resident of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has called for synergy between the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities to the people.
Lawan said the Assemblies at both state and national levels should continue to exchange ideas on how to support each other.
The Senate President made the call on Thursday while receiving in audience in his office Speakers of State Houses of Assembly who came on a courtesy visit.
“This kind of visit should be very often,” Lawan told his guests. “We should have more and deeper frequent engagements between the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly.
“We need to be talking. We need to be engaging ourselves because there are certain things that we have to do together especially the constitutional amendment in which National Assembly takes the lead but the State Houses of Assembly will continue to have to play their roles as well.
“So we should not wait to be thirsty before we dig a well. We should always be proactive,” Lawan said.
Lawan said there are certain legislations that require some domestication or replication at the state level because “even if we implement them at this (national) level and the states have not bought in to it, it is going to have very limited success.”
The Senate President also encouraged the speakers at the State Houses of Assembly to have cordial working relationship with their respective Executive without necessarily compromising their independence.
“If we have to take the lead in nation building or in building our states, we have to also understand that we have to work together as cordially as possible.
“We should work on relationship that is based on mutual respect for the Executive and the Legislature whether at the national level or at the state level.
“We should have a relationship that is characterized by consultations and partnerships. Once we are able to establish that relationship either at the state or national level, we benefit immensely.
“It does not help anyone when the relationship is largely characterized by rancour, animosity, suspicion and unwarranted fight between the two arms of government,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said his understanding of the relationship between the Executive and Legislature is that of interdependent. Lawan said the two arms of government need each other and neither of them can do without the other.
“So without allowing yourselves to be subjugated, you still must ensure that you work together with the Executive arm of government in your states to produce legislations that will change the lives of the people,” Lawan said.
We follow due process in electing Lagos exco, PDP tells George
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has denied any interference in the election of the party’s leadership in Lagos State.
The party said the statement credited to its former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George of interference of the National Working Committee (NWC) was erroneous.
George had in a publication on Monday, accused the Prince Uche Secondus-led national leadership of the party of impunity, and said the NWC conducted an election into the Lagos State chapter despite subsisting court order.
“What they are doing is illogical and illegal, totally out of the constitution. If they cannot follow the rule as stated in the constitution, they are going to kill the party very fast,” George was quoted in that publication.
But PDP said Monday that the emergence of Adedeji Doherty-led executive committee followed all due processes as stipulated by the party’s constitution and guidelines as well as the Electoral Act.
The party in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan also stated that all actions taken by its members in Lagos State in filling vacancies left either by resignations, defections and or death of occupants of those offices followed due process.
Sowore: Rule of law on test
- Furore over re-arrest of Sowore
FELIX NWANERI writes on the travails of the convener of RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore, which some stakeholders say, has put the present administration’s respect for the rule of law to test
The world, over time, has witnessed series of political upheavals that saw ordinary people coming together to bring down regimes, they tagged oppressive.
These movements relied on the unity of the parties involved parties although in most cases, they ended up as precursors to civil and even international conflicts. Some of the most world-changing political revolutions to have ever occurred include the Chinese communist revolution and the Iranian revolution also known as the Islamic Revolution, a period where Iranians conducted numerous demonstrations against the United States-backed Pahlavi dynasty, and which became an inspiration to other movements all over the world, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa as well as the Haitian revolution – a successful anti-slavery war.
Others were the Fidel Castro-led Cuban Revolution, which culminated in the overthrowing of the Batista-led authoritarian government; the Xinhai Revolution in China that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty; the French Revolution that changed modern history in France and Europe in general and the American Revolution, which began after members of the American colonial society refused to submit to Great Britain’s King and Parliament’s authority.
There was also the Russian Revolution – the first, known as the February Revolution, which focused on the then Russian capital, Petrograd, and led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the abdication of its leader, Emperor Nicholas II and the establishment of a provisional government and the second known as the October Revolution, which was led by Vladimir Lenin to overthrow the provisional government and imposed a communist government. Africa has also had its fair share of revolutions.
They include Algerian Revolution (1954-62), Angolan War of Independence (1961-74), Egyptian Revolution (1919), Egyptian Revolution (1952), Rwandan Revolution (1959-61), Sudanese Revolution of 1985, Somali Revolution (1986-92), and what many refer to as the Arab Spring that swept through Tunisia (2010-2011), Libya (2011) and Egyptian. While most leaders of these revolutions predicated their actions on the need to unseat totalitarian regimes, there is no doubt that a few, particularly the most recent ones, were driven by the global trend for younger given growing unhappiness with establishment politicians.
This perhaps explains why in the past few years, countries like France, Ireland, Estonia and most recently, Austria have elected leaders under the age of 40. To the electorate in some of these countries, there is a feeling that new approaches are needed for today’s problems. Against this backdrop, less emphasis is being put on age and experience.
More than youth alone, these leaders offer their countries a renewed sense of vitality and excitement. For instance, Kurz in 2013 became Austria’s youngest-ever foreign minister and hosted negotiations on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who before Kurz was Europe’s youngest leader, as well as Emanuel Macron, France’s youngestever president elected in June at the age of 39, also held high ministerial positions before leading their political parties.
The question many have asked against this development is: What could have influenced the trend? The answer may not be farfetched as the rise of social media has changed the dynamics of politics. There is also no doubt that politics has become much faster and much less predictable and young people feel more comfortable dealing with this new dynamics than old established politicians.
This new dynamics, perhaps, informed the call for “Days of Rage” by Omoyele Sowore, a political activist and presidential candidate of the Africa Action Congress (AAC) in Nigeria’s 2019 general election. The protest, under the banner, RevolutionNow, was said to have been inspired by the recent popular uprising in Sudan that toppled the country’s authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir.
The protest was billed to commence on August 5, across the country to demand for a better Nigeria. Sowore had after a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the AAC on Saturday, August 5, said that the protest would be sustained until the country is put on the right path of honour, where justice will prevail. He noted that the action of the government compelled his party and other groups to go for the option even as he added that there was no level playing field during the 2019 general elections. His words: “Election is a place we would have carried out a revolution of the ballot box, but they stole the ballot box.
They hijacked materials meant for free and fair elections and as a result they did not organise any election that was credible enough for people to have faith in the ballot box. “The revolution has therefore become inevitable. We didn’t choose to go for revolution they choose it by ensuring that there was no level playing field in the last elections. “As you know, they did it in Sudan and it was started by some females.
They were making fun of them, but they did not stop until doctors joined them, the labour union joined them and what started as five people became 5,000 and 500,000 and became 5,000,000 and the regime fell. “So, don’t let anybody deceive you that in asking for a better government or country you are committing any illegality.
The biggest illegality being committed in Nigeria as of today is the rigging of election in 2019. The moment you don’t allow people to express their God giving rights to choose their leaders, you are committing an illegality and inviting resistance.”
Though the protest commenced as scheduled on Monday August 5, despite Sowore’s arrest on Saturday, August 3, by operatives of the Department for State Services (DSS), the Federal Government termed it a call for revolution aimed at overthrowing the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had ahead of the commencement of the protest, warned its organisers on the enormity of the journey they were about to embark, describing the planned action as treasonable felony and an act of terrorism. The police boss, through a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, noted that the nation’s police force would not fold its hands and watch a group of people cause anarchy in the country.
The statement read in part: “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a video circulating on the social media by the ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and others’ inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, 5th August, 2019 with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country. “The Force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism and will therefore not stand idly by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land. “While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government which clearly is the meaning of revolution.”
Expectedly, many Nigerians expressed doubt whether revolution, apart from one through the ballot box will do Nigeria any good given the fact that most revolutions ended up creating a cycle of crisis and violence. Nigeria, they said, is too fragile at the moment that a “careless push” could reenact the Somalia or Rwanda experiences in Africa’s most populous nation. Revolt, they further argued, should be avoided at all cost as history has shown that though it may come in different ways, its end results have always been the same – major changes in culture, economy, and socio-political institutions within a relatively short period of time.
However, there were members of a political school, who maintained that Sowore’s arrest and consequent detention might not see to the end to the visible angst in the land. They advised rather than using force against dissenting voices, the political class should ensure visionary leadership, which is the principal element that enables government to serve as a vehicle for the attainment of socio-economic aspirations of the citizenry. To these analysts, the leadership deficit that assails the country is so legendary that from all indications, the nation has continued to lag behind in an emerging world order that emphasises clear-headed and able leadership. Nigeria’s problem, they further argued, had never been paucity of funds and resources, but lack of political will to do the right thing.
This, according to them, explains why the country has stagnated in almost all facets, with rising insecurity compounding it woes. No doubt, the clampdown on the RevolutionNow protesters doused the brewing tension then, but it was knocks for the Federal Government thereafter over the DSS’s continued detention of Sowore despite court orders that granted him bail. The DSS had on arraignment of Sowore and a co-accused, Olawale Bakare, before a Federal High Court, Abuja, on a seven-count charge, bordering on treasonable felony, cyberstalking, fraud and insulting the president, filed an ex-parte application, seeking to keep him for 90 days for investigation on his call for revolution. But, the court presided by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, approved a 45-day detention, saying that the order was renewable after the expiration of the first 45 days. After the August 8 detention order elapsed on September 21 without renewal, and in view of DSS’s ex-parte motion earlier withdrawn, the judge ruled that there was no extant order for the activist’s continued detention and therefore ordered his immediate release.
The order was however not obeyed by the DSS. But counsel to Sowore, Femi Falana (SAN), who was not unawares of government’s disposition in similar cases involving ex-National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), returned the court with another application for bail to get Sowore off the gulag.
The application was granted on October 4 by a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who, however, barred Sowore and Bakare from addressing any rally pending the conclusion of their trial. Sowore was granted bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum, but was barred Sowore from travelling out of Abuja and the second defendant out of Osogbo, during the trial.
The sureties, who must be resident in Abuja, must also have landed assets worth the bail sum in Abuja, and they are to deposit the original title documents of the assets with the court. The judge equally ordered that the defendants be remanded in the custody of the DSS, pending when they would meet the bail conditions. Falana, however, described the bail conditions as stringent. But, even when Sowore met the conditions, the spy police would not let go. His lawyers at a time claimed that they were being prevented from taking their client despite meeting his bail conditions.
The DSS, however, dismissed the claim on the ground that it was then yet to be informed by the court that Sowore had met his bail conditions. “The DSS has not been informed by the judicial authorities or any legal representatives that the bail conditions have been met accordingly. The media shouldn’t allow itself to be used as agents of misinformation,” the agency’s spokesperson, Peter Afunaya, said. After several claims and counter-claims, it was succour for Sowore and Bakare’s last Thursday, when Justice Ojukwu ordered the DSS to release them within 24 hours.
The judge, who gave the order at resumed hearing on the matter, said the DSS has no justifiable reason to continue to hold the duo in custody after she signed the warrants for their release.
The prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman, had insisted that the DSS did not refuse to comply with the order of the court, but Justice Ojukwu held: “The failure of the prosecution to carry out the order of the court to serve the defence and in view if this adjournment is at the instance of the prosecution. And in view of section 396 of ACJA, I will award the cost of N100,000 against the prosecution. And in view of the refusal of the prosecution to release the defendant, this court will give the prosecution the next 24 hours to comply with the order of court.” While the judge insisted that the law cannot change for anybody and all must respect the law, adjourning to December 6 (next day – Friday) for a report on the court’s order, Sowore and Bakare were freed some hours later. They were released to Falana, who the DSS had earlier said was not the right person to release the duo to.
But, it turned out that it was not yet Uhuru for Sowore and Bakare as they were re-arrested on Friday in the courtroom and later taken to the DSS headquarters. As expected, the twist in the matter has triggered reactions from different quarters, with many condemning what they described as a “Gestapo operation by the DSS,” which might take Nigeria back to the days of military dictatorship. Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last elections, Atiku Abubakar, who faulted Sowore’s re-arrest, said: “To keep Nigeria’s democracy is the paramount duty of all concerned stakeholders. Please speak up against this tyranny and side with the Nigerian people.”
Writing on his on his Twitter page, Atiku further said: “Without the rule of law, there can be no rule at all. Power in Nigeria still flows from the people, not from the barrel of a gun. I call on all men and women of goodwill not to keep quiet or sit on the fence at times like this.
“We cannot have a situation where our government is quick to obey foreign court orders and even quicker to disobey domestic court orders. This is symptomatic of a mindset that is servile to foreign powers and brutal to Nigerians.”
Another 2019 presidential candidate – Prof. Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressives Party (YPP) – in a post he also made via his Twitter handle said: “I condemn the total disregard for rule of law by Nigeria’s present government as we have seen in the DSS desecration of the Nigerian judicial system to rearrest Omoyele Sowore. I call for his immediate release. Even accused persons are entitled to due process.”
Dr. Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education, presidential candidate and Convener of Bring Back Our Girls campaign, on her part, said: “President Buhari, the whole world is watching the video of officials of the State Security Service which you directly supervise, brutally violate the constitutional rights of a citizen, Omoyele Sowore inside a court and desecrated our Judiciaryan independent arm of government.
“Let it also be known by Buhari that the cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of the power he wields today as Nigeria president is alien to our Nigerian Constitution and International Law. I advise the President to cease this descent to fascism immediately and respect Court orders. “It is in the interest of Buhari that Sowore comes to no form of bodily, mental or emotional harm. As the supervisor of the State Security Service, I demand that the President instructs the DG to immediately comply with the court order. Release Sowore immediately!” Sowore’s counsel, Falana, who also condemned the treatment meted to his client, called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to take disciplinary actions against lawyers in President Buhari’s cabinet over what he described as desecration of the court with Sowore’s re-arrest at the Federal High Court in Abuja, causing a disruption of court proceedings.
He said there are 10 lawyers in the cabinet, with four of them Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who ought to live up to their oath to defend the constitution and other laws of the country, by ensuring that the rule of law was observed by the government. His words: “Even though President Muhammadu Buhari has a duty to caution the Department of State Services, the blame of the desecration of the court today (Friday) rests squarely on lawyers in government, who are under a duty to ensure that the rule of law is observed.
“They have all taken the oath to respect the Constitution and other laws of the country. That Constitution guarantees the independence and impartiality of the courts. They, therefore, cannot sit in a cabinet under a regime that terrorises the courts and subverts the rule of law.” Adding his voice, a United States senator, Menendez, said: “I am outraged by the blatant harassment of Omoyele Sowore, an activist and journalist whose only crime appears to be exercising his right to free expression.
“In a concerted effort to secure his release on behalf of the Sowore family living in New Jersey, my office has been working closely with the State Department as Mr Sowore’s case languished following his arbitrary arrest back in August.
“While we continue to seek immediate answers about Sowore’s treatment and conditions in jail, I will be further engaging directly with US Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, in Abuja to raise this case at the highest levels of the Nigerian Government so that the Buhari administration gets the message that we are committed to defending Sowore’s rights and securing his release. “This blatant miscarriage of justice is symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.”
While mum is the word from the DSS over its re-arrest of Sowore, Special Assistant on Social Media to the President, Lauretta Onochie, said the activist dramatized the incident to paint the DSS black. A piece titled ‘Every lie will expire,” written by Onochie, read in part: “So it was a stage managed drama in the court yesterday (Friday); Sowore pinned down by his supporters in a courtroom in order to give DSS a bad name.
“There was no gun. No baton. No pinning down; just plain drama, planned and staged by his boys and girls. Kudos, but every lie has an expiration date. Many eyewitnesses have said DSS was outside the courtroom, not inside the courtroom.
“Blackmailing government enforcement agencies was how our nation went into decay. It won’t work this time. No one is above the law. It appears everyone in that drama was part of the drama club. They harassed a court officer who wanted them out as they were disrupting another court case.
A lawyer who looked bemused with the whole drama was lost for words. “Drama will not help Sowore because once you dramatise a lie to the members of the public to attract sympathy, you lose all of that sympathy when they find out you have misled them.”
No doubt, the Buhari administration has maintained that it is committed to the rule of law, but how it walks its talk will prove if it is in line with the United Nations (UN) definition of the principle – governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.
North as beneficiary of Nigeria’s imbalance’ll not concede to restructuring – Farounbi
Dr. Yemi Farounbi, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippines, in this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, speaks on state of the nation, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration and calls for restructuring of the country, among other issues
What is your take on the state of the nation?
Nobody is certainly happy with the present situation of Nigeria. Nobody is happy with the level of hunger, poverty and anger pervading the society. A lot of the criminal activities you see may be a reflection of deep seated anger; sometimes against the system or against the society or it may be a reflection of the high level of hunger that is also within the society. Nobody is happy with the criminality that is still going on in the North-East. Nobody is happy at the criminality that goes on in the mining-related area in the North-West. Nobody is excited at the level of kidnapping that pervades the South or the associated security risk that comes from the rampage of the Fulani herdsmen. So, when you put all of these together, nobody is happy because Nigeria is not where it ought to be and we sometime don’t appear to be making adequate efforts to be where Nigeria should be.
Why is Nigeria not where it ought to be?
It is a combination of factors; some of them are historical, while some are contemporary. They are historical because successive leaderships lost the opportunity to realise the potential of this country. They were unable to harness the energy of the various people of Nigeria. They were unable to translate the dreams of the founding fathers into reality. So, countries that we were ahead of in 1960 are now very much ahead of us. We had a succession of bad economic policies and bad leadership. We must not forget also that the intervention of military for some 28 years did this country no particular good. On the contrary, it destroyed democracy. It destroyed the essence of the nation itself.
For example, in 1960, we had three regions and there was clamour that the Northern Region was too big; it should be broken but conspiracy and politics led to breaking of the West into Western and Mid-Western regions and not the breaking of the North that was at that time monolithic. When General Yakubu Gowon eventually took over from Maj. General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, he created 12 states, an equity – six in the North and six in the South. By the time Murtala Muhammed came, he created 19 states; nine in the South and 10 in the North and since then that distortion introduced by military aberration has been sustained.
So, today, we have 17 states in the South and 19 in the North. And because it was military dictatorship that created these federating units, it went further to distort the structural basis of Nigeria by creating local governments that were entrenched in the constitution. Let me illustrate; the old Kano State that has the present Kano and Jigawa had 20 local governments and Lagos had 20 local governments. They both have about the same population. Somebody, a military man created Jigawa out of Kano and gave Jigawa 27 local governments and gave the remnant of Kano 44 local governments. If you add the two together, that mean both Kano and Jigawa now have 71 local governments, but in the constitution, Lagos State has 20 local governments. So, this structural distortion had created a basis for some of the problems we have today.
The other thing, of course, as a result of military aberration is that 52.75 per cent of our total national revenue goes to the centre as against about 20 to 27 per cent, when we started. So, the centre now has so much money compared to the responsibility it has to carry and that makes the competition for the centre so bitter and deadly. The 36 states have to share about 25 per cent among themselves and 774 local governments have to share about 24 per cent. That doesn’t make sense. It means that funds are being pushed to the centre, whereas the duties are in the local governments and states.
So, all of these added together and built over a period had cumulated into the disaster that we have and that is why there will be continued agitations in this country either for Sovereign National Conference, so as to be also to redress glaring imbalance or call for restructuring to have a situation in which the federation units will become a counter-balance to the centre.
You talked about continuous agitation for Sovereign National Conference or restructuring to resolve some issues in the country, but there have been convocation of conferences in the past without any positive result…
It is because there is already a structural imbalance. Those who benefit from the structural imbalance will never allow an agitation to succeed. Nineteen states in the North multiply by three means they have more senators, members of House of Representatives and local governments. It is the South that is shortchanged that is agitating. Will those who have been benefiting from this structural imbalance be patriotic or nationalist enough to allow for equity to take-over?
Are you invariably saying the North will not concede to restructuring of Nigeria?
They will not. It will be political suicide to submit and surrender power you didn’t ask for, but which military leaders conferred on you. So, that is why there would be changes in the constitution; there would be amendment in the constitution, but you will find out that all the amendments that have taken place did not touch the heart of the problem; they will talk about the peripheral.
You attributed Nigeria’s problem to the military, but in the last 20 years, we had uninterrupted civilian administration. Don’t you think that the civilians ought to have addressed all the problems you lighted?
There have been attempts to address them, but the attempts will not succeed because you have to be guided by a constitution that was not prepared by Nigerians. It was a constitution that was donated to us by the outgoing military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. It was a constitution that was produced by a small committee led by Justice Niki Tobi. It was a constitution that didn’t have a constitutional conference or constituent assembly. Now, this constitution is there and it has provision for amendment. The provision for amendment means that it will pass the Senate and House of Representatives, where the North has majority and it has to be endorsed by two-third of the state Houses of Assembly where the North also has majority. So, how will it happen no matter how much noise you make?
We need to have a leadership that loves Nigeria properly. Mikhail Gorbachev was president of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and USSR was a formidable world power, almost at per with the United States (U.S.), but because Gorbachev was a nationalist and patriot, he realised that the cumbersome arrangement and structure of USSR will not allow for growth and competitiveness, so he broke USSR even though it meant that he himself lost power as president. He created Russia, Ukraine and so one and so forth. And Russian alone, which is just an entity of that USSR, is today almost competing with U.S. That happened because, Gorbachev was a leader, who was not thinking of his own ethnic base, but considered the overall interest of the country and wanted to put in place, a structure that will allow for economic, social, political and cultural growth and overall development of his country.
Are you saying Nigeria has not witnessed a patriotic leader?
Chief olusegun Obasanjo is the best person that probably could have done it, but he has a fanatic believe in Nigeria, which is good. But, being a military man, he subscribed to a hierarchical order of things. The General dictates to the Brigadier; the Brigadier dictates to the Colonel; the Colonel dictates to Lieutenant Colonel and so on. That is not an ingredient of democracy. In a democratic situation, the president and the governor are not superior and subordinate; they are equal because they were both elected to represent certain people. So, he didn’t have the proper perspective, but of course, when it comes to other issues that were not structural, you will see evidences of what he did. Umaru Yar’Adua didn’t have enough time and I think Goodluck Jonathan just didn’t understand the issues. But even if he understood the issues, he would be unable to get it through the National Assembly.
Let me give you an illustration. The last National Assembly thought there was something wrong with the electoral system and came up with an amendment to the Electoral Act, which they thought would take care of deficit in integrity that our electoral process had.
They passed it and you know how many times President Muhammadu Buhari returned it and because of the structural imbalance already inherent in the National Assembly, they could not muster the majority to override the veto.
And so, we were left with what we complained about and we saw what happened subsequently in the general election. It is not only that you need a patriotic leader, but a patriotic leader that has character and commitment, and who can market the concept. When Nelson Mandela took over in South Africa, there were other Africans living and working in South Africa and there was nobody who dared to lift his hand against fellow Africans.
But when he left, there was degradation in the quality and today we talk about xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in spite of contributions of Nigeria towards dismantling apartheid in South Africa. It was because we have now leadership that is no longer in charge, but is playing to the gallery to be able to attract the interest of the North that explains why I insist that we need a leader that is committed to Nigeria; a leader that is committed to fair play, justice, equity, structural equalization of this country; a leader that has the capacity and the moral authority to market this concept to all parts, so that all Nigerians will know that it is in the best interest of all of us to live in a house that allows equal accommodation and comfort than to leave in one that only allows a higher and dual levels of citizenry.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes, a house that is not built on equity will suffer cracks.
How would you access President Buhari’s administration so far based on the promises he made to Nigerians before becoming president?
I will look at this from two points of view. First, Nigerians for whatever reason, seemed so anxious to get rid of Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that they didn’t really care enough to inquire into what the incoming government is going to do for them.
He said he will fight corruption, nobody asked him, how he would fight corruption and what would be the time limit?
I don’t think he has fought corruption even the same way Obasanjo did it. Obasanjo removed a permanent secretary; he jailed an Inspector-General of Police, who was a Yoruba man like himself; he removed a Senate President and also a minister, who were PDP members like him. We saw that he had a commitment to the fight against corruption.
Of course, without him there would be no Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). So, if Buhari has such a deep commitment to the fight against corruption, we are not saying he should enact new laws to set up new agencies, but should have looked at loopholes of existing agencies. And the first thing I expected him to do was to go to the National Assembly to make an amendment that will block the loopholes.
They are now talking of special courts after five years in office. They are now looking at the slowness of justice. I thought those are some of the things he ought to have seen. He ought to have seen plea bargaining and blocked the loopholes from that.
He ought to have seen that there are cases filed by the EFCC that have been there for over 10 years over arguments on technicalities. He said he would take care of security. Apart from the fact that they told us that we have technically defeated Boko Haram, whatever happened, we know that Boko Haram is still operating.
And as a matter of fact, the security of the nation has never been as threatened as this. Today, people feel so inconvenient that they want the country dismantled. A lot of people are talking of secession today. It is not only Nnamdi Kanu of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) alone; there are others groups in the South that have began to think that secession might be the answer because of the spate of security. South-West was relatively safe in those days, but recently experienced security challenges because of the spate of kidnapping.
The danger in the South-South is still there. So, when you look at all of these, can you say that security is still intact? I doubt it. He said he would handle the economy. There was a time that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria was between eight to nine per cent; we are barely crawling at two per cent now.
So, can he say that he has tackled the problems of the economy?
Have we tackled the employment situation?
Have we created jobs? Yes, we criticised that too much was spent on power, but for six years now, we have been spending money on power, but the situation has not changed. They criticised the former government, yet the rail sector has not taken off. The only one that is functioning, which is Abuja-Kaduna, was almost 99 per cent completed before Buhari came on board.
Are you invariably saying that the PDP administration was better than the incumbent APC government?
Not necessarily! That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that the problem the PDP administration faced is different from Buhari’s own.
When Obasanjo got there, for example, the problem he faced was that we were a pariah nation; nobody wanted to touch us because of the excesses of General Sani Abacha. But, he rehabilitated Nigeria and became acceptable in the comity of nations. Buhari doesn’t have that one.
When Obasanjo got there, we were still afraid of the military coming back, but he made sure that such happened by massive retirement of military people, who held political positions. Yes, we knew there was corruption; he set up ICPC within months in office and within another three months, he put EFCC in place.
So, those were different issues. We owed $35 billion; he liquidated it. But we have accrued more debts in the last five years than we did in the last 14 to 15 years. So, there is no basis for comparing government; you compare the performance against the challenges it is facing. I am not saying that the PDP government is better; they lost opportunity. I thought that PDP ought to have restructured this country because it was one of the top points that they put in their agenda and manifesto, but in 16 years they didn’t. They missed the opportunity of restructuring this nation and putting it on a solid path.
The easiest way to put the nation on the solid path is to look at the foundation; they didn’t do that. This government also promised restructuring; go and read the APC manifesto. They have not and they have even refused to do it. They have even refused to consider the over 600 resolutions of the 2014 National Conference that were unanimously agreed on. Even if it is taken that not that the resolutions touched the fundamentals, but they would have move Nigeria forward.
Do you see PDP bouncing back to power in 2023?
I don’t; not because they cannot, but because this government will not allow that.
How will it do that?
This government understands power; they are not careless about handling of power. You see demonstrations in recent elections. They are not like a pastor or sheik that Jonathan was. So, it is not likely and unfortunately too, because of massive indiscipline within the PDP and perhaps corruption within the party in the selection of candidates. You saw it in Bayelsa.
The PDP has not learnt any lesson because if they have, they would have apologised genuinely to this country for errors they committed; errors of omission and errors of commission. If there has not been no disconnect between Jonathan and Obasanjo, they would still have been in power. If there has not been a deliberate attempt by Jonathan’s administration to sideline the South-West, he probably would still have been in power.
There wouldn’t have been a coalition of the South-West and North-West that enthroned Buhari. And because Buhari knows what power is, he makes sure he keeps on consolidating that relationship as some Christians would say, by fire by force. So, for PDP to take over, they need structural change of the party; they need rethinking and realignment. The incumbent government is unwilling to surrender power. So, when you have a party that is unwilling to change or to restructure to be able to assess power again and you have a party in power that is unwilling to concede power; it means that the present status quo might be with us for some time.
What is your view on the agitation for the 2023 presidency between the North and the South?
There should be no controversy except by people who really believe in a monolithic control of Nigeria.
The concept of rotation between the North and South was not built into the constitution, but it is what you call an unwritten item of our constitution.
Why did power come to the South in 1999? Why was it that the contest was between Obasanjo and Olu Falae?
It was because the North realised that they denied Nigeria the opportunity of having the best president Nigeria never had and having a president who won the freest and fairest election. So, it occurred to them that they should give it to the South. And Obasanjo and PDP in obedience to this unwritten item of our constitution made sure that it was Yar’Adua in 2007 and that was one of the reasons why Buhari won in 2015.
The South was intruding into the time of the North, when Jonathan took over to complete the term of Yar’Adua. So, Nigerians must favourably dispose to returning power to the North. But giving the structural imbalance already identified by me, if the North decides to monopolise power, the structural imbalance may allow them to do so. But, in a decent society, it is not an issue for debate; after eight years of the North, it should be the South. Don’t you think that the South may lose the 2023 presidency to the North based on this structural imbalance you mentioned? Look at the arithmetic of the last result; a Northern candidate will win overall without the South.
Are you saying that North can win the presidency without the South? They only need tokenistic contributions from the South. Didn’t Obasanjo win without the South in 1999?
So, if you look at the arithmetic, the election results in the North-West, North-East and North-Central; they already have the majority and you know to be president, you need first, majority votes, then you need 25 per cent in two-third of the states in the country.
That is what they will be looking for. And knowing the composition of the South, their inclination and love for money, they will get the 25 per cent and that would be it.
Will it be fair on the South for the North to have another shot at the presidency after President Buhari?
It will not be fair but this people don’t love the nation; that is what I am saying. If they love the nation, we will have a structure and realign this country for competitive growth.
We would have created a situation in which nobody will want to die to be president in Abuja. People would rather be more concerned about being leaders of the federating units. But because this is not a fair country and these are not fairminded people, we are where we are.
Weapon proliferation huge threat to democracy, say security experts
hereas democracy has become a globally accepted form of government with a leadership recruitment system built on candidates’ popularity and people-friendly political manifestoes, indications are rife that this system of government and indeed political stability on the African continent is under threat.
The threat which is currently assuming elephantine dimension is posed by one phenomenon – proliferation of small, medium and light weapons (SMLW) around Nigeria and in African. Millions of these, according to security experts are on the streets and in wrong hands posing great threat to democracy.
Those were the submission of security experts from both public and private sectors and journalists on the issue and they are united on the fact, even as they expressed serious apprehension over its dangerous influence on the political process and political stability on the continent and its 1.2 billion population
Speaking at the Annual Lecture of the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria, (CRAN), which held in Lagos, they lamented that politicians’ desperation for power has turned elections to battle fields in Nigeria, as the political process becomes a do-or-die affair, and the political elites exacerbated the process by procuring arms for thugs and complement this with inflammatory remarks.
In a lead paper titled “Proliferation of Arms: A Threat to Democracy,” delivered by Chief Dennis Amachree, a retired Deputy Director of State Service (DSS), he saw the phenomenon on the African continent as an offshoot of the Arab Spring of 2011 and thereafter.
Similarly, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar expressed concern over “the way arms and ammunitions are being imported, smuggled, made and possessed in the country.” He said the police were not unaware of impact of this on the security, economy and the political process in the country.
Quoting the 1997 Report of the United Nations Panel of Government, Amachree defined Small Arms as weapons for personal use, and this category includes revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns and light machine guns.
While light weapons on the other hand, are designed for attack or defense in combat or hunting. These include light machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and mortars of calibers less than 100mm.
According to him, one of the spectacular events which fuel weapon proliferation occurred on October 21, 2011, a day after the demise of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, when intelligence sources picked up the movement of about 100 Hilux trucks of Gaddafi loyalists crossing the Sahara Desert, toward West Africa. These trucks were reportedly loaded with small arms and light weapons, stolen from the private stockpile in the presidential palace of the former Libyan leader.
“At that time, it was observed that because there was no joint international military cooperation among the West African States, no government made any attempt to intercept the long convoys approaching the region. The convoy dispersed into Cameroun, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and as far west as Senegal. This situation was not helped by the porous borders that exist along the northern periphery of all West African states.
“A sizeable quantity of the small arms and light weapons were bought by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian who is sometimes referred to as ‘The One-Eyed Nelson’ or ‘the Uncatchable.’ He was a major weapons dealer and later assumed the leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.
“Other recipients of these Libyan weapons were Iyad Ag Ghaly, the Tuareg militant leader from Mali and Abu Mohammed al-Shekau, a Kanuri and leader of Boko Haram. These weapons became the game changer in the war against terrorism and insurgency in West Africa. Boko Haram became more daring,” and so commenced the proliferation with its deadly consequences.
At the continental level, despite the Conventions and Protocols on small arms and light weapons in the region, the West African sub-region has been active with one kind of conflict or the other. Liberia, Cote I D’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria and the Central African Republic have different ongoing conflicts. And as the conflicts progress, so are the new inflows of SALW into the pockets of instability.
Quoting a report, Amachree said out of the estimated eight million small arms and light weapons in circulation in Africa, about 75 per cent, totaling 600 million are in Nigeria, mostly in private hands like former militants, terrorists and opposition political parties who could use such arms to truncate democracy.
Other factors precipitating weapon proliferation especially in Nigeria’s 2,777km of ungoverned land borderlines “with four French speaking countries who depend on us, but care less of our unity and leadership; and a 853km long Atlantic coastline.”
Consequent on this, the weapons fuel the activities of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, armed banditry and kidnappings in the North-West, Biafra separatists in the South-East, Delta militants and kidnappings in the South-South, ritual killings, kidnappings and urban crimes in the south-west and cultism in universities across the country. All these security threats are fueled by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Equally disturbing is the activities of governors who massively purchased firearms to arm non-state actors to obstruct or truncate the democratic process ostensibly in the name of fighting insecurity as noted in the past governments in Zamfara and Ogun states.
Recall that the governor of Zamfara State, Governor Bello Matawale recently said his predecessor should account for the 1,400 rifles he purchased during his tenure, while his counterpart in Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun drew public umbrage on the release of about 2,000 rifles and ammunitions to the police towards the end of his tenure.
A few hours to the end of his tenure as Ogun State helmsman, Governor Amosun had contacted the State Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, stating that he had thousands of arms and millions of ammunition in store at an armoury in Government House, and that he had decided to hand them over to the police.
A bewildered Makama had raced to Government House with some of his subordinates and found truckloads of arms and ammunition brought out of a nondescript armoury inside the Government House. It included at least four million rounds of ammunition, 1,000 units of AK47 assault rifles, 1,000 units of bulletproof vests and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).
The interception of over 2,000 pump action rifles by the Nigerian Customs Service in the few months before the last elections, and bizarre use used of shooting, thuggery and violence in the Kogi State governorship election, which he described as a sham, caught Amachree’s attention.
Threat to democracy
The experts at the event observed that “illegal possession of small arms could engineer the outbreak of conflicts to make the country or state ungovernable; ruling parties, in a bid to hold on to power, could use state-owned arms to threaten and sometimes kill members of the opposition.
“Elements in an opposition party could use illegal arms to overthrow a government, no matter the dangers. Even in non-democratic governments, the series of military coups in Nigeria are an example. Top government officials, including the president could be assassinated to effect a change in the government. Situations like this have played out in countries like the USA and Nigeria.
“During the last elections, there was a chieftain of a political party who was caught on tape, arranging how many AK47s his “boy” will need during the elections. Another politician was threatening fire and brimstones on an opposition party, during a rally. No one of these politicians was cautioned for this act against democracy. Rather, one of them was actually supported with small arms and light weapons by state actors during the elections.
Amachree in particular, noted that “the whole shenanigans of politicians and non-state actors in their quest for power have inadvertently encouraged the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Elections have become a battlefield in Nigeria today, with all the major political parties breathing and threatening fire and brimstones.”
In the same, the Olu Iwo of Iwo, Oba Adewale Akanbi, frowned at the spread of firearms and its impact on criminality, and advocated death penalty for treasury looters, kidnappers, ritualists, cultists, corrupt public officials and politicians to serve as a deterrent to others.
The royal father, while commending the war declared on corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari, observed that punitive measures put in place to stop the corruption train were not enough. “China, a civilized and developed nation, has death penalty for corruption, theft of public funds and official corruption. Nigeria should copy same.”
Oba Akanbi found it so inexplicable that Nigeria, a blessed nation, which according to him is richer than Canada, lacks basic infrastructures, which he traced to corruption
Earlier, the chairman of the occasion, Dr. Bone Efoziem, Managing Director, Strict Guards, lamented that that the massive size of Nigeria borders covering 723, 767 km square posed a great challenge to the security agencies and called for inter-agency cooperation to succeed in the ear on weapon proliferation.
Inspector-General of Police, who was represented at the event, the AIG Zone 2 Command, Iliasu said the police have adopted various strategies including Operation PUFF ADDER over time to combat crime ragging from kidnapping to banditry and weapon proliferation check and other forms of criminality.
To him, the strategies have served as veritable anti-crime machine to dismantle all forms of crimes and criminality, central to which is mopping of all arms and other instruments of criminality. Accordingly, the Zone 2 Command under Iliasu’s watch has created a re-branded PUFF ADDER, hence he enjoined members of the public to be vigilant and give information to the police on any form of perceived crime in their neighborhood.
Besides commending crime 5 reporters, who he described as repository of daily crime and security activities in the country, Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Akeem Odumosu called for a collaborative efforts in combating crimes and controlling proliferation of weapons.
The gathering of security experts stressed the need for urgent ratification of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, since this will commit member states to controlling the unabated flow of these arms into the region. They also advocated integration of the divergent local legislatures existing among countries that share the same borders in the sub-region.
Of equal importance is their call on political parties to adhere to a code of ethics, fair play in the conduct of their primaries and adopt spirit of sportsmanship, because elections must be won and lost. Political parties must eschew the mentality of winner takes all and loser can go to hell, but adhere to the non-violence agreements signed by leading contenders of the major parties.
African governments were also charged to make placing stricter controls on importation of small arms and light weapons their policy priority, while Nigeria needs to work with conventional arms manufacturers and exporters to strictly control their exports against illegal diversion.
As difficult as this may be, government needs to pay more attention to border security, because though illegal routes will always exist, good border control is imperative. They also called for tougher laws against illegal possession of SALW while a nation-wide mop-up of SALW is carried out nationwide. Nigerians should strive to achieve national security from the perspective of human security, because if the individual is safe from small arms, the country’s democracy is also secured.
Dangling sword over fringe parties
The recent verification exercise of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the headquarters of registered political parties in the country is causing apprehension in the polity. Is it a plan to deregister some of the parties? asks ONYEKACHI EZE
lthough the verification is a routine exercise periodically embarked upon by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as part of its monitoring of the activities of registered political parties in the country, but the ongoing exercise has raised a lot of questions. Is it meant to deregister some of these parties that failed to meet the requirements? Or is it simply to update the commission’s record.
Apart from Benin Republic, Nigeria holds the unenvious record of an African country with the highest number of political parties. This attracted the attention recently, of the United Nations, which said such number could distract the electorate from electing quality leaders.
Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambers, Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, during a courtesy call on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in Abuja earlier this year, said there is the need to look at the mode of political party registration in the country.
Dr. Chambers said: “In the last elections in Nigeria, many of you will recall that there were 73 presidential candidates. I am not talking about registered political parties but presidential candidates. With the usual Nigerian people, some people even referred to the ballot paper as a tablecloth on account of its length and breadth.
“Of course, that also has its own challenges and for countries in our sub-region, presenting them with such long list of candidates sometimes distracts them from the quality of the process and informed decisions by the electorate.”
Musa Husunu, deputy director in the Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) department of INEC who led a team to the headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Monday, listed the guidelines for the verification.
The law requires every registered political party to have its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, as well as to maintain offices in at least, two-third of the 36 states of the country.
Husunu explained there should be evidence of the party’s “headquarters in the FCT because it is one of the criteria. A political party must have office in any of the Area Councils in the FCT.
“Second is the five copies of the constitution of the party. Then we also have list of NWC (National Working Committee) members, then membership register, then, book of account.
“The next thing is that we have to go round and ensure that from the Chairman down the ladder, there is physical presence of offices for NWC members.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, revealed plans by the National Assembly to deregister 85 nonperforming political parties before the 2023 general elections.
Gaya, after a meeting with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, described some of the political parties as figure heads with no relevance or “elected personalities.”
He was quoted to have stated: “Regarding reforms in the Electoral Act, first of all, we are looking at the issue of the number of political parties. Actually, they are too many; we have 91 political parties; and currently, the court has added another party which makes them 92.
“Many are still applying; but there is a criteria constitutionally, that parties should have a kind of qualification or at least requirement before they are registered. Actually, we are going to deregister almost 85 political parties because they are unqualified.
“They don’t even have a counselor or a House of Assembly member; so all those parties should be deregistered. But there is a problem; if you deregister them, they will go through the back door and register again.
“We need to now have tough conditions for registration of political parties whereby we could maintain the number of four or five by God’s grace.”
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in an article titled, “INEC’ fresh power to deregister political parties,” said not more than 10 of the registered parties would survive if INEC applies strictly the provisions of the constitution for political party de-registration.
According to him, the May 2017 amendment to Section 225 of the 1999 Constitution empowers INEC to deregister any political party on the grounds of “(a) breach of any of the requirements for registration; (b) failure to win at least 25 per cent of votes cast in: (i) One state of the federation in a presidential election; or (ii) one local government of the state in a governorship election; (c) failure to win at least – (i) one ward in the chairmanship election; (ii) one seat in the national or state House of Assembly election; or (iii) one seat in the councillorship election.
“From the foregoing, it is indubitably clear that INEC has been conferred with enormous powers to deregister political parties that fail to meet the fresh constitutional prerequisites. Going by the results of the 2019 general elections, the 91 registered political parties may have been reduced to less than 10 that may have scaled the constitutional hurdle.”
Out of the 89 political parties that fielded candidates in the 2019 general elections, only three won the governorship while less than five of them won seats into the National Assembly. This means that over 85 political parties have no business in the electoral process.
In December 2012, INEC deregistered 28 political parties. The commission said its decision was based on the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Section 78 (7)(ii) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended empowers INEC to deregister political parties that fails to win a seat either in the National or state Assembly. None of deregistered parties won any seat in the 2011 general elections.
Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), which was one of the political parties deregistered by INEC, challenged the action of the commission in court. It asked the court to declare section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010 is unconstitutional, invalid, null and void to the extent that it offends the provisions of section 40 and sections 221-229 of the 1999 Constitution as it violated the provisions of sections 36, 38 and 40, as well as sections 221-222 of the 1999 Constitution, and paragraph 15 of the 3rd schedule (part 10 of the Constitution) among others.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, in his judgement, declared the deregistration null and void.
Justice Kolawole said: “The criteria by which the National Assembly delimited deregistration to failure to win seat in state and National Assembly elections appears like nothing but legislative arbitrariness, since INEC has powers to conduct other elections.
“INEC would not have lost anything by issuing the Fresh Democratic Party with a query to enhance the integrity of its decision.”
A Constitutional lawyer, Realwan Okpanachi, agrees with Falana that INEC does not need further amendment to the constitution to deregister political parties. Okpanachi said the position of the law had changed since President Muhammadu Buhari assented the Fourth Alteration, No. 9 Act, 2017, which was enacted in 2017. He said the president’s assent conferred on INEC the power to deregister political parties by the amendment of Section 225 of the 1999 constitution.
“By the said amendment and introduction of Section 225(A), INEC can now deregister political parties on grounds of breach of any requirements for registration,’’ he said.
The requirements, he listed to include, “Failure to win at least 25 per cent of votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election, or one local government of the state in governorship election.
“Failure to win at least one ward in chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election or one seat in the councillorship election.
“What INEC should be talking about is how to deregister many of the commercialised political parties that have failed to satisfy any of the conditions in Section 225(A) of the constitution,’’ Okpanachi said.
The number of political parties in the country is causing confusion instead of improving the electoral system. During the last presidential elections, the number of invalid votes was put at 1, 289, 607 votes, which was much higher than total number of votes recorded for 71 other parties put together.
Pundits attributed this to the size of the ballot paper. Most of the votes got spoilt during folding of the over-sized ballot paper and attempt to squeeze it inside the voting box.
Again, many illiterate electorate found it difficult differentiating the acronyms of most of the parties. This resulted in double voting.
In 1999 when only two political parties fielded candidates in the presidential election, the number of invalid votes was 431, 611, out of a total of 30, 280, 052 votes cast. It is inconceivable that the nation could record as high as over a million invalid votes 20 years after.
The UN envoy simply spoke the mind of average Nigerians.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Mr. Charles Ambaiowe said a reduction in the number of political parties in the country is overdue. According to him, there is no point having non-performing parties on the ballot papers all in the name multi-party system.
“Many of them are hangers-on and appendages of the two major political parties. During elections, some neither campaign nor field candidates. Rather, they come up to endorse candidate of the major political parties for monetary benefits.
“The system is too weedy such that INEC chairman once said it was cumbersome listing all the parties on a single ballot paper. Ironically some of the political parties who had made no impact in the elections have called for cancelation of election because of the omission of their names on the ballot,” he said.
Sources said the fringe parties have become something akin to private businesses of the chairmen, their wives and children who often manipulate and utilize the funds collected and attend capacity training sponsored local and international agencies.
“The parties have become like private companies while the INEC is something akin to the CAC, who merely registers them, only for the parties to serve the interest of the chairman and his family.
“At one of our quarterly meeting with the INEC, the electoral umpire’s chairman told us that the wife of one of the parties’ chairman is the Woman Leader and his son the National Youth Leader. Hence three members of the executive council are from his family,” the source said.
When APC govs endorsed Lalong’s achievements
hen the Progressives Governors’ Forum met recently in Jos, the Plateau State capital, it was an opportunity for Governor Simon Lalong to showcase what he is doing in the state.
The two-day parley, which started with a dinner on Sunday, November 24 and reached a climax on Monday, November 25, was also an avenue for the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum to show his commitment, vision of providing accountable and responsible leadership to the people of the state.
The parley, which focused on internal security, education and health, gave Governor Lalong an opportunity of discussing some of his efforts through agencies such as the Plateau Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Plateau Health Insurance Scheme, Plateau Disability Rights Commission, Plateau Peace Building Agency, ICT Development Agency as well as Plateau Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency.
To him, infrastructural development is very critical to every state, hence he confronted it headlong. This is why he embarked on massive infrastructural projects going on across the state with many either completed or nearing completion. They include the Secretariat Flyover, Mararaba Jamaa Road as well as the Maiango roads. They are evidence of the governor’s efforts in road construction and urbanization.
Governor Lalong has developed and pursued an efficient economic blueprint in Plateau State. Apart from ensuring regular payment of salaries to civil servants, has made them to give him an new name – Governor Alert.
Speaking as the host during the Progressive Governors, parley Lalong disclosed that his administration has set in motion plans to host an Economic and Investment Summit where the state intends to open up Plateau State to domestic and foreign investors and rebranding the state to it slogan as the Home of Peace and Tourism.
Peace and security are critical to the life of every state, every people. There is remarkable peace in Plateau State and this is made possible by the governor’s excellent security initiatives which ultimately provide a buffer for investments, business activities and good social life.
According to Lalong: “This parley is another endorsement of the efforts we have put in to restore peace to Plateau State which has seen many people coming back and new ones coming to the nation’s preferred destination.
“We have since come up with a Five-Year Strategic Development Plan which is guiding our next level vision where we are prioritising various projects in education, health, agriculture, mining and tourism which we believe can turn around the economic fortunes of our state if properly harnessed.”
Lalong said his administration in the state has also unified the youths, women, leaders and elders of the state such that political parties in the state today merely exist in the books even as access to better life is no longer determined by political consideration or illogical sentiments.
“For us in Plateau State, there has been growing synergy among all stakeholders including the three arms of government as we continue our Rescue Mission through the three-point policy thrust of Peace, security and good governance, infrastructure development and sustainable economic rebirth “.
Leadership has a lot to do with relationship management and public relations. Good leaders, through their leadership styles, garner support and goodwill from the public, their colleagues and political party. Governor Lalong’s leadership acumen has led to countless endorsements from all sectors of the populace.
No wonder President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha during the parley commended the leadership qualities of Lalong for transforming the state with laudable projects.
According to Buhari, the current administration has remained committed to improving the welfare of all Nigerians.
The President said the decision to focus the parley on four key sectors, namely; transportation, health, education and humanitarian and disaster management were commendable.
Also the Progressive Governors Forum chairman and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu described Lalong as messiah sent to Plateau State to bring peace and develop the state.
All the governors, ministers amongst other officials who attended the parley shower accolades on Governor Simon Lalong for transforming Plateau State.
The governors present included, Edo, Godwin Obaseki, Kaduna, Nasiru El Rufai, Niger, Abukabar Sani Bello, Kebbi State, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Jigawa Abubakar Badiru Ekiti Kayode Fayemi, while the Governor of Gombe, Kano and Kogi states were represented by their deputies.
Others were the Minister of Transport Rt. Hon. Rotimi Ameachi and Minister of State for Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajuba.
Onuigbo: Nigerians won’t deny that Igbos have capacity to govern the nation
Hon. Samuel Onuigbo represents Ikwunano/Umuahia North/South Federal Constituency of Abia State in the House of Representatives and is the Vice President (Africa) Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE). In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on a wide range of climate issues and the contentious agitation for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023
You were recently elected the Vice President (Africa) of an international environmental organisation known as GLOBE. What does the organisation stand for?
GLOBE stands for Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment. What is it? It is an international association of national parliamentarians in well over 99 countries of the world and the aim is for these parliamentarians to take interest in sponsoring bills and also supporting policies of the executive arm that are geared towards the preservation and protection of the environment.
The environment covers ecology, deforestation, agriculture, climate change, petroleum resources etc. All these are supposed to be done in a sensible and sustainable way; in a way that preserves the environment and leaves something for generations yet unborn. So that when you are carrying out your activities to make profit from your business, you also consciously know that you have to preserve the environment and by so doing, your actions are done in such a sensible, sustainable way to avoid taking from the environment and destroying it. So, globally, this association has grown phenomenally, it started with G8 countries asking their legislators to take interest in the environment, knowing that a lot of damages are taking place across the world from those either looking for timber, who cut down trees without replanting same.
Ideas like these gave rise to something like Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel Initiative, which of course came from the African Union (AU). So, an organisation like GLOBE champions bills such as the one I sponsored recently on climate change. You can also sponsor on other aspects of the environment such as agriculture, petroleum and all these are geared towards ensuring that when you are taking from the ground, forest or ocean, you have to do it in a sensible and sustainable manner bearing in mind generations yet unborn.
GLOBE came to Nigeria through the efforts of the former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, in 2012 and the Nigeria chapter came into existence 2013 when the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki was Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment. In the 8th National Assembly, the President of GLOBE was Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim while I was the Vice President and today I am the president of GLOBE Nigeria, and the Vice President (Africa) of GLOBE International.
You chaired the House Committee on Climate Change in the 8th Assembly and now you are Vice President of GLOBE. How are you mobilising other lawmakers on issues of environment?
I must say that in my first term in the House of Representatives, I made verifiable achievements both in terms of my cardinal mandate, legislation and facilitation of projects in my constituency. I am looking forward to further making solid contributions in this Assembly like I did in the 8th Assembly by facilitating laudable projects in my constituency.
My re-election, the first time an honourable member was re-elected in my federal constituency, which is an acknowledgment of my towering achievements in my first tenure and what my people did was to say; ‘we are happy for what you did in the development of our constituency’. In that way, to who much is given, much is expected.
So specifically I am going to pursue those things like the climate change bill, which I sponsored in the 8th Assembly. Fortunately it has gone through the second reading and has been referred to the committee of the whole. And what does that hope to achieve? It hopes to bring to the fore those issues that are involved in the bill. For instance, it is proposing the establishment of a National Council on Climate Change to be chaired by Mr. President and that Council will be peopled by so many ministers whose mandates are crosscutting in nature.
Apart from the focal ones as far as climate change is concerned there are others such as agriculture, environment, finance, transportation, education, petroleum, industry, Niger Delta, water resources, mining, etc., that their activities are climate change related. The Council is also expected to have in its composition the National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), President of ALGON, a representative of the private sector (especially the manufacturing and extractive industries), youths, etc.
This broad representation is important because if you pass a law at the national level without involving all these stakeholders who are expected to enforce it, its implementation becomes very difficult. Some persons asked me why I want the National Security Adviser in the Council and I explained to them that the effects of climate change are far reaching. It is crosscutting. It is not only limited to those component parts of environment like petroleum, deforestation etc. Therefore, those negative impacts, those devastating effects now affect the security of the nation and I can give you a good example; the Boko Haram saga.
The Boko Haram saga was actually made worse by the fact that a place like Lake Chad that provided means of livelihood for well over 40 million people, who depended on it for animal husbandry, fishing and other forms of agriculture eventually found that the lake had shrunk to less than 10 per cent and therefore they could no longer perform those things they used to sustain themselves. What they did was to move into the city where they have no skills to survive. Unfortunately since their skills which are fishing, farming, and animal husbandry have been denied them they quickly became easy tools in the hands of those recruiting hungry but able-bodied youths for Boko Haram insurgency.
Another saga that we have in our hands is the herdsmen/farmers clashes. So, when we had green areas around Lake Chad, around some parts of the North where people were rearing their cattle, they did not bother to push down South or the Middle belt in a violent manner. But today, you see there is no green vegetation in most parts of the North, rather there is desertification and therefore the herdsmen are everywhere looking for pastures for their cattle. So that is why it is important to have someone like the National Security Adviser in the Council to provide advice. I am focused on this bill because of its importance to the nation and I am hopeful that this time around it would be assented to by the president. Once that is done, it would attract investors in renewable energy and other aspects of the economy, while checkmating the devastating effects of climate change. But this cannot happen if there is no governing law on climate change in the country.
The need for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 has continued to dominate national discourse to the extent that while the South-West is insisting that it would produce the next president, the North is also plotting to retain power beyond 2023. As a lawmaker from the South-East geopolitical zone, what is your take on this?
It is difficult to predict now because the parties as far as I know today are significantly fluid and a lot of the party members have been moving from one party to another. You have pieces of evidence to support my assertion. On the issue of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, it is not out of place to believe that yes we can get a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction if Nigerians in their wisdom look down and say okay.
Well, this country is built on a tripod; forget whatever reconstruction or restructuring that has produced the six geo-political zones of today. You should also remember those who made contributions to the federation gaining independence in 1960. I remember that most of them were of Igbo extraction then. After reviewing these scenarios, you will convince yourself to expect that Nigeria can happily and satisfactorily get a president of Igbo extraction who will fit the bill and who will do extraordinarily well.
You will recall that in the 60s the eastern region was the fastest growing economy in the world. It is documented; it is not a baseless talk. And I also remember that the eastern region was also the first region to build a full-fledged university by first passing a law on May 18, 1955 for the first university to be built and they did not stop there. The 1955 law provided that the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board should set aside £500,000 annually for the successful development of the university. That long term planning was what led to the successful take-off of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on October 1, 1960.
It was after that, that other regions followed suit: the Federal Government established the University of Lagos in April 1962, while the Western Region established the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1961, and the Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello University in October 1962, while the law establishing the University of Ibadan as a full-fledged university was signed in December of 1962.
Under the leadership of late Chief Michael Okpara as the Premier of the Eastern Region, an agreement was signed with Sir Kenneth Hutchinson and Mr. C.C Filstead of Conch Methane Services Ltd for the 18,000,000 gas production plant in the then Bonny Province. Then you think about the Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Hotel Presidential in Enugu and Port Harcourt, Trans-Amadi industrial layout in Port Harcourt, Golden Guinea Breweries and Ceramics Industry in Umuahia, Steel Industry Emene, Nigeria Glass Industry and Eastern Michelin Tyre Factory, Port Harcourt, were all built by Okpara. These initiatives came early and I do not think you will find such initiatives from those who lack the capacity and training to be able to exercise leadership up to the presidential level.
It is a known fact that the Nigerian presidency is not won on a platter of gold, that you have to work for it. Now that the South-East is neck deep into the PDP, under which political party is the region going to contest and win the 2023 presidency?
My dear friend, I told you from the outset that the political structure of this country today is fluid. Today you have APC, which is a conglomeration of so many other po litical parties, the CPC, ACN, ANPP and all that. You would recall that many opposition parties fused together and metamorphosed into APC, which is the ruling party today. Four years prior to that time, if anybody told you that this would happen you wouldn’t have believed. So, when I said this is a fluid political environment, I expect you to speak with caution. The PDP is there now, yes it has survived the test of time having been pushed left, right and center, yet it’s still standing strong. The space is open. You cannot say this is strictly an APC or PDP affair because this is a fluid political environment.
Today, President Muhammadu Buhari has provided leadership for the APC and we must acknowledge that and give him credit. Perhaps you have also heard someone like Senator Rochas Okorocha and others speculating that APC would probably go the way of PDP when President Buhari leaves the stage in 2023.There should not be any fear regarding who is in PDP and who is in APC when it comes to occupying that seat. Again there are no strong ideological differences between these parties. So, if you accept my analysis on this argument then you will then know that there is nothing to worry about.
If Nigerians agree with the contributions of the Igbos from how we got independence to when the Eastern region was the fastest growing economy till now and some other contributions we have been making and then acknowledge that the Igbos have demonstrated good faith and that they truly believe in this nation called Nigeria, they will then acknowledge that the Igbos deserve to lead this country. By the way, who else invests outside of its region more than the Igbos in Nigeria? No other tribe in Nigeria invests in this country outside their own region more than the Igbos. So, the South East can produce a president of Igbo extraction who has the potential to turn things around, reposition this nation, and restore confidence and trust in all Nigerians.
The House of Representatives has in the last few weeks being issuing resolutions on rehabilitation of infrastructure in the South-East. What are you doing in your own way to attract development to your constituency and South-East?
I have been able to facilitate many projects within my federal constituency; so many of them have been completed while some of them are ongoing. I do not intend to look back or stop. So, I want my constituents to really know that I will redouble my efforts to make sure that I continue to serve them well. You know funding constituency projects has been a big problem like the one I did in my place, the government has not been able to fully fund it. It was funded less than 40 per cent and it was abandoned and I had to look for money to complete the reconstruction of our hospital that was built in 1984 but was allowed to decay.
I will continue to facilitate projects that impact on the lives of the people. I will focus on hospitals, schools and training (human capital development). These are the things that I will continue to do and to the glory of God I think I have done things that are verifiable – things that are there for people to see in terms of projects that have been successfully executed. Without being exhaustive, let me mention just a few but impactful projects that I have successfully facilitated in my federal constituency.
When in 2016, the Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene Federal Road which was cut into two in many sections and consequently became impassable, I vigorously pursued the request for urgent palliative work to be done to restore the road. I received support and encouragement from Senator T.A Orji, to actualise that project. Also, I facilitated the erosion control work at Ukwudara, Amachara, Umuopara in Umuahia South LGA; erosion control work at Okwe-Obuohia road in Ikwuano LGA; construction of a block of classrooms at Afo Ugiri Girls Secondary School and a water project at Ohuhu and Avonkwu Ibeku in Umuahia North LGA; a massive skills acquisition centre at Apumiri Ubakala; blocks of classrooms at Umutowe Olokoro and Nsirimo Ubakala; hospital projects at Obuohia Obi-Ibere and Ahiaeke Oloko; electricity projects in all the Local Government Areas. I also facilitated the award of the total reconstruction of the Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene Federal Road.
I am currently working with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing on an interchange at the Abia Tower to end the perpetual traffic gridlock and to achieve a proper dualization of the federal road from the Tower to Amawom Oboro in the first phase. There are many more federal projects that I am working on that are at the initial planning stages, including the building of a federal secretariat in Abia State.
INEC has surrendered independence to hoodlums –Idi Farouk
The violence that occurred during the recent governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa states, sparked outrage across Nigeria and beyond. In this interview, a former Director General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Alhaji Idi Farouk tells ONWUKA NZESHI that the electoral umpire and referee of the political contest should be held liable for these bad elections
How would you describe the state of the nation today?
There is poverty. There is a lot of hunger and it seems as if the government is a little bit slow in rectifying all these problems that people have. There is also insecurity. Although to be fair to the government, I think it is beginning to reduce, but we as Nigerians expect that the reduction is heavier and faster. But generally speaking, I that I will advise the government to be up and doing in all that it does. We need more security and we need improvements in our welfare as citizens. Basically, I rate the government a bit too slow on the path of development of our country.
Indeed, most Nigerians are feeling this pain of hunger in the land. I know this because I have dependants and I am also a dependant in some ways. I think that the government should look at ways and means of taking us out of this quagmire of poverty and hunger.
Today there are only three classes of people in Nigeria – the very rich, the poor and the very poor. What used to be known as the middle class who comprised of citizens who are doing averagely well and relatively comfortable, has vanished from the scene.
What exactly do you want the administration to do that it has not done?
Normally, when an administration is in this kind of situation, people expect it to embark on massive infrastructure development but it appears that the budget is a little bit on the low side in terms of capital expenditure. We need to have an increase in the 2020 budget because when you have a lot of infrastructural development and construction works going on, it has a multiplier effect on the economy. I think that the N250 billion which they said was budgeted for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing is on the low side and cannot produce the kind of impact that is required to move the economy out of the woods and many Nigerians out of poverty.
The 2019 budget came with a lot of deficit which would require the government borrowing money to fill the gaps. Are you comfortable with this situation?
I have no problem with the issue of borrowing as long as what is borrowed is channeled appropriately to specific capital projects. I have no problems with borrowing because even in our everyday life, people borrow when they don’t have enough money to fulfill certain family and business obligations. When you don’t have enough, you can borrow as long as you don’t squander the money on frivolities. So, I don’t join those who think Nigeria should not borrow money to fund our budget. I think we can borrow as long as we ensure the fund is properly utilised.
Indeed, some experts think that Nigeria is not borrowing enough given our population and the size of our economy. I am not an economist but I know that borrowing is not a bad thing.
A typical Nigerian man would proudly announce to you that he built his house without borrowing a dime from anybody but he probably should have borrowed and used other people’s money to build the house and use that personal money for another business.
What’s your view about the recent elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states?
I must say that it was a huge embarrassment because, according to the Police authorities, the number of policemen assigned to those two elections was over 60,000. I am not talking about the other security operatives from the DSS, Civil Defence and even the military that were deployed to these elections. Are you telling me that with such number of security personnel deployed to those two states we still witnessed that unprecedented level of violence?
As far as I am concerned there was no election in Kogi State. Clearly there was no election in Kogi. It was so violent to the extent that even after the so called election, the Woman Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was burnt alive inside her own home. To make matters worse, after many days of the incident, the Police did nothing to investigate the incident and arrest the perpetrators. It took the intervention of the President a few days ago before the police could act. This is unacceptable.
Was there really an election in Kogi? I don’t think there was and I think that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has failed in its responsibility to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
But INEC has absolved itself and blamed the violence during the election on politicians and security agencies. How do you react to this position?
Excuse me. What do they mean by that? About a month ago, I heard the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu say that they got a conviction on an individual who committed an electoral offence in Gombe State. Every election in Nigeria is fraught with a lot of violence and going by what we saw in that last election, some INEC officials are also complicit in the electoral fraud. We saw some of them involved in mass thumb printing of ballot papers and till today, not even one person has been arrested.
The only people that we heard have been arrested are the suspected killers of the PDP Woman Leader in Kogi. But there was shooting all over the place during the so called election. How can the electoral umpire close its eyes to all these things?
You heard the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Adamu admitting that there was violence in Kogi but that it was perpetrated by fake policemen or hoodlums in police uniform. That testimony coming from the top hierarchy of the police is enough reason to cancel the election in the entire state.
For INEC to absolve itself, it should have cancelled the election. How can they blame it on the politicians? If you are watching a football match, don’t you see what referees do? Even when a coach or team manager misbehaves, the referee sends him out of the pitch. Why INEC is called an electoral umpire if it cannot regulate the activities of the politicians and punish those who run foul of the law? INEC is the referee of this game yet it didn’t perform well at all.
You cannot tell me that after all the violence in that election in places like Okene, Okehi and Adavi local government areas, INEC did not only accept results obtained from, it gave it to one party and to the exclusion of the other political parties. It is not right. It doesn’t seem right. Until INEC wakes up to its responsibility, its independence will remain doubtful. As it stands now, INEC’s independence has been taken away from it by political thugs, hooligans, security agencies and the courts.
INEC claims it has been conducting the elections within the limits of the powers conferred on it by the Electoral Act and the Constitution. Don’t you think they are constrained by the laws?
I am happy that you used the word “claims” because it is only an excuse they are giving to dodge their responsibilities. INEC is in charge of our elections and that is why they are called the Election Management Body. It is the electoral umpire and if it feels that the election was fraught with violence, it has the powers to cancel the election. They have done so in very minute cases.
For God’s sake, look at what happened in Kano during the last election, the Deputy Governor of the state and the Chairman of a local government council went into an INEC Collation Centre and tore the result sheets in the full glare of the world. Then INEC said that election was inconclusive and ordered a rerun. So they pick and choose what they want to do and that is not good.
What would you have expected INEC to do in Kano?
I expected them to declare the real results of that election and declare the rightful winner. I also expected them to have ordered the arrest and prosecution of those who tampered with the electoral process.
Do you mean that it is not Abdulahi Ganduje that won that election?
The courts say he has won. Two courts have ruled that he won, so who am I to say he didn’t win the election? I am not challenging the courts, I’m challenging INEC for not being alive to its responsibilities ab initio.
Nigerians have lamented enough about bad elections, what can we do to get out of this quagmire?
Until INEC lives up to the expectations of the citizenry and stops the buck passing we can’t get out of this mess. They blame police, they blame politicians and they refuse to take responsibility. The police is not the one conducting the elections, they are only there to provide security.
When the police and other security agencies fail to provide security during an election, what do you expect INEC to do?
Excuse me, INEC’s responsibility is to conduct free, fair and credible elections at all times. Therefore, if the elections are not free and fair but fraught with violence, if INEC officials are kidnapped and released later and they come with results, INEC has a responsibility to cancel such elections and call for another one. If they have to repeat the elections five times for it to be good, so be it. I think that is the only message that they can send to the political class to make them sit up.
INEC should not be blaming the police who are there on its invitation to help in the conduct of the election. The police are there to arrest ballot box snatchers and other miscreants who may want to disrupt the electoral process. If the police fails to do its job there should be appropriate penalties and not mere blame games. Are you telling me that INEC did not see the evidences of a manipulated electoral process? Are they blind to the facts of what we are seeing during these elections?
Ideally, anywhere there is a gunshot; INEC ought to cancel the election in that place and the election should be repeated. Let us try this measure and see how far we can go but really we cannot continue like this. It is my hope and prayer that the 9th National Assembly passes the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and Mr. President signs it into law.
Beyond cancelling elections in places where violence has taken place, don’t you think that disqualifying candidates who perpetrate violence could be a stronger deterrent?
I don’t think INEC has the powers to disqualify the candidates who have been duly nominated by their political parties. But they have the power to cancel elections and they have shown it in several places. They usually declare some election inconclusive and do a rerun. Is that not how the current Governor of Kogi State emerged? After the death of Abubakar Audu, INEC declared the election inconclusive and ordered a rerun in some locations before they declared a winner.
If INEC could do that, I expect it to take more decisive decisions in order to assert its independence. It has to prove that it has capacity to be independent. As I speak with you now, it’s like the courts are doing more than INEC is in our electoral process.
What about this feeling in INEC that its hands are tied by the laws?
Excuse me. We have enough laws for INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections. I believe they know what to do and have enough powers under the laws to give us credible elections. Are they not the ones that came up with the phenomenon of inconclusive? There was inconclusive in Osun, there was inconclusive in Kano and there was also inconclusive in Kogi even before this last election. What laws were they using? Yes, they require getting the smart card reader as part of the law, but I insist that they have enough laws to conduct free and fair elections because they have the power to stop an election and they have the power to determine when the election would take place. Even when they have fixed a date, they have the power to postpone an election. So what other powers do they require before they give us credible elections.
There are clamours for the amendment of the Electoral Act, do you think this would help INEC?
That the Electoral Act has not been amended again does not remove any powers from INEC. Under the existing laws, INEC has the powers to conduct a proper election and they have been exercising those powers.
Why then are we not having credible elections? Is it a case of compromise?
I don’t want to call it compromise, but it seems to me that a lot of water has gone under the bridge.
What do you think about the role of the Police, Army and other security agencies are playing in our elections?
Look, I really don’t understand. Honestly, I really can’t understand why for one election, you will have 35,000 policemen in one state and yet you find political thugs running riot all over the same state. First, I don’t know how you will convey 35,000 policemen to a state and citizens would not seen the convoys as they move into the state. Then to say that in spite of their presence, people are being killed, people are being maimed and ballot boxes are being snatched. It’s an indictment on the police authorities. Their performance itself has indicted them, nobody else has indicted them.
As for the Nigeria Army, I really don’t know their role in these elections. They shouldn’t even be part of our elections. I want to believe that soldiers are citizens and if they are registered, they should also be voting in their respective polling units during elections. The less we see of them in our elections, the better. They have bigger things to do.
What do you think about the Social Media bill?
Can it be regulated? Why do we need to waste time and energy to what we know we cannot do? Even the various problems we have with other aspects of our lives we have not been able to resolve them. How can we regulate something that is not really in our hands? Are we the ones managing the internet? Really, let us apply our energy and resources to things that will be more meaningful to citizens instead of dissipating energy on hate speech and social media. As long as we don’t own the technology running the internet and we don’t manage what goes on there, I think we are wasting our time.
Moreover, we also have the Cybercrime Act which seeks to do some regulation of what we do on the cyberspace.
Some critics are of the view that these controversial bills are programmed to silence Nigerians and pave way for a third term agenda for President Buhari. Do you share this view?
First of all, Mr. President, himself has said he has no intention to seek a third term because our Constitution does not allow it. I saw him. I heard him. So where is this third term coming from? He said that he will go by the Constitution and I don’t disbelieve him.
Don’t you think that given the character of the current National Assembly, there is a possibility that some of these laws and plots could succeed?
I agree that the National Assembly to advance large extent is working closely with the Executive but even the budget that is before them, you can see that it is not the way that Mr. President submitted it to them that they will pass it. There has to be some changes. So, it is healthy for the nation that the Presidency and the Legislature are working together. As a matter of fact, they should work together. They are not supposed to be at loggerheads but that does not mean that everything Mr. President brings will be passed and every law they pass would be signed into law by Mr. President. The Executive and the Legislature should work in harmony because they are supposed to complement each other.
As part of the budget process, the MDAs have been going to the National Assembly to defend their budgets before the lawmakers. What does that mean? It means that there would be situations where some MDAs might say the money allocated to them is not enough to carry out their functions and if the lawmakers buy that argument they will increase such a budget. So it is not the way the budget was when Mr President submitted it that the National Assembly will pass it. So I think the relationship between both arms is healthy. The shouldn’t be at daggers drawn before we know they are working.
Where do you think our President should come from on 2023?
The President must be a Nigerian. I am not interested in that argument of where he comes from. He could be a Nigerian of Igbo extraction, a Nigerian of Yoruba extraction, a Nigerian of Hausa extraction or a Nigerian of Kanuri extraction. But let us talk about politics properly. I heard that about 60 political parties came together to condemn the violence that marred the last governorship polls. Let us hope and pray that they become one political party so that we have fewer number of political parties to make the political space more manageable. But let us look at the scenario very well. Every party has its area of strength and I want to assure you that no party will go outside its area of strength to present its candidate for the Presidency.
Is there really clear cut areas of strength for our major political parties today?
Surely. They have areas of strength. Look at how the votings were done during the last election. Check out the voting pattern and you will understand what I am talking about. No party worth its salt will go out of its area of strength to present a candidate because it is a competition and there is no party, particularly the two big parties. There is a representation of every Nigerian in each of these parties. This means that in the APC you have the Kanuri, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Nupe and all other tribes inside the party. So in choosing a candidate, the party will go to the area where it is popular. The reason is that APC will be fighting it out against the PDP and this is why they usually wait for the other party to present its candidate during the primaries. Each of them would wait for the other to present its candidate first so that they know from which area he was picked.
So my take on this is that in 2023, 2027, 2031 and so on, we need a Nigerian that has foresight, intellect and can take us out of the woods.
Huge protests ahead of poll as Algeria holds first televised presidential debate
A vast crowd rallied in Algiers on the final Friday before a contentious presidential election as five of the candidates pariticipated in the country’s first ever televised election debate.
It is a crucial time for Algeria after nationwide pro-democracy protests forced ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika out of power in April. But the country’s 9-month-old mass movement believes the presidential poll is a sham and fear it will be rigged in favor of the old regime.
On Friday in central Algiers they chanted “We will not vote” and held aloft banners reading “The people are fed up.”
The army, the major force within the Algerian state, sees the December 12 election of a new president as the only way to restore normality, reports France24.
The leaderless opposition movement casts the election as pointless if the ruling hierarchy, including the army, continues to wield power, and wants it put off until more top officials step aside and the military quits politics.
“We will stick to our position. We don’t care about next Thursday. We need change,” said post office employee Aissa Baha’i, 32.
As the last protesters were still leaving, state television began broadcasting a debate between the five men running for president, all of whom are former senior officials.
Some people were watching in Algiers cafes, though others were showing a soccer match, including some protesters who rejected it as political theatre.
“These candidates are part of the same system. They don’t have new ideas. It’s a shame,” said Mohamed Tabi, a taxi driver.
The first question was about Algeria’s political system, and candidates tried to mollify the opposition.
One candidate, Abdelaziz Belaid, said he would hold a referendum to change the constitution and another, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, said he would grant all the freedoms sought by the protesters.
The debate is the first in an Algerian election, and some people watching in a nearby restaurant said they were interested and were planning to vote.
Farid Hamiti, a state bank employee, said the election was “the only way to stop the situation from getting worse”.
Though the protest movement, which during the spring was regularly bringing hundreds of thousands of people out, has so far been peaceful, there have been signs of growing tensions as the election nears.
Earlier this year the authorities detained dozens of protesters for waving flags with Berber symbols, as they began
to put more pressure on the marches. Many were later sentenced to year-long prison terms for undermining national unity.
Late on Thursday, the security services accused a Berber separatist movement of planning to disrupt the election by using agents provocateurs among the protesters to incite police violence, saying a student in the banned group had confessed.
The government has also arrested several opposition figures and journalists, charging some with attacking army morale.
On Friday state media reported that thousands of people had joined marches in towns in western and eastern provinces in support of next week’s vote.
In recent weeks, opposition protesters have marched more frequently and demonstrated against candidates by hanging bags of garbage in public spaces reserved for electioneering.
Meanwhile, the government has sought to appease protester anger over corruption, arresting dozens of senior officials and former officials and businessmen, many of them associated with Bouteflika, and sentencing some to long prison terms.
‘Obaseki must pacify aggrieved party leaders’
Comrade Emmanuel Owie Aiguobasinmwin is the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State. In this Interview with our correspondent, he spoke on the political feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Excerpts…
With the crisis currently rocking the APC in Edo State, how prepared is your party towards the 2020 gubernatorial election in the state?
The 2020 governorship election in Edo State will be very easy for our party. Though there is little crisis now, notwithstanding, the APC is one family and I do know that, very soon the problem will be over. Edo State for now is an APC state, and it will be very difficult for any of the opposition parties to take over the state from APC.
Are you saying that the crisis won’t have effects on the party, and that the end to the political rift is near?
Yes I make bold to say that the end of this crisis is just at hand. One thing I want the leaders of our party to know is that crisis is not good for anything, especially now that the governorship election is around the corner. They should remember that when PDP lost the federal seat to APC, it was because of internal crisis. When they lost the state to APC during the era of prof. Osunbor it was also as a result of crisis. I want to use this medium to call on all the aggrieved people in the party to swallow their pride and ego in the interest of the party. We cannot afford to make mistakes that will give opposition party the chance of taking over the state.
Is this just a problem between Obaseki and Oshiomhole? Or are there other party leaders to be blamed for it?
Actually the issue is not between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, in fact, I must tell you that there are people who are benefitting from this crisis and they are praying for it not to end because of their greedy nature. Just like what President Muhammadu Buhari said about Edo State crisis, he said that it would soon be over, that if Oshiomhole can settle other states’, he can also find solutions to the problems in his state. For now, nobody is interested in who is responsible for it or who is to be blamed for it. What we are begging for now is having the issues settled so that we can forge ahead. There is no more time, before you know it, we are in 2020.
How will you settle the issue of those disobeying the party’s constitution?
As far as I’m concern, nobody is bigger that the party’s constitution, the party’s supremacy should be followed. The NWC is the highest organ in the party, whatever it decides is the final. I will never be in support of anyone who flouts the party’s constitution. Those in power now should know that people brought their money together to form this party, and there are political leaders that determine what happens in the party. You do not run government like a bank, people call you to come and serve, and it is compulsory for you to listen to them.
Do you think Edo South voters will abandon Obaseki to follow Oshiomhole when the chips are down?
No, we are not talking about any individual now, the party must come first. It is after the party primaries that we can mention names, and then we can now be talking about the electorate. For instance, in Kogi State, Yahaya Bello did not offend the party, but he offended the people, and when it was decision time, the party said it wanted him back and he got the supports of the powers that be and he won for the second term.
Now that Edo South is divided, who does Governor Obaseki banks on for support?
My only advice for our governor is to call prominent men in the state to go and talk with Oshiomhole, it is not too late to meet him. It was Oshiomhole that did everything to ensure that Obaseki was made the governor. Yes, Edo South is divided, if he is not able to put his house in order before the primaries, only God knows what will happen. Our governor should not be deceived, Oshiomhole has total control of Edo North and part of Edo South, and this is where the problem lies.
I will also advice him to stop all these sackings and termination of appointments; he is making the people lose trust in his administration. The election is coming; this is not the time to fire people. It is not a good omen for us in the party.
What is your take on the return of Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu to APC; does he pose any threat to other aspirants?
Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu’s coming back to APC is highly appreciated by his friends and political allies. He is one of the founding fathers of the party, nobody knows why he decided to come back and so, I am not in a position to speak on it. But I do know that anybody the paryt brings forward as the candidate will be supported by all.
Should Obaseki fail to get the 2020 ticket, don’t you think that he is likely to dump the APC for another party?
Obaseki cannot do that. If God forbids that he gets the ticket, he will not leave the party, he has tried his best. If that happens, he will go back to his business. Politicians who jump from one political party to another are not serious people; you should be able to stand with your party, whether good or bad.
You said Obaseki should take some leaders to see Oshiomhole. Are you indirectly advising that Obaseki and Shaibu should go and beg Oshiomhole?
Begging Oshiomhole is not the issue, nobody owns the party. Oshiomhole came as a father to work for you so that you can take over from him, he made you governor, so it is expected that you respect him too. Elders went to Oshiomhole to complain that you are not carrying politicians along, and that you are not doing things according to the laws of the party. As a governor that rose on the platform of the party, he should do the needful, give political party leaders their due respect and patronage. Oshiomhole was good to all, and that is why you see that people are ready to die for him. So I expect our dynamic governor to do the same, so that he can have easy ride in 2020.
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