It has been one big party this week in the town of Arondizuogu in southern Nigeria, with feasting and parades to give thanks for the last harvest and to usher in the new planting season.
The Ikeji Festival, which last for seven days, brings together many thousands of ethnic Igbo people, from far and wide, to the town in Imo state.
During the festivities, some men are authorised by secret cultural Igbo societies to dress up as ancestral spirits in what is called a masquerade.
They are accompanied by a bell bearer, who explains to the crowds the messages the spirit world wishes to pass on – usually blessings for a bountiful harvest to come.
The masked figures perform for the crowds as they go down the streets – and as part of the rituals, chickens and goats are sacrificed to the ancestors to encourage them to grant their blessings.
Wooden or metal boxes, which are believed to contain “juju” (magical powers), are paraded on some men’s heads through the 20 villages that make up Arondizuogu, as another way of communicating with the spirit world.
The festival is an annual event – the dates are decided by the village monarchs and elders. Some years it coincides with Easter celebrations, though they are not linked. Body painting is part of the fun…
Some parade participants use powdered dye, palm oil and charcoal to cover their bodies.
It is a time for everyone to dress up – although women do not traditionally take part in any of the parades. They watch from the sidelines and some prepare special feasts for the party goers.
And it’s certainly not a celebration without food. Business is brisk for the vendors who sell barbeque chicken and beef to visitors.
Part of the festival’s rituals include the cleansing of bodies to wash away the previous farming season and prepare for the next.
Popular local staples like yam and cassava, as well as various vegetables, will be planted in the coming season.
One man poses with his “okpu agoro”, a red, black and white woollen bobble hat worn by men from the Igbo community of south-eastern Nigeria.
Each masquerade group is accompanied by musicians using instruments such as gongs and drums – and the celebrations tend to last until late in the evening each day.
Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has employed the services of a United States lobbyist firm to advance his challenge of the outcome of the February 23 presidential poll.
President Muhammadu Buhari defeated Atiku with over three million votes in the election but Atiku rejected the results and had challenged same at the presidential election petition tribunal, alleging that the poll was heavily militarised” and results manipulated.
According to a report by Centre for Responsive Politics, CRP, Bruce Fein, former justice department official and his firm Fein & DelValle PLLC registered on March 24 as foreign agents on behalf of PDP and Atiku.
The firm is expected to “encourage Congress and the Executive to forbear from a final declaration and recognition of Nigeria’s February 23, 2019 presidential election until outstanding legal challenges to the initial government of Nigeria assertion that incumbent Buhari was the victor are impartially and independently resolved by the Supreme Court of Nigeria without political or military influence, intimidation or manipulation”.
According to the firm, parts of its services on behalf of Atiku includes to “Meet and consult with members of Congress and staff in an effort to pass House and Senate resolution(s) to forebear from a final declaration and recognition of a winner of the 2019 Nigeria presidential election pending legal challenges to the initial assertion that incumbent Buhari was the victor are impartially and independently resolved by the Nigerian judiciary in accordance with the rule of law and due process, free from military or political influence.
“Draft articles and op-ed pieces to spotlight the issues in Nigeria post-2019 presidential election and to promote the rule of law and due process in resolving electoral disputes in Nigeria.
“Make television and other media appearances to engage in public advocacy discussions of these issues.”
In a letter replying Atiku’s request for their services, the firm said a “Nigerian barrister and trusted confidant of Your-Excellency Dr. Lloyd Ukwu, will assist in the operations of the U.S. Situation Room.”
The firm said its lobbying effort will demonstrate that an Atiku presidency is “the will of the people.”
It added that its services will convince the United States that an “Abubakar presidency” will open a fresh and new chapter in Nigerian politics, while “highlighting the declining rule of law, democracy and clue process in Nigeria under the APC and the current administration.”
The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its Committees on Procurement and Power to jointly investigate the allegations of gross statutory breaches including violation of the public procurement Act 2007 by the management of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET, Plc.
This was sequel to a resolution of the House after carefully debating a motion promoted by Muhammed Soba (All Progressives Congress, APC, Kaduna) the lawmakers expressed concerns over series of breaches against the provisions of Public Procurement Act, 2007, statutory guidelines and regulations by the Managing Director and management of the electricity company and resolved to investigate the firm.
In the matter brought under urgent national importance, Soba disclosed that the firm’s Managing Director and his management executed power purchase agreements without following due process leading to the loss of not less than N90 billion
Besides the financial infraction, the lawmakers wondered why NBET management would also design a performance and implementation chart for its terms in the agreement against extant provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Guidelines and Regulations from the Bureau of Public Procurements.
While leading the debate, Soba, accused, NBET of engaging consultants without recourse to laid down financial rules, saying “They acted in breach of the Act and extant Guidelines, Rules, Circulars and other Subsidiary Legislation.”
According to him, two law firms, Messrs AELEX, Azinge & Azinge, were engaged even where they lacked basic bidding documents.
He lamented that while the least responsive bidder was not awarded the contract, the necessary authorization from the Attorney General of the Federation was not secured before the two legal firms were signed on Soba said: “Most contractors and vendors engaged by NBET are not registered with the Bureau of Public Procurement, neither are they registered on the National Database of Federal Contractors, Consultants and Service Providers which is a gross violation of the provisions of the Acts. The Managing Director and Management of NBET are also suspected of awarding contracts arbitrarily, resulting to colossal loses, while undermining the lowest evaluated responsive bidder as provided by Section 16(17) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.”
He warned that if Parliament, did not intervene quickly by probing all alleged infractions and address the situation, a systemic institutional method of cheating in procurement process would have been put in place leading to further monumental losses.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has lamented the poor state of Nigeria’s healthcare system, saying only four per cent of Nigerians are covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The Minister, who stated this while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, however, disclosed that the federal government had put in place measures to reverse the appalling situation.
He said, “Part of the challenges we face is the near collapse of the healthcare system. But one of the unique things this government has done is to put money in the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, BHCPF.
“Fifty per cent of the money will flow to NHIS to take care of medical expenses of our people so that they will not have to pay out of their pocket for treatment. We will also use this measure to grow NHIS enrollment. As of today, only four per cent of Nigerians is covered by the scheme.
“We are encouraging the states and the FCT to set up their own health insurance systems. No state will benefit from the BHCPF if they don’t have functional health insurance and contributory scheme.”
With respect to medical tourism vis-à-vis the concern of the Buhari administration, Adewole said: “We’re focusing on three main reasons Nigerians go out of the country for medical treatment. They are cancer, kidney problems, and cardiac issues.
“We’re investing in cancer now so that we can develop the capacity. At the National Hospital, we have two cancer treatment machines. Any moment from now the second machine will start working. The two machines will be able to treat 200 persons daily. We’re also supporting Sokoto, Enugu, and Edo. We will do this all over the country.’’
The leading opposition party called on the National Assembly to limit the Buhari administration’s ability to take loans for the country if explanations are not given for how previously borrowed funds were handled.
he Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says President Muhammadu Buhari has exhibited a culture of unexplained borrowings since he assumed power in 2015.
In a statement issued on Monday by Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, the party called on the National Assembly to probe the rise in debt of the current administration.
The PDP said the country’s debt profile which used to be at N12.12trillion in 2015 has grown to N24.38 trillion due to the President’s culture of heavy borrowings and the lack of initiative to think up ideas that would make the economy productive.
The leading opposition party called on the National Assembly to limit the Buhari administration’s ability to take loans for the country if explanations are not given for how previously borrowed funds were handled.
The party said: “Since President Buhari assumed office in 2015, there has been a culture of unexplained borrowings leading to a steep rise in the debt stock from N17.5trillion in 2016 to N21.72trillion in 2017 and a huge N24.387trillion in 2018.
“It is shocking and completely insupportable that our nation’s debt had risen from N21.72trillion in December 2017, to N24.387trillion in December 2018, showing an accumulation of a whopping N2.66trillion in the space of one year.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, therefore, has a huge explanation to make to Nigerians for its borrowing spree, especially as it cannot point to any meaningful development project into which the borrowed funds were invested.
“This is particularly against the backdrop of allegations in the public space that the borrowed funds, which were taken as development funds, were diverted to 2019 general election campaign activities of the APC, a huge part of which ended in private pockets of corrupt APC leaders.
“This is, in addition, to direct frittering of public funds through the alleged N1.4trillion sleazy oil subsidy regime, the looted N9trillion detailed in the leaked NNPC memo, the alleged N33billion fraud in the handling of funds meant for the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East, among other sleazes.
“Nigerians cannot afford to continue to bear the burden of an incompetent and insensitive administration and that is why they eagerly await the retrieval of our stolen mandate at the Presidential election petition tribunal.”
Barely two days he visited Senegal, President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday jetted off for an economic forum in Jordan.
Buhari who promised to leave Nigeria better than he met it, stormed Amman to participate in the world economic forum in Jordan and investment summit in Dubai.
He was invited by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.
President Buhari will deliver an address at the opening of the plenary alongside King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, and join world economic leaders in an informal gathering at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre.
The Nigerian leader will also hold bilateral meetings with some world leaders on the sidelines of the Forum.
President Buhari will depart Amman Sunday for Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in the ninth edition of the Annual Investment Meeting, April 8-10, 2019.
Invited by His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rachid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Nigerian President as Guest of Honour, will deliver the keynote address under the theme, “Mapping the Future of Foreign Direct Investment: Enriching World Economies through Digital Globalization.”
According to the organisers, the meeting is “the largest gathering of corporate leaders, policymakers, businessmen, regional and international investors, entrepreneurs, leading academics and experts showcasing up-to-date information, strategies and knowledge on attracting FDI.”
The meeting also seeks to explore investment opportunities in more than 140 countries, connect businesses and countries willing to engage in sustainable partnerships with investors.
President Buhari will be accompanied on both trips by Governors Abubakar Badaru, Abiola Ajimobi and Yahaya Bello of Jigawa, Oyo and Kogi States respectively.
Others on the entourage include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), and other top government officials.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday said that Nigeria now ranked amongst the leading democracies in Africa and in the Commonwealth, 20 years after it began to experience uninterrupted democratic culture.
President Buhari was the visitor at the final day of the 50th Convocation Ceremonies of the University of Lagos.
The president was represented by the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Rasheed Yakubu.
“With the 2019 general elections that had come and gone, we as a nation have once again reiterated our choice of democracy as the system of government by which we hope to imbibe an all-round development.
“Our administration is committed to ensuring that the sacredness of that choice is preserved. With this policy enunciated and every programme instituted, we shall ensure that our democratic culture takes firmer roots and legacies further consolidated.
“Let me reiterate that my administration will not waver in its commitment to following due process, preserving the sanctity of the rule of law, battling grand corruption, securing the lives and property of our people and rehabilitating or upgrading our critical infrastructure.
We will continue to be unrelenting in enthroning hard work, honesty and place the welfare of our citizens above everything else.
“We must all join hands to take Nigeria to the next level of progress,’’ President Buhari said.
According to him, his administration will continue to encourage Nigerian universities to build closer and better relationships with the industrial sector.
He said this would help to bridge the gap between theories and practicality with a view to addressing some of the most required needs of the nation.
He added that his administration believed in the imperative of sound educational system for national development.
“We recognise the place of our intellectuals to undertake cutting edge researches that will address the challenges of development and contribute to making lives better.
We acknowledge that our advancement as a nation will be driven by a robust human resource base.
“It should, therefore, be our collective determination to do our best to guarantee a peaceful and stable future for Nigerians through education.
“We shall continue to interface with the unions of universities in our bid to ensuring that we have a stable higher education sector that contributes to the nation’s global competiveness,’’ he said.
While congratulating the graduating students, President Buhari charged them to make their impacts felt in matters of national development.
“As you make your ways into the world beyond this ivory tower, let me assure you of our administration’s commitment to ensuring that the skills and knowledge you have acquired are put to use and be productively engaged.
“While many of you will be gainfully employed in the public and private sectors, some of you may choose to explore the entrepreneurial route by founding and co-founding small and medium scale businesses.
In a special way, the knowledge and competences you have developed in the course of acquiring Nigeria’s degrees, diplomas and certificates are to be applied to the noble course of national development,’’ he said.
ABUJA- The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described Steve Hanke’s report which rated Nigeria as the 6th miserable country in the world, as a vindication of its position “all this while,” saying the nation has sunk into a new low since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015.
Hanke, an economist at John Hopkins University, United States of America had in the publication rated Nigeria 6th on the ignoble list of world’s most miserable countries, behind Venezuela (Ist), Argentina (2nd), Iran (3rd), Brazil (4th) and Turkey (5th), citing the high rate of unemployment in Africa’s biggest nation as the major contributor to her “misery. ”
Reacting to the development, the main opposition party, through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan tasked the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to perish the thought of the planned increment in Value Added Tax, VAT, saying such would only make life more difficult for the “already traumatized Nigerians.”
In a chat with our correspondent, the publicity scribe said: “That report is a vindication of the position of the Peoples Democratic Party, all this while. The economy has virtually collapsed under President Buhari and the man is even mooting the idea of piling more pressure on Nigerians.
“Nigerians have never suffered like they are suffering today because those charged with the responsibility of managing the economy have failed completely. They have no idea of what it takes to manage an economy like ours.
“As an opposition party, we call on the Presidency to take urgent steps to fine-tune the economy, create jobs for our teeming youths if only to justify that a government is in place.
“In the interim, we advise them to stop their plan to increase VAT as that will only fetch millions of Nigerians additional pain and discomfort.”
While noting that democracy is essentially about the people, Ologbindiyan expressed worry that rather improving on the living conditions of Nigerians, “the APC-led administration of President Buhari appears to be deriving pleasure from inflicting pains and misery.”
He added: “Nigerians can now see that indeed, the PDP don’t just do criticisms for the fun of it. We are talking of a report that searchlighted economies of countries in different continents of the world. Our beloved country is in shambles but there is no doubt we will reclaim it for the people at the appointed time.
Load from 2018 harvest is worth $300 million: cashew exporters
Congestion and inefficiency at Lagos’ ports affecting exports
Gridlock and inefficiency at the ports of Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, delayed shipment of 50,000 tons of cashew nuts valued at $300 million and is threatening this year’s output as traders are cash-strapped.
The kidney-shaped fruits from last year’s harvest should have been exported by January, according to Tola Fasheru, president of Nigeria Cashew Exporters Association. Instead, they are still in containers on trucks waiting to enter the ports or on wharves, he said.
Roads to Lagos ports are badly congested, with hundreds of lorries queuing to enter the premises and either deliver or pick goods. In addition, inadequate capacity and infrastructure, stifling red tape and corruption are hampering export processes, according to Fasheru.
“There is a palpable lack of synergy among the port operators and this is affecting the business of our members,” he said Thursday by phone from Lagos.
Some members of the cashew association have defaulted on contracts to the extent that foreign buyers are now walking away from them. “They are no longer willing to give us fresh contracts,” said the group’s president.
The delay is likely to affect the output target of 260,000 tons for the current season, which started in February and will end in July.
“Not one single cashew exporter is in the field now as he is owing on contracts and as a result has no money to operate with,” said Fasheru.
Africa’s sixth largest cashew producer plans to raise its annual production to 500,000 tons by 2023, according to a five-year strategic plan released in 2018 by the National Cashew Association of Nigeria.
The country is the continent’s biggest oil producer and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is seeking to reduce dependency on crude and diversify the economy, which contracted in 2016 after oil prices and output crashed. Agriculture is one of the key sectors the government has been trying to boost.
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday went down the memory lane, describing his survival from the helicopter’s crash in Kabba, Kogi State, during the last electioneering campaign “as a product of God’s special mercy”.
Osinbajo was giving testimony at an Interdenominational Service of Praise and Thanksgiving organised for him by the Christian communities in Ogun State, held at the Obafemi Awolowo Square, Ikenne-Remo of the state.
With particular reference to his helicopter’s crash of February 2, 2019 at Kabba, in Kogi State, the vice president, who acknowledged the omnipotence of God over his live, also reiterated that if it were not for God’s mercy, himself and other 11 occupants of the ill-fated chopper would have died in the incident.
Speaking at the event, which has in attendance, governors: Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); as well as the Ogun State governor-elect, Dapo Abiodun, the vice president ascribed his survival in the crash to the special mercy of God, who according to him, has seen him through ups-and-downs of life.
He offered prayers for peace, progress and stability in the country and acknowledged that God actually saw him through the rigours and hazards during campaigns in the build up to the 2019 general elections.
Speaking earlier, wife of the Vice President, Dolapo, who narrated how herself and other family members received the sad news, called on all Nigerians to continue in their prayers for President Muhammadu Buhari and Osinbajo to enable them take the country to the promise land.
In his sermon at the service, the Archbishop of Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos, The Most Reverend Olusina Fape, said that the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the just-concluded presidential election was because of God’s mercy.
While praying that God should see the country to the next level of greatness, Fape, added that it was God’s mercy that diverted untimely death of Osinbajo and urged him to continue to serve the God who has been merciful to him and his family.
“The election has come and gone. But it was won through the mercy of God. It is mercy that makes difference in lives of individuals. Election is not according to your power, your ability and your wisdom; election is a matter of mercy.
“Mercy does five things; it brings victory; it brings exaltation; it brings wisdom; it brings deliverance and success. Your Excellency, whatever you might have achieved is not by your power or wisdom, but by the sheer mercy of God.
“As you celebrate today, God’s mercy will catapult you to the next level according to the slogan of your party”, Fape stated.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared a former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayodele Oke and his wife, Folasade, wanted for failing to appear in court to answer for the N13 billion money laundering charges against them.
Oke and his wife had reportedly travelled out of the country for medical treatment in late January shortly before they were to be arraigned in court.
Justice Chukwujeku Aneke of a Federal High Court Lagos, had on February 7, 2019, issued an arrest warrant against the couple following an oral application by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo.
This was contained in a statement issued yesterday by the acting EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade.
Oke and his wife are wanted in connection with the $43 million, £27,800 and N23.8 million cash recovered by the commission from an apartment at Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, in April 2017.
Under the former DG, the NIA was said to have collected $289,202,382 in cash for special operations from the account of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in February 2015.
The agency had claimed that the funds were meant for covert intelligence operations, but the federal government insisted it was a case of looting.
The federal government subsequently set up a three-man panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which indicted Oke and recommended his dismissal.
Criminal charges were subsequently filed against him and his wife in February this year over the cash found at the Ikoyi apartment.
One of the counts read, “That you, Amb. Ayodele Oke and Mrs. Folasade Ayodele Oke between August 25, 2015 and September 2, 2015 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court directly converted $160,777,136.85 property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to your own use which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Mohammed wins extra election in Bauchi• PDP kicks over KanoIle in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday finally drew the curtain on governorship elections in four of the seven outstanding states, returning Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) as elected for second term. Three states, Bauchi, Adamawa and Rivers, however, remain contentious.In Bauchi, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Senator Bala Mohammed, won the supplementary election held on Saturday, increasing his votes haul at the March 9 poll that puts him ahead of Governor Mohammed Abubakar, who seems to have lost out in the keen contest. The only thing standing between Abubakar and eventual defeat is the restraining order he secured last week from an Abuja court, which restrained INEC from resuming the collation and announcement of the results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, a stronghold of the PDP. That litigation is expected to be resolved today as the court listens to the PDP’s position on the matter. Supplementary elections had held on Saturday in some units in Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Sokoto and Kano States. The two leading parties, PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC), won two apiece. The ruling APC retained its hold on Kano and Plateau States, while the main opposition PDP retained Benue and Sokoto States. Although the PDP sustained its lead in Bauchi, the announcement of the winner of the governorship polls by INEC is pending today’s court judgment on the result of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area.The presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the victory of the candidates of the party in both Sokoto and Benue States as an acknowledgement from the Nigerian people that it is the only truly national party in Nigeria. But his party rejected the outcome of Kano’s poll, saying it was a rape of democracy. Announcing the result of the Sokoto State contest at Maccido Quranic Institute in Sokoto, the Returning Officer, Prof. Fatima Mukhtar of Federal University, Dutse in Jigawa State, said Tambuwal of the PDP polled 512,002 votes against his closest rival, Alhaji Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto of APC who polled 511,660. Mukhtar said Tambuwal having scored the highest lawful votes has been returned elected. She added that the votes registered were 1,887,767; accredited votes were 1,083,413, valid votes, 1,036332; rejected votes, 31,662, and number total votes cast were 1,067,994 According to her, during the re-run election, PDP’s Tambuwal polled 22,444 votes while APC’s Aliyu scored 25,515 in the 135 polling units where supplementary elections were conducted. She further explained that 49 candidates from other participating parties shared the remaining votes cast. However, the APC agent at the collation centre, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, raised the complaints the party made to INEC earlier about the malfunctioning card reader at a polling unit in Tambuwal.Dingyadi added that election was repeated at the polling unit, after lawful election was conducted on March 9 election. The PDP agent, Alhaji Umar Bature, dismissed the objections on the grounds that the collation centre was not the right place to lodge the complaint. Mukhtar noted the complaint and said that it would be reflected in the final report. Reacting to his victory, Tambuwal said he dedicated the victory to Almighty Allah and the people of the state who found him worthy of their mandate. He stated that he would run an inclusive government to improve the lives of his people. “This is the beginning of good things that will happen to the state. I will not take the mandate for granted,” he said. He pleaded with his opponents to join hands with him in building the state, saying he is not better than them but in any contest there must be winner and loser. The governor advised his supporters to be magnanimous in victory, stressing that they should not jeopardise the existing peace in the state. In Benue State, Ortom of the PDP was declared the winner by the state’s Returning Officer, Prof. Sabastine Maimako, having polled 434,473 votes to beat his closest contender, Hon. Emmanuel Jime of APC, who polled 345,155 votes. According to Maimako, the margin of lead between Ortom and Jime was 89,813. In his acceptance speech, Ortom said he has dedicated his victory to God by visiting the Redeemed Church of God, Gboko Road, where he offered prayers immediately the result was announced.Wild jubilation greeted the announcement as major areas of Makurdi town were blocked by his supporters, who were singing his campaign songs. Meanwhile, the APC has announced that it will be heading to the tribunal. The party in a statement by its campaign secretary, Professor Eugene Aliegba, indicated that it would seek all constitutional and legal means to claim victory. According to him, “Because the results announced in favour of Governor Ortom and the PDP is a direct product of brutal violence, vote buying, ballot-stuffing, results-falsification, non-use of the card reader and a range of other irregularities that have no place in our electoral laws; we are making it unequivocally clear that the Benue APC will explore all constitutional and legal options available to ensure the votes of the people count. “In simple terms, we will make a case before the Elections Petitions Tribunal to subject the Benue governorship elections result to an integrity test. If we opt otherwise, we will be as guilty as those who undertake acts that undermine democracy. We have chosen instead to take action that insulates democracy from practices that threaten it.” In Bauchi State, the candidate of the PDP, Senator Mohammed was declared the winner of the governorship supplementary election held on Saturday in the state. The result from the supplementary election collated in the 36 Polling Units in 29 Wards across 15 Local Government Areas of the state saw the candidate of the PDP won with 6,376 votes with his closest rival, the candidate of the APC and incumbent governor, Abubakar polling 5,117 votes.According to the results announced by the State Returning officer, Prof. Kyari Mohammed, Senator Mohammed led Abubakar with 1,259 votes to emerge the winner of the supplementary elections. THISDAY checks revealed that no fewer than 22,641 registered voters were supposed to vote in the supplementary election in 36 Polling Units in 29 Registration Areas (wards) scattered across 15 of the 20 LGAs of the state. It would be recalled that the returning officer of the elections in the state, Prof. Kyari Mohammed, had in the early hours of Monday, March 11, 2019, declared the governorship election in the state as inconclusive. According to him, the candidate of the PDP got 469,512 votes to lead his closest rival, the incumbent governor, who got 465, 453 votes, adding that the margin of lead between the two candidates was 4, 059 votes. THISDAY had also reported that Prof. Mohammed had earlier cancelled the entire votes of Tafawa Balewa LGA, which has 139,240 registered voters, citing the failure of the Collation Officer, Mrs. Dominion Anosike, to use the prescribed form to enter the result of the elections collated across the local government. This was despite the explanation given by her to the commission that the result sheets for the governorship election were carted away by thugs who invaded the collation centre in Zwall, Tafawa Balewa LGA, in the early hours of Sunday.She had also notified the commission via an explanatory memorandum signed by all stakeholders in the election at the collation centre, who unanimously agreed to collate and record the result on another form, and addressed same to the Resident Electoral Commissioner and the State Returning Officer, which was submitted in Bauchi on Sunday. However, Kyari, rejected the explanation and unilaterally declared that there was no result for Tafawa Balewa LGA and cancelled the election of the entire LGA even though there was no any incident of cancellation, violence or electoral malpractices at both the polling units and wards levels as reported by the Returning Officer. The PDP candidate was in the lead after results of 19 LGAs were collated, with the incumbent governor trailing behind with a margin of over 4,000 votes. In the contentious Tafawa Balewa LGA, the PDP had scored 40,000 votes against the APC’s 29,000, putting the PDP ahead with about 15,000 votes. Announcing the results of the supplementary elections yesterday, the Returning Officer, Prof. Mohammed said: “As you well know, I cannot make a return because I understand that the case of Tafawa Balewa LGA is in court.” The Federal High Court, Abuja will deliver a final judgment on the results of Tafawa Balewa LGA today.
APC Retains Kano, Plateau Governorship Seats
Governor Lalong of Plateau State was declared winner of the rerun gubernatorial election in the state after gathering 595,582 votes to his closest rival, Jeremiah Useni, a retired Army General and candidate of PDP’s, 546,813 votes. The Returning Officer, Prof. Richard Kimbir, presented the result yesterday in Jos on behalf of the INEC. “The valid votes totalled 1,159,954, with the rejected votes standing at 16,188, while the total votes cast was 1,176,142,” he said. The margin of victory between Lalong and Useni is 48,769 votes. The gubernatorial election held on March 9 in Plateau was declared inconclusive. This had led to a rerun election in 40 polling units in nine local government areas of the state. In Kano, Ganduje was declared winner, scoring 1,033,695 votes to his closest rival of the PDP, Abba Yusuf’s 1,024,713.
But the PDP yesterday rejected the Kano result, insisting that its candidate, Yusuf, was the rightful winner of the election and said any declaration that did not reflect such cannot stand. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday said the so-called governorship supplementary election in Kano was a national disgrace and a mere figure allocating exercise by compromised INEC officials, who collaborated with power drunk politicians in the APC to award results to the APC candidate. The party, therefore, cautioned INEC against any attempt to import contrived figures from the March 23 rerun as such would be a clear recipe for anarchy and serious crisis in the state. Ologbondiyan stated: “The whole world knows that the PDP and its candidate, Abba Yusuf, won the Kano State governorship election since March 9, 2019, having fulfilled the constitutional requirement of securing the highest number of votes and the statutory 25 per cent in two-third of the state. “The people of Kano State have a long history of firm resistance against corrupt and oppressive forces. Their will must, therefore, not be stretched in this election. “The Kano people have abundantly expressed their rejection of the corrupt and incompetent government of Abdullahi Ganduje and his party, the APC, and no amount of machination can cow or force them to abandon their resolve for a new “governor in Abba Yusuf.”
Atiku Congratulates Tambuwal, Ortom
In a related development, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the victories of the candidates of the party in both Sokoto and Benue States as an acknowledgement from the Nigerian people that it is the only truly national party in Nigeria. Atiku congratulated Tambuwal on his re-election and assured the good people of Sokoto State that they have made the right decision that would see them continue on the path of peace, progress and prosperity. The former vice president also congratulated Ortom over his re-election, stressing that Ortom is not just a credit to the party, but also an epitome of servant leadership. According to him, “With him again at the helm of affairs in Benue, the people of the “Breadbasket of the Nation” can look forward to times of refreshing and deliverance.” Atiku also congratulated his party and all its members on these gains, adding that PDP is the true bastion of democracy and should be encouraged by these victories. He said: “With unity within its midst, it will together continue to extend the boundaries of democracy and shrink the space occupied by tyranny.” Atiku, however, shares solidarity with Alhaji Bala Mohammed and Abba Kabir Yusuf, who have made a great showing in Bauchi and Kano States, respectively, saying victory is within reach. He said they have shown that they are men of the people, while expressing confidence that much good would come out of these men of enviable talents and leadership ability.
INEC, Situation Room Condemn Violence that Characterised Supplementary Elections
Meanwhile, INEC has condemned the electoral violence that characterised the supplementary elections held in some states of the federation. The supplementary election held on Saturday was described by election observers as a show of shame especially in Kano and Benue States as thugs allegedly supported by some security agents and the ruling APC in the state took over some polling units and chased away voters perceived to be sympathetic to opposition party. In Kano State, where supplementary governorship was held in 21 local government areas of the state, political thugs chased away voters perceived to be from opposition party. It was also reported that there was brazen display of weapons by supporters of both parties. Journalists covering the election too were not spared as some of them were attacked by political thugs. The situation was the same in Benue State as political thugs destroyed and burnt ballot papers and boxes in some parts of the state where the supplementary election took place. Also, the local government collation officer for Gboko Local Government Area, Comfort Doshima, was shot by unknown gunmen in Makurdi. Doshima, a professor and lecturer at the University of Agriculture was on her way to the INEC headquarters, Makurdi, to present results from the local government. She was rushed to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, but was later pronounced dead. However, in an interview with THISDAY yesterday, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, insisted that violence negates the tenets if democracy. According to him, “Violence in any election negates the very tenets of democracy, so is condemnable.”
Despite the electoral body condemning the spate of violence that marred the election, it did not cancel any polling unit distrusted by political thugs. Also against the violence was the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Which expressed concern over the inability of security forces to stem the incidents of political thuggery and intimidation recorded during the supplementary election in Kano state at the weekend. The election observer group advised that INEC to ensure that measures are taken to discourage the conduct supplementary elections in future due to the violence and malpractices that is associated with the exercise. It accused politicians and some officials of the electoral umpire of using the opportunity of such supplementary elections to perpetrate rigging and violence. While presenting the preliminary report of the group on the supplementary election, the Concerned of the Situation Room, Mr. Clement Nwankwo said the exercise were marred by violence, thuggery and outright intimidation of the electorate by criminal elements. He added that what was more worrisome is the fact that in some cases such criminality went on despite the presence of security agents. Nwankwo made particular reference to incidents in Kano state where he said unaccredited party agents and political thugs flooded the polling units and beat up innocent voters. He said: “Situation Room is further puzzled by the situation in Kano State wherein the deployment of senior Police Officers could not stem the incidents of political thuggery and intimidation. Reports received from our observers showed instances where security personnel, most especially the Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, where challenging security situations were met with inaction.” He said members of the observer coalition reported incidents in Beli Ward in Rogo Local Government and in Gama Ward in Nasarawa Local Government of Kano state. According to Nwankwo who was flanked during the press conference in Abuja by alternate chairman of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Esther Uzoma, said it is a cause for concern that “abuses of electoral process and violence have occurred despite the deployment of top-level Police officials, including a Deputy Inspector General (DIG), 3 Assistant Inspectors General and Commissioners of Police”. “In the previous elections, the state Commissioner of Police took charge without senior level officers. It is therefore ironic and curious that this level of violence and political thuggery would occur with this quantum of senior Police Officers deployed. Situation Room has always advocated against redeployment of Commissioners of Police ahead of elections.”The Situation Room also said that there were reports of widespread vote buying in Kano and Bauchi States. It said the incident was more prevalent in Gama Ward, Nasarawa Local Government of Kano State, as seen in PU 035 and was also observed in PU 013, Madangala Ward, Katagum Local Government of Bauchi State. According to the group, there were reported cases of attempted inducement of observers with cash by agents of leading political parties. The Situation Room however said that voting took place in relative peace throughout other areas that the supplementary election took place last Saturday. It also said that this time, the deployment of the military were done in accordance with section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010.
•PDP’s prayers at tribunal at best hollow, ridiculous — APC •They didn’t have a Plan B, just wanted to rig the election — KEYAMO •We’ll reclaim our stolen mandate through the courts — PDP
ABUJA — The All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, launched a blistering attack on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, describing their claim of having won last month’s presidential poll as the hallucinatory outcome of a post-election depression.
The APC’s claim was backed by the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, which also charged the PDP of being steeped in post-election trauma.
The claims were, however, robustly rebuffed by the PDP which accused President Buhari of standing on a stolen mandate even as the party affirmed that it was the clear winner in the six states where run-off governorship elections are to be conducted this weekend.
The APC’s attack on the PDP followed revelations in the court affidavit attached to Atiku’s petition at the Presidential Election Tribunal where it was deposed that the PDP candidate won the election by 1.6 million votes. The PDP had claimed that the figure could be verified by data in custody of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Responding to the claim yesterday, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC said: “Following the outcome of the Presidential election, during which a vast majority of Nigerians reaffirmed their unshaken belief in President Buhari to continue to steer the affairs of the country for another four years, we have watched in disbelief and utter amusement how the opposition PDP and its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have engaged in series of circus shows to cheer up their crestfallen and disillusioned members.
PDP in post-defeat depression — APC
“While the APC is not oblivious of the PDP’s antics to discredit the credible presidential electoral process, acknowledged by local and international observers, we sympathise with Atiku for the crushing defeat handed him by President Buhari through the votes of Nigerians.
“Judging by Atiku and PDP’s recent utterances and actions, it is now clear that they have slipped into severe depression and post-defeat hallucination that have left many Nigerians questioning their current state of mind.
“After weeks of dilly-dallying, the PDP has woken up to the stark reality of its electoral defeat and decided to follow the constitutional path of filing a petition at the Election Tribunal. However, of all the prayers of Atiku before the Election Tribunal, which are at best hollow, the most ridiculous is his claim that the server of the INEC, indicated he ‘won’ the Presidential election by 1.6million votes.
“A few questions would suffice: Is this phantom figure of 1.6million votes Dubai-invented? Was the result sold to Atiku by his numerous marabouts, who we understand, had assured him that the last election was a done deal for him?
“Most importantly, we note Atiku’s consistent reference to the “INEC server” as if he is the custodian of that platform. Indeed, Atiku’s constant reference to the INEC server should raise concerns as it is becoming apparent that he and the PDP are up for some dastard activities that are targeted at jeopardizing the INEC database and internal storage system. We recall the widespread reported cases of several programmed card readers that were retrieved from some PDP agents and their failed attempt to hack the INEC database in the lead-up to the then postponed presidential election.
“We remind the Atiku and PDP that Nigerians saw through the devious schemes aimed at thwarting their will. Consequently, majority of the voters handed them a harsh verdict — that verdict remains sacrosanct.
“We call on the INEC and the security agencies to be on red alert to ensure that Atiku and the other desperate characters in the PDP are not able to execute their evil plans.”
Where did PDP get its 1.6m votes margin from, asks Keyamo
The assertions of the APC were backed up by the Buhari Campaign which speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Festus Keyamo said: “It is contradictory to their earlier claim that they needed access to INEC server and data base but given that the court refused their plea the big question is that where did they get this phantom figure from?
“The PDP did not have a Plan B and their plan was to rig the election. They should learn to move on from this post-election trauma and prepare for 2023. Just as they never recovered
“They should not be trapped in this trauma, because these figures can only be coming from a mind that is hallucinating.”
We’ll reclaim our stolen mandate through the courts — PDP
Responding to the charges against it, the PDP speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondinyan vowed that the party would reclaim what it described as its stolen mandate through the courts.
“What did they mean by PDP slipping into depression and hallucination? We are telling them that we will retrieve our stolen mandate whether they like it or not.
“We will go the whole hog to take our states which they declared inconclusive. They know that we won those states and come Saturday, we will claim those states.
“We don’t want to say much about the Presidential election because Nigerians knew what happened. They should not grandstand because at the end of the day, we are confident of victory. No matter how far a lie travels, truth will eventually catch up with it.”
ABUJA — Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has told the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had at various stages of the February 23 presidential election, unlawfully allocated votes to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Atiku in the petition he lodged before the petition tribunal sitting in Abuja, said he would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that results of the election as announced by INEC, especially the votes credited to President Buhari, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast.
He alleged that in some states, INEC, deducted lawful votes that accrued to him, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned back to office.
Both Atiku and the PDP said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and finger-print experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.
Atiku and PDP are the petitioners, while INEC, Buhari and All Progressives Congress, APC, are respondents in the petition.
Nigeria’s elections, bad news for democracy — ex-US envoy
Meanwile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has thumbed down the 2019 presidential election in the country, describing the election as bad news for democracy and feared that its outcome could affect other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, given Nigeria’s influence in the region.
In a 701-word election post-mortem for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, Campbell also said that the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar may not win at the tribunal because “Buhari’s margin of victory, some four million votes is so large that it is unlikely courts will overturn the result.”
Presidency declines comment
Contacted over Mr Campbell’s remarks, President Buhari’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina declined comments.
“I can’t comment now because I have not seen the article,” he said.
Atiku, PDP’s petition
“The petitioners plead and shall rely on electronic video recordings, newspaper reports, photographs and photographic images of several infractions of the electoral process by the respondents,” they added.
Specifically, the petitioners serialised results recorded from each state of the federation in order to prove that the alleged fraudulent allocation of votes to Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, took place at the polling units, the ward collating centres, local government collating centres and the state collating centres.
Atiku contended that proper collation and summation of the presidential election results would show that contrary to what INEC declared, he garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes, ahead of Buhari who he said got a total of 16,741,430 votes.
“The petitioners shall rely on the evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and other experts, detailing the data analysis on the votes at all levels of collation, from the polling units to the final return.
“The petitioners state that Smart Card Readers deployed by the 1st respondent, in addition to accreditation, equally transmitted electronically the results of voting from polling units directly to the server of the 1st respondent. The Presiding Officers of the 1st respondent directly inputted the results from the polling units at the end of voting and transmitted directly to the server, in addition to manually taking the Form EC8As to the Wards for collation. The 1st respondent is hereby given notice to produce the records of results from each polling unit uploaded and transmitted electronically by officials of the 1st respondent through smart card readers to the 1st respondent’s servers.
“The petitioners plead and rely on the 1st respondent’s Manual Technologies 2019, and notice is hereby given to the 1st Respondent to produce same at the trial. The 1st Respondent’s agents at the polling units used the Smart Card Reader for electronic collation and transmission of results. The Petitioners plead and shall rely on and play at the trial, the video demonstration by the 1st Respondent of the deployment of Smart Card Reader for authentication of accreditation and for transmission of data.
“The petitioners hereby plead and rely upon the extract of data as contained on the 1st Respondent’s servers as at 25th February 2019, notice to produce whereof is hereby given to the 1st Respondent. The Petitioners also will rely on the data on the 1st Respondent’s central server between 25th February 2019 and 8th March 2019 and hereby also give notice to produce same before this Honourable Court.
“The petitioners hereby plead the electronic data on the servers of the 1st respondent and shall at the trial give evidence of the source of the data analysis and data material, including the website: http://www.factsdontlieng.com.
“The 1st respondent had on the day of election published the total number of registered voters in the entire country as 84,004,084. Subsequently, the same 1st respondent published a different figure of 82,344,107 as registered voters, leading to an unexplained difference of 1,659,977 registered voters. The 1st Respondent equally published the number of permanent voter’s cards (PVC) collected for the purpose of the presidential election as 72,775,502.
“The petitioners state that whereas the actual number of voters accredited at the election was 35,098,162, the 1st respondent wrongly suppressed and/or reduced the number of accredited voters to 29,394,209 to the detriment of the petitioners.
“The 1st respondent had by its Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2019 made pursuant to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) provided for the mandatory use of card readers for the said election. The 1st respondent by its press release on smart card readers issued in February 2019 and signed by its National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, emphasised and reiterated that “The use of the Smart Card Reader is not only mandatory but its deliberate non-use attracts the sanction of possible prosecution of erring officials in accordance with the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections.
“This is in addition to the voiding of any result emanating from such units or areas as was done in the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019.” By this stated position of the 1st respondent, all accreditation not done by smart card reader in the presidential election was and remain void.
“The petitioners state and contend that the 2nd respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; and that from the data on each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in the 1str respondent’s server, the 1st petitioner, as opposed to the 2nd respondent, scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
“Wherefore, the petitioners pray jointly and severally against the respondents as follows:-
“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent (Buhari) was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the said election and therefore the declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent as the President of Nigeria is unlawful, undue, null, void and of no effect.
“That it may be determined that the 1st petitioner (Atiku) was duly and validly elected and ought to be returned as President of Nigeria, having polled the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on 23rd February 2019 and having satisfied the constitutional requirements for the said election.
“An order directing the 1st respondent to issue Certificate of Return to the 1st petitioner as the duly elected President of Nigeria.
“That it may be determined that the 2nd respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the said election.
“That it may be determined that the 2nd Respondent submitted to the commission affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.”
In the alternative, he prayed: “That the election to the office of the President of Nigeria held on February 23, 2019 be nullified and a fresh election ordered.”
Credible allegations of rigging marred Nigeria’s polls — Campbell
Campbell, who also served as US Department of State foreign service officer from 1975 to 2007, said the election was “marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging,” adding that from Situation Room’s report, the election fell below the 2015 presidential election standards.
The article read in part: “Nigeria’s latest presidential election cycle has been bad news for democracy in Africa’s most populous country and across the continent. Though President Buhari won the election, it was marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging.
“Buhari and his main challenger, former Vice President Abubakar, both Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group in the country’s North, are part of the political class that has dominated Nigeria since independence in 1960. Their contest meant there would be no generational leadership change in a country where the average age is 18 and half of registered voters are under 35.
“Buhari and Abubakar are the standard-bearers for two political parties descended from the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida: the APC and PDP, respectively. Both parties are undemocratic in spirit and function primarily to contest elections rather than to promote legislation or policy. During their campaigns, the candidates and their parties offered little that was new to address security breakdowns caused by Boko Haram in the country’s Northeast; conflict over land use, ethnicity, and religion in the Middle Belt; and the division of oil revenue in the Delta. Moreover, they were mute on climate change, urbanization, and a population boom that is expected to push Nigeria past 450 million people by the middle of the century.
“The Situation Room, an umbrella organisation of Nigerian civil society groups, wrote that the vote marked “a step back from the 2015 general election and actions should be taken to identify what has gone wrong and what can be corrected.
“Nigeria’s influence across sub-Saharan Africa is out-sized. Its population and economy are Africa’s largest; its cultural influence, symbolized by the Nollywood film industry, is far-reaching; and its traditional diplomatic activism, through participation in peace-keeping missions and the regional economic bloc ECOWAS, is consequential.
“When Nigeria transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, the effects on West Africa were palpable: coups lost their legitimacy, and the region has pursued a positive democratic trajectory ever since. But the latest presidential election is far from an example for those African countries consolidating their democracies or emerging from quasi-authoritarian regimes to emulate.”
President Muhammadu Buhari’s penchant for elevating corruption as the sole, or at least, the main source of Nigeria’s problems is already trite. But more importantly, it is a false narrative, apparently so. And the fact that otherwise educated people seem to buy into that narrative is an indictment on scholarship in the country.
Buhari had made slamming past PDP governments for failing to develop the country, because they were corrupt, his pastime since coming to power. And upon his reelection few days ago, he took another shot at the opposition party. Indicating perhaps that we are in for another round of blame games in his second term.
The president had said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina that: “PDP has not successfully explained to the country what they did with the money. There were no roads, no rail, no power. They said they spent $16 billion on power, but where is the power?”
Nigeria is a theatre of the absurd. It is perhaps the only country where people happily live a lie, convinced in themselves that perhaps, someday, such lie will turn out to be truth. But a lie is a lie. And no matter how long one believes a lie, it cannot change to become truth.
Certainly, one of the greatest lies of Nigeria is the assertion that corruption – as often defined here – is the country’s main problem.
Widely held is this falsehood that President Buhari’s government has since elevated “fighting” corruption to the status of official government policy. So, they say, we must end corruption for Nigeria to make progress. But the irony stares everyone in the face.
Four years of fighting corruption – let’s assume the farce going on is corruption fight – Nigeria has become worse off. All developmental indices have headed south. Standard of living has fallen. Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world with about 90 million of its 180 million people living in extreme poverty. Job losses under Buhari have been massive. So, really, what could possibly be the basis for anyone to keep holding unto such logic?
But of course, since “fighting corruption” which was supposed to solve the problems have only created more poverty, we are increasingly being made to accept that poverty is a virtue and being wealthy is some sort of vice. To be clear, the job of government, at the very basic, is to create prosperity, not to spread poverty.
However, before the champions of anti corruption cry blue murder. Let me make a few this clear. Yes, I agree that corruption constitutes a hindrance to Nigeria’s progress. Corruption is bad, that’s not debatable. And as much as possible, we must, as a country, make conscious efforts to put it in check.
Nonetheless, my problem with corruption in Nigeria has had to do with what people see as corruption. Of course, if you mention corruption, the mind of the average person quickly runs to political office holders stealing money. That’s corruption, no doubt. But stealing is just an aspect of corruption and I dare say, it is about the least worrisome. The worst form of corruption is not stealing, it is nepotism.
It is using sentiment – be that ethnic or religious – to put square pegs in round holes. That’s one corruption that destroys the fabrics of the society because it doesn’t reward excellence. It is one that has helped to destroy Nigeria. And interestingly, it seems to be prevalent in the Buhari government.
I have always said that if I had a mechanic shop, I would be more inclined to hire a skilled mechanic who has a penchant for stealing money than a saint who cannot tighten or loosen a screw. The reason is simple: the thief will guarantee steady inflow of customers. And there are easy ways to put his stealing in check. The saint on the other hand, will ensure that the shop is out of business altogether within the shortest possible time. Nobody will take his automobile to a man who cannot fix it just because he is a good man.
This brings me to another farce that has dominated the Buhari presidency: integrity. These days, I’m inclined to think that there is a certain physical possession of Buhari that is called integrity. Such that when people say that Buhari has integrity, it could be the same as saying he has a shoe or a car. Because ownership of such physical objects is definite and not dependent on character. If for instance, you have a car, you can rig elections and it doesn’t change the fact that you have a car.
But that’s not the point here. The point is, the idea that Buhari has integrity, and that such integrity – let’s not dwell on whether or not there is such integrity – is what makes him the ideal president is hilarious. No, what one needs to lead or to get anything done is skill and competence. I’m yet to see a football club or team going for a competition and instead of gathering the best football players available, brings together people of integrity. A team of players with integrity but cannot play football will lose massively to a team of skilled footballers who are all notorious armed robbers.
Really, life is quite simple and straightforward. Do the right things and you achieve the right results. But somehow, the Nigerian state seems to think it can circumvent this basic rule of nature by inventing and imposing its own rules on nature.
Running a country is pretty much like running a business. You put the best hands and they will deliver results for the benefit of all. No country can progress when the first consideration for appointment into position of responsibility is not competence, but religion and ethnicity. Nigeria’s failure doesn’t therefore, come as a surprise. And the ugly truth is that the country will keep failing spectacularly and the rest of Africa will leave us behind. It is already happening.
The subject of my article is corruption and I shall return to it presently. I don’t think that there is any country on the planet where corruption does not exist, even in Europe and America. But the existence of corruption has not stopped countries in those continents from making progress. Even though we might say it has slowed some down – with examples in Eastern Europe – but even in their slow progress, they are still paradise compared to Nigeria with its massive human and mineral resources.
It is instructive, too, that people talk about fighting corruption in Nigeria when, in truth, the country itself is built on falsehood and corruption. The fact that we have constitutionally sanctioned certain practices that are inherently corrupt, cannot make them become norms.
I have joked elsewhere that Nigeria basically functions as a criminal enterprise. It is a country sustained largely by oil revenues from the Niger Delta. The discovery of oil had prompted the enactment of the obnoxious law that cedes all resources beneath the soil to the federal government. Such that whoever constitutes government at any point in time reserves the right to control such oil resources. Take away all the nuances and grammar, Nigeria is a country built around looting oil resources of the Niger Delta and sharing the proceeds. I call it looting because there is no kind of democracy that allows you to take what is in someone’s land and share amongst yourselves. None that I know of. The business of government is regulation and taxation.
Many people have made the point that the discovery of oil has turned out to be a curse to Nigeria. It is so because it has killed creativity and real governance. Ideally, governments at all levels ought to create wealth by exploring opportunities that exist within their areas of control. But in Nigeria, many people see government as an end in itself. This is so because, really, being president or governor in Nigeria is mostly about sitting on free money from oil and sharing same according to the magnanimity of your heart.
Stories have been told about how some state governments demanded bribes from potential investors before they would be allowed to invest in their states. This is the kind of story you will hear only in Nigeria where leaders are only used to free money and see little or no need for developing capacity within.
In an ideal environment; where a government has to rely strictly on taxation or profit from businesses it runs to generate revenue, such case of demanding bribe from investors cannot arise. The governor will know that he needs to help create prosperity within the environment as it would be the only way to receive reward in form of taxation. Thus, as opposed to demanding bribes, such government would create incentives to attract investment.
This brings me to the question of what really is Nigeria’s problem if not corruption? The answer is simple. It is structure. The first assignment of any leader who genuinely believes in Nigeria, and who wishes the country well, is to quickly devolve power to federating units. Whatever will constitute those federating units; whether states or zones, is a matter of details.
The key thing is that for the survival of the country, the feeding bottle system must be tinkered with. It is no longer a matter of choice, it is a matter of necessity. Governments at the lower levels have to be given more powers and therefore more responsibilities. They must be compelled to create capacity from within. It is the only way to engage the teeming population of the country. People must be engaged in value adding ventures, otherwise we are doomed.
I’m not saying that structural change is the magic wand that would create prosperity and propel Nigeria from third world to first world country in an instant. To be sure, there would be initial challenges. But doing so would mean that we are on the right path; the path to sustainable development.
If for instance, the Borno State government had to, as a matter of necessity, look inwards because it receives no freebies from Abuja, I’m convinced that the vast amounts of arable lands in the state could have been put to profitable use. And there could have been thriving leather and milk industries in the state on account of cattle breeding. This way, a vast majority of the state’s populace would have been engaged. There couldn’t have been Boko Haram.
Indeed, the growing security challenges in the country can easily be attributed to poverty and lack of opportunities. It is no coincidence that states which have higher poverty rates also have more security problems. If 2million barrels of crude oil could feed 70million Nigerians in 1970, it can scarcely feed 180million in 2019. And certainly, it cannot feed 300million in 2050.
The idea of creating alternative sources of revenue – or diversifying the economy – will remain elusive as long as the feeding bottle federalism remains. It’s been the same talk since the 80s, as much as fighting corruption has been the justification for changes in government since the days of military dictatorships.
Nothing has changed ever since, and nothing significant is likely going to change unless something different is done. Anyone who keeps doing same things, but expects different results probably has a mental disorder.
The governor race in the largest city of Lagos is among those highly contested
Nigerians are heading to the polls to elect state and local representatives, two weeks after the presidential poll.
Ballots are being cast in 29 of the country’s 36 states.
In oil-rich Nigeria, some state governors control budgets larger than those of neighbouring countries and so these are often keenly contested.
President Muhammadu Buhari beat his main rival Atiku Abubakar in the 23 February election, securing a second term.
Across the country, Mr Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) got 15.2 million votes while Mr Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) received 11.3 million. There are 73 million registered voters.
The APC won 19 states, while the PDP secured 16 plus the capital Abuja.
Mr Abubakar said the election was a “sham” and was not free and fair. He has since filed a petition challenging President Buhari’s win.
Although turnout for the presidential election was low across the country, it was higher in the northern states – one factor behind Mr Buhari’s victory.
Fears of possible election-related violence has led to the massive deployment of security personnel across the country.
Seven states – Kogi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Edo and Anambra – will not hold elections because their governors have not finished their four-year terms.
Analysis: Governors impact lives directly
By Aliyu Tanko, BBC Africa, Abuja
The turnout for the state elections is expected to be higher than the 35.5% in last month’s presidential election, down from 44% in 2015.
Most Nigerians take state elections seriously because their lives are directly impacted by the governor and representatives in the state legislature.
For instance, in 2000 – Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima introduced sharia law in Zamfara state and some other state governors in the north followed suit, even though the federal government wasn’t fully in support of that idea.
The governors also enjoy political influence and control huge budgets.
Lagos, one of the most contested states, has an estimated population of 17.5 million people – this is more than the combined population of Gabon, The Gambia, Liberia, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone.
The state’s GDP is more than that of Kenya. In fact, Lagos would be the fifth largest economy in Africa if it were a country.
Other key battle grounds that will be hotly contested between the APC and PDP are Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Kano and Kwara.