Elder Simon Achuba, until last week was Deputy Governor of Kogi State. His purported impeachment by the State House of Assembly is still generating controversy as the embattled Achuba has vowed not to vacate his office. In this interview with MUHAMMAD BASHIR, Achuba bares his mind on the issues surrounding the impeachment
Where are you now on the issue of your impeachment?
We are in court; we objected to the vacation of our objection to the impeachment notice. We have also filled more grounds of objection and the case will be coming up on 25th
You are in court challenging your impeachment. Are you ready to return to work with Governor Bello if the court rules in your favour?
I have been working as the deputy governor, and I am still the deputy governor, irrespective of whether there is court judgement or not am the seating deputy governor and I will continue to be until there is another election and winner sworn in.
Do you regret working for Governor Bello in view of what is happening?
Nothing like regret; no action has taken place. There was no impeachment. I am still the deputy governor. So there is nothing to regret about.
What was your relationship with and what went wrong between you and Governor Bello?
As it should be, it was cordial. As we are going, government policies and documents were fantastic. Things started going wrong when implementation of these policies were not forthcoming. It was becoming very challenging to us as a government and as a party. At that point, I started insisting on the legacies that we can be remembered for. We cannot just be writing policies only to abandon them. That will amounts to nothing.
What role did your party, the APC play in resolving the crisis?
Individually, some persons intervened. I think the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did, but the issue has not been taken holistically.
Looking back, did Governor Bello pick you as his deputy or someone suggested you to him?
Everyone knows me as a liberal politician who believes that the governorship can come from any part of the state and I as a result, I supported the Ebiras agitation. They saw me as a liberal person who will be able to contain all that and secondly, because of my antecedent in the state as someone who is fair and just, so he invited me and said he will like me to be the deputy governor and I obliged, I will continue to be grateful for that
Is it true that it was Onoja that singlehandedly chose you to be the deputy governor?
Onoja didn’t know me that much. He knows me as an Igala man, not as much as people from the Central.
What was it like working with governor Bello?
It was not in itself bad. The issue is that he has a lord in person of the former Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, he lords it over the Governor. He stays on his neck and the Governor cannot turn, without him. No commissioner can function; no Special Adviser can function. Anything you do, he will say no and insists until he has his way and the Governor cannot do anything about it
Has there been an instance where you made a suggestion and Onoja didn’t allow it to scale through?
Yes, many times. I have advised the Governor on many occasions and he will agree, but the moment Onoja comes in, he will say no, and the Governor will also change.
(Cuts in) Such as…?
For instance, there was a time I suggested we picked a few projects, complete them and commission them and show forth something as achievement. The Governor agreed but when the Chief of Staff came in, the story changed. Also, on the issue of education, most of the secondary schools in Kogi State are not functional. I suggested that we selected maybe one or two per local government area, let’s have at least one or two functional school in each local government area, the Governor agreed, because putting one here, and another one there, does not need much efforts. Let us harmonise them to make it more presentable. The Governor agreed and no one brought a better idea than that. But because of special interest in favouring some persons with contracts of personal interest of the Chief of Staff the story changed.
How will you react to the allegation that you were working for the opposition while you were in office to the extent that you lost your ward in the general election?
I never defected, and I didn’t Iose my ward. What they have been doing is to fly a kite that I was about to decamp to PDP or any other party. When they saw that it didn’t happen, the issue is that we have been in this since 1999, and one has traveled along many roads, and along the lines you meet many people. For instance, this morning, the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Angulu these two people are in PDP came to see me with Kizito. We have been neighbours all along. It does it mean one is hobnobbing with PDP. One’s relationship with others sometimes goes beyond politics, we are in position to render service and service is not only meant for APC.
APC won’t fail Lagosians – Tobun
Hon. Abiodun Tobun is the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure in the Lagos State House of Assembly. He speaks in this interview on the ongoing projects in the state and the relationship between the executive and legislature. Wale Elegbede reports
How would you assess the ongoing roads rehabilitation and construction in Lagos State?
As I told you the other time, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, is only taking his time to plan because he who fails to plan, plans to fail. He has planned and he has articulated his objectives, which is why he is rolling out programmes and you can see the construction and the rehabilitation projects going on in the state. Prior to his coming on board, there were problems here and there, but he has studied the problems and proffered solutions to them, which is why traffic hold-ups are easing off in the state as most of the roads are now in good shape.
Now, we could see how he is renovating all the schools and recruiting more teachers in the state. We can see what he is doing in the area of security by providing vehicles, motorbikes and helicopters for the security agencies in the state. He has also decided to pay the minimum wage to the civil servants, which he has started. He took his time and like I said, Governor Sanwo-Olu will take his time to do projects that will endear him to the minds of our people and surpass those who were before him.
He is doing this with the support of his deputy, who is a politician and technocrat, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat. I think the duo are going to work for together for the progress of the state. Don’t forget, the parliament, led by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, will work with them, so that we would not jettison our duty for the people of the state and perform our oversight functions.
In the area of infrastructure and construction of roads, what should Lagosians expect in the 2020 Budget?
I believe that most of the ongoing projects would be completed based on the budget. He would work on the link roads and he would work on urban regeneration. If you look at the quality of the roads, they are not the kind of roads that would be washed away soon. There would be massive construction of roads and there would be ‘operation banish all potholes’ in the state. So, Lagosians should expect the best from this government.
Would the bridge in Agege be completed next year?
I am not the contractor, but the job has commenced, work has started on Agric Road, Ishawo, Agege Pen Cinema Flyover, the Airport Road, another road in Epe, even the ongoing project in Okokomaiko, and the light rail project is being constructed. The government is working on several roads across the state. We will be passing the budget just like the speaker said that it would be a New Year gift to the people of the state. We will pass the budget this year or early next year. By the grace of God, the budget will perform very well and the people of the state will smile.
Some people believe that oversight functions are not done the way they should be done. What is your take on that?
We have been doing our best; we are not working for the executive, we are working for the members of the public. There would be a review of the performance of the executive to see if they have done well. We will not monitor their operations on a daily or weekly basis. It is either we do it quarterly, biannually or yearly. It is a periodic monitoring. We cannot be going to site on a daily basis to monitor the granite on site or what they do. They give us reports, may be quarterly, then we will go and check what they have done. We can carry out integrity test on what they have done.
Our power is to appropriate funds and monitor their jobs. Once we detect anything, we will call them to explain. We cannot investigate a project that has not been implemented. For those who are saying some of these things, they don’t understand the work of the parliament. We don’t go to site with them. We will ask them to explain what they have done. We will ask them if they have done what they ought to do. Our duty is to appropriate funds and monitor the projects that they have done, not the ones they have not done. So, help us educate the people about the workings of the parliament. We monitor them before and after the project has been done not during and we ask them questions.
Do you think that when it comes to infrastructure, the local governments are complementing the state government because at the grassroots level, it seems they are incapacitated by funds?
The people in the local governments are expected to do more for the people because they are the closest to the people. That is why we tell them to do more for the people. There are some good ones amongst them that are doing very well. Among the 12 there must be a Judas, but majority of them are doing well.
For those who are not doing well, we ask them questions, which was why we asked one of them, who has not done well to go and sit down and allow his deputy to take over until he clears himself. They cannot afford not to do well because Lagosians expect a lot from us and our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is ready to do more for the people and make life more meaningful for them. We want to continue to win Lagos and be a party that would be recognised all over the world.
Edo Assembly crisis: Oshiomhole’s loyalists await INEC’s verdict
Cajetan Mmuta reports on the fresh twist in the Edo State of House of Assembly crisis that saw its leadership declaring vacant, seats of two members and 12 member-elects and consequent request for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by-elections in the affected constituencies
Members of the Edo State House of Assembly came hard on two of their colleagues and 12 members-elect last week as the Speaker of the House, Hon. Frank Okiye, declared vacant, their respective seats in the hallowed chamber of the state legislature.
The 14 members, who had rightly or wrongly carved a path for themselves, were among the original 24 All Progressives Congress (APC) members elected in what was loudly referred to as 24 over 24-member house to represent their respective constituencies.
While declaring vacant, the seats of the members-elect, Okiye said: “Even if the members-elect come for sitting today, they will not be able to meet the mandatory 180 sitting days as enshrined in the constitution.”
The 12 members-elect, who are yet to be inaugurated are Vincent Uwadiae (Ovia North-East 2), Ugiagbe Dumez (Ovia North-East 1), Washington Osifo (Uhunmwode), Victor Edoror (Esan Central), Kingsley Ugabi (Etsako East) and Michael Ohio-Ezomo (Owan West).
Others are Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South-West), Chris Okaeben (Oredo West), Crosby Eribo (Egor), Seidi Aliyu Oshiomhole (Etsako West 2), Oshomah Ahmed (Etsako Central) and Ganiyu Audu (Etsako West 1).
Okiye said the 12 members-elect defiantly refused to come forward to process the necessary documentation as part of conditions for their inauguration.
According to the Speaker, “12out of the 24 members-elect who completed their screening and documentation process were inaugurated on June 17, 2019, out of which two of them have refused to discharge their legislative duties.”
He explained further that “they have refused to represent their constituents in the House, invariably denying their constituents effective representation.”
Against this backdrop he declared: “At this point, I am declaring the seats of the 12 members-elect vacant in accordance with section 109 subsection 1(f) of the Constitution.”
The speaker, thereafter, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by-elections within 90 days in the affected constituencies.
Giving further clarifications on the action, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idiaye (Akoko Edo 1), said the resolution to declare the seats vacant was reached at a plenary of the Assembly held on December 4.
He said two of those affected, members representing Oredo East and Owan East, were sworn-in, but failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a calendar year.
For others, who hadn’t been inaugurated since the proclamation of the House, he said: “Their constituents have been complaining and have come to us that they want their voices and concerns to be heard at the House. So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraught constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary.”
He added: “We decided to declare the seats vacant, following petitions from their constituencies; we have received over 100 petitions and even have to personally prevent a number of protests from the constituencies. The constitutional provision allows us to declare their seats vacant after being absent for 181 days sitting and we have sat for more than that.”
But, the spokesman of the lawmakers-elect, Washington Osifo, said the action of the House of Assembly is laughable.
His words: “It is a laughing matter because the matter is before the court and when a matter is before the court, such action is prejudice. We are challenging the illegal inauguration of the House and anything put on nothing cannot stand.
“Okiye is a man, who is in search of identity. He is working with the governor in the pursuit of a blind ambition, but they have hit the rock. Information got to us as early as last week that he met a group, who call themselves a union of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates, who contested the election.
“He held a meeting with them and they agreed that they should write a petition to the house and it is on that premise they did what they did. It also confirms what has been on the ground that the governor wants to handover the state to the PDP.”
The claims and counter-claims, notwithstanding, findings, however, showed the leadership of the state Assembly had formally written to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), and presently, is awaiting the electoral umpire to respond by setting in motion machinery for the conduct of by-elections in the affected constituencies, in line with the law.
Interestingly, the people of affected constituencies, party chieftains and other stakeholders have hailed the sack of the absentee members-elect, noting that lack of representation of their respective areas for about six months had deprived them of the benefits of democracy.
A cross-section of the party chieftains and constituents, said the move was a welcome development as it would pave the way for the election of persons willing and ready to represent the interest of the people.
A chieftain of the APC in the state, Mr. Charles Idahosa, who hails from Uhunmwonde, which is among the affected constituencies, said it was regrettable that the members-elect chose to stay away from the House because of their selfish interests and in the process, deprived their people of credible representation.
According to him, “it is a well-known fact that the House is made up of 24 members elected on the platform of the APC to serve their people. Those who decided to stay away have been shown the exit door and it is the right thing to do since the people were starved of credible representation.”
On his part, Hon. Osaigbovo Iyoha, who represented Oredo East in the 6th Assembly, said the development shows that members of the Assembly are truly on the side of the people as they have thought it wise to declare the seats vacant, so that well-meaning persons can take up the mantle of leadership and represent them.
Also speaking on the issue, Mr. Ibrahim Azeez from Etsako Central said the declaration by the House was in order, noting that people in his community have never supported the idea of absconding from the House, when there was serious legislative work to be done.
“I am very delighted with the move. The House has shown that it has a mind of its own and that members of the Assembly have the interest of the people at heart.”
However, analysts, who x-rayed the lingering Edo Assembly crisis, were of the view that is sad the members-elect opted to frittering away the grace of electoral mandate and goodwill extended to them by the people to represent them.
Costly as the value of this mandate freely given to them by the people seems, they had loudly vowed during their campaigns to protect the sanctity of peoples’ votes.
But, it is questionable whose interest the reneged choice and option for war by the members-elect tend to serve in the face of the over six months abandoned constitutional responsibilities. They have, instead, thrown caution to the wind and resorted to endless to war of attrition that does no one any good.
There is no doubt that the target is to slow down the pace of development in the state, but the resistance by support groups and forces loyal to the governor are understandable in their brick wall approaches.
While the supposed servants of the people continue to revel in cozy and parlous hotel rooms despite the huge bills each passing day, it is not far from all deductions that they have chosen to starve the citizens and stifle governance in their home state because of mere inexcusable lucre and pursuit for personal interest.
Otherwise, how best can one describe such empty political jamboree or voyage of self-destruct by elected representatives, who have chosen the comfort of the Federal Capital Territory (FTC), Abuja, while their home front is on fire?
It is instructive that the people whose voices, nightmarish pains and needs should be salvaged through effective lawmaking processes, resolutions, petitions and positive representations where necessary, are now languishing in utter despair and abandonment without anyone speaking for them in the hallowed chamber on key issues of government and governance.
Perhaps, the people of the affected constituencies would have suffered more if not for the resolve of Governor Godwin Obaseki to ensure that justice is done to all through his numerous people oriented projects.
No doubt, the ship of Edo State under Obaseki has steamed with smooth cruise and journeyed progressively and the people have long adjusted their thinking caps in admittance of obvious truths, manifest possibilities, inevitable changes and realities of the time as expressly espoused and proven by the governor’s avowed poise to do things differently.
This is in line with the government’s towering toast to depart from the old order, something that now irritates those who claim to know better but are locked in the euphoria of self-deceit and grandstanding.
The governor has adequately positioned himself as a no-pushover in the affairs of government and governance system. The fruits of these sacrifices are evident in the holistic reforms towards positioning the state on the path to greatness.
To the Obaseki-led administration’s credit are massive infrastructure in road construction, improved healthcare delivery, jobs creation, agripreneur programme to boost food production, guaranteed security to attract investors and boost economic growth, fight against human trafficking and illegal migration, viable and digital education programme that has gained momentum and attraction of stakeholders, building of industrial hubs and parks, dislodging of age long notoriety by miscreants who had held the state to the jugular to feed fat from the peoples’ collective patrimony and several others.
While these testimonies, no doubt, remain the ache that has continued to trouble camps opposed to the government of the day in the state, the ugly scenario painted by actions of self-serving politicians, firing deadly arsenals from another land other than the Heart Beat state in the name of battle for the soul of Edo has set a major twist in the crisis rocking the state chapter of the APC.
The 14 embattled lawmakers are yet to taste the true baptism for lawmaking processes, but have resolve to pitch tent with the National Chairman of the ruling party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Beyond all pretenses, Oshiomhole (from Edo North Senatorial District) had as governor served Edo State for unhindered two terms of eight years. During the time, he maximally enjoyed support from across all divides of the people.
It is against this backdrop that many insist that he must act as a rallying point and not in contradiction of a fatherly role and national leader expected of him.
The general view is that the APC national chairman and his foot soldiers must sheath their swords and support Obaseki, who needs their backing at this auspicious time in the life of the state.
Lagos Assembly to pass 2020 budget early January
Barring any last minute change of plan, the 2020 budget of Lagos State will be passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly and possibly sign into law by the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu not later than January 2, 2020.
The Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Hon. Tunde Buraimoh, disclosed this during an interaction with journalists in Alausa, Lagos.
It would be recall that Governor Sanwo-Olu, on November 8, presented the 2020 proposed N1.68 trillion budget to members of the House for consideration and subsequent approval. The budget, which is christened, “Awakening to a Greater Lagos” is higher than the previous year by 37 per cent.
Speaking on the budget, Hon. Buraimoh said the state Assembly is working hard to ensure that the Year 2020 proposed budget of N1.68 trillion is signed into law not later than January, 2, 2020 so that executive can have ample time and opportunity to execute all the proposals that are contained in the budget.
Buraimoh, who represents Kosofe Constituency I, also disclosed that the House of Assembly has resolved to give the budget proposal speedy consideration and passage in consistence with the realisation of the laudable programmes and plans of the present administration.
His words: “The Lagos State House of Assembly because of its cognisance of responsibility to make the lots of the people good and that the good of the people to get better and the greatest happiness to go to the greatest number of people is cautious of the fact that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well and in good time. And there is no point taking any day not to talk of any week or any month out of the 52 weeks or 12 months that makes a year.
“So, the Lagos State House of Assembly is trying as much as possible to get the executive ready to action and to hit the Year 2020 running by making sure that the 2020 budget estimates and proposals are made into law on or before, but not later than the first working day of January, 2020, so that the executive can have ample time and opportunity to execute all the proposals that are contained in the budget.”
Hon. Buraimoh further said the Lagos State House of Assembly is working round the clock to ensure that people of Lagos State enjoy dividends of democracy and good governance from the Sanwo-Olu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
NBC, CDHR task govt, media, others to curb fake news
The Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Moddibo Kawu, has called on all stakeholders – government, business and consumers of news to work together to solve fake news and sophisticated disinformation campaign.
Speaking in Lagos during the 2019 International Human Rights Day organised by the Lagos State chapter of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Kawu said the news industry must provide high quality journalism in order to build public trust and correct fake news and disinformation without legitimising them.
Kawu, who was represented by NBC Zonal Director in Lagos, Dr. Chubuike Ogwunike, while speaking on “The Role of the Media in Promoting Human Rights and Curbing Fake News in a Democratic Setting,” advised the government to promote news literacy and strong professional journalism in the society and implored the technology companies to invest in tools that identify fake news, reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation and improve online accountability.
He said freedom of speech is key to development, dignity and fulfillment of every person and nation and it is necessary for good governance, economic and social progress and accountability.
He, however, said that the right to freedom of expression was not an absolute right and that the Federal Government might, under exceptional circumstances, restricts the rights under international human rights law.
In his address, Lagos State chairman of CDHR, Comrade Alex Omotehinse, said that the group attached so much importance to the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day because of the gross violation of inalienable rights.
He charged the media to continue to promote human rights and curb fake news in a democratic setting, noting that the media and media practitioners should not be clampdown in the country with any law or policies.
He said: “The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the African Charter on Human and People’s rights respectively guarantee the freedom of speech and expression and thus all attempt by any institution or individual to infringe on that rights as enshrine will not only lead to peoples revolt but anarchy.
“The recent clampdown of media practitioners with fictitious, frivolous and obnoxious charges is a serious threat to our hard earns democracy, rule of law, civility and corporate existence that must be urgently resist not only by the freedom fighters alone but the Nigeria masses in general irrespective of their tribes, ethnic or religious believe.”
Omotehinse, who urged the National Assembly to promote rights of the citizens while the executive should enforce those rights, called on government to de-congest the Nigerian Correctional Centres.
Ondo 2020: Youth group makes case for Odimayo
A socio-political group, Ondo Youth Alliance has ratified its support for a businessman and philanthropist, Okunjimi Odimayo, as its preferred choice for the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State.
The group made its position known in a statement, which was jointly signed by its Coordinator, Tunde Akinwalere and Secretary, Bosede Alonge, respectively in Akure, the state capital.
The group said it took the decision to support Odimayo based on his wealth of experience, youthfulness and the need to continue advancing the state to a height that will bring more economic development and social projects to the populace.
The statement read: “Odimayo, from Irele local government in Ondo Southern Senatorial District has extensive knowledge and experience in corporate financial and management reporting in the Nigerian private sector.
“We took the decision to support his aspiration with the belief that his career has recorded many success stories of turnarounds and profitable growths needed to transform the Sunshine State.
“Aside from blazing the trail in the private sector he has also served in the public sector and has a good understanding of what is needed to manage a public office.
“His wealth of knowledge was deployed into the development of Ondo state when he served on the Commercial/Industrial Sub-group of the Transitional Committee that prepared the Socio-Economic Blueprint of the new Akeredolu Administration in 2016.”
Edo APC rally: Oshiomhole arrives Benin amidst tight security
*Urges party members to remain calm
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has appealed to members of the party in Edo State to remain calm following the mayhem unleashed on the people of the state Thursday by armed thugs loyal to the state government.
Oshiomhole made the appeal while addressing party members who escorted him to his house in the Edo State capital. The party chair and other members of the NWC of the party are in Benin to receive over 30,000 members of leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by its gubernatorial flag bearer, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu into the APC.
But political thugs at the early hours of Thursday took over the Benin Airport shooting sporadically. Bonfires were observed at strategic places in Benin City, while roads leading to the residence of the party chairman were blocked with heavy duty vehicles.
It took the party Chair and other members of the NWC over one hour to get to his residence after soldiers came to disperse the armed thugs.
Oshiomhole, who reacted while addressing party members, said: “I know you are hurt with what we are passing through here but I want to plead with you don’t be provoked. Any reasonable party leader will be happy to welcome people from another party into his party.
“Particularly when those coming were people who fought us in the last election. And when you look at the margin then it was like 50,000. So we are in Benin to welcome them but you could see how their thugs are unleashing mayhem on people.
“But I want to tell you, APC is our house and we will not destroy it neither are we going to allow any body destroy it. We don’t want any one to be killed so please don’t fight back. Those who know me know that I am not a coward, I am not afraid of a fight. But I will not and I urge you to remain calm.
“We are getting conflicting reports now, the IG ordered the Commissioner of Police to give us protection for our rally. But we are being told now that the same authority said it has been cancelled. But I am going to make calls and find out what the problem is, if the police is saying they cannot protect a political rally.
“I will find out and let you people know. But even if they said we cannot hold it, please don’t fight anybody. I will meet them and find out when it will hold. But the rally will still hold some day. We have the right of association. This is not the first time we are seeing situations like this, but I can assure you it will not last forever.
“No condition is permanent. We must do everything to keep APC in Edo State no matter what the devil thinks. APC Is our house so we must resist any temptation to fight back. We must remember that our President Muhammad Buhari is a peaceful man. We must remain peaceful and go home and tell everyone, we remain strong. No body can shake our spirit. We will receive our brothers into the party to fortify our party.”
Mega rally: More tension as APC youths set bonfires in in Edo
*Govt orders closure of schools, cites disturbing security report
Thousands of Youths loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State Thursday protested against Friday’s planned mega rally to receive former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and other defectors into the ruling party.
This is as the state government also Thursday ordered the closure of all schools over what it described as “disturbing security report concerning the use of school premises for a political rally.”
The protesting APC youths, who said they were drawn from 192 wards in the state, insisted they do not want any violence in the state.
They marched from Ring road to the Benin Airport.
The youths had set bonfires on different parts of the dual carriage Airport Road thereby causing hours of traffic gridlock, even as motorists made detours through other routes to the city centre.
Spokesman for the protesters, Mr. Imafidon Utete, said they were on the streets to protest against plans to disrupt public peace under the guise of receiving PDP members.
Shettima: North’ll look beyond APC, PDP in 2023 if…
Alhaji Yerima Shettima is the National President of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on recent developments in the polity, especially North’s quest for the 2023 presidency, calls for restructuring and electoral reforms, among other issues
The Acting Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) recently said that the North is going to support northerner for the presidency in 2023. What is your take on that and do you see Northern youths also going in that direction?
Did he say anything different thing from what I said before? Was I not the one who started it? Do you think I would just come out and say something I am not sure of? It is not possible, and that is why I will advise all political parties to zone their presidential tickets to the North. Any political party that makes the mistake of presenting a southerner as presidential candidate in 2023 is wasting its time.
Why informed your conviction?
The North will massively go one way, so I will advise the various political parties to present a northern candidate. My argument is based on the fact that rotation of the presidency was jettisoned in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. So, if President Muhammadu Buhari eventually completes his second term in 2023, the North would only have had nine years, while the South would have had 15 years. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had eight years of uninterrupted administration; Umaru Yar’Adua had only one year, the second year he was sick and Jonathan acted for one year before becoming the substantive president as a result of the Doctrine of Necessity and after Yar’Adua’s demise in 2010, Jonathan became president. So, out of the four years of Yar’Adua’s first term, he had only one year, while Jonathan had three years of the administration.
When some of us came out in 2011 to say it is important for the country to allow a northern candidate to emerge through the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), so that the North can complete the Yar’Adua administration and northern administration by extension, some people raised eyebrows, saying ‘it is not constitutional, there is nothing like agreement, it is the right of every Nigerian to contest’ and that was how the issue of rotational presidency was jettisoned.
I also think that it is fair to allow the North to retain power beyond 2023 given the challenge the region is facing in terms of insecurity and lack of infrastructure. No doubt, one of our own is heading the country today, but we are the most backward, most marginalised in this administration. Everything is being cornered by the South-West in terms of road network, rail project and anything you can talk of.
But prior to the present Fourth Republic, the North has been at the helm of affairs for many years compared to other geo-political zones…
Despite that look at what is happening to us; we have suffered enough. If we are talking of justice, we never got justice from Nigerians. I gave you an analysis of the South occupying the presidency for 15 years and even if with Buhari’s two terms, we would only have had nine years. Can we compare nine to 15 years? Even if we are given the 2023 ticket freely without anybody opposing us, you will realise that we will only have 13 years. We have not even catch-up with the South’s 15 years. But however, let us just have one shot more so that we can be able to look at somebody else because we do not see anything meaningful coming out of this administration or anything in the best interest of the North for now.
So, we are saying that by the time we have one more shot between 2023 and 2027, we would have been able to put things on ground because we are not going to assume that four years is enough for us to solve all our problems. At least, there would be template that successive governments that come from any part of the country can also build on.
What is the assurance that if the North produces the president in 2023, the person coming on board will address the region’s problems, considering the fact that many northerners have been at the helms of affairs for almost 38 years since Nigeria gained independence 59 years ago?
What is the guarantee that if we leave it and somebody from the South becomes the president, he would do projects for us?
Does that not show that where a president comes from is not an issue?
We will ensure that the candidate we are going to produce from the northern part of Nigeria is somebody who has the capacity, age and energy. Those are some of the criteria we are going to consider and at the same time, we must be able to assess his antecedents on his relationship with other parts of the country. Does he have a say and does he see himself as a Nigerian or just a northerner? We want a pan-Nigeria person from the northerner part of the country, who sees the country as his constituency and at the same time knows where he comes from.
Who are the likely presidential candidates the North is looking at for the 2023 presidential election?
I won’t give names because it is too early to talk about that. In the Northern part of the country today, when I make a statement, you hardly see anybody opposing it because I don’t talk just because I want to talk. I talk from facts because I am an insider. I am a member of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and by extension, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). I have my platform too. So, anything I come up with, be rest assured that there is was a wide consultation before I pronounced it. I don’t just sit down in my comfort zone and talk because I want publicity.
We have two major parties in Nigeria today, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What do you foresee if the two parties zone their presidential tickets to the South in 2023?
There are other political parties, so we will look for an alternative platform without considering the size of the party.
Do you think it is possible for you to get an alternative to the two major parties?
Why was it possible for APC to do what it did in less than two years?
But APC was a big party when it confronted PDP, which was the ruling party in 2015…
It was a merger of Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and other political parties. So, it is possible again; we can still do that magic. In less than one year, you will see things taking shape. We are working mindful of the fact that timing is also one of the factors we have and we are working around the clock. In less than one year, you will get to hear that this is a different dimension; a lot of things will come to play. By the way, what makes you think that people will go for APC or PDP? Think beyond that. We are thinking of an alternative beyond APC and PDP and we will get there.
The next general election is about three years away, but the conduct and outcome of the last month’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states caused some apprehension over what may happen in 2023. What are thoughts on that?
Was there any election in Kogi? It was an act of shame as state instruments were used against the will of the people and leaders forced on them. That was what happened in Kogi at the expense of peoples; lives. An election that was supposed to be calm and cool with the over 30,000 policemen deployed as claimed by the Nigerian Police Force to protect lives and property, but look at what has happened. Lives have been wasted. There was a broad-day light robbery; everything was done in the open. Was that what you called election? For me, the last election we had was in 2015. In every other election after that, we were just going backward. We have not done anything meaningful under the present leadership of the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC). This is the worst experience we ever had.
With what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa, do you have any fear about the 2023 elections?
I am worried over what happened in the Kogi and Bayelsa elections and without carrying out electoral reforms before the next general election, I foresee a situation where the whole country go up in flames. I am worried and I am afraid. The only thing left for this government to do that will be meaningful beyond any other thing to save the future of this country is to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Why do you think that elections are gradually turning into war in Nigeria?
It is because people are becoming more desperate. Holding of political office in this country pays more than running any other business and to that extent, people believe the moment they secure a political office, they will make money than they ever imagined within a short period of time. No matter how stupid the office looks, they make money. That has made people to become more desperate. So, we must begin to act in the right way by looking at the electoral law. For me, I am looking beyond amending the electoral law; I am also looking at a situation where we ensure that we reduce the power at the centre. If power at the centre is reduced, people will begin to yearn for political positions in their regions and communities. If you know you don’t have the pedigree or capacity within the community and you want to contest to represent your people, ordinarily you would be knocked out because everything would be put on ground to measure your capacity and people will see it.
So, the moment you are not supposed to be among their first 11, they will drop you and they will bring people who are competent. If they knew from time that your family is into fraudulent act, those records would be used to disqualify you. So, at that level, we will begin to have good leaders and no matter where you come from, nobody cares; whether you are rich or poor. The son of a nobody can be president, governor or minister and on that basis, we will begin to have a Nigeria that is peaceful, coordinated and development will be there for everybody. Without that, there will be problem.
We should also decentralise power, but you cannot decentralise power without restructuring. Restructuring is one of the issues that have been in the front burner. We need to look at this issue of system of governance; what kind of system of government we need and how to run it? It is only when we sit down and discuss that we can arrive at a conclusion.
Talking about restructuring, the South and Middle Belt parts of the country have been clamouring for restructuring, but the North seems not to be in support…
Whoever told you that the North is not in support of restructuring is a bloody liar. The opinion of few northern people who don’t understand the meaning of restructuring does not mean that the entire North is against restructuring. The Northern Elders Forum is not opposed to restructuring and that was why it entered into an alliance with leaders from other parts of the country to form a pan-Nigeria movement – the Nigeria Elders Forum that brought together the likes of Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief John Nwodo, among others.
So, if you see somebody saying that the North is against restructuring, probably the person doesn’t have an idea of what he is talking about. We are prepared to discuss; we are prepared to reshape the country , so that we can move forward.
So, you are hopeful that Nigeria would be restructured one day…
Definitely, it will. It is a matter of time.
Do you think restructuring is achievable under the incumbent administration?
It is not possible under this administration. They will not do it.
Why do you say so?
Because the characters we have in the administration do not believe in restructuring.
There is a rumoured of third term agenda for President, which many still believe despite the President saying he is not interested in a third term…
I also heard about the speculation, but I am one of those who see things beyond just hearing. Though President Buhari has come out openly to say he is not interested in a third term, we have realised that sometimes he might not want to do something, but the forces around him wouldn’t let him be. To that extent, we cannot fold our hands and assume that because he has said it, it is over; it is not yet over. As they are saying they will not, we will not also sleep because nothing is impossible. We have seen that so many things the government promised not to do are what it has done.
For instance, when they came to power, they promised that fuel price would go back to N45 per litre, but instead of that there was over 100 per cent increment in the price of fuel. They also said there won’t be an office of the First Lady, but wife of the president has suddenly become first lady. We have seen a case where they said fuel subsidy was a scam, but in fact, this government is even paying more than what the previous government paid.
Are you saying that the APC cannot be trusted on the third term issue?
They cannot be trusted under; it is not just about Buhari because Buhari is an individual.
But the President has said that he is not running for a third term…
It is not enough for Nigerians to go and sleep. We hope he doesn’t, but if he does, it is going to be as good as dead on arrival because tension is high. Nigerians have suffered enough, so anything you bring that goes against their mindset would be resisted.
The Federal Government few months ago closed the nation’s borders, but some Nigerians believe that the decision has brought hardship to the people, while government is of the view that the decision is in the interest of the country. How would you react to that?
I don’t understand and my thinking maybe because I am a layman or because I am not in government. There is saying that he who drives on the road knows exactly where the potholes are than somebody who is just a passenger. I don’t know how somebody can justify this issue of border closure at the expense of Nigerians, who are suffering. You said the reason for closing the borders is for us to focus on what we have in-house. What are those things we have inside and has closure of the borders really given Nigerians the opportunity to consume our own products.
You said we are producing enough rice locally, but today, a bag of local rice is sold for over N22, 000. How does that help the common man? If you are buying a bag or rice for almost N22, 000 and getting what you want from the rice, it is a different thing. But we have a situation, where the rice has stones and even tasteless at that expensive amount of money. Does that help us in any way? I don’t think so. We should have more locally produced rice at a cheaper price. If the rice is being sold at cheaper price, people will buy it and they will know that they are either faced with eating the rice with the stones or take time to select the stones from the rice and eat it tasteless because they want to be patriotic Nigerians.
Let the government be courageous enough to tell people what they have benefitted from the boarder closure. The only benefit I am aware of is the money the country is making on a daily basis coming from the angle of Nigerian Customs, but is that enough to hold the entire country of over 180 million people to ransom. Because of what you are making, you deprive families’ their means of survival. And this money you claim to be getting for government, does it anyway impact on the country? If it had impacted, we wouldn’t have heard just few days ago that the government is going for another loan; writing the National Assembly for approval of about $30 billion loan with over $287 billion that is already on ground.
So, where is this money that they are talking about that we are making? Where is the money that has been recovered from looters? Where is the money that we have saved in the Single Treasury Account? Where is our foreign reserve? Why are we still going about borrowing? In fact, the World Bank has warned Nigeria to be careful of taking any loan again and we are still in it.
Some Nigerians have attributed high cost of governance as major problems of the country and they are therefore calling on government to cut cost. Wheredo you stand on that?
What is wrong in reducing it? Are they not the people that are supposed to do it? Are they doing it? Just few days ago, we heard of this issue of arrears that governors are collecting. The smallest one announced was the one of Zamfara State, where a former governor was collecting N10 million per month. I commend Zamfara State governor and members of the state House of Assembly for kicking it out and I hope other governors who are not in tune with this godfatherism issue would also kick it out, so that we can begin to save from that angle.
Don’t you think it is time we reduced the number of public officers too?
We should do that, especially if we can place the National Assembly on part time basis; they will only collect allowances, it will be better. In fact, it will reduce people thinking that the only business they can do is to go into politics because you see people spending over a billion naira just to become a senator, while someone is spending about N10 billion to be a governor. What do you expect if somebody invests up to N10 billion in an election? How do you expect him to be accountable to his people? Certainly, he will plan to make 10 times of the money he invested to get into office. So, if he invests N10 billion; he is expected to get back N100 billion.
Bayelsa guber: The long walk to change
The 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State has come and gone, but PAULINE ONYIBE reports that it is one that will linger in the memories of many, given the intrigues that altered the political equation in the oil-rich state
Unlike what happened in 2015 Bayelsa State during the general elections, when women stood their ground in places like Southern Ijaw that another party will not succeed, but the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the same women and this time, the youth and in fact, almost all Bayelsans, agreed that they didn’t want the PDP again in the November 16 governorship poll.
Even in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s local government area, a supposed leader of the PDP in Nigeria, the outcome was not different as the All Progressives Congress (APC) also won.
The PDP governorship in the 2015 election, Seriake Dickson defeated his APC counterpart, Timipre Sylva, by polling 134,998 votes against the latter’s 86,852 votes.
Of course, it wasn’t an easy win for Dickson then, but the electorate helped him pull through, though then President Jonathan, who was instrumental to his rise to power, played a major role.
The PDP had been in power in Bayelsa State for about 20 years since the advent of democratic rule in 1999 and the people of the state were not ready to give another party a chance in the recent November 16 election.
However, the PDP ran in to trouble waters, when it failed to manage its primaries that led to the emergence of its candidate for the poll. As a result of what many described as assurance from Governor Dickson to the numerous aspirants, who showed interest in the party’s ticket, PDP raked in about N420 million from purchase of nomination forms.
Each of the nomination forms cost a whopping N21 million naira and 21 aspirants picked the forms. They were Oliver Tariela, Kaniebi Okoko, Great Joshua Maciver, Franklin Osaisai, Ndutimi Alaibe, Benson Agadaga, Fredrick Agbedi, Reuben Okoya, Douye Diri, Talford Ongolo, Kemela Okara, Gboribiogha John Jonah, Benson Konbowei, Godknows Igali, Johnson Kiyaramo, Paulker Emmanuel, Anthony George-Ikoli, Robinson Etolor, Nimibofa Ayawei, David Alagoa and Igiri Ziperedein.
But, their displeasure with the way the PDP primary was conducted made some of the aspirants like Tmi Alaibe who felt cheated to head to the court to challenge the outcome.
The former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) came second in the primary with 561 votes. His argument was that the then eight newly inaugurated local government chairmen and the 105 councilors, who voted during the primary, were not legible to vote.
Though he didn’t leave the party, it was so glaring that most of his supporters left and those who stayed were not there in spirit and in truth.
Also a gale of defection hit the party when the governor made the party members to understand that there was restoration caucus which eventually produced the candidate. Those, who left felt there was no need staying back since there was division in the party.
One of the persons, who left PDP that also contributed to the defeat of the party, was Gabriel Jonah, who has been one of the forces keeping PDP in Nembe local government. Jonah led thousands of his ‘Otita Force’ members to the APC.
Also, Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, also dumped the PDP for the APC. Abenego Don Evarada and Helen Bob all former aides to the governor also dumped the party for the APC. A former member of the state House of Assembly, Parkinson Markmanuel, Glad Stone Amabibi, Abadani Dick, Omonibeke Kemelayefa and Robert Enogha among other prominent PDP members left, but the governor still assured the remaining members that such won’t stop PDP from winning the governorship election.
Jonah left because of the ill-fated treatment he felt was done to his elder brother, who is also the deputy governor of the state.
Nembe people also felt that the governor should have supported his deputy to take over from him instead of another person and he felt slighted which has made him to somehow abandon the restoration since after the primaries.
The deputy governor has not been seen in the public performing any government function since that time. This, perhaps, explained why the people of Nembe warned PDP not to come anywhere close to their area and the crisis when the party went to the local government during the campaigns.
There were also issues over the choice of PDP’s deputy governorship candidate. The argument was that since the governor who claimed to be the leader of PDP in Bayelsa State has made his choice of the governorship candidate, Senator Douye Diri, some stakeholders felt that the deputy governor should have come from Ogbia – former President Jonathan’s local government area.
Other stakeholders felt that the governor shouldn’t have also picked the deputy governorship candidate after choosing the governorship candidate. They complained that the governor exhibited highhandedness and felt belittled. Even some of the aspirants, who contested the primary, disappeared with just two or three of them supporting Senator Diri.
All the governors’ effort it was learnt was to make way for him to get to the senate after his tenure as the governor of the state.
Amidst the discomfort within the party, Jonathan didn’t say a word because it was learnt that he tried talking to Governor Dickson on the need to allow Alaibe fly the party’s flag but did not succeed.
Even when the governor was told by other stakeholders that Senator Diri was not “a marketable candidate,” he reportedly didn’t listen to anybody as a result the former president kept quite hence APC won in his local government.
The, perhaps, explained why most political analysts and observers in the state and even beyond, were quick to insist that the PDP lost the election because of the peoples’ protest votes in favour of APC.
To these analysts and observers, it was the desire of most Bayelsans to vote out PDP because of what they termed the highhandedness of the PDP administration.
The electorate, including those staying in areas prone to flooding, defied the rain on election day and came out en mass to exercise their franchise. At Opolo, women were seen chanting APC with their brooms.
In the market and the streets of Yenagoa, it was the decision of many to try another party and they made good their decision by voting massively for APC.
After APC’s victory, it was wild jubilation across the state as residents celebrated the coming of the APC.
Lyon won in six out of the state’s eight local government areas, while senator Diri won in two local government areas.
Lyon polled 352,552 votes to defeat Diri, who polled 143,172 votes. The six local government areas won by the APC are Brass; Nembe; Ogbia,
Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Yenagoa, while the PDP won in the Sagbama and Kolokuma/Opokuma local government areas.
In Sagbama local government area, the APC polled 7, 831 votes while the PDP scored 60,339 votes. In Nembe, APC got 83,041 votes, while the PDP polled 874 votes.
In Kolouma/Opokuma, the APC scored 8,934 votes, while the PDP scored 15,360 votes. In Brass, APC got 23,831 votes, while the PDP polled 10,410 votes.
APC scored 24,607 votes in Yenagoa, while the PDP got 19,184 votes. In Ogbia, APC got 58,016 votes, while PDP polled 13,763 votes.
In Southern Ijaw Local Government, the APC candidate polled 124,803 votes, while his PDP rival got 4,898 votes. Lyon also defeated Diri in Ekeremor by polling 21,489 to the PDP’s candidate’s 18,344 votes.
No doubt, Bayelsans desired change and they got it. However, the change did not come that easy as lots of political intrigues and political horse-trading defined it.
Contracts: Reps concur with Senate on 30 percent mobilisation fee
By Philip Nyam, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the Senate in increasing mobilisation fee of local contractors from 15 to 30 percent in what it believes will reduce the bureaucratic issues that delay the execution of projects by amending the procurement act.
Recall that the Senate had last week passed the bill and transmitted to the House for concurrence.
An executive bill, it is titled: “a bill for an act to amend the National Council on Public Procurement and the Bureau of Public Procurement act, No. 14, 2017 to review the mobilization fees paid to contractors, institute e-procurement and provide time frame for the procurement process etc and for related matters”
Presenting the bill for concurrence, the acting leader of the House, Hon. Peter Akpatason said the current mobilisation fee for local contractors was inadequate and that it caused abandonment of contracts in the country.
He said when passed into law, the bill will reduce the timeline for processing contracts award to two weeks, while it approved four days for issuance of certificates.
The lawmakers, however, did not fix any percentage as mobilisation fee for foreign contractors.
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