDC is said to be saddled with over N3 trillion debt owed to contractors for obligations they may not have accomplished in compliance with the contract terms!

Hence, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a forensic audit of the commission, for which a three-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) was constituted pending the inauguration of a new management board.

At a meeting with governors of oil-producing states at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on October 17, 2019, Buhari noted that the humongous amount pumped into the interventionist agency since 2001 did not match the projects on the ground.

The President said he would wait for the report of the audit, to decide on the next line of action regarding the commission.

Even before its take-off, the audit is facing a barrage of criticisms from individuals and groups in the oil-producing states, who should ordinarily be happy and embrace a process to cleanse the Augean stables (rid the NDDC of corruption).

The agitators question the “legality” of constituting the IMC, when a new management board had been named (and cleared by the Senate), and canvass the sacking of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

To them, Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is responsible for the transfer of the NDDC from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the empanelling of a forensic audit and an IMC for the commission.

But this is picking on a soft target, as the latest spotlight on the NDDC is at the behest of President Buhari, notwithstanding whether he had any advice from a third party to that effect.

Actually, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, as head of the governors’ delegation to the president, expressed his counterparts’ disappointment with the operations of the NDDC.

The commission’s operations had been characterised by “poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of required support for the efforts of the states and local governments in its areas of coverage,” Dickson said, and solicited Buhari’s repositioning of the commission “in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.”

So, attacking Akpabio (the messenger), and dissing the audit panel and the management committee (the message) shows one thing: Corruption, in and outside the NDDC, is fighting back.

As in the larger society where the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration is resisted by alleged looters, the orchestrators of the campaign to stop the audit are those that have questions to answer on the reported sleaze at the commission.

And in the manner of politically-exposed persons (PEPs) when confronted with their financial malfeasance; the opposers of the audit have embarked on a well-oiled media campaign to taint the investigation, and those they perceive as its drivers.

That’s why Akpabio has become the target of attacks, as having accusingly, in addition to the audit, “instigated” the transfer of the NDDC from the office of the SGF to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the setting up of the IMC.

But the senator couldn’t have accomplished what are credited to him without the approval of President Buhari, who appoints, and delegates powers/functions to him as a minister.

Thus, his accusers are “putting two-and-two together” to get at him, for his possible sack, which, indeed, they have implored President Buhari to do immediately.

Note the agitators’ strategy: Attack Akpabio and “his Interim Management Committee,” so as to divert attention, muddy the terrain, and prevent the audit from holding or shoddily handled.

They know that if thoroughly carried out, the audit would open a can of worms, the type Akpabio spoke about recently, thereby stirring the hornet’s nest that’s turned back to haunt him.

The watching public can see where the attacks on Akpabio are coming: From those that have benefitted from the multi-billion fraud in the NDDC. They’re the ones fighting back!

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Why our elections may still be dirty

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Why our elections may still be dirty

Preliminary reports from the last gubernatorial polls in Bayelsa and Kogi states show that the elections were generally marred by massive violence, rigging, and vote-buying. This development is a sad reminder that our electoral process may not be improving despite efforts being made by the electoral management body and other stakeholders to ensure that votes count and that credible leaders emerge in the country. The issue of electoral violence and malpractice has become a recurring decimal in the nation. The truth is that politicians are not solely responsible for this. Political parties, law enforcement agents, and the electorate have a share in the blame.

The way we see politics in our country is not only do-or-die, but it has also been taken as a full-time profession that should be given all it takes to get into power. Politics is not seen as an avenue to get into public office and render selfless service to one’s fatherland. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had stated that despite the efforts by the commission and political parties to promote peaceful elections, including several engagements with stakeholders and signing of Peace Accords, reports were indicating that the process was in several places compromised and that politicians stock-piled arm.

Over 31,000 policemen and 87 gunboats were deployed to prevent violence in Bayelsa State alone, as police helicopters hovered over the capital while soldiers and anti-riot police mounted roadblocks at major points. In Kogi, a total of 35,200 police were deployed to protect the 1.5 million registered voters. The leading candidates, David Lyon of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Douye Diri, a senator of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while in Kogi, incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello of APC was seeking re-election against Musa Wada of PDP and 22 other candidates. In both states, INEC has declared APC candidates winners while the Kogi West senatorial election is inconclusive.

Counting the losses, an official of a popular radio station was allegedly shot dead and many were injured during an attack on a political rally in Bayelsa; and in Kogi, a campaign office was completely razed down. Not only that; two persons were reportedly killed by stray bullets at the Adankolo polling unit in Lokoja. Electoral materials were hijacked in two wards in Odu and Community High School in Ayingba. There were reports that two people were feared killed in the Abocho community as sporadic shootings took place in Emewe Okapada, Ajiyolo communities, and the Egume Police Station Polling Unit in Dekina. It was learned that some masked armed men stormed the Aikpele-Ajaka Polling Unit. A PDP chieftain and women leader of the Wada/Aro Governorship Campaign Council, Mrs. Acheju Abuh of Ochadamu Ward was reportedly burnt alive by some thugs suspected to be supporters of APC, who locked her in and set fire to her house after spraying it with petrol. Thugs paraded the streets, fully armed without restrictions. There were ballot snatching and abduction of INEC officials in the Lokoja Club House, Ajayi Crowther Memorial College, Barrack area, and Takete, just to mention a few.

A leading election observer, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa) has called for the cancellation of the polls in Kogi, saying it had received reports of voter inducement and vote-buying in polling units such as Adavi, Ankpa, Itale, Idah, Yagba East, Kogi West, and Ajaokuta councils. Voters were paid as much as N5,000 and in Aluaja, Iyano Ward in Ibaji LGA, as INEC officials were said to be given N15,000, and security agents got N50,000. In Bayelsa, corps members were feared missing as thugs attacked polling units, and angry residents set voting materials ablaze in one of the wards in the Ogbia Local Government Area, Otuoke, where former President Goodluck Jonathan hails from.

Expressing his disappointment over the late arrival of INEC officials and election materials in Otueke, Jonathan said he was at his polling unit early without anyone to attend to him, stating that Nigeria had no justification not to get its electoral processes right, adding that many smaller African countries had been able to maintain a good electoral system, as Governor Seriake Dickson also accused security agencies of connivance in the poll. This ugly trend may continue unless urgent measures are put in place to address the declining credibility attached to our polls. Inability to apprehend and punish those found guilty of abetting, perpetration, sponsoring electoral violence, and engaging in vote-buying remain a big obstacle.

Another major source of worry is the level of poverty in the land. This seems to be the most crucial factor that is aiding this malaise. It is common knowledge that many Nigerians live below the poverty line and are seriously hungry to resist falling for electoral offences. Politicians and political leaders, who are largely responsible for the plight of the nation, would explore the same economic situation in the country to make the electorate sell their votes by inducing them with money. For them, politics is a huge investment for a bountiful harvest.

In Nigeria, many people go into politics because of what they can benefit from and not to serve the populace. It is for this reason that most voters become easy prey to a few Naira notes splashed on them by the same politicians responsible for their misfortune. The cycle of poverty, economic and political slavery then continues unabated. If nothing serious is done to nip this cankerworm in the bud, we are likely to see more of such rot in our polity. By next year, more gubernatorial elections would be held in states like Edo and Ondo. Tension is already building up in these states between the incumbents and their godfathers that have not been on the same page. The year 2023 is not too far a period for the general election. Already, politicians have started campaigning using various platforms, groups, and structures.

To move away from dirty politics, INEC should intensify efforts at educating and enlightening the people on the dangers of vote-buying, electoral violence, and malpractice. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be more impactful in imbibing the right attitudinal change on Nigerians. The much-awaited electoral offences commission should be made operational while politicians found engaging in these acts should be sanctioned appropriately to serve as a deterrent to others. We should be able to vote without declaring any public holiday. The amended electoral bill should be passed into law to make technology use part of our very expensive electoral process by discouraging manual voting and collation that breed avoidable rigging, fraud, and violence.

Political parties should let internal democracy take roots in their operations. Proper orientation should be given to aspirants on the need to appreciate the real essence of patriotism, nationalism, and public service. The high rate of unemployment requires quick intervention by the government and non-state actors. Apart from financial inducement, many youths and young persons are used as thugs. After elections, many of them are dumped and to survive, they are left to venture into all manners of crime. More importantly, decent, hardworking and committed Nigerians with enviable track-records and pedigree should venture in politics in the interest of our dear country. The non-challant attitude by fine men and women, not to participate in Nigerian politics, has been the nation’s albatross. This lukewarm disposition and apathy should stop for our politics to become better, more attractive, orderly, and less violent.    

λKupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk

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New Rivers: The Lord is good

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New Rivers: The Lord is good

Personally, I do not like any form of self-praise. It appears to me as gloating, no matter how it is couched. But with the destructive manipulations of the democratic process, it is strategic for us to continue to place in the right perspective the magnitude of God’s favour to the people of Rivers State.

The Holy Bible captures the essence of the victory of the people of God in relation to the emergence of Nyesom Wike as a second term governor.

Psalm 126 King James Version (KJV) declares:

“1 When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”

The above three verses explain the depth of God’s intervention in the face of high level manipulations and treachery to rob Rivers people of their mandate. If these political robbers had succeeded, all manners of theories would have been thrown up to back their ungodly success.

Indeed, when those mandated to steal the people’s mandate appeared to be gaining unholy advantage, they had positioned some accomplices in the media and other strategic locations to justify their robbery.

But like a dream, the entire scenario changed. The hunter became the hunted and the victim of high class manipulations became the victor.

In our political system, to fall prey to illegal schemes of treachery is inexcusable. You are left to lick your wounds all by yourself. Everyone becomes right, except you. All your allies quickly justify their acts of treachery on the altar of the robbery that eclipsed your political growth or survival.

But in the case of Rivers State, Governor Wike had built a critical mass of God’s people ahead of the election. Clerics and Christians from all denominations took control of the project in view of his outstanding performance.

Ordinary people, in the rural and urban areas pocketed the Wike project and lived it, every single day. They never allowed the elite the pleasure of controlling the process.

Each time we went on campaign, the strength of their love for the Wike project was laid bare for all to see. One of my cameramen would always tell me “…Oga, I don’t want to be present on a day these people will not love our Oga.” 

Under the present circumstances with key institutions of state bastardised and under the control of anti-people individuals, the only way to victory is to remain rooted with the ordinary people. Under such circumstances, associates and popular commentators amount to nothing. Powerful associates easily sell out and still claim entitlement. Some even contrive alibi and use social media to justify why they couldn’t stand for the project.

But the ordinary people, those I prefer to call the unknown soldiers, appreciate every investment made on their behalf. They reward every project, whether completed or ongoing. Even when they have concerns, they genuinely stand with a leader who against all odds worked to make a difference in their lives.

Governor Wike is still leading Rivers State today because God and the good people of Rivers State refused to allow the political robbers to have their evil way. When I say the people, I mean the ordinary folks. Those whose names we may never get to know. Those whose faces are obscure. Those whose addresses are not easy to locate. These guys have no entitlement mentality. Their only link to government are the projects they benefit from and their desire to have a performer continue with his good works.

We cannot thank these people enough. We also cannot thank God enough. Thankfully, Governor Wike, irrespective of the schemes of detractors continues to appreciate God and the people of Rivers State. He uses every opportunity to emphasize the role God and Rivers people played in his re-election.

It is for this reason that Governor Wike has sworn to continue to deliver projects to Rivers people. According to him, he will work like a governor serving his first term. He will work for the good of Rivers State. His commitment is to Rivers people and not to any elite group. Few months into his second term, the evidence is there for all to see. Projects everywhere. Execution of pro-people programmes has taken centre stage. Majority of Rivers people are happy and growth is sustained.

At the 2019 Holy Ghost Rally of the RCCG, Wike summed up his testimony thus: “Nigerians are aware of what happened on 9th March, 2019. If anyone says he does not believe in God, that event of March 9 should make you believe God.

“But for God, the enemies would have taken over the state. I thank the church for standing firm. They prayed for God’s will to be done and God’s will was done. But for your prayers, I won’t be here as Rivers State Governor.”

λNwakaudu is the media aide to Governor Wike of Rivers State.

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Nigeria’s politicians and bewitched succession plans

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Nigeria’s politicians and bewitched succession plans

The Bayelsa State governorship election of Saturday, November 16, 2019 has been determined and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, David Lyon, won. This outcome was predicted long before the election not even by the usual political analyst or pundit as the Nigerian journalists put it. The man who predicted the outcome and made it so emphatic to me is a street-trader in Yenagoa, one of the “hoi polloi’ as the revered Nnamdi Azikiwe the doyen of Nigerian politics of the egocentric and egoistic brand which political culture Governor Seriake Dickson and Rochas Okorocha have proved is planted in a good soil and well-watered by the murky waters of the Nigerian political stream.

This politics of self-aggrandizement and egocentric and egoistic predispositions did not start today and it will not stop with the former Governor Okorocha and soon to be former Governor Dickson. This pathetic story that recurs every political season in Nigeria is a good lesson but who learns? That this pathetic story with its lessons continues to be retold very frequently in different states of the South-East and South-South geo-political zones go to prove that culture hardly dies. And what is culture other than the collective and cumulative habits of a given people, community or society. These areas stretching from the coastal plains of Bights of Benin and Biafra right into the interior of the guinea forest of the South-East were actually under the political suzerainty of Nnamdi Azikiwe between 1934 when he entered politics and 1966 when the political culture anchoring the Zikist movement with its revolutionary values was ruptured and destroyed by Nnamdi Azikiwe himself.

Nnamdi Azikiwe was a ‘lucky man like his namesake Goodluck Jonathan. You can labour and virtually work yourself out in honest endeavours but unless God blesses your efforts nothing good will come out of it. But there must be discipline, truth, prudence and commitment for the blessings of God to crown your honest endeavours. So, it was with Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Sardauna Ahmadu Bello. Of the three, Nnamdi Azikiwe stands out from all historical accounts as the luckiest man who squandered his political resources which towered over the other two men’s endowments in terms of goodwill, trust, followership and exposure. And the question by an officious bystander at the precinct of history is, why Nnamdi Azikiwe played the kind of politics he indulged in despite his education and cultural exposure to the well founded republican and democratic society of the United States of America? Did the great Zik of Africa not encounter the history of USA from its colonial period to the revolutionary years, the Declaration of Independence and the making of the 1787 Republican and Democratic US Constitution and its ratification? Did he not study the U.S. constitutional history that underlined the governance and leadership offered by the founding fathers like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson who ruled America in turns despite their personal differences?

Let us examine the political culture left behind by Azikiwe as a legacy to the East and South-South. Azikiwe lived and grew up in three main regions of Nigeria mainly East, North and West. He spoke the three languages: Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. He could be called a Lagosian for he lived, plied his business and vocation of journalism and played his politics. When he joined Herbert Macaulay to form the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944 with the help and support of over 80 civil society organizations such as Michael Imoudu’s Nigerian Labour Congress, several cultural, and civil associations, the political division of Nigeria and most importantly Southern Nigeria was cured with him and Herbert Macaulay becoming the undisputed leaders of Nigeria. Herbert Macaulay died and Azikiwe assumed the leadership of NCNC and the Nigerian political community from South to the North. Azikiwe was clearly on a sure-footed trajectory to his political ascendancy over Nigeria with loyal and committed lieutenants from South to the North including such heavyweights such as Eyo-Ita, Alvan-Ikoku, AC Nwapa, Ozunba-Mbadiwe, Okpara, Ojike, Eni-Njoku, Nwafor-Orizu, Akanu-Ibiam, Udo-Udoma, Jaja-Wachukwu, Margaret-Ekpo, Mokwugo-Okoye, etc. from the East; Aminu-Kano, Zanna Buka-Dipcharima, Tanko-Yakassai, Raji-Abdallah, Maitama-Sule, Sa’ad-Zungur, Othman-Zarma, Nanusa-Amosu, Yamu-Muma, etc., and from the West there were Adegoke-Adelabu, JB Adelewoye, JO. Fadahunsi, Adewale-Fashanu, Idase-Dafe, Barr Odunbaku, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, GB. Akinyede, DC. Osadebay, Michael-Imoudu, Marshall-Kebby, Smar- Ebi, Adeniran-Ogunsaya, Dr. Mabayoje, FS McEwen, A. Dawodu, DK Olumofin, Tom-Idowu, Oged-Macaulay, Martin-Onaiyekan, and other prominent politicians.

When the young men formed the Zikist Movement to give NCNC ideological root and branches, these patriotic and ideological committed Nigerians’ boundless energy and selflessness could not be harnessed by Azikiwe. Let it be known that it was Azikiwe’s ideological rudderlessness and lack of discipline and honest leadership in NCNC coupled with political naivety that led to his loss of the premiership of Western Region. His ill-advised political rapprochement and cooperation with British colonial authorities destroyed his political foundation founded on liberal and people-oriental politics and social engagement through his fiery journalism.

We observed that the common thread of political opportunism and the quest for egoistic good life which defined Azikiwe’s political praxis runs through the politics of Nigeria from 1948 to date as each politician especially in the South-East and South-South became Ken Saro Wiwa’s fictive ‘Man-Must-Wack’ ideologue, in politics and governance. They neither care nor remember the past; indeed they do not even know the past, not to talk of taking care of today or planning for tomorrow. Their entire being is ruled by their stomachs.

How else can you explain that a governor, be it Okorocha or Dickson would climb to power and then chose to forget his past. How can he not know that leadership is a sacred trust bestowed on him by the people and you must not betray the trust? A governor governed a state for eight years and for one day he never thought about how to groom a successor and seamlessly transmit power other than handpicking one buffoon from outside his political group and imposing him on the people and majestically announce “my people behold your governor.” Okorocha chose his son-in-law because that is the only person he trusted to protect him or continue his ‘legacies’. Governor Dickson chose his relation because that is the only person that can protect him and continue his policies. And they went about achieving this vile scheme with all the subterfuge and dishonesty you can think of. In a state with very knowledgeable people, one lucky man will think himself God and start behaving like one. And he expect all to bow and worship.

This culture will always fail as it has failed Azikiwe, Peter Obi, Achike Udenwa, Chimaroke Nnamani, Sam Egwu, Martin Elechi, Rochas Okorocha and now Seriake Dickson and the implication is that former Eastern Region is denied a political stream worthy of recognition. Their individual schemes looked tantalizing and bewitching but at the end, they failed which shows it was a sham after all. They failed because their politics was not founded on any ideological principles. It is just politics of ‘chop-I-chop.’ Moreover, their slaves rebelled because as an Indian patriot, Sub-has Chandra Bose said, “the greatest curse for a man is to remain a slave” and “the greatest crime is to compromise with injustice and wrong”, and that could be the reason why yes-men of Okorocha and Dickson regimes rebelled and turned their backs and they all failed so that David Lyon will learn, if he can.

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Intensifying science teaching among young ones

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Intensifying science teaching among young ones

O

n November 10, the world over marks the 2019 edition of the World Science Day for Peace and Development. Science, as the name goes, is arguably unique.

The aforementioned commemoration was set aside in 2001 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate the inevitable impact of Science and Technology on nation building.       

As Nigeria joins the global community to celebrate science, it’s pertinent for us as a people to look inwards towards discovering the existing encumbrances surrounding the said field with a view to eradicating them.

 

 

There has in recent times conspicuously been a tremendous decline in the rate of seriousness among most science students in various levels of learning on the African continent, particularly Nigeria. Such a scenario has over the years served as a nuisance in the field of science and technology.

It’s noteworthy that development is required in every individual to every nation, in every aspect of human endeavour. And for development to take place, science and tech must go hand in hand.

 

 

Science is fundamentally noted as the study of knowledge, which is made into a system, and depends on analysing facts. Tech is the outright application of this scientific knowledge. In other words, tech transforms knowledge from science into reality.

The fact is, for any successful economy – especially in today’s quest for knowledge-based economies – science and tech are the primary requisites. If any nation relegates the two recipes to the background, the chances of getting itself developed becomes far-fetched, thus stands to be classified as an undeveloped nation.

 

A country or society that’s not able to prosper on these grounds would not be able to sustain the lives in it, and might have to depend on other societies for survival alongside other life’s requirements.

Taking a close view of the above exegesis, it’s therefore needless to reiterate that any country is supposed to take sciences very seriously as if its whole life depends on it. It, therefore, becomes so pathetic and mind-boggling when realized that Nigeria as a nation is taken aback regarding acquiring of science knowledge, or its implementation.

 

The lingering anomaly, which calls for great concern, can be observed in virtually all existing citadels of learning across the federation regardless of level, ranging from primary to tertiary.

 

In our primary schools, the pupils are now invariably preoccupied with the notion that science subjects, such as Mathematics and Basic Science, are very difficult to understand owing to the orientation they met in the system. Such an appalling circumstance is usually occasioned by the mode of teaching of the class teacher.

 

 

Sometimes, fear would be inculcated into the pupils’ mindset by their teacher who would, rather than participate in the actual teaching as expected, take much time to lay uncalled emphasis on why the pupils should see science subjects as tough and different from others. By so doing, the affected pupils would live to consider sciences as monster, thus would prefer to pay more attention to arts.

 

 

In the secondary schools, only a few students see subjects like Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry as friendly. Those who detest these subjects had nurtured their mentality or psyche with the view that sciences generally are only meant for a certain group of select individuals. Those who mistakenly chose to be in the science department, in the long run, tend to lose interest in the field and would want to dissociate themselves from the circle.

 

 

Funnily enough, in most cases, students would choose to be in science department when they get to the senior section simply because some of their intimate friends or classmates had chosen to be in that field.

This aspect of influence remains one of the major attributes of apathy noticed among various science students in most Nigerian secondary schools. This set of learners often becomes dropouts as a result of inability to cope with the studies.

 

 

Nowadays, virtually none pay good attention to the teachings of Pure Mathematics let alone Additional/Further Mathematics. And virtually most existing science-oriented disciplines, such as Engineering, in the tertiary institutions, basically depend on the knowledge of Further Mathematics on their day-to-day thrive.

 

 

This has caused enormous decline in the number of persons seeking to study engineering and other related courses. The few that managed to secure admission to read these courses, perhaps due to their background, usually fumble as the journey progresses.

The way out from this conundrum entails three prime approaches. One, the various primary and secondary schools ought to endeavour to engage qualified teachers that would imbibe the required mindset and knowledge into the pupils and students, as the case may be.

 

 

Guidance and counselling that has almost gone into extinction ought to equally be revived in these schools. A functional and viable mentorship mechanism would enable the learners to go for only the needful as well as what would be suitable for their future.

Parents and guardians, on their part, are expected to pay more attention to whatever their wards do as regards academics. Learning begins from home, thus the needed parental support mustn’t be overlooked.

Inter alia, governments at all levels among other relevant stakeholders should endeavour to provide the required facilities that would enable the affected people to appreciate science teachings. The management of the private learning citadels must also be mandated to follow suit.

 

 

For this growing apathy to become a thing of the past, every concerned stakeholder as mentioned above must note that science is the only tool that can fast-track the anticipated economic diversification. Think about it!

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Oyo on my mind

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Oyo on my mind

T

he Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan on November 11, 2019, delivered an ambiguous judgement that has got both the complainant and the defendant claiming victory regarding the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Oyo State. Seyi Makinde won the election handily by 515,621 votes to Adebayo Adelabu’s 357,982 votes. The margin of victory was by 157,639 votes. What made the victory even more decisive is that Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got more votes in 28 Local Government Areas of the state, while Adelabu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won in only five LGAs. It was not by any means a close contest.

 

 

Makinde won comprehensively despite that APC was the ruling party at both the federal and state levels at the time of the election. With such a margin of victory, the loser in a saner society would have congratulated the winner and moved on to prepare for another day. But that is the way of Nigerian politicians with their win-at-all-cost mentality. The loser chose to exercise his right of appeal which was thrown out by the election petitions tribunal. Still, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal for redress.

 

 

Normally, a court judgement was supposed to bring closure to a case or clearly state the way forward for the parties in a case. This Court of Appeal’s ruling was different and the ensuing confusion now threatens the peace of the state. Makinde’s lead counsel, Eyitayo Jegede contends that Makinde remains the governor of the state since there had been no counter directive by the appellate court on his victory. The APC governorship candidate, Bayo Adelabu, on the other hand, claims that the court judgement vindicates his claim that the election was inconclusive and that there is still an opportunity for him to get the victor booted out of office.

 

 

By delivering a fuzzy judgement which neither upturned the ruling of the election petitions tribunal that had earlier upheld Makinde’s victory, nor ordered a fresh election, the stage as many commentators have opined, appears set for the kind of political subterfuge that has made Nigeria, in spite of its huge potentials, a perpetually underdeveloped country.

 

 

Knowing that nothing is ever straight forward in Nigeria, there is spreading speculation that a miracle judgement could come out of the Supreme Court to throw Oyo State into further confusion. What makes this matter sensitive is that it appears to fall in line with the larger narrative of a hidden political agenda that has long been bandied around for a while as the 2023 election circle approaches. The zero-sum politics of 2023 already has a potential collateral damage in the person of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo whose humiliation as part of the process of forcing him out has commenced.

 

 

It has long been whispered that the ruling government and some of its aspiring presidential hopefuls consider Oyo State to be a critically important political battleground that cannot be allowed to remain in the hands of the opposition. Conventional wisdom is that you cannot claim to control the South-West if Oyo State is not in your grasp. Incidentally, it is the only South-West state not controlled by the ruling APC. At the time I first heard this, I had thought that it was all about getting the state back in 2023. Now there are whispers in the political circles that the plan was meant to be activated immediately.

 

 

Truth be told, Makinde won the governorship election hands down, riding on his pedigree as a proven compassionate individual and the public dislike of his predecessor’s abrasive style of governance. What APC should have done is to go back to the drawing board to offer a more viable alternative to PDP in 2023. What Oyo State needs right now is peace to provide a conducive environment for development.

 

 

Makinde’s four-year term has started extremely well. The challenge for him is to finish strong. Makinde in just a few months in the saddle has proved not to be just another run of the mill governor. A selfless and compassionate man, Makinde symbolizes a paradigm shift in governance that has caught the fancy of Nigerians from the furthest reaches of the North to the nooks and cranny of the South. It is not for nothing that he is already being seen as a future presidential material. It may well be that the Court of Appeal ruling has ended any question about Makinde’s mandate and all the raging debate about the issue is much ado about nothing. But any ojoro takeover of the state through a judicial backdoor could easily turn ugly. The electorate are unlikely to fold their arms as desperate politicians try to hijack their manifest freewill in electing Seyi Makinde as their governor on March 10, 2019.

 

 

The way I see it, Makinde will become a political legend if he continues to exhibit the selfless service he has so far rendered. For a man who has not until now held a political office, he is a fresh breath of air in a state that has not been particularly blessed with selfless leadership and the last thing the downtrodden people of Oyo State want is another leader who will engage in self aggrandisement or kleptocracy. If he finishes the way he started, he would have created for himself a pedestal for bigger involvement in Nigerian politics.

 

 

Dr. Raufu, former MD/Editor-in-Chief of National Mirror Newspapers, teaches at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, United States of America.

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Where are the Awoists?

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Where are the Awoists?

Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, GCFR, was born on March 6, 1909 in Ikenne, Ogun State, Western Nigeria and died on May 9, 1987. He attended various schools including Baptist Boy’s High School, Oke-Egunya, Abeokuta; he then became a teacher in Abeokuta. Following his education at Wesley College, Ibadan in 1927, he enrolled at the University of London as an external student and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Hons).

He went to the United Kingdom in 1944 to study at the University of London and was called to the Bar by the honorable society of the inner temple on November 19, 1946. He founded the Nigerian Tribune in 1949 at Adeoyo, Ibadan as a private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among Nigerians.Nigerian Tribune is still publishing in Nigeria. Chief Awolowo was Nigeria’s foremost Federalist. He advocated Federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration. As the leader of the Action Group party he led the damans for a federal constitution which was introduced in 1954 Lyttle Constitution, following primarily the model proposed by the Western Region Delegation led by him.

He was first Premier of Western Region. He proved to be and was viewed as a man of vision and a dynamic administrator. He introduced free primary education for all in Western Region and free health care for children. He established the first television station in Africa in 1959 and the Oduduwa Group of Companies. He built the first skyscraper called Cocoa House in Ibadan and the Liberty Stadium also in Ibadan.

When Chief Awolowo was alive, a group of young Nigerians called themselves ‘AWOISTS’ to feather their political interest. A few of them were columnists in the Nigerian Tribune newspaper. One of them became the Governor of Oyo State later in his life. Many of them got federal and state government appointments, especially when Chief Awolowo was the Vice Chairman of Federal Executive Council under General Yakubu Gowon.

After the death of Chief Awolowo, many of these so-called Awoists, thin away from weekly journey to Ikenne. Only a few of them kept fate with Mama H.I.D Awolowo.

As soon as Mama H.I.D Awolowo too passed to the great beyond, the so-called Awoists were nowhere to be found. That is human nature for you.

Many of the so-called Awoists did not imbibe the culture and nature of Chief Awolowo. All the three children of Chief Awolowo I know (they do not know me) attended public schools, like other children in Western Region as soon as free primary education started. Even though the first private primary school in Ibadan was just across the road to the residence of the Awolowos, instead, they attended N.A. Teachers Training Practicing School Oke-Ado, Ibadan. Chief Awolowo did not employ a private teacher for his children, Tola, Tokunbo and Oluwole. The three of them always trek from Oke-Ado near Ibadan Boys High School to Oke-Bola, Seventh day Adventist primary school under Mrs. Ogunsola and trek back after lessons.

Mama H.I.D Awolowo would come and check the progress of her wards. I remembered day the ball we were playing off the field and stopped between Mrs. Ogunsola and Mama H.I.D’s legs. We were afraid to go and get the ball. Mama H.I.D Awolowo threw the ball to us on the field. Her remark that day is still ringing in my ear. She said, “We may not know Thunder Balogun may arise amongst these children.”

When Chief Awolowo’s contemporaries were celebrating their joy of becoming billionaires, he celebrated 25 years of free education in Western Region.

Many of his contemporaries were not remembered again in history. But, free education introduced by Chief Awolowo continues to put him forward as the real Asiwaju of the Yoruba.

λDr. Ajai writes from Lagos.

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Edo’s political conundrum (3)

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Edo’s political conundrum (3)

The Edo political narrative has become a poisoned chalice, a broken record with cracked rhythms that easily unveil the outer clothings of men to see their dirty, stinking linen on the inside. The soundbites are disturbingly annoying. The level of political witch-hunt is gaining traction while political differences are no longer settled with convincing and superior argument but by exchange of cudgels, blunt scalpels or fire power. The number of politically motivated attacks is growing by the day, and further complicated by the governor’s hard stance and breathing down the throat of those who are not ready to toe his line of thought.

Only recently he told us of the efficacy of mosquito bite that can cause anyone malaria. The only catastrophy in the mosquito fable is that it is an enemy of all. Whether the governor’s allegory fitly captures his intended message is another kettle of fish, but it suffices to state that insecticides have proven to be ready response to stubborn mosquitoes. If the governor is speaking from the point of view of claim that he was being referred to as a mosquito, and for him to think that his mosquito bite can cause maximum damage, also conveys the impression that he is speaking from the point of view of political combustion. As a governor, he should see the entire state and its people as his constituency. There should be magnanimity in his leadership evocation. It should not be a concept of we versus them. Gubernatorial power has limitations.

Each time I watched the governor speaks, I see the marrows of frustration all over his face. That is what you get when you enter into a needless political battle within the same party with actors that midwifed your election. An intra-party crisis fulfils the attributes of the proverbial saying that the kolanut eating insect or weevil resides right inside the kolanut. Once suspicion is planted as a new seedling within a party, it grows with time and thereafter assumes the status of the main discourse. Trust is broken down. Friendship is built on the pedestal of political exigency and not on the platform of any intrinsic or altruistic value for friendship.

Obaseki’s response to the legion of issues confronting him exposed his political naivety, and I mean no derision here. But, to think that sacking political appointees because you feel their political loyalties reside somewhere and to some other political idols, is to miss the point squarely. Pretenders in politics occupy a higher percentage. In life, the hardest prison to escape from is the mind. There is no art to deconstruct the mind from the faces of those who gladiate around Governor Obaseki. And reappointing or trying to weed out certain persons on account of building your own army of supporters or loyalists is a classic case of undiluted contradiction. How can a man who has just broken the thin line of loyalty to his benefactor, be the one seeking to cultivate loyalists? Does it sound logical?

When the walls of loyalty are broken, what you get are emergency persons and stomach infrastructure supporters. Since the last one month that political appointees were relieved of their responsibilities, the cry of “hunger day” has become the lyrical ballad of Osadebey Avenue singers. They tell you without any prompting that they need to collect their own reward for their dispensed labour in 2016 when they were given a hard product to sell. You hear some say “I beg no take your reggae spoil my blues oh”, “we just dey tag along oh, man must wack naa”. Others will tell you, Obaseki is too stingy with money, but if fanning the embers of this political discord will make him spend the money, so be it. Some people are already making a fortune out of the scenario and the longer it endures, the better for those who are profiting from it. In fact, the Governor’s Deputy, Phillip Shuaibu has become comfortable now monetarily compared to 2017 December, when he reportedly walked out on the governor over issues bordering on frugal budget under his purview. The first two citizens are now in bed and united by the same guilt.

Using Governor Obaseki as my guinea pig for experimenting with loyalty, I doubt if he would use his templates as model for getting loyalists on his side. Having broken the bond of loyalty, imprisoned the allure of friendship, arrested the quintessence of good naturedliness, and constantly search for victims and villains in a political conquest with predictable prisoners of war, I doubt if Governor Obaseki can actually trust even his own shadow, let alone the legion of his appointees who have become political scavengers in search of daily bread in a country where poverty is elegantly dressed in three-piece suit. When I saw the chieftains of the pro-Obaseki APC lined up in the inner sanctuary of the church, on Sunday, 10th November, 2019 to accord praises to God for a journey of three years, it underscored God’s unequalled patience at tolerating human frailties, lies, chicanery, deceits, subterfuge and mischief. Deep in the heart of man is wickedness, depravity, cunny, pretentiousness, and sheer platitudinousness. If Oshiomhole was told three years ago that the man he fought tooth and nail to sell to the Edo people, would turn around to now haunt him like the tale of the devil and the blue sea, a plague kind of, Oshiomhole would most likely keep malice with anyone coming up with such introspection. But the reality today has become a moving story that is a compelling read by all.

The virtue of gratitude must not be lost on us no matter the provocations and the temptations. We must, as good Africans with a rich tradition and culture, imbibe the subliminal humility to say thank you always for the good done to us. When I hear people talk about Obaseki providing the funding for an Oshiomhole governorship in 2007, I often laugh with helpless awe. How can a man whose businesses had nosedived be the one sponsoring Oshiomhole? Where was Afri-Invest in 2007 and 2008 when Obaseki was running helter skelter to bail himself out of economic quagmire and financial gooble-de-gook? The truth is, when Oshiomhole realised that it was becoming difficult to sell a Godwin Obaseki candidacy, he decided to hand over all his achievements and ascribed his successes to him. If possible, he wanted people to see Obaseki as a cloned version of himself. He preached and sermonised in the homes of those who make things happen. He visited chiefs, traditional rulers, Enogies and told them pointedly that they should trust him. He was the guarantor and Dangote was the chief guarantor. Oshiomhole danced “azonto” with starcato steps to whet the appetite of party supporters. He exhausted his energy on the podium, betraying the supposed strength of his age, just to make sure that no stone was left unturned. But today, all that has amounted to pouring water into a basket of trouble.

Little did Dangote and Oshiomhole know that the man they were guaranteeing had a different plan altogether. He had no collateral. He doesn’t care a hoot about sustaining friendships. A movie trended about a certain Chief who tried to betray the Benin Kingdom and the palace in the 18th century. The movie trended for a long time but Oshiomhole was undaunted. He moved from house to house, reached out to the youth and the elderly just to make the point for an Obaseki success. Obaseki on his own path was in some kind of cul-de-sac because he was relatively unknown across the state. He hadn’t played politics in Edo State and hardly voted in previous elections. He was standoffish and remarkably self-effacing. He presented a picture of someone who was not desperate for power. He stood as bestman on May 15, 2016 when Comrade married Iara, his Cape Verdean Queen. Comrade thought he had found a true friend and brother but the reality in Edo State now is a deep cut in the heart of man. No one is expecting Obaseki to behave like an Oshiomhole. They surely nurture different idiosyncrasies. But gratitude has no synonym. Gratitude is gratitude. It is the wickedness of man that two political and social friends would turn apart like sworn enemies.

Barely 24 hours after the victory of Obaseki, he had allegedly informed the Accountant General of the state to halt any payment of approvals coming from Oshiomhole’s table. Work done were never paid and typical of civil servants, the Accountant General complied by using delay tactics to halt those payments, while at some point, the banks were blamed for the delays. One month later, Obaseki was sworn in and the full script of the real Obaseki began to unfold. When laughter does not emanate from the heart, it adds ugliness to the conduct of men. Pretentiousness is not only insanity by other means, it is the most disturbing character indices that lower the bar in character profiling. The dubiety of it is what kills relationship and hurts friendship. I feel a sense of lost watching the ugly scenarios from the inner fortress of Osadebe Avenue, where Osarodion Ogie, Phillip Shuaibu and Godwin Obaseki called the shots, and supported by a horde of visionless youths who have been converted to mobile army to visit mayhem on anyone that stands in the labyrinth of opposition. I have received phone calls from concerned persons that I should stay away from Edo State, my place of origin. So, an expression of opinion has now become sacrilegious and the only way to respond is through mayhem and assault. This is what you get when leadership is not cultured and schooled.

I am being reminded every now and then that Governor Obaseki wants to seek re-election. I find it hard to believe. A man seeking re-election should seek votes, not cutlasses, gun-powder, assault and mayhem. Democracy is an inclusive and participatory game where votes count based on campaign promises. Fighting against the electorate is a dissonance that cannot be ignored. This is why I feel strongly that Governor Obaseki wants to cause maximum damage, destroy the structure that birthed him, uproot the canopy that provided cover for him ab initio, and surplant a regime of radicalised and militarised youths on a fragile system, just to make the point sink that he is the new sherrif in town. Any politician that truly wants votes, will tone down on assault and verbal warfare, especially one that has not delivered substantially on his campaign promises. But if the war we witnessed in Kogi State on 16th November, 2019 is anything to go by, elections will no longer be decided by votes, but by cutlasses, gun powder, AK 47, Pump Action, and a combination of other dare-devilry confrontations to railroad everyone to conquest. And Nigeria will gradually be plummeting to an abysmal cesspool of inanities and butt of jokes around the world. Very soon, and very soon, elections will no longer be conducted by the electoral umpire but by armed robbers in a desperate bid to install whoever they desire to enthrone. This is where democracy will now assume a new name; demonstration of craze….

 

To be continued next week…..

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Bayelsa poll: APC’s roller-coaster continues

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Bayelsa poll: APC’s roller-coaster continues

 

 

K

een watchers of the polity didn’t expect otherwise, and weren’t disappointed when the Federal High Court in Yenagoa nullified the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Saturday, November 16, 2019, governorship poll in Bayelsa State.

The judgement by Justice Jane Inyang, barely 48 hours to the balloting, was akin to those delivered during the 2019 general election. Then, the courts, ruling on the conduct of primaries, had returned decisions against the APC, leading to the disqualification of its candidates in several states.

 

 

That’s how it lost out in the states of Rivers, Zamfara, Taraba and Cross River, as the courts ruled that the party couldn’t field candidates there due to “improper conduct” of its primaries.

 

 

Although the APC presented candidates in Zamfara for the governorship and legislative seats, the courts voided its sweeping victories at the polls. And in the governorship in Taraba and Cross River, in which it participated, and results declared for it, the courts ruled the party had no candidates.

 

It’s a total blackout of the party in its Rivers chapter, as the courts prevented it from the governorship and legislative elections.

 

So, ruling the party out again very close to the election in Bayelsa was a recipe for chaos for the APC, whose running mate in the poll, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, was disqualified, a few days back, by an Abuja Federal High Court.

 

 

In a judgement by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court invalidated Degi-Eremienyo’s participation in the election after “it found him guilty of supplying false information” to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 

Thus, disqualifying its flag bearer, Chief David Lyon, would have been “double jeopardy” for the APC had a stay of execution of both judgements not obtained on appeals, and the status quo ordered to be maintained by all parties beyond the November 16 election.

Besides, the INEC had declared that any 11th-hour judgements disqualifying candidates would not affect the conduct of the poll.

 

The APC primaries, in early September 2019, produced Chief Lyon as its candidate. But a dissatisfied aspirant and former Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Heineken Lokpobri, approached the court to vitiate Lyon’s nomination, and recognise him as the “authentic” winner of the shadow election.

 

However, following the November 14 court decision, many have raised issues with the judge’s rationale for fixing the court verdict just 48 hours to the crucial and highly-contentious election.

 

As insinuated, was the decision influenced by external forces or “fifth columnists,” to put a spanner in the works of the party seen as capable of halting the 20-year unbroken rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa?

 

Without attempting to dismiss or diminish the stand of the critics, as anything goes in politics, particularly in the Nigerian variant, the alibis advanced, at best, are sentimental.

 

 

First, the critics have forgotten that the power to fix a court ruling is at the discretion of the judge, who, nonetheless, should avoid causing confusion in a tensed political terrain as in Bayelsa.

 

Second, courts don’t adjudicate in a vacuum. If the aggrieved members of the APC didn’t approach the court with application, the judge wouldn’t have had discretionary power over nothing.

 

It’s the APC members, who brought an ant-infested wood to the court, that invited the lizards to a party, and they should be put on the spot. Their naïveté and ambition beclouded their sense of propriety to accept the party’s entreaty to sheath the sword.

 

That’s why it’s ludicrous, and infantile the positing of Lokpobri that he didn’t pray the court to nullify the APC primary election, but to declare him as the winner.

In other words, the judge, like a Father Christmas, went outside the issue(s) placed before her, and gave a “travesty of justice” that stopped the APC and its candidate, Lyon, in the election.

 

For that reason, and before the votes were cast, Justice Inyang had literally handed “victory” to the PDP, which the APC accused of abetting disgruntled members, such as Lokpobri, to go to court, which it (PDP) could influence its verdict.

 

Plausible as this allegation is, it’s plied to malign an opponent that wasn’t part of the primaries. If the PDP had “induced” dissatisfied APC elements to go to court, shouldn’t they object if truly they’re loyal and committed party members?

Lokpobri thought using the court to stop Lyon from contesting at the poll would be a walkover, a picnic. But by a twist of fate, the “unintended” happened: The court held he wasn’t also qualified for the election since the internal poll was not conducted in line with the party’s constitution and guidelines.

 

As Justice Inyang noted, the APC, rather than constituting a seven-member panel, had a one-man committee of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, while the results of the primaries were declared by the Secretary of the committee, Senator Emmanuel Ochega.

Accordingly, the judge held: “It has been established by judicial authorities and several judgements that political parties are bound by their own rules, (but) the committee that conducted the primaries threw caution to the winds, and it is my ruling that the primaries stand nullified.

 

“The results announced by Senator Emmanuel Ochega are not valid, as he is not the returning officer for the election. And I make an order, restraining INEC from recognising any of the aspirants that participated in the said primaries.”

 

Lokpobri wanted to stop Lyon from parading, and presenting himself as candidate of the APC, but the court also barred him from holding himself out as such. It’s like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face! So, no need for Lokpobri to shed crocodile tears!

 

But it should be stated that the Bayelsa chapter’s debacle is yet another example of the failure of the APC to put its house in order. The internal schism began in 2015, culminating in the party’s shameful “defeat” in the 2019 general election.

While it retained the Presidency, and majority in the National Assembly, the party lost key, and electorally-promising states due to the disputes arising from the governorship and legislative primaries it’s failed to resolve.

 

With the Bayelsa, and Edo State chapters boiling, members, worried that the APC may disintegrate ahead of the 2023 general election, have resurrected the agitation for the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to resign his position.

 

Perhaps, the omens, as predicted by political pundits and the opposition, may still come to pass unless urgent steps are taken to break the free-fall of the APC!

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