NEWS AND STORIES
By Nwaorgu Faustinus
Support for the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Oyegun mounted on Friday as prominent leaders of the party lauded his leadership qualities, describing him as “the most distinguished party chairman in the country”.
They said that the national chairman created the framework that brought about the victory of many APC candidates in the general election.
“Oyegun supervised the turnaround of the party by increasing its finances, building the operations and implementing the best ground game effort.
In a statement issued in Abuja by the Chairman of APC United Front, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa, the leaders dismissed the view of those calling for the resignation of John Odigie- Oyegun.
“His contributions to the development of the APC, Edo State and the country are impossible to estimate. He kicked out the long –ruling PDP. He provided Nigerians with a visionary, dedicated and people-oriented leadership that is currently putting in place measures to liberate the nation from PDP’s rule of poverty and oppression” the statement said.
The leaders praised the national chairman for his strategic roles in the recruitment, retaining of members, campaign fund raising, internal party governance, influence in candidate selections and in the development and promulgation of party policy,
The leaders who also thanked Nigerians at home and abroad for the confidence reposed on Oyegun, praised him for the pragmatic steps taken to address the problems in the party.
“Oyegun is an honest and highly effective leader. He has built a reputation anchored on integrity over the years. He is a fountain of quality advice, inspiration, encouragement and hope. He deserves the biggest thanks for being a team player and ensuring the growth of the party” the leaders added
Three out of the four principal officers of the Senate assumed office on Thursday after the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read their nomination letters from their respective zonal caucuses in the red chamber.
Saraki at the resumed sitting of the federal lawmakers, read out the letters addressed to him by the APC senate caucuses from the North-East, North-West and South-South.
He said the North-East Senate caucus had endorsed and nominated Senator Ali Ndume as the Majority Leader, while the North-West caucus adopted Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah as the Deputy Majority Leader.
He added that the South-South caucus members according to their own letter, adopted Senator France Alimikhena as the deputy whip.
Saraki was, however, silent on the Chief Whip because members of the South-West caucus which should produce a representative, did not write any letter.
He subsequently asked the Sergeant – at – Arms to lead the three principal officers to their respective seats and assume office immediately.
Our correspondent learnt that the South-West senators refused to write any letter because they claimed that the party’s decision as contained in its letter, was sufficient.
Attempts by the senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Kabiru Marafa, to make the Senate President read the letter from the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, containing lists of the principal officers, was again frustrated by Saraki
Marafa had cited Senate Standing Order 28 (1) and Constitution point of order Section 65, (1E), to drive home his arguments.
He said, “According to the provision, there should be a majority leader of the Senate who should be a senator nominated from the party with the highest number of senators.
“This point of order was raised yesterday (Wednesday) and another colleague raised another point of order distinguishing between the word, from and by, which was used there. That is why I am joining it with order 65 (1d) of the constitution.
“It says subject to the provisions of section 66 of the constitution. A person shall be qualified for election as a member of the Senate if he or she is a member of a political party and sponsored by the political party.
“Mr. President, there is a communication from the APC which is the party with the majority representatives in the Senate. However, for reasons best known to you Mr. President, you declined to read it yesterday (Wednesday ) on the floor of the Senate when your attention was drawn to the communication from the party.
“The constitution provision just cited, clearly put the party ahead of any other caucus from anywhere. Therefore, if the communication from the party, can so be regarded, I suggest that you, Mr. President cannot read any communication from any caucus because there is no caucus that is bigger than the political party.”
Marafa was immediately opposed by Senator Danjuma Goje ( Gombe Central ), who urged the Senate President to disregard his submissions because the same issue raised by him had been ruled upon.
He said, “Senator Marafa raised the same order yesterday (Wednesday) and the Senate President ruled that the issue had been discussed and should not be opened again. I don’t know why the issue is being reopened. This is contrary to the rules of the Senate.
“We are the highest law making institution in the country, if we cannot observe our rules, we don’t have any right to be making laws for the country. Therefore I will like Mr. President to stand by the ruling of yesterday (Wednesday)that the issue had been settled.
“Secondly, the issue of leadership within the chamber is our own responsibility as senators. We have been sponsored by political parties to come to the Senate. Nobody or law says the chairman of the party should appoint the Senate President.
“The law clearly states that we, the senators, should appoint our own leaders within the chambers. This is the first time this type of thing will be happening in the Senate since the return of democracy in 1999. Caucuses have been nominating their leaders and I have been participating.”
Saraki, as expected, ruled Marafa out of order, stressing that he had concluded on the issue during Wednesday’s sitting.
He said, “Let me refer to order 53 (6) which states that it will be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion. This matter had already been raised and ruled upon… I will have to rule senator Marafa out of order.”
Ndume, who addressed his colleagues, explained that his job schedule included among others, leading the business of the Senate; managing legislative schedule; and liaising with committee chairmen.
He said, “I will not deceive myself. Every senator is more than qualified to lead the Senate. God normally chooses who He wants. Leading the Senate means that the success recorded is not going to be my own but for all of us.”
Ndume, after the Senate had concluded its legislative business of the day, announced an adjournment to July 21 to allow the ad-hoc committees on review of Senate finance and that of legislative agenda, had time to do their work.
KADUNA—A group of politicians and elite from the northern ethnic minority weekend appealed to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its senators-elect to concede the Senate Presidency slot to the region as represented by the joint ticket of Lawan and Akume .
The group which met in Kaduna urged the party to take cognisance of the contributions of the minorities in the three geo-political zones of the north to the electoral successes recorded at the national and state elections and reward “us by conceding the Senate Presidency slot to Senators Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and George Akume”
The group said it is “incumbent on the new administration, the party in power and all senators-elect to support Ahmad Lawan from the Bade minority ethnic group of the north –east state of Yobe to become the Senate President and George Akume of the Tiv minority tribe of the north-central state of Benue to be the Deputy Senate President.
According to them, the Lawan/Akume minority ticket for the Senate Presidency race should be considered along the line of the APC Presidential ticket of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, which represents the majority tribes of Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba respectively, noting the religious sensitivity of the tickets as well.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu and the Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, on Wednesday bowed to pressure from key members of the party to resign.
Mu’azu, in a letter he tendered during the PDP National Working Committee meeting in Abuja however cited “health grounds ” as the reason for his resignation.
But Anenih, in a one-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, hinged his action on the current state of affairs in the party.
Mu’azu, a former governor of Bauchi State, had only last week dismissed calls for his resignation and warned that the PDP would be buried if he succumbed to the pressure.
“The only reason Mu’azu doesn’t want to resign is because if he does, those who want the PDP buried will succeed,” he had added.
Upon receipt of Muazu’s letter, the Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, took over as the acting national chairman of the party, pending a replacement from the North-East, where the party chairmanship is zoned to.
The National Secretary of the party, Adewale Oladipo, who read a statement on the development to journalists at the Wadata Plaza national headquarters of the party, stated that the status of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, would be made known on Thursday (today) by the NWC.
Oladipo said, “The PDP at its NWC’s meeting on May 20, 2015 received and accepted the voluntary resignation of the National Chairman of our great party, Adamu Mu’azu.
“Consequently, in line with the provisions of section 45 (2) of the PDP constitution, the Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, acts in place of the national chairman pending a replacement from the North-East.
“On the correct position of the status of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Anenih, the NWC will make its position public on Thursday, May 21, 2015.”
He also announced the setting up of a seven-man disciplinary committee headed by Chief Michael Addul .
The members are Chief Mike Ogiadohme, Senator Teslim Folarin, Dr. Akilu Indabawa, Dr. Hassan Kafayas, Nonye Nwangwu and Tony Okeke as Secretary.
The committee, according to Oladipo, will be inaugurated on Tuesday next week.
The NWC called for calm and the understanding of all members and other critical stakeholders, including the media, “at this time of a reengineering process in our great party while directing any member with genuine grievance to channel such through the appropriate organs.”
Before Oladipo read his statement, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, had earlier confirmed the resignation of Mu’azu. He commended him for his service to the party and love for the nation.
Metuh said, “I can confirm that we have received the resignation of Alhaji Mu’azu. I can confirm that the chairman who had health challenges, stayed on for the campaigns; he stayed on for the elections and after consultations with his family decided to resign.
“I wish him well. The deputy national chairman has taken charge of the affairs of the party in line with the party’s constitution. The constitution does not recognise a vacuum.”
The PUNCH however learnt from a PDP governor that Mu’azu would have been kicked out of office at 12 noon on Wednesday if he had not resigned.
One of the governors, who was part of those that wanted him out , described Mu’azu as being smart with his resignation.
“He is a smart guy. That’s very good of him. The plan to remove him by 12pm today (Wednesday) was already concluded. There was a document that would have been submitted and it would have seen him out today(Wednesday). I commend him. He is very smart.”
The PUNCH had also learnt in Abuja that Anenih was under pressure to resign.
A few hours after Oladipo spoke, Anenih said in his letter titled “Notice of my decision to step down as Chairman, BOT of the PDP,” that his decision would enable the President to effectively assume the chairmanship of the BoT.
The letter reads, “Your Excellency will recall that in a conversation I had with you a few weeks ago, I had offered to step down from the office of the chairman of our party’s BOT and proposed to hand over to you as its new chairman in a ceremony that would have taken place on May 23, 2015.
“I had also repeated this position at our subsequent meetings.
“As a follow up to the above proposal and in view of the current state of affairs in our party, I have decided to formally put my offer in writing to enable you effectively assume the chairmanship of BOT or approve a process that will enable any other member of the board who is considered competent, to assume the position.
“I am happy to inform you that I remain a loyal foundation member of our great party and will continue to pray for the prosperity of Nigeria, our party, and for you and your family.”
Barely 10 minutes after Anenih’s letter became public, the party’s NWC announced that it had accepted his resignation.
Oladipo, in a statement noted Anenih’s “outstanding contributions” to the party over the years especially in his capacity as the BOT chairman.
He added, “As one of the founding fathers of the PDP, the NWC appreciates Chief Anenih’s guiding role in the party in the last 16 years and wishes him well in his future endeavours.
“Consequent upon his resignation, the Secretary of the BOT, Senator Walid Jibrin, holds forth pending the election of a new BoT chairman.”
Mu’azu has saved his integrity
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, commended Mu’azu for resigning and prayed that the future would be kind to him.
Fayose was at the forefront of the calls for the removal of Mu’azu for leading the PDP to defeat during the general elections.
The governor, who spoke with some journalists in Abuja, said without taking such a step, the former chairman would have destroyed his integrity in the long run.
Fayose said, “I will commend him for bowing to people’s reasoning and for not going ahead to destroy his own integrity in the long run.
“He ought to have done this before now, notwithstanding I still commend him. I pray that the future will still be kind to him and all of us will join hand to make the PDP the good rallying point as opposition party for Nigeria.”
Apart from Fayose, Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu and a former National Vice-Chairman of the PDP , Bode George, had called for the resignation of Mu’azu.
Like the Ekiti State governor, George, who is a member of the party’s BoT, described the decision of Mu’azu to resign as honourable.
He said, “By conceding defeat, President Jonathan saved the nation a lot of bloodshed. The national chairman too has followed suit.
“This has shown that the PDP has people who don’t want to perpetuate themselves in power. We thank him for what he has done for the party.”
Another member of the BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the resignation of Mu’azu would begin the process of reorganisation of the party, adding that the country’s elitist cabal had been unfair to President Jonathan, whom he alleged was called several names.
Babatope said, “He (Mu’azu) has tried his best and it is good of him to resign. His resignation is going to begin the process of reorganisation of the party. We will present a formidable opposition to the APC. We will return in 2019.”
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Musiliu Obanikoro, said the resignation of Mu’azu was a sacrifice that should be commended.
“The PDP is creating a political culture which is alien to this country and Nigerians in good time will appreciate and acknowledge this. Another giant stride has just been achieved by our great party,” the minister said.
Another leader of the party in Lagos State, Gloria Adebajo-Fraser, said Mu’azu’s resignation should be followed by the resignation of all the members of the NWC and the BoT.
“The President will now have to appoint a trusted hand as acting chairman in the next 24 hours so as not to have a vacuum. It must not be business as usual if the party must be salvaged,” she added.
Secondus, Dickson meet Jonathan
Shortly after taking over as the acting PDP National Chairman, Secondus met behind closed-doors with Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, at about 5.15pm.
He walked into the President’s office alongside Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, acknowledging greetings from those congratulating him on his new position.
Secondus was believed to have visited Jonathan in order to brief him on the development and seek his support.
He was still inside the President’s office at the time of filing this report.
After the meeting, Dickson, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, hailed Muazu and Anenih’s resignations and urged support for Secondus.
He commended both men for putting the interest of the party and that of the nation above their personal interests and aspirations.
While wishing Mu’azu quick recovery, the governor said he looked forward to his return from abroad in sound health to support in the on-going effort to rebuild the PDP.
He thanked Anenih for his years of service to the party.
PDP orders Osun chapter to investigate Fani-Kayode
Meanwhile, the PDP has directed its Osun State chapter to investigate whether the spokesman for the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, was a member of the party in the state or a usurper.
The NWC said, “You are directed to investigate the membership status of Chief Fani-Kayode, if he is a registered and financial member, proper disciplinary action should be meted out to him through the Ward for engaging in acts contrary to Section 58 (1) of the party’s constitution and if not a member, you are to reprimand him as a usurper.”
But in a swift reaction, Fani-Kayode demanded the resignation of other NWC members.
He insisted that Mu’azu and other NWC members had no right to remain in office “after selling out the party and engaging in hideous and absurd form of leadership.”
•Finance minister’s attempt to demonise state govts unsuccessful
Even as she continues to put up a bold face trumpeting the purported successes and ‘solid economic legacies’ being bequeathed the nation by the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan administration, which she is serving as finance minister and almighty Coordinator of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s claims are mocked by the glaring failures of the economy under her stewardship. One of the symptoms of the country’s current chronic economic crisis is the inability of various levels of government to pay their workers’ salaries, from periods ranging between three and six months.
Some of the state governments caught in this quandary are Oyo, Osun, Cross River, Rivers, Abia, Plateau and Bauchi. The affected workers in the states have reportedly adopted several demeaning and dehumanising survival strategies, including going to work only once or twice daily, begging for money from friends and relatives, doing menial jobs to survive, skipping lunch breaks or consumption of barely nourishing diets such as garri and groundnuts. These practices no doubt have severe negative implications for the psyche, health, self-esteem, motivation, productivity and fulfilment of workers and their families, and can only further deepen the economic crisis.
In her response to this crisis of unpaid salaries, Okonjo-Iweala turns out to be not too artful a dodger after all. She creates the impression that the Federal Government has been able to pay salaries of its workers as a result of the astute management of its resources in the face of drastic revenue shortfalls caused by the steep decline in international oil prices. On the other hand, she magisterially insinuates, the states have simply failed to do the rational thing of prioritising salaries, given the dire revenue situation.
The economic Czar cannot, however, conceal the reality that the Federal Government has indeed borrowed about N473 billion to pay salaries and that it raised its borrowing level from N570 billion to N882 billion to fund the 2015 budget. Even then, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has claimed that thousands of Federal Government workers are being owed salaries and various allowances in the range of N50 billion.
As far as Okonjo-Iweala is concerned, the salary crunch is the inevitable result of the sharp dip in oil prices in late 2014, which accounted for about 50 per cent reduction in federally collected revenue, in addition to low revenue realised from non–oil sources. She conveniently ignored the fact that for at least two years before the over 50 percent drop in oil prices, a barrel of the country’s crude oil had sold for over $100. And even during this period of sustained high revenue performance, the country consistently lost over 20 percent of its revenue to massive oil theft and oil production shut-ins, as well as humungous corruption associated with the management of the Federation Account and other consequences of the ineptness and inefficiency of the Federal Government.
The incoming administration clearly has its work cut out on this matter. For one, the funds must be found to urgently pay the backlog of salaries in the interest of justice and equity. Again, the huge drain of scarce resources through the alarming level of corruption at all levels and the unsustainable emoluments and allowances of elective office holders must be decisively tackled. This requires that the president-elect in particular, General Muhammadu Buhari, draw on his tremendous goodwill and moral authority as well as that of his party to push through changes that may be painful but necessary.
Above all, the radical re-structuring of the current unitary system masquerading as federal, in which most of the component states of the polity are economically unviable and dependent on oil revenue handouts from the centre, must be the central focus of the promised change agenda.
CULLED FROM THE NATION
There were strong indications last night that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Alhaji Ahmad Lawan, can now bank on the support of three geopolitical zones in his bid to preside over the affairs of the Eighth Senate.
It was also learnt yesterday that ex-Governor Bukola Saraki has emerged as the main rival to Lawan.
Ex-Governor George Akume is also very much in the race.
But the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark, and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Senators mostly from the South-East, South-South and North-Central may break the tie between the two leading candidates -Lawan and Saraki -both of whom are now directing their campaign at Southeast and the Southsouth caucuses.
Investigation revealed that Lawan has been endorsed by 12 Senators from the South-West, 20 from the North-East and about 18 from the North-West.
It was gathered that the support for Lawan is being driven by political heavyweights in Yobe State, especially ex-Governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim and Governor Ibrahim Gaidam.
Apart from reaching out to North-East leaders, Bukar and Gaidam have started intense lobbying of North-West and South-West leaders within and beyond the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A reliable source said: “Our leaders in the North-East have rallied round Sen. Ahmad Lawan for the Senate Presidency. As a matter of fact, we prefer to lead the Senate than the House of Representatives because of enhanced political leverage.
“So far, we have secured the backing of a sizable number of Senators from the North-East, North-West and South-West for Ahmad Lawan.
“In fact, North-East leaders are already opening up talks with heavyweights like all the governors and political leaders in the North-East, North-West and South-West.
“We are hopeful that Lawan may emerge the President of the eighth Senate.”
On his part, Sen. Bukar Abba Ibrahim said Lawan is eminently qualified for the office.
Ibrahim, who heads the Senate Housing Committee, said Lawan’s endorsement was made on behalf of the people and government of Yobe State.
He added: “Lawan possesses the required qualities, character and the frame of mind to make a qualitative Senate President. He is energetic, hardworking and possessing progressive values.
Gaidam, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Press Affairs and Information, Abdullahi Bego, urged “all senators-elect to consider Senator Lawan’s experience, his goodwill, capacity and reach and, therefore, support him to be the next President of the Senate.”
It was also gathered that the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark and the PDP Senators mostly from the South-East, South-South and North-Central may break the tie between the two leading candidates (Lawan and Saraki).
A highly-placed source in the PDP Caucus said: “I do not think we will be bound by the zoning arrangement of APC. Instead, we will vote on our Inauguration day according to our conscience, what is good for democracy and the directive of our party.
“We are certainly weighing options. You see, some of those aspiring for positions in the Senate and in the House of Representatives defected from our party to APC.
“Their defection eventually led to the defeat of PDP. To some of us, it is pay-back time. We may not allow these people to have their cake and eat it.
“A negligible few among us however feel that if a defector from PDP to APC becomes the Senate President, we will be recovering our mandate gradually ahead of 2019.
“So, either way, all these aspirants in the National Assembly need us and we will play a “strategic role.”
Another source added: “Lawan is more or less a favourite of the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark.
“So, you can see that even Lawan’s candidacy might gain some weight in the PDP Caucus in the Senate if Mark endorses his anointed “favourite” whom he saddled with Public Accounts Committee. Mark will prefer to serve under Lawan in the Senate than Saraki.
“There is no hiding place for Mark. He will be interested in his successor having built some legacies including the preservation of the maturity and unity of the Senate.”
In spite of the support base for Lawan, ex-Governor Bukola Saraki is still reaching out to political leaders and Emirs in the North on why the North-Central should retain the Senate Presidency slot.
To pacify the North-East, it was learnt that Saraki’s camp is considering the option of producing the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the zone.
A Senator-elect said: “I think the race is a straightforward one between Lawan and Saraki. The two candidates have dominated lobbying sessions in the last one and a half weeks.
“Most leaders from the North seem to prefer Lawan because of 2019 factor. Realising that the North-East cannot be shoved aside, the Saraki camp is pushing for the concession of House Speakership to the zone. This is why Representative Yakubu Dogara’s name is coming up.
“Saraki is trying to use his Senate heritage (since his father was a former Senate Leader), political connections in the North, and leverage as a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
“Therefore, Saraki is no push over. Saraki has only two obstacles. These are his rich Yoruba heritage, which will not make the core north to accept his presidency as really a slot for the North-Central.
“This same factor denied the late Senate Leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki the presidential ticket in 1978. It was the same reason the late Chief S.B. Awoniyi could not be either the National Chairman of PDP or a presidential candidate. This is the dilemma facing Yoruba in the North.
“And if Saraki says he is a pure Fulani, most Senators will remind him that the President-elect is also a Fulani too. In the spirit of Federal Character, a Fulani cannot be president and be the President of the Senate.
“Some governors are however flaunting the cosmopolitan credentials of Saraki to seek the Senate Presidency for him.”
A former Federal Commissioner for Information in Nigeria and acclaimed leader of the ethnic Ijaw group, Chief Edwin Clark, has debunked rumours that he collapsed after President Goodluck Jonathan was defeated in the 28 March Presidential election.
Clark, who left Nigeria Friday night for London, spoke with journalists in Abuja, declaring that it was wrong for anyone to think that he would die, after Jonathan was thrashed by Muhammadu Buhari in the election.
He said some people had been going round with rumours that he collapsed when he heard about the outcome of the presidential election.
“I am here today to tell you that I am not dead. Or am I dead? In every election, there would be winners and losers. The same thing happened during the last presidential election.
“I am alive. Today, I won’t talk about what happened before, during and after the election. That will come another day.
“I am talking to you now because I am travelling tomorrow and some people will go into the streets and say I was carried into air ambulance.
“President Jonathan that contested election had congratulated the winner and the whole world acclaimed him for conceding defeat.
“Jonathan was the one who contested election, I didn’t. So, why should I die.”
Nuhu Ribadu’s chances of winning the Adamawa governorship election was left in tatters today, following the desertion of his Peoples Democratic Party by party bigwigs to the All Progressives Congress.
Leading the defectors was former Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Jonathan Zwingina. Othes were a former Minister of External Affairs, Idi Hong, and two serving Senators, Bello Tukur and Ahmed Barata, as well as Sadiq Haske.
They announced their defection at a press conference in Yola today.
Zwingina, who spoke on behalf of the defectors, said they decided to pitch their tent with the APC to support the party’s governorship candidate, Bindow Jibrilla.
“We are positive of the change going on now in the country; we believe in the candidacy of Bindow,” he said.
Zwingina and Hong lost in their bid to represent Adamawa Central and Southern district in the National Assembly elections held on March 28.
Earlier in the day they met with the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, who was in Yola to campaign for the APC.
Permit me to start by thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk about this important topic at this crucial time. When speaking about Nigeria overseas, I normally prefer to be my country’s public relations and marketing officer, extolling her virtues and hoping to attract investments and tourists. But as we all know, Nigeria is now battling with many challenges, and if I refer to them, I do so only to impress on our friends in the United Kingdom that we are quite aware of our shortcomings and are doing our best to address them.
The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating a lot of interests within and outside the country. This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, is at a defining moment, a moment that has great implications beyond the democratic project and beyond the borders of my dear country.
So let me say upfront that the global interest in Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all and indeed should be commended; for this is an election that has serious import for the world. I urge the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment. Given increasing global linkages, it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates; that they should be free and fair; that their outcomes should be respected by all parties; and that any form of extension, under whichever guise, is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.
As you all know, I had been a military head of state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.
In the last two decades, democracy has grown strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are now so commonplace. As at the time I was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, only four African countries held regular multi-party elections. But the number of electoral democracies in Africa, according to Freedom House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in 1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006. According to the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted multi-party elections between 1990 and 2002.
The newspaper also reported that between 2000 and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries (Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully handed over power to victorious opposition parties. In addition, the proportion of African countries categorized as not free by Freedom House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003. Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current global wave of democratisation.
But the growth of democracy on the continent has been uneven. According to Freedom House, the number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not free’ assuming for the sake of argument that we accept their definition of “free” increased from 35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have been some reversals at different times in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo. We can choose to look at the glass of democracy in Africa as either half full or half empty.
While you can’t have representative democracy without elections, it is equally important to look at the quality of the elections and to remember that mere elections do not democracy make. It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation – that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.
With this important destination in mind, it is clear that though many African countries now hold regular elections, very few of them have consolidated the practice of democracy. It is important to also state at this point that just as with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not enough to hold a series of elections or even to peacefully alternate power among parties.
It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.
Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.
The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria.
But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focussed on this year’s elections, chief of which is that the elections are holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure.
Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency. I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country.
You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many other peacekeeping operations in several parts of the world. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue.
Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I,
Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.
On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has brought our economic and social stress into full relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of 7% for about a decade.
But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity. A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?
The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery.
Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom. There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult population and almost 60% of our youth unemployed. We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world.
With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and UNDP’s Human Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.
In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.
On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.
But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.
In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.
As a progressive party, we must reform our political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity and productivity of the Nigerian people thus freeing them from the curse of poverty. We will run a private sector-led economy but maintain an active role for government through strong regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions and incentives to diversify the base of our economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve the productive capacities of our people and create jobs for our teeming youths.
In short, we will run a functional economy driven by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by itself, but as a tool to create a society that works for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe the people will choose wisely.
In sum, I think that given its strategic importance, Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we need to get this critical election right by ensuring that they go ahead, and depriving those who want to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling democracy. That way, we will all see democracy and democratic consolidation as tools for solving pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as ends in themselves.
Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition
Permit me to close this discussion on a personal note. I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch.
I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.
You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a question I ask myself all the time too. And here is my humble answer: because the work of making Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still believe that change is possible, this time through the ballot, and most importantly, because I still have the capacity and the passion to dream and work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will be proud of.
I thank you for listening.
By Prince Emmanuel Ohai
Arthur Okowa Ifeanyi (born 8 July 1959) is a Nigerian politician who was elected Senator for Delta North, in Delta State, Nigeria, in the April 2011 national elections. He ran on the People's Democratic Party (PDP) platform. He is an Igbo of Anioma descent.
Okowa was born at Owa-Alero in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State. He attended Edo College, Benin City (1970–1976), then went on to the University of Ibadan where he studied Medicine and Surgery, graduating in 1981 with an MBBS degree. After leaving the National Youth Service Corps, he worked with the Bendel State Hospitals Management Board as a Medical Officer. He entered private practice as Director, Victory Medical Centre, Igbanke in 1986.
Okowa became Secretary to the Ika Local Government and then Chairman of the Ika North-East Local Government Council (1991–1993). He was Delta North Coordinator of the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM). He joined the PDP in 1998, and assisted in Governor James Ibori's campaign in 1998/1999. He served as a Commissioner in the Delta State government for Agriculture and Natural Resources (July 1999 – April 2001), Water Resources Development (April 2001 – May 2003) and Health (September 2003 – October 2006).
Okowa resigned to contest in the 2007 PDP primaries for Governor of Delta State, but did not succeed. In June 2007, Ifeanyi was appointed Secretary to the Delta state Government.
Ifeanyi was elected Delta North Senatorial candidate in the January 2011 PDP primaries with 942 votes, but the result was challenged by party leaders who favoured Marian Amaka Alli as candidate. He was re-elected in a rerun where he scored 1,446 votes, against 108 votes for Dr. Maryam Alli. In the April 2011 election for the Delta North Senatorial seat, Ifeanyi won 98,140 votes, ahead of runner up Prince Ned Munir Nwoko of the Democratic People's Party, who won 67,985 votes. It was reported that there was still tension regarding the election in January 2013. Ifeanyi finally clinched the ticket for the gubernatorial election in 2015 under the PDP with 406 votes on December 8th 2014. 
The All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State has accused Governor Ayodele Fayose of awarding the repainting of the Governor’s Office to his “blood brother” at the cost of N200m.
It also accused the governor of awarding a contract to put marble in front of the Government House, which he (Fayose) had earlier described as too expensive; and relaying of asphalt on an already asphalted road leading to the lodge.
In a statement by the State Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, on Sunday, the APC said, “To add salt to injury, artisans working on the marble are all imported from Ibadan, when many Ekiti artisans could do the job. This a man who claims to be a friend of the masses.
“He is repainting the Governor’s Office, awarded by direct labour at the cost of N200m awarded to his blood brother.
“He told the Permanent Secretary, General Administration Department and Head of Service to find alternative entrance for civil servants, who work within the Governor’s office building because he doesn’t want to be meeting the ‘evil servants’ while coming in at the main entrance.
“This has been effected as civil servants in the Governor’s office now pass through the back to their offices. Yet this is the class of people he professed to be their friend before the election and he has also cancelled the appointment of eight permanent secretaries that were legally appointed after passing necessary examinations according to the service rules.”
Fayose, who, however, spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, denied awarding the repainting contract to his brother as alleged by the APC.
Adelusi said the contract was awarded to an indigenous firm and the owner is not a brother to the governor.
He also denied the allegations that the marble contract was awarded to a non-indigenous firm.
“We are not like APC that pauperised the people for the four years. All the contractors handling the job including the marble are from Ekiti. They are, however, free to source their materials from anywhere in and outside Ekiti,” Adelusi added.
Olatunbosun, who also alleged that Fayose had not kept to his promise to give better life to the people, regretted that while it was the standard practice in other states to celebrate their governors after a month in office, the experience in Ekiti State was that of gloom, anger, frustrations and disappointment by the people.
As the preparations for the 2015 general elections gathers momentum, former president of Nigeria and ex-Chairman, Board of Trustees, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has declared that it is over between him and the party.
Obasanjo during the weekend, declared that the glaring act of corruption, inaction about the kidnapped Chibok girls, inequality and other factors militating against the development of the country would make him to distance himself from the affairs of the national body of the party.
Ebora Owu, as he fondly called affirmed that he would remain a member of the ruling party, but only as an active ward member, remarking that his position bothers on principle, morality, honour and commitment to Nigeria as a nation.
In a release titled “Statement on Begging” copy which was made available to journalists in Abeokuta, Obasanjo said it was expedient of him to clear the air on “the avalanche of news and cacophony of appeals and pleadings from some quarters of PDP leadership.
“There are misunderstandings and misrepresentations which some of those appeals and pleas manifested; hence this explanation from me. Talking of inviting me back to PDP is wrong and it is a great misrepresentation as I have never left PDP and I will never leave PDP.
“I have said it before and I will say it again, I rose to become the President of Nigeria on the platform of PDP and for that reason alone, I will remain a card-carrying and ward-active member of PDP for as long as I have to be a political party member.
“I had occasions to say to the President, the Senate President and the Party Chairman separately that I have no quarrel with any individual or group in the party. There are, for me, issues of principle, morality, honour, integrity, commitment and character which are paramount,” Obasanjo said.
He said that as a vital member of anti-drug war in sub-Sahara Africa, having an alleged member of the party in the wanted list of United States of America was one out of the issues he is having with the leadership of the PDP.
“For instance, as a former President of Nigeria, the Chairman of West Africa Commission on Drug and a member of Global Commission on Drug, I cannot accept that the zonal leader of my political party and, worse still in my zone, will be an indicted drug baron wanted in America. How do I explain that to friends outside Nigeria? This is only one of the many issues that I have pointed and still pointing out”,the former President posited.
He further maintained that with national and international standard to maintain and reputation to keep and sustain “has for these reasons, I opted to remain active only at the ward level of the party till the leadership does the needful.
“But under no condition will my commitment to Nigeria be diminished. And, for me, it is commitment to Nigeria first and any other commitment can only follow in second or third place. Where any other commitment is in tandem with what I see and understand as commitment to Nigeria, such other commitment will share a pride of place with Nigeria”.
The former president asserted that his interest and commitment to Nigeria goes beyond partisan politics, stressing that, “today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck to deal with our pressing problems of security including the issue of Chibok girls, widening inequality, infrastructure, impunity, corruption, poverty and youth education, skill-acquisition, empowerment and employment. These are issues of concern to most Nigerians.
“We all need to join hands to move Nigeria forward. I don’t need to be begged for that. Rather, I beg and appeal to those who are begging me to realise that we must put Nigeria’s interest above politics – party or personal – otherwise, we will all be judged at the bar of history if not the bar of current affairs. In addition, we must preserve, sustain and deepen democracy and democratic practices,” the Balogun of Owu Kingdom stated.
Says his father wanted him to be Islamic scholar or herdsman
I was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State, Nigeria. I was named after my paternal grandfather, Atiku Abdulkadir. It was the practice among the Fulani people to name their first sons after their paternal grandfathers.
My grandfather, Atiku, came originally from Wurno in Sokoto State. There, he had met and befriended Ardo Usman, a Fulani nobleman from what is now known as Adamawa State. My grandfather decided to accompany his new friend back to his home- town of Adamawa.
They settled in Kojoli, a small village in Jada Local Government Council of Adamawa State. My grandfather farmed, kept livestock and raised a family. He married a local girl in Kojoli and gave birth to my father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir. He was their only child.
My father was an itinerant trader who traveled from one market to another selling imitation jewelry, caps, needles, potash, kola nuts and other nick-knacks which he ferried around on the back of his donkey. He also kept some livestock and cultivated guinea corn, maize and groundnuts.
When it was time for him to marry, my father chose a young girl from nearby Jada town whose parents had migrated from Dutse, now the capital of Jigawa State. My mother, Aisha Kande, was born in Jada.
Both my father and paternal grandfather were learned men. They gave free Islamic classes to adults and young people in Kojoli during their spare time.
As a young boy growing up in Kojoli, my parents doted on me. They tried their best to provide for me and to ensure that I grew up in a wholesome environment of love and spirituality. My father saw me as a rare gift, a child of destiny.
My parents tried unsuccessfully to have more children.
GOING TO SCHOOL
My father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir, was fond of me. He wanted me to become an Islamic scholar, herdsman, farmer and trader – just like him. He was a deeply religious man who was suspicious of Western education which he believed could corrupt the impressionable minds of young people.
My father did not want me to go to school. He tried to hide me from the prying eyes of Native Authority officials who had embarked on compulsory mass literacy campaign in the region. My father soon discovered that he could not resist the wind of change that was blowing through the area at the time.
My mother’s older brother, Kawu Ali who had received a little education through adult literacy classes, registered me at Jada Primary School in January 1954 as Atiku Kojoli.
For trying to stop me from going to school, my father was arrested, charged to an Alkali court and fined 10 Shillings. He refused to pay the fine. He said he had no money.
He spent a few days in jail until my maternal grandmother, who made local soap for sale in the community, raised the money to pay the fine and father was released to her.
But my father was not a happy man. He was sad and angry that his only child had been taken away from him to be exposed to a strange world. He saw Western education as a threat to their cherished values and way of life.
Three years after I started school, tragedy struck in December 1957. I was then11 years old. I was just about to begin the Senior Primary School in Jada as a boarding pupil. My father drowned while trying to cross a small river known as Mayo Choncha on the outskirts of Toungo, a neighbouring town.
The river was in high tide following a heavy rainfall. Father’s body was recovered the following day and buried in Toungo according to Islamic rites. He was less than 40 years old when he died. I built an Islamic primary school at his burial site years later to immortalize him. He was a simple, hard working, kind, honest and God-fearing man. I miss him a lot.
After my father’s death, the task of raising me fell on my mother, Kande, and her childless sister, Azumi, as well as my father’s extended family members in Kojoli. Although people were generally kind and caring towards me, it was difficult for relatives to fill the vacuum left by my father. As such, I was often sad and lonely. Father’s death pained me greatly.
I resolved to work hard, remain focused and be successful in life to make my father proud. I was sure that he was somewhere watching over me. I did not want to disappoint him. I wish father had lived long enough to see the benefits of Western education in my life.
KADUNA, KANO & ZARIA
After completing my primary school in Jada in 1960, I was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in Yola. I joined 59 other young boys from Adamawa and beyond in January 1961 to begin a five-year high school journey. The school’s motto is Tiddo Yo Daddo, a Fulani aphorism for “Endurance is Success”.
It reminded us daily that success in life would only come to those who worked hard and persevered. Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, like others in the region, belonged in the second category of post-primary institutions in Northern Nigeria. The most prestigious schools were the Government Colleges in Zaria and Keffi.
Pupils who excelled in the entrance examination went to the Government Colleges; those who did reasonably well went to the Provincial Secondary Schools; average students were sent to the Craft Schools in the various Divisions; and those who failed the examination were sent to Farm Centres which were established in all the Districts. It was a good system which took care of everyone irrespective of his or her level of intelligence.
When I was 15, I spent my school holiday at home, working as a clerk in Ganye Native Authority. My boss was Adamu Ciroma, the then District Officer. From my holiday job earnings, I bought a house for my mother in Ganye, the headquarters of the local government council. The thatched mud bungalow had two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. It cost me about nine Pounds Sterling. My mother was very happy and proud of me. I had saved her from homelessness after her older brother sold the family house in Jada without her knowledge.
SERVING IN THE CUSTOMS
Before completing my Diploma in Law programme in June 1969, a team from the Federal Civil Service Commission came on a recruitment drive to the university. By chance one of the interviewers found in my file a report that I had once been found suitable to join the police force and had in fact received some training in 1966. This in- formation was brought to the attention of the chairman of the interview panel who promptly ruled. “O.k., you go to the Department of Customs and Excise”.
That was how I joined the Department of Customs and Excise in June 1969. The invisible hand that has always shaped my life had once again steered me towards my destiny.
After my training at the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos and at the Customs Training School in Ebute Metta in Lagos, I was posted to Idi Iroko border station. My colleagues and I were tasked with collecting duties on imported and exported goods, stop- ping the entry and exit of banned items, and arresting and prosecuting smugglers.
I was posted in 1972 to Ikeja Airport in Lagos and later to Apapa ports in Lagos.
I saw Customs not as a punitive institution but as a way of making money for government. Instead of seizing goods and extorting money from their owners, I made money for government. A lot of people tried unsuccessfully to induce me.
I was posted to Ibadan mid 1975 and promoted Superintendent of Customs. This was during the memorable days of General Murtala Muhammed, the nation’s new military leader who had electrified the nation with his campaign for discipline, probity, hard work, patriotism and dedication to duty.
I admired General Muhammed and tried to promote the same values and attitudinal change in our office. I was nick-named “Murtala Muhammed Junior” by my Customs subordinates in Ibadan because they said I was behaving like him. Although I was second-in-command in Ibadan, I used to order late-comers to be locked out of their offices.
I was sad to hear about General Muhammed’s assassination on February 13, 1976 during a failed military coup. Some of those who were later implicated in the coup and killed were well known to me. But I did not know they were involved in a coup plot. Shortly after that failed coup, I was transferred to Kano in 1976.
I recognized very early in life that I have a good nose for business. In 1974 I applied for and obtained a Federal Staff Housing Loan. The loan, which amounted to 31,000 Naira, was the equivalent of my salary for five years. I was granted a plot of land by the Gongola State Government at Yola Government Reserved Area (GRA).
I hired a foreman and began building my first house. With close personal supervision, the bungalow was completed on time and to my taste. I rented it out immediately. The rent I collected in advance on the house was substantial enough for me to purchase a second plot.
I built my second house there and rented it out. I continued to plow back the rent into the building of new houses and within a few years I had built eight houses in choice areas of Yola. I also built a new house for my mother and rebuilt the old mud house I bought for her in Ganye when I was a 15-year-old student.
Property investment can be very rewarding. It is safe and the returns are high de- pending on the location. Kaduna, for instance, was a good place to invest in property before the emergence of Abuja. I built my first house in Kaduna with rent from other property. I bought six more plots and built residential houses and rented them out to individuals and institutions.
Of all the businesses into which I would venture, the most successful and the most lucrative would be a small oil services company I established with an Italian business man in the early 1980s. I met Gabriel Volpi when he was working at Apapa Ports in 1982. The Genoa, Italy-born Volpi was a director in MED Africa, a shipping company.
Volpi suggested we go into oil and gas logistics. He knew Nigeria’s future was in oil and gas. We registered the Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), operating from a container office at Apapa Ports. I was not involved in the running of the company.
NICOTES relocated later to the Federal Lighter Terminal in Port Harcourt when the business began to grow. The company, now known as INTELS (Integrated and Logistics Services), has grown into a multi-billion Naira business providing over 15,000 jobs in Nigeria and other African countries, and paying hefty dividends to its shareholders.
My mother, Aisha Kande, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1984. I was in Lagos where I had been posted as the Customs Area Administrator in charge of Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja. Lamido Aliyu Musdafa summoned me home and broke the sad news to me in his palace. I wept like a child. She was hale and hearty when we last saw a week earlier.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
A few months before my mother’s death, soldiers had overthrown the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. Major-General Muhammadu Buhari became the new Head of State. As part of its monetary policies, the Buhari government had introduced new Naira notes in April 1984.
The policy was aimed at halting the illegal speculative trading of the Naira outside the shores of Nigeria. A time limit was imposed within which old notes could be turned in for new ones. Government agencies at the nation’s borders, sea and air ports were instructed to screen all bags and containers entering the country to ensure old Naira notes were not being smuggled into the country.
A first class traditional ruler and a returning Nigeria diplomat had arrived from Saudi Arabia with several bags. My officers at the airport in Lagos were not allowed to search the bags. The duty officers reported the incident in writing. I did not know how a newspaper got wind of it. The Guardian, a Lagos-based newspaper, reported on its front page on June 10, 1984 that “Passenger with 53 suitcases leaves airport unchecked”.
The incident became a scandal and government was forced to set up an administrative panel of inquiry to determine why due process was not followed. The government was clearly embarrassed by the incident and rather than punish those who flouted its directive that all baggage be searched, it began to look for scapegoats. They mounted pressure on me to deny that the incident ever happened. I was threatened and intimidated. I vowed to surrender my uniform and quit the Customs rather than lie.
The Federal Government would later declare that the controversial 53 suitcases contained the personal effects of the traditional ruler, the returning ambassador and members of their families. The government added that those who intimidated and threatened the Customs officers on duty on that day at the airport had been reprimanded.
Some government officials wanted me sacked for not covering up their mess. But Finance Minister Onaolapo Soleye, who supervised the Department of Customs and Excise, said I should be left alone.
Soleye did not know me. He acted on the basis of the facts before him. He said it would be unfair to punish me for doing my job and for standing by my officers. He was also swayed by my impeccable service record. No queries. No sanctions. My file was filled with commendations for meeting and exceeding revenue targets at the different posts I had headed.
A PASSION FOR LEARNING
I have always had a passion for education. In 1988, my second wife, Ladi and I registered a limited liability company called ABTI-ZARHAM (formed from the first letters of the names of our children: Abba and Atiku Jnr = ABTI and Zainab, Rukaiya, Hauwa and Maryam = ZARHAM). We established ABTI Nursery and Primary School in Yola in 1992.
We later set up ABTI Academy, an elite high school with boarding facilities modeled after the British public school. It was followed by ABTI-American University (now American University of Nigeria, Yola). It provides American-style university education to students. Nothing gives me more joy and fulfillment in life than my modest contributions to the improvement of education in Nigeria.
While in my office one day, I was informed that Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the retired Major-General and former deputy to Obasanjo, was waiting to see me. Yar’Adua wanted a license to import beans from Niger Republic for sale in Nigeria. I told him that he would have to write an application to President Ibrahim Babangida for the license. Yar’Adua thanked me and left.
Babangida approved his application. Yar’Adua imported the beans from Niger Republic, sold them and made good money. He felt he needed to show appreciation to me for assisting him. I was happy to see him again when he visited me and happier still to know that his business had gone well.
He offered me a token of appreciation, but I declined, saying it was unnecessary. I was just doing my job. Yar’Adua was highly impressed. In an organization known for its endemic corruption and unethical deals, he was happy to find one decent officer. From that day, a friendship developed between us.
Going into politics
When I joined the Customs 20 years earlier, I had drawn a graph anticipating my career progression from Cadet to Director of Customs by age 40. I told myself that if by the time I was 40 years old I did not head the organization, I would quit.
I retired at 43 as a Deputy Director on April 30, 1989. I paid the mandatory three months salary in lieu of notice to government.
A year before my retirement, I had started attending political meetings at Shehu Yar’Adua’s house in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“Look, you are good, you relate well with people. I think you will make a good politician. Why don’t you join me in politics”, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua said to me one day.
That was how it all started. The Yar’Adua Group, as we came to be known, wanted to build a bridge across the old fault lines of ethnicity, religion and region.
In May 1989, the Babangida administration finally lifted the ban on party politics. The Yar’Adua group immediately unveiled its political association, the People’s Front of Nigeria (PFN), which had “the pursuit of justice, peace, and service” as its motto and “People First” as its slogan.
At its first national convention in June 1989, Farouk Abdul Azeez, a medical doctor from the then Kwara State, was elected Chairman while a woman, Titi Ajanaku, was elected National Secretary.
Six of us represented the then Gongola State at the convention. I was elected one of the National Vice Chairmen of the party. I was also in charge of setting up party structures in the South-East where I already had a network of friends and business associates. Yar’Adua and I paid the initial expenses of the PFN.
I took PFN to Gongola State. It was the first political association to be launched in the state when the ban on party politics was lifted. I was the party’s sole financier in the state. My contributions to my immediate community had earned me a lot of good- will and support.
Of the 13 political associations formed at the time, the PFN was the most organized and disciplined. Yet, on October 7, 1989, President Babangida announced that his Armed Forces Ruling Council had decided not to register any of the associations be- cause, as he put it, “the associations were set up by the same old discredited politicians who must never be allowed back in power”.
He disbanded the 13 associations and created and funded two new parties – the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC).
The SDP, he said, was a little to the left in terms of its ideological orientation while the NRC was a little to the right. He asked politicians to join either of the two.
We in the Yar’Adua group decided to join the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the party considered closer to the PFN in ideological orientation.
The parties were formally launched in Abuja on October 7, 1989. I was one of the delegates from Gongola State. I was elected to the 1989 Constituent Assembly.
To be Governor
On August 27, 1991, the Babangida administration created nine new states. Gongola State was broken into Adamawa and Taraba States.
The SDP governorship primary in Adamawa State was held in November 1991. Six people contested with me, including Bala Takaya, a former political science lecturer at the University of Jos.
The primary took place amidst allegations that the state party executives were solidly behind Bala Takaya. Voting was relatively peaceful and orderly. The result was however disputed. I was declared winner but Bala Takaya and his supporters protested.
It was amidst this chaos that in December 1991, the Babangida administration announced the cancellation of nine state primary election results, including that of Adamawa. Takaya and I were also disqualified from contesting the upcoming governorship election.
The former state Chairman of the party, Boss Mustapha, emerged the winner of a fresh governorship primary. He had just two weeks to convince the people of Adamawa State to vote for him.
Apart from the short time available for campaign, Mustapha’s chances were also weakened by the unresolved internal bickering in the party. So it was not surprising that the candidate of the rival NRC, Saleh Michika, won the December 14, 1991 governorship election.
To be President
Yar’Adua and 12 other so-called banned politicians were arrested and detained on December 2, 1991 for participating in politics despite having been banned. He was released on December 20, 1991 after 17 days in detention. He was free to participate in politics again, the government said.
We, his associates, persuaded him to join the race for the presidency. He declared his interest on February 25, 1992 at City Hall, Lagos. He was one of the 50 presidential aspirants of the two parties that participated in the six-zone presidential primaries from May 2 to June 20, 1992. I was Yar’Adua’s campaign coordinator.
I had no doubt in my mind that he would have made a good President. He had a vision and he knew how to bring good people together to achieve his goals.
A three-stage party primary was introduced, beginning in September 1992. By the end of the first round, Yar’Adua had emerged the front-runner, beating prominent politicians in their strongholds. The Babangida administration cashed in on the unfounded allegations of rigging, thuggery and bribery and cancelled the primary results on November 17, 1992.
All 23 presidential aspirants were also banned. The executives of the two parties were dissolved. A new system of presidential primary was announced. The handover date from military to civilian rule was extended to August 17, 1993.
With Yar’Adua banned, the group needed someone that its members could rally round. My influence, hard work and selfless contributions to the Yar’Adua group as well as my loyalty to Yar’Adua and my youthfulness (I was then 46 years old) counted in my favour.
My closeness to Tafida (as I used to call him) also meant that I would inherit both his goodwill and his ill-will. I knew that those who did not want Yar’Adua to become President could also stop me. But I was not deterred. I decided to run on the same ideas and vision that Yar’Adua had espoused during his candidacy – a strong, united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria.
Babagana Kingibe, a former member of the Yar’Adua group who became SDP Chairman because of the group’s support, was also vying for the party’s presidential ticket. So was newcomer Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, a wealthy businessman and newspaper publisher.
I contested and won the SDP presidential primary in Adamawa State in March 1993. Moshood Abiola, 55 years old, and Babagana Kingibe, 48, had also won in their respective states. Altogether, 27 of us from various states converged in Jos in March 1993 to contest the SDP presidential ticket at the national convention of the party.
To stop Kingibe, whom we all believed had betrayed our group, the Yar’Adua group resolved to negotiate with Abiola. We would support Abiola’s candidacy for the presidency in return for making me his running mate. We met Abiola and his key advisers and agreed to go to the Jos convention to push for an Abiola-Atiku ticket.
Thereafter, we would harmonize our campaign structures and finances. At the end of the first ballot, Abiola came first with 3,617 votes. Kingibe came a close second with 3,225 votes. I came third with 2,066 votes.
We met again with Abiola. We agreed that I should step down for Abiola in the final round of voting. I agreed to subordinate my personal ambition for the sake of democracy. I was ready for any personal sacrifice that could end military rule in Nigeria.
In the two-way race between Abiola and Kingibe, Abiola triumphed with 2,683 votes to Kingibe’s 2,456 votes.
However, Abiola refused to honour the agreement to make me his running mate. He picked Babagana Kingibe.
Yar’Adua was angry over Abiola’s betrayal. I knew it would be difficult to persuade him to support Abiola again. I was concerned about our party. Without the support of the Yar’Adua group, the SDP could lose the presidential election to the NRC whose Bashir Tofa, then 46, was generally thought to be inexperienced.
Knowing that Shehu Yar’Adua’s father and former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo were the two people in the world that Yar’Adua could not refuse, I went to see Obasanjo at his Ota farm to ask him to convince Yar’Adua not to withdraw his support for Abiola. I said the Yar’Adua group needed to work closely with Abiola to defeat the reactionary forces in the upcoming election and to get Babangida out of office.
Obasanjo promised to talk to his former deputy. He did. And the Yar’Adua group went on to support Abiola who won the June 12 election. But the Babangida administration annulled the election midway into the vote count.
We were all sad and angry about the annulment. We were tired of the endless transition. But we could not leave the ship of state adrift. We began consulting other political groups. In the end, a compromise was reached to form an Interim National Government (ING) with corporate chieftain Ernest Shonekan as Head. The ING was sacked three months later by General Sani Abacha, the Defence Minister. Nigeria once again returned to full military rule.
A little over six months into his administration, Abacha gathered politicians in Abuja to fashion yet another Constitution. I was elected by my people to represent them at the Constituent Assembly. Shehu Yar’Adua was also an elected delegate from Katsina State.
The conference began in June 1994 with 273 delegates, including 96 appointees of government. In the middle of its proceedings, I was informed that Abacha wanted to see me. When I met him, Abacha told me he would like to work with me. He said I should support his political programme and advised me to dump Yar’Adua.
I said Yar’Adua was my friend and that he should not try to tear us apart. I said I was my own man and that I could take decisions of my own. Abacha was not impressed. He asked me to go and think about it.
By March 1995 Abacha began to move against opponents of his government. Yar’Adua was the first on his list. He was arrested and detained on March 9, 1995 for daring to recommend a terminal date for the Abacha government. General Obasanjo was also arrested.
Days after their arrest, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chief of the Defence Staff, addressed a press conference in Lagos during which he disclosed that 29 officers and civilians had been arrested in connection with a coup plot.
Suspects were tortured and forced to confess their role in the coup and to implicate innocent men such as Obasanjo and Yar’Adua. A sham trial was staged. Yar’Adua was sentenced to death and Obasanjo to life imprisonment.
In an Independence Day broadcast on October 1, 1995, Abacha announced the commutal of 13 of the death sentences to various terms of imprisonment. Obasanjo’s life sentence was reduced to 15 years while Yar’Adua’s death sentence was reduced to 25 years. This was in response to pressure from to a coalition of journalists, human rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners and the international community, including the Pope.
I visited Kirikiri as often as I could to see Yar’Adua with Inua Baba, the Plateau State-born personal assistant to Yar’Adua. In detention, Yar’Adua was more concerned about the future of the country than about his own life. He feared that Abacha would throw the country into chaos. He was later transferred to Port Harcourt and Abakaliki Prisons.
Abacha was not satisfied keeping Yar’Adua in jail and intimidating me. He was determined to cripple our businesses as well. He seized our most lucrative business, NICOTES, and renamed it INTELS (Integrated and Logistics Services). Yar’Adua and I were removed from the company as shareholders.
My residence in Kaduna was attacked by unknown gunmen in May 1995. Six policemen and one guard died in that attack. It is still a miracle to me how my wife, Titi, our son, Adamu, and I escaped unhurt.
Going into exile
Following the bloody attack in Kaduna, family and friends persuaded me to leave the country for a while. Abacha’s security agents trailed me everywhere in their unmarked cars and trademark dark sunglasses. My telephone lines were bugged. I had to sneak out at night to meet people. My life under Abacha was horrible.
The State Security Service (SSS) seized my international passport just as I was making plans to travel outside the country to cool off and to seek the support of some political and business leaders in Europe and the United States for the democratic struggle in Nigeria.
I arrived London late 1995. I made several unsuccessful efforts to reach the British Foreign Office. The government of Prime Minister John Major was, as usual with the British, a bit too cautious in its dealings with the Nigerian opposition.
From London, I linked up with Jackie Farris who had worked as a consultant on polling and political strategy with the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua presidential campaign in 1992. Through her I was able to re-establish contacts with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. He promised to talk to his contacts at the State Department in Washing- ton, DC to get me an appointment.
While in the United States, I also re-established contact with Jennifer Iwenjiora, the television journalist I had known as a friend in Lagos since 1982. She was then living in Maryland. Jennifer and I later married and had Abdulmalik, Zahra and Faisal.
Jennifer took me to some of the contacts Young and Farris had arranged for me in Washington, D.C. USA.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, received me warmly in her office. I briefed her on the political situation in Nigeria and commended the Clinton Administration for supporting the democratic struggle in Nigeria.
I pleaded with the Administration to press Abacha to free political prisoners, such as Yar’Adua and Obasanjo, and restore democratic rule. Rice expressed delight in seeing me and promised the Clinton Administration’s commitment to the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.
I wept like a baby on December 8, 1997 when I was informed that Shehu Musa Yar’Adua had died in Abakaliki prison. He was just 54 years old.
Yar’Adua had transformed Nigerian politics with his organizational skill, analytical mind and his uncommon gift as a strategist. I lost a brother, a mentor, a confidant and a friend in Yar’Adua.
Death of Abacha & Abiola
Then, on June 8, 1998 Abacha died suddenly of a heart attack in Abuja at the age of 54. Chief of the Defence Staff, Abdulsalami Abubakar, became the new Head of State. One month after Abach’s death, Moshood Abiola also died suddenly in detention.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar read the national mood well. He released political detainees and announced a short transition to civil rule programme. He also began to look into previous rights violations. I petitioned him about the seizure of INTELS from Yar’Adua and I. He set up a committee to look into it and the committee promptly recommended that the company be returned to us as the rightful owners.
From Governor to Vice Presidency
As soon as the military government announced its transition programme, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), as the Yar’Adua group came to be known, immediately reconvened in Lagos.
We resolved to liaise with other political associations with the hope of setting up a strong national party that would promote unity and stability and serve as a bulwark against military incursion into politics.
On August 19, 1998, the PDM and other groups came together to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as “a credible, nationwide, people-oriented and principled political party, enjoying the widest support throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
I led a small group to identify a presidential candidate from the South-west that we could support. The Abubakar government sent an emissary to inform us that they wanted Olusegun Obasanjo.
In the end, our group agreed to support Obasanjo’s candidacy. A contact team was set up with Lawal Kaita, Sunday Afolabi, Ango Abdullahi, Titi Ajanaku and I as members.
We were convinced that Obasanjo would make a good President.
After Obasanjo agreed to contest the PDP presidential primary, I went back to Adamawa to realize my long-time dream of governing my state. I was unanimously picked as the PDP governorship candidate for Adamawa State. Boni Haruna was my running mate.
I won the January 9, 1999 governorship election, defeating my perennial rival, Bala Takaya of the All Nigeria People’s Party.
The PDP held its national convention in Jos in January 1999 and Obasanjo defeated former Vice President Alex Ekwueme to become the party’s candidate. He chose me as his Vice Presidential candidate. I was quite surprised as I had not shown any interest in the position. I wanted to govern my state but that was not God’s will.
Our ticket was sold to the electorate as a team of two great personalities, the convergence of two generations and the bridging of the South/Christian and North/ Muslim gulf.
Obasanjo went on to win the February 27, 1999 presidential election, defeating former Secretary to the Government, Olu Falae, who ran on the AD/ANPP joint ticket.
Obasanjo and I were sworn into office as President and Vice President, respectively at a colourful ceremony in Abuja on May 29, 1999.
For eight years, our administration worked assiduously to deepen our young democracy, unite our diverse people, professionalize the armed forces, re-establish our country as a great and respected member of the international community, and reform our economy to become more productive, diverse and globally competitive.
Our reform package included fuel price deregulation, low and stable interest and inflation rates, privatization of inefficient government-owned enterprises, enthroning a culture of transparency and accountability, monetization of the benefits and entitlements of public sector workers, setting up a new pension scheme and growing the revenue base of the government through a fair and equitable, more efficient and easier-to- comply tax system.
In 2001, our administration successfully auctioned mobile phone licenses and by the time we left office in 2007, more than 70 million Nigerians had phones compared to the 400,000 landlines that the state-owned Nigerian Telecommunication Company Limited (NITEL) paraded throughout its existence.
In one of the most courageous and ambitious privatization programmes ever embarked upon in recent times, we sold off scores of unprofitable and inefficient public enterprises, such as banks, insurance companies, hotels, newspapers, cement, oil and petrol chemical and fertilizer companies. Thus, we relieved the federal government of the unnecessary burden of running businesses. We then refocused government’s attention on making laws and good policies and creating a conducive atmosphere for businesses to flourish.
Most of the privatized firms are today being run profitably and efficiently by their new owners, creating more jobs and delivering quality products and services.
One important achievement of our administration was the banking sector re-form. In 2005, we raised the minimum capital base of banks from N2 billion to N25 billion in order to make the Nigerian banks stronger, healthier and globally competitive. The policy saw the number of banks operating in the country drop from 89 to 25.
Also, our administration cleaned up Abuja, restored its Master Plan, computerized the land registry and halted uncontrolled developments in the federal capital territory. By the time we left office in 2007, Abuja had become the pride of the nation as a beautiful, clean, safe and efficient world class city.
To ensure that the increased revenue accruing to the government benefitted the greatest number of people, the Obasanjo administration set up the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) the Economic and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Both the ICPC and EFCC waged a vigorous and sustained war against corruption, money laundering, advanced fee fraud and other economic and financial crimes.
In a related development, our administration also introduced new procurement system with emphasis on due process, open and transparent conduct of government business as well as adherence to public service rules and financial regulations.
In October 2005, our administration successfully negotiated a deal with our external creditors that saw Nigeria pay off a total of $14.48 billion in return for the cancellation of our remaining $18 billion debt. Also, we set up the Debt Management Office (DMO) to review and restructure Nigeria’s debt.
Our economic reforms led to massive growth in both the formal and informal economy. By the time we left office in 2007, our economy was ranked 31st in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was estimated to be about $500 billion (estimate included both formal and informal economy). It became the second biggest economy in Africa.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday in Benin said the country had reduced its poverty rate by 50 per cent.
Jonathan said this while speaking at the South South Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) political rally in Benin, tagged ‘Unity Mega Rally.’
He said that the PDP, as a party, believed in stomach infrastructure because the party must ensure that there was food security and job creation in the country.
He noted that any leader who claimed not to believe in stomach infrastructure was not ready to lead, as “ you cannot lead hungry people.’’
He desrcibed the PDP as the only stable party since its formation that had never changed its name, logo or motto, adding that it is the only paty that gives its members the freedom to climb to the highest level.
He said that all the nation needed was unity, and gave the assurance that although all the roads could not be rehabilitated at once, his administration would continue to improve on all infrastracture in the country.
He also gave the reassurance that since the nation was able to conquer the Ebola Virus Disease, it would also conquer the Boko Haram insurgency.
The president however appealed to the party loyalists to be decent in their variuos electioneering competitions in order not to create enermies among themselves.
Vice President Namadi Sambo said the presenet administration had completed seven power projects with a total of 2,000 mega watts for the South South under the Transformation Agenda.
Similarly, Senate President David Mark described Jonathan as ‘’ a good sell’’ hence his unianimous adoption by the party as its choice candidate for 2015.
The PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, described the president as a bridge builder and unifying factor.
He reassured that all defectors to the party would be reintegrated into the party without bias.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Tony Aneneih, said the zone had every reason to be proud of its contribution to national development.
He also said that the zone had made sacrifice to keep the country together as well as contributed to the economic growth.
NAN reports that, the president had earlier inaugurated the Benin-Ofusu Dual carriage, where Gov Adams Oshiomhole of Edo described the quallity of work as impressive.
Oshiomhole also congratulated the president on the massive road construction and rehabiliattion across states in the country.
NAN also reports that the rally was attended by who is who in the PDP both in the state and in the country, including serving and past governors, national assembly members, as well as aspirants.