Thursday, 06 May 2021

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Politics (189)

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

Posted On Sunday, 28 June 2015 14:08 Written by

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.

Posted On Friday, 26 June 2015 01:18 Written by

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.

Posted On Sunday, 31 May 2015 22:23 Written by

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

–Fayose

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.”

Posted On Thursday, 21 May 2015 02:20 Written by

•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

Posted On Monday, 18 May 2015 01:41 Written by

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.”

Posted On Sunday, 10 May 2015 23:25 Written by

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.”

Posted On Saturday, 25 April 2015 12:44 Written by

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.

Posted On Thursday, 09 April 2015 23:27 Written by

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.

Posted On Monday, 02 March 2015 00:52 Written by

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.

Background[edit]

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.[1]

Political career[edit]

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).[1]

Okowa resigned to contest in the 2007 PDP primaries for Governor of Delta State, but did not succeed.[1] In June 2007, Ifeanyi was appointed Secretary to the Delta state Government.[2]

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.[3] He was re-elected in a rerun where he scored 1,446 votes, against 108 votes for Dr. Maryam Alli.[4] 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.[5] It was reported that there was still tension regarding the election in January 2013.[6] Ifeanyi finally clinched the ticket for the gubernatorial election in 2015 under the PDP with 406 votes on December 8th 2014. [7]

Posted On Saturday, 20 December 2014 11:45 Written by
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