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The Yoruba Agenda Of Reconstruction

In this piece, KUNLE ODEREMI situates the ongoing attempts by Yoruba leaders to reconstruct the South-West against the lingering memories of similar attempts in the past.

RECENTLY,prominent Igbo sons and daughters converged on the former capital of the defunct Eastern Region to chart a new beginning for the Igbo nation. The meeting drew serving top government functionaries at both federal and state levels, as well as professionals from different callings, including retired top military brass of the Igbo extraction. The leaders rose above political divides and other narrow cleavages to brainstorm and agree on how to place the Igbo on a better pedestal in the Nigerian federation.

A similar agenda of re-engineering appears to have been rejuvenated in the South-West, the base of another major ethnic group in the country, the Yoruba. The only difference is that the reconstruction agenda appears being carried out at two different fronts. Though the two groups have not proclaimed so, it is apparent that their ultimate goal is to articulate, promote, defend and actualise the true and authentic demand or agenda of the Yoruba within the ambience of the Nigerian federation.

Either by design or accident, the leaders of the groups at separate events spent part of last week trying to situate the position of the race within the context of contemporary realities in the country. Some elder statesmen from the South-West, led by Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, along with their counterparts from the South-South with Chief Edwin Clark as their leader, were at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to table what they called their stand on the precarious state of the Nigerian federation and the way out before President Goodluck Jonathan. In specific terms, the Yoruba leaders, for the umpteenth time, harped on the necessity of a sovereign national conference, true federalism, fiscal federalism, regional system of government and a new political arrangement that could save the country from seamless instability.

All the afore-mentioned issues constitute the Yoruba agenda and formed the National Question, popularised by late president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun, during the military era.

As the leaders were submitting the agenda to the president, another group of Yoruba leaders converged on Ibadan, the political headquarters of the race, apparently trying to complement the renewed attempts by the Yoruba to reclaim their enviable position among other constituent units that make up the federation. Tagged Achieving Regional Integration Agenda for Rapid Growth, the event also attracted representatives from Kogi, Edo and Delta states because of cultural affinity. In the opinion of a few observers, the presence of the president of the Yoruba Elders Council (YCE), Major General Adeyinka Adebayo, at the summit was instructive, as it meant the organisers were desirous of building bridges across all possible barriers since the overall objective of the ongoing exercise was forging unity among the people, which is a sine qua non for general economic recovery and development.

The issues, which engaged the leaders through three days of the Ibadan summit centred on reinventing Yorubaland for prosperity, hence, their communiqué stated how to go about the new agenda. The communiqué read in part: •Given the glaring failure of Nigeria’s present federal arrangement, regional cooperation, collaboration and integration offer the best approach to saving Nigeria, and delivering development and prosperity to Nigerian citizens; •That regional integration is not to break up Nigeria. It is rather to renew the Nigerian federation and deliver its capacity to deliver the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians, in the six geo-political zones. Simply put, it is regional growth as a strategy for national integration;

•That regional integration is erected on the pillars of true and fiscal federalism, aimed at weaning Nigeria from centralised sharing of resources, which has created mass poverty; to regional creation of wealth, which has the capacity to create mass prosperity;

•That regional integration is all about a new Constitution, to reorder Nigeria’s malfunctioning federal system. The National Assembly cannot give us a new Constitution. That is the job for a Constituent Assembly, thereafter subject to referendum or plebiscite. But it should facilitate the process by passing a bill for the setting up of a Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution, which product would be subject to a simple referendum of yes or no.

•It advocated a South-West Consultative Assembly, made up of legislators from the zone and their members in the National Assembly to serve as clearing house; that members in the National Assembly sell the idea of regional federalism, regional police; •To promote core competence and comparative advantage. It will encourage regional investment in research, innovation, access to land and training of young farmers; and collapse their state universities into one regional university to maximise regional advantage, enhance capacity and quality.

It is apparent that the two groups of leaders are pursuing a similar goal, but employing slightly different strategies and approaches. One camp appears to be exploring the fact that it has got access to the centre, which it could use to convey the genuine agitation and desires of the race to the authority at the highest level of government in the land. On the other hand, the second group is exploring the possibility of its control of the political space of the region to see if it could recreate what many of the leaders at the summit consistently regarded as the glorious era, unrivalled record of service and legacy of equity and transparency of the administration of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the defunct Western Region as its premier. They recalled how he was able to transform the fortunes of the people through vision, self-reliance and prudence. The views of a former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande; a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, and the Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, provided the basis for the project of reconstruction in Yorubaland. The latter believed that both unity and development dovetailed, hence his advocacy for proper integration in Yoruba land.

Ajumobi said, “Is it not possible that we take advantage of proximity, size and teeming population to establish a cheap and seamless communication service in this era of expensive calls that keep dropping? Can’t we integrate our air travel system in a way that many of our airports that are condemned as unprofitable can be profitably used for the benefit of our people and drive our economy better and efficiently?”

On his part, Akande reechoed the part of the salient messages of those Yoruba leaders that went to Aso Rock that the country needed a constitution that would reflect the true agitation of the ethnic groups that make up the federation.

“In our days, we saw the good things, but I don’t know what is left for the present and future generation. We need integration to move forward. We need a circular rail system. Nigerian constitution is a code of impediments that does not allow those who want to move forward to move forward. You should look at this in your deliberations,” he stated. While eulogising the Awolowo era, Osoba credited the sage with laying a proper foundation for the zone, advising the stakeholders to work for its economic growth to lift its standard of living.

He was unhappy with the present unitary structure and strongly canvassed what he called the option of regionalism as advocated by Awo.

Osoba said: “In the First Republic, there was true federalism and extant laws did not prevent the development of the regions. Legislators should come up with laws in aid of the agenda. At the federal level, our legislators must lobby their colleagues for the review of extant laws that prevent regional initiative. Our legislators must know that without integration, there will be no development in the long run.”

The ongoing drive to save the South-West from the dilemma occasioned by unhealthy political activities and mutual suspicion and the attendant woes is not new. Several similar attempts at uniting the people have been made in the last 17 years. The crisis engendered by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by late businessman, Chief MKO Abiola, had served as a catalyst for one of such initiatives. A number of the leaders had on August 23, 1993 converged on the Green Springs Hotel, Ibadan, for the first Pan-Yoruba National Congress to critically examine the predicament of the race with a view to “evolving an appropriate response in the interest of participatory democracy and well-being of the people.”

The second edition of the congress was held at the Premier Hotel, also in Ibadan, in August 1994, where the leaders took one of the controversial stands that all Yoruba ministers in the Abacha administration were asked “to resign immediately from their various positions.” Then came the third congress in August 1998, about two months after General Abdulsalami Abubakar became Head of State following General Sani Abacha’s sudden death, where the leaders “paid glowing tributes to leading lights of the Yoruba nation, who stood up against the evil regime.” They also called on all Yoruba to “fight for the principles of June 12, which are power shift, national restructuring, using derivation as the highest principle in revenue sharing, justice and democracy.” But more fundamentally, the leaders decried “the erosion of federalism and demanded that the country should be restructured into zones of administration under a true federation with each state having their own police, military commands and security agencies headed by indigenes.” One of the key points arrived at by the leaders was that their kinsmen in Kwara and Kogi states should be merged with the South-West ostensibly in consonant with their age-long desire.

The project of uniting the Yoruba peaked on September 27, 2000 when the leaders again met at the Cultural Centre, Ibadan, for the fifth congress, with the theme Yoruba Nation: Agenda for Reconstruction and Development. It was a historic gathering as it attracted Yoruba from the Diaspora as well as most of the mass-based organisations championing the cause of the race from the nooks and crannies of Yorubaland. The significance of the congress was underscored by the quality of debates, discussions, submissions and resolutions reached at the congress. To prove that they meant business, the leaders set up a number of high-powered committees to actualise most of the key decisions reached at the congress under a mega project code-named, Oodua Development Council (ODC). Although some of the eminent persons that were named into the committees are no longer alive, a lot of them have remained a pride to the Yoruba race for distinguishing themselves in their different professional callings.

Late constitution lawyer, Chief Rotimi Williams, was named as the Chairman of the 46-member Boundary Dispute/Communal Clashes Judicial Commission, which comprised other eminent jurists like Justice Kayode Eso, late Dr Akinola Aguda, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), late Chief T.O.S. Benson, Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, Ambassador Dapo Fafowora, Justice Bola Babalakin, Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and Alhaji Femi Okunnu.

The membership of the security commission included Lieutenant-General Alani Akinrinade; the present governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi; the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Fredrick Fasehun; Major-General Leo Ajiborisha, Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson, Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi, Major-General Ishola Williams, among others.

Professor Bolaji Akinyemi topped the list of 15-member commission on international relations, which also included Professor Gabriel Olusanya; the Second Republic governor of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo and Ambassador Deinde Fernandez. For the agriculture commission, Professor Ajibola Taylor of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Professor Wale Omole and Professor G. Makanjuola were among members of the team, while a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), Professor Ade Ajayi; Professor Bolanle Awe, Professor Jadesola Akande, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi; the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (SCIA), Dr Lateef Adegbite, made the list of a 41-member commission on education/social values. The Health Commission comprised Professor Julius Babalola Familusi, Dr Abayomi Finnih, Dr. Kunle Olajide, Dr Ore Falomo, Professor Olu Akinkugbe, just to name a few of the 48-member commission. There were other commissions on sports and tourism, as well as language, arts and culture and the last but not the least, media and information/technology.

Almost 12 years after those pragmatic steps were embarked upon by the leaders, the Yoruba have gone back to the drawing board in a desperate attempt to chart a new beginning and direction. The steam, which characterised the setting up of those commissions has disappeared, as none of the overall fundamental aims and objectives was achieved. Neither has the race been able to hold a sixth congress, ostensibly with the aim of consolidating the gains of previous congresses and appraising the success or workability or otherwise of strategies employed to implement those germane resolutions.

The question is how far can the current efforts of the leaders who appear to be operating along a parallel line go? Will the promoters rise above primordial interest to build a consensus and unity capable of pursuing the twin-agenda of real integration and construction of Yoruba land?

It’s an illegal poll, says ANPP candidate

The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate for the Cross River governorship election, Mr. Patrick Okomiso, has declared that it is illegal for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the election today.

Okimiso, who spoke in Abuja, said that INEC’s decision to bring forward the election after the Supreme Court sacked five governors from office last month is contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act as amended and the 1999 Constitution.

Bringing the date forward to 25th February, he said, means that candidates were not given the mandatory minimum of 60 days to campaign for the elections as provided in the Act.

He also warned that all indications have shown that INEC is bent on rigging the election in favour of the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.

He said: “Do you know that up to this point in time INEC has not written any political party to give them the new election timetable? INEC officials released a press statement saying election date has been fixed for February 25.

“They are supposed to release the timetable for candidates to campaign, get voters register for the candidates to know the number of voters and where they should go and campaign.”

According to him, his party conducted its primaries on February 10, 2012 and submitted the name of its candidates to INEC on February 10. “If INEC goes ahead to conduct the election on February 25, the implication is that they have barely 15 days to campaign, contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act.”

Stressing that the outcome of the election will be rejected by him and the ANPP, he said: “If Jega has decided to rubbish his good name and hopes to rig the election for the PDP, we should know. Otherwise, Haram should be added to his name.

‘’This is totally unbelievable. Why would you rig election for a political party? Why should you shift the goal post in the middle of the game?”

He also faulted Section 130 of the Act, which INEC relied on to bring the election forward, saying: “INEC responded quoting Section 130 of the Act. But that section only applies in the event that a governor and his deputy die and there is no state House of Assembly and INEC has to organise election as quickly as possible to enable the gap to be filled.

“But this is not the situation in Cross River State. There is no gap since we have the Speaker who is already the Acting Governor of the state.’’

PDP Chair: Babayo Unfolds Agenda

Acting National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Musa Babayo, has released his three point agenda to reform the party if elected at the national convention of the PDP slated for March 24.

In an interview with THISDAY Babayo who referred his reform agenda as the ‘3R’, said that he was out to rebuild, redirect and reconnect the party, having worked as an insider in party since 2008. “We have to strive to build a better party, get it right internally and our image will soar as a natural and logical consequence. The vitalising reason and principle that under grids the need to rebuild is a liberating acknowledgement that things have not been as good as they ought to be and there is therefore an urgent need to make necessary adjustment to improve on the status quo,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Northern youths, the Joint Arewa Youth Coalition (JAYC) has endorsed the aspiration of frontline politician and businessman, Mr. Gambo Lawan, for the chairmanship position of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). National Secretary of JAYC, Mohammed Abdullahi, while addressing a news conference in Kaduna Sunday, said: “We have come out openly to endorse the aspiration of this former Chairman of defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) because we strongly believe that he is the most qualified person to move PDP to greater heights.”

Sokoto: ANPP Kicks as Wamakko Wins

Former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is back to his seat following his victory in last Saturday's governorship election.

But the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the governorship election, saying the process was marred by irregularities and ballot box stuffing. According to the official results, Wamakko polled 518,247 votes to defeat the ANPP candidate, Alhaji Yushau Ahmed Muhammad, who scored 131,048 votes. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu Yabo, who came third, scored 7,323 votes, while the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate, Senator Illa Gada, polled 4,056. Wamakko recorded 71.8 per cent of the total votes cast and also won in all the 23 local government areas of the state. The ANPP and CPC candidates were defeated by Wamakko in their local government councils. The total number of votes cast was 728,108, with 684,490 valid votes and 43,618 voided. Declaring the results at Sultan Muhammad Maccido Institute of Quranic and General Studies last night, Chief Returning Officer, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, described the election as “transparent and credible”. “Based on the powers vested in me and having satisfied the requirements of the law, I hereby declare Wamakko as the duly elected governor of Sokoto State,” he said. Congratulating the governor-elect, President Goodluck Jonathan said Wamakko's victory was a demonstration of faith in the PDP for the governor-elect’s sterling performance in his first term and charged him to use his second tenure to further positively impact on the lives of the electorate. In a statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said: “The President urges Alhaji Wamakko to seize the opportunity of the fresh four-year mandate which he has been given by the people of Sokoto State to continue the very laudable development programmes, especially the popular rural development schemes that were initiated during his first term which have had a very positive impact on the populace.

"President Jonathan prays that God Almighty will grant Alhaji Wamakko another successful term of office in the service of the people of Sokoto State and the nation". Speaking to THISDAY shortly after the result was declared, the PDP State Secretary, Alhaji Aminu Bello, described Wamakko's victory as “well deserved”. He attributed the victory to the giant strides recorded by Wamakko in the last five years. Meanwhile, hundreds of ANPP supporters Sunday protested the conduct of the election, saying the process was marred by irregularities and ballot box stuffing. The irate youths, who staged a protest along Maiduguri road, also decried the intimidation of voters by alleged PDP thugs during the election. They described the poll as a sham and an act of injustice meted out to the opposition in the state. The state chapter of ANPP called on INEC to cancel the election. The party also rejected in its totality the result that might have been declared by INEC. Addressing journalists in Sokoto, the ANPP governorship candidate, Muhammad, maintained that the party rejected the election because the process lacked credibility and was not transparent. "The ANPP has rejected in its entirety whatever results that would be declared by INEC because the whole process was faulty," Muhammad said. “The voting process in over half of the polling units in the state was marred by violence and ballot stuffing while less than 10 per cent of voters participated in the election," he added.

He accused the Police Commissioner, Alhaji Baba Adisa Bolanta, of conniving with the PDP by allowing thugs to move around, despite the restriction order on movements. The ANPP candidate pointed out that armed PDP youths were moving around harassing people at the polling units and also carted away ballot boxes in many councils. He further alleged that government officials were moving from one place to another, despite the restriction on movements by the police. He claimed that some ANPP agents were kidnapped in some areas, while 18 agents were injured in Illela council and were currently receiving treatment at Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto. He further said ANPP agents in Illela and Gada Local Government Areas were arrested and detained by the police and subsequently sent back to Sokoto metropolis during the election. “We are calling on INEC to, as a matter of urgency, cancel the election and if it refused to do so, we will decide on the next action to take,” Muhammad added.

Scores of LP, PDP members join Ondo ACN

MORE than 1,000 members of the ruling Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Irele and Akoko Northeast in Ondo State yesterday defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)

Among the defectors are members of three prominent groups, including 75 PDP women leaders, 40 youths from the Sunshine Liberation Forum (SLF) and Gboroye Women in Politics. The Gboroye women were led by Mrs. Florence Ige Adekanle. They pledged allegiance to the ACN.

They hosted Mr. Saka Lawal, who visited Irele Local Government Segun Area, in the South Senatorial District. Lawal was a former adviser to Governor Segun Mimiko on Planning and Strategy. State party Chairman Mr. Olu Obajulaye said the former LP leaders in the council are excited by the massive mobilisation embarked upon by Lawal, since he joined the ACN a few weeks ago. According to him, the popularity of the ACN chieftain has endeared people from different political parties into the foremost progressive party. Addressing the crowd, Lawal urged them to adopt four main principles in tackling the challenges ahead.

He said: “First, you must pray and commit every of your desires into God’s hand as the battle is the Lord’s. Secondly, you must have faith that the ACN will be victorious. Thirdly, you must not harbour any fear. Finally, you must embark on a massive mobilisation, irrespective of political parties.” In Akoko Northeast, leaders of the LP, including the coordinator of Iroko 2013 platform in Orun Ward 1, Pastor Tunde Akinola, defected to the ACN. Other defectors include: LP executive members Emmanuel Ayodele, Samuel Obanla, Kehinde Ojuolape and Abusioluwa Aliu, Layi Adalumo, Orimolade Dare (also known as Danda), Obawolu Saibu, Stephen Ajayi (also known as Olowoise), Ayo Afolabi, Sunday Omotoyinbo, Tinu Olanipekun, Olu Ajigeloye, Alhaji Agba Olookoba, Mrs. Ileola Sumisola Gold, Mrs. Obayan Asimi, Kolade Stephen, Fatai Ogundele (also known as 1010) and Mrs. Oluwemimo Adura.

How Dickson emerged Bayelsa governor

The February 11 governorship election in Bayelsa State was monitored by BISI OLANIYI and ISAAC OMBE. Their report is revealing.

UNTIL the last minute, there were fears that the Bayelsa State governorship election would not hold. It held in all the eight local government areas of President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state. It was an anti-clamix, after all. The result declared by Prof Joseph Ajienka, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port-Harcourt, who was the returning officer showed that it was a no-contest as the People Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) candidate, Hon. Seriake Dickson, won handsomely. He polled 417,500 votes to beat his closest rival, Dr Imoro Kubor of the Change Advocacy Party (CAP) with 22,534 votes. The election was described by a cross-section of Bayelsans as the most peaceful in the history of the state, created out of the old Rivers state on October 1, 1996, by the regime of late General Sani Abacha.

Friday’s ruling of the Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, which declined to stop Bayelsa governorship election, led to excitement and celebrations among the electorate, with March 15, 2011 fixed for hearing in the suit filed by the African Renaissance Party (ALP) and its governorship candidate, Dumbo Hink. Still pending is the contention by the African Liberation Party (ALP) that it was wrongfully excluded. This remains a threat to the authenticity of the election, even after the result has been declared. The President, who was accompanied by his wife, Dame Patience and his mother, Madam Eunice, and other stakeholders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was accredited at 10:05 am at his Unit 39 Otuabule, Ward 13 and voted at 12:45 pm. The President described the election as not only peaceful, but orderly and fair, maintaining that what the people saw in Otuoke was the general picture across Bayelsa state. He said: “You know that in Bayelsa state, there were some kind of challenges as to who the candidates are, and who is not the candidate up till yesterday (Friday). Bayelsans were confused as to whether election would go on or not. But I’m a senior PDP member and I’m hopeful that Dickson will win.” Thirty six governorship candidates participated in the election, involving 630,000 registered voters across the 105 wards of the state’s eight LGAs, leading to the deployment of 15,000 security agents, with 10,000 of them being policemen. On his expectation, President Jonathan said as a PDP member, he expected the party’s candidate, Henry Seriake Dickson, to emerge victorious and to execute development projects across the state.

A prominent Bayelsan, Brig.-Gen. Maxwell Appah (rtd.), at his Kaiama hometown, the headquarters of Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA of Bayelsa state, described the election as the most peaceful. An indigene of Sabagrea in Kolokuma/Opokuma council, Rear Admiral Geoffrey Yanga (rtd.) and Major-General Olotu Appah (rtd.) also described the governorship election as peaceful and orderly, with electoral materials arriving very early, across the state. Dickson, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Sagbama/Ekeremor constituency and also a former Bayelsa Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, when President Jonathan was the state’s governor, eventually emerged as the winner. The results from the eight LGAs were announced by the Chief Returning Officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Joseph Ajienka, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), with Dickson winning with a wide margin. The standard bearer of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Kemela Okara, earlier expressed optimism of emerging victorious at the poll, but could not be realised. ACN’s governorship candidadte, who spoke after voting at his Bomoundi hometown in Yenagoa LGA, stated that he had confidence in INEC and the security apparatus, but with the loss, he might not be able to vouch for them and might be contemplating filing petition at the tribunal. Okara added that cases against conduct of the election and electoral matters, would always add to the beauty of democracy. Dickson voted at his coastal Tolu-Orua community in Sagbama LGA and later in an interview, expressed optimism of winning the election, considering the efforts put in place by members of his restoration team, promising to congratulate the winner.

The PDP’s standard bearer was also delighted about the orderliness and peaceful nature of the election, while assuring Bayelsans that if he emerged winner, he would restore the state’s lost glory.

Bayelsa’s Acting Governor, Chief Nestor Binabo, after voting at Okumbiri in Sagbama Local Government Area, enjoined Bayelsans to see themselves as an integral part of the democratic process, imbibe its core values and propagate them to the larger society. The Chairman of Dickson’s Campaign Caucus, Timi Alaibe, after accreditation at his Opokuma hometown in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, expressed optimism that the election would be hitch-free. “We hope that the results will come out fine. I am participating fully and I am optimistic that PDP’s candidate will win the election. The court cases are wasted efforts. Let us come together to move Bayelsa State forward. We need to end poverty in Bayelsa. There is also need for infrastructural development.” The people of Bayelsa state, especially the electorate, who registered in their various communities, mostly riverine, were seen in Yenagoa, the state capital on Friday, travelling to exercise their franchise, since three quarters of the state is water.

For the first time in a long while, there was huge traffic on Yenagoa’s roads on Friday, as election observers were moving into the state capital, deployed security personnel and INEC officials travelling to their stations/locations, as well as the electorate relocating to vote, with hotels in the state capital fully booked. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC, Edwin Nwatarali, maintained that the election was free, fair and credible, while describing the turnout as “highly impressive.” At Unit 13 Foubiri, Ward 5 of Ebedebiri in Sagbama LGA, the Presiding Officer, Ozukwe Eze, who is a youth corps member, described the election as peaceful, just as it was throughout the state. The Commissioner of Police, Chris Olakpe; state Director of SSS, Andrew Iorkyar and their personnel, as well as operatives of the Joint task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo (Oil) Shield, formerly Operation Restore Hope, had little jobs to do during the election, in view of the prevailing peace. The former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva; his wife Alanyingi and most of their aides were not seen during the election, with reports suggesting that he had moved out of the country. The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre, along Azikoro Road, Yenagoa was initially designated as collation centre, with the Outside Broadcast (OB) vans of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on standby. In view of security scare, on Sunday morning, the collation was shifted to the Commission’s headquarters along Road Safety Way, amid very tight security by personnel of the police, SSS and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, with Armoured Personnel Carriers also deployed and the busy road closed to traffic. A speed boat hired by INEC and conveying youth corps members, policemen, soldiers, party agents and electoral materials to Apoi/Bassan/Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state, capsized on Saturday, but there was no casualty, election could therefore not hold in the area. The sensitive electoral materials, including ballot papers, that were lost when the boat capsized, were for Units 18 to 35 of Ward 15, Apoi, with the boat conveying seven corps members as ad hoc staff of INEC, one Supervisory Presiding Officer (SPO), two soldiers, three policemen, two agents of political parties and the boat driver.

One of the youth corps members, who declined to give his name, based on warning against it by the authorities of the NYSC in Bayelsa state, told The Nation in an interview in Yenagoa on Sunday that the passengers lost all their personal effects, including their phones, but expressed gratitude to God for being alive. The corps member said he left Yenagoa for Oporoma, the headquarters of Southern Ijaw LGA around 2 pm on Friday, with INEC officials moving them Ikubiri in the same LGA, where they passed the night in a terrible place, with the journey to Apoi starting around 11 am on Saturday, over delay in sharing the electoral materials. Public Relations Officer of INEC in Bayelsa state, Timidi Wariowei, in a telephone interview on Sunday, noted that not holding election in the area, over the loss of the electoral materials, would not affect the results of the poll, saying it was just part of a ward, out of the state’s 105 wards.

One of the governorship aspirants of the PDP, Ben Murray-Bruce, who is also a former Director-General of the NTA, described Dickson’s emergence as the party’s standard bearer as coronation, based on his preference by President Jonathan, in spite of the court cases by Sylva and others. Dickson has won, awaiting the inauguration of his government at press time. However, the crisis that has engulfed the state is all but over. Sylva remains implaceable, some of his supporters, including Dickson’s colleagues in the National Assembly refused to join their party’s campaign train. TheARP and ALP are still pursuing their cases. Would this, like the 2007 pool be nullified? Does President Jonathan, Dickson’s godfather, have the muscle to suppress internal revolt. The picture remains cloudy.

MDAs should implement House resolutions’

What would you say are the challenges confronting your committee?

The major challenge is compliance, especially by the MDAs. In most cases, we have people writing to their Honourable member from the constituency on challenges facing them, whether they have been cheated or sacked or wronged in one way or the other. The house provided a mechanism that members of the public who cannot afford to go to court can approach it to intervene. In most cases, what we do is to provide a clear playing ground between the complainant and those they complained about. In most cases, the two parties are given opportunity to resolve the issue and the committee on public petitions then presents the report of such matters before the House. How effective has this been? What we discovered along the line is that most organisations ignore the directives of the House. That is why we have this committee which came into being in2007. Again, the executive feels that they don’t owe any explanation to the parliament and you see them telling you that it is the president that appointed them, that they report to him. We always say that They were appointed but we were elected. It is important that those in the executive don’t look down on those in the parliament, especially when you look at the way we get to the point of decision making. We have to go through the committee, and the committee will have to come and defend itself at the plenary session. So, that is our primary major challenge.

I can recall the issue of Fiscal Responsibility Commission, after the bill was passed into law by former president Obasanjo, it took about three years because the Executive was not too eager to establish that commission. It was this committee that practically forced the Executive to set up the commission. They appointed the Board, but no office. And then we made sure that it became a story we are proud of today - that the committee existed. If a ministry or agency refuses to comply with the resolution of the House, what can it do?

Well, we will try as much as possible to make them align with the resolutions from the House. And that is one of the reasons why a motion before the House on compliance was recently passed. Aand that motion advised that each MDA should establish a legislative compliance desk. We are partners in progress. We are not really dictatorial because this is democracy, but what we will always do is to stand by the people. If as an organisation because you do not like somebody, you sack that person without following due process and we look into it and discover what you did was wrong in law and we advised you accordingly and you refuse it, that means the leadership of the Assembly will come into the matter and make sure that it is enforced because everybody is important and nobody should be left behind. How relevant has it been to the ordinary people? In some cases where we have time gap, at times, we advise that they settle amicably, pay the petitioners off and let them go instead of sack. But if you as a director and you don’t like somebody and you just sack, we will come in. We also look into the issue of private organisations. Another issue before us is the former Afri Bank which is now Mainstreet Bank that .sacked virtually all the union members. That was about 10 years ago and up till now, they did not reinstate all of them as directed by the House as far back as 2003 . And any time from now, we are opening up the matter again so that it can be resolved. It is not about force but persuasion. Yet resolutions are meant to be considered because they are well thought out. If you as an organisation refuse to abide with our resolution that affects you, then we will take you as being hostile to the Nigerian parliament. Recently on January 8, at the Sunday emergency session, the House directed the federal government to revert the petrol pump price to N65, but the presidency said it was just an opinion, what do you think this portends?

First of all, if I look at it from their own argument, they will tell you it is a policy matter which is true. But any policy that will materially affect the people of this country concerns the National Assembly. And coming from the statement of the spokesman, it shows that we still have a long way to go. Because for instance ,we have a lot of powers in our hands, you have brought a budget and you intend to fund it with removal of subsidy, the House advised on a way to fund the budget without removing the subsidy. I would have preferred him to keep quiet instead of making such inflammatory statements. It does not help the presidency and it will even have a negative effect on the good image of the presidency.

What we are trying to do is just to resolve the matter and as we resolve the matter, we let the executive know that N140 will materially affect the life of our people negatively. You have inherited a herculean task, heading a committee largely seen as not fully working and lacking in the power of enforcement. What is your plan as the chairman to turn around the committee? I will not agree that it has not been working, it is the position of the executive that will change. And don’t forget that most of the work done by the committee are done behind closed doors. If we resolve a matter amicably, do you have to go to the press? If we call upon you and you explain your situation and we resolve it between the two parties making sure that you comply, we don’t have to go to the press. It is only when we have bigger challenges that you can say what are they doing? We also visit sites. For instance, when the Federal Ministry of works refused to comply with the directives on the rehabilitation of overhead bridge in Ilasamaja in Lagos, we were there to see the level of compliance. So, the committee has always been working, but our approach will be very different this period in the sense that we intend to make the house resolution to be respected by all - and that is our focus. Why should the MDAs have legislative compliance desk? It is our advice to the MDAs so that it will make our job easier. Now, if you have a legislative compliance desk in your agency, those are the people we contact that will interface between us and the management. And in most cases, the head of the organisations always claim that they are not aware of our resolutions.

1999 Constitution is outdated, says Abayomi

Human rights activist Dr. Tunji Abayomi has said that the flawed 1999 Constitution is outdated, stressing that it came into force, following the promulgation of Decree 24 of 1999 by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. He spoke in Lagos at the meeting of the National Action Coalition (NACO) chaired by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. Abayomi, who is contesting the governorship in Ondo State on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), said what is required is a peoples’ constitution to replace the flawed document. He stressed: “1999 Constitution is a military constitution foisted on the country in a hurry by the military regime. From legal and legitimacy point of view, the constitution is problematic. We need a peoples’ constitution. People must come together to determine the terms of relationship. The man who is removing subsidy is a product of the poisonous constitution”.

Abayomi said, since the foundation of this dispensation was laid on a false premise, it could only wobble on in decay. Urging the ethnic nationalities to unite for a Sovereign National Conference, he maintained that a national debate is germane to the future existence of the country. He added: “It is not government that gives a constitution to the people. It is the constitution made by the people that gives birth to a legitimate government. It is not the constitution that validates itself, but the process of making it”.

Abayomi reviewed the state of the nation, contending that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government has wrecked havoc on the country. He stressed: “There is no good school, no good hospital, no good road. India is now the citadel of our healthcare. People are dying of hunger. There is poverty of ideas, mind, resources, governance, and environment. “Soyinka said this is a wasted generation. I am now over 60. My generation has been consumed by that wastage”. At the meeting were the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, foremost legal scholar Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN), Prof. Akin Oyebode, Prof. Pat Utomi, Mrs. Amara Nwosu, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Ife Oyedele, Dr. Lakin Akintola, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, and Collins Eselanwo

Attah, Ibru call for national conference

Former Governors Victor Attah (Cross River State) and Felix Ibru (Delta) have called for true federalism and convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to discuss the terms of future co-existence among the ethnic nationalities.

They spoke in Lagos at the two-day National Summit held at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja.

Attah listed the challenges confronting the country. They include lack of true federalism, corruption, and structural distortions in the constitution, which has made true federalism impossible. He added: “Until we affirm the sanctity of the ballot box, there will be no accountability and democracy. if there is no justice, true federalism, then, Nigeria may break up into pieces”.

Ibru said: “I stand for a national conference. The set up we have is a problem, but more problematic is the type of people operating it. Only the right people can operate a right system. We are nostalgic about the old order. How would our forefathers react to corruption, kidnapping and murders which we witness now? We need to talk at the national conference”. Also, at the summit, founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Fredrick Fasehun, said: “The powers that be are opposed to the Sovereign National Conference. But Nigeria will not break down because of national conference. We are thinking about institutionalising social justice. Without it, there will be no stability”.

Governorship aspirant unfolds plans

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant in Ondo State Mr. Moyosola Niran-Oladunni has begun mobilisation for the actualisation of his ambition across the three senatorial districts.

Unfolding his plans for the state, he said his administration would fight the infrastructure battle, if elected governor in November. Niran-Oladunni told reporters in Lagos that his party, PDP, is still strong in the state, in spite of its past electoral misfortune, assuring that it would bounce back during the next election.

He spoke on the existing unofficial zoning formula, which he pointed out, has underscore politics in Ondo State since the Second Republic. He said, as a party devoted to internal democracy and principle, PDP would not jettison the method. Niran-Oladunni said: “There are three senatorial districts. Ajasin and Adefarati are from the north, Agagu is from the south, and Mimiko is from the central. It is important to sustain this formula for the purpose of justice, fairness and equity.”

MEND, Boko Haram put Nigeria on edge

Nigeria appears to be right now in a very deep se-curity mess. Even those who felt the security issues that largely defined the last year would fizzle out in 2012 are beginning to have a second thought. As the Boko Haram sect intensifies its deadly push in the far North, the relative calm in the Niger Delta has also got ruffled by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which detonated a number of bombs as signature tune of a promised resumption of activity of violence in the oil-rich region.

Analysts believe the twin problems of Boko Haram and MEND, simultaneously pummelling Nigeria and its stability, are definitely scary, portending no good for national cohesion. As it is now, the Boko Haram-induced exodus of people down South is racking other zones apart from the sects' traditional spheres of influence in the North. Very soon, if the movement of Yorubas and Igbos from the North back home continues, Nigeria could face another serious problem of internal refugees which is already manifesting in some localities.

It is feared that when this is combined with a MEND problem that could bring the economy to its knees, the nation could be in a deep social, political and economic mess. But the matter could also have international dimensions. For instance, any major crisis in Nigeria's Niger Delta is bound to affect the already troubled economies of Western nations to whom Nigeria is a major oil supplier and a further worsening of the Boko Haram crisis could dislocate the entire region. The international community is said to be intensifying efforts at inventing a containment strategy, preventing a scenario of a possible link up between Boko Haram operatives and the well trained Tuaregs from Ghadaffi's Army in Libya. There are reports of efforts at erecting a security cordon that will effectively wall them off further movement beyond their traditional Malian home front into Niger Republic, Nigeria's north- western neighbour. Western countries, however, still hold the belief that Boko Haram is a local Nigerian problem fuelled by politics and would remain so.

An Houston Texas, US-based security website, Stratfor Global Intelligence, actually predicted in a January 2012 post on, a worsening of the security problem in Northern Nigeria in 2012. Stratfor, which enjoys considerable confidence of the academic and the intelligence communities prides itself with providing geo-political analyses through which its audience" gain a thorough understanding of international affairs, including what's happening, why it's happening and what will happen next.

While it predicts a spread of the Boko Haram menace in the North-East and the North-West, it also said the Niger Delta would become restive once again in the new year. "Nigeria will see sustained militant violence in its northern region. Aggrieved political elites in the North, believing the government of President Goodluck Jonathan stole political power from them, will seek to use the Boko Haram militant group to their advantage. As part of their campaign to regain political power in the 2015 national elections, these northern politicians will provide Boko Haram with arms and funding, while protecting it politically.

"This will enable the group to carry out frequent attacks on Nigerian government and civilian targets in its core area of operations in the country's northeast and northwest. Boko Haram will also conduct operations in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, but these will be rare. Boko Haram's statements will be jihadist and fierce, but the nature of its support will prevent it from carrying out attacks that would trigger an international response and result in a loss of leverage for Northern Nigeria's political elite, such as transnational operations or attacks against foreign political or commercial facilities in Nigeria," Stratfor said on its website under the sub head: Annual Forecast 2012.

On the Niger Delta, it forsaw a renewed agitation from militants, prodded more by politics rather than regional demands for economic and environmental justice. "The Niger Delta in the South will also see a slow but steady return to militant violence. Though the Jonathan administration has stated that it will serve only from 2011 to 2015, divisions will start to emerge within the Jonathan camp over whether a single term is sufficient. Like their peers in northern Nigeria, political elites in the Niger Delta region, including Jonathan, will start reactivating alliances with regional militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

"Attacks by MEND or other Niger Delta militants in 2012 will be infrequent and ultimately will not threaten oil production. However, they will form the basis for a counter-campaign by the Niger Delta political elite to demand political patronage while, the region's elite decides whether to run for the ruling party's nomination for the presidency in the next elections, " it said. MEND's statements during the week appear to be getting the forecasts to be right on the spot, while concerns grow globally over the likely ripple effects of a crisis in yet another major oil producing nation at a time the middle east is in turmoil. At the national level, interest groups, stakeholders and other statesmen continue to feel and stress the urgency of getting the nation out of the present morass of insecurity and uncertainty before it is too late.

Sambo confident of PDP’s victory in Cross River

Vice President Namadi Sambo on Thursday expressed confidence that the People Democratic Party’s candidate for the governorship election in Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, would win the February 25 election.

Speaking after the committee was inaugurated in the Banquet Hall of State House on Wednesday night, Sambo noted that, unlike other states where the PDP won recent governorship elections, Cross River State would be a “walkover” for the party as it was “a one party state.” Sambo said Imoke was on a short break and would soon resume his duties.

The Vice President vowed to ensure that the state remained a PDP state. He said, “Cross River State is PDP and PDP is Cross River state, there is no other party. The rest just talk and no action. “Imoke is only on a short break, he will come back soon to continue with the good work.”

Sambo called on all party members to join hands with the campaign committee “to ensure that we return the governor to continue the good work he has started in the state.” The acting National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, explained that Sambo was chosen to lead the campaign because he had proved his mettle in the elections in Kogi and Adamawa States where he was similarly at the head of the party’s campaign committees.

Baraje urged him to forge a formidable front to deliver victory as he had previously done in Adamawa and Kogi States. Imoke, on his part, assured that Cross River Stare would continue to be a PDP state for a long time, saying that he had worked hard to accommodate all interests in the state by making the party’s manifesto a guiding principle for the state government. The governorship candidate commended the idea of setting up campaign committees by the national headquarters of the party which he noted was an innovation that would send a strong signal to the opposition about the seriousness of the PDP to retain all the states where elections had been declared. A former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, advised the committee to concentrate on how to win the election in Cross River State rather than trying to reconcile aggrieved persons in the state at this time.

Jonathan, Sylva and Bayelsa guber poll

For the first time last Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan spoke on the circumstances leading to the ouster of former Bayelsa State governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, from the re-election race. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, examines the Bayelsa saga in the light of the claims and counter-claims that has greeted the president’s declarations.

TO many Nigerians who have watched him grow in political status over the years, President Goodluck Jonathan does not come around as the typical Nigerian politician. He has been seen to speak with much precision and less verbosity. He does not also throw darts at his opponents, at least in the open. When he was dragging the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Jonathan’s camp refrained from returning the barrage of attacks heaped on his person. He was said to have left a standing instruction that none of his supporters should release verbal assaults on his challengers. To cap that conduct, Jonathan declared at the campaign rallies that his election bid was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.

At the PDP campaign rally in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Friday, however, the president spoke in a deep political voice. Many applauded Jonathan for speaking with the frankness of a leader set to salvage his people from the abyss of misrule and one who was concerned with the development of the state. His close watchers said he spoke from the heart and that he had been touched all along about the mismanagement of his home state by the ousted governor, Timipre Sylva.

The president, who spoke at the rally in support of the aspiration of Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson as governor of Bayelsa State in the gubernatorial election holding in Yenagoa on Saturday, said that his successor in office, Sylva, failed to follow the dreams of his predecessors and lift the developmental standards in the state. He said that everyone knew the importance of development in a state and that he needed not to dwell much on that, adding that the trend in the state had been worrisome. He said: “Everyone knows the importance of development and so I need not say much on that. I want to say two things. My former boss, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, conceived the idea of Tower Hotel as a five-star hotel in this state. I took over from him and continued, but today, that Tower has become a tower of shame. But one thing I know is that God is with Bayelsa people and that is why everything is turning around for good. The only thing I want to tell you today in Bayelsa is that I was here some months ago and Bayelsans stoned the governor. One thing I will tell you (Henry Dickson) is that you must work hard so that Bayelsans don’t stone you. If they stone you, I will follow them to stone you.

“But one thing I am sure of is that knowing Henry Dickson and Rear Admiral John Jonah John, a very senior military officer, who has agreed to serve, they will not disappoint you. I also urge the people to cooperate with them because things will not turn around overnight.” Jonathan’s speech had followed earlier declaration of support for Dickson and his running mate by leaders of the party. From former presidential adviser, Chief Timi Alaibe, to former Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha, Governor Rotimi Amaechi and acting Governor Nestor Binabo, the messages of solidarity resonated high. Former Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, had stated that the president needed a cooperative Niger Delta Region and that every Bayelsan must troop out on 11 February to vote for the PDP candidate.

Senate President David Mark, who led the National Assembly delegation to the rally, had also expressed support for Dickson, saying that his candidature would reinvent the state. Dickson himself had, while presenting his manifesto to the people, declared his readiness to partner with the people to restore the lost glory of Bayelsa. “In the past few days, I have traversed the nooks and crannies of Bayelsa State. We have interacted with all stakeholders and have assured them we will partner with everyone to restore the lost glory of Bayelsa,” he said, adding that his government would complete the three senatorial road projects started by Jonathan as governor in the state. He also stated that his administration would build on the laudable educational policy started by Jonathan in the state and complete all outstanding laudable projects started by Alamieyeseigha and Jonathan.

One man was certainly uncomfortable with the declarations and posturing at the Bayelsa rally for Dickson, especially when he got indicted for non-performance. Chief Timipre Sylva immediately launched a tirade against President Jonathan for branding him a failure. Sylva was stopped in his bid to seek re-election by the PDP over alleged security reasons. Besides excluding on 19 November, 2011 primaries, the PDP also overruled his bid to resurrect his earlier victory at a primary held in January 2011. The ruling of the Supreme Court on 27 January effectively put paid to Sylva’s tenure and the man was left out in the cold. Sylva’s media aide, Dofie Ola, in a statement released on Saturday, took on the president, declaring his submissions at the Yenagoa rally as lies. He accused the president of being the brain behind the attack on the governor, which was referred to by Jonathan as evidence of non-performance.

“The stoning in Yenagoa happened during the president’s visit and it was widely believed to have been arranged by a few misguided elements which, with the backing of Mr President, used the presidential security to subvert the security of the state on purpose to embarrass Sylva. Sponsors of the incident tried to deny their involvement and presented the event as indicative of the governor’s non-performance. The world now knows better, of course. Everyone is now perfectly well aware of the mastermind of that insult on the Ijaw nation,” Ola stated.

Sylva could not hide his personal anger at the president, obviously for stopping his re-election bid. He declared that he worked harder than the president when he was governor of Bayelsa State and attempted to play down the bombing of the president’s house in 2007, which he called “burning down of Jonathan’s residence.” While Sylva’s venom appeared to have expanded the gulf between him and the president, watchers of the former governor’s politics can hardly pinpoint the possibility of truce between the Jonathan and Sylva’s camps. They indicate that the story of the feud between Jonathan and Sylva dated back to 2007, when the latter took over from the former as governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa State. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have laid the foundation for the feud when he singlehandedly nominated Sylva as Jonathan’s successor without the latter’s input. Sylva was said to have entered the Government House with an antagonistic feeling against Jonathan and he was seen to have actualised such feelings with his conduct during the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, when Jonathan served as vice-president.

While Jonathan faced some sort of emasculation in that administration, Sylva was said to have helped in ramming the message in by taking steps that would neutralise all perceived legacies of the then vice-president in Bayelsa. One of the most obvious was the decision to sack the then Bayelsa State executive of the PDP after Jonathan, as vice-president, had attended a meeting, alongside Sylva and other stakeholders where a decision to retain the executive was reached. Sylva was also said to have joined the famed cabal that worked to frustrate Jonathan’s emergence as acting president during the prolonged illness of the late President Yar’Adua. But besides all he did before Jonathan’s emergence as president, which many were at a point ready to overlook, Sylva also found a way of making more enemies, most of those who got back to the president. At a stage, all senators from Bayelsa were opposed to Sylva; also opposed to him was the man who was said to have recommended him to Obasanjo, King Edmund Daukuro, together with Alamieyeseigha. It was, therefore, not long before the whole sins of Sylva coalesced and prompted those opposed to him to act and blocked his re-election.

A peep at the venomous statements released by Sylva, on Saturday, would easily confirm, however, that the former governor has set himself on a full-scale battle with Jonathan. He indicated that he performed better than Jonathan while he served as governor. But close watchers would point out that while Jonathan spent about 17 months on the seat as governor, Sylva spent five years. Also, by trivialising the bombing of Jonathan’s home during the 2007 election, putting it on a par with the stone-throwing incident referred to by the president, many could accuse the governor of approving the criminal conduct of militants, who had, by 2007, seized the jugular of the states of the Niger Delta. Whatever the submission coming from the Sylva stable, many out there are readily codenaming it as the cry of a spanked baby. Some opini on holders have said that you cannot spank a baby and expect him not to cry. But the cries of Sylva could hardly do much to help his case.

Why I want to be PDP National Secretary —Babatope

Chief Ebenezer Babatope is a former Minister for Transport and Aviation, a member of the People Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT) and he is vying for the position of the national secretary of the party. In this interview with Assistant Editor, Adeolu Adeyemo, he speaks on his ambition and the state of the nation, among other issues.

Why do you want to be the National secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?

All actions on earth are guided by God, it is true I want to be the national secretary of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I put it in the hands of God and whatever God decides for me, I will accept. Secondly, there is doctrine of party supremacy, and I know that God will guide our party aright in arriving at whosoever emerges, not only for the secretary position, but in others.

Like I said, our party is supreme and whatever the party decides definitely must be binding on all the members. I want to be the national secretary because I believe that I can be of assistance to transform the party the more and so also can other people who are aspiring for positions. As regards programmes I want to implement, these are matters that are squarely before the party. It will be wrong of me to be talking on programmes. If I do that, I will be defeating the whole process of party supremacy. The programmes I am going to carry out are programmes that will be discussed by all members of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party and also the national leadership of the party, who is represented in my party by what we call the caucus. So we should drop the idea of these programmes; I will not have to discuss what these programmes are in the public until they have been approved, sanctioned and given political approval by all the hierarchy of the party.

There is this rumour making the round that the South-West elders of the party have already endorsed one of the aspirants, Is it true? I don’t react to rumour or gossip whatever and in the meeting we held with Baba Olusegun Obasanjo in his house at Abeokuta, there was not a single mention of a chosen aspirant. So, when I saw it on the pages of newspapers, I just laughed. I know that any serious journalist will not embark on speculative stories that are sensational and that is not fair. We never took such a decision at the meeting we held at Chief Obasanjo’s house. It was attended by leaders of the party in the South-West and there was never a decision that anybody has been given the mandate to be the candidate of the party. So, as far as I am concerned, the story is speculative and a mere gossip.

How qualify are you for the position?

I am a bona fide member of PDP and by our constitution, all members of our party have the right to aspire for positions in the party, while the most important qualification is being a member of the party. I think with that, other aspirants are equally qualified, as long as they are members of the party.

With that, I believe they are qualified for the race and they are also taking part by that same reason. I don’t have special qualification whatever and if I have one, we shall leave that to when we have our national convention and to the judgment of the South-West leadership of the party.

Before we discuss other national issues, let us come to your state, Osun, what is the prospect of your party in the state, considering your poor outing in the last general elections? The poor performance of the party in the last elections was due to the main disagreement within the party. But I am very happy that all of us in the PDP today have realised that, we just cannot continue with disunity in the state. So, everything is being done to ensure that we have unity. The PDP of today is quite different from the PDP of then, as all disagreement are settled; all rancour resolved and we will face 2014, when we have elections, with one voice, one spirit. We believe we shall take our state back.

You will also observed that PDP has retained all our membership in the state. Apart from those who left in the wake of Rauf Aregbesola’s coming to Osun, no other member of the party has resigned to join the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state. That is a pointer to the fact that the PDP in the state is very much determined to claim back our state and, in fact, the entire South-West by the grace of God.

We were disunited and we were adequately punished by the South West electorate, but it does not mean that the South West electorate have jilted the PDP. I assure you that by the grace of God, and the efforts of the leadership of the party, PDP will take back Osun State and, indeed, the South-West.

It is reliably gathered that the elders of the party in the state have resolved to go to the field to elect members of the executive committee of your party, will you ensure that this does not cause disaffection among members at the end of the day?

It is not correct that the leadership of the party in the state have resolved to go to the field, but again, we are democrats. Where the party is unable to reach a consensus, of course we have no option than to go to the field through a free and fair electoral process. In most cases, we are trying to reach consensus. Where we can’t reach, it will go to the field and it will be decided by members. But it will not be done in a way that people will come back disenchanted and disunited. It is not right to say that the leadership of the party has concluded that all aspirants should go to the field. We are going to reach consensus in many areas, because we have vision and we have set goals for ourselves and by the grace of God, we are going to achieve our goals.

The chairmanship position in the state seems cloudy, how do you intend solving it?

It is not cloudy at all. We have zoned position in Osun State to senatorial districts and the senatorial district to produce chairman is already aware since December last year. It is only where the senatorial district is unable to produce it and reconcile all political interest in ensuring that consensus candidate emerge that the zone will come to the party and the party will now say ‘okay let us go to the field’. But those who will stand for election as chairman must come from the senatorial district concerned. I have no doubt in my mind that, by the time we go into congresses in March, we would have decided these matters and concession candidates would have emerged in that area.

There is this clamour for a national conference from every section of the country and the latest agitation is from the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). Do you consider it necessary?

It is true people are advocating for a national conference and I have no doubt in my mind that, at the right time, we shall have the national conference. What I personally do not like is when people talk of sovereign national conference, because I don’t know what they mean by sovereign. We have had democratic elections in this country and, at least, the 2011 elections, no matter the problem, have been adjudged to be fair, free and people were allowed to elect the people they wanted.

The sovereignty, by the constitution, lies with those that have been elected. We have the national and state assemblies and as long as the elections that brought them about had been adjudged not to be polluted election, we cannot attach sovereign to any gathering.

We need national conference to settle many issues in the country. For example, there is the need for us to properly define the federal nature of the country’s existence. We are a federation and a federation is governed by consensus, compromise and collection of interest. Let’s define that federation. What is common to us in Nigeria is we have agreed to live together as one united, peaceful and indivisible country, fine! Nonetheless, let us set up the parameter. Some people are calling for state police. Let us examine it in a conference, and let us reach a basic conclusion. The government of President Goodluck Jonathan is very fair and determined that we do all these things by setting up of the committee headed by Justice mohammed Uwais to review the constitution of the country. This shows that President Jonathan is prepared to ensure that justice is done in the nation. So, let us have a national conference and when we have it, let issues that are agitating the minds of the people be discussed. And by the time we come into conclusion, Nigeria will be better.

IITA to back Nigeria’s national cocoa transformation initiative

IITA will be providing vital support to Nigeria’s cocoa transformation efforts, as the country embarks on doubling production of the crop in the next few years.

Specifically, the institute plans to help the country in the development of high quality and clean planting materials using improved breeding techniques. In the action plan presented to the members of the Cocoa Transformation Agenda in IITA-Ibadan, IITA intends to deploy advanced micropropagation techniques for rapid and high ratio propagation of improved cocoa. The objective is to produce clean and disease-free cocoa trees with high yield that will improve the incomes of cocoa farmers and ensure environmental and social sustainability of cocoa-based production systems.

The technology, which is currently being applied in Cote d’Ivoire, has helped that country in rehabilitating its cocoa farms, making it the world’s largest producer. Although Nigeria accounts for about 5 per cent of the world’s cocoa production, the government’s efforts to increase production are being hampered by old and unproductive cocoa trees, poor infrastructure, pests, diseases, low farmer education, and inadequate supply of farm inputs, among others. Lava Kumar, IITA Virologist, said the clean planting materials technology would help Nigeria to rapidly propagate improved cocoa trees that could be used by farmers to replace old and unproductive trees.

“This is an important step towards cocoa transformation because we need to increase Nigeria’s cocoa yield,” said Kumar. “It’s actually a game changer for the sector,” he added. The institute plans to work with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), National Centre for Genetic Resources & Biotechnology (NACGRAB), and other national partners, transferring the technology to them and building national capacity.

One nation, conflicting interests

OLUSOLA FABIYI writes that the nationwide strike that followed the Federal Government’s removal of petroleum subsidy might have exposed Nigeria as a country of divergent opinions

Second Republic is dead, but the memories of some actions of the politicians and political parties that played active roles during the ill-fated democracy would not be forgotten in a hurry. The slogan of the ruling party then, the National Party of Nigeria was: One Nation, One Destiny.” However, the last strike and protests called by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, which was supported by the civil society groups, may have shown that Nigerians, though in one nation, have their different destinies. Agreeably, majority of the people would have thought that the protests, which were occasioned by the removal of subsidy on petrol, would be resisted by people from the six-geo political zones of the country. Such thought, according to Emeka Kalu, an engineer, was further fueled with the fact that Nigerians, no matter their status, region or tribe, patronise the same market to purchase goods. “After all, a musician waxed a record, in which he said this,” Kalu further explained. It was probably based on such hypothesis that protesters trooped out in large number during the protests in some zones, while in others, sympathisers of government at the centre either stayed indoors or even organised their own protests to show support for the government.

Thus, in the whole of the South-West and the entire four zones in the northern part of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the strike was described as total. Economic and social activities were paralyzed. Rallies were also held to denounce the government’s action. In Lagos, the rallies and the protests assumed a carnival-like dimension as musicians, actors and actresses mounted the stage to add colour to the demonstrations. The entertainers, who hitherto saw President Goodluck Jonathan as the messiah derided him by calling him unprintable names. The convener of Save Nigeria Group, who was also a vice-presidential candidate for the Congress for Progressive Change during the last presidential election, Pastor Tunde Bakare, was visible at the event. His overbearing presence at the rallies made the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, to say that the protesters were members of Bakare’s Latter Rain Assembly Church.

Kuku and those who had such impression must have been stunned when the Muslims leaders led their members to Ojota, venue of the rallies for their jumat prayers. After listening to the sermon, the Muslims, who were supported by their Christian brothers and sisters, then went on their knees, for prayers. In Gombe, Kano, Ilorin, Lokoja, Yola, the situation was almost the same: protesters trooped out in large number to register their displeasure over the government’s action.

But the residents of Bayelsa, the home State of the President, shunned civil society groups’ protest. The civil society groups under the aegis of Civil Liberties Organisation in the state had called for public protest and had even gone ahead to sensitise the public not to sit on the fence but to come out en masse to protest against the Federal Government’s policy, which they considered as “anti Nigerian people.” While the leaders of the civil society groups in the state blamed the failure of the street protest to hold on the refusal of the police to grant them permit for the rally, a senior police source dismissed the claim as untrue, saying the command even deployed policemen to provide the civil society groups protection, which informed the presence of security operatives at take off point of the rally and other strategic locations in the state capital so as to prevent miscreants from hijacking the process. It was, however, learnt that the President’s men succeeded in infiltrating the rank of the anti subsidy removal camp and the result was the failure of residents to turn out for the rally.

It was not only in Bayelsa State, where ethnicity reason prevailed. The President’s fellow Ijaw man and a former militant, Asari Dokubo, who is from Rivers State, led a peaceful rally of a small crowd, threatening to defend the position of President Jonathan. He said if PENGASSAN carried out its threat to shut oil production, he would rally former militants to take over and ensure that PENGASSAN did not return. In the estimation of the former militant, the move by many Nigerians against the FG was meant to discriminate against the leadership of a helpless minority of Ijaw decent. He ((Dokubo) threatened to personally spearhead the region’s mass protest to defend their son from the arrogant northern majority whom he claimed wanted to make the country ungovernable.

Also, a coalition that called itself Deltans Occupy Niger Delta Resources, in a communiqué, said it would take its resources back, by all legal means available to it. The release signed by Ankios Briggs, President Agape Birthrights and convener of NDONDR reads, “Niger Delta and oil resources found in the Niger Delta belong to Niger Delta people. All resources found in any other region of Nigeria belong to the people of such region. We call on all our Niger Delta people, for the sake of our future to look to our nearest neighbours, the Igbo for immediate and strong alliance, to enable the Niger Delta nations and the Igbo nation to face the obvious change that will come to Nigeria, in strength, justice, brotherhood and truth. If Jonathan, a Niger Delta son, is not good enough to govern Nigeria, the oil in his Niger Delta is not good enough for Nigeria. If the Niger Delta people are not good enough to be part of good governance in Nigeria then our oil and gas of the Niger Delta peoples is not good enough for Nigeria.”

Some ex-militants, who were known to fight on the side of the people before carrots began to drop from the government table, also stormed Yenagoa and protested along the Major Chief Melford Okilo way in total support of the FG’s action. Before then, some prominent people from the South-South also took sides with government on the matter and even alleged a plot to assassinate the President and some eminent persons in his administration. The Ijaw leaders, under the aegis of South-South Leaders’ Forum, led by Chief Edwin Clark, met with a resolve to queue behind Jonathan on the removal of fuel subsidy while they accused anti-subsidy promoters from other regions of the country of plotting the downfall of their kinsman. It was however gathered that the people of the South-East were persuaded to stay-off the streets during the protests with the hope that Jonathan would hand over to an indigene of the zone in 2015.

A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West and the Action Congress of Nigeria however expressed their worry over the ethnicisation of the protests. David-West particularly said that it was wrong for some Ijaw leaders and persons from the Niger Delta to conclude that resistance against fuel subsidy removal was aimed at frustrating and possibly ousting President Jonathan. David-West, who described the fuel subsidy issue as a national one, reminded those who ascribed ethnic meaning to the strike, to recall that the President did not win the April 2011 election with only the votes from the Niger-Delta and the Ijaw. He said, “What they are doing is not good for the image of the President. Those protesting on the basis of ethnicity are merely interested in the money they can make from the president and also seeking relevance. Jonathan is the president of Nigeria and not the Ijaw. Jonathan only got 24 per cent of his votes from the South-South. He is able to occupy Aso Rock because of the votes from other parts of Nigeria. There is a serious need for people to be circumspect at this critical moment.”

The Action Congress of Nigeria, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, decried those reading ethnic meanings into the protests. The party said it was unfortunate that the President “that was purportedly given a pan-Nigeria mandate only a few months back is now being made to look more and more like a South-South President, who must be ‘protected’ by his ‘supporters and kinsmen’ against failed politicians from the other regions, forgetting that the same President won the last election because of the support of the other regions that are now been demonised.”

Bakare was particularly criticised for leading the protest in Lagos, and it was alleged that the protests he led were sponsored by some individuals. But the non-conformist cleric described the allegation as a misplaced propaganda, adding that it was not the first time that SNG would lead protests against unjust acts in the nation. He reminded Nigerians about the rallies the group staged to protest the denial of Jonathan the opportunity to act as President in 2010, when his late boss then, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was terminally sick. But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali, said Bakare should no longer be looked at from the angle of being a pastor. “In the past, he belonged to SNG. Today as you know him in the political circle, he has ceased from being the Pastor he was because he was a vice- presidential candidate of CPC, that was defeated in the last general election by the PDP. He is a voice of CPC.” He said the PDP would not sit by and allow failed politicians misinforming innocent Nigerians.

We’re ready to meet Boko Haram for peace talks —Ex-Militants’ leader

Some call him Pastor. Others call him General. And in some cases, some of his fans put the two titles together as they addressed the former freedom fighter, Reuben Wilson, who held sway in the creeks of the Niger Delta for about three years before he was dragged out by the Federal Government in 2009 when he accepted amnesty and surrendered his arms. Today, Wilson is the chairman of the Leadership Forum for Peace in the Niger Delta and has used the organisation to reach out to militants who are yet to surrender their arms.

In this interview with a group of journalists, Wilson said he was ready to meet the Boko Haram terrorists to convince them to surrender their arms so that peace can be restored in the country. Excerpts:

What gave rise to the formation of this organisation?

We decided to float this body to use it as a platform to launch a peace action that would result in persuading freedom fighters that are still in the creeks to come out and accept the government’s amnesty so that we can achieve total peace in the polity. All of us were former militants that embraced amnesty and we are out to also help the federal government to achieve development.

Right now, there is still violence in some parts of the country and sometimes, my attention is called upon to go and talk to those who are still making trouble in the Niger Delta. I can tell you that there we still have some youths who are still carrying arms and terrorizing people. So, what we do is to go and talk them into seeing reason with us and accept the amnesty.

But the Federal Government has said that the doors of the amnesty programme are shut.

Yes. I agree that the amnesty scheme stopped in October 2009, but after then, the Federal Government still accepted the second phase of repentant militants into the programme and that was in 2010. But after, they said they wouldn’t accept them again. However, we are still talking with the Federal Government and equally, we are pleading with the people with arms to drop them. When we dropped our arms and accepted the amnesty offer, they were afraid that they would be arrested, but now they have seen that the government meant well. That is why we are pleading with the Federal Government to accept them when they drop their arms.

Is it easy to identify those who are still with arms in the creeks?

Yes, very easy. We know most of them. We talk to most of them on the phone. I have visited two camps when government sent me. I went to a camp in the Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and I went to see General Mammy Water and before I went there, he warned that I should not come to his camp with security men. Of course, that was normal. I led the team to the place with ordinary people, and he appeared with his boys and guns. We told him that it was of no use for him to remain in the creeks, that if he continued that way, he would have nothing to gain. I told him to embrace peace. In November last year, I also visited General Lato who is leading a camp in a creek in Cross River State. I went there with an army captain who dressed in mufti. I can’t talk about the quantity of guns he came out with, but among them were machine guns. But I was undeterred. I told him to consider coming out of the camp to embrace peace. The good thing was that he was ready to drop his guns, if the Federal Government opened the amnesty doors for him.

We are waiting for the Federal Government to react because all those I have met are ready to drop their arms. Let me remind you, among those who came out to accept amnesty during the second phase was Commander Koko. I went and talked to him and he accepted and dropped his arms at the JTF in Bayelsa State. There are people that have accepted the amnesty, but who are still having some issues with the authorities. Through this platform, I have been able to address such issues. Just recently, I went to Ezedu to settle a rift. I was also at Akwa Ibom to settle similar issues.

How many camps are still active right now?

Right now, I can’t know the number. Let me tell you, the boys that are terrorizing Rivers State, you cannot know how many camps they are operating from. Just of recent, somebody called me from Bonny that a group of boys attacked some soldiers and three days ago, I was told that in the Kalabiri area, close to Bille, two groups clashed and people died. In Akwa Ibom State, there was a clash among those groups and about eight people died and that was two days ago. So, I can’t really say the number of camps that are still operating. But whoever is still in the camp now is a criminal. Some of them actually started opening their camps after we had accepted the amnesty offer, and we did not know them. What they do is to terrorise traders on the sea and hijack trawlers. Recently, I sent my boys to the village to go and drop things for me, and as they were coming back, they met sea pirates. My speed boat was 115 horse power, and my boys were not armed. The pirates attacked them when they were on the sea trying to fix the engine boat that developed a fault, but my sea pilot being an expert was able to overrun them on the sea, and my boys overpowered and arrested all of them. They were handed over to the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa State. We still have pockets of criminals who are yet to understand that the party is over.

Can we ever have peace in Bayelsa State?

We can, that is if we can have support from the government. There is nothing you are doing that does not require money. Now, a drum of fuel is about N50,000 in Bayelsa State. That is why we need support, just like the IYC and others who are fighting for peace in the region . We need to continue going into the creeks to preach this peace message so that we can have total peace in the Niger Delta.

How has life been since you came out of the creeks?

Nothing is as sweet as freedom. When we were in the creeks, we would not go out to the town. We would only leave our camp to the nearby riverine communities and then back to the camp. The only thing we were enjoying in the creeks was fish. Anytime we needed fish, we had enough. But you can’t compare the life we are enjoying now with the life in the creeks. Then, we were in bondage, fighting with mosquitoes everyday. To drink water, we would dig holes for water to come out. If you saw our skin then, you would pity us. Now, we can go anywhere we want to go. We were there for like three years and could not see our wives. There is a very big difference in life then and life now. So, anybody who has tasted a life of freedom and does not treasure it is a stupid person. Today, I am a happier person.

You are initiating an organization that is promoting peace, but we are yet to witness real peace in Nigeria.

The thing is that Nigeria belongs to everybody. We understand that the people who are causing the havoc are doing so because of Goodluck Jonathan and you will recall that when he was presenting himself for the election, a lot of comments were made by certain people. Some of them were bold enough to say that if Jonathan took over, they would make Nigeria ungovernable. Boko Haram does not seem to know what they are doing. We were told that their grouse is that they did not want western education. But tell me, when did you hear that Boko Haram has burnt a school? They are bombing churches and other public facilities. That is to show you that they are not sincere. Why can’t they come out to say this is what we are fighting for? They are merely acting a script and they want to make sure that Jonathan does not concentrate. We will not copy them. All we are saying is that they should support Jonathan and allow him to concentrate so that we can all enjoy this fresh air. Before he contested the election, he promised Nigerians a regime of fresh air and that is exactly what he is pursuing. He wants the good of our children. That is the truth. Come to think of the subsidy removal protests. Why was it that those who were leading the protests were those who failed to win elections?

You call yourself a politician ,and because you could not win an election, you now find an opportunity to lead a group of innocent and unsuspecting boys to go into the streets to protest. What are you protesting for? If the people that you are leading now knew you were a credible person, why did they not vote you into office? Some are even abusing Mr President, and it is very bad. Look at somebody like Pastor Tunde Bakare. How can he lead his people? He cannot. The Bible says by their fruits we shall know them. He is raining curses on the president. Is he supposed to curse or bless? I pity those who are in his church. Some for them are even sending text messages to people that the president should be impeached, that the military should take over. Can you imagine? Just because he is from the south-south?

The army are a wise people and they will not disrespect the constitution of the land. Let me tell you, they cannot impeach the president. If they try that, I can assure you that it will turn to something else. Nobody will be happy to see their own son being disgraced out of office.

This is the first time that somebody from this region would get to that office and now they are saying that because he wants to stop a cabal from stealing our collective wealth under the guise of subsidy, they want to impeach him. It cannot happen. If the northerners knew, they would not do what they are doing. I am from Koluama in Southern Ijaw. We don’t have money. We don’t have roads. From Yenagoa to my place is three hours with speed boat and when you go there, you see flames everywhere. That was a place that was once flooded and many people were wiped out.

As I talk to you now, water has gone back there and the people’s existence is being threatened. This was part of why we had to take up arms to attract government attention. When others were buying fuel for N65 per litre, we were buying fuel for N200. As I talk now, we are buying for N300, yet the oil is from my area. Do they have oil in the north? No. Yet we are buying the fuel at a more expensive rate than they are buying. The late Yar’Adua told us to accept amnesty and we accepted. Today, they are bombing and killing our people. The government is planning to give buses to the states. How about the riverine communities? There is no plan for them, but have we killed people? What I will say is that we need to give peace a chance.

You are saying it is difficult for them to impeach the president

I am saying that it is not possible. Impeachment will lead to more violence, and ,for us in this forum, our major concern is how to achieve peace. We will take it upon ourselves to go about the country and talk to our compatriots to give peace a chance. We do not want to think of what happened in those days before we accepted amnesty. We want Nigeria to remain one. Yes, we have heard that some people predicted that Nigeria will split in 2015, but I can tell you that this satanic prediction will not work. When their person was there, we did not go after them. Now, they are going after our son for no just cause. We are not saying that we will carry arms. But you can be sure that even without arms, we will confront them, if they try to think of impeaching him.

There are complaints about fight against corruption and that he is not serious about it

I am aware that he is doing something about this. The other day, he sent a name to the Senate for confirmation as chairman of the EFCC. That is the beginning. He has directed the EFCC to probe the fuel subsidy transactions. We know him as a man of action. When he was governor of Bayelsa State, you are aware that he made so much impact there.

Today, there is a bridge across Swali and he did that in just one year. How long has he been in office. This is a country that people had destroyed and he is trying to make amends. How do you expect him to use six months to correct the wrongs that were done in the past decades? He is taking it one step at a time and I am very sure that we will get there. He needs time and support. For some months now, they have not allowed him to concentrate. Boko Haram here and there and they are doing this to have reasons to pick holes in his governance, that he is not in charge. I think he does not deserve this.

What is it that worries you most about this country?

For now, it is the menace of Boko Haram, the spate of bomb blasts in the country. I don’t want to talk about the protests that seized the peace of our country. You won’t believe that those guys were paid by certain people. They had coordinators. But that is aside. Boko Haram is becoming a major threat to the peace and security of our country. I have always said if they think they have a case, they should come out and tell the government what their problem is. When we were in the creeks, we were known. The SSS, the police and government officials were talking to us and we told them our problems. Sometimes the governors would come to the camp to talk to us and we would tell them our problems. In Bayelsa State, the governor even said he would give us some money so that we would not disturb the peace of the land and then we later came out of the creeks. I was among the first group to meet Yar’Adua and when we met him, we told him our grouse and things were sorted out. Now, there is peace in the Niger Delta. If Boko Haram has anything that is disturbing them, let them come out. They should not hide and then continue destroying churches and killing innocent people.

Can you make yourself available to approach the Boko Haram warriors to embrace peace?

There is no place I cannot go as long as we will achieve peace at the end of the day. What we need at the moment is support from the government and from the people of Nigeria. I do not mind meeting the Boko Haram people for peace talks. What they should do is to open up and tell Nigerians what their problem is and I am sure that the government will give attention to it. I took the risk and went to Bakassi to meet militants in their creeks. Now, assuming I went there and they killed me, I would have gone. But I did not care.

Why do they call you pastor?

I have the fear of God. I am somebody that if I have this little thing and somebody wants it, I will give it out. Even when I was in the creeks, I preached peace. I remember when General Africa and General Ogunbus had problems in their camps, I went to their camps to reconcile them. I invited Africa to Ogunbus’ camp and the problem was resolved. Pastor is not my name. It is just because I have the fear of God. They also call me General because I was the leader of warriors. In fact, it was Cameroun gendarmes that called me General first. That time when we were going to war in 1994, the gendarmes saw the way I was commanding my warriors and they called me General.

Doctors should not play politics with their job

Dr. Joseph Otumara is Commissioner for Health in Delta State. In this interview with AUGUSTINE AVWODE, he enumerates the various steps taken by the administration of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan to raise the bar of health care delivery in the state. Excerpts:

What can you say you have achieved since you assumed office as Health Commissioner in Delta State?

Let me say the Ministry of Health has been a blessing to Deltans, especially through the governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. What do I mean? If you look at the programmes we run, the free maternal health, the free under-five health care, the rural health care, whereby we move from one community to another and ensure everybody that has surgical problem is attended to, many lives have been touched through these programmes. The people who had been blind for the past 10-20 years were able to regain their sight. If you look at the free maternal health care programme, from the time of conception to six weeks, including laboratory investigation, treatment, ante- natal care, drugs, consultation, including HIV test up to delivery, even Caesarian Session, is free and this goes on for six weeks after post delivery. It is usually like a market place when you see patients trooping into various government hospitals in the state. My colleagues in the private hospitals have been complaining that they no longer have patients. As at today, over 150,000 pregnant women have been treated in this programme.

We moved about with three to four set of doctors. We had the surgical team, eye surgery, general surgery and others. For last year alone, surgeries were performed on 661 persons who were completely or partially blind and they regained their sight.

We had about 99 cases of obstetrics and gynaecology and then other surgeries totalling about 377 cases. There was a particular case of a woman who had been carrying fibroid for the past 16 years. When she went for treatment she was asked to pay about N300,000, but she could not. When it was removed it was weighing 10.5 kilogram, done successfully and it was one of the greatest operations I have witnessed in my life. The woman was so grateful to the ministry and the state government.

What is the attitude of the state government to primary health care?

I should say excellent. We have about 432 primary health care centres across the state. Over 90 per cent of them are in use, very vibrant. All health issues are under my supervision, and, because of the paucity of funds at the local government level, they do not utilize the primary health care centres the way they should do. Whenever the nurses and doctors cannot take care of any patient, they refer them to secondary health centres, the government hospitals which are 62 in all. If at that secondary level they could not manage the problem, they can then refer the patient to the teaching hospitals. We have more than enough health centres in the state. There has been some disproportion in siting of primary health centres. While some local governments have up to 20 health centres, some have just about five. But there is no council area without a minimum of five functional health centres. Within a radius of about five kilometres, there must be a health centre. We try to locate the centres in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) policy and standard. We recognize the importance of this sector of health care delivery and we pay good attention to it.

There seems to be so much emphasis on treatment of the blind. Why the special interest?

Let me rather say that our interest is holistic. Our goal is to give Deltans qualitative health care which is affordable. But let me just say that in the past three years, the state government has successfully restored the sight of 1,680 Deltans who were blind through provision of free surgeries. It is part of the effort of the state government, through this ministry, to prevent and give treatment to the blind to meet the human capital content of the three-point agenda of the present administration. The state government embarked on the provision of ophthalmic equipment worth millions of naira for improving the quality of eye care services in the state.

The current administration is involved in the provision of counterpart support for the eradication of river blindness (onchocerciasis) through the distribution of Mectizen tablets in communities affected by the disease. We have already incorporated visual screening in school health programme, including a database on blindness in all government hospitals and also developed a strategic plan for the prevention of blindness and attainment of vision 2020 tagged the right to sight in Delta State. There are plans to increase the number of people being sponsored in the school of the blind and establish at least one school to train children who are blind.

What would you say is the impact of these programmes on the lives of Deltans?

I can tell you that never in the history of this state, even in old Bendel State, would you find a governor so caring as to have a medical team that moves from one community to the other, including riverine communities like Escravos, Ogidigben, Ogugbugbudu and others requesting people to come forwards for operations. It is like missionary efforts. It could only be the pursuit of happiness. I say happiness because the governor believes in it. Look at the free maternal care, we have pursued vigorously and consistently this programme over the years, treating under -five, pregnant women and ante- natal care. This has been completely free. What Deltans should do now is to give the governor, Dr Uduaghan, good support. Before now, the maternal mortality rate in Delta State was about 500 to 600 per every 1,000 delivery. It was quite high. The figure then dropped to about 300 per every 1,000 delivery by the end of November, 2010. I am sure it would have fallen further down to about 150 now. So these programmes have endeared us to the heart of most Deltans, particularly mothers, children and fathers.

What is your target or what is your ministry targeting?

One of the Millennium Development Goals is for any country to reduce the number of deaths that occur per 100,000 among children between 0-5 years. The target in Nigeria is to ensure that at least by 2015, maternal and infant mortality rate is reduced drastically to a figure that is very low.

We realise that the major killer diseases among these groups are poverty and ignorance. How do they come in? A lot of people know the importance of the hospital, but the money is not just there. The government is fully aware how disadvantaged some people are in accessing qualitative health care. It removed the barrier of poverty, so that the people can get health care. Therefore, the introduction of the under-5 programme and free maternal health care are attempts to increase the average life of Deltans. And by doing this, we have already achieved it. It will get to a point that the average life expectancy of Deltans will be about 70/75.

And would you say you have all the resources or funds needed to keep the ministry moving?

We have a governor who is a medical doctor. Therefore, he understands the situation better than you can imagine. He takes health issues as the pursuit of the happiness of the people. He sees the care for human beings as the pursuit of their happiness.

The government, through budgetary provision, provides money for all the caesarian sections, delivery, drugs that have been taken by over 120,000 pregnant women, all the treatments received by the under-5, surgery and others. The money is released as at when due to us. So we never ran into financial difficulty for us to pursue the programmes.

There are allegations that Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH) equipment is under-utilized. What is the true position?

Well, the hospital is perfectly in order. There are sophisticated equipment there like MRI CT Scan Fluoroscopy, ECG, Ultrasound and Angiographic studies. The hospital can accommodate 180 patients. Every thing is a complete package. It has respirators and ventilators for children. They are all there in Oghara. The doctors are there. It is not that the equipment is outdated, or there are no professionals to operate the machines. We have the most modern CT scan. The hospital is opened 24 hours to the public. The equipment there is not underutilized. Don’t forget that it is a tertiary hospital.

Last year the state faced industrial action by doctors. Why the incessant strikes in this crucial sector and how can this be addressed?

Well, there is a salary structure that has been the issue over the years. One of the reasons for brain drain is, particularly within the medical line ,is that of low pay. Most of the doctors in Delta State Teaching Hospital today are brought in from Europe, America and Canada. They earn good salaries. You cannot compare the salaries in Europe to that in Nigeria. The salary structure is to enhance their personalities, to ensure that the years spent at the medical school are not in vain. That is the truth and justifiable. You still find out that some doctors 10 years after leaving schools are still without a car. They put in their best to make sure that human lives are catered for. And I am sure it is on that note that the federal government approved that salary structure. After the approval, the late President Yar’Adua and the former Minister of Health agreed that the payment be done once the budget was passed at the beginning of last year. But most states, including Delta ,have always been buying and keying into what the federal government is doing so that we don’t have the disparity line, the disparity whereby a federal doctor receives N300,000 and his counterpart at the state hospital gets N150,000. It will cause a migration into the federal service and at end of the day, we will be left with no doctor. So the state government is also looking at this based on the funding.

You had cause to fire some doctors last year…

The state government has always exhibited large heartedness; we try to satisfy our doctors. But when some doctors try to play politics with their job, which I think is very sensitive, in spite of government’s efforts, we have to wield the big stick.

But then the government, almost immediately, also heeded the pleas by many well-meaning Deltans on their behalf and they were recalled. The governor decided to pardon the doctors because of the intervention from well- meaning Deltans who appealed to him to temper justice with mercy and having also considered a letter of apology by the doctors to their management.

So by and large, the issue of poor remuneration accounts for incessant strikes by doctors, but here in Delta State, we give doctors their due.

‘My people are suffering from hunger and diseases’

Former Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Northern Political Summit Group, Prince Bulus Audu, is to contest the chairmanship election on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming local government election in Takum , Taraba State. In this interview with Gbenga Aderanti, he talks about the problems of the local government and ways to address them. Excerpts:

Many people would have thought that having served your people in various capacities, you would have been okay with achievements

My people have really been impoverished. There is no government presence in Takum. The local government is meant to be the closest tier of government to the people, but this is not really the case here . Takum is endowed with various mineral resources. As one of the first local government areas in the state, it shouldn’t be behind in development. Based on the forgoing, I am ready to avail myself of this opportunity to liberate the people of Takum.

What would you enumerate as peculiar problems of Takum? The problems of residents of Takum currently include hunger, disease, illiteracy and unemployment. Over 70% of our fellow citizens live in poverty. Except the governed are carried along, there will always be the missing link between the government and the people. How do you hope to tackle these problems?

I will put in place a government that understands the challenges, a government that will transform Takum into an industrial area, a government that will guide the affairs of our local government through laws and projects aimed at strengthening our development efforts and a government that will seek to improve the lives of our people.

Generating revenue has been the problem of the third tier government; how are you going to address this? Revenue drive shall be taken seriously, as we know that the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) shall, in no small measure, further ensure dividends of democracy. We shall not cause darkness, but we shall light the candle that will guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future for Takum. The time demands innovations through imagination. We shall put in place a comprehensive database for revenue collection and management. Most local government chairmen find it difficult to pay salaries; how do you intend to tackle this situation ,if you are elected? Such things are due to visionless leadership. My leadership shall be focused, accountable, transparent and people- oriented. Takum is commercially viable. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) as an addition to the revenue allocations shall catapult and transform our land to a place where developmental projects are carried out alongside prompt payment of salaries. I believe employees deserve their wages promptly. Many would want to know your plan to take care of the crisis in Takum

We will productively engage the services of our youths in developmental processes, for it is the absence of this that makes our youths ready tools in the hands of mischief makers. The government will provide leadership that will help us discover true unity in our diversity and ensure equitable distribution of our common wealth.We shall deal with ignorance . prejudice and poverty. My government will ensure that our ethnicity will have no more significance than the content of our character and our individual commitment to the cause of building a strong Takum. Your are against godfatherism

God is the only Godfather I know. I am a Christian, and my strength comes from God Almighty. I am enjoying tremendous support from the people in Takum. They will never abandon me me.

What about your political antecedents

Well, I have always been around politics since the return of democracy and politics in Nigeria. I have always worked to ensure the success of my party in the state. I was a board member of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). I was the Chief Protocol Detail to the Hon Speaker of the House of Representatives . I served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Northern Political Summit Group. I also served as Special Assistant to a former minister. I served in the Office of the First Lady of Nigeria. I am currently the Political Adviser of the All Nigeria Youth Alliance.

Subsidy removal: Understanding the salient issues

The tempo of activities within the polity became overtly charged immediately after the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012 by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA). That led to the announcement of a nationwide strike by the organized Labour, comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) starting from January 9. That strike successfully grounded economic activities around the country for one whole week, with Nigeria losing approximated N320 billion per day.

By all intent and purposes, Nigerians were right to protest the fuel price increase, or what has been termed this time around fuel subsidy removal. While government estimated that it would make N1.3 trillion from the removal of subsidy, Nigerians were caught off guard. Many Nigerians had set themselves up for festivities at the end of 2011. Many had travelled to their home states during the long Christmas holidays. They were not expecting themselves back at their bases until the first week of January 2012. So the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy on January 1 was sure to breed anger. Transport fares would skyrocket, not just as a result of the fuel price increase, but also because of the usual character of transporters during festive seasons.

So that hell was let loose almost immediately the announcement of fuel price increase came was not surprising. Even before Labour announced its decision for nationwide strike, protests were seen in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Benin. While the action was really spontaneous, in some of those cities in the very first working day of the year, events that followed the second day and subsequently were to reveal that some form of politics had come into the protests.

From some state capitals came reports that governors, who earlier decided at the National Economic Council (NEC) to advise the Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy had started siding with the people and encouraging protests.”The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) had also earlier in 2011 announced it was incapable of paying the N18, 000 minimum wage if the government retained fuel subsidy. The government at the centre was immediately briefed via barrage of security reports that many of the governors had decided to do the ostrich or chameleon on the fuel subsidy matter.

By the time the nationwide strike came on board on January 9, the politics of the whole show became more obvious. While states of the South South except Edo stayed out of the fuel strike, there were vociferous cries in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Kogi, Kaduna, Minna and Kano. It emerged that many of the states in the South East and even North East had stayed off the strike. It became obvious that politics was playing a big role in determining the face of the protest. Coming on the heels of the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Goodluck Jonathan at the April polls, the appearance of many faces who were on the losing side of the election sent wrong signals.

There was Nasiru el-Rufai, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who led the protest in Abuja alongside a former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye and another former member, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon. In Lagos, the protest was led by the defeated presidential running mate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Pastor Tunde Bakare and the spokesman of the General Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr. Yinka Odumakin. As speeches were turning in from the protest venues, the direction of the protests started getting clearer. In Lagos, the bid was driving towards regime change while the direction in Abuja was the milder version. In Kano, the protests got hijacked by violent youths just as in Minna, where homes of notable politicians were razed.

The government got it right when it indicated that political interests were dictating the pace of the protests when its team met with Labour on Thursday last week. As at that time, reports had also clearly shown that South West governors under the aegis of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had dissociated themselves from the fuel subsidy removal policy. The governors, after a meeting in the residence of Lagos state governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola announced that the fuel subsidy removal policy was against the people. Some of the governors actually addressed crowds in their state capitals where they asked the Federal Government to revert to N65 per liter of petrol.

Reports indicated that some loyalists of the governments in some of the states actually facilitated the protest rallies where food, drinks and music were served the protesters. With inciting statements renting the air from many of the venues, the allegation that the intention of some protest leaders was far different from the collateral idea of Labour became clear. The dimensions were also easily discernible; politics was in the air and a variety of the pre-2015 battle had to be unleashed. Indications had reached The Friday Edition long before the January 1 fuel price increase that some opposition figures were seeking avenues to instigate impeachment process against President Goodluck Jonathan at the National Assembly.

One of the avenues they thought the process could be instigated according to sources is the expected dispute on the 2012 budget. Sources said that the actors were expecting that the Presidency would sharply disagree with the National Assembly on the management of the subsidy funds, especially as some members of the House of Representatives were threatening to replace the subsidy funds in the budget. If that is done, they expected that the President would refuse to sign or implement it, thus setting up an avenue for impeachment.

But for such actors, the avenue to tackle the government of Jonathan came too early in 2012. Rather than wait till the time of implementation of the New Year budget, the announcement of fuel price increase, which remains an emotive issue among Nigerians provided avenues to further portray the government in bad light. Some political actors were said to have stayed behind to fund the rallies heavily with the hope that the government would eventually be brought to its knees. They were said to have aimed at gaining a huge political capital from such a development. The end result of it all however according to The Friday Edition sources is the fact that their roles now would place them in a vantage position ahead of the 2015 race. Though it was understood that a variety of persons were seeking to profit from the protests, the sources confirmed that the decision was first taken to deal with the common enemy-the administration.

But while many had tackled the Federal Government for increasing the pump price of petrol, the government rose to its defence by releasing the Subsidy Re-Investment SURE document. It stated that the bulk of its share of the N1.3 trillion, which stands at N478 billion would go into roads, train development, health and education. It also spelled out the amount due to the states and local governments in the country. Despite the decision of the five governments of the South West to distance themselves from the fuel subsidy removal policy, it however emerged that the governors were seeking to go half length. They did not formally write the NEC to dissociate themselves from the decision, just as they refrained from writing the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) which has the statutory power to effect funds allocations about the decision.

That makes the publication by the Minister of State for FCT, Ms Jumoke Akinjide very relevant in the calculations. Akinjide, had in a publication titled, “Fuel Subsidy Removal, now the poor will become richer,” highlighted the gains that would accrue to the people, especially the people of South West, as a result of the subsidy removal. From the data, she obtained from the SURE document, she highlighted what would accrue to states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun from the savings expected from subsidy removal.

The data indicated that while Lagos would earn N10.10 billion annually, the local governments in the state would also earn N7.1 billion. Oyo is expected to earn N8.3 billion at the state level and another N8.2 billion for the councils; Ogun is expected to earn N6.94 billion while its councils would earn N 5.1 billion. Ondo is expected to earn N12.6 billion, while its councils are expected to earn N 4.70 billion. For Osun and Ekiti, the states are to earn N6.6 and N5.9 billion respectively, while the councils in the states would earn N6.40 and N3.70 billion. If the governments are clear headed about how to apply the funds, it could amount to huge savings in an economy largely categorized as informal and largely untaxable.

It was instructive and a huge jolt however in an era where mum had been the word from many of the ministers in the defence of the subsidy policy, Jumoke Akinjide had decided to take the government of the zone she comes from to task on the issues. The unstated questions in her publication include whether the funds that would accrue to the states and local governments would be effectively applied? Whether the governors who turned around to denounce the policy without making it formal were not planning a leeway for utilizing the money as part of their normal resources just as the governments had always used the excess crude accruals? What exactly would the governors do with the expected funds, when eventually the subsidy regime gives way?

The questions deviate from the politics that was made to cover the ground during the protests and they hit at the real issues.

INEC Shifts Adamawa Governorship Poll

The first major casualty of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) national strike occurred yesterday, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the suspension of the January 14 Adamawa State governorship election. Consequently, INEC said the governorship election would now take place on January 21.

INEC also said the decision to postpone the election was due to the prevailing situation in the state as well as the nation-wide strike.

Governor Muritala Nyako had last week imposed a curfew in the state and pledged a N25 million to any one that would give information of the killers of some people in the state last week

Just on Monday, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) concluded it grand finale rally in the state capital, Yola. But a statement signed by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said the governorship election would no longer take place as scheduled.

Jega said the election would take place in another week’s time, stressing: “In view of the prevailing situation in Adamawa State, and after consultations with relevant stakeholders in the state, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has decided to postpone the governorship election in the state by one week. The governorship election will now hold on Saturday, January 21, 2012, instead of January 14, 2012 as earlier scheduled.”

The commission reassures all Nigerians and Adamawa State residents in particular of its determination to conduct free, fair and credible election in the state.

Jega said Commission was working very closely with all stakeholders, including security agencies, to ensure a conducive environment for the conduct of the election.

Confirming INEC’s postponement of the election, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Kassim Gaidam, told THISDAY that he got a directive from the national headquarters of the commission to inform all the relevant stakeholders about the postponement.

Speaking further, he said he had called a meeting of the various stakeholders and passed on to them the relevant information about the re-scheduling of the election.

It would be recalled that THISDAY had reported about four days ago, that the governorship election might be postponed, considering the effect of the nationwide strike action embarked upon by the organised labour, which has totally crippled the state.

There are also security challenges facing the state, which is still to recover from a two day devastating attack by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram, which left over 60 person dead in Jimeta- Yola, Mubi and Lamourde. Currently there is a dusk to dawn curfew in place.

Gaidam had hinted last Friday, while addressing a workshop for polling agents for the five political parties participating in the elections, organised by the International Republican Institute, said the 2010 Electoral Act empowered the commission to postpone elections, if it had become absolutely necessary, stressing that the impending strike action was one major challenge that could affect the credibility of the poll.

He stated that already over 60 per cent of electoral materials are already embedded in the various local government councils areas of the state, awaiting the arrival of only sensitive materials.

FG, Labour Talk Deadlocked

Negotiations between organised labour and the federal government on the on-going nationwide strike over fuel subsidy removal again hit the rocks last night as the parties failed to reach any agreement.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator anyim Pius Anyim who led Labour Minister Emeka Wogu to the meeting, which was brokered by the Senate Leadership, merely told newsmen that the meeting made "great progress.”

He thanked the Senate Leadership for providing the platform for the meeting, which lasted more than four hours at the Apo Quarters residence of the Senate President.

But speaking to journalists, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar said, "We have not reached the promised land".

When reminded of the "no-work-no-pay threat by the government against civil servants taking part in the indefinite strike, Omar said, "We are used to this".

He however said the fact that Labour even honoured the government's invitation to attend the meeting was an indication that labour is already shifting ground, expressing the hope that the government would also shift some grounds.

Meanwhile, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has appealed to transporters not to increase transport fares above 30 per cent following the Federal Government withdrawal of oil subsidy.

Speaking during an interactive meeting with commercial transport owners and other stakeholders, Imoke said they should not see the decision not to carry it above 30 percent as a force by government but a collective desire by all stakeholders for it to work, explaining that he was touched by the current hardship being encountered by commuters, following the increase and felt transport fare should be regulated not to inflict hardship on the people.

Imoke noted that increase of transport fare not above 30 percent across board was reasonable as a mean to fashion out the way forward to ameliorate suffering by road users in view of the current realities.

He stated that the decision did not only affect intra-state but also interstate transportation, adding that he would talk with his colleagues especially the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi on ways to ameliorate the suffering of commuters because Anambra State was seen as the transportation nerve centre of the country.

He thanked the stakeholders for their cooperation, support, understanding and patience assuring that he would continue to work with them to ensure a friction-free transportation system in the state following the withdrawal of oil subsidy, as he added that efforts were at hand to understudy the transportation system in India and see how it could be adopted in the state to boost the sector.

According to the governor, the state intends to adopt holistic approach to ensure the transportation sector was successful, explaining that the state was prepared to take the steps for others to emulate.

Reacting, Chief Asuquo Nsa of Transitcare Company, said he was happy with the collective decision arrived at a meeting called by the governor, noting that it would assuage the feelings of the people.

Compensation: Christians Set for Showdown with Borno Gov

Christians in Borno State are set for a showdown with the state’s government for being allegedly excluded from the proposed compensation to victims of the numerous attacks and confrontations between the members of the Boko Haram sect and security agents in the state.

The Christians are alleging that non of its members are among the 36 persons whose families are to be compensated for the loss of their loved ones in the crisis. They are equally dissatisfied that the committee of inquiry set-up by the state government to work out modalities for the compensation of victims.

They said the committee, "instead of performing an holistic task concentrated on Muslims dominated areas of Kaleri, Budum market over the areas of Bulumkutu and Dala where Christians recorded huge losses."

Some of the Christians who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being singled out for attack asked "how could a committee come out to tell us that just 36 people died in the various incidents when it is a known fact that those that lost their lives alone at the Dala drinking joint were about 40."

Also the Christians said the only notable compensation to them, which was for the repair of St. Patrick Catholic Church was totally inadequate. "it was only St. Patrick Catholic Church that was awarded a paltry N4.5 million out of a compensation of N30 million it asked for."

Another respondent said: "Perhaps, the committee is for Muslims alone. Not less than 200 lives were lost to the siege of Boko Haram in the state. The committee has shown that we Christians were killed by them and they get compensated for the few of them that get killed by security agents."

An Ibo businessman who claimed that he lost four of his close friends in the attack at the Dala drinking joint, lamented that there was no justice in the compensation as no single Ibo was to be compensated for loss of lives.

Adamawa: January 14 Governorship Poll May be Postponed

Barely a week to the Adamawa State governorship election slated for January 14, 2012, there are indications that the poll may be shifted following fears that it may be marred by the strike being called by Organised Labour to protest the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Kassim Gaidam, said although the Independent National Electoral Commission was going ahead with all necessary preparations to ensure a hitch-free poll on the scheduled date, the commission was also fully aware of the effect the impending strike may have on the conduct of a free and credible election.

The Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and other civil society groups in the country are mobilising for a general strike on Monday just a few days to the slated poll.

Gaidam was addressing a workshop for polling agents for the five political parties participating in the elections organised by the International Republican Institute in conjunction with INEC.

He said the Electoral Act 2010 empowers the commission to postpone elections, if it becomes absolutely necessary.

He said the planned strike was one major challenge that could affect the credibility of the poll.

Gaidam, however, said though it was a little bit early to predict what would happen, the commission would consult widely with all the relevant stakeholders before reaching a decision.

‘’As of now there is no basis for postponing the election, but should the situation arise, the commission would decide on postponing the election, after consulting our stakeholders as usual,’’ he said.

He said already over 60 per cent of electoral materials were embedded in the various local government areas of the state and that the commission was only awaiting the arrival of only sensitive materials.

NBA Orders Lawyers to Boycott Courts

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has ordered all the 88 branches of the association to commence the boycott of courts in the country from January 9, in solidarity with the directives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

Also, Lagos lawyers under the auspices of the NBA, Ikeja Branch yesterday took to the streets to protest the removal of subsidy on fuel by federal government. However, NBA in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Joseph Daudu, said the boycott had became necessary to facilitate the continuation of pressure on the government to rescind its actions.

It also called on the Federal Government to reverse the withdrawal of subsidy from premium motor spirit (petrol) even as it suggested alternatives to subsidy removal, the association said it became necessary to facilitate the continuation of pressure on the government to rescind its actions.

The association described the withdrawal of the subsidies as not only premature, but wicked and insensitive, stressing that it stood with the people because it was ready to put all its resources at the disposal of good governance and the rule of law. It said: “With all due respect, there are many alternatives. If government should apply half the vigour with which it has pursued the issue of the removal of subsidy to the eradication of corruption in all the arms of government and in society in general, then trillions of naira would be freed up for developmental projects.

“Government should identify areas of wastage in governance such as the allocation of largesse and booties in the name of allowances and withdraw them forthwith. Government must embark on a re-orientation of its own values and ethics and those of Nigerians,” the NBA said.

The association called on the National Assembly to officially and formally declare its position on the removal of fuel subsidy and call on the President to rescind or reverse his actions if truly it is on the side of the people. “Government clearly does not understand the seriousness of the situation. It has failed to understand that all governments be they dictatorial or otherwise enjoy power because the people allow it to remain in power.

“No Government can outlast the will of the people. It is clear that Nigerians do not and will not tolerate subsidy removal under the terms and conditions set out or laid down by the government. Any removal of subsidy based on the importation of petroleum products is unacceptable to Nigerians. Government must create the infrastructure for the refining 100 per cent of petroleum products in Nigeria and by Nigerians,” the NBA stated.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Lagos NBA, Mr. Adebamigbe Omole, said the association decided to embark on the protest because it wanted government rescind its decision on fuel subsidy removal. He said: said “We must not allow this evil to continue. The increase of fuel price is only to the benefit of the rich and people in control of government. They want us to make sacrifices while they and their families continue to enjoy. This must stop! Nigerians, rise up and defend your lives and the future of your children. Protest peacefully, protest massively protest continuously.”

The protest took off from the Bar Centre in Ikeja High Court premises with different placard to the Lagos State House of Assembly. Some inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Lawyers Say No To Fuel Subsidy removal’ ‘No To Fuel Price Hike', 'Jonathan resign if you are berate of ideas', 'Jonathan must go', No To Fuel Price Hike', ‘Jonathan, remember you had no shoes, are you cutting off our legs’ and ‘N600 income per day, N800 cost of transport. Haba Jonathan’.

PDP Suspends Congresses Indefinitely

In an apparent deference to the mode of the nation, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suspended all the planned ward congresses expected to take place this Saturday in all the 8800 wards of the federation.

This is coming as the Yobe State executive committee of the PDP asked for the postponement of all scheduled ward, local government and state congresses in the state, citing the current security crisis in the state as well as the state of emergency in some local governments area.

In suspending all the wards congresses earlier slated for Saturday January 7, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, in a statement said that after reviewing developments in the party and the nation and “conscious of its resolve to ensure credible and transparent congresses and National Convention, has decided to postpone the take- off of the exercise in order to give the State chapters enough time to mobilise our members nationwide. New dates will be announced in due course,” he added.

The statement from PDP which in reference to the strike action expected to commence January 9, called on the Organised Labour, Civil Society organisations, Student Associations and Nigerians in general to exercise restraint in their utterances and actions over the recent government policy on the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

According to PDP, “While it is conceded there is bound to be legitimate fears and concerns over every new government policy, we should all be mindful of some anti democratic forces who, for their own selfish reasons are trying desperately to take advantage of this situation to undermine the unity, peace and security of our nation.

“The fact of the matter is that, the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry is a patriotic decision taken by government in the overall interest of all Nigerians. The initial accompanying pains will definitely be diminished by the long term benefits of the policy to each and every Nigerian,” PDP said.

Accordingly, PDP appealed to all Nigerians, “especially the organised labour, civil organisations, students associations and other interest groups to embrace the dialogue option already offered by the Federal Government in order to resolve any issues arising from this laudable policy. We should do everything possible to support President Goodluck Jonathan in his deep commitment and determination to transform Nigeria into one of the leading nations in the world.”

Police Attempt to Stop Protest Fails

Hundreds of youths yesterday marched through the major streets of Bauchi, the Bauchi State capital protesting against the removal of oil subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan, despite moves by the state Police Command to stop the protesters.

Prior to Thursday’s protest, the state Police Command had earlier warned parents not to allow their wards to engage in any act that will result to the breach of public peace or to be used for any illegality in the name of the removal of oil subsidy. Apparently in a move to prevent the subsidy protest, heavily armed mobile policemen were deployed to various areas considered as hot spots across Bauchi metropolis. The stern looking police officers were present at Gidan mai Junction, along Bauchi – Jos road, Ahmadu Bello Way roundabout, Wunti-Yandoka road, Yelwa, Railway Quarters, Bauchi-Gombe road, Bauchi-Maiduguri road with some others patrolling around the state capital. Others were deployed to towns such as Azare, Misau, Toro and Tafawa Balewa local government areas, among others.

The state Police Commissioner, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, said in a statement issued to journalists in Bauchi, that: The warning became necessary due to the impending rallies over the removal of fuel subsidy and the strong resolve of the command at ensuring that the rallies and procession don’t hold in this state, the aim being to ensure that the generality of citizens of the state continue to enjoy the existing peace presently being experienced in the state.”

Aduba said: “The command has always insisted and rightly too, that peace and tranquility is achievable if all stake holders join hands with the security agents, it has also insisted that no meaningful development can be achieved in a state devoid of peace.” He advised people to provide police with useful information and reporting any suspicious movements through these telephone numbers 07038057404, 08084763669.

However, hundreds of placard-carrying youths carried out their protests in a peaceful manner and were closely monitored by the Police and other security agencies. The protesters, which include student bodies, youth organisations, Achaba riders (commercial motorcycle riders), Sara-Suka(dreaded political thugs), among others vowed to continue with the protest until federal government responds to the calls by Nigerians to restore subsidy on petrol it removed.

Our correspondent who monitored the movement of the protesting youths, especially in the city centre of the reports that the action of the youth almost brought commercial and economic activities to a standstill as both passers-by and commercial motorcyclists were forced to join the protests.

As at the time of filling this report, the youth were still in their hundreds singing anti-government songs as they carry out their protest and are not molested by security men who are watching close.

PDP inaugurates Ogun transition body, court bars committee

A Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained Chief Bode Mustapha-led Transition, Reconciliation and Congress Committee from carrying out its functions barely an hour after the members were inaugurated on Thursday.

The TRCC of the Ogun PDP set up by the National Vice-Chairman of the party, South-West Zone, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, consists of Mustapha, Titus Eweje, Fasiu Bakene, Gbenga Shobowale, Dipo Odujirin, Michael Fasinu, Dayo Adebayo, Mrs. Iyabo Apampa and Mr. Segun Sowunmi.

The restraining order followed a suit FHC/L/CS/1248/2011 filed at the Federal High Court Lagos by the trio of Chief Dayo Soremi, Mr. Bayo Dayo and Mr. Taiwo Abisekan against members of the TRCC and others.

A little drama, however, ensued at the Goodluck Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Office on Abiola Way, Abeokuta, venue of the inauguration of the committee as the Federal High Court bailiff, who tried to serve the committee members the court process, was subjected to what looked like a game of hide and seek.

While Eweje, Secretary of the Committee; Bayo and Sowunmi, were served the court process, the Chairman, Mustapha, and four others could not be accessed. Apampa was absent from the inauguration.

The bailiff, who refused to give his name said, "When I got there to serve them, I met a lady at the reception. The lady wanted to allow me into the room where they were holding a meeting but one man there said I should not be allowed. So I walked out of the reception and waited for them outside.

"When they finished the meeting, I went to every one of them that they should sign the order. One of them was running around and I kept following him. Someone asked me to go into the chairman's office and before I entered the office, the chairman left through the back door and ran inside his car and drove off. So, I was able to serve the papers on three members – the secretary and two others."

At the inauguration, Mustapha urged members to be fair in reconciling members, who had moved to other parties including the Peoples Party of Nigeria, but were desirous of returning to the fold.

Confusion in Edo as 2012 draws near

The Labour Party (LP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) have decided to field a consensus candidate for next year’s governorship in Edo State. They may have decided to endorse the candidacy of Mr. Solomon Edebiri.

For the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Governor Adams Oshiomhole appears the sole candidate. Leaders of the party in the state have backed Oshiomhole for a second term and no other aspirant has emerged within the party.

It is still difficult to guess who would emerge as the candidate to fly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag following the large number of aspirants who have declared intention to contest the party’s primaries.

A former member of the State House of Assembly and Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the state, Hon Matthew Iduoriyikemwen, has also joined the race, fuelling speculations that he might be the anointed candidate from Edo South.

Other top contenders for the PDP ticket include Hon Julius Ihonvbere, Barr. Kenneth Imasuangbon popularly known as ‘Rice man’, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor and Major General Charles Airhiavbere.

Sources at the PDP told The Nation that the battle for the PDP ticket will be between Prof Oserheimen Osunbor and Iduoriyikemwen. Airhiavbere, according to the source, has not spent up to two years as a member of the PDP and therefore might be disqualified. There are also speculations that the PDP hierarchy is uncomfortable with the manner Airhiavbere was retired from the military and that their opponents might use it to score cheap political points if he is given the party’s ticket.

It was learnt that Ihonvbere and Imasuangbon are watching keenly if a level playing field will be provided for the aspirants. Imasuangbon, during a visit to the party secretariat to declare his intention, stirred hornets’ nest when he expressed reservation on the ability of the PDP leaders to conduct fair primaries.

Imasuangbon’s fears were not unconnected with reports that the PDP might opt for an Edo South candidate if the party is to defeat Oshiomhole at the polls. Imasuangbon and Ihonvbere are said to consider Airhiavbere as a new comer in the party who should not reap where he did not sow.

The Nation learnt that the drafting of Iduoriyikemwen into the governorship race was to calm frayed nerves if eventually he is picked as the party’s candidate. In the ACN, the choice of Oshiomhole’s running mate has caused acrimony within the party’s leadership and followership.

Spearheading the removal of incumbent Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, is National Vice Chairman of ACN (South South) and former Secretary to the Edo State Government, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Some youths recently protested through the streets of Benin City demanding the removal of Odubu from next year governorship race. Their reasons were that Odubu does not act accordingly whenever Oshiomhole travels.

It was learnt that the battle to remove Odubu is a battle over who replaced Oshiomhole in 2016. Those pushing for Odubu’s removal, it was learnt, reasoned that Odubu might become too powerful to stop in 2016 when Oshiomhole leaves office.

An ACN leader who pleaded anonymity told The Nation that the clamour for the removal of Dr. Odubu is the Igbinedion’s ploy to get back to power in the state. The ACN leader confirmed that Oshiomhole had repeatedly asked for 10 reasons why he must drop Odubu he considered to be ‘very loyal’.

Unconfirmed reports have it that Oshiomhole has decided to call the bluff of those ACN leaders pushing for the removal of Odubu by insisting that he will not drop Odubu.

Meanwhile, a socio-political group, the Edo United for Good Governance described those contending for next year’s governorship election in Edo State as ‘political jokers and day dreamers’.

The group said it reached its conclusion after it examined the character of major contenders for the governorship race especially in the PDP. Spokesperson for the group, Mrs. Evelyn Igbafe who stated it at a press briefing said: “No governor can perform wonders in a kleptomaniac and ruinous party as we had before this government”.

According to the group, “Prof Osunbor was a governor on a platform the courts declared fraudulent and can be described as hopelessly incompetent and colourless. Major-General Airhiavbere was in the army as a pay officer. He has no political antecedent and therefore can be described as a political recruit.” “Prof Julius Ihonvbere is not a person to govern a pacesetter state like Edo”

. Mrs. Igbafe who described Oshiomhole as a dogged fighter who has transformed the state, said the group would mobilise residents of the state, including civil society groups for the re-election of Oshiomhole.

As more aspirants continue to emerge in the parties, March 2012 will determine the political tempo. That is when Oshiomhole will know those to face at the poll.

Reps abandon 96 motions

THE House of Representatives may have abandoned a total of 96 motions as the various committees of the House have failed to hold hearings on the affected motions.

Findings on Tuesday showed that the motions were raised on the floor of the House and referred to various standing and adhoc committees to conduct investigations and public hearings. The committees have, however, refused to act on them.

Our correspondent learnt that some of the abandoned motions, especially those demanding investigation into poor infrastructure in the country such a roads, healthcare services, disaster management and the disbursement of ecological funds were referred to the committees as far back as June.

A source in the National Assembly said, "It is almost seven months after some committees were mandated to conduct investigations into issues raised in the motions. As we speak, many of the committees have not held a single meeting to discuss the assignments referred to them.

"As of Tuesday last week when the House adjourned sitting for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, there were up to 96 motions unattended to by committees." THE PUNCH gathered that in the 6th House of Representatives, all motions without exceptions, were debated on the floor and resolutions passed after the debate. The resolutions either asked the Executive to take immediate actions on the issues raised or mandated committees to conduct further investigations and lay reports before the House.

However, the current 7th House, which was inaugurated on June 6, amended its rules to exclude certain motions from being debated on the floor pending investigations by committees.

For instance, Order VIII, Rule 51 (5) states, "Motions relating to infrastructure, utility, natural disaster and such other subject related motions shall be moved, seconded and the question thereon put without debate and if agreed to shall be referred to the relevant standing committee."

The chairman of an influential committee in the House confided in The PUNCH that the leadership had "good intentions" in introducing the method but admitted that it "appears to be counterproductive already."

He said, "The reason for this new rule is to avoid a situation where the House would take hasty resolutions on issues without first understanding them.

"The motions so referred are to be thoroughly investigated by the committees and the House properly guided before passing a resolution, unlike in the past when resolutions were hastily passed.

"But, it has turned out that some committees simply sit on the motions referred to them; they have become more like graveyards for motions." Our correspondent learnt that at a recent meeting of principal officers where the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, presided, some high-ranking legislators had lodged complaints over what they called "shoddy handling of motions referred to certain committees."

There were also reported complaints by some lawmakers who accused presiding officers of interpreting the rule "the way it pleases them to decide which motion is to be debated immediately."

The outcome of the meeting was said to have forced the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, to read the riot act to committees that were not performing.

"Hon. Sam-Tsokwa recently listed about 21 committees found to be weak and their chairmen were warned to sit up", a source close to the leadership disclosed to our correspondent in Abuja.

Only on Thursday last week, Sam-Tsokwa had confirmed that the House considered 137 motions since June, passed 35 resolutions and "referred 92 motions to standing and adhoc committees pursuant to Order VIII, Rule 51 (5) of the Standing Orders of the House."

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, has however denied that the motions referred to the committees have been abandoned.

He claimed that the various committees were working, adding that the House had given them two weeks to complete all assignments and submit reports to the plenary. "The House gave them two more weeks to submit their reports; it is not correct to say that they abandoned the motions", he told our correspondent on the telephone before the House proceeded on break.

Mohammed however admitted that some committees had not held meetings.

"Some of the issues are not really about funds, but just to call committee meetings", he said.

Incidentally, committee operations take huge funds from the House’ budget. In 2009, over N3.6bn was budgeted for committee activities.

In 2010, the budget was jacked up to around N4bn to fund the operations of 84 committees, though the majority of the committees rarely handled any assignments.

Southwest gets PDP secretary

Governors take Bayelsa crisis to NEC

The National Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has retained the party’s chairmanship in the Northeast as part of a new zoning formula. The Southwest is to produce the national secretary.

The party may be in for a stormy National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting today as the governors elected on its platform are insisting on the inclusion of the Bayelsa State primary election on the agenda.

The National Caucus endorsed the zoning formula Tuesday night.

The party offices will now be shared at the National Convention in February as follows: National Chairman (Northeast); Deputy National Chairman (Southsouth); National Secretary (Southwest); National Treasurer (Northcentral); National Organising Secretary (Northwest); National Legal Adviser (Northcentral); and the National Publicity Secretary (Southeast).

The House of Representatives Speaker was zoned to the Southwest, but the election of Aminu Tambuwal (Northwest) as Speaker upset the arrangement, leaving the Southwest without any post.

A source said: “What we did was to focus on the forthcoming National Convention in February and how to reposition the party to make it stronger for the challenges ahead.

“We want to put in place a National Working Committee that will uphold the rule of law, ensure justice and fairness and enforce party discipline.

“This is a tentative new zoning formula outlook which is subject to the ratification of the Board of Trustees and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. “The party decided to retain the chairmanship in the Northeast to ensure a balance in power sharing formula. The zone has been talking of marginalisation in the scheme of things.

“There were suggestions on dates for the convention but the NEC will take the final decision.”

Asked about the choice of a new National Chairman, the source added: “That is left to our leaders and governors to decide among the aspirants. We know we will reach a consensus before the convention in February.

“So far, the number of aspirants has risen to 11 in the light of the ratification of the new zoning formula.

“The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali and Ibrahim Birma are in the race.

“Others are a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hassan Adamu, ex-Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Muhammed Tukur; ex-Minister of Petroleum, Prof. Jibril Aminu (Adamawa); ex-Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Idris Waziri; ex-Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Shettima Mustapha, a former National Chairman of the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), Alhaji Gambo Lawan (Borno); ex-Governor Adamu Mu’azu (Bauchi) and Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe State).” The party is set for the NEC meeting today to ratify the timetable for the convention, PDP governors are poised for a fresh battle.

They are mounting pressure on the NWC to put the recently concluded Bayelsa State Primary Election in the agenda.

“The governors are insisting that the party must get to the root of the crisis in Bayelsa since the NWC insisted that it acted on behalf of the NEC. “There is tension everywhere but the PDP leadership will find a way out.”

A party source said: “We may not accede to the governors’ request because discussing the Bayelsa State primary election will be subjudice to the ongoing court process by Governor Timipre Sylva.”

Bayelsa Poll: PDP Submits Dickson’s Name to INEC

As part of its efforts to meet the December 11 deadline for political parties to submit the names of their candidates for the February 11, 2012 governorship election in Bayelsa State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday submitted the name of Hon. Henry Sierake Dickson as its governorship candidate.

Also, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Senator Abubakar Gada and former Minister of Sports, Alhaji Yousuf Sulieman, will face the PDP governorship screening committee in Kaduna today ahead of the party’s primary election.

Though the PDP is still at the Court of Appeal over the validity of the election of Dickson as its candidate and the hearing will hold December 12, THISDAY reliably gathered that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) at its meeting on Wednesday directed that the name of Dickson be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) immediately.

A source from INEC informed THISDAY that like other political parties, the PDP has successfully complied with the deadline of December 11 for the submission of the name of its governorship candidate.

According to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, political parties are expected to submit the names of their respective flag bearers not later than 60 days to the election date.

Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, who was disqualified from contesting the governorship primary election, has gone to a Federal High Court challenging his disqualification.

Though the PDP conducted its primary won by Dickson won, Sylva prayed the court to annul the election, a decision that made the PDP through its National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, to appeal for the stopping of proceedings at the Federal High Court presided by Justice G.O. Kolawole on the ground that no court can stop the primary election of any political party.

Both parties to the matter have submitted their written briefs to the Court of Appeal and it is expected for the court to decide on the substantive appeal on December 12.

THISDAY gathered that Dickson’s name was submitted with retired Rear Admiral Jonah Gboriibiogha John as his running mate. When THISDAY contacted an aide to Sylva on the submission of the list, he simply said, “be rest assured that Sylva’s name will be in the ballot at the February 11 2012”, explaining that the governor was still exploring all available options before taking the final decision.

“Though, the deadline for the political parties to submit names to INEC is December 11 which is 60 days to the election date of February 11, but there is a 30 days period (January 11, 2012) for any of the political parties to substitute the names of its candidates, if they so wish,” he said.

Also, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has chosen a lawyer, Kamela Okara, to fly its flag in the governorship election. Meanwhile, all the three governorship aspirants that purchased the Sokoto state governorship election nomination forms are expected to appear before a five-man screening committee in Kaduna today.

The names of the members of the screening committee were yet to be made public as at last night

2011 Elections Not Perfect, Says Jega

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Thursday admitted that the April 2011, which produced the current political office holders in the country were not perfect.

Speaking at a two-day retreat and workshop for INEC Public Affairs Officers from across the country in Kaduna, he said the commission has embarked on some restructuring to correct the lapses noticeable during the voter registration exercise and the 2011elections.

Represented at the occasion by the Chairman of the Information and Publicity Committee of the Commission, Mr.Solomon Soyebi, Jega said although conducting transparent and credible elections was a difficult task, he stressed that credible elections could be achieved with the cooperation of all the stakeholders.

He charged participants at the workshop to identify the lapses that attended the conduct of both the voter registration and the 2011 general elections with a view to coming up with suggestions on how to address them against future polls.

According to him, the task of delivering elections that are transparent and credible is a herculean one, given the pedigree the Nigerian nation, context and deprivations, adding that the commission will continue to strive to ensure that elections in Nigeria are credible and transparent.

“This is not an idle vision or wishful thinking as the commission has embarked on a re-organization and restructuring exercise with a view to repositioning itself to ensure much better service delivery,” he said.

“Through the two major projects under my watch, namely the Voter Registration exercise and the 2011 General Elections, the Commission has, as confirmed by the reports of local and international observers, raised the bar in terms of delivering free, fair and credible elections in this country.

“Nigerians and members of the international community are unanimously agreed that the new commission, since its advent in June 2010, has added value to the electoral process and that substantial gains have been made on the electoral front,” Jega said.

Election: Tribunal Dismisses Tinubu’s Objection

The National Assembly/Legislative House Election Petition Tribunal yesterday dismissed the preliminary objection raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear the application filed by the Labour Party (LP) call additional witnesses to testify in its petition challenging the election of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu.

In his ruling, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice A A Nwaigwe, noted that since it was INEC who raised the issue on non- submission of Labour Party candidate’s INEC Form EC 4B in its reply to the petition, there was need to call witnesses.

The tribunal said “We agree with the petitioner that is need to remove the cloud covering this aspect of the petition in the interest of justice by calling as witnesses those alleged to have taken part in the submission of the INEC Form”

“The petitioner has already filed the sworn deposition of the two witnesses, on the whole, we hold that the present application is meritorious and same is granted as prayed. Accordingly, leave is granted to the petitioner to add two additional witnesses’ statements on oath and call additional witnesses.” The tribunal consequently granted LP leave to call additional witnesses to testify in its petition challenging the election of Tinubu.

The two additional witnesses are Ebere Ifendu and Dapo Durosinmi Etti.

The INEC, ACN and Tinubu, had asked the tribunal to either strike out/ dismiss the petition without going into the substantive issues in the petition.

But counsel to LP, Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru (SAN) had in a motion on notice dated June 20 sought leave of the tribunal to bring two additional witnesses.

But, lawyer to INEC, Mr. Wale Adetomiwa in it preliminary objection argued that the petitioner was out of time and should be denied the opportunity to call additional witnesses.

Also, counsel to Remi Tinubu, Mrs. Alonge in her submission urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for being fundamentally defective and vesting no jurisdiction on the tribunal to adjudicate on.

The tribunal has fixed January 4 for adoption of written addresses and conclusion of hearing.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, it would be recalled, had directed that the election petition filed by Labour Party (LP) challenging the decision of the tribunal be heard de novo (afresh) by a new Election Panel to be constituted by the President Court of Appeal.

FG to Dialogue with ASUU

Federal Government yesterday, said it would continue to hold talks with the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) as it require about N160 billion to pay the allowances the union was agitating for.

Minister of Education, Prof. Rukayat Ahmed Rufai, who stated this at the commissioning of the new zonal office of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in Minna, Niger State, explained that out of 19 issues raised by ASUU, nine had been implemented and others at various stages of implementation.

Senate Panel Wants Sale of Sheraton, Daily Times Revoked

The Senate ad hoc committee, which investigated the privatisation and commercialisation exercise of some Federal Government property by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), has recommended the revocation of the sale of Alscon, Daily Times and Delta Steel.

Also recommended for reversal are the sales of Abuja International Hotels Limited (NICON Luxury Hotel) and Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, for failure of the core investors to deliver on the fundamental provision of Share Purchase Agreement/Post Acquisition Plan.

The panel recommended the removal of the Director-General of BPE, Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa, for “gross incompetence” and “the illegal and fraudulent sale of the Federal Government’s residual shares in Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited”.

In its report submitted to the Senate plenary on Tuesday, the committee headed by Senator Ahmad Lawan also recommended a holistic reorganisation of the management of the BPE.

The panel, which observed that a total of 122 enterprises were privatised during the period under review, said “the goals of the programme as envisioned have not been reasonably met”, lamenting the lack of transparency and failure of BPE to comply with the privatisation procedure in the sale of some public enterprises.

The panel further recommended that the former Directors-General, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, Dr. Julius Bala and Mrs. Irene Nkechi Chigbue, should be reprimanded by the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) for seeking approval directly from the president instead of the NCP as stipulated in the Public Enterprises Act 1999.

Also, the report wants Bala to be investigated by the anti-graft agencies for giving approval to Folio Communication Limited for the illegal sale of the assets of Daily Times Nigeria Plc.

It recommended that the NCP should rescind the sale of Daily Times to Folio in obedience to the several court judgments.

The panel wants the asset-stripping of Daily Times by Folio and its directors to be investigated by the anti-graft agencies.

These are the major highlights of the report, which was laid on the Senate table on Tuesday. The report was sequel to an intense probe of the BPE activities from inception to date by a Senate Ad Hoc Committee led by Senator Lawan. The probe followed a Senate resolution to that effect.

The report, however, frowned on the incessant interference in the privatisation process by the Presidency and recommended that it should be avoided in future.

The panel said NCP should rescind the sale of Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) to Dayson Holdings BV and re-advertise it for sale, ditto for Delta Steel Company which was sold to Global infrastructure Holdings Limited and Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited.

It also said the Federal Government should implement the Inter-Ministerial Technical Audit Report on Ajaokuta Steel Complex dated July 2011 which recommended the completion and inauguration of the plant by the Federal Government.

Furthermore, the panel recommended that the BPE should discontinue the use of privatisation proceeds to settle staff terminal benefits, consultancy fees, transaction expenses and execution of capital projects.

“It should approach the National Assembly for appropriation as provided for in Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended,” said the report.

The report directed that BPE should close all privatisation proceeds accounts in commercial banks and henceforth put all proceeds in Privatisation Proceeds Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria in compliance with section 19(1) of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act 1999.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the panel said, should immediately be drafted to investigate the economic crimes being perpetrated against the nation at VON Automobile Nigeria Limited premises in Lagos by Barbedos Ventures Limited (BVI).

The panel said the taxes and import duties accruable to the Federal Government on all goods smuggled into the warehouse of VON Automobile Nigeria Limited should be computed and recovered by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) respectively.

N40bn Loan: Clerk Backs Bankole, Nafada

Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Sanni Omolori, Wednesday testified in favour of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, and his deputy, Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada, before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.

Omolori was, on Tuesday, summoned to appear before the court to explain why he had been frustrating investigation in the matter as alleged by counsel to the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Festus Keyamo.

In his testimony, which lasted over one hour, the Clerk told the presiding judge, Justice Suleiman Belgore, that the decision to obtain loans by the leadership of the 6th House was reached with the consent of the entire members of the lower chamber.

He said the funds were not at anytime turned into the personal accounts of Bankole and Nafada, who are now facing a 17-count charge of criminal breach of public trust and corruption preferred against them by the EFCC.

Sanni, who appeared as prosecution witness (PW4) stated further that the two accused persons did not benefit from the loans taken as claimed by the EFCC, as the running costs of their offices were decreased to N100m for the Speaker and N80m for his Deputy.

Omolori, however, suddenly became hostile under cross-examination by counsel to the 1st accused person, Wale Akonni (SAN), and that of the 2nd accused person, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN).

He said in March 2010, the leadership of the House, in an executive session, had a briefing about the import of the 2010 budget and members, who were duly briefed, expressed dissatisfaction with a number of areas in the budget, one of which was the running cost.

They advanced various reasons why the leadership of the House should enhance the running cost of members.

“The whole idea of enhancement of welfare and running cost was to put it in the budget that was in the offing. Even though there was money in the budget, members were not prepared to wait until the release of the budget. The agitation from members became so vicious that they insisted they were either paid what they wanted or the leadership will be sacked,” he said.

The clerk pointed out that the decision reached on March 30, which resulted in the loans, was endorsed by all members.

“The loans taken were to enhance the running cost of members, even as the total budget later passed took care of the costs,” he added.

He also said that both Bankole and Nafada had no control over the accounts of the House.

“Accounts that were maintained belonged to the House of Representatives and not the Speaker. The 1st accused person had no control over any House accounts and when the loans were taken by the resolution of the general House, the running costs of the Speaker and his deputy, who also did not benefit from the loans taken, were decreased drastically,” he concluded.

Boko Haram: Mark Backs EU Security Plans

Worried by the lingering security challenges facing Nigeria, the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, has endorsed the European Union (EU) strategic plan for security and development in Africa to tackle the menace.

Mark, while playing host to the EU External Action Service delegation, led by the Ambassador, David Macrae, in his office yesterday, praised the Commission for the strategic role it was playing at ensuring adequate security.

He maintained that the issue of development and security could not be separated, saying: “We are not immune to the problems that confront us. We need to show interest in what is happening around us. There is need for us to seek advice and opinion from advance technology nations if we are to get solution to our problems.

“I think the European Union is playing a key role here; that key role must be appreciated. It is a unique role and we must key into it.”

The Senate President explained further that the nation could get out of the crisis only when the citizenry unite and cooperate to fight the insecurity challenges militating against peace and development.

Earlier, Macrae had while unfolding some strategies for security and development in the Sahel and other African countries, said the problems facing these countries not only affect the local population but increasingly impact directly on the interests of European citizens.

He canvassed for closer regional cooperation to tackle the security challenges, stressing that the security threat from terrorist activities in these countries are focused on Western nations and has evolved from taking money to taking life, discouraging investment in the region.

Macrae said political action and adequate engagement of the EU are vital, adding that adequate resources, expertise and funding by the EU and its member-states will also be encouraged.

Obanikoro Flays LASU Fee Hike, Lekki Toll Collection

Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Wednesday described as insensitive and unjustifiable, the recent hike in the fees paid by students of Lagos State University (LASU) by the state government as well as the toll gate mounted on the Lekki axis of the state.

Obanikoro, in a statement, said he had followed the development and expressed surprise at the level of insensitivity exhibited by the state government over the issue.

The envoy, said the new fees for LASU students was not just indefensibly high, but an indication that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)-led government has vindicated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over its flawed policies.

“This explains the level of impunity with which the ACN government does things simply because it is confident no one would challenge its actions. Unfortunately, it would not get away with this because it is unacceptable, insensitive, and completely anti-people.

“My advice is that they should look inward and review their inefficiency in the management of funds. That way, they could save more money for not just the education sector of the state but some other capital intensive projects,” he stated.

On the controversy trailing the Lekki toll gate, Obanikoro said: “Despite the absence of alternate access to road users along Lekki axis of the state, the ACN-led government has decided to inflict more pains on the people of this state.

There is no reasonable and sensitive government anywhere in the world where people are not given the option to choose between toll and non-toll roads. It is obvious the ACN government has outlived its usefulness.”

While acknowledging that sound education was expensive and that the state might be constrained financially because of its huge debt profile as being reported lately, Obanikoro said the sensible thing for any government with human face ought to have done was to cut down on its frivolous and reckless spending and infuse such funds into sectors, which were in dire need of lifeline.

On the controversy trailing the Lekki toll gate, Obanikoro said: “Despite the absence of alternate access to road users along Lekki axis of the state, the ACN-led government has decided to inflict more pains on the people of this state. There is no reasonable and sensitive government anywhere in the world where people are not given the option to choose between toll and non-toll roads. It is obvious the ACN government has outlived its usefulness.”

Obanikoro said: “How does anyone defend an increment from N25, 000 to over N200, 000 at a time like this? Or is this a way to recoup what the government intends to put into minimum wage? This is totally unacceptable and no parent will pay such fee informed by irrational decision of an insensate government.”

Commending the state House of Assembly for challenging the hike in the fee, he said: “It is regrettable that the ACN government has carried on with as much insensitivity. It was further baffling to hear the state assembly note that the hike did not follow due process and even more worrisome was the statement attributed to the then acting vice chancellor of LASU, Mrs. Ibiyemi Tunji-Bello that she also knew of the hike like every other person, notwithstanding her position and that the school was only instructed to carry out the order.”

Obanikoro, who described the ACN government as “highly intolerant to criticisms” since their words are usually at variance with their actions however implored the state assembly to take the issue with the seriousness it deserves and ensure that a reasonable balance is achieved by the committee put in place to look into the controversy.

Obasanjo urges aggrieved members to return to PDP

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has appealed to aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State to resolve their differences and embrace peace in the interest of the party and the nation as a whole.

Obasanjo made the appeal on Tuesday while addressing party members who attended the birthday ceremony of his elder sister, Mrs. Abigael Adewusi, and presentation of gifts to some physically-challenged persons in Ibadan. The former President noted that the reconciliation in the party had started to yield good fruit. He expressed hope that the development would restore the integrity of the party as one big family that was rooted in love.

Obasanjo said, "I am happy to see the pillar of our party in Oyo State, the South-West and Nigeria becoming stronger. I know some of us may be frustrated, disenchanted and discouraged. However, I want to implore us to be patient. "What we need at this stage in our party is a re-examination of the position of our party. Nobody should consider himself as being above the party. If we are to consider ourselves as relevant and not just an election winning party, we should be ready to reposition the PDP. There are some corrections to be made."

Obasanjo explained that the aggrieved members of the party that came for the celebration did so in order to honour him. According to him, discord and disappointment were parts of the beauty of democracy. The former President also urged the physically challenged persons, who were presented with 25 wheel chairs on the occasion by the founder of Adewusi Vocational Centre, Mr. Gbenga Adewusi, not to regard their condition as a limiting factor. As a special breed, he said, they should brace themselves for the challenges that life presented.

Adewusi, who is the former Chairman of Ibadan North East Local Government, used the occasion to appreciate God for the upbringing that Obasanjo gave him. Among those who were present at the programme were PDP chiefs, Mr.Yekinni Adeojo, Brig.-Gen. Raji Rasaki (retd), and former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Taofik Arapaja.

Sokoto: ‘I leave judgment to God’


Since the Supreme Court early this year suspended the Appeal Court judgement on the Sokoto 2007 governorship election that saw the emergence of incumbent Governor Aliyu Wamakko, the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DPP) gubernatorial candidate, Alhaji Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi, had been silent. Now, he has opened up, saying he has taken his case to God.

“I may have been silent but not sleeping. I have been keeping watch on the activities in the judiciary just as I remain determined to put more life to my party. Also, in my earlier reaction, I said judgement would be here on earth or hereafter and therefore, I decided to leave everything to God because it was not proper for me to continue making remarks on issues allegedly concluded. That was why I left everything to Allah to decide for me.

“We have been hearing of the judicial craft on Sokoto matter which remains in decay until it is addressed, otherwise, it will continue to reflect on the judiciary. I am happy and convinced with the recent comment by the CJN that no court has the jurisdiction to stop an Appeal Court judgement,” Dingyadi said.

Asked if he was nursing a fresh ambition ahead of the next round of election in the state, the politician replied: “I am still in DPP and whatever aspiration I have, I will continue to pursue it under DPP. Only my party has the power to say who should vie for any elective position. It is not for me to decide for the party. I have aspired before and if given the opportunity again, I will welcome that because it is service to the people and humanity. We are out to serve the people of Sokoto State provided the party will provide the enabling platform as well give us the go ahead by accepting us.”

Many had expected him to follow the foot steps of his mentor and former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa when he reportedly announced his resignation from Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He explained his stance: “My political platform remains DPP. I am just hearing from you that he has put up his resignation. Anyway, he was in ACN and I am still in DPP. I am in DPP and have been in it for long and will continue to be in the party for its success in Sokoto state and country in general.”

“But there are wide speculations that Governor Wamakko is making moves to appoint you as his Chief of Staff. Is it true? He was asked. His response: “I am just hearing it from you and no one has contacted nor talked with me on that. Wamakko is the governor and Chief Executive Officer in the state as well as leader of his party (PDP). He has the power to take decisions. But as I said earlier, I am in DPP and if I have to work for any party, I need to obtain permission or clearance from my political constituency (DPP) before engaging in that.”

He called on the state government to carry those in the opposition along for the even spread of development in the state as well to ensure sense of belonging, saying: “It will help in the positive development of the state.”

He lauded the federal government decision on the Justice Uwais-led committee appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to reform the judiciary. His words: “The committee is a combination of competent and eminent Nigerians who are capable of making justice realisable for the common man’s benefit. It comprises people who have served with all sense of responsibility. I cannot doubt their integrity. I believe there are still people who can do justice to assignments given to them.

“A number of them have been talking of the problems and that I think, informed the CJN’s decision to carefully select them for the judicial system review and further advise him on how best to reform the judicial system in order to give it a better image from what we had before. I am convinced that they are out and determined to do justice to the task given to them. I confident they will.”

Of course, many would expect him to make a plea to the committee on his pending case before the Appeal Court, Sokoto Division. But no; he won’t. “I don’t think I have any call on the committee regarding the matter because to my understanding, it is part of the problems they are handling.”

Opponents kick as Orji wins Round One

Again, Abia State Governor Theodore Orji has smiled out of the tribunal where he had been locked in a legal tussle with his opponents over the April 26 governorship election. He now has to await the verdict of the Appeal and, possibly, Supreme courts. UGOCHUKWU EKE reports.

GOVERNOR Theodore Orji, for almost seven months after the April governorship election in Abia State, wore a long face and appear troubled. Reason? Four of the other candidates had raised petitions contesting his victory at the poll. Now, he can leave a sigh of relief. At least until the case come-up for review at the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal.

The governor had earlier defeated both Emenike Owanta of the DFPF and Reagan Ufomba of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), leaving only the case filed by his erstwhile deputy, Chris Akomas of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and his younger brother and two-time acting governor of the state, Stanley Ohajuruka who contested on the Labour Party (LP) platform.

When the first two petitions were dismissed by the tribunal, many thought that the two remaining ones could defeat the governor, but the state chief executive had always maintained he remained unshakable as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Akomas had approached the governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Umuahia, where he sought to upturn Orji’s declaration as the elected governor of the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the election.

In his ruling, the chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Mobolaji Ojo, premised his ruling on the application brought before the tribunal by the first respondent, Governor Orji, who had challenged the competence of the petition by Akomas on six-count grounds, saying that the petition was dead on arrival.

The respondent had challenged the petition on the grounds that the petition was not signed as stipulated in the Electoral Act as amended; failure to state the scores of all the candidates in the said election; non-joining of the political parties; incompetence of the relief and failure to join APGA candidate.

The tribunal, however, ruled in favour of the governor on five grounds out of the six, while throwing out the last - the non-joining of the APGA candidate, stressing that joining him was not necessary in the petition.

Justice Ojo said that the numerous flaws in Akomas’ petition were fundamental, further describing them as incurable and irredeemable.

He said further: “The petition was already dead on arrival and simply messy that no subsequent argument and submission by any lawyer, no matter how ingenious, could save the petition which was already doomed even before it was presented before the tribunal.”

In his reaction to the ruling, counsel to Orji, Uche Ihediwa described it as justifiable ruling which would help the governor to focus on delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.

Ihediwa advised other petitioners and their lawyers to always horn their skills and documents properly within the circle of the electoral act, if they want to run away from incompetent cases.

However, the counsel to Akomas, Mr Emeka Ukachukwu described the ruling as a rape of democracy by the judiciary, adding that the tribunal failed to appreciate the issues raised in their petition.

Ukachukwu hinted: “Akomas will definitely appeal against this ruling by the tribunal, after I must have briefed him on the outcome of the case”.

In his reaction to the ruling, Orji described his victory against Akomas at the tribunal as a further confirmation that he won overwhelmingly in the last governorship election in the state.

Speaking through his Adviser on Electronic Media, Ugochukwu Emezue, Orji said that he was dedicating the victory to God who had continued to sustain him in all the legal battles against since he assumed office as the governor of the state.

Orji said that he was excited about this victory which came a day after the grand finale of Abia 20th anniversary and the celebration of his 100 days in office, adding that his doors were open for his opponents to join him in his efforts to transform state.

He explained that the efforts and time expended in the legal battles could be utilised for the benefit of Abia people, stressing that it did not suggest that he was afraid, “because at any level, I will be vindicated since I have a divine mandate.”

On the appeal instituted by Regan Ufomba of the APGA and Emenike Owanta of DFPF, the governor maintained that his victory at the last poll remained divine, as he urged them to stop wasting their resources at tribunals.

Orji said: “I have said it over and over again that my victory is divine. God is on the throne. For me, victory will always come my way at every level.” In the same vein, Ohajuruka’s petition against the election of the governor was thrashed out for lack of merit.

In his ruling, Justice Ojo said that the case was dead even before the tribunal started handling it despite striking out of some paragraphs on September 12 this year. The reading of the ruling lasted two hours, 40 minutes and the tribunal chairman affirmed that the petitioners failed to prove their case of malpractices and irregularities during the election beyond doubts.

His words: “There is no merit in the petition brought before the tribunal and therefore we are affirming the election of Governor Orji as duly elected as there is no merit in the petition and therefore, the petition is hereby dismissed accordingly.”

Justice Ojo noted that in any election the state candidate in such election cannot be held responsible for any election malpractices, non-compliancy and thuggery, “except it could be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he personally ordered such actions in the elections.”

He said that the petitioners had embarked on a futile exercise, a wild goose chase with the aim of deceiving the tribunal, saying: “On the issue of the party logo on the ballot paper, two of the witnesses were trying to confuse us by saying that it is a sign of a man, woman and a child, while the other said it is a man, woman and two children. It is confusing as it a sign with a family unit only.”

He noted the 15,720 votes garnered by the first petitioner during the election represented the true votes he got and had been confirmed by the electoral body, stressing that the said confusion based on the party logo did not arise.

The tribunal chairman further said: “After considering the petitioners’ cases and the defence of the respondents, we came to the conclusion that it was only in two local government areas that minor cases of irregularities were noticed, but it is not enough to invalidate the election”.

He explained further: “Even as forensic experts were allowed to inspect the election materials, the petitioners did not make use of them as they never mentioned that they had materials to present before the election tribunal until the end of the submission of written addresses by both parties.” The Judge, however, chastised the INEC for its ineptitude during the tribunal sittings: “They were not able to bring the election materials used for the election before the tribunal when requested; it is bad of a public office charged with election matters to behave that way.”

Speaking after the ruling the counsel to Ohajuruka, George Igbokwe said that they are rejecting the judgement as his client will go the Appeal court, “if necessary we will go to the Supreme Court since the amended constitution allows election cases to go up to the apex court in the land.”

Orji was particularly delighted over the outcome of Ohajuruka’s petition against him. But he said that the case brought before the tribunal by Ohajuruka whom he described as his younger brother is part of democracy. He, however, maintained that he was not annoyed with him over the actions he took against him, saying: “Even as he went against the decision of our people the Ibeku who endorsed me as the governorship candidate from our area.”

“The action of Ohajuruka who is my younger brother is the beauty of democracy even as he failed to obey the culture of our people who are bound to respect their elders. He has no reason to challenge me at the tribunal not to talk of contesting against me.”

Now, the question is whether or not Akomas will carry out his threat to appeal the ruling, thus re-igniting the legal battles. If so, the tussle continues for the embattled governor.

‘We are building new Ekiti’

Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka, deputy governor of Ekiti State, surveys the political field after one year in office. She spoke with correspondents in Ado-Ekiti on the health care plan of the Fayemi administration and criticisms by the opposition parties. SALAWUDEEN SULAIMAN was there.

One year down the line as deputy governor, how has it been?

I have often told a story, and I am sure you will all agree with me when I tell the story again because I always like it to register. When I decided to move from core banking sector that people knew me with into corporate communications, people did not only try to discourage me but also tried to advise me. One of them looked at me and said, “Funmi, you will have to think of this job very well because the journalists will kill you. Don’t even think of this corporate affairs job because journalists are terrible.” Thank God, I did that job for five years successfully; none killed me, none hurt me genuinely or maybe went out of their way to hurt me as a person. None maligned me and I thank God that up till today, a lot of your colleagues and my colleagues that I worked with are still my friends. So I tell this all the time to disabuse minds of people that journalists, correspondents are no good people. So far, it’s been so good.

Your government is planning to convert the New Governor’s Office to a hotel and yet a new Deputy Governor’s Office has just been commissioned in the same premises. Don’t you see this as contradiction?

Mr. governor did make the pronouncement that he would like to convert his present office into the original plan which is Hotel and try and build a new governor’s office and the new deputy governor’s office has just been completed and commissioned. As a matter of fact, we are planning to move in any moment from now, maybe in weeks or months. Yes, logistically if the governor moves away from that location tomorrow, it might create some distance because where the governor will relocate to I am not sure we know for now he has not made that pronouncement. The building is not going to be completed in a month or two or three and if I may just drop the hint Mr. Governor’s preference will be to have an office at the Secretariat because he said he will like to be with his people that the normal thing is for the governor to have his office around the people, not five or 12 miles away; that is just the truth. Mr. Governor has expressed that but we don’t know when he might move. Having said that,

if Mr. Governor decides to move to his office or to have a new office at the secretariat, he might also decide to have another deputy governor’s office at the Secretariat and the new deputy governor’s office that we have today of course will be occupied by other people just like some people are almost pushing me out of this office.

Your government at inception made frantic efforts to recoup the multimillion naira micro-credit loan granted by the immediate past government of Chief Segun Oni. It appears nothing is being said about the matter again. Could you please give us update? talked about the loans that had not been repaid. We had published the names of those involved in the spirit of transparency and accountability and to let the people know what is happening to Ekiti money. As at then, it was almost N2billion that were being owed, to date about N800million has been recovered but we are still chasing the defaulters. Yes, we have done what we are supposed to do ordinarily but if we have been able to recover as much as N800 million, I don’t think we have done badly. What we are going to do with the rest is to charge them to court .We must make these people pay. It is free money. The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice as well as Commissioner for Finance are working on this. And I can assure you that we shall get result at the end of the day. So, those that are still owing, if they know what is good for them, should better pay up.

Much has been said about the state of your health. Certain groups even linked your frequent overseas trips to alleged worsening health situation?

I will answer your question by telling you a story of the late premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola. There was a time people went about with the rumour that he was dead. So, when a journalist met him and said “Baba have you reincarnated because we learnt that you were dead”, Akintola replied: “Can a dead man still talk”. If the news in town is that the deputy governor is not feeling well like some faceless groups within the state have been speculating, my answer to them would be “Can a dead person talk”? But on a more serious note, if that is the brand of politics that the opposition knows how to play, I would say they should continue. But for us, we are focused and we would continue to do our work .If you like to malign our personal integrity or character, you are free to do so to a certain level. And whatever you get out of it at the end of the day, you should not be surprised. I must also say that we are all human beings created by God with blood and water flowing in us. If a Deputy Governor is ill, should that be something for you to jump at? If a deputy governor goes for medical check up, does that mean he or she is dying? Whenever the opposition thinks my state of health is in question, I think they should just offer a word of prayer .

You have just held another economic summit. What is the assurance that this one would not go the way of the previous summits?

Well, there is no doubt that it was not just an Economic Summit, but Economic and Development Summit. And we did that purposely to attract investors and development partners. I can tell you that the gains of the summit are beginning to roll in .And, since it is not something that we can see right away, believe me in two months time, we shall begin to showcase the gains of the summit because, we did not just gather together to have a party. We have been able to attract investors, some of them currently working with Fountain Holdings Investment. That summit was a success based on our yardstick.

What is happening to primary health care in Ekiti State?

Yes, we launched our free health care in Ekiti about two months ago .But we don’t just stopped there, the quarterly free health mission is still ongoing .We realized that it would take some time for our people to really catch on. We are still trying to let our people understand what Primary Health Care is all about. We are saying the level of HIV is less than one percent. When you talk, about other terminal illnesses the percentage is very low. But it is high when you talk about primary illnesses like malaria, typhoid and so on. A greater number of older people that we have in Ekiti today, according to a study, had never been to the doctor before we started this primary health care programme. I recall the very first we had in Oye town at the twilight of the governorship rerun election, 60 percent of the people we attended to had never seen a doctor in their life. They neither had their blood pressure tested. Some people are asking why we need to do Free Health Mission when we had introduced Primary Health Care for the aged- 65 years and above, pregnant women and children. And our response is that it would take some time for our people to catch up. We want to move health facilities closer to our people. We don’t want an average Ekiti man to travel far before getting access to medical care.

Constitution review: The wise men get the baton


It is a mixed bag of names. There are the experienced and the not so experienced. Many are old, others are still relatively young. From the academics, to the legal profession, activist, unionist, representatives of the women folk and the private sector. They are united in the task of reviewing the 1999 Constitution. Emmanuel Oladesu, Dada Aladelokun and Musa Odoshimokhe review their profile.

Justice Alfa Belgore

Justice Alfa Belgore was appointed as Chief Justice of Nigeria in 2006. He held sway when the obnoxious tenure elongation was proposed by under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

It was believed that the National Assembly might buckle, leaving the judiciary as the last hope as the citizens were already getting hurt by the blistering heat. The position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria was therefore to prove decisive.

There were cases of election petitions which would have to be fought to the apex court. Again, the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria was expected to shape the outcome of any verdict, especially in the presidential election petitions. At every point, Justice Belgore lived up to expectation.

Ebenezer Babatope Ebenezer Babatope is a writer, historian as well as a lawyer/politician. He is a graduate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s political philosophy. His analysis of events is clear, accurate and his presentation mature, educative and thought-provoking.

Babatope who had worked at the University of Lagos as Students’ Affairs Officer was sacked because of his ideological principle by General Olusegun Obasanjo regime. It was after his sack that Awolowo invited him to be the Director of Organisation of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Babatope was a delight to watch as a party spokesman and was indeed a powerful speaker and historical analyst.

He is regarded as extremely simple and harbours no any malice. This as is said, is due to his upbringing as a son of a Methodist clergyman.

Ledum Mitee

Barrister Ledum Mitee was the vice president of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by the late Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed as a result of the deaths of four prominent Ogoni elite on May 21, 1994.

It was gathered that Mitee did not include in some of his speeches, the issue of military relocation to Ogoniland. And particularly because he has altered MOSOP constitution, his leadership has continued to seek the path of dialogue with the relevant authorities.

His style of leadership was said to have betrayed the cause of the Ogoni struggle, this has caused enormous frictions within the group.

Udo Udoma

Senator Udoma was a two-term member of the Nigerian Senate from 1999-2007 where he served variously as Chief Whip, Chairman of the Committee on National Planning, Revenue Mobilisation and Poverty Alleviation, and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He served as the first Chairman of the Corporate Affairs Commission (1991-1992) and he is currently the part time Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He has served the nation in other roles such as Special Adviser to the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in 1993 and Chairman of the Presidential Committee Waivers, Incentives and Concessions in 2007. Udoma specialises in advising on Nigerian investment laws and the investment environment generally, particularly in the petroleum, energy and natural resources sectors; advising Nigerian and international companies on company law, corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions and the raising of financing in the capital and money markets, as well as on major construction and engineering contracts.

Prof. Jerry Gana

Niger State-born Gana, 66, is a renowned scholar, politician and former Minister for Information under the Ernest Shonekan-led short-lived administration. He had run unsuccessfully for president in 1992 on the Social Democratic Party (SDP) platform after having been elected Senator in 1983 and serving briefly until the military coup that brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power. He was appointed chairman of Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) under General Ibrahim Babangida’s government. He was once a minister of Information and National Orientation (NOA).

In the Fourth Republic , Gana was the founding national secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998. In June 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Gana Minister of Co-operation and Integration in Africa and in January 2001, Obasanjo dissolved his cabinet. In the new cabinet announced in February 2001, Gana was Minister of Information and was also secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees. He resigned in July 2006 as special advisor to President Obasanjo and in August same year, he announced his bid for the PDP candidature for the 2007 presidential elections.

Prof. Oladapo Afolabi

Professor Oladapo Afolabi is a former academic who was sworn in as Head of Service of the Federation of Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan on November 18, 2010 . He succeeded Steve Oronsaye who retired upon reaching the statutory retirement age of 60.

Afolabi, son of Princess Asimau Gbemisola Aweni Adeyemi and grandson of the Akinrun of Ikirun, Oba Lawani Adeyemi, Oyeloja II, played a vitalrole in organising the first Ecological Summit in 1988, leading to the creation of the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Afolabi joined the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) in June 1991 and later, Federal Ministry of Environment in 1995. In October 2006, he was appointed a permanent secretary of the Federal Civil Service by President Olusegun Obasanjo and in June 2007, he became permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour. In November 2007, he was moved to the newly created Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. In August 2009, he became permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education.

Afolabi was sworn in as Head of Service on 18 November 2010 . He succeeded Steve Oronsaye, who retired on 16 November 2010 after reaching the statutory retirement age of 60.

Peter Esele

Esele, two-time President-General of Nigeria ’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), was a President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).

Esele had served as Deputy Vice-President of PENGASSAN prior to 2005 when the tragic airplane crash of December 10, 2005 claimed the life of PENGASSAN President Uche Okoro. He took over those duties of the association and later got re-elected to steer the ship of the body in 2006.

Comfort Obi

Comfort Obi is the publisher of the popular Source Magazine and a member of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

She had worked for the Imo State-owned Statesman newspaper and as a defence correspondent for Chris Anyanwu’s defunct TSM Magazine. Obi was the first winner of the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA) for Reporter of the Year in 1991.

Babagana Kingibe

Kingibe was the Secretary to the Federal Government in the late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua administration. As a politician, he was the National Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) before emerging as the running mate to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola.

A former Ambassador and a one-time Minister of Foreign Affairs under the late General Sani Abacha’s administration, he was African Union Special Representative in the Sudan, a position he held to the admiration of the continental body.

Though he had aligned and re-aligned, depending on the side of the divide he found himself, it has been said that his loyalty to those he worked with has not received positive response too often.

Prof Anya O Anya

A chartered biologist, Fellow and past Vice President of the Nigerian Academy of Science; Fellow of the Institute of Biology of the United Kingdom, he is also Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society and former president, Union of African Biologists.

Born January 3, 1937 at Abiriba, Imo State, he was educated at Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, the University College, Ibadan and the University of Cambridge (St. John’s College) England, where he obtained Ph.D working at the World famous Mol leno Institute of Biology and Parasitology.

He also published a number of highly rated papers on the hatching, development and physiology of nematode eggs. Some of these papers are still the major sources of information in the area of nematode physiology.

Chukwuemeka Ezeife

A politician and former governor of Anambra State, Ezeife holds Ph.D in Political Science from a reputable university in the United State. He was a Special Adviser on political matters under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

He has consistently preached a better Nigeria, ensuring that the Ibos are not marginalised.

Alhaja Salimot Badru

She was the deputy governor to the immediate past governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. Mrs. Badru who hails from the Yewa axis of the state maintained a harmonious working relations with her boss.

‘Southwest integration on course’

A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikorodu 1 Constituency, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade has described the integration of the South West part of the country for accelerated prosperity as a much-needed development.

Explaining it, he said: “The integration of the South West is an agenda that if we cannot get things corrected at the federal level for now, with what we have, we will demonstrate our vision and conviction, that we love our people. Thus, what they make impossible at the federal level will be made possible in the South West. What is happening to Lagos state is an agenda of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and it is the same agenda that is now being operated in other ACN-controlled states. And you will see that people are appreciating it even among our opponents the PDP. So, integration is on the front burner; it is something we are discussing.”

Asked if as a Yoruba man, he was satisfied with the current political arrangement at the federal level, especially as it affects his race, the lawmaker responded: “What has been happening in Nigeria since independence as per federal character in the composition of every government at all levels which is not totally obeyed. But we believe that a time will come when all this things will normalize. I am not pleased with it but I know that gradually truth will find its way and justice will entrench itself and fair play will come to be. And I am very sure when the ACN controls the federal level, most of these anomalies will be rectified because it is a party that believes in justice, fair play and good conscience.”

Commenting on the crisis of confidence in the judiciary vis-à-vis the nation’s political rejuvenation, he said: “Every system has its own problem and you can’t have a perfect system for too long. It is very unfortunate that at the time we were praising the judiciary that it is actually coming up stronger, something happened. Of course, judiciary operates within a larger system and it is controlled by the people. To that extent you will expect that when something is becoming so beautiful it can only be sustained by the people and that is why ACN is saying ‘let us sustain this thing which is the last hope of the common man. As it is doing very well, let us not drag the name in the mud.’

“That is the only reason ACN was condemning what happened to Justice Ayo Salami at the Appeal Court. I believe that the present crisis in the judiciary is just for a while; things will normalize. And I hope that Justice Musdapher will actually correct all that is wrong and chisel his name on the granite of history as somebody that redeemed the image of the judiciary which is on the verge of being seriously tarnished.”

APGA in Anambra: The trouble within

There is, perhaps, no state as politically troubled as Anambra. All the political parties have their share of the crisis that marks the character of politics in the state. The Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) soul is seared. The ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is split. Governor Peter Obi is reportedly on the war path with National Chairman Victor Umeh. What are the issues? What options are open to the combatants? Correspondent NWANOSIKE ONU, who spoke with critical stakeholders, reports.

AT a point, they looked like soul mates. Mr. Peter Obi, who assumed office in 2006 after a grim struggle, found a partner in Victor Umeh, an architect, Together, both men who found a common political enemy in Chief Chekwas Okorie, worked together to project and prepare the party for the 2010 governorship election. Many party members thought they complemented each other well. But, recent developments have shown that things have fallen apart and the centre is finding it difficult to hold.

When Obi first showed interest in the governorship seat in 2002, he was without a platform. He asked a pertinent question that has since become a sing: “Is Anambra cursed, or are we the cause?

When he took over, it was expected that his party would soon take over control of the state. The first test came with the April 2007 elections into the state House of Assembly and the two Houses of the National Assembly. In the light of what is now known about the general elections of that year, it could be said that the Anambra governorship poll was more of selection than election. It is the excuse APGA had for losing out in the electoral battle. It lost all in the legislative polls.

2011 was another opportunity. The party performed better, winning 16 of the 30 seats in the House of Assembly, five of the 11 House of Representatives seats, but none in the Senate yet with one still outstanding.

Seven months after the April polls, the crisis that was covered in APGA has blown open with friends and associates of Obi and Umeh attacking the rival factions. Anambra is not alone. From Abia to Imo, Enugu to Ebonyi, the areas believed to be the strongholds of APGA, it has been one crisis after another. Some have even mooted the idea of passing a “vote of no confidence” on Umeh.

There are fears that APGA problem may not be unconnected with the moves by its founding national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, to reclaim the party from Umeh, who they said had floored him on several occasions in different courts of the land.

Others are blaming Governor Obi, who they claim has no interest again in the party as, according to them, he has made up his mind to join the ruling PDP for what they suggest could be a Vice Presidential ambition in 2015 after his second spell in the state.

Allegations against Umeh include charges that the party lacks sense of direction and the chairman operates it like a dictator. They have also alleged that Umeh’s leadership lacks accountability and constantly and unjustifiably removes officers without recourse to the party’s constitution.

Furthermore, those groups dropped threats of suspension or dismissal of members who hold opposite views to Umeh’s style of leadership, inability to mobilize, sensitize and motivate followership. He is also charged with unilateral elongation of his tenure for another four years without a properly convened national convention, factionalization of the party at all levels and gross disrespect to state leaders of the party, especially the governors.

The allegations were brought to the public domain by a group known as APGA stakeholders in Anambra State after its meeting. The communiqué of the stakeholders meeting was signed by the 21 local government chairmen of the party.

Therefore, they want the party leadership to ensure immediate restructuring by conducting ward, local government and state congresses to restore unity, cohesion and confidence in the party.

But the National Chairmen of the party, Chief Victor Umeh has dismissed all the allegations against him, describing them as the handiwork of those who are idle. He told the Nation that there is nothing like stakeholders in APGA, accusing Chief Nwobu Alor, an uncle to the Governor Obi, as the brain behind the crisis.

He said, “it is obvious that some satanic agents are attacking the party, when the agents of the devil are on the prowl, those of us who are Christians will rely on God for prayers. So, I wish to assure you that our party is intact from the national leadership to the state leadership across the country and the zonal leadership.

“If you go and crosscheck, you will notice that there is no crack in our party, there can only be a division in the party if the National Working Committee of the party is divided and the state chairmen are no longer loyal to the national leadership. But I can tell you that on this hour and today, all the officers of APGA are intact and loyal to the leadership of the party”.

He said that APGA has a constitution with laid down procedures for removing its officers. Anambra State Chairman of the party, Chief Mike Kwentoh, told the Nation that nobody has the right to remove their national chairman, adding that he can only be removed through national convention.

“What this means is that Umeh’s tenure ends when the convention of the party comes up again, because the last convention of the party was held last January”, Kwentor who is an ally of Umeh said.

Kwentoh, further told the Nation that people who are insinuating that the party is going through series of crisis are wasting their time, describing APGA as a united family.

However, one of the party’s elders in Anambra State, Chief Sylver Nwobu Alor, told the Nation that already, the governors of Anambra and Imo States, Peter Obi and Rochas Okorocha had already written a letter to Umeh to dissolve the structures of the party in all the formations in the country.

This, according to him, is to allow for the conduct of congresses in the states and indeed another convention. Alor said that the letter from the governors had not been replied by Umeh.

It is evident from the activities of the party in recent times that the relationship between Umeh and Obi is strained despite denial by the national chairman.

A source close to Umeh attributed the differences to Umeh’s advise that the governor should conduct local government election.

Again, Umeh is known to have taken exception to Obi’s decision to keep his cabinet of five years. This is said to have got Obi, who saw it as undue interference in his government, angry. The face off reached its height during the last general elections when Umeh, had to abandon APGA in the state to its fate and reportedlymoved over to Imo State to deliver Owelle Rochas Okorocha as the Governor.

During the Senatorial battle between Prof. Dora Akunyili of APGA and Dr. Chris Ngige of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, The Nation learnt that Umeh was nowhere to be seen until election day. This, again, according to sources, got Obi and other stakeholders of the party angry.

There have been speculations of recent that the governor might be grooming the Chief Executive of Capital Oil and Gas, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba as his successor.

One of the pro-Umeh party leaders who spoke with The Nation in confidence said, “you know Umeh is a party man while Obi is not. If you watch closely, you will notice the kind of romance going on between Obi and Ifeanyi Uba”.

“Obi has insisted that the right person to replace him is Uba but it has not gone down well with Umeh who has insisted that a core party man be chosen by the party for the position and you should know that Uba is not a member of (APGA)”.

If what is playing out in APGA is not quickly checked, APGA could go the way of PDP in Anambra.

A worried leader who is known to be non-aligned said the crisis could be attributed to the absence of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who has been receiving treatment in a London hospital since last year. The fact that Okorie is waiting in the wings to profit from the quarrel is another danger signal. It is too early to talk about the moves and disposition of Governor Obi ahead of the 2014 elections, but there is no doubt that his body language and actions could dictate the place and position of the party in the years ahead.

Kogi gov election: Idris wants Audu to step down •Court fixes Nov 24 for suit on PDP candidate

LESS than two weeks to the governorship election in Kogi State, the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, has advised Prince Abubakar Audu to step down from the race.

Speaking with Nigerian Tribune on Wednesday, Governor Idris said the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate had already lost out in Kogi State politics.

He said it was sad that Prince Audu was alleging that he the governor and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) want to rig the election with thugs and weapons.

Governor Idris, who spoke through his Director- General, Press, said that in 2003, he defeated Audu without making use of thugs, fake policemen and money as he was voted for because of his ideology .

He said in 2007 he defeated him again and when the court ordered for a re-election he still defeated him.

Governor Idris said it was time Prince Audu quit politics and allowed vibrant youths to take over adding that the statement made by Audu was uncalled for.

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed November 24 to begin hearing as to who is the authentic standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State in the December 3 governorship election.

Earlier, the presiding judge, Justice Bilikisu Aliyu, had joined Jibrin Isah Echocho and Idris Wada as second plaintiff and fourth respondents respectively in the suit filed by a chieftain of PDP in the state, Umar Lawal, seeking an order of the court to stop Wada’s nomination.

Echocho had won the PDP governorship primary held in January before a Federal High Court elongated the tenure of five state governors, Kogi inclusive.

When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released another time table, Kogi PDP had gone ahead to conduct another primary election which Idris Wada emerged as the winner.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Hon.Joke Adefulire and Mrs.Abimbola Fashola, Fight Each Other

The tales flying over the relationship between ex Gov. Bola Tinubu’s wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu and Deputy Governor of Lagos, Hon.Joke Adefulire on one hand and the First Lady of the state, Chief Mrs.Abimbola Fashola,is not palatable at all.

Gist bearers are alleging that Remi Tinubu and her pal Deputy Gov.Adefulire are at daggers drawn against Fashola’s wife.

Insiders say the battle developed because First Lady Abimbola a few months ago,just after Adefulire has been named as the Deputy Governorship candidate,confronted her at a function,with the comment that she (Adefulire) did not inform anyone that she wanted the Deputy Governorship job.This remark was alleged to have infuriated the Deputy Governor who reported the matter to her godmother,Senator Remi Tinubu.

Those who bear the gist say the First Lady was summoned to Bourdillon,Ikoyi the home of ACN leader, Asiwaju Tinubu where she was berated for her comments.

Those in the know say this incident is the main reason Abimbola Fashola is keeping away from the company of the Deputy Governor and her predecessor,Sen.Remi Tinubu.

Terror At Ogun State House of Assembly As Gunmen Attack Lawmakers

A member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Femi Allen-Taylor narrowly escaped being sent to early grave in Abeokuta, the state capital following severe injuries sustained on the head when gunmen violently attacked him.

NEXT authentic investigation revealed that, the lawmaker met his ordeal at about 9.15pm while on his way to see a friend at Kobiti area of the town. The four armed men accosted him and ordered him out of his official Toyota Avensus Car, firing gun shots into the air to scare the residents of the area.

Having ordered him out of the car, the gunmen hit him on the head with the gun resulting in severe head injuries. He lost consciousness afterwards while the bandits made away with the car from the scene.

NEXT further learnt that the injured victim was however, later assisted by the residents of the area before being rushed to State Hospital, Ijaiye in the town.

The attackers were said to have later abandoned the victim's vehicle at Adatan area of the town.

When our correspondent visited the victim, he was found to be responding to treatment, but his battered head was covered with a plaster. However, it was also learnt that a report of the incident had been lodged at Adatan Police Station in Abeokuta.

The attacked lawmaker is a member of the House of Assembly Committee on Land Matter currently investigating the activities of the immediate past administration, and he is also involved in the alleged on- going factional crisis within the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria{ACN} in the state.

NEXT reports that, the faction crisis which has divided the ruling party following power tussle over the yet to be announced date for the local government election is currently a matter in court. The lawmaker according to political sources, is said to be leading a faction said to belong to the former governor and chieftain of the party Olusegun Osoba, while the opposition is said to be that of the governor, Ibikunle Amosun.

The victim while speaking on his ordeal, said, he was confused on where to trace the attack to, but gave thanks to God for sparing his life, recalling that, the four gunmen came from nowhere to attack him on his way.

According to him, before he knew what was happening,the armed men had drawn out guns, and ordered him out of the car. They smashed his head with the butt of the gun, and realizing that he was bleeding profusely and was unconscious, they made away with his car.

The swollen faced lawmaker told NEXT that he has since reported the case to the police, adding that the car was later recovered at Adatan area of the town, where it was abandoned by the gunmen,' I just have to give thanks to Almighty God for sparing my life' he emphasized.

The Ogun State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi when contacted, said investigation on the incident was ongoing, with assurance that the authority will get to the root of the matter.

Obama raised $70M during the summer, outpaces GOP rivals

Obama also raised $27.3 million for the Democratic National Committee for a combined $70.1 million during the third quarter, his campaign announced Thursday. That's a drop from the $86 million the president and national party raised in the previous quarter.

"President Obama isn't going to lose re-election because he didn't have enough money," said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "His vulnerability has more to do with the state of the economy and how people feel about the direction of the country than his fundraising."

The accelerated primary schedule puts pressure on Republicans to step up get-out-the vote efforts in early-voting states and begin television advertising, which typically consumes the bulk of campaign budgets. South Carolina, Florida and Nevada now will vote in January, and New Hampshire is weighing a December vote.

Among Republicans, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a sizeable war chest, raising $17 million in just seven weeks of campaigning. He ended September with $15 million in the bank.

"Perry's candidacy will be a great test for the role that money can play in the primaries," said Richard Hasen, a campaign-finance expert at the University of California-Irvine. "He's done very poorly in the polls so far based upon his sleepy debate performances. If he can turn it around, it will likely be thanks to an advertising blitz putting him in a positive light."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner would not discuss the primary battle plan but said the campaign had the enough staff and money in early voting states to mount an aggressive campaign.

"The people that are focusing on the debates are pundits in television studios in Washington," he said. "There's not a better retail campaigner than Gov. Perry."
Perry "needs to stop making unforced errors'' but should not be counted out, said Ed Espinoza, a Democratic political consultant, based in Austin.

"There's two things Perry knows how to do," Espinoza said. "He knows how to raise money, and he knows how to fight." When Perry does start running ads, expect attacks. "He's ruthless.''

Across the aisle, the Democratic National Committee already is advertising heavily in support of the president, running commercials that tout Obama's jobs plan.

Romney led the Republican field in fundraising during the April-to-June quarter, collecting more than $18 million. Romney's campaign has not released its third-quarter total, but said campaign contributions slowed over the summer.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, collected $8 million in the third quarter and has spent more than $1 million on advertising in early-voting states, including a recent commercial touting his support of veterans.

Other than Paul, no other candidates have run ads in New Hampshire, said Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. In the 2008 campaign, Romney had spent $3.5 million in the Granite State by November 2007.

"It's almost as if they're circling each other waiting for someone to make a move," Scala said. "It's a bit of an open field. If someone decided to swoop in and make a concentrated effort of time and money, they could make an impact.''

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who has seen a meteroric rise in recent polls, has not yet released his third-quarter fundraising totals. Candidates have until midnight Saturday to disclose fundraising details to the Federal Election Commission.

Obama can save most of his money for the general election, but his aides say they need to stockpile campaign cash to combat spending by outside groups. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two affiliated Republican groups, have pledged to spend more than $240 million to influence the 2012 elections and already have spent millions on ads to oppose Obama and other Democrats this year.

Outside groups such as those will play a crucial role once the Republicans settle on their standard-bearer, Gonzales said. "When the Republican nominee emerges from the primaries completely broke, the outside groups will step in, so Obama doesn't bury the nominee before the general election even starts," he said.

"We're up against a Republican Party and special-interest-funded groups that will spend hundreds of millions of dollars spreading any message that they believe will defeat the president and roll back our efforts to build a fairer economy," Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, said in a Thursday e-mail to supporters.

Messina said more than 982,000 people have donated to the campaign so far this year. Close to 4 million people donated to Obama in the 2008 contest.