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Kogi, Bayelsa: APC, PDP in test of might

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Kogi, Bayelsa: APC, PDP in test of might

It is another test of might between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the February/March general election as voters in Kogi and Bayelsa states go to the polls tomorrow to elect their respective next governors, FELIX NWANERI reports

 

After months of political intrigues, the stage is set for a fierce contest in tomorrow’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

Already, the race has rekindled the rivalry between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

APC won the last presidential election and retained the country number one political seat, which it took from the PDP in the 2015 general election. However, both parties were neck and neck in the governorship polls that took place in 29 states in the 2019 general election.

The PDP won 15 out of the 29 states, while APC won 14. The states won by PDP are Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi, Delta, Enugu, Taraba, Abia, Imo, Oyo, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Sokoto, Rivers and Zamfara. Those won by APC are Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Plateau, Jigawa, Borno, Katsina, Yobe, Nasarawa and Kano, Kwara and Gombe.

Governorship elections did not hold in seven states – Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Osun and Ekiti as a result of the interregnum by the courts. Of these seven states, APC is in charge in five – Kogi, Edo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. The PDP only holds sway in Bayelsa, while Anambra is controlled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

As it stands, the Adams Oshiomhole-led APC has 20 states, while the Uche Secondus-led PDP controls 16. APGA is in charge of only one state. But PDP added more states to its kitty after the 2019 polls.

Remarkably, the main opposition party took over five APC controlled states – Adamawa, Imo, Oyo, Bauchi and Zamfara. APC, on its part, won two PDP controlled states – Gombe and Kwara.

While the 2019 polls is now history, it is another test of might between the two leading parties eight months after the general election as they battle for the governorship positions of Kogi and Bayelsa states.

Interestingly, the governorship polls in the two states will not be the first time APC and PDP would be returning to the ring after a general election. The first was the gubernatorial polls in the same states after the 2015 general election. Both parties shared the states apiece then, with APC taking over Kogi from PDP, while PDP retained Bayelsa.

No doubt, several factors shaped the 2015 governorship polls in the two states, so it will amount to a political gamble for any of the two parties to rely on old variables going into tomorrow’s contest given the dynamic nature of politics.

Kogi: PDP plots Bello’s ouster

In Kogi, it would be battle royale as Governor Yahaya Bello, who have been in the eyes of the storm since he assumed office on January 27, 2016, seeks a second term.

The governor secured his party’s ticket after polling 3,091 votes from 3,596 delegates, who participated in APC’s indirect primary election on August 29. 

Those Bello routed to clinch the ticket are Hadiza Ibrahim (zero), Yahaya Audu (10), Sani Abdullahi (seven), Abubakar Bashir (three), Danlami Mohammed (zero), Yakubu Mohammed (zero), Ikele Aisha (zero), Hassan Abdullahi (44) and Babatunde Irukera (109).

Against this backdrop, the incumbent would be squaring against Musa Wada, who emerged the candidate of the PPD after beating 12 others in a keenly contested primary election.

Wada polled 748 votes to defeat his closest rival, Abubakar Ibrahim, who polled 710 votes to come second, while former Governor Idris Wada came third with 345.

Other PDP aspirants were Senator Dino Melaye (70), Aminu Abubakar Suleiman (55), Victor Adoji (54), Erico Ahmeh (42), Salihu Atawodi (11), Mohamed Shaibu (4l), Bayo Averehi (nine), Emmanuel Omebije (nine) and Grace Adejoh (zero).

Bello was elected governor for the first term in 2015, following his party’s defeat of the incumbent governor, Capt. Idris Wada. He made history then as the first governor from the minority ethnic groups in the state to occupy the historic Lugard House as Kogi State government house is known. He is Ebira of Kogi Central Senatorial District.

Before then, the Igala people of Kogi East Senatorial District have had enough of power, having ruled the state since it was created in 1991 by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime.

But, Bello’s emergence as governor would not have been possible if not for the demise of his party’s candidate in the November 21, 2015 poll – Prince Abubakar Audu.

The former two-time governor of the state (1992 to 1993 and 1999 to 2003) was coasting to victory in the poll, when he passed on. This unfortunate incident almost triggered a constitutional crisis as the then constitution did not envisage such situation.

The impasse over the incident was however resolved, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) directed the APC to nominate another candidate as Audu’s substitution for the December 5, supplementary poll in the 91 polling units, where elections were cancelled.

The electoral body had declared the election inconclusive midway during collation and announcement of results, following the cancellation of results in the affected polling units due to incidences of violence, ballot boxes snatching, over voting, among others.

Late Audu was at the time leading his closest rival and incumbent governor, Wada by 41, 000 votes, whereas the total number of registered voters in the 91 polling units was 49,953, a figure, the commission explained was higher than the margin between the top contenders.

The window to substitute Audu, rather than serve as a relief to the APC, sparked off another round of crisis as the deputy governorship candidate, Hon. James Faleke, wrote to INEC that he should be declared winner on the ground that the supplementary poll was needless as the number of eligible voters in the affected areas stood at 25, 000 and so will not make any impact in the overall result.

The PDP, on its part, urged the electoral body to declare its candidate, Wada, winner of the election as the votes garnered by Audu were not transferable. The party further argued that Audu’s votes died with him.

However, INEC insisted on going ahead with the supplementary poll and the APC was left with no other option than to nominate the first runner up in its governorship primary election, Bello, as Audu’s substitution.

As expected, Bello was declared winner of the poll after the supplementary election. His party, APC, garnered 6,885 votes to bring its total votes to 247,752, having polled 240,857 in the November 21 election. The PDP candidate (Wada) scored 5,363 to take his total votes to 204,877 votes. He had earlier garnered 199, 514 votes.

Despite INEC’s declaration of Bello as Governor-elect, the Audu/Faleke campaign organisation described the supplementary election that produced him as “unnecessary and a complete waste of tax payers’ money’’ and headed for the tribunal to challenge it. Wada also challenged the outcome of the election and return of Bello, joining APC and INEC as respondents.

But ruling on the two motions praying it to halt the inauguration, the tribunal said though it had jurisdiction to hear the case contrary to insinuations, the motions were not contained in the original petitions as it was merely a motion on notice.

With that, Bello mounted the stage today as the youngest elected governor in Nigeria’s political history. He was 40 years old then.

Among the strategies he rolled out then was reorganisation of the state’s civil service to make it more efficient and productive. He also promised to immediately ensure massive industrialization to create employment for Kogites and to harness the mineral potentials across the state in order to improve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state and its economy.

But, almost four years down the line, most indigenes of the state believe that Bello’s lofty dream of taking Kogi to the next level has remained a mirage. From one crisis to another, the state has been described by many as a study in leadership failure.

While Bello has persistently admonished those he described as detractors to allow his government to focus on its goal of a better Kogi for its citizens, analysts kept reminding him that the deterioration of any administration begins with the decay of the principle on which it was founded.

Echoes of that counsel are reverberating in the Confluence State as Bello goes into poll though the governor said his declaration for a second term came after consultations with the leadership of his party both at the national and state levels and pressure from the people of the state on him to seek re-election.

Besides what seems a replay of the 2015 contest, Bello’s main opponent – Musa Wada, an engineer from the majority Igala ethnic stock of the state – has close links to two former governors of the state.  He is ex-Governor Wada’s sibling and an in-law to former Governor Ibrahim Idris.

Interestingly, the younger Wada trounced his brother – Ex-Governor Wada and his brother in-law – Abubakar Ibrahim – in the PDP governorship primary.

  

Bayelsa: Will APC turn the table against PDP?

The Bayelsa governorship poll also promises to be interesting as former political allies square against themselves. The poll is also likely to be a two-horse race given the strength of the PDP and APC in the oil-rich state.

While the ruling PDP in the state is fielding Senator Douye Diri, who presently represents Bayelsa Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, APC’s candidate is Chief David Lyon.

Diri defeated 19 other aspirants to emerge the PDP candidate. One of the 21 aspirants, Talford Ongolo, stepped down from the race on the eve of the primary election.

The senator polled a total of 561 votes ahead of a former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, who came second with 365 votes.

Keniebi Okoko, son of a former National President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof, Kimse Okoko, came third with 142 votes.

Lyon, on his part, emerged as APC’s candidate by polling 42,138 votes to defeat five other aspirants – Mrs. Desiye Nsirim (1,533), Chief Ebitimi Amgbare (633), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (571), Prof Ongoebi Etebu (564) and Prince Preye Aganaba (354) in a direct primary election.

Already, tension is brewing and the fear is that the poll may go the way of that of December 5, 2015, which was characterised by violence.

Governor Dickson, who recently reasoned along this line, acknowledged that the battle for his successor is going to be a defining moment for the state.

His words: “The last governorship election is still fresh in the memories of Bayelsans. It was more than an election, it was a war. The 2019 governorship may not be any different. The stakes are high as some persons are desperate to capture the state regardless of how unpopular they are among the people.

“In their desperate bid to launch a deadly come back, they have begun to gradually disrupt security architecture in the state. This they have done by using their privileged positions against the people. In 2019, they are expected to be more daring but as always, Bayelsans know them and in line with true Ijaw spirit, the people are ready to repel every attempt to circumvent their will.”

It would be recalled that armed thugs had disrupted voting process on the election day in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state during the last governorship poll. This forced INEC to shift voting to the next day (December 6), but the rescheduled poll did not hold as the thugs prevented INEC from deploying officials and materials.

The electoral body had to declare the poll inconclusive as votes from the council were expected to be the decider, being the largest of the eight local government areas of the state.

The council then had 120,827 registered voters. Governor Seriake Dickson of the PDP, who was seeking a second term then, led in six of the seven local government areas initially declared. He polled 105,748 votes, while the candidate of the APC and a former governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva (now minister), won in only one and had 72,594 votes, a margin of 30,154 votes.

The impasse was resolved a week later, when both candidates returned to the poll, but it was the PDP that had the day. In what could be described as the stiffest governorship contest since the creation of the state in 1996, Dickson secured a second term by polling a total of 134,998 votes to defeat Sylva, who garnered 86,852 votes.

Traditionally, Bayelsa is a PDP state, but APC has of late made inroad into the state. The centre’s ruling party seized the opportunity of the 2019 polls to win a senatorial seat, two out of the five House of Representatives seats as well as pockets of state Assembly seats.

Besides the parties’ strength, there is no doubt that election is going to be a proxy war between two political archrivals – Dickson and Sylva. Senator Diri is believed to be Dickson’s preferred candidate, while Lyon is Sylva’s anointed, which informs why he defeated Lokpobiri, who is a former senator and immediate past minister of State Agriculture and Rural Development.

With few hours to the polls, there is no doubt that both sides will deploy all they have in their respective arsenal to either consolidate on what they have or extend frontiers as whichever way the pendulum swings in both states will further strengthen their respective confidence ahead of the 2023 general election.

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Edo 2020: Obaseki’s game-changer

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Edo 2020: Obaseki’s game-changer

Felix Nwaneri reports that despite mounting opposition to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term bid, the Edo State helmsman could leverage on his achievements so far to scale the hurdle

 

 

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igeria is said to have failed to attract investment because the local dynamics are too shoddy and loosely defined, which it makes it difficult for serious investment to place a bet on the country or its subnational entities – the states.

But one state that has somewhat scaled this hurdle and is now a darling to international development institutions and investors is Edo State under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, an investment banker, who cut his teeth in deepening reforms in Nigeria’s investment sector.

 

There is no doubt that in the last three years that Obaseki has been at helms of affairs in the Edo, which prides itself as the “Heartbeat of the Nation,” he has brought his expertise to bear on the development of the state, helping to facilitate the siting and mobilisation of funding for the Edo-Azura Power project, which has the World Bank Group, Siemens and Julius Berger, among others, on board.

This was to ensure that the state has a proven record of attracting and keeping investors to build the right infrastructure that can drive industrialisation. Though Edo-Azura supplies power to the National Grid, its presence has spurred the incursion of more power companies into the state and also guarantees other large industries in the state a source for relatively stable power.

 

Interestingly, the Obaseki administration has also been able to replicate its giant stride in other sectors, especially education, sports, urban renewal and civil service reforms, among others.

As it is, the world is paying attention to the education reforms in Edo State. In a recently published commentary on its website, the World Economic Forum (WEF) applauded the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) initiative for improving learning outcomes among pupils in primary schools across the state and described Governor Obaseki, as a trailblazer who is “quickly and dramatically lifting the quality of government schools and up skilling teachers in his low-income state.”

 

According to the WEF, “education experts around the world and across Africa in particular are paying close attention to EdoBEST that has become a beacon of light to other education ministries because it is improving learning for marginalised children and up skilling both novice and experienced teachers at scale, within existing state budgets and without western aid.”

 

The Forum further said that the changes are happening within the existing system and being spearheaded by existing teachers and school leaders, and hailed the reforms as “a Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem.”

The World Bank and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have also highlighted EdoBEST as a crucial programme that can be a template for transforming education in educationally disadvantaged societies. Last September, the World Bank Group organised a side-event at the UNGA summit in New York to discuss Edo-BEST.

 

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) also recently bestowed Governor Obaseki with the Best Performing Governor Award in recognition of his education reforms, success of the Edo-BEST programme and his prioritisation of teachers’ welfare in the state.

 

Receiving the award, Obaseki said: “If you are not able to add your sums and pronounce your alphabets, you cannot write and you cannot think logically. So, what we have done in Edo State is to prioritise basic and technical education.”

He argued that basic education from the perspective of encouraging teachers, deploying technology to determine and tell when a teacher is in class, among others, form the basis of the Edo-BEST programme.

“I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the database. Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children.

 

“So, this is also to motivate them and corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools. The outcome is that children are learning. A child in Edo state today after one term has now learnt more than three terms of work in the old system,” he said.

 

In the area of urban renewal, the Obaseki-led government has it as one of its key development thrusts, and since the start of the administration, there has been massive construction of roads, reclaiming of gully erosion sites, construction of parks and restoring sanity to public places across the state.

 

The unprecedented urban renewal projects have earned the governor the sobriquet: “Wake and See Governor,” said to be a product of the governor’s unique leadership style that abhors unnecessary fanfare.                          

The road construction projects span across different parts of the state and are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Infrastructure, State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) and SEEFOR Plus, the state government-funded scheme modeled after the World Bank funded project.            

 

A major aspect of the governor’s infrastructure drive is the renovation of public schools across the state, expected to complement investment in human capital development.

Schools, including conventional and technical institutions of learning, are being remodeled to reflect the governor’s commitment to build infrastructure in the quest to revive the state’s industrial sector.

 

The target, according to the state government, is to have institutions that would serve as grooming grounds for best-in-town technical experts, who will receive training and certification that would be recognized in any part of the world.

On sports, Obaseki is leaving no stone unturned to return Edo State to its glorious days and this informs the ongoing renovation, expansion and equipping of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium with state-of-the-art facilities to spur sports development and develop local talents in the state.

 

The governor said of the project: “We take sports seriously in this state, because 72 per cent of our population is under 30 years of age, and that is why we are building 20 mini-stadia across the state.”

The Edo Innovation Hub is another initiative that has been acclaimed by many. A cluster for technology innovators and inventors, the hub was set up to strengthen the state’s nascent technology innovation scene. The hub was commissioned on June 14, 2018 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Tagged Edo Innovates, the hub provides a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced training in business and technology innovation, providing youths the opportunity to learn a wide array of employability 

and entrepreneurial skills.

Specifically, some of the offerings at the hub include digital skills, business support services, start-up incubation and business acceleration, mentorship, co-working spaces, and entrepreneurship training.

 

More than 1,000 youths have been trained at the facility since inception, with not less than a quarter of them being females. Besides this, the hub has recently proven to be a resource center for the state’s government plans to build an internationally competitive locally-trained labour force in partnership with reputable organisations, working to mitigate the menace of human trafficking and illegal migration.

 

This has attracted investment from the World Bank-assisted State Employment and Expenditure for Results project (SEEFOR) Project, United Kingdom (UK) the Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), a number of Chinese companies, among others, at the hub.

 

On civil service reforms, Governor Obaseki has reiterated that he will not sack any worker in the state because he believes in the power of the human intellect and would never work to render any worker a liability.

With this thinking, the governor has made the civil service in Edo State a fulcrum of his reform agenda by ensure that workers are catered for while in service and in retirement.

 

This informed the decision to re-train civil servants for efficiency and through a partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the state government is retooling the state’s workforce for effective service delivery.

 

And in line with its efforts to ensure that no civil servant is redundant, the state government conducts regular training for civil servants with a focus to make them better at their jobs.

The government has also undertaken to redesign offices and build a Training School that would provide institutional support for the plan to ensure that workers are brought up to speed with current developments in their areas of expertise.      

 

The state government has also built Judges’ Quarters to ensure that the welfare of members of the top brass of the judiciary is well catered for. New Court complexes are being constructed, with the governor determined to convert Edo into the judiciary hub of the Niger Delta. Stenography equipment and other modern equipment have been procured and court clerks trained to deploy them to ensure an efficient, fast and seamless judicial process.

 

The pension reforms in the state have also helped in clearing the backlog of pension arrears accumulated for almost 20 years before the current administration. The workers in the state have been migrated to the contributory pension scheme. The success of the scheme at the state level has inspired the extension of the scheme to the local government level. 

 

The state government, also realising that one of the biggest tasks before it, is the challenge of human trafficking and illegal migration, has faced it head-on.

This explained why the governor didn’t mince words when he came into office as to the fact that the state had a problem with illegal migration, which deprived it of its human capital.       

To tackle this problem, Obaseki set to work by employing a mix approach of engagement and dialogue across to get the necessary stakeholders on board. With this, the state was able to set up the Edo Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), empowered by the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law.

 

The law was a landmark feat to give legal backing to the fight against human trafficking in the state. With such commitment, the governor has appealed to countries that suffer migrant crisis to invest in opportunities of building institutions and infrastructure that will complement the state government’s efforts in engaging and empowering youths in the state.

 

While it is acknowledged that there is more to electoral victories in emerging democracies such as Nigeria, there is no doubt that Obaseki will leverage on the giant strides of his administration in his quest to return to office as governor of Edo State for a second term.

 

The governor, who beat his chest on this, told New Telegraph in a recent interview that “if I have the people with me, there is nothing to be afraid of because election is not a war that requires deployment of the military for possible take-over of a territory.

 

He added: “If God had wanted things to continue the way they were in Edo State, He would not have brought a total stranger like me; He would have selected one of the subsisting faces in politics. I am a different person, so I have to do things differently. But, if some reactionary forces feel that we must go back to where we were before now, they have the people of Edo State to battle with.”

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Two years in the saddle: The Secondus, PDP story

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Two years in the saddle: The Secondus, PDP story

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xactly two years ago, precisely on December 11, 2017, Prince Uche Secondus entered Wadata Plaza, the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the 13th National Chairman of the main opposition party with the following words on marble.

 

“As I resume today as the National Chairman of this great party, I come with an open heart, open arms with our doors ajar to welcome all lovers of true democracy. PDP under my leadership is open to accommodate all those who desire for this country to have free and robust political activities.

 

“I intend to create a level playing ground and a conducive environment for all to bring in their God given talent to help rescue this country from the obvious lack of direction of the APC administration. It’s now clear to all political watchers that the onus of saving our democracy and our country rests squarely on the PDP and this is what my leadership tends to pursue vigorously.

 

In the coming days and months, PDP under my watch will introduce an all-inclusive system that would carry along every member with goodwill. We are calling on all Nigerians to be patient with us as we begin this process of rebuilding, repositioning with the ultimate goal of regaining power at all levels in this country.

 

“Nigerians are yearning for us and we have no choice but to rise up to the challenge. I therefore call on all our members who left the party in the past for various reasons to return and be part of this second chance history in making under a Secondus.”

 

That was the entry remarks of Prince Secondus  at the party’s Wadata Plaza as he alighted from his car at the gate trekking to his office to assume duties and to symbolically demonstrate the all-inclusive policy he intends to push as the leader of the party.

 

Prior to this 24 hours earlier on 10th December, 2017 at Eagles Square, Abuja he was elected the National Chairman at the party’s National Convention. In his acceptance speech he had given his policy direction which was encompassed in 3Rs- rebuilding, repositioning to regain.

 

The party badly needed a fresh touch and Prince Secondus was well aware having been part of the party’s daunting problems including the battle to rescue it from those who came purposely to auction away the party.

 

To be able to reposition and rebuild the party, a lot of old ways needed to give way, internal democracy the party’s biggest challenge must be restored. Also to be restored are the core values of the founding fathers of the party which are anchored on the basic tenets of democracy, rule of law and freedom.

 

Prince Secondus started immediately by decentralizing power watering down the almighty influence of Wadata Plaza where party ticket in the past could be purchased or made available to the highest bidder.

Many still driven by the past doubted him when he said that under his watch, flag bearers of the party at all levels must be popular persons with deep grassroots touch who can win elections.

 

A lot of the party’s flagbearers at various elective positions in last general elections did not believe what they saw that they could pick PDP ticket without first ferrying some Ghana must go bags to Wadata Plaza in Abuja.

Perhaps the height of Prince Secondus two-year reign was in October 2018 in Port Harcourt, Rivers state when the democracy watchers waited for the imploding of the party believing the soothsayer’s prediction that the party would not be able come out of Port Harcourt intact.

 

But against the book maker’s calculations it turned out to be the party’s finest hour. Becoming the best presidential primaries ever to be conducted by any political party in Nigeria’s history. Rather than implode the party came out of Port Harcourt stronger and more united. All the 11 Presidential aspirants who contested and lost agreed unanimously to line behind the eventual winner the former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar. How did you do it was always the question to Secondus and his answer was ‘its God and transparency”. When the losers saw that they were not short changed or manipulated out and that the ground was level for all they became amenable to see reason and to accept defeat.

This was the spirit Prince Secondus led the party into general elections through one of the most vigorous political campaigns. The reception of the party by Nigerians across the country was overwhelming since they had earlier believed and accepted Prince Secondus apology to Nigerians on behalf of the party on the short comings of the party that led to their defeat in 2015 but even worse is in causing the entry of APC into the ruling class with all their minuses.

 

Jittery at the wave PRINCE Secondus leadership was making and how they were unable to March the rising profile of the party, the ruling APC turned to the dangerous option of using the Electoral Commission and the military to force themselves back to power and that they did disregarding the cries and   lamentations of democracy watchers.

 

Notwithstanding that Secondus was still able to grow the party from control of 11 states to 16 before they came with the November 16, 2019 abracadabra in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

 

 

Looking ahead after reviewing the last two years, Prince Secondus says the emergency is over but the battle is not over yet as anti-democratic forces are growing wings by the day. All institutions of democracy are under threat starting with the Judiciary, the legislature and the press. He says all hands must be on deck because APC has touched the soul of democracy by disregarding rule of law and the electoral process.

But Secondus relying strongly on his deep faith believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel because evil exists but never overcomes good. For him supporters and members of the party must stay strong because when light arrives, darkness will vamoose.

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

CHUKWU DAVID reports that the new found love between the Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila-led Senate and House of Representatives, respectively and the Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government, resulted to the early passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill

 

 

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or the first time in the history of budget consideration and passage since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, the National Assembly has made history by passing the 2020 budget expeditiously and within reasonable time period.

The two chambers of the apex legislative assembly, in obvious relentless and harmonious resolve to change the narrative of late budget passage and its attendant poor implementation, displayed commitment and determination, which resulted in the 2020 Appropriation Bill being passed in less than two months of its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

 

This goes to explain that, with determination, commitment and cooperation among the three arms of government, good governance is possible and can be delivered to the electorate in good time.

It also exposes the fact that the age-long friction between the Executive and the Legislature has actually hampered and robbed Nigerians of meaningful development over the years.

 

 

Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the current feat recorded by the National Assembly in the early passage of the money bill, was the direct consequence of the new found love between the apex legislative institution and the Executive.

Right from 1999, when this democracy came on stream, the Parliament and the Executive have always been having rancorous relationship especially when the leaders of the Parliament are not product of party consensus or the choice of incumbent President.

 

 

In the present political dispensation, however, the two presiding officers in each chamber of the National Assembly, were products of the choice of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

 

This is why there has not been any disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive on any issue, particularly with respect to approval of executive communications emanating from President Muhammadu Buhari.

In fact, since June 11, 2019, when the present National Assembly was inaugurated, with Lawan and Gbajabiamila, emerging as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, every communication from President Buhari has been enjoying expeditious approval.

 

From instance, the Senate approved the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) within one week after it was submitted to it by President Buhari.

 

The President submitted the document on September 25, 2019 and the Senate considered and approved the report of its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Chaired by Senator Solomon Ademola (APC, Lagos West).

Coming to the budget itself, President Buhari laid the document before the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019, which was exactly five days after the MTEF was passed.

 

The two chambers immediately swung into action, read it first and second time and committed it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations to conduct budget defence sessions with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

 

In previous assemblies, budget passage had always dragged for many months after being presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by Mr. President before it would be passed for assent.

 

Part of the reason was that National Assembly used to face frustrating challenges in the hands of some heads of the MDAs, who would not honour invitations to budget defence, thereby delaying the process.

 

 

The delay in budget passage at the National Assembly became worse in the Eighth Assembly, when the relationship between the apex legislative institution and the Executive was most rancorous.

 

The reason could be traced to the frosty relationship between the Executive and the leaderships of the two chambers of the National Assembly, which led to mutual suspicion and distrust between the two arms, with each trying to frustrate the other.

 

 

 

This was so majorly because Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara had emerged the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, contrary to the wishes of the APC and the Presidency.

It was also believed that this was responsible for some heads of the agencies and ministries disrespecting the National Assembly and its resolutions, particularly invitations for budget defence or any other invitations whatsoever.

 

For instance, in March 2018, following the rampant failures of MDAs to appear for budget defence, the Senate, in a resolution, threatened to pass the 2018 budget without submissions from recalcitrant MDAs.

 

Saraki who expressed serious concerns about the attitude of the MDAs, said that the Senate was prepared to conclude the process of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to ensure its passage but regretted that the MDAs were not cooperative.

 

 

 

He noted that the perception of the public was that the National Assembly was deliberately delaying the budget when the contrary was the case.

Similar experience was also witnessed during the 2019 budget defence hearings with the MDAs. Many of the heads of the establishments failed to honour invitations by lawmakers on time, leading to serious delay in passing the money bill.

Having witnessed these anomalous attitude of the MDAs towards the National Assembly, and not willing to encounter a repeat of the the experience, the Senate cautioned heads of the MDAs not to indulge in the ugly record of the past.

 

 

The President of the Senate specifically threatened at a point, that the Senate would give zero allocation to MDAs that failed to honour Senate invitations for budget defence. This has indeed yielded positive result in the ongoing 2020 budget defence process.

 

 

Meanwhile, the National Assembly had while passing its legislative agenda, resolved to return the country’s budget cycle to January to December calendar instead of the current unstable arrangement that had always impeded effective implementation.

 

 

Not desiring to miss this target, the Chamber worked assiduously to ensure that the budget was passed before the National Assembly embarks on Christmas break.

Accordingly, it has gone into record that this is the earliest budget to be passed by the National Assembly since 1999, having been passed within one month and 27 days after its presentation by the President.

 

 

This is enough proof that, determination, commitment, cooperation and collaboration among the various arms and agencies of government will always result in achievement of government set goals, to the benefit of the citizenry.

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Why Buhari should accent to Electoral Act Amendment Bill – Gbadamosi

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Why Buhari should accent to Electoral Act Amendment Bill – Gbadamosi

Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi was the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in Lagos State during the 2019 general election. In this interview, he speaks on human rights abuses, amendment of Electoral Act and Land Use Act, among other issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports

 

 

Tuesday was World Human Rights Day and the International Community is concerned about breakdown of human rights in Nigeria vis-à-vis what is happening in the polity. How would you react to the latest development on human rights issues in the country?

 

It is a thing of concern because we saw the amassing and unbelievable thing, where security officials invaded a courtroom, which has now been excused by one of the aides of the government who said that the invasion was organised by the man who has come to the court to seek relief; that is Omoyele Sowore. Of course that is something that perhaps the media handlers of Muhammadu Buhari administration need a serious talking to because they have dragged Nigeria seriously into serious disrepute and we need to come back from that as quickly as we can. They need to retrace their steps. This is a democracy; this is not a military dictatorship but they are acting as if we are under a military jackboot. That is not the case. We are not going to have that. 

 

 

Most Nigerians are of the view that happened during last month’s Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections reiterate the demand for the review of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly. What is your take on that?

 

The amendments to the Electoral Act should have been signed by President Buhari, but he didn’t. What happened during the 2019 general election and elections that have come up since then like the Bayelsa and Kogi elections showed what the actual intension of President Buhari was by not signing that Electoral Act amendment. We have seen what President Buhari considered to be good election because we saw him congratulating Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. We saw him congratulating him after the election, where people were being shot at from a helicopter, teargas was being thrown around and the handset of the Yahaya Bello campaign was the sounds of gunshots. All of that have no place in democracy. And Mr. President ought to be ashamed of his party (All Progressives Congress, APC) for endorsing such madness.

 

 

You were recently given an award as ‘Best Real Estate Developer’ while your estate, Amen Estate won the ‘Happiest Community Award’ at the Real Estate Development Award. What is your take on the awards?

 

 

The Real Estate Development Award is a project that I have come to appreciate greatly because it has helped to bring sanity into the industry. If you go around, you will see a lot of private developments that have taken place that are actually helping to enhance the environment. One of the best was of selling the country is through culture and popular culture today is begin to take Lagos as the headquarter, not because of anything that government is doing but because of what the private sector is doing in terms of the built environment. That has helped in terms of musical videos; enhancing the works of our local artists to the point that they are being recognise by their international colleagues in United States, United Kingdom and all over the place. All that was made possible by the activities of those of us in the real estate sector that have delivered our estates as locations for the shooting of all these videos that are now been shown on the global stage.

 

 

As an estate developer, what is your take on the Land Use Act, which was one of the issues you discussed while delivering a lecture at the Real Estate Development Award?

 

The Land Use Act has the unsalutary effect of taken away the ownership of land from the people of Nigeria and handling it to the governors of the state in Nigeria. In fact in my own opinion, it is something that somehow detached from the possibility of the economic growth in Nigeria, and this is born out by the level of development that you see in the country as what you see elsewhere in the world; United States, United Kingdom and all these other developed economy that we have gone to borrowed things like our constitution and legal system and so on from and operate free home system of land ownership, whereas in Nigeria, there is no free home. That is something we need to look at in other to speed up the economic development of Nigeria. And of course because of this Land Use Act, there is no real security of titles because the governors who retained the right revoke the Certificate of Occupancy that they issued.

 

What about issues surrounding Certificate of Occupancy?

 

 

The situation especially in a state like Lagos is that there is a long queue apparently of Certificate of Occupancy on the part of governor or someone within the system piled up somehow. It is an imperfect system. The Land Use Act is not a perfect system and it is something that we are going to have to work with for the time being until we can work out something better and until we can repeal the Land Use Act or review it to give out free hold to their land.  So until that time, the system as it were should be made to work. The system not working is also another reason why the Land Use Act should be revoked. The governors should not have that much power over the land of the people.

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Kogi poll: Strengthening early warning signal, response mechanism

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Kogi poll: Strengthening early warning signal, response mechanism

T

he November 16 governorship election in Kogi State has come and gone but undesirable reviews on the elections have continued to flood the media space. The election was marred with violence despite the early warning signs and recommendations to relevant actors in the election process. The Nigerian Police and the election management body failed to improve on the lapses from the February 23 presidential election. The level of violence witnessed and reported during the governorship election was alarming and it raises concerns about the state of our elections, not just in Kogi but as we move ahead towards attaining sustainable electoral democracy in Nigeria.

 

 

During the pre-election period, early warning reports were disseminated to all relevant stakeholders ahead of the elections, aimed at providing pointers to incidents that could mar the process.  An early warning system by itself does not automatically prevent conflict from happening, but however provides vital information for action to prevent violence or mitigate the consequences of electoral violence.

 

 

It has been well established that in order to prevent the occurrence of electoral violence an early warning system needs to be in place as it is rather impossible to prevent an incident from occurring without having prior knowledge or information. Early warning is about obtaining first-hand information and using that information to inform planned interventions in the mitigation of such incidents, but how well has these early warnings signals reported impacted and helped in preventing the outburst of electoral violence in the just concluded governorship election in Kogi state.

 

 

The early warning signs and flashpoint was supposed to help identify the cause of an incident, predict the outbreak of the incident and strategise on how to reduce the effect or escalation of the incident, but unfortunately, inspite of all the early warning signals and trends of violence reported, Kogi election still experienced increased record of electoral violence outweighing the 2019 presidential election precedents.

 

 

For instance, the October conflict scan analysis meeting organised by Search for Common Ground; a Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who observed early warning signs before, during and after the elections, had in attendance representatives from the police force, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society groups, media and other stakeholders. During the meeting, early warning incident tracked from all 21 local government areas in Kogi State were critically discussed and analysed as with recommendations.

 

 

Top on the discussion was the high rate of political party and candidate violence, which has triggered down to all forms of electoral violence between politicians and their supporters, proliferation of arms by political thugs, vandalism and destruction of properties and instrument of campaign, intimidation and threats to citizens, harassment and abduction of some individuals who were loyal to opposing parties and in other instance incidents of death reported from some quarters in the state.

 

 

Other areas of concern were the worrisome rate of vote buying and voter inducement, inter-communal clashes and the inciting comments and hate speech during campaigns and rallies to spur violence. With all these incidents heralding the pre-election environment, what was experienced during the election was predictable. Concerns and worries were raised by journalist and other participants at the meeting but again assurances were given by the police who promised to enforce patrol vehicles during the elections and create visible policing to apprehend miscreants and ensure peaceful election on Election Day.

 

 

Early warning concerns on report on fake policing and political thugs sewing and wearing police uniforms to disguise like the Nigerian Police was also raised during the stakeholders meeting in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu and the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in attendance. This was supposed to put the police and security agents on alert and intentionally strategize on how to dislodge this fake policing which was masterminded to disrupt the polls on Election Day.

 

 

Again assurances and warnings were been made by the Inspector General of Police stating that adequate provisions has been made by the police to forestall any incident of violence that could disrupt the process, assuring citizens of the safety of their lives and property as well as apprehend all miscreants who chooses to perpetrate mayhem on that day, but it is rather unfortunate that a different event played out on Election Day with these thugs seemingly seen to overpower the security agents or connive to execute their mission.

 

 

 

There is need for system strengthening of the national early warning and early response mechanism by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and all relevant stakeholders in elections. A holistic approach in reviewing and analysing data received on early warning signals and strategise on how to develop an Early Response System (ERS), which addresses these early warning concerns. If deliberate attention is given to the information provided, it will go a long way in preventing, predict the outbreak of incidences and appropriately device measures to mitigate this violence that poses as a great threat in attaining electoral stability and peaceful elections.

 

 

•Mamedu is an early warning signal specialist and a programme coordinator with Search for Common Ground

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

CHUKWU DAVID reports that the new found love between the Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila-led Senate and House of Representatives, respectively and the Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government, resulted to the early passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill

 

 

 

F

or the first time in the history of budget consideration and passage since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, the National Assembly has made history by passing the 2020 budget expeditiously and within reasonable time period.

 

The two chambers of the apex legislative assembly, in obvious relentless and harmonious resolve to change the narrative of late budget passage and its attendant poor implementation, displayed commitment and determination, which resulted in the 2020 Appropriation Bill being passed in less than two months of its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

This goes to explain that, with determination, commitment and cooperation among the three arms of government, good governance is possible and can be delivered to the electorate in good time.

It also exposes the fact that the age-long friction between the Executive and the Legislature has actually hampered and robbed Nigerians of meaningful development over the years.

 

Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the current feat recorded by the National Assembly in the early passage of the money bill, was the direct consequence of the new found love between the apex legislative institution and the Executive.

Right from 1999, when this democracy came on stream, the Parliament and the Executive have always been having rancorous relationship especially when the leaders of the Parliament are not product of party consensus or the choice of incumbent President.

 

In the present political dispensation, however, the two presiding officers in each chamber of the National Assembly, were products of the choice of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

This is why there has not been any disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive on any issue, particularly with respect to approval of executive communications emanating from President Muhammadu Buhari.

In fact, since June 11, 2019, when the present National Assembly was inaugurated, with Lawan and Gbajabiamila, emerging as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, every communication from President Buhari has been enjoying expeditious approval.

 

From instance, the Senate approved the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) within one week after it was submitted to it by President Buhari.

 

The President submitted the document on September 25, 2019 and the Senate considered and approved the report of its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Chaired by Senator Solomon Ademola (APC, Lagos West).

Coming to the budget itself, President Buhari laid the document before the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019, which was exactly five days after the MTEF was passed.

 

The two chambers immediately swung into action, read it first and second time and committed it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations to conduct budget defence sessions with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

 

In previous assemblies, budget passage had always dragged for many months after being presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by Mr. President before it would be passed for assent.

Part of the reason was that National Assembly used to face frustrating challenges in the hands of some heads of the MDAs, who would not honour invitations to budget defence, thereby delaying the process.

 

The delay in budget passage at the National Assembly became worse in the Eighth Assembly, when the relationship between the apex legislative institution and the Executive was most rancorous.

 

The reason could be traced to the frosty relationship between the Executive and the leaderships of the two chambers of the National Assembly, which led to mutual suspicion and distrust between the two arms, with each trying to frustrate the other.

This was so majorly because Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara had emerged the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, contrary to the wishes of the APC and the Presidency.

 

It was also believed that this was responsible for some heads of the agencies and ministries disrespecting the National Assembly and its resolutions, particularly invitations for budget defence or any other invitations whatsoever.

For instance, in March 2018, following the rampant failures of MDAs to appear for budget defence, the Senate, in a resolution, threatened to pass the 2018 budget without submissions from recalcitrant MDAs.

 

Saraki who expressed serious concerns about the attitude of the MDAs, said that the Senate was prepared to conclude the process of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to ensure its passage but regretted that the MDAs were not cooperative.

He noted that the perception of the public was that the National Assembly was deliberately delaying the budget when the contrary was the case.

 

Similar experience was also witnessed during the 2019 budget defence hearings with the MDAs. Many of the heads of the establishments failed to honour invitations by lawmakers on time, leading to serious delay in passing the money bill.

Having witnessed these anomalous attitude of the MDAs towards the National Assembly, and not willing to encounter a repeat of the the experience, the Senate cautioned heads of the MDAs not to indulge in the ugly record of the past.

 

The President of the Senate specifically threatened at a point, that the Senate would give zero allocation to MDAs that failed to honour Senate invitations for budget defence. This has indeed yielded positive result in the ongoing 2020 budget defence process.

 

Meanwhile, the National Assembly had while passing its legislative agenda, resolved to return the country’s budget cycle to January to December calendar instead of the current unstable arrangement that had always impeded effective implementation.

 

 

Not desiring to miss this target, the Chamber worked assiduously to ensure that the budget was passed before the National Assembly embarks on Christmas break.

Accordingly, it has gone into record that this is the earliest budget to be passed by the National Assembly since 1999, having been passed within one month and 27 days after its presentation by the President.

 

This is enough proof that, determination, commitment, cooperation and collaboration among the various arms and agencies of government will always result in achievement of government set goals, to the benefit of the citizenry.

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Lalong delighted with report ranking Plateau second least corrupt state

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Lalong delighted with report ranking Plateau second least corrupt state

Plateau State Governor, and Chairman Northern Governors Forum Barr. Simon Bako Lalong is delighted with the second Corruption Survey Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which ranked Plateau State as the second least corrupt state in Nigeria.

Lalong, while reacting to the report, in a press statement signed and issue on Tuesday in Jos by his Director of Press Affairs Dr. Simon Macham, said the development validates the efforts of his ‘Rescue Administration’ towards entrenching good governance, accountability and transparency in management of public funds.

He said on assuming office, he declared zero tolerance to corruption and was determined to ensure that public funds were used strictly for the benefit of the people of Plateau State.

Lalong said his administration  established various mechanisms for checking corruption and enhancing transparency in public service.

“We were among the first states in Nigeria to adopt the Treasury Single Account (TSA) where we made sure all monies accruing to Plateau State went into a single account for easy oversight and monitoring.

“We also established the Efficiency Unit that is saddled with the duty of checking all proposals and requests to ensure that they are in line with the vision of the government and offer value for the people. “We also put in place the Bureau for Public Procurment which has the mandate of vetting all procurements to ensure that there is no wasteful and exaggerated costs,” he said.

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Sowore: Reps probe alleged court invasion by DSS

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Sowore: Reps probe alleged court invasion by DSS

The House of Representatives has mandated its joint committees on national security and intelligence, judiciary, and human rights to investigate the alleged invasion of a Federal High Court in Abuja by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to re-arrest the presidential candidate of AAC, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

The resolution was consequent upon the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta) on the “invasion of the Federal High Court premises Abuja by yet to be identified persons”.
Leading debate on the motion, Elumelu described the invasion of the court by the unidentified persons as “disregard for the rule of law”.

He informed that: “The videos emerging in public domain shows these unidentified person trying to bundle Omoyele Sowore and his co-accused Olawale Bakare away from the courtroom room, while Sowore’s supporters were resisting them, which is an abuse to the sanctity of the courtroom.”

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Igbo presidency not feasible in 2023 – Ogah

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Igbo presidency not feasible in 2023 – Ogah

Hon. Chinedu Ogah represents Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He speaks in this interview with CHUKWU DAVID on some national issues, including the nation’s debt profile, federal character principle, rotational presidency and autonomy for local governments, among others

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari recently sent a request to the National Assembly for approval of a $30 billion loan. What is your take on that?

My take is that instead of selling Nigeria’s assets in order to build the country, it is better we borrow. I support such, in the sense that the borrowing that Mr. President has done so far is yielding result. We are seeing the result in the ongoing railway projects across the country and that is something that will help Nigeria to grow. It’s better we borrow than selling the property of this country, which is another avenue for corrupt people to loot the money. If there is any way more borrowing can be done for this country to stabilize, I will support it. When borrowed funds are invested into productive areas, then certainly, we can recoup the money and pay back. So, it’s not a bad thing that Mr. President is borrowing. But if the loans are collected and shared, that is when we can raise alarm over it, but the loans taken so far taken are being utilised very meaningfully in such a way that the economy of the country is receiving a boost.

You have just noted that your state is being schemed out of employment and that this negates the federal character principle. At the federal level, the headship of the nation’s security institutions is concentrated in the North. What is your comment on that?

We have met and we are already discussing with the Inspector-General of Police and heads of other agencies to make sure that Ebonyi people are appointed to eminent positions because we have people, who are qualified. As legislators, our duty is to make sure that the laws of the land are adhered to in the distribution of federal appointments and in conformity with the federal character principle. It’s not only in the security agencies, but other sectors.

As a legislator, my voice is going to be heard. I am already initiating a motion, so that those agencies would be called to order. I also use this opportunity to advise Ebonyi citizens in positions of authority, who connive with people from other states by giving them Ebonyi state identification certificate to enable them fill up Ebonyi quota in government establishments to desist from doing that. They should allow Ebonyians, especially people from my constituency to occupy their rightful positions in the country.

Still in line with your advocacy that the federal character principle should be respected in federal appointments, is it right to say that no South easterner or Igbo person is qualified to be appointed as a service chief since 2015 till date?

You cannot say that there is no Igbo man who is qualified to be appointed as a service chief, but there are certain things you need to look at. In the appointment of a service chief, you need to look at credibility, you need to look at commitment; you don’t just appoint somebody as a service chief. We know that the Igbo are qualified, but it is a very critical issue. That is why I am advising our people to stop being in opposition because it will not help us. We should try and come to the mainstream for us to be part of what they are doing; the trust will be there and things that you need would be given to you. It is natural that when you fight against somebody, it will trigger hate. So, in making critical appointments, you must find somebody that is loyal, diligent and prudent.

Are you saying that there are no loyalists to President Buhari from the South-East even when people like you, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and other strong supporters of his are there?

But you are talking about service chiefs; Ogbonnaya Onu is not in that class, he is a minister. We are definitely working towards that and that is why we want everybody to join hands to support the government of President Buhari. You cannot appoint someone who will pull down your government; somebody who cannot stand to defend your government. We should not deceive ourselves; this is pure politics and every government wants to succeed, wants to grow, wants to develop and showcase something for people to see. You cannot bring in someone who has a different idea for your agenda. We have to look at issues critically and do the needful.

Your argument tends to suggest that you are supporting the philosophy of “winner takes all” in politics…

No, it’s not about winner takes all, but we need to be just and do what is right. How will come out to fund the opposition and expect the ruling party to bring you into government? It’s not done.

What is your take on the clamour for the South-East to produce the next president in 2023?

I don’t want to deceive myself; anybody telling you that 2023 is possible for Igbo presidency is deceiving himself. Let’s wait till when we get to the bridge before crossing it. The reason is that we are not united; we are fighting ourselves. We should be able to stand to bargain. How many states in the South-East are of the national party? If at all the South-East is able to have two states in the national party, the bargain for presidency can be possible. What is our vote in the South East? What is our bargaining power? We should talk of reality. It is at the mercy of northerners, that we can say please, we want this power to go round the six geopolitical zones, and it is the turn of the South-East, then they can support us and we will have it. If we start forcing ourselves that we are going to have power in 2023, we are deceiving ourselves.

Do you believe in the concept of zoning?

Of course, I believe in zoning and that is why we have to work hard to make it a constitutional issue, so that each of the six geopolitical zones can take their turn at the presidency.

If you believe in zoning, don’t you think that it is the turn of the South-East to produce the president in 2023 since the South-West and South-South have taken their turns?

That is what you and I think, but what do we have on ground to merit that; what is our plan to get it, what is our prospective future? Those who were able to occupy big positions in the past from the South-East, why is it that they were unable to raise young people, who can now stand? We shot ourselves on the leg, now we are crying foul. An Igbo man will be in office; instead of him to employ his brothers and sisters, he will prefer to bring in outsiders, and tomorrow you start crying that you are marginalised, nobody is marginalizing us; we are marginalizing ourselves. We don’t love ourselves.

You say that you believe in the principle of zoning, but at the same time said the South-East is not ready for the presidency. Can you reconcile the two seeming contradictory positions?

Let me tell you the reason. Ahead of the 2019 elections, most of the governors came to Abuja and agreed that they are going to support Mr. President having seen the good things he is doing. But during the presidential election, they betrayed. It was only few that kept the agreement. So, if you have a gentleman agreement, but at the end of the day, you betrayed, how do you think the person in agreement with you will be looking at you? That’s what most of those people you call our leaders in the South-East did. So, it’s still our duty to come together and organise ourselves and do the right thing.

The recent elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states were reportedly characterized by rigging and violence. How do you react to that?

The elections were not manipulated. They were free and fair. If the elections were manipulated, you will see resistance from the masses, but you saw that so many people were happy with the outcome. What matters in an election is to have a good candidate. Once that is done, definitely the candidate and the party presenting the candidate will succeed. APC presented good candidates, the candidates worked hard and people supported them; even those in PDP supported the APC candidates in Bayelsa and Kogi.

Some Nigerians are clamouring for introduction of electronic transmission of results into the country’s electoral process as a means of reducing or eliminating rigging. Do you support the idea?

In supporting electronic transmission of election results, let us first of all do what is needful because my old father in the village doesn’t know what is internet. There should first of all be provision of communication masts in all villages in this country. Also, we need to sensitise the people on the need to introduce electronic transmission system for our future elections. You cannot jump in and put in place what will shortchange the people. We have to do certain things before we get there. Electronic voting is good, but we are not yet exposed enough to go into it.

There is an impression that the present National Assembly is a rubber stamp, and therefore, can hardly take independent decisions as a separate organ of government. Do you agree with that?

Whoever is saying that is not part of this country. Mr. President does not interfere with any organ of government. He does not interfere with the judiciary; he does not interfere with the legislature. Thank God that I am a member of the legislature today. The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, is a man of great repute, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, is also a man of good character.

In fact, we have never had any Speaker like him in the past in terms of excellent performance of the responsibilities of his office. Look at how he carries all members along irrespective of party differences. You can see unity in the Chamber among members from different parties. It has never been so. Therefore, anybody saying that the present National Assembly is a rubber stamp is making mockery of himself. The National Assembly is competent; it has men and women of great ideas, who have been sponsoring wonderful bills and motions that can bring positive developments to this country.

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My husband’s ministers must sit up – Aisha Buhari

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My husband’s ministers must sit up – Aisha Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, in a telephone interview she granted to Television Continental (TVC) from London during its programme ‘Journalists’ Hangout’ last Thursday, speaks on developments in the Presidency and why she will continue to speak her mind on national issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE monitored the interview

 

 

You were said to have referred to some people as responsible for the present situation in the country. I want you to shed light on this and who are these people?

Thank you for being with me this time to shed light on what I have already said. Actually we all know the situation in the country now. We are all adults. On that very day, I did not blame the governors specifically. If I wanted to blame the governors, I would have said the governors’ forum is not doing well on this and that. But if you listened to my conversation, I said what we are suffering now is as a result of long time of total neglect of what should be offered to the citizens. And we are all suffering from it; whether you are in the executive or as ordinary citizens, it is all the same. We can’t go to our villages and sleep with two eyes closed.

So, it cuts across?

Yes, it cuts across. And on that very day, I also mentioned something on the social media, when the Sultan of Sokoto talked about the social media; the bad effect that it is reflecting in the society. The Minister of Communication was there when something happened. In that very place, the Minister of Communication gave an example, saying that somebody called the VP, His Excellency Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, saying ‘why did you resign,’ but he said: ‘No, I didn’t resign, who told you I resigned in the first place.’ The person said he saw it on the social media and everybody laughed in that hall.

When I got up to give my speech, I said it is not a laughing matter; I was surprised that everybody laughed. What does that mean; that they should continue saying that somebody as the vice president of a country, a country of 200 million people has resigned. A Minister of Communication that is supposed to give an order to bring an end to such issue talked about it and everybody laughed and that was the end of it.

No consequences for any offender; nothing. You say what you like and go scot-free. There is no way we should have such a society and have peace in it. So, once there is no consequence, everybody is not doing what he should, like almost everything is in disarray. A typical example of what happened is that wherever they are supposed to take action against the offenders or to take action or to be in control or caution people, they keep mute on it.

When it comes to unnecessary things, people will start talking from the presidency. A typical example is what happened after the election of Bayelsa State, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) people came out and said that they would suspend former President Goodluck Jonathan for doing wrong or something like that. I didn’t read it because I don’t have time.

I see no reason why the presidency should come out and say that they were shocked to hear that. Is it their business? Are we PDP members? Is former President Jonathan a member of our party? What does that got to do with the presidency? Meanwhile, they said the President was dead when he was sick, they saw his coffin and also sent it all over the media that he is getting married; they were showing this and that, nobody came out to defend the President; to say anything about it.

How did you take that news?

I didn’t take it serious because even my husband doesn’t know what happened. They just decided to bombard the social media with it. So, they are now threatening the social media to bring down the government itself. So, I think that we should not allow people who are nobody and nothing to override innocent people. If people who are supposed to be in charge should remain mute, the bad ones will take over the country from us. It is totally unacceptable.

Have you ever been told to stop talking?

Who will stop me? Everybody is talking in the country; nobody stopped them.

So nobody has told you to stop talking because every time you talk, it is like a bomb…

It is a serious matter; nobody is talking, no consequences, so everybody should talk. It is like everybody is free to talk; freedom of movement, freedom of speech, expressing your opinion on things. And don’t forget that everybody knows that we are not safe where we are. You are either kidnapped or shot death or this one will attack this person and that one will attack this person. It is wrong. There should be consequences for any offence and the ministers should do what they are supposed to do. I know Nigeria is a complex country, but we need a bit of sanity.

We have seen several first ladies before you and I don’t think any of them has been this bold to be able to come out to speak; they don’t intervene in national matters. How would you want to be remembered after leaving this office?

Let me give you one example; I think on November 2, I met the wife of the vice president at the airport on my way to Morocco and she was on her way to Ikenne, Ogun State. She was looking so exhausted and sick. I said: ‘Dolapo must you travel?’ She said ‘what would I do? This people really voted for us during the last election and they did not allow any party to come to our ward because of me and my husband and now they are having a function in that very village and my husband is going to be in Daura; he won’t be able to attend. So, there is no way that both of us won’t attend that particular event for Ikenne people.’

I said ‘what does that mean.’ She said: ‘I felt indebted to them the same way they felt for us.’ I said ‘okay, you are now joining the line. Because these people voted for your husband and that was for only one term and the Nigerian masses believed in my husband’s ideology; they continued fighting for it for the past 12 years before 2015. Why you got to this place was not because you are the richest, most handsome and beautiful and most educated but we are just here due to trust and confidence they have in us. So, I feel indebted to the Nigerian masses and I will continue to defend them as the wife of the president, first lady or as a mother of the nation.’

Do you get to take on the President in some of these matters that you just raised? Some time, do you engage in pillow talk and asked: ‘Mr. President, what is happening?’

There is no pillow in the Villa.

Even in the other room?

No, because they are always busy listening to one story to the other. I think the people he put in the cabinet should just sit up and do the needful and that is it. That is why it is not good to have godfathers; we just need to choose the right people to be in the right places, so that we would rest, so that the First Lady will stop talking.

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