After months of legal fireworks, it is Judgement Day as the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal delivers ruling on the suit filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, against the victory of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, in the February 23, 2019 election. TUNDE OYESINA reports
he Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja will today deliver judgement in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his party against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 23, 2019 election.
The secretariat of the tribunal located at the premises of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division had yesterday indicated that the judgement will be delivered today by 9.00a.m.
The notice reads: “Presidential Election Tribunal: Please be informed, notice has been given for judgement to be delivered tomorrow (today) September 11, 2019, 9.00am.”
The Electoral Law had provided for the Tribunal to hear and determine the petition within 180 days. The time frame elapses on Sunday, September 15.
Justice Mohammed Garba, Chairman of the five-man panel of justices had stated that the judgement date would be communicated to parties.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on February 27, declared Buhari and his party, the APC, as the winner of the presidential election, having polled a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who it said polled a total of 11,262,978 votes.
Atiku, PDP’s petition
Not satisfied with the result, Atiku and his party had in a joint petition approached the Tribunal through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) to challenge the election on the ground that the result released by INEC was not the true position of the election.
It was the contention of the petitioners that they won the election, based on the results transmitted electronically to INEC’s server.
They also contended that Buhari did not possess the relevant academic qualification to contest the election. Joined as 1st to 3rd Respondents are: INEC, Buhari and the APC.
Atiku and his party in their petition marked CA/PEPC/002/2019 and filed on March 18 submitted that the APC candidate, Buhari, was not validly elected by the majority of votes cast across the country in the February 23 presidential election.
The petitioners also contended that the election was marred by corruption. In addition, the petitioners alleged that the election of Buhari is invalid, having not complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Also the petitioners submitted that Buhari was not at the time of the election qualified to contest, having submitted a fake academic qualification to the electoral body.
The petitioners in their reliefs prayed the tribunal to declare that Buhari was not duly elected and ought not to have been returned and that the election is null and void.
They also prayed that Atiku be declared as the validly elected winner of the election having polled the highest number of votes as provided by the Electoral Act.
They also prayed for an order of the tribunal to direct INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Atiku, having been validly elected by the majority of votes cast on February 23.
In the alternative, the petitioners prayed the tribunal to nullify the February 23 election and order a fresh presidential election.
Buhari, APC’s defence
Opposing the petition, Buhari and APC challenged its competence. Their main contention was that Atiku did not have locus standi to even participate in the presidential poll.
Buhari had described Atiku as a serial loser, boasting that he had always defeated him in every electoral contest that they took part in.
The President insisted that the electorate always chose him ahead of Atiku in inter-party or intra-party contests, citing the 2014 presidential primary election of the APC as an example.
In addition, Buhari queried the powers of the tribunal to nullify his victory at the poll, contending that the joint petition Atiku and the PDP filed was incompetent as it was based on conjectures.
He insisted that the reliefs the petitioners are seeking from the tribunal were “vague, nebulous and lacking in specificity.”
The President equally argued that most of the issues and grounds of the petition were not only “mutually exclusive,” but also outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
He further contended that by virtue of section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, only the Federal High Court or High Court of a State has jurisdiction to adjudicate on some of the issues, among which include the allegation that he was bereft of the requisite educational qualification.
The APC, in its own objection, alleged that Atiku is an alien, insisting that he is not a Nigerian by birth and therefore was not qualified to contest the February 23 presidential poll.
The party submitted that Atiku is a Cameroonian and that he was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and is therefore a citizen of Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth.
At the end of the hearing, the petitioners called 62 witnesses, the APC and INEC did not call any witness, while Buhari called on seven witnesses.
Part of the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses were that INEC used electronic server to transmit results, that Buhari did not possess any academic qualification and that the election was marred by irregularities.
Petitioners’ written address
In their final written address, the petitioners strongly alleged that Buhari used fundamental falsehood to secure clearance from INEC to participate in the election.
They also insisted that Buhari, as candidate of the APC, lied on oath in his Form CF001 presented to INEC before standing for the presidential election.
The petitioners drew the attention of the Tribunal to a portion of Buhari’s INEC form, where he claimed to have three different certificates; comprising Primary School Leaving Certificate, WAEC certificate and Officers Cadet certificate.
The also said it was shocking and surprising that “no provisional certificate, no certified true copy of the certificates, no photocopy of certificates, and in fact, no electronic version of any of the certificates was presented by Buhari throughout the hearing of the petition to dispute the claim of the petitioners.
They added: “More worrisome is the fact that Buhari’s own witness, Major General Paul Tafa (rtd), who joined the Nigerian Army with him in 1962, told the tribunal that they were never asked to submit their certificates to the Nigerian Army Board as claimed by Buhari in his Form CF001.
“At any rate the Secretary of the Nigerian Army Board, Olatunde Olaleye, had in a statement, clarified that Buhari had no single certificate in his personal file with the Nigerian Army.”
Atiku therefore urged the tribunal to nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he lied on oath to deceive Nigerians and to secure unlawful qualification for the election.
The former Vice President informed the tribunal that Buhari’s claim that he can read and write in English language as enough qualification is not tenable because ordinary artisans on the streets of Nigeria can also do so, adding that a grave allegation bordering on certificate was not addressed by Buhari as required by law.
The PDP presidential candidate also faulted INEC’s claim that it has no central server, adding that server is a storage facility, including computer, where database of registered voters, number of Permanent Voters’ Cards and election results amongst others are stored for references.
He said the claim by INEC that it has no device like server to store information, “is laughable, tragic and a story for the dogs.” Atiku also debunked the claim of INEC that collation and transmission of results electronically was prohibited by law in Nigeria.
He asserted that by the Electoral Amendment Act of March 26, 2015, the use of electronics became law and was officially gazetted for the country, adding that section 9 of the Act, which made provision for electronic collation of results replaced section 52, which hitherto prohibited the use of electronics and which INEC erroneously held that electronic results transmission is prohibited.
He therefore urged the tribunal to uphold the petition and nullify the participation of Buhari in the election on the grounds that he was not qualified to have stood for the election in addition to malpractices that prompted his declaration as winner of the election.
Counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), in his submission, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost because the electoral body conducted the election in total compliance with the Nigerian Constitution and Electoral Act 2010.
Usman insisted that INEC did not transmit election results electronically because doing so is prohibited by law and that the commission did not call any witness because there was no need to do so.
Buhari, APC’s submission
In his defence, Buhari through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), argued that Atiku’s petition was liable to be dismissed because it is lacking in evidence, merit and substance and that the petition is ill advised and signified nothing.
Olanipekun cited section 131 of the Constitution, which stipulated a minimum of secondary school attendance to qualify for election in Nigeria, adding that Buhari cannot go beyond that and that he does not need to tender or attach his certificate before he can get qualification for any election.
He submitted that there was nothing in law to persuade the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election as pleaded by Atiku and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost.
The APC represented by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), in its own submission, said the petition lacked quality evidence that could warrant the nullification of the election as pleaded by the petitioners and urged the tribunal to throw out the petition as long as its hand can do with huge cost.
The judiciary ‘trial’
New Telegraph recalls that the tribunal had earlier refused the petitioners’ application seeking to inspect the INEC server. The tribunal premised its reason for refusal on the ground that granting such will be pre-judicial. The Supreme Court had also on appeal refused the application.
However some stakeholders have opined that whatever the verdict of the tribunal is, it will go a long way to shape and determine the nation’s electoral jurisprudence, one way or the other.
According to them, the judgement will either renew or dampen the hope of the citizenry in the judiciary.
Pleading with the tribunal to live up to its expectation of delivering a judgement based on objectivity and fairness and which will make all parties in the suit not to have a bias mind against the judiciary, the stakeholders said: “Justice is for three parties namely – the petitioners, respondent and the public.”
No doubt, the country’s judiciary has been in the eye of the storm, however, its ability to deliver a just and fair verdict will restore the hope of the common man.
Nigerians have earlier commended the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who was the former chairman of the tribunal for recusing herself from the panel.
Justice Bulkachuwa’s action was premised on an application filed by the petitioners at the pre-hearing stage, wherein they (petitioners) alleged bias on the ground that Bulkachuwa’s husband and son are card carrying members of the APC.
They also alleged that Justice Bulkachuwa at the inaugural sitting of the panel stated that “no matter how free and fair an election is in Nigeria, there will always be a petition.”
Though the panel held that the petitioners could not prove the ingredients of bias against its chairman, Justice Bulkachuwa, however held that she would recuse herself on personal ground.
This act, to a greater extent, earned the panel a great deal of credibility and stakeholders saw it as a step towards objectivity and fairness. This optimism was further strengthened, when the incumbent chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, assured all parties that they will be treated equally.
Senate: Issues as lawmakers resume
CHUKWU DAVID reports on major issues that are likely to be in the front burner as members of the upper legislative chamber resume plenary today after their annual recess
As the Senate resumes plenary from its annual recess, there are many pending issues that will definitely engage the attention of the senators in a bid to contribute their quota towards tackling various teething problems confronting the country and delivering good governance to the masses.
One of such issues, which will be placed in the front burner by the apex legislative Assembly is the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other African citizens resident in South Africa.
In the last one month, the unprecedented and unprovoked attacks meted particularly on Nigerians by the citizens of the former apartheid nation had attracted outrage and protests among Nigerians within and outside the country.
Sequel to this ugly development, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege; Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu; Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe and some other senators had in their separate reactions to the development, condemned it.
Also, Senate committees on Diaspora and Foreign Affaiars had met with the management teams of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Diaspora Commission and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to finding lasting solutions to the worrisome problem.
Therefore, the Senate, which has critical roles to play in the running of the affairs of the country, is expected to come up with a motion on how to tackle the problem of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, with a view to bringing it to an end.
The Senate is also expected to expand whatever resolutions it might take on the problem of xenophobic attacks in South Africa to capture the interest and wellbeing of other African nationals living in the now hostile sister country.
Some aggrieved Nigerians had earlier suggested that Nigeria should severe diplomatic relations with South Africa, while others even went to the extreme by suggesting revenge.
Expectedly, some aggrieved and temperamental Nigerians had resorted to paying South Africa in her own coin, thereby resulting in the partial attacks made on some South African companies in Nigeria.
Some of the establishments affected by the moves of the enraged Nigerians include Shoprite, MTN, DSTV, and Stanbic IBTC Bank among others. However, intervention by the Nigerian government saved the day for the respective firms.
So, the Senate has onerous legislative responsibility to do an elaborate consideration on the matter as well as come up with far-reaching recommendations on how to stop the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
The Red Chamber is likely going to commend the proprietor and management of Air Peace Airline for the prompt intervention to rescue Nigerian citizens who were in precarious situation as a result of the xenophobic attacks.
Following the sudden resurgence of attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, some patriotic Nigerians have demonstrated concerns by proffering solutions and providing platform on how to rescue Nigerians who were stranded and frustrated in the former apartheid enclave.
For instance, the Managing Director of Air Peace Airline, Mr. Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, volunteered and actually released one of his aircraft to bring back Nigerians who are willing to return home.
The business mogul has since then been receiving encomiums from Nigerians for his patriotism and uncommon spirit of brotherhood. It is therefore, expected that the Senate will likely commend Onyeama for his kind gesture.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/NEPAD, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, had earlier saluted what he described as the patriotic and nationalistic legacy of the business man.
In another development, the Senate is expected to give priority attention to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which the executive has already forwarded to it for approval, preparatory for processing the 2020 budget, when presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President of the Senate had disclosed to journalists in Abuja on Friday that the executive had forwarded the (MTEF) to the Senate for consideration on resumption.
MTEF is a fiscal instrument, which provides the framework or indices upon which the country’s annual budget is based. It usually provides information on the projected oil production per day, exchange rate, income and revenue among others.
Lawan expressed optimism that the Senate would start consideration on the MTEF within the first legislative week of its resumption.
His words: “We are hopeful and optimistic, as well as hungry and thirsty, to receive the 2020 appropriations bill,” Lawan told reporters shortly on his arrival from a private visit abroad.
He added: “I am aware that the executive arm of government is working assiduously to ensure that the appropriation bill for the year 2020 is presented to the National Assembly by the end of this month. The National Assembly will work so hard to ensure that the 2020 budget is passed before we go on Christmas break.”
The Senate President said the budget is one issue that the National Assembly will take head-on to ensure that the undesirable trend of the budget is reversed.
He said: “Our committee on Finance will be saddled with its first major responsibility that it works expeditiously on the Fiscal Strategy Paper/Medium Term Expenditure Framework request of the executive arm of government and thereafter, the budget will come after that.
“We believe this can be achieved, as doing so will make the economy better and predictable. We also think an early passage of the 2020 appropriation bill will have a desirable impact on Nigerians,” he said.
Lawan also said the Ninth National Assembly will work assiduously with the executive arm of government to improve the security situation of the country.
The Senate, he added, will also evaluate the crisis that affected Nigerians living in South Africa.
“In the Eighth Senate, we had an ad hoc committee that I was privileged to chair, which reviewed the security architecture of the country. We are going to look into that report, and in addition, other contemporary issues that affect security in the country.
“We are also going to look into the crisis that affected Nigerians living in South Africa. You recall that this issue was reviewed before we went on recess. The Senate felt as an institution that our citizens’ diplomacy must be protected where ever they go in the world.
Another important issue that the Senate will not gloss over is the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which has been in the National Assembly since the Sixth Assembly.
While conflicting geo-ethnic politics has caused serious setback to the passage of the bill, President Buhari withheld assent to some part of the bill that were passed by the last Assembly. It is believed that vested parochial interest between the North and the South is the major reason the bill has not passed.
It is expected that members of the National Assembly will pass the bill this time around. However, it obviously requires serious lobbying to get the senators to suppress their parochial interest and work in the overall interest of Nigerians.
Similarly, the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill), which was passed four times by the Eighth National Assembly but did not get the assent of President Buhari, is likely to be revisited by the Senate, with a view to addressing all the grey areas and pass it for presidential assent.
Analysts and public affairs commentators have stressed that the bill, if passed into law, has the potential to address most of the problems usually faced in Nigeria during elections.
Why Urhobo deserve NDDC appointment –Okumagba
Chief Emmanuel Okumagba is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. In this interview, he speaks on recent appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari, especially the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), ola James reports
What is your take on the recent appointment of your brother, Chief Bernard Okumagba, as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)?
You that know I am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but when something good comes the way of your people, only a wicked and bad man will feel bad. In fact, you will be taken as a wizard. The news of my nephew’s appointment as the managing director of NDDC is a welcome development, especially when you know that we, the Urhobos of Warri, Delta South Senatorial District have been facing a lot of inadequacies from both the society and government. So, such an appointment will bring to limelight, the condition of an oppressed minority group.
As the head of the Okumagba dynasty worldwide, I am happy with our son’s elevation. I recall the era of his father, Chief Daniel Okumagba of blessed memory, it was the same joy that received his appointment as Chairman of Ajaokuta Steel Company. This again symbolizes that we have been remembered for high office as a people. His nomination by Mr. President has been inundated by calls of congratulating messages, and people have been congratulating me because I am the father, and I have received it with warmth; that our son, a regular round peg in a round hole, a chartered accountant that will be managing the finances allocated to the company to develop the region. I have no fears in my mind of his capability to perform.
Why is it that some people are against his nomination?
Well, people in their opinion may say anything, but I tell you that the Urhobos of Warri have always suffered this neglect because we are Urhobos and we are in a territory that is in the core Urhobo centre. If you are familiar with Emebiren bridge that is the boundary of Olere-Urhobo kingdom and Ugberikoko area; ordinarily, we ought to have been excised to join our kits and kin in Delta Central, but we are in Delta South Senatorial District by virtue of Warri people, but we have suffered neglect.
However, God put us in Delta South Senatorial District and we cannot question Him for putting us in Delta South as people of Urhobo nationality because we are enterprising people wherever we are. Above all, we are not a people you can suppress. We always assert our position, we will always fight for our right because we are enlightened people and people tend to fear the level of our enlightenment. However, the uniformed tend to fear us for no just cause and I am not surprised.
Questions are being raised about his background and capability for the onerous task. How would you respond to that?
Well, he is a private business owner; a chartered accountant, and was at a time, a manager with United Bank for Africa from where he became the Commissioner for Economic Planning in Delta State before he was moved to the Finance Ministry. It was the same misgiving then, he was dropped as a commissioner under Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in a bizarre manner that defies explanation.
What is your advice to the Urhobo ethnic nationality given the seeming division of the people?
One of the biggest challenges facing the Urhobo nation is that they are terribly misunderstood because we hardly allow anyone to crack and oppress us, but there should be unity of purpose among our people as we see of people of other ethnic nationalities. We need to speak with one voice as a people because Nigeria of today comprises several nationalities.
You can imagine the Urhobo, who are the fifth largest ethnic group in the country have we no state homogenous to them out of the 36 states in the country. The TIVs have several states of their own. The Izons have homogenous state of their own, but the Urhobos don’t have a state of their own in spite of our population.
Unfortunately, it is too late for Urhobo to have one monarch and that was what led to the creation of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) for the Urhobo to have one voice, but even as at that today, the UPU is still talking about Chief Omene and Tiger as UPU leader, which is ought not to be so.
Urhobo traditional rulers are intelligent and they should be able to call them to order. Urhobo people must brace up and be strongly united. We must learn from the more advanced nationalities in terms of traditional issues.
Would you say that the appointment of Urhobo man as the managing director of the NDDC has addressed the cry of marginalisation by your people?
President Buhari’s appointment of Urhobo man into office is a welcome development and I know that he must be instrumental to the emergence of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as the Deputy President of the Senate. These are signs of what is to come, and we advised that there should be consideration of Urhobo people in appointments in Delta State.
Again, what do you have to say to those protesting over Okumagba’s appointment?
My candid advice to them is that Nigerians must begin to look at suitability when it comes appointments rather than who comes from where because it is not helping our development. It is unfair for them to say that he is not from an oil producing area because oil drilling today is being done vertically in this area being called Niger Delta.
Again, since 1960, we became an independence country, successive leaders that have ruled have been from the Northern political zone, except Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who comes from the Niger Delta. All those successive leaders determined where our oil money is spent, heaven has not fallen. So, we should continue to be our brothers’ keepers because we all belong to one and indivisible country call Nigeria.
Akande: Lessons in leadership as ex-gov is honoured
It was a glorious day for former Governor of Osun State and ex-interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, as politicians and the academia gathered in Lagos to celebrate his achievements in public office. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports
Eminent personalities, especially public office holders and politicians converged at the Jelili Adebisi Omotola Hall C of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos on Thursday last week Thursday to celebrate a former governor of Osun State and ex-Interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande.
The event was the presentation of a book titled: “The Bisi Akande Phenomenon: Governance, Economy and Politics,’ which chronicles the monumental achievements recorded by the former Osun State governor in public office.
The book was edited by Prof. Lai Olurode of the University of Lagos and an associate professor of the University of Ibadan, Dhikhrullah Yagboyaju, and it was encomium for Akande, who is popularly referred to as Baba Awon Omo Kekeke (father of small children) by many of his contemporaries, associates, friends and family as well of politicians.
Among those who graced the event include Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); Ogun State deputy governor, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele; her Ekiti State counterpart, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, who stood in for their for their principals.
Also in attendance were Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe; APC chieftains, serving and former members of the national and states Assembly, among others.
Speaking at the event, Mustapha, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the political class has lots to learn from Akande, noting that the former governor’s canny insight was remarkable to the emergence of APC.
The SGF said Akande and his political ally, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, fought hard to ensure that APC, as an opposition party, won the 2015 presidential election and went ahead to retain power in 2019.
Governor Akeredolu in his address, described Akande as a man of an uncommon courage, nothing that the former Osun State governor demonstrated this in taking decisions in the face of strong political opposition as governor.
Speaking on behalf of all the six governors of the South-West, Akeredolu said Akande’s life in governance and politics made significant impact on politics, not only in Nigeria, but particularly in the South-West.
He also commended the leadership provided by Akande in collaboration with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Tinubu for raising a progressives’ family and the type of governors the South-West boast of today.
Commenting on the book, Akeredolu, who was its chief presenter, applauded the authors and contributors. He said the book is a different narration of events devoid of any falsification of thoughts and events, adding that it speaks about the achievements of the former Osun State governor without any embellishments and superlatives.
Also speaking, Governor Oyetola, described Akande, who was the first governor of the state in the present Fourth Republic, as a bridge builder between the North and the South in a nation immersed in ethnic politics. He added that the former governor has remained a potent voice in politics, governance and the economy.
His words: “Chief Abdulkareem Adebisi Bamidele Akande is a pride to The State of Osun and Nigeria. His life, politics, philosophy, leadership dynamics and lifestyle accurately exemplify him as an outstanding Omoluabi and a phenomenon in the nation’s budding democracy. He represents everything The State of Osun stands for, and radiates the honour and statesmanship our nation exudes. Indeed, Chief Bisi Akande is a model for contemporary politicians, youths, and school children who the nation looks up to as its hope.
“Chief Akande’s visionary leadership is conspicuously visible in the way he led the transformation of the progressive family, from its evolution stages in the 4th Republic from Alliance for Democracy (AD), through Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to the All Progressives Congress (APC), as Governor, Chairman and Leader of the political parties at various times.
“Chief Akande birthed the legacy of prudent and transparent management of men and resources. Despite Osun’s status as one of the resource-challenged states in the country, Chief Akande employed his skills as a creative manager to build structures and institutions in a manner that dwarfed the achievements of resource-studded states in the nation.”
Governor Oyetola said the book is a service to the nation and humanity. “It is a collection of the illustrious contributions of Baba Akande to the building of this political edifice called Nigeria. As students of Chief Akande’s politico-economics, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the author of the book for codifying the activities and milestones of our principal into a compendium for us and the generations yet unborn to appropriately build bricks on the foundation that will take our fatherland to the Promised Land,” he said.
In his address, former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi said Akande is a perfect governor of an imperfect people.
“Like me (Ajimobi), Akande tried to be a perfect governor of an imperfect people. He tried to be a perfect man in an imperfect world. When I left as governor and people started abusing me, Akande called me and said they will always abuse you. I told him that when he left as governor they abused him, but God made him to live long enough for us to start praising him and I pray that God will also give me the opportunity to be 80,” he said.
Speaking on the good virtues of Akande, an APC chieftain, Chief Lanre Rasak, said: “One has to thank God for Chief Akande’s life. He has been a wonderful person. God has made it possible for Chief Akande to achieve many things politically in South-West and Nigeria. He started as a councillor represented his immediate constituency and grew to the level of Secretary to the State Government and later deputy governor of a state. He also served a governor of a state and later national chairman of a party that is now the ruling party at the federal level. It is a rear privilege and God gave it to him and he did it very well.
“What politicians should learn from Chief Akande is that whatever you do, be honest, sincere, patriotic and committed to the ideals in something believing. Akande believes that there must be the greatest number of goods to the greatest number of people. He was fair to all manner of people in every public office he finds himself and he has done it wonderfully well and that is why the cream of the society coming together to appreciate him today.”
In his closing remarks, Chief Akande said Nigeria might never celebrate 100th Independence anniversary and will not prosper as a country if she fails to change its educational system, military decree-based laws and mode of religious worship.
His words: “Fifty years ago, Nigeria was most enjoyable; we had freedom of what a true democracy was supposed to be, at least individually, I don’t know about the government then. But today, it appears everybody live in fear.
“I think the phenomenon of the country must be examined around three things. First is our education. It seems to me that Nigeria’s education is colonial. It ended only literacy without numeracy. Education of a community that is not science based can never be technologically based. And a community without technology cannot be industrial and when you are not industrial, you may end up in poverty.
“Secondly, I think our laws are military decree based and military decree based laws cannot be used to sustain democracy. As long as we remain or we use these military decree based laws, our democracy will never prosper.
“Thirdly, our religions are mostly imported and because of that, we seem neither to be good Christians, nor good Muslims or good ardonists. We merely live in fear and when there are problems, we have no laboratories to go, we all retire to churches and mosques for vigils.
“A country that remains like this may celebrate 60th anniversary of independence, but may never celebrate 100th anniversary. I think until all these three are looked at and addressed, or let me use the word; restructured. All these ethnic restructuring, political restructuring and so on, I believe in them but they are not difficult to restructure like the three I told you.”
The Lead Editor of the book, Prof. Lai Olurode, said: “The story of The Bisi Akande Phenomenon as captured in this book is told with some nostalgic feelings simply because ethics and trust are disappearing from our socio-religious and political landscape. This publication is a warning that we need not be consistently skeptical or despondent about our own goodness or even remains on the edge of the slaughter’s slab in our practice and conception of politics.
“We should struggle to search for more pockets of ethical islands in Nigeria’s sea of scoundrels. The future of Nigeria’s democratization process should, therefore, be anchored on a strong ethical foundation in the context of internal party democracy if robust participation by the people is to be induced in place of peripheral engagement with the electoral process.”
On his part, the book reviewer, Prof. Tunde Babawale, said: ‘The Bisi Akande Phenomenon: Governance, Economy and Politics,’ is a well-researched and well-written book that “showcases a Nigerian with a difference, a phenomenal politician, a man of ebullient and impeccable character, a man of modesty, a man whose word is his honour, Chief Adebisi Akande. It is my hope that scholars, politicians, administrators and journalists would ultimately find this book to be a useful companion in their search for the Nigerian of our dream.”
Commending the former Osun State governor, Prof. Babawale said: “Chief Adebisi Akande is one of Nigeria’s most prominent and highly revered politicians. Unlike many politicians in our clime, Chief Akande evinces the belief that governance is far more serious than politics.
“Chief Akande’s philosophy has inculcated in him a frugal life-style that he brought to bear on the administration of Osun State between 1999 and 2003. Chief Bisi Akande has shown us all that man’s legacy to mankind should not be in terms of what he is able to acquire in a material sense for himself but what you can give to your people and country.”
Obaseki has made Oshiomhole look ordinary –Idahosa
Mr. Charles Idahosa is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State and former Political Adviser to ex-governor of the state and presently National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview, he speaks on the feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor over the Edo House of Assembly and other issues. CAJETAN MMUTA reports
You have spent about four decades in politics. What is the experience like?
It is 40 years that I have been in politics. I was lucky to have been the reporter attached to the governorship candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979; that is late Prof. Ambrose Alli. That gave me the opportunity of interacting with him and touring the whole of the then Bendel State. By the time he won, he made me a Publicity Consultant. I have been old in this business and I have never looked back since then, it was easy for me because my father, late Chief Robinson Idahosa, was a politician too. He was the leader of old Orhionmwon, so that interest was always there.
My grandmother, Enagbona Ezomo Oshodin, was the first female councilor in Benin in the 40s and 50s, and my mother, late Comfort Idahosa, was the woman leader of the UPN in old Orhionmwon. I have fought many battles and it might interest you to know that I have never lost any battle. However, things have changed. In our days, when we started politics, the governors, senators, commissioners, political office holders were servants to the leaders, the leaders were in charge, but today, the reverse is the case. Now, immediately they put governors, leaders start running after them. In those days, the leaders own the parties, so that is the difference between then and now.
What is your reaction to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s recent interview in which he said that Governor Godwin Obaseki will need a miracle to win a second term?
I was a bit disappointed because the main issue between Obaseki and Oshiomhole has not been brought to the fore. Obaseki and Oshiomhole as far as I am concerned are one. Obaseki is a creation of Oshiomhole. In that same interview, I read where he said he nominated only one commissioner. I was disappointed because I knew he was lying. I have said it before that Oshiomhole brought the deputy governor, he brought the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), he brought chairman of the party, he brought the Secretary of the party. All these are not hearsay.
The most annoying part of it is that they put the blame on the media because when Obaseki visited Oshiomhole in Iyamho, Oshiomhole attacked the press and accused it of being the one creating factions and servicing the factions. 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. He said Obaseki is not carrying people along, I don’t know what he meant by that but 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.
There are no two ways two friends can come and during quarrel and one will say I am jealous, I am envious of him, nobody will say so; what is happening is that Oshiomhole is envious and jealous of Obaseki’s achievements, there is no way he is going to come out boldly to say that is why they are quarrelling. Oshiomhole was governor here for eight years nobody challenged him. The ones that tried it, he messed them up thoroughly. He brought Dr. Samuel Ogbemduia 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 collecting revenue? Do you prefer that to the sanity in ring road now?
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. I sympathize with the priest who tried to settle them in the Anglican Church, but until Oshiomhole agrees that he is jealous and envious, the issue cannot be resolved because Obaseki’s records are so intimidating. He has made Oshiomhole look ordinary, go and see what Obseki is doing around the state.
APC is preparing for the election with this situation on ground. Do you see the party winning the poll?
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.
What are your thoughts on the crisis rocking Edo State House of Assembly?
Some say Obaseki did not inaugurate some members and are calling on the National Assembly to come and take over. Well, to their disappointment, APC won all the cases in court. To answer your question, the crisis will not affect the party. What you are seeing now is what is called the noise of a newspaper vendor. So, Obaseki will win because we are determined and the people are with him. As a party we have 24/24, Oshiomhole could not make 24/24, he scored 21. That 24/24 is a referendum on Obaseki.
In truth, Oshiomhole was very popular, but he could not make 24/24 in the House of Assembly. Now that we have 24/24, we are having problems with ourselves. It doesn’t make any sense. They accused the governor of doing wrong things; look I was Oshiomhole’s political adviser, when we gave out money to remove the roof of the Assembly. Which one will you take, removing roof of the Assembly or inaugurating the House of Assembly in the evening or at night? Which one is better, do you know how much it costs to replace those zinc?
So, what would be your reaction to the recent court judgement on the matter?
I am not a lawyer, but I think it is clear enough. The man said there cannot be a second proclamation. If he does that, he will be extending the tenure of the Assembly and Obaseki has no power to do that. The judgement also said that the National Assembly has no powers to instruct the police or DSS to seal anywhere and that only the court can instruct the National Assembly to take over the House of Assembly. As far as I am concerned, they should go on appeal, it is the rule of law, but the House of Assembly is functioning. When Bukola Saraki’s case happened in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari did not issue a second proclamation.
Some people in the state seem to be politicising the constitution of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board. What is your take on that?
Former deputy governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu, is eminently qualified to be the president of this country; he is also eminently qualified to be chairman of the NDDC, but the quarrel is the process, the lack of respect for a sitting governor of an oil producing state and an oil producing local government area. Why will Oshiomhole undermine a sitting governor, who is of the same party with him? You will appoint two people into NDDC without his input.
What do you make of President Buhari’s cabinet?
You can see from all indications that Buhari means well. He has just inaugurated the Economic Advisory Council; that shows that he is really taking us to the next level. Don’t forget that it took him six months to form his cabinet in his first time, but this time, within 100 days, he has done that and there are quality people there. So, he will do well.
How do you feel at 66?
There have been a lot of disappointments, betrayals here and there from people, but thank God I am alive. There are threats here and there. You know that in politics, people are planning to do many things, I have had threats of assassination, I have been attacked for my beliefs, but one thing you must know is that people fear the truth. When you say the truth, people just concoct all kinds of things. Recently an attempt was made on me here in this house, but I didn’t want to make it public, this is an opportunity to make so. I have conquered death, I am not scared. As far as I know, I am on the part of truth. At 66, I have doubled the age of Jesus Christ, who the whole world is worshiping. He was 33 and I am now 66, so I thank God for that.
Politically, I am happy that in a state of about four million people, I was elected as council chairman; I have been a commissioner and a member of the state executive council. I have been a special adviser; I have been chairman of a federal board; I have been director general, Liaison Office; I tried Senate, but was pushed aside; I tried governorship, I was pushed aside, but I will give myself a pass mark.
$9.6bn P&ID judgement: Group assures Nigerians on justice
As Nigeria begins the process of repudiating the $9.6 billion arbitral award against the country over a fraudulent contract with Process and Industrial Development (P & ID) this week, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has urged Nigerians to trust in the ability of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to stave off the largest financial liability in Nigeria’s history.
According to the group, this is based on the manner the government is painstakingly making efforts to show that the 2010 deal that led to the verdict was built on fraud and deceit.
BMO said in a statement jointly signed by Niyi Akinsiju and Cassidy Madueke, its Chairman and Secretary, respectively that the court processes that unfolded in Abuja last week are bound to go a long way in proving Nigeria’s case when the matter comes up in the United Kingdom on September 26.
The statement read: “Nigerians saw how the Commercial Director of the British Virgin Island-registered company and a director of its Nigerian affiliate pleaded guilty to an 11-count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretense; dealing in petroleum products without appropriate license; tax evasion, money laundering and failure to register P&ID with EFCC’s Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) as required by law
“The FCT High Court sitting in Abuja has since convicted the company and also ordered its liquidation, while all its assets are to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
“Another leg of the judicial process is the on-going trial of the then Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Grace Taiga who, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), made ‘a false statement in Paragraph 8(g) of the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) which gave undue advantage to the shell company in exchange for over $20,000 in bribe.
“We are elated that the recent meeting between Vice President Yemi Osibanjo (SAN) with all the top lawyers in the federal cabinet, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Minister for Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola and Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs Festus Keyamo, led to a creative way of digging Nigeria out of the mess that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) plunged the country into, 19 years ago.
“Just like the Attorney General had said after EFCC had secured the conviction of the company, we are convinced that Nigeria now has a cogent ground for setting aside the liability with the judicial proof of fraud.
“It was also encouraging to see media reports quoting one of the country’s best legal minds as saying that ‘once the judgment obtained from Abuja High Court is registered abroad, it can be executed against P&ID. What Nigeria has to do now, is to quickly apply to have that judgment set aside on the basis of monumental fraud.”
The group therefore urged Nigerians to be expectant of good news as the government delegation travels to the United Kingdom for a preparatory meeting with a legal consortium ahead of the case.
“We have no doubt that the Nigerian authorities are on track by refusing to be blackmailed to negotiate a pay-off for a contract that was designed to fail from the beginning.
“And like we said in a previous statement, this is the time the citizenry needs to be supportive of efforts to set aside a judgment debt that if enforced could see Nigeria lose its prized assets to a shadowy company set up by foreigners and their local collaborators with the intention of defrauding the country.
“We are once again reaffirming that it was an intentional act of fraud by a portfolio company against the Nigerian state which has now been proved in court to have been built on deceit, money laundering, bribery and all forms of criminality,” BMO added.
It also urged the EFCC not to relent in its efforts to ensure that all government officials, serving or retired, involved in the controversial deal are made to face the wrath of the law in such a way that a clear signal would be sent to others who may be nursing such an idea.
Tribunal: Sanwo-Olu’s victory, re-affirmation of people’s mandate, says Lagos APC
The Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has described the victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Elections Petitions Tribunal as a re-affirmation that he got the mandate of the people in the March 2 governorship election.
Lagos APC, in statement issued on Monday by its Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Abiodun Salami, said the victory was a judicial vindication of the belief Lagosians has in the governor to move the state forward.
The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lagos had on Monday dismissed the petitions filed by the Labour Party and reaffirmed the victory of Sanwo-Olu as the duly elected governor of Lagos State during the last election.
Reacting to the judgement, Salami said the victory was a validation of the support the people have for Sanwo-Olu and proof that the petition was all along ‘a wild goose chase.’
The Lagos APC therefore congratulated Lagosians on the victory, noting that it was not only victory for the governor but also for the people and good governance.
“We congratulate the governor and the good people of Lagos on the judicial vindication of this electoral victory.This verdict is not only a victory for democracy ,it is a victory for good governance and a more prosperous Lagos,” the party stated.
The Lagos APC spokesman also assured residents that the verdict would further inspire the Sanwo-Olu administration to render impactful governance in the state.
Tribunal sacks Benue Assembly Deputy Speaker
The National/State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State on Monday nullified the return of Chris Adaji of the Peoples DemocraticParty (PDP) as the winner of the 2019 Ohimini State Constituency election.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Honourable Justice R. O. Odudu, who delivered the lead judgment, held that the margin with which Adaji led Musa Alechenu Ohimini of All Progressives Congress (APC) is less than the number of votes cancelled.
According to the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Adaji led with 397 votes and the Tribunal finds the margin is less than the 1, 056 votes cancelled in the two polling units of Igbanomaje and Odega.
But according to the decision of the court, INEC ought not to have made final declaration without ordering for a rerun in the affected polling units other than declare an inconclusive poll.
Justice Odudu held that the declaration and return of Adaji without a rerun in Otega and Ogadagba ward is invalid by reason of non substantial compliance with Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The court therefore, issued an order for the withdrawal of the certificate of return issued to Adaji and ordeed INEC to conduct rerun elections in the two polling units where elections were cancelled within 90 days.
Vincent Tortsugh, who appeared for the petitioners, described the decision of the Tribunal as “reasonable,” adding that “we didn’t expect anything other than this.”
The APC candidate, Musa Ohimini Alechenu described the decision as a testimony of the wishes of the people.
He said by the decision, the judiciary has reaffirmed that it remains the hope of the people.
Nigeria, yet to be free from military apron strings – Olajide
Dr. Kunle Olajide is an elder statesman and Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on Yoruba leadership, restructuring, 2023 presidency and insecurity, among other issues
How would you describe the recent emergence of a renowned professor of History and Second Republic member of the Senate, Prof. Banji Akintoye, as Yoruba leader?
Prof. Banji Akintoye is one of our leaders and we are running a democratic government in Nigeria, where people can decide to sit together and elect a leader. I don’t think there is anything in our constitution that says there must be a Yoruba leader, Igbo leader, Hausa leader or Fulani leader. We have leadership in all sectors. We have leaders in the professional bodies, academia and so on. So, for me, Prof. Akintoye is welcome as a leader in Yoruba land. He has always been a foremost leader and I am happy with his acceptance speech; where he acknowledged the existence of leaders in Yoruba land. In fact, he named few and there are others, who he didn’t mention. So, for me there is nothing wrong with it.
With the latest development, can Prof. Akintoye be regarded as the new Yoruba leader just like late sage and former Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, were regarded as Yoruba leaders during their lifetime?
No! We are getting few things wrong. Awolowo as Yoruba leader emerged during a moment of crisis. During the military regime, there was a counter coup and it was really the counter coup that made Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo to decide to convene a meeting of leaders of thoughts at that time and Chief Awolowo said it clearly in his acceptance speech that he was accepting the responsibility because there was a ban on politics. And he said as soon as the ban on politics was lifted, he will cease to hold that position because people will belong to different political thinking and so on. There is no ban on politics now, so I think we should welcome Prof. Akintoye and his gospel, which is unity. We are looking for unity and I sincerely believe that he will unite with other leaders that he has acknowledged to give us the necessary leadership we need.
But the argument and criticism in some quarters against Prof. Akintoye’s emergence as Yoruba leader is that past Yoruba leaders emerged naturally and not through election like in his case…
We have only had one Yoruba leader and it was during a period of crisis.
What about late Adekunle Ajasin and Abraham Adesanya?
They were leaders of a particular Afenifere organisation like Prof. Akintoye acknowledged himself that he is a leader of a Yoruba group. A group of people can sit down and elect a leader. When you have a democratic government in place, the only leader people will recognise are those elected through constitutional process.
Will the emergence of Prof. Akintoye as Yoruba leader not create division in Yoruba land, considering that the leading socio-cultural groups like Afenifere and Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) are divided at the moment?
We are making a mistake. Our degree of enlightenment and socio political development cannot bottle us up in one group. People express different opinions and ways to achieve them, but we are looking for the same goal; restructuring of this country that would give relative independence and autonomy to each of the groups that make up Nigeria. Is there any physical war we are fighting? We are not fighting any war. There is a decline in development because of the political system of this country. So, what the Yoruba leadership of different folds, call it Afenifere, Afenifere Renewal Group, Yoruba Council of Elders or whatever organization; the goal is that, allow the Yoruba to take their destiny in their hands and allow the Igbo, Tivs, Ijaw, Jukuns, Fulani and others to take their destiny in their hands. That is all.
You cannot keep us and say somebody is the leader. To me, it is a non-issue. I genuinely welcome Prof. Akintoye as one of our leaders and he has acknowledged it in his acceptance speech that he acknowledge and respect some leaders, which he mentioned their names. So, he will now come with his group and join hands with other leaders like Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Justice Ademola Bakare and Wale Oshun and they will continue to work for the progress of the Yoruba nation. So, there is nothing mystical about it.
What is your take on the recent judgement by the Presidential Election Tribunal, which affirmed President Muhammadu Buhari’s election?
I am not lettered in law and the constitution makes it abundantly clear that if you are dissatisfied, you can go to the Supreme Court, which will be the final. So, we are hoping they are approaching the Supreme Court to give the final ruling on the matter. I listened to the judges and they appeared logical in their arguments, but like you and I know, in law, there could be technicality or omission here and there. So, let us wait for the Supreme Court and whoever emerges as president should please move Nigeria forward. Let us build a nation. Let us start to build a nation. We haven’t built one.
Nigeria will soon celebrate her 59th Independence anniversary. What is your take on Nigeria at 59?
It has to be lowest because majority of Nigerians are hungry; very hungry. There is mass unemployment in the land. There is insecurity and infrastructure is a disaster. So, what are you celebrating?
So, you believe there is no cause for celebration?
No! We should just pray to God and thank Him that we still remained one. At least that we are one is enough for celebration, but not feasting. How can you be feasting with few people, when millions of people are languishing in poverty?
Don’t you think that the independence anniversary is worth celebrating considering that Nigeria is still united?
That is not for people who are exploiting us to go and be feasting on our money while we are languishing. They should sympatise with us, they should show empathy that they too feel the pains and we should not see them clicking Champagne classes and having sumptuous meals at our expense. No; that would be insensitive.
Fifty-nine years ago, many dreamt about what they wanted Nigeria to be. Would you say that dream and aspiration have been realised?
It has not been realised. If you read some of the newspapers at that time, they projected that within 25 years, Nigeria will join the leagues of the First World countries judging by our endowments. But we initially suffered a lot of coups and counter coups and to make it worse, we suffered what I regard as the twin evils that almost wreck the ship of state.
What are the twin evils?
Military intervention and oil boom; those were the twin evils that took us to where we are today.
How did they do that?
The military was never trained to be in government. By nature, they are trained to fight wars and when they are preparing to defend, they are ready to attack. And anywhere they go to, when they attack and win; they loot the place and destroy. They are not to organise and rule people. They were never trained to come and govern people. Then oil boom now came at the time military was in power. So, oil boom served as alcohol to intoxicate the military when they were in power and they ruled the way it pleased them. That was what affected us and we are yet to be freed from their apron string.
How can the nation be freed?
In the next election, we should ensure that we don’t elect a military man again. Secondly, if President Buhari is sincere about building a new Nigeria, where there would be equality; all round equality and egalitarian society, he must commence the process by first looking at the 2014 National Conference report as well as the report of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress (APC) on restructuring.
He should marry the two reports and ensure their implementation to move Nigeria forward. But the President has said he is not going to look at the confab report… He appears to have changed his mind because when he was looking at the report of the committee on state before he was sworn in on May 29 this year; I heard him say that at this stage of our democracy, what we need is true federalism, and that was what the 2014 National Conference report recommended. You said Nigeria should not elect a military man in 2023. Why did you say so? We want to be totally free from the apron string of the military.
The temperament of the military is such that they do not welcome diverse opinion.
They don’t believe anybody should criticise them and they take some criticisms as offence, whereas what waters the flowers of democracy is differences in opinion; freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and freedom to take a position. But we have had two civilian presidents between 2007 and 2015, who were not ex-military officers. What difference did the make? It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who laid the foundation for us to start demilitarizing the Nigerian political environment, but he did not follow it through. President Umaru Yar’Adua could have probably done something, but because of his health, he could not achieve anything. Goodluck Jonathan came and he was least prepared for that office, so there is nothing he could do than to continue to run the system the way it was and it was a pseudo-democratic system.
A military man came again, so for me, we have not truly had a civilian president. What is your take on the issue of ethnicity which seems to be dividing Nigerians at the moment? It depends on the leadership. We are more divided now in Nigeria than we were when we were young. My roommate in the University of Ibadan, Philip Okwute, was an Igbo man. We were so close to the extent that when he was leaving during the civil war, the two of us were shedding tears. But because of the leadership we have now, a lot of people feel inferior; very inferior.
And I have had course to say it several times that out of the leaders we have had, former President Obasanjo has been the only one who tried to at least, Nigerialise Nigeria. He was not ethnic oriented at all. He prefers to be a Nigerian first and till today, he still choruses the fact that he is a Nigerian first before being a Yoruba man. The North and South are presently agitating to produce President Buhari’s successor in 2023. How would you react to that? There is no question of contest; anybody who says there is a contest must be deceiving himself. Power has to come to the South in 2023; there is no doubt about that. The rotation is between the North and South. Then it is now left to the South and other part of Nigeria to choose whoever they want from the different parts of the South.
There is no argument about that. We haven’t reached that stage, where the president can come from one part of the country. We will get there ultimately, where you can have a president of Nigeria coming from a particular household like the Kennedys of United States and so on. But some Northern leaders are saying that their region should produce the next president to balance the equation on account that the South have governed for 14 years, while the North by the time President Buhari completes his term in 2023, would have served for only 10 years…
In terms of democratic freedom, anybody is free to say he is speaking for the North, but in reality, the political leaders of the North know that it is impossible and it cannot happen. They must allow others. In democracy, all flowers must blossom. Minority must have a say, but majority the way. That is the understanding and it should remain so. What about the tussle for the 2023 presidency between the South-East and South-West?
There is no tussle. Everybody wants something that is good and that would be left for other Nigerians to decide. South-West and South-East cannot decide that they want the presidency and they will produce the president if it is not backed up by other parts of the country. So, if there appears to be any difference between the South-West and South-East, other Nigerians will decide who to give it to. What I want is a true patriotic Nigerian, who is competent. Don’t you foresee the South losing the presidency to the North over the jostle for the position between the South-West and South-East?
I don’t. They cannot lose it to the North. The understanding is there that the next president must come from the South. So, there is no way the South will lose the president to the North. How about voting strength, which seems to be in favour of the North? It doesn’t matter. The North despite their population cannot be president without us.
There is a constitutional requirement for a presidential candidate to have 25 per cent votes in two-third of the states in Nigeria. So, for this country to move forward under any leadership, we must have the consensus of majority. You cannot do it alone. What is your take on the security challenges in South-West and do you think that the recent security summit convened by South-West governors is yielding any result? I am happy about that, and in any case in the last couple of weeks, there have been less of security crisis in the South-West.
So, I think our governors are doing well in that respect. We should just urge them to do more. We want to be protected to be able to go about our businesses, move around and travel to see our family members. But, the best solution to insecurity is provision of jobs and improvement in the economy. What is your advise to President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet members, especially the ministers? I want the ministers to realise that they are in the second and final term of President Muhammadu Buhari and therefore it is imperative of them to leave a legacy. The first thing they have to do is that they must give Mr. President quality advice to ensure that his promises to the electorate are realise within this four years.
The reputation of this administration in the first time was not the best because it appears that it was ethnic oriented; therefore they must ensure now that all parts of Nigeria are made to have a sense of belonging. That is very important. They must strive and muster the necessary courage to ensure that they commence the process of restructuring of this country to achieve true federalism; without that, we would merely be taken two steps forward and 10 steps backward. Everybody must live up to their responsibilities from Mr. President. They must really strive to improve the economy because the economy is at the root of insecurity. They must ensure that they improve power generation and power distribution. They must ensure that they lift a lot of people out of poverty and provide the necessary enabling environment for job creation by the private sector.
And consequently, they must ensure that we have security because insecurity is threatening everybody. So, the security architecture must be revisited to give every parts of this country a sense of belonging as well. This country must not be made to believe that it belongs to a particular ethnic group. So for me, I think if they take care of all that, then at the end of their term, they should be able to beat their chests that they have achieved.
As an elder statesman, what is your advice to politicians and public office holders?
My advice to politicians is that they must play the game according to the rules and they must appreciate the fact that politics is meant to serve the people. So, they should not see it as do or die affair. I am sure the moment we raise the awareness of the people, the quality of representatives we will have in the legislature and even in government will begin to improve. Because presently now, people buy votes and people who are less qualified to go to the National Assembly are going to Senate. You hear the names of some characters going into the Senate and you begin to wonder what they are going to do there. But they just bought their way through. But once awareness increases, people will collect their money and they won’t vote for them because they know they will have little or nothing to contribute to debate there or value to add.
2023: North’s plot unsettles South
Jostle for Buhari’s successor rekindles North, South rivalry
Over three years to the next general elections, political manoeuvrings have started in several quarters across the various geopolitical zones and power blocs over the 2023 presidency, Felix Nwaneri reports
igeria’s political landscape is already agog with permutations for the 2023 general election as to which zone will produce the next president even as President Muhammadu Buhari, who was re-elected for a second term during the February/March general election and was sworn-in on May 29, is barely four months in office.
Ordinarily, the scheming would not have commenced at the moment if not for the fact that President Buhari will not be taking another shot at the number one position given that he is on his last tenure. The 1999 Constitution (as amended), in paragraphs 137 (b), states that “a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.”
Buhari was first elected as president in 2015, when he defeated an incumbent – Goodluck Jonathan – and was re-elected in the last presidential election. Having been sworn-in as president two times, he is expected to bow out on May 29, 2023 after serving out the constitutionally allowed two terms.
Already, the President has given a hint about his retirement plan. He said he will retire to Daura – his home town – after he completes his second term in 2023. “This is my second and final term, at the end of which I will, God willing, go to Daura and settle down,” he revealed during a meeting with some traditional rulers from across the country at the presidential villa in March.
But, more than three years ahead of the poll that will see the emergence of Buhari’s successor, it is reminiscent of politics of yester-years as some political spin doctors have started flying the kite over where power should shift to and possibly, who the heir should be.
Though some zones and even names are being touted at the moment, an early move to the 2023 presidency race was noticed during the campaigns for the 2019 elections though many viewed it then as a mere ethnic card being played by some people to secure bulk votes from their region.
May be, consciously or subconsciously, it was the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who blew the lid of the 2023 plot, when he urged the people of South-West to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections to guarantee a return of power to the zone after his second term.
The former governor of Lagos State, who spoke at a special Town Hall Meeting on infrastructure organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Orientation Agency, said besides the massive investments by the Buhari administration on infrastructure across the country and in South-West in particular, the zone will benefit more politically by voting for Buhari.
“Do you know that power is rotating to the South-West after the completion of Buhari’s tenure if you vote for him in 2019? Your child cannot surrender her waist for an edifying bead and you will use the bead to decorate another child’s waist. A vote for Buhari in 2019 means a return of power to the South-West in 2023. I am sure you will vote wisely,” Fashola told his audience in Yoruba language.
While many took Fashola’s pronouncement with a pinch of salt, it became a subject of national discourse, when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo reiterated the position at the eve of the elections.
The Vice-President, who is also from the South-West as Fashola, spoke during a house-to-house campaign in Oyo town, Oyo State. He said the success of President Buhari and the APC in the 2019 elections is the only way the zone can secure the presidency in 2023.
Noting that the 2019 presidential election matters to the Yoruba people, because the region has a larger interest in 2023, Osinbajo declared: “The 2019 general election is our own. We are not looking at the 2019, but 2023. If we get it in 2019, Yoruba will get it in 2023. If we don’t get it in 2019, we may not get it in 2023 and it may take a very long time to get it. We need to look at tomorrow and not because of today. What we are doing now is for tomorrow and not for today.”
Before Fashola and Osinbajo’s advice to their kinsmen, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, had told the people of South-East, who have been clamouring for the presidency that they will have a better chance of producing a president in 2023 if they support the second term ambition of President Buhari.
“Preach it to the other South-East states that the shortest way to Igbo presidency is to support Buhari in 2019,” Mustapha told a delegation of the Ebonyi State chapter of the APC, who visited his office then.
He also reiterated that President Buhari will hand over the baton of leadership to an Igbo by the time he is through with his second term in office in 2023, while speaking at the inauguration of the South-East chapter of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC) in Abia State.
No doubt, the 2019 polls that was characterised by ethnic sentiments pitted some political leaders in the South-West and their South-East counterparts, but the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation then said there was nothing fraudulent, dubious or contradictory about the promises made by Buhari and Osinbajo to the two zones.
Then spokesman for the organisation, Barr. Festus Keyamo (now Minister of State for Niger Delta), who made the clarification, said: “Go back and listen carefully to what they said at each occasion. Nobody is promising anybody anything definite. They are simply telling both regions very simply that they stand a chance. They may, depending on how they work.
“Some people are just rushing to town to make comments without understanding the context in which these promises were made. All of them, including Fashola, are saying one thing: Vote for Buhari for you to produce the next president in 2023. What it means is that they should work hard.
“No party will zone its presidential ticket to a region that does not like it. Did anybody use that word ‘definitely’ that we are giving you the presidency? They are simply saying, if you work hard, you stand a chance if you deliver the votes. It is conditional, that is why they are begging them. The context in which all of them are saying this is that whichever region worked hard and delivers the votes would produce the next President. That is the truth of the matter.”
Keyamo added that since the presidency will shift to the South after Buhari’s tenure, it was only wise and logical that the zones in the region should work hard to benefit from the power shift.
Like Keyamo pointed out, power is expected to shift to the South in 2023 given the zoning deal between the country’s two political divides – North and South, which took effect with the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, but the battle for the 2023 presidency may go beyond the South-West and South-East if emerging developments in the polity are anything to go by.
The belief that the 2023 presidency would be a southern affair with odds favouring the South-East, which is yet to occupy the country’s number one position since 1999, may end up as mere political permutation as the signs are clear that North might join the fray. The euphoria in the North over Buhari’s re-election in February was yet to go down, when some Northern political leaders started canvassing the need for their region to hold on to power beyond 2023.
The present democratic dispensation is years old and the power rotation arrangement, though not constitutional, has seen the South had the presidency for 13 years through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (South-West, 1999-2007) and Jonathan (South-South, 2010-2015), while the North would have been in power for 11 years by the time Buhari completes his second term in 2023. The plot, which started like a pun, when the national president of Arewa Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said in a media interview that there was no going back for the North’s bid for the 2023 presidency, has fast gained ground among political elites from the region. His words: “We are considering supporting a northern presidency in 2023, and you better believe it because it is not just my personal opinion.
The North has not benefitted anything from Buhari’s presidency because many northern states are still impoverished and under developed. The rate of poverty in the North has become worse than it was in 2015. We cannot beat our chest and say this government has favoured the North. The first four years of Buhari was a waste and we cannot expect any magic to happen in his second tenure; it is not possible.”
Shettima had premised his position on two grounds – the need for North to have another four years to catch up with the South’s 14-year presidency and to make up for the region’s inability to benefit from the Buhari administration, which he said has so favoured the South, particularly the South-West, but some say his line of thought might have been spurred by North’s voting strength in the last elections. Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed, who also expressed similar thought, advised southern politicians jostling to take over from Buhari to have a rethink as the North could still vie for the presidency in 2023. Mohammed had in the interview said: “This idea of zoning and rotation has been a tragedy for Nigeria because it can deprive Nigeria of getting a better leader. That being the case, whosoever wants to claim it, let him go. “Look at what the Afenifere said that next time it would be a Yoruba person. Their understanding of rotation is between the North and the South-West, or North-West and the South-West. That cannot be. The contradiction, which they invented about zoning and rotation, has collapsed and now they are looking for lies to tell to deceive us.
“Otherwise, how can you say that we now have a president who is from the North-West and his vice, who is from South-West, and that next time it will be the turn of the South-West to produce the president of this country? What are we talking about? I don’t want to hear about this equity and justice, that is sheer nonsense. “We keep on making this mistake of agitation of ‘it is our turn’ over and over again. After all, somebody says the classical definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.” On the clamour by the Igbo that 2023 should be their turn to produce the president, Mohammed suggested that the region had lost the chance and should forget it. “The people, who abused this equity and justice, are the people from the South-East because whatever we are talking about, in a democracy you cannot circumvent voting figures. You can say it is time for my people.
We will not vote for you and let’s see what happens. I said it in one of my statements, look at the way the people of the South-East voted during the last election; they have a humongous collection of votes and they all voted for Atiku Abubakar, and they expect somebody to come from his own area to vote for them.” “Democracy is a question of give and take; you vote for me and I vote for you, that was what Michael Okpara used to say. You don’t vote for me and maybe you think that by abusing me on the pages of newspapers that I will vote for you. I will not,’” he said.
While many analysts and even political leaders, especially those from the South have dismissed Shettima and Mohammed’s submissions on the ground that the duo do not speak for the North, discerning political minds are of the view that only political neophytes would wish away such proposition given the peculiarity of politics. This is even as more and more opinion leaders in the region seem to be buying into the “North must retain power” plot. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, in an apparent support to the plot, said it is not sacrosanct that Buhari’s successor must emerge from the South as every part of Nigeria can produce a competent president. “Being a cosmopolitan man, I know Igbos not less than 10, who can successfully run this country; I know Yorubas that can do, I know Ijaws that can do, I know Hausas that can do, I know even Kilba.
Hey myself, my friend, I can be president of this country. I consider myself quite competent to do so from a small tribe of 300,000 people. There are so many such tribes that can produce good, competent leaders all over Nigeria,” he said. While pundits view the postulations by some the Northern political leaders as subtle political moves aimed at discarding the zoning arrangement, which undoubtedly favours the South in 2023, Mohammed, in a twist recently, said he will throw his weight behind the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, if he decides to contest the presidency in 2023. The Second Republic lawmaker said he will rather have Tinubu to succeed Buhari than anyone from the South-East. “If Tinubu wants to be the president of Nigeria and he asks for my advice, I will say go ahead because I will rather have Tinubu as president than have some of the people in the South-East who are ambitious and want to blackmail Nigeria into ceding power to them. “I know that no matter what happens, even if Tinubu were to be drunk, he will be a better President than Goodluck Jonathan.
I also know that he is better than Governor Kayode Fayemi, who is also nursing presidential ambition,” he said. No doubt, Mohammed is entitled to his views as well as has the right to support whoever he wishes, however the power shift debate assumed a fresh twist recently, when the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai made a case for the abandonment of zoning arrangement, not only for the Office of President, but for other political offices as currently obtainable in the country.
According to him, the arrangement needed to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of competence as Nigeria cannot afford to continue on zoning of political offices on the basis of regions. In a prologue titled, “Defeating a Determined Incumbent – The Nigerian Experience,” which he contributed to a book: “Power of Possibilities and Politics of Change in Nigeria,” written by the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, el-Rufai, described zoning of political offices as a barrier to political equality. “Even with our success in the 2015 elections, there is room for improvement.
Barriers to political equality, such as our seemingly entrenched though informal rule for zoning candidacies according to regions of origin, need to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of an emphasis on qualification, competence and character,” he wrote. Many would have ignored the Kaduna State governor, however, his political standing as well as closeness to President Buhari and other powers that be up North, explains the flaks that have trailed his call from both the South and North. For instance, a kinsman and known critic of the governor, Senator Shehu Sani, who said it would be unfair to deny the South-West the presidency in 2023, urged President Buhari to caution politicians of northern extraction against contesting the next presidential poll. Noting that it would be unfair for the North to hold on to power beyond 2023, he said: “It will be a serious threat to the future and peace of the country if the Northern Region continues to dominate the leadership of the nation because of its numerical strength. “The President should caution those from the North eyeing that position. Power needs to rotate to other regions.
The South-West worked tirelessly to remove the PDP from office and helped to bring Nigeria to where it is today and deserves support from the North come 2023. If federal character is applied on appointments and other areas, it should also be applicable in the political space.”
A former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who also cautioned against calls for an end to rotational presidency, however, differed slightly from Sani’s position. He maintained that nobody should canvass an end to power shift until the South-East and the North-East zones had produced president. His words: “Calling for an end to the zoning arrangement now will not bring peace to Nigeria. We have to complete the zoning system.
That was the agreement at the earlier constitutional conference. All the major ethnic groups must produce the President before we would all agree that zoning has ended. “Canvassing the abolition of rotational presidency at this point is not in the interest of the country. It will not bring about unity. Anybody that is saying that the zoning arrangement for the presidency of Nigeria should be abolished now is trying to cause civil and constitutional crisis which is not good for the society.” “We should manage the crises at hand carefully in this country without causing further havoc. Currently, the unity of the country is under threat with the insecurity of lives and property across Nigeria. So, Governor el-Rufai should know that the South-East and North-East must produce president before his call for the abolition of rotational presidency could be considered and adopted. “Once the two zones have produced the President of Nigeria, then the position could be free for all.
We have started the current zoning arrangement and we can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.” While some stakeholders across the various divides are of the view that the 2023 presidency zoning debate is an unnecessary distraction that should be avoided by the political class, others cautioned against any plot that will further threaten the county’s unity.
Bayelsa guber: KDI calls for peace during election
*Gives out a toll free number
Pauline Onyibe, Yenagoa
Ahead of the Bayelsa State 2019 governorship election scheduled to hold on November 16, a nongovernmental organisation known as KINPACT DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE (KDI) has called on all the relevant stakeholders involved to work towards maintaining a peaceful atmosphere during the election.
KDI also gave out a toll free number 08000001000 to the public to report any incidence of violence in their immediate communities during the election.
In a press conference at the weekend in Yenagoa, Bukola Idowu, the Executive Director of the organisation, implored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the political parties, the candidates, youth leaders, security agencies, political gladiators and the civil societies to help in making sure that the process is rancor free.
Idowu said: ”As committed citizens of Nigeria, and Bayelsa, we will like you all to bear in mind that no development is possible in an atmosphere void of peace. We strongly appeal to youths to avoid being used as an instrument to ferment violence in any area of the state.”
KDI said it has deployed about 16 election observers two in each local government for the pre and post- election activities a gesture which he said was made possible by its partners, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
KDI said in its commitment to deepening democratic processes, it has assessed the electoral risk factors in the eight local governments adding that it has identified early warning signs which could help the relevant stakeholders to deploy appropriate responses to those areas.
The NGO said: “From the survey, it was discovered that 74.3% agreed that elections in Bayelsa State have been marred by violence, 38.50% said they were expecting a peaceful governorship election while 33.78% anticipate a very violent election.”
KDI also revealed that from the survey the possibility of violence is low in Kolokuma/Opokuma, while Sagbama, Yenagoa and Ogbia are somewhat likely to experience violence.
However, the remaining four local governments Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw, Nembe, Brass the survey, according to KDI, have high level of experiencing violence.
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