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As We Await Jega’s Imperfect Elections In 2015 – By Peter Claver Oparah.


By Peter Claver Oparah

I don’t know what was probably on the mind of Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently when he warned Nigerians not to expect a perfect election from his INEC in 2015. I am yet to fathom what message he wanted to send by that apparent admittance of failure before he sets out to deliver what Nigerians have rightly termed a crucial election that will make or mar the fragile country. It is not as if most Nigerian expected a perfect election; not from INEC and most certainly, not from Jega’s INEC that delivered an untidy farce in 2011 and had been delivering more egregious parodies in states it had conducted elections since that sordid show in 2011. Perhaps the high point of Jega’s incapacity to conduct elections in Nigeria was the November 16, 2013 tragedy in Anambra State which merely worked from an answer to a pre-determined question. The nationwide condemnation trailing that anti-climactic election jolted Jega, first to admit the infractions that besmirched the so called election while curiously approving the outcome (as is traditional with his questionable objectivity) and now, to seek to prepare us for the worst in 2015.
Yes, Jega wants to lower the high expectations Nigerians have built for a credible election in 2015.  Yes, he wants to pre-offload the seeming massive umbrage that awaits him should he play a predictable script of mismanaging the 2015 election to favour those that tele-guide him on the job. Yes, Jega was creating a convenient alibi for the predicted failure his INEC plans to shock Nigerians with in 2015 but I don’t think we should allow him such a cheeky escape route. Come to think of it, when did Jega wake up to the reality that his INEC cannot deliver a perfect election after he reveled in the syndicated applause that attended his abhorrent conduct in 2011? When did he wake up to realize that indeed, his INEC, with its present composition and carriage cannot be trusted to deliver an election that will even compete within the regional standard obtainable in West Africa? I ask the last question because Nigerians, I know, will certainly hail Jega and swathe him in flamboyant allure should he deliver an election that nears the standard obtainable in Ghana or even Benin Republic.

After his appointment, Jega was to embark on an expensive voter registration exercise that involved the capturing of the personal data of eligible Nigerian voters. From its face value, that looked a sure bet towards dealing with the virus of multiple thumb printing, which riles the country’s electoral process. It also stood to verify the authenticity of declared results for whenever the thumb printed votes come in contact with the captured data of voters, there is bound to be a scientific filtering to separate the actual votes from the fake votes. What should shock Nigerians was the first observation from curious Nigerians that there was no central server to store the cumulative data captured all over the country. That meant there was no base for the expensive data Jega captured at every polling booth in Nigeria. Also the deliberate manipulation of the voters’ register, as seen in the elections in Ondo, Anambra and Delta Central Senatorial constituency points to the fact that the data that were collated has been seriously compromised and cannot be trusted to form the cornerstone of credible election in Nigeria. Again, there was no known relationship between the data captured and the votes cast. On election day, one needs to present merely his temporary voters card for possible identification and nothing more. What really was the essence of the thumb print that was central to the voters’ registration? With this lacuna, desperate politicians were to corner all the ballot papers and in some cases, one person thumb printed as much as twenty booklets and all were accounted as real votes in the 2011 sham of an election. This was the magic behind the history-breaking 90 to 99 per cent votes the PDP appropriated in the South East and South South States in 2011.

Jega is being clearly mischievous by his latest warning to Nigerians not to expect a perfect election in 2015 and every Nigerian must tell him in unmistakable terms that we expect nothing more than a perfect election from him. If he cannot deliver, let him quit in time for the country to have for herself an election umpire that is ready to claim responsibility for his actions. Yes, let it be clear and candid that we will not accept any more of Jega’s farces again. I can attest that Jega’s INEC cannot conduct a credible election because Jega is too indebted to those that appointed him than disappoint their schemes to corner every election in Nigeria by hook or crook.

It has been the mantra of those that support the entrenchment of fraudulent elections in Nigeria to argue that there can no prefect election. Again, they freely charge that election losers in Nigeria can never accept defeat. These positions have been proven false by the conduct, outcome and reactions that trailed the June 12 1993 presidential election. Truth is Nigerians know a credible election when they see one and whenever it occurs, even losers will accept the outcome. Perfectness is a relative word and that elections are deemed perfect does not mean it is free from error. Nigerians know this and when they demand a perfect election, they want an election with minimal errors and not one that is deliberately schemed as a farce. A bigger truth is that apart from the 1993 presidential election, all other elections held in Nigeria have been mere concoctions put in place to dupe the electorates and further the ends of corruption and bad governance.

As it is now, Jega’s INEC is fully packed with leading PDP members. The rest are mere nominees of the PDP and President Jonathan. One wonders how a credible election can happen with the upper deck of INEC populated by members of a political party that had sworn to retain power till eternity through every available means. The process and procedures of elections are mere malleable tools at the hands of the PDP to arrive at pre-ordained ends. No foundation for credible election is built on such partial foundation and that is one of the burdens Jega carries and why Nigerian elections remain perpetually shambled with deliberately erected bulwarks stalking it at every end.

But this country has a well thought out report on electoral reform, as recommended by the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel. The panel is comprehensive enough as to remove most of the bulwarks that stand between Nigerians and credible election in its report. For understandable reasons, the ruling PDP sabotaged the report because while it stands to guarantee a free, independent and credible electoral organ and process, it threatens the plot by the PDP for perpetual fiefdom. The party rather prefers a system where we wobble through highly manipulated elections, executed according to its wills and by people of questionable integrity and party mercenaries. It rather prefers a situation where it enters the game both as a player and referee. It is within this pliable template that we locate Jega, his shoddy conducts so far and his frustration that gave vent to the recent warning. The question every Nigerian, especially the opposition must ask is whether we must continue to endure the process that threw up Jega and makes room for all his failures and still threaten us with future failures?

Methinks every Nigerian must rise up and tell Jega that we expect him to conduct a credible election in 2015 or find the exit door, if he feels he cannot guarantee that. We have collectively borne the brunt of fraudulent elections far too long that we cannot put up with another deliberately fabricated ruse in 2015. In fact, he should muster the courage and tact to steer off the way so as to enable the country address its electoral woes by strictly applying the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel Report. This must be made clear to Jega and the opposition should ensure that Jega is perpetually kept on his toes so as not to once again, dump another electoral charade on the country’s doorstep in 2015.

Peter Claver Oparah
Ikeja, Lagos.

E-mail: peterclaver2000@yahoo.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Chief of Staff: Jonathan considers Rtd General •South-South battles South-West.


 

THE ongoing reorganisation in the Federal Government may see a retired General being appointed as the Chief of Staff to the president, it was learnt on Friday.
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This came as certain forces around the president are also said to be advising President Goodluck Jonathan to scrap the office. They are said to be suggesting that the president’s Principal Secretary combine his duties with those of the Chief of Staff.

The position of these ‘advisers’, the source said, was informed by what was described as the perceived excesses of the last holder of that office.

A presidency source, however, told Saturday Tribune that two retired senior army officers – a Major-General and a Brigadier-General, both from the South-West – have been contacted to sound them out on their disposition to possible appointment to the position if the president eventually decides to do so.

One of the two Generals is from Oyo State while the other hails from Lagos State, Saturday Tribune learnt.

The decision to go for a retired General for the post, the source said, is one of the options being considered by the president who is under intense pressure from the South-West and the South-South to ‘give them’ the position.

It was gathered that the initial demand for the post by the North was defeated by the argument of the South that the North already had more than its fair share in the Federal Government line-up.

The North presently parades the Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Security Adviser, the Chief of Defence Staff, among others.

The argument of the South-South in demanding for the position, it was gathered, is that the last occupier of the post hailed from the zone and as such, the post should remain there.

Apart from the cries of marginalisation in the Federal Government by the South-West, it was learnt that a key figure in the civil society organisations (names withheld) was with the president on Monday where discussions touched on the appointment of the president’s chief of staff and the need to pacify the South-West with the post.

The final decision on the appointment, the source said, is that of the president who is said to be weighing options and balancing the scales on the allocation of portfolios to the newly appointed ministers.

Source: Radio Biafra.NORTH

Again, A Case of Uncounted Billions By Okey Ndibe.


 

Okey Ndibe
Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

To a first-time visitor, much of Nigeria is likely to appear like the wreckage of a long war, what with its gutted roads, rutted infrastructure, the near-absence of electric power, and the paucity of pipe-borne water. It’s a developmental nightmare, a relic of the misshapen monuments of small-minded men and women, a patchwork of ill-conceived, abandoned projects.

Given Nigeria’s shape—or, more appropriate, its lack of shape—you’d expect a certain sense of urgency about transforming the space. You’d expect politicians and experts to focus at every opportunity on ways of creating a healthcare system worthy of human beings, revitalizing the educational sector, creating jobs for milling youths, providing basic facilities, and changing the moral tone.

Instead, what you find is a deranged obsession with a rat race whose sole goal is the primitive accumulation of riches. The country’s political leaders, who incidentally lead the rat race, seem to miss the point that the winners of such a race remain rats! Yes, a lot of them amass obscene sums of illicit wealth, but lucre merely raises their rating as ridiculous figures. The more they steal, the more they consolidate their contemptible quotient.

But Nigeria’s political “leaders” are far from the only problems. If anything, they seem to reflect a broader cultural malaise. Many Nigerians, one suspects, are hostile to the deep thinking that is a precursor to remarkable transformation. We’d much rather muck around in sectarian, ethnic and partisan baiting. Confronted with evidence of systemic collapse, many of us are content to blame Christians or Muslims, Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, the North or South. We fail to realize that, where it counts, so-called Christian and so-called Muslim figures collaborate in schemes that impoverish the rest of us; that Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa politicians are not averse to acting together to corner looting opportunities; that men and women from the North and South work together daily to abort Nigeria’s promise.

The reportorial priorities of the Nigerian media mirror, I suggest, Nigerians’ little tolerance for substance. Despite Nigeria’s abysmal condition, it’s hard to see any serious debates in the media. It’s all about PDP this, APC that. Nobody, least of all the two parties’ top officials, can articulate what either party stands for. In lieu of any sustained presentation of ideas for making Nigeria a habitable address, both parties settle for parading personalities. What’s worse, the advertised political henchmen (and women) have pedigrees defined less by ideas than their possession of stupendous wealth.

You’d expect Nigerians to pay attention when somebody who ought to know talks about billions missing from the national treasury. But perish the thought!

Last week, Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank of Nigeria appeared again before the Finance Committee of the Nigerian Senate, and spoke about huge frauds in the oil sector. Mr. Sanusi’s presentation rang with grave claims. Speaking with a directness hardly ever used by any past occupant of his seat, he accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to account for $20 billion from crude oil exports. According to him, the NNPC sold $67 billion worth of crude oil, but deposited only $47 billion.

He told the committee that two companies, Seven Energy and Atlantic Energy (which he said were owned by the same persons), were beneficiaries of a curious deal with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). The deal enabled the ostensible private investors to pocket billions of dollars that ought to belong to Nigeria, the CBN head asserted. He also spoke about “leakages from the system through opaque and complex Swap transactions between PPMC [Pipeline and Products Marketing Company] and some counter parties.” He added: “The Agreements signed by PPMC contained a troubling clause that permits the destruction of documents after one year.”

These are startling allegations, worthy of particular attention by Nigerians and their media. When I googled Mr. Sanusi’s presentation, I found that it received relatively tepid reportage in Nigerian newspapers. It was played up more by online media, especially those based outside of Nigeria.

Even if Mr. Sanusi were talking nonsense, the proper response would be for reporters versed in oil transactions to thoroughly dissect his presentation and expose his misrepresentations. Besides, President Goodluck Jonathan and his aides ought to debunk Mr. Sanusi’s allegations by providing proof that no money is missing. It’s far from an adequate response to point to the fact that the CBN governor’s figures have shifted since September, 2013. The discrepancies may point, in fact, to the complex, labyrinthine nature of the schemes used to defraud Nigerians.

The role of the media has been shameful—but let’s put it aside for now. How about labor unions, student organizations, and such professional bodies as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), and the Nigerian Guild of Editors? What explains their astonishing silence on the matter? Is Nigeria so affluent—so awash with cash—that $20 billion don’t count?

On the Internet, some anonymous commentators fixated on the fact that Mr. Sanusi, bearer of a disquieting message, is a Muslim and a Northerner. Some accused him of awarding billions of naira worth of contracts to his cronies. Others raised issues about his personal life. Mr. Sanusi’s faith and ethnicity have nothing to do with anything here. If he illegally awarded contracts, he deserves to be called on it—and prosecuted, if he broke the law. If there are lapses in his personal life, they should concern us only if he meddled with public funds. Otherwise, it is up to the stakeholders in his personal life to hold him to account, or choose not to.

If students, lawyers and editors didn’t find the case of the missing billions worthy of a single raised eyebrow, who would blame the rest of the populace for going on, unconcerned? It was as if most of us yawned and quickened our stride to that pepper soup joint! Few, if any, bothered to contemplate all the things that $20 billion could do for Nigeria.

I can’t help contrasting the collective indifference to Mr. Sanusi’s expose with the hysteria over former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s decision to leave the PDP and enlist in the APC. Nigerian newspapers not only rushed to cover this relative non-event, they have also offered their readers numerous follow-ups.

You’d think that the answer to Nigeria’s crises of underdevelopment lie in Mr. Atiku’s choice to register with a party that has yet to spell out how it differs from the PDP, much less what answers it has for Nigeria’s worsening state.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

APC decries Asari-Dokubo’s call to war.


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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has described as reckless, irresponsible and condemnable the threat by Mujahedeen Asari-Dokubo that there will be war, if President Goodluck Jonathan is defeated in 2015.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said despite the attacks by oil militants in the Niger Delta and the insurgency by Boko Haram in some parts of the North, Nigeria had not witnessed a clearer and louder call to war since the country’s civil war ended in 1970.

It said Nigerians were waiting to see what the SSS, which detained the APC’s Deputy National Secretary Nasir El-Rufai for his warning against election rigging in 2015, would do now that an ally of President Jonathan had threatened the existence of Nigeria, by saying he and his fellow militants would cripple the economy of the country not only in the creeks but also in Nigeria’s territorial waters.

”What on earth gave Asari-Dokubo the confidence to issue threats against the nation? If he doesn’t care about elections and democracy, how else could his hero, President Jonathan, have come to power? Does he know the meaning of anarchy? Does he think anyone, no matter how big, is more important than his country or

bigger than its constitution?

”When he said President Jonathan ‘must complete the mandatory constitutionally-allowable two terms of eight years’ or the militants will make Nigeria ungovernable, was he aware that even the North that has become his favourite whipping boy did not complete its own eight years before his kinsman became President?

”It is not Asari-Dokubo’s fault. When we warned against the handing over of the nation’s maritime security to a company owned by an ex-militant in 2012, many thought we were crying wolf where none existed. But the threat by an ex-militant to ensure that no vessel will be allowed to enter the nation’s territorial waters unless President Jonathan is re-elected has shown the dangers inherent in such actions,” APC said

The party wondered why President Jonathan, who said his ambition was not worth anyone’s blood, had neither condemned nor call to order his out-of-control kinsmen like Asari-Dokubo, who speak either on his behalf or for his benefit.

It said Asari-Dokubo has overstretched his luck by trying to dictate to political parties to field only Southsouth candidates for the Presidency in 2015, wondering what gave him the audacity to make such a careless statement.

”We, in the APC, will never be cowed by the senseless, emotional outburst of a man, whose sense of decency stretches the size of a coin. We say that Nigeria will survive and thrive, whether or not some people want it. We reiterate the truism that election is the bedrock of democracy, and that anointing of candidates – as Asari-Dokubo would want Nigeria’s political parties to do – is the antithesis of democracy,” the party said.

It said the SSS must act immediately or be damned.

”There is no better test of the fairness, non-partisanship and professionalism of the SSS than the Asari-Dokubo’s threat of war on his country. If Asari-Dokubo is not above the laws of the land, he must be hauled before the SSS, just as the service did to our deputy national secretary, to explain his statement,” APC said.

Source: Radio Biafra.

National Conference just before another jamboree.


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President Goodluck Jonathan has released the modalities for the convocation of a National Conference with limited powers.

Expectedly, criticisms have been trailing the modalities. The seriousness of the Federal Government has been questioned by many stakeholders. The consensus of opinion is that, for another three months or more, delegates will participate in a government-sponsored jamboree in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Since the premise for the national dialogue is not the ethnic nationalities, many have also argued that the exercise is an imposition.

However, pro-Jonathan forces have a contrary view. They believe that the conference will chart a new course for the country. Hailing the President for acceding to the popular request for a national debate, they also said that the conference will lay a better constitutional future.

When the President unfolded his plan for the conference on October 1, last year, many stakeholders queried his real intention. There were speculations that the idea was sold the option to the embattled leader to douse the mounting national tension. But, the sudden change of heart by the Commander-in-Chief still came as a surprise. In the past, Dr. Jonathan had objected to it, saying that a democratic government was in place. The proposal polarised the polity. A section said that the Federal Government was trying to divert attention from its gross failure to restore hope to the beleaguered country. In particular, the advocates of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) were not amused. In their view, the proposal fell below expectation.

Public enthusiasm has been waning since the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu submitted its report to the President. It was a divided committee. A minority report surfaced. It was written by a member of the committee, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN). The bone of contention was the method proposed for the ratification of the conference report. While the majority report hammered on parliamentary ratification, the minority report emphasised the import of ratification by a referendum. The majority report on the mode of ratification reflected the President’s view. Last year, Dr. Jonathan told the nation that the report will be sent to the National Assembly for ratification. The implication is that the decisions reached at the conference may or may not be approved by the National Assembly.

The fear expressed by critics were confirmed last week when the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Pius Ayim, released the guidelines. 492 delegates are expected at the talk show. They are to be drawn from the strata of the society: government, traditional institution, political parties, judiciary, and civil societies. They are to be nominated by local, state and federal governments. Thus, it is “guided conference”.

The ethnic nationalities may not command a strong voice there. Observers have argued that nominees may not have the mind of their own. Since he who plays the piper dictates the tune, the presidential nominees will be his eye and ear at the conference. The delegates may therefore, be manipulated by the government to achieved a pre-determined goal.

The official name of the dialogue is The National Conference. This is antithetical to a Sovereign National Conference. There is a no-go area. The Federal Government is sensitive to the warning by a foreign body that the country may disintegrate next year. Therefore, it stated that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. The time frame is also suspect. The government has proposed three months. But, it is evident that the conference will coincide with preparations for the 2015 general elections.

The timeframe for the nomination of delegates is between now and February 20. Wide consultations may not herald the nominations. In outlook, the proposed conference is elitist. The President may have also played a fast game. He is not indifferent to the position of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on the vexed issue. Therefore, if the 17 APC governors refuse to nominate delegates, Dr. Jonathan, an Ijaw from the Southsouth, will nominate delegates on their behalf. These delegates may come from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Critics will describe their assignments as “jobs for the boys”.

The delegates are expected to receive remuneration. But, funding for the conference is another hurdle. Although the conference is expected to commence proceedings this month, there is no assurance that the budget would have been passed before next month.

The script was carefully written at Aso Villa, the seat of government. But, The President needed an ally to sell the dummy. He found one in Senate President David Mark, who was saddled with flying the cart. The retired General, who had frowned at the agitation for the conference in the past, based on his belief in the legitimacy of the National Assembly as the anchor of popular rule, suddenly retraced his steps. Thus, many believed that the conference propaganda was designed to gage the public mood.

Historically, at critical points in national history, past governments have resorted to camouflage national debate, talk or dialogue to douse the tension. Indeed, when the dreadful dictator, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, set up a constitutional conference in 1994, the uprising in the Niger Delta stopped for one year. The Abacha conference was made up of 396 delegates. The late head of State nominated 96 members. Although the report of the 1994/95 conference did not see the light of the day, the delegates succeeded in dividing Nigeria into six geo-political zones. The six geo-political regions are not backed by law, but the structure is respected by the political class. Also, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the Abuja Reforms Conference, expectations were high that it would usher in a new dawn. The conference collapsed on the altar of the third term agenda. Of 400 delegates, Obasanjo nominated 50 delegates. Many delegates, who have reflected on the report, have called for the implementation of the report. Former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, who also nominated delegates, has backed the call for the retrieval of the report from the dustbin. He said since resolutions have been passed on many of the issues that the delegates are going to debate in Abuja, the Federal Government should have the courage to implement the 2005 report.

Shortly after he assumed the reins, the first military Head of State, the late Gen. Thomas Auguyi-Ironsi, set up an ad hoc constitutional committee to debate the contentious issues tearing apart the country. The committee was dead on arrival. At the inception of the military rule, soldiers in power lacked the political skills to handle those sensitive issues and problems which the military intervention had compounded. When the Muritala/Obasanjo set up the Constitutional Drafting Committee and Constituent Assembly, the transition to civil rule programme of the regime received a popular acclaim. Even, when the former President Ibrahim Babangida set up the Constituent Assembly in 1989, it calmed down the nerves. But, the report also did not see the light of the day.

President Jonathan’s first step at implementing the proposal was confusing. He named an advocate of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), Dr. Okurounmu, as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee to prepare the ground for the talk. But, the committee was on tour of the six geo-political regions to collate views on modalities, the President announced that the National Assembly will debate the conference report. The statement irked many people. But, the members of the committee became deviated from their terms of reference when they were defending the President. When the team led by Okurounmu visited Benin, the capital of Edo State, for consultation with the Southsouth stakeholders, a committee member, Col. Tony Nyiam, took on Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Thus, the committee was censoring public opinion on the conference.

During the debate on the proposed conference, members of the National Assembly were not aloof. In the beginning, they loathed the idea of conference, pointing out that the nation should not waste time on another Constituent Assembly that will be saddled with the business of constitution making at a time the National Assembly is also reviewing the constitution. But, when reality dawned on them that the conference would be inevitable, they indicated a deeper interest. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said in Lagos that it will not be a bad idea, if the legislators are also delegates. He explained that federal lawmakers are also stakeholders. However, the agitation for the inclusion of the legislators was doused when the President announced that the report will be ratified by the National Assembly.

According rights activists and leaders of the ethnic nationalities, a conference, on its merit, is not a bad idea. The obstacle to its success in the past was the lack of sincerity by the government. Since it is not going to be a SNC, many rights activists have submitted that the scope of the national dialogue will be essentially limited. There are some puzzles: If a constitution is expected to be fashioned out by the conference, should there be no-go areas? Can a national conference produce a truly peoples’ constitution? Should the government insist that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable in a country that has not become a nation, 100 years after the amalgamation? How will the suitability and competence of delegates be determined? If they are nominated or appointed by the government and influential elite as it is being proposed by the Federal Government, will their nominations meet the criteria for representativeness and legitimacy? How popular are the delegates at the grassroots? Would they have the mandate of the people who are emotionally attached to the ethnic nationalities? Now that the nomination is based partially on the ethnic nationalities, states, local governments or constituencies, what will be the ratio of representation? Will the proposed single term of six or seven years resurface at the conference for debate?

There are other questions: since delegates be appointed by the governors, what is the criteria? What will be the terms of reference? How will they emerge across the states? Will the conference resolutions be subjected to referendum? If it is not subjected to a referendum, how will the report or resolutions be validated? If it is not validated by a referendum, will it be legitimate? Will recommendations be accepted by the government, if delegates oppose the proposed ratification by the National Assembly? Will the report be thrown into the dustbin as usual? The Federal Government has said that resolutions on contentious issues would be taken, based on the approval of 75 percent of delegates. 75 percent of 492 is 369 delegates. How about resolutions that mainly touch on the lives of the minority tribes, who may not be adequately represented? Will the majority not trample on the wish of the minority?

Since the eighties, the agitation for a Sovereign National Conference had gained prominence. It was first articulated by the legal luminary, the late Chief Alao Aka-Bashorun. The deceased human rights lawyer said that it was possible to hold the conference in Nigeria. He urged the government to tap from the experience of the Soviet Union and the Republic of Benin, which resolved some of its problems by convoking conferences. Throughout the military rule, Aka-Bashorun was harassed for his principled position on the national question and agitation for a Sovereign National Conference.

Also, in the nineties, the former Oyo State governor, Chief Bola Ige, who summed up the arguments for the national conference, raised two questions: “Do we want to remain as one country? If the answer is yes, under what conditions?”. The implication is that a debate is necessary to determine the basis for peaceful co-existence and harmony. Ige said that many national problems could be resolve by debate, instead of resorting to the barrels of gun.

Following the annulment of the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, there was disillusionment. The cancellation disputed the basis for peaceful co-existence among the competing tribes. The advocates of the SNC expanded the national question. Discussion on the resolution of the identity, integration, participation and distribution crises came to the front burner. Stakeholders came to the conclusion that Nigeria was hanging on a flawed or defective federal system. The unitary system foisted on the polity by the military had created strains. But the interlopers opposed the struggle for a new order with brute force.

Up to now, these questions remained unsolved: Is state or community police not desirable in a big, diverse, heterogeneous country characterised by multiplicity of traditions, customs, and languages? Should the governors, who are the chief security officers of their states, continue to obtain permission from the distant Inspector-General of Police to maintain law and order? Should an Igbo or Yoruba, who was born and bred in the North be denied political and economic rights, owing to the tension between indigeneship and residency? Should a Fulani/Hausa, who had lived in the South for 30 years be edged out of the participatory political process? It remains to be seen if these questions will be answered by Jonathan’s National Conference, which has limitations. Does the President needs a conference to fight the infrastructure battle, tar the roads and fund education and public hospitals efficiently? Does the President needs a conference to build refineries, fight corruption and resolve the crises that have engulfed his party? Does he need a conference to guarantee power supply?

Posted by: EMMANUEL OLADESU

Source: Radio Biafra

2015: We will make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan fails to return – Asari-Dokubo.


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Leader of the defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Alhaji Mujaheeden Asari-Dokubo, yesterday reaffirmed his position over 2015 ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan , warning that if Jonathan fails to return in 2015, Nigeria would witness a heavy bloodshed.Asari-Dokubo in an interview with the National Mirror said the people of the Niger Delta would not accept even if Jonathan is defeated in a free and fair contest, adding that the President must be allowed to rule for eight years.According to him, “If it is war, the North wants, we are ready for them because Jonathan must complete the mandatory constitutionally allowable two terms of eight years.“At home, we have regrouped and we have put our people at alert.“In less than one hour, the way we would strike, the world will be shocked. If anybody does anything against Jonathan, we will retaliate. What we will do will shock the whole world. We will cripple the economy of the country not only in the creeks, but also on the nation’s territorial waters, no vessel will be allowed to enter Nigeria’s territorial waters.“Let them not try anything. If they abuse Jonathan, there is no problem, he is their President but anything that will affect the interest of the Ijaw people and the interest of the entire people of the Niger Delta will be resisted at any cost.”Asari-Dokubo also vowed that the defeat of Jonathan in a free and fair election would trigger crisis.He said: “Jonathan cannot be defeated, they cannot defeat him, they don’t have the right, every part of the country must have equal stake in the presidency of the country.“Let them go and sleep in their houses. If they don’t, they are looking for trouble and we are going to give it to them. “It will make better sense if APC picks its presidential candidate from the South- South. With that, there will be no battle for us to fight and it will make it easier for us.

Whichever way it goes, it will enable us to continue our right of uninterrupted rule of eight years, which is the minimum constitutional requirement.“They cannot take that from the South-South and we will not accept it because every part of the country must have equal access to the various institutions of government, especially at the federal level,” he added.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Lobby for confab delegates intensifies.


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ABUJA—FOLLOWING last Thursday’s release of  modalities for the proposed National Conference, an intense lobby by politicians and other people, who want to be nominated as delegates has ensued.To be part of the 492 wise men and women to be saddled with the task of reshaping Nigeria, some serving commissioners are currently pressuring their state governors for a slot. According to the modalities, each of the 36 state governors is expected to nominate three delegates. The presidency, which is expected to nominate about 70 delegates is also being pressured, Vanguard gathered. Already, some ministers considered to be in President Goodluck Jonathan’s good books are being bombarded with phone calls by people angling for a seat at the confab table.The civil society organisations, political parties, ethnic nationalities and other stakeholders are not left out. Many of them will hold crucial meetings on the issue this week.Leaders of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) will meet today to deliberate on whether or not to participate in the conference. APC is one of the five parties slated to nominate 10 delegates.The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is in support of the conference, said it would meet to nominate its two delegates, once it gets a letter from the Federal Government on the matter.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said last week that it would convene a meeting soon to pick its nominees just as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) urged all stakeholders to send their First Eleven to deepen deliberations at the conference. President of the South-East, South-South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN),  Mr. Emeka Ugwu-Oju, who disclosed that the group will also meet this week, to take a position on the dialogue modalities, said “it will be sad if the governors nominate their houseboys as delegates because their states and geo-political zones will lose out. They must endeavour to nominate people who can represent their states well.”Meanwhile, to get the proposed dialogue going, the Presidency will, this week, write stakeholders, who are expected to nominate their delegates on or before February 20.A presidency source told Vanguard, yesterday, that the Presidency will look at the issue today and start writing the letters to drive the process.The disclosure came as the World Igbo Congress (WIC), the apex organization representing Ndigbo all over the world backed the stance of the Professor Ben Nwabueze-led Igbo Leaders of Thought that the modalities released by the government did not meet the expectations of most Nigerians for convening a confab that will address the multifarious problems of the country.Asked if APC would take part in the conference, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party’s interim publicity scribe, said: “The party will meet tomorrow (today) to take a decision on it” and declined further comments.Select your delegates, prepare agenda, FG tells Nigerians
The Federal Government advised the various interest groups in the country to prepare their agenda to be presented at the conference rather than dissipate energy on whether the President Jonathan administration had a hidden agenda.Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Alhaji Ahmed Ali Gulak, said “we have to advise every interest group that has the interest of Nigeria as its agenda to go and do their home work and take it to the national conference. We have a feeling that those attacking the proposed conference are those who have nothing to offer and would be the first to jump up to claim that the other ethnic groups have outsmarted them.”According to Gulak, the Federal Government has no other agenda than “to secure the peace, stability and unity of the Nigerian state. As the government in power, the Federal Government, will not abdicate its responsibility and allow anarchists to take reins of the country. We are committed to the welfare of Nigerians, the President swore an oath to accomplish these things. It is an open agenda which is not the subject of the conference.”He continued: “We want people to do their home work and present their best team because when they fail to do so, they will not blame the President for their failure.”APGA ‘ll participate –Umeh
Speaking on the conference, APGA  National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, okayed the modalities and assured that the party would participate in the exercise.His words: “APGA will participate in the conference. We support the modalities released by the government. We cannot miss this opportunity of helping to save the country. The Nigerian situation is becoming very serious and the national conference has become imperative. Let people come together, let’s dialogue, look at Nigeria and things that are making the country unstable and find solutions to them. We are happy with President Jonathan’s commitment to the National Conference.”Asked when the party would nominate its delegates, he said: “We are waiting for the letter from the Federal Government. When we get the letter from the Federal Government, which is the official line of communication, we will meet and pick our nominees.“We welcome the programme for the conference. We urge all Nigerians to participate. The Federal Government has made it a broad all-inclusive conference. All segments of the society are involved. Those opposing the national conference are not patriotic enough. We cannot pretend we can get our acts together without dialogue.”On whether the requirement of 75 per cent majority of delegates to resolve contentious issues would not undermine the exercise, Umeh said: “The conference will proceed with the unity of Nigeria as no-go area. Other things will be discussed. There are open wounds, which only the truth and good conscience will heal. There are issues that will be tabled and people will see the glaring injustice. If delegates at the conference fail to address such open wounds, it means clearly they want Nigeria to divide. Only unreasonable people will oppose good demands.”Youths seek more slots
Meantime, Nigerian Youths, weekend, protested 18 slots given to them, saying if truly the conference is to reposition the future of Nigeria, 18 delegates cannot represent over 60 percent of the country’s population.
Consequently, a group known as Re-Orientation Advocates of Nigeria (RAN) tasked the Federal Government on the nomination of more youths. The President of RAN, Mr. Charles Folayan in a statement in Abuja, said the reserving 18 slots for over 70 million youths was unacceptable.According to him, “We agitated earlier for 30-50% representation in our communiqué at the National Youth Summit on Peace and Security held in November last year, we are also very much concerned on how the government is going about it even now that the youth council is in crisis as giving priority to any faction of the council will be out of place.“The president had earlier said that the conference is meant for the younger generation, so the selection of the younger generation must not only be credible, but also significant, we are so much concerned that the number stipulated on the plan for the youth is insignificant. Youth group should be given up to 100 delegates not 18.”WIC backs Igbo Leaders of Thought’s stance
Picking holes in the modalities, Engineer Obi Barth Oyibo Thompson, a member of WIC Board of Trustees, said: “Although there are defects in the modalities released by the Federal Government, the World Igbo Congress supports that Ndigbo should participate in the proposed National Conference.”He advised against Ndigbo boycotting the Confab, but rather should go there and insist on the terms  of association of Ndigbo with other nationalities as articulated by the Prof Nwabueze–led Igbo Leaders of Thought. “The Igbo predicament in Nigeria is a challenge to the conscience of all ethnic nationalities and geo-political zones or Regions in Nigeria. It is a moral wound, inflicted over a long time by injustice, that must be cured. What is important is the quality of Ndigbo representation and that is why Igbo Leaders of Thought are going ahead to complete the task of articulating the Igbo position. There is nothing absolutely sacrosanct as to how an existing Constitution may be replaced by a new one.”Obi Thompson  advised that “although nobody should go to the conference to seek dissolution of Nigeria, it should be emphasized that the right of self determination is a fundamental sacred human right. The Conference should therefore be about discussing conditions whereby it is attractive for each stakeholder to happily and freely exercise this right within the framework of one sovereign Nigerian nation.”On selection of South-East delegates, Obi Thompson said  “nobody is contesting the collectively cherished ideal of Ndigbo speaking with one voice through Ohanaeze” but since the issue of leadership of Ohanaeze appeared currently subjudice, a  better approach might be a conciliatory process whereby all other socio-political cum cultural groups come together with all factions within Ohanaeze for the purpose of selecting their delegates.On Igbo support for President Jonathan, he said: “If the Conference successfully gives birth to a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Jonathan would have built for himself a formidable and appreciative constituency across the length and breadth of Nigeria whose support will overwhelm the combined opposition of APC and PDP and sweep him into land slide second term victory. The President should note that our objective is to ensure that he succeeds in this undertaking. If he achieves this, he becomes the undisputed father of modern Nigeria, thus sharing the same spot of honour in our history as accorded to Sir Herbert Macauley and Rt. the Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe, as the genuine protagonists and patriots of a true and sincere One Nigeria.”This is another jamboree –Tsav
Speaking on the confab in Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said  it is “another jamboree by the federal government that would serve no useful purpose.”
According to him, the conference will serve as a conduit pipe for wastage and siphoning of the nation’s scarce resources.His words: “The proponents of the conference are only doing it to distract Nigerians from the avalanche of challenges that we face as a people. As far as I’m concerned, the conference is a misplaced priority. The critical problem facing the country and derailing its growth and development is nothing but corruption which is the reason why we are all lamenting and crying in this country.“How can anyone suggest the convocation of another conference in Nigeria when the recommendations of previous ones that were held by past governments in this country have not been implemented. The bane of the development, peace and progress of this country is corruption, if this is tackled every other thing will fall into place.“How can a government that encourages high level corruption convince Nigerians that it is sincere with its policies and programmes when we all know that people who have been declared wanted for corruption charges are being daily celebrated by this administration. As far as I am concerned, the Jonathan’s conference will not be different from the previous ones, nothing new will come out of it. In fact, it will provide a basis for looting and another reason for wastage and drainage of the nation’s scarce resources.”Ex-minister advocates six-year single termAhead of the conference, former Minister of Science and Technology, General Sam Momah, has advocated for a six-year single term in office  for the president and governors.Noting that after every four years the government spends huge sums of tax payers’ money to conduct elections at the expense of the needed socio-economic development by the people, he said apart from huge costs of conducting the elections,  the “ four-year term does not give any executive enough room to complete or conclude any programme it starts. In Africa, no incumbent loses an election, even though it happens, it is difficult, because he makes sure he spends state money to win that election. So, if he knows he has a single term he does his best and leaves.”He further stated that issues the national conference would address had overtaken the constitution amendment by the National Assembly, since the constitution amendment was temporal, but he urged the National Assembly to continue with what they were doing as it was their assignment.”
BY  HUGO ODIOGOR, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, PETER DURU, GABRIEL EWEPU & CALEB AYANSINA.

Source: Radio Biafra.

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