April polls: PDP’ll retain presidency and many states – Amaechi


Written by Taiwo Adisa

Rivers State governor, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, in this interview with Politics Editors, insists that the PDP will win the presidential election and that the party will not yield much ground to the opposition in the states. He speaks on issues of insecurity and challenges in the state. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, presents the excerpts.
DURING one of your campaign stops, you told voters in Okrika that it was payback time for you and that you were once beaten by a mob for supporting an Okrika man as governor. How did this happen?
I left university in 1987 and by 1988, I started working with Dr. Peter Odili and Chief Rufus Ada-Geroge and Chief Rufus Ada-George was our aspirant for governorship. He was running against Seargent Awuse.Chief Rufus George was from Okrika and people felt that it was wrong for any Ikwere man like me to support an Okrika man, but I dared them and I supported an Okrika man and that was how Chief Rufus Ada-George won.
One day, we went to elect officers of the party at the local government level and I contested for the secretaryship. So, when I arrived for the election, I was beaten and admitted to hospital. But the following week, the election was on, I came around, I ran the election and I won. They were surprised that I came for the election after they beat me up. I believe that this is a payback time; if I supported your son to become a governor, you should support me to become the governor this time. And this time, there will be no violence. Nobody will beat them for supporting me.
So, how do you see the challenge coming from Okrika against you this time around?
You would have expected that by the time we arrived Okrika, we would not see the kind of crowd we met on ground. The fact that we saw that kind of crowd was a surprise to me and it was courageous that we hired AIT and NTA to show the campaign live.
What is your plan about reconciling with the enstraged members of the party in the state?
The only member that is affected that we have not reconciled with is the former Minister of Transport. Up till now, Okpara is still with us, he is the chairman of the reconciliation committee.
The former Minister of Transport, who is the candidate of the ACN, said recently that you wasted N995 billion in three years. What happened?
You should have asked him questions about the Eleme junction, that used to keep people lying down there for till 3am, which we built for N7 billion or the mono rail which we built for N49 billion or the secondary schools that we are building, because we are increasing the capacity to 1000 students which is N4.5 billion to build one and we are building 24 and if I win the second term, I will build another 24 which will make 48.
You should have asked him whether all these amounted to a waste. Anybody who sees the schools appreciates them; they are saying you can turn it into a university.
I just spoke to a bank now about what our university is going to look like. They are doing the infrastructural work- water roads, light and others. When they finish we will start building.
Ask him, he lives in Abuja and he doesn’t know what is going on in Port-Harcourt.
He just came in few months ago to run for governorship. The difference between us is that when he served as SSG, there was nothing called due process. Now, there is what we call Public Procurement Law which we now refer to as due process, it is an independent body. We hired an expert from a bank, and we say if you save us xyz, you get xyz. Your job is to save money for us, if you apply the due process, and you save xyz, this is your commission.
To make sure that he saves money, we give him something as inducement so that he can actually protect government money. Tell him that part of the funds we are spending now is as a result of his activities in Okrika.
The insecurity in the state started from Okrika and we spend huge amount of money trying to protect the state. So, if he did not cause us that problem we wouldn’t have been spending money looking for criminals, buy equipment for Police. Virtually all the vehicles they are using we bought. Before he became SSG, Part-Harcourt was quiet and peaceful. We have to buy vehicles for the police, Army, even the Airforce and Navy join in the patrol.
To get Part-Harcourt to where it is now is a heavy burden. They should ask him who caused it. You heard me when I said on AIT, that people can ask the former governor that I went to complain that I didn’t like the way people were treating issues. I complained. When I came back to the house, my wife was the first person who first said it. I was very frustrated and I said to my wife, “you cannot replace life. If you burn down Government House, you can rebuild it , if you burn down House of Assembly, you can rebuild, but if you kill, you cannot replace the life.”
The Ijaw Leader in Okrika, ask why he was not at the rally. Just because he was organising the Ijaws to support us, few days after, he was shot. If I did not fly him overseas, he would have died. That night, I hired an air ambulance to fly him out.
But people saw you as part of the last government as Speaker?
The former governor is my mentor; he was my boss. If Dr. Sekibo was straight on issues, we would not be talking about the last government. That was why I said can we please address issues and because he was not addressing issues, that is why you see us talking about this. I want to remind him, this is where we are coming, you were not there by 2007, you had left to Abuja.
There is the claim the ACN is a threat in this state, especially in Okrika…
So, how many people support them? We met them on our way to campaign. There were three buses. Let us take it at 50 multiplied by 3; that is 150. We met them when they were coming, they were carrying brooms, I saw them. Is it a threat? That is why I said they should have shown his (ACN’s) rally live. At any time we had a rally at that stadium, with a sitting capacity of 15,000 people, you will have over 10, 000 people standing, outside and inside. Even the presidential rally, there were worries because of the crowd but we needed to show that we could pull the crowd.
Recently, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, the ACN candidate, had an issue with the local government over payment of tenement rates for his campaign office…
I didn’t even know that local governments collect up to N50 million tenement rate and we say we don’t have money to run our government. I was not involved; I was out of the country when it happened. It requires courage to do some of the things we did.
We are building 180 megawatts of power at 195 million dollars. If you add the extension of gas pipeline, you will get 200 and something million dollars. It was only 60 million dollars that we got from the Paris Club. Now, we have paid well over 140 million dollars and they will deliver in July. We borrowed 30 million for the road and flyover. The flyover is on federal road and they have not paid us back and we have to complete the project for a period of time.
We borrowed for another flyover at Agip junction. They will only say we borrowed N30 billion. You know what makes the loan very interesting? Every month, they deduct 2.6 billion from our bank account, both the interest and the principal. So, I am not talking about that. What I am saying is that he should know that no government can be run without borrowing. If we say we borrow money to share among ourselves, that is a different thing.
You must have loans as a component of administration. Thank God he knows that; he was lying. A governor or governorship candidate should not talk without figures.
Before now, he was shouting that we had spent N1trillion. I will cross check with the Commissioner for Finance to know how much we have received, but let us even assume it is N985 billion. No matter what we receive, we make sure that we save N1billion.
He can ask First Trustees, IBTC, Skye Bank. IBTC invests the money, Skye Bank is the custodian of the money. There was a month we received N7.5 billion, salary was N5.1 billion; we still saved 1 billion for that month. The 10 health centres, the 14 primary schools and that is why I say he should go and check for himself. Inside the schools, there are 14 classrooms, 15 toilets, an office for the headmaster, a classroom for the nursery, a library because I hate a situation where you are talking and people don’t know what you are talking about.
Tell him that part of the N985 billion he is talking about, we did secondary schools hostels that will take two children per room with toilets. For 1000, it means you have 500 rooms, 500 toilets, 1000 beds.
My children stay abroad by coincidence; before I became governor. When they came on holidays, I told them that I would take them to a school better than those in the UK. They said it was a lie. But
they confirmed that it is better. The school is located on 21 hectares of land. If he says 980 billion is mismanaged, then he must show evidence of its mismanagement.
Election is just by the corner, how do you see the opposition against President Jonathan and the PDP?
I am not in a position to make an assessment about the entire country, but what I can say is that I doubt if any of the other parties can defeat the PDP. We have more governors that other parties. If we are going to lose ground, maybe in one or two states. We will do everything possible to mobilise the crowd to come and vote for PDP.
There are two kinds of people that will vote, those who will vote for the candidate willingly and those who will vote because of the governor. We have been campaigning to the people to help the government to be able to run well by voting our candidates. I pray that we will not lose ground.
What are your fears about the election?
I have always talked about complacency, especially for my own election in Rivers State. If out of 2.4 million people, if 1.3 million people do not vote and the other 1.2 million people vote for the other party, you can never tell what will happen.
What we are saying is, come out and vote. My second view on complacency is that some people still have doubts that votes will not count. On the issue of security, know that there is a difference between Governor Ameachi and candidate Ameachi.
Candidate Ameachi will run the election, Governor Ameachi will still be governor of the state until May 29. Therefore, he has the responsibility to make sure lives and property are protected. So, go out and vote and be rest assured of the protection of the security agencies.
I can only know what is going on in Rivers State and only the governors in other state know what is happening in their states. As far as Governor Ameachi is concerned, the president will have nearly 100 per cent. But I don’t know if we are going to lose ground, I don’t think it will affect the presidential election. I am not a member of the NWC, so, I wouldn’t know why they delayed in signing the code of conduct. They have not called NEC meeting for a long time because we are all focusing on our election. If they brought up the issue of code of conduct, some of us will say we must keep to the code of conduct.
Going by the state of things, do you think INEC is prepared for this election?
About INEC preparation, I am not in a position to tell you whether they are prepared or not.

NIGERI:Jonathan Leads with 60%, PDP May Lose Five States


By Imam Imam
President Goodluck Jonathan
The latest poll conducted by THISDAY/Ipsos ahead of the 2011 general election indicates that President Goodluck Jonathan may secure 60.3 per cent of popular votes in the presidential election. However, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may lose the governorship polls in five states.
In the poll conducted in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between February 25 and March 16, 2011, 60.3 per cent of respondents said they would vote for Jonathan in the presidential election, while his closest rival, Major General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) scored 22.4 per cent.
Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, the flag bearer of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), scored 5.9 per cent, while the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, scored 4.7 per cent. Shekarau was generally acclaimed to have won the presidential debate last week but this poll had been conducted before then.
Buhari has a clear lead among polled samples in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa and Bauchi and further holds narrow leads in Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno and Gombe.
Jonathan leads in all Southern states with the exception of Ekiti, where Ribadu has a 54-per-cent score, and Osun, which is considered too close to call, even though Jonathan leads. Ribadu and Shekarau had a strong showing in the state, thereby making it difficult to call for Jonathan.
A noticeable trend is the likelihood that PDP may win governorship in a state and lose presidential in the same state – or vice versa.
In Lagos, for instance, over 80 per cent of the polled voters said they would vote for Jonathan (PDP presidential), while 92 per cent said they would vote for Babatunde Fashola (ACN) in the governorship election.
It is even more common in some Northern states where PDP could win governorship and lose presidential in Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Also, PDP is in danger of losing the governorship elections in four of the states it currently controls – Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue and Imo.
In Bauchi, the CPC candidate, Yusuf Maitama Tugar, was rated the highest by respondents. He scored 55 per cent, leaving the incumbent Malam Isa Yuguda of the PDP with 34 per cent; the ANPP flag bearer Nazeef Gamawa with 6 per cent; and ACN candidate Baba Tela with 4 per cent.
In the president’s home state of Bayelsa, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and former presidential adviser on amnesty, Mr. Timi Alaibe, led with 56 per cent among the polled potential voters, while the incumbent Chief Timipre Sylva scored 44 per cent. Alaibe is of the Labour Party (LP), while Sylva is flying the flag of PDP.
A similar scenario is playing out in Benue State where the PDP governor, Hon. Gabriel Suswam, is trailing the ACN candidate, Professor Steve Ugbah. Suswam has 19 per cent, while his rival has 72 per cent.
Imo is also endangered for the ruling party as Governor Ikedi Ohakim trails Chief Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The state is considered too close to call because even though Okorocha polled 34 per cent in the survey, 41 per cent of the voters are still undecided. Ohakim has 14 per cent, while ACN’s Ifeanyi Araraume has 12 per cent.
In Kebbi, the PDP ranks third, meaning Governor Saidu Dakingari could lose his position to either ACN’s Kabir Turaki, who scored 44 per cent, or CPC’s Abubakar Shettima who scored 41 per cent. The state is still too close to call.
The battle ground states for governorship, according to the survey, are Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Borno, Oyo and Delta.
But the PDP remains competitive in Zamfara, where Governor Aliyu Shinkafi leads the pack by 43 per cent, closely pursued by ANPP’s Abdulazeez Yari with 37 per cent.
The PDP is also competitive in Oyo and Kaduna, where it holds narrow margins. In Borno, the poll favours the ruling party. It is too close to call in Delta but the ruling party is very competitive there.
The 62 per cent figure for the PDP in Ogun State is recorded in favour of Tunji Olurin, although it remains to be seen if this would change because both Olurin and Gboyega Isiaka were laying claim to the party’s ticket for a prolonged period.
Ipsos is one of the leading pollster companies in the world with more than 30 years of experience researching political attitudes.
It has the most long-term and comprehensive set of polling data of all polling agencies in the world.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday on the latest polling results, the CEO for Sub-Saharan Africa, David Somers, said: “We initially designed a very large sample to cover the entire country. It’s a sample of 11,000 approximately of what we did in every state that will allow us to have estimate per state and in general. We conducted face to face interviews and as we talk to people in local dialects and personally on the ground, we asked people a series of questions about how they feel about life and about things in general and about things they want from their politicians. And ultimately for whom they will vote for whether at the presidential level or at the gubernatorial level. It’s honestly a traditional poll which we do all over the world.
“So the way we arrived at figures was to go to all the states, interview the people within those states and then aggregate all the data from the states up to a national level. We rate data accordingly so that each state will be represented correctly within the total national figure by the census and also by the voter registration. So we used as a waiting measure plus some other factors which we discovered while we went into this and that is how we got the national figures

Bianca: An appointment laced with controversy


The recent appointment of a former beauty queen, Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, as an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan, has attracted diverse opinions. But EMMANUEL OBE writes that it might be the fillip Bianca needs to launch herself into the nation’s political firmament

 

These might not be the best of times for Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a former beauty queen and reigning ‘queen’ of the former leader of the defunct secessionist Biafra, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who is lying critically ill at a London hospital.

Controversy has returned to her path since January 26, 2011 when the Presidency announced her appointment as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs. It is like a sweet, but bitter story.

Bianca is not entirely new to controversy, In 1989, she lost her Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and Miss Intercontinental crowns in circumstances that were not only controversial, but mysterious.

It had appeared to be the first time that a beauty queen had been dethroned in the country, with her crowns then offered to her first runner-up, Regina Askia.

Just as that controversy was stoking, her romantic affair with Ojukwu (a man 34 years her senior), burst into the open. In spite of the heat and rolling over that the issue generated, Bianca maintained a dignified quietude, and never offered a word.

She had since then withdrawn from public glare, appearing occasionally at public functions with her husband, who is an inescapable public figure and a crowd puller.

Bianca’s recent appointment was not the only one announced on January 26, 2011 by Ima Niboro, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. Kingsley Kuku got the job of Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs; Dr. Zakari Ibrahim was appointed Coordinator of Anti-Terrorism; and Oyewole Leke was appointed as a Senior Special Assistant on Maritime.

While others received the news of their new jobs and went home to celebrate in peace, Bianca was thrown into the fiery furnace of Nigeria’s public commentary.

As expected, the reactions have been varied. Even the ranks of the separatist group, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, have been divided on the issue.

While some people have asked Mrs. Ojukwu to reject the appointment for its “poor timing and hidden political motives,” others have hailed the appointment and have asked her to accept it as a welcome gesture.

But the madam, who took a break the penultimate week from taking care of her sick husband and returned to Nigeria to accept the offer and represent her husband at the national convention of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Awka, has rather remained quiet on the raging controversy.

Rave reviews of Mrs. Ojukwu’s appointment have dominated the media space for some time now, with most of the commentaries coming from the South-East zone, where Ojukwu is from. A lot of political meat is being made out of the issue.

Mr. Alex Okeke, a politician from Abagana in Anambra State, said he considered the appointment as a masterstroke by President Jonathan, which would attract political reciprocity from the people of the South-East.

Mr. Anunoby Ogugua tried to bring out the simplicity in the entire controversy. “The appointment of Mrs. Ojukwu at a time the husband is hospitalised in a hospital in London is aimed at gaining political capital for Mr. Jonathan in the South-Eastern region, where Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu is widely respected,” he said.

Miss Ijeoma Onuora, a journalist and youth leader based in Awka said Bianca’s appointment did not only belittle her, but the entire people of Anambra State. She said, “Why can’t the President appoint her as a minister, even a junior minister, considering that Anambra has lost a ministerial slot with the exit of the former Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili?”

But Awojobi Olakunle, a public commentator from the South-West, brought in another dimension to it. He said the appointment was coming at a wrong time, as Bianca was supposed to be at her husband’s bedside to attend to his needs. “A shameful appointment,” he lashed out, “when she’s expected to be at her husband’s bed side praying for his recovery.”

Officially, MASSOB has endorsed the appointment, even though some individual members have kicked against it, saying Bianca ought not to have accepted a job offered a Biafran by a Nigerian government.

MASSOB’s Director of Information, Mr. Uchenna Madu, said, “MASSOB welcomes the appointment of (our Lolo Bianca) Ojukwu into President Jonathan’s cabinet as a good development. We advise that she takes it.”

Madu said that in any case, MASSOB, like any other body, had no right to dictate to Mrs. Ojukwu on whether she should accept the offer or not.

Mr. Chizoba Okoyeugha, a lawyer to MASSOB, feels that Mrs. Ojukwu is eminently qualified for the job based on her education and exposure as an international beauty queen.

He said though he believed that Mr. President had a good intention when he appointed Mrs. Ojukwu to the post, the President would be making a mistake if he appointed her to represent the Igbo people because he did not consult the people before making the appointment.

He said if Jonathan offered the appointment to lobby the people, he was entitled to it, “because lobbying is an essential part of democracy.”

But the government of Anambra State and the leadership of APGA have refused to be joined in the ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Mrs. Ojukwu by Jonathan. They will not even want to talk about it.

One of the hottest critics of the appointment of Mrs. Ojukwu is Mr. Uche Ezechukwu, who, in his column in a national newspaper, listed the appointment as one of the goofs of Governor Peter Obi and the leadership of APGA, who negotiated it.

He upbraided Mrs. Ojukwu for accepting the appointment at a time her husband was ill and needed the attention from his wife.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Anambra State Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Valentine Obienyem, said, “My brother, we don’t want to interfere in the running of the Federal Government by the President. If madam’s appointment was by the state government, I would have been able to comment.”

Obienyem would not want to comment on whether the appointment was negotiated by the Anambra governor or the leadership of APGA.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Mike Udah, said, “Neither APGA nor (Governor Peter) Obi begged the President to offer Ojukwu’s wife a job. Mr. President, of his own volition, chose to give her a job along with some other Nigerians. The FG should be thanked for this honour, which Mr. President bestowed on Ndigbo by this appointment.”

The governor himself has at a different forums hailed Bianca’s appointment as a positive gesture from the President, who he said had not only shown concern for the health of Ojukwu, but had been very good to the people of the South-East.

Though she has not spoken on her appointment and the controversy that has surrounded it, a recent newspaper interview she granted appeared to have well captured Mrs. Ojukwu’s mood.

She said, “Being Ikemba (Ojukwu’s) wife is a job on its own. These are issues that are being constantly discussed. Right now, my prerogative is my husband and my family. I’ve a very young family. I don’t want a situation that would have my attention divided.”

The unfolding drama surrounding the appointment of Mrs. Ojukwu and the way she handles it might just be paving the way for her to introduce herself into the political landscape of Nigeria.

With her pedigree, it will not be a surprise if she soon openly declares a firm interest in politics. Her father, the late Chief Christian C. Onoh, led the political front of the Wawa people of Enugu and Ebonyi states for several decades. He eventually became the governor of the old Anambra State. She must have learnt a lot in her father’s political court while she was growing up.

Her husband, ever since he became a man, has been hooked and tied to the political destiny of Nigeria, and has lost his right to a private life. And being with him so closely for the past 23 years, Bianca may have spent good time understudying him.

And what with the likely exit of Ojukwu from the scene and the attendant vacuum this could create, Bianca’s charm, charisma and pedigree could just place her in a good stead to accept to lead her people. Only then might we know the real Bianca.

 

Buhari: Those Who Want To Flee When I Take Over Are Free – Newspaper Interview


Buhari… Without a strong and clean leadership, Nigeria cannot be stabilised In this second part of General Muhammadu Buhari’s interview, he touches on the very essence of his challenge against the elite in the country. Just check out this exchange: General, that is why I asked about the lessons you’ve learnt in politics. ANPP was your party that time and see how they treated you. Do you know what? The decision to withdraw the case from court was not taken by the appropriate organs of the party saddled with that responsibility. Do you know that the decision to join the so -called government of national unity or unity government was not taken by the appropriate organs of the party saddled with that responsibility? Even the people to be appointed into that government, the decision ought to have been taken by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), and, more importantly, by its National Executive Committee (NEC). None of the party’s constitutionally-recognised arms took part in taking those decisions. So, what would I be doing in such a party? It was total anarchy. That is why I had to leave. We then formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). But, ACN was very hopeful that it would get you on board; that, too, did not work. ACN, even before it became ACN, when it was just AC, we were talking and there was indeed, hope. Yes, AC was thinking of even giving me the party’s presidential ticket. But, here we were, after getting a political party registered, I felt that the least we could do was to get the structure of CPC to be on ground first. There was no way I could have gotten a political party registered and then I would dump it the next moment because another political party had dangled its presidential ticket before me. That was never going to be the case and I do not have any regrets about that. People seem to forget the custom of loyalty. The custom of loyalty is a two-way thing. It has to go both ways. Your party chairman explained last week that there was nothing strange in the position you took by sticking to your CPC for the presidential ticket. But, there are some other people who insist that you are just too rigid, that there are certain approaches that you could adopt in achieving the same objectives without being seen to have compromised. Why are you so rigid? Well, I will try to answer you with what happened in ACN. When I didn’t accept AC’s ticket after registering CPC and making them understand that I was a party to the registration of CPC, the least I could do was to see that the party should be on the ground. And, if you believe that loyalty is a two- way thing, then you wouldn’t blame me for that. They kept saying that they had the structures, that their party was more firmly rooted and that they would mobilise more easily. Yes, I agreed. But, we, too, in CPC, we were already building our structures gradually and we were also mobilising massively. Okay, initially, we said we could go into an alliance, a sort of working alliance for the presidential election. The arrangement was such that we would provide the presidential candidate and they would provide the vice-presidential candidate. But, that did not work. But, why? That was because we had our congresses and we came out with a presidential candidate. We offered that they could have the vice- presidential slot and then we could discuss how to fill the other offices. But, then, again, this took a long time. January 15 was beginning to get too close. And, I needed to nominate a vice-presidential candidate. But, then, again, you would wonder, since we had our own presidential primary before they had their own, if they wanted to make any sacrifice, they wouldn’t have had their own presidential candidate too.

 Why, since the alliance talks were not really conclusive?

The truth was that they didn’t need to do that if they needed to make sacrifice based on the on-going talks about the possibility of an alliance. In any case, the reason is that you cannot have two presidential candidates in an alliance. That is not how it is done, it would never work. You would recall that in 2006, six parties, PAC, NAP, NCP, PRP, PSP and DPA did their primaries and conventions and adopted me. So, it is not something unique that ACN would have done to come into an alliance with us. There was nothing new in that. And, when you include ANPP, then you’ll end up with seven political parties. There was nothing unique in that had ACN adopted me if it was about good faith. We could have won that election but Nigerians know how that election went. PDP stole the election. There are fears in some quarters and it is serious. Some people say a General Muhammadu Buhari becoming President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria would spell doom for a section of the elite. There are even talks that some people would just head for exile. I’m sure you’ve heard this talk before. Well, it would appear that individuals are free to live wherever they choose to live and live comfortably. Individuals are also very free to leave the country if they so choose, especially since they would be able to afford it. Those of us who are sentenced to live in Nigeria will continue to live in this country because for us, we do not have any other country than this and we would not leave the country and go and seek comfort in another country. Well, if people would feel unsafe, they can leave the country. We would continue here. What I’m trying to say relates to a possible witch-hunt; some people may be afraid based on past deeds. If people feel unsafe to live under some leadership in Nigeria because of what they have done or because of some atrocities they have committed in the past and, therefore, would not feel safe to live under some type of leadership in the country, then may be they are using their sixth sense.

I ask that as a preamble to the issue of corruption in Nigeria. At a point, the index gave hope but at some other time, the index showed the opposite, went down again and some people say the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not doing enough to fight corruption. How would you tackle the issue of corruption?

 One of the things that CPC would do is to strengthen the institutions. We already have the police.

In CPC, we have said that security, prosperity will bring stability. We have been harping on these three things before.

 If we empower the police, they will do their work very well.

There are too many boards or commissions handling this or handling that. We would look at the ones that would still be relevant to strengthen the police. We will make the military more efficient by training and re-training and also by providing equipment and machinery.

In EFCC, there are volumes of representations which they cannot cover because of inadequate manpower or lack of resources. We would do our best to strengthen the institutions by managing resources judiciously. We have financial regulations in every department and every ministry and, in every state and they have to work.

There must be a proper accounting of public funds in all the three tiers of government and what is lacking is that judicious use of public funds. This is the aim of CPC.

People say you are a good man and that you mean well. (Cuts in) Thank you very much.

 The question then is: You would not be in every ministry or every government department or agency to properly monitor these things. So, how much confidence would you have in your points men because you gave an instance of politicians attempting to highjack elective tickets even in CPC?

The laws and regulations on accountability in all these places you have talked about are not lacking at all. People just choose to do what they like. People just refuse to respect the laws of the country.

What CPC would do is to ensure that there is a proper and judicious use of the country’s resources for the good of the people. The laws are there.

You look like a man too much in a hurry and when you interface your person with the slow wheel of democracy, especially recognising that CPC may not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly, how would you tackle the challenges of achieving results within this context?

Let me answer your question like this: You remember when Obama went to Ghana, he said what Africa needs are strong institutions and not strong people. In the case of Nigeria, I dare to say that we are unique.

We need strong people to create those institutions and strengthen those institutions for effectiveness.

The truth is that, without a strong and clean leadership in the country, Nigeria cannot be stabilised.

The other side of the coin is that you may not even be able to strengthen the institutions if you are not strong and firm as a leader.

Followership and leadership: Which one should come first?

 Look, Nigerians cannot be taken for granted any more. As a state governor, you cannot be stealing state funds and then you expect the people to fall in line and be disciplined. It will never work. Everybody responsible for some part of the treasury would also be pocketing the money because they know what the governor is doing. If the president of the country is spending monies outside the approved budget or acts outside the approved regulations from the Office of the Accountant-General, Nigerians would rise against such a person and would not even obey such a leader and they’ll do whatever they like. That is why we have had this mess on ground since 1999. The infrastructure we met, we refused to build new ones and even the ones on ground were not being properly maintained. Don’t forget, we used to have four functional refineries in this country with more than 480,000 bpd capacity. We had more than 20 depots. I don’t know how many pumping stations. We had more than 3,500 kilometre length of pipelines. In 12 years, the PDP government could not maintain them and instead we are importing petroleum products at world market prices, something that we produce in this country!

This is the height of corruption, by killing the petroleum industry which the country depends on. Why can’t we refine our own crude and sell in our own country?

Instead, we give people contracts to import products and sell to Nigerians at world prices. You chose as your running-mate, a Christian. Would I be right to say you are gradually coming to terms with the realities of the Nigerian polity by not being too rigid and picking not just a Christian, but a pastor as your running-mate? It all started with the problem of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was then ill. Some people wanted to capitalise on that to create political crises and unconstitutionality and Pastor Bakare came all the way to Abuja to tell the people a piece of his mind that people needed to be careful and not plunge Nigeria into needless crises. He was determined. At the same time, I made two appearances publicly and I also sent a message across to say that the constitution was very clear on succession plan. From the National Democratic Movement (NDM), I signed a letter, counter-signed by Atiku Abubakar and we went to the National Assembly to caution them on what to do and what not to do regarding the matter – we sent copies to the Senate President and the Speaker. That was where our interests conjoined.From that time I realised I had met a patriot because our focus was purely Nigeria at that time and you could see the determination. So, when this opportunity came, I just knew that I had no better choice other than Pastor Bakare.

Finally on the issue of consensus, you turned it down because in the beginning, the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), was presented as representing the North sans partisanship.

Look, even in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where they had their problem of zoning, that issue of consensus was tenuous. It was even said to be a northern consensus but in that same North, some leadership of the North-Central did not believe in it. I always said it and I mean it, it was mainly a PDP affair. They should go and deal with it since it is their problem

Salami Drops Suit Against CJN


President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami has instituted a notice of discontinuance of the suit he filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Iyorgher Katsina-Alu and the National Judicial Council (NJC). The suit challenged the controversial ‘promotion’ of Salami to the Supreme Court by the CJN.


This became necessary as the “res” or substance of Salami’s suit was removed,  when NJC reversed the purported promotion said to be masterminded by the CJN during it’s meeting last week .  NJC  equally set up a reconciliation  committee to mediate between the warring heads of the judiciary, Salami and Katsina-Alu.

 

The bid to withdraw the suit which also named the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as co–defendants, was contained in a Notice of Discontinuance filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division yesterday by his team of lawyers led by Lateeef Fagbemi (SAN).

In the notice of discontinuance, the president of the appellate court said, “Following the intervention of well meaning Nigerians and stakeholders in the justice sector, I hereby apply to discontinue this suit”.

By the notice of discontinuance, Salami’s legal team is expected to pray the court to strike out the suit today.

It was learnt that some aides of the appellate court’s boss had disclosed recently that Salami was ready and willing to drop the suit he filed against the CJN and two key judicial bodies.

Salami’s resolve to withdraw the case is reportedly prompted by the progress made by the panel set up by the NJC to reconcile the warring topmost judicial officers, as well as “intervention of well meaning Nigerians”.

Salami had last Tuesday instituted the action against Katsina-Alu and others seeking a reversal of the contentious “promotion,” because it was out of the norm on such issues in the judiciary.

In an affidavit in support of the suit, which Salami deposed to personally, he alleged that Katsina-Alu asked him to compromise the Court of Appeal’s verdict on the protracted Sokoto State governorship election petition by either disbanding the original panel, which he (Katsina-Alu) believed was about to give a verdict against the governor or direct the panel to give judgment in the state chief executive’s favour.

Sources close to Salami confirmed that his decision to discontinue the action is in view of the outcome of the NJC meeting held last Wednesday, whereof the process for his appointment was terminated.

One of Salami’s aides, who sought anonymity, said: “The subject matter of the suit has been resolved at the meeting of the NJC last week. It would seem academic to insist on stopping an action that has been undone. And the courts do not waste time going on academic frolics.”

“The matter comes up on Wednesday (today) and it is highly likely, except something unusual happens, that oga (boss) will withdraw the suit on that day,” the source stated.

JUDICIARY IN THE HANDS OF JUSTICE SALAMI & OTHERS


All lovers of rule of law in Nigeria must be worried by the raging controversies in the Nation’s Judiciary in the last few days and we are compelled to alert the public on the well-thought-out plans to destroy the institution just to save the job of Justice Isa Ayo Salami, President of Appeal Court. This has been occasioned by an alleged move to elevate the Justice Salami to the Supreme Court. From the spirited defence already put up, especially in the media by groups and individuals who are known allies of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its sole-proprietor, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it is obvious that those defending Justice Salami are doing so firstly because of the “judicial favours” they had obtained from him (Salami), and secondly, because of the fear of the impending collapse of the house of fraud built for them by the Justice Salami-led Court of Appeal.

It is for these twin reasons that the entire judiciary is now being messed up by Justice Salami and his ilk with the intent that; “If Salami must go down, the judiciary, or at least, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Iyorger Katsina-Alu must go down with him.” It was therefore not a surprise that Justice Salami went to the most ridiculous level on Tuesday, dragging the CJN, National Judicial Council (NJC) and others to court and also accusing the CJN of compelling him (Salami) to compromise Sokoto State Governorship petition. But can anyone blame Justice Salami and his defenders for this onslaught on the judiciary? Obviously no! This is because in a saner clime, no one would be talking about elevating Salami to the Supreme Court.The man ought to have been sacked! Or how can Justice Salami continue to lead the Appeal Court whose justices he does not trust? Against all ethics, norms and rules of the Bench, Justice Salami had granted an interview that was published in Thisday newspaper of January 25, 2011 where he tried to defend why only few justices sat on the Appeal election tribunals out of over 60 Appeal Court Justices. Justice Salami had said in his answer’’…… Then he raised the issue of using a few Justices to determine appeals. Well, when it comes to that you must use people you trust, you can’t just empanel anybody.’’

Justice Salami’s trusted men that sat on Ekiti, Osun and Ogun States election petitions are; Ekiti State: Justices Isa Ayo Salami (Chairman), Clara. B. Ogunbiyi; O. Ariwoola; C.C. Nweze and Adamu Jauro. Osun State: Justices Clara B. Ogunbiyi (Chairman), M.L Garuba, Paul Galinje (was queried in the Sokoto case), C .C Nweze and Adamu Jauro. Ogun State: Justices M.L Garuba (Chairman), H.M Ogunwumiju, Adzira Gana Mshelia, and Adamu Jauro. It is important to note that Clara Ogunbiyi was in Ekiti and Osun, C.C Nweze was in Ekiti and Osun, Adamu Jauro was in Ekiti, Osun and Ogun, M.L Garuba was in Osun and Ogun while Paul Galinge was in Osun and Sokoto panels and was in fact, queried over that Sokoto case.

Out of over 60 justices of the Appeal Court, Justice Salami only trusted the above listed justices to handle election cases on Osun, Ekiti and Ogun States. In fact, Salami had to wait for Ekiti case to be concluded before constituting Osun State panel so that his trusted justices could handle the case! Curiously too, Justice Salami admitted in the interview that there were conflicting judgments from the Appeal Court under his leadership! Also, in his letter to the CJN, which was leaked to the press for obvious reasons, Justice Salami insinuated that some justices of the Appeal Court are minions or stooges when he wrote; “…and presumably replace me with his minion or stooge.” A minion is a slave, sycophant, bootlicker, hanger-on, lackey, lickspittle, parasite, yes man, servile or an unimportant person.

Those are the kind of people Justice Salami told us adjudicates over cases at the Court of Appeal – a Court that has the power of life and death over Nigerians! Again, on Tuesday, Justice Salami went to the most extreme by accusing the CJN of compelling him (Salami) to compromise Sokoto State Governorship petition! Justice Salami must therefore tell Nigerians who are those Appeal Court Justices that he cannot trust, and why? Was it that he cannot trust the justices to act according to the whim and caprices of his paymasters or that he cannot trust them to discharge their duties in accordance with their oath of office. And if the trust has to do with the discharge of their duties in accordance with the laws of the land, has Justice Salami called the attention of the NJC to this lack of trust?

Also, if the president of the Court of Appeal does not trust most of his colleagues as to empanel them in the Election petition cases, what is the fate of the common man who regards the judiciary as the last hope? Is Justice Salami’s statement not a confirmation that he has a ‘cabal’ or a ‘hatchet’ team that have been used to deliver ludicrous judgements that has made mess of precedence and established judicial decisions? Again, who among the Appeal Court Justices are minions or stooges? And if indeed, the CJN persuaded him to obstruct the cause of justice in the Sokoto matter, why did he (Salami) waited for this long to voice it out? Does it not amount to an afterthought and an attempt to drag the judiciary into the mud that Justice Salami is just raising accusation on the Sokoto matter that happened early last year? And when has it become the norm for Judges to discuss matters relating to the bench on the pages of newspapers?

Apparently, there is more to Justice Salami’s refusal to move up to the highest court in the land than meet the eyes, and it is obvious that Justice Salami knows that he is going down and he is desirous of pulling the judiciary down with himself. Therefore, it is important that the NJC conducts a thorough investigation into Justice Salami’s claim concerning the integrity of the Appeal Court justices that he refused to empanelled on election cases. The NJC must also investigate Justice Salami’s claim that some Justices of the Appeal court are minions or stooges with a view to assisting Nigerians on whom to trust with the handling of their cases among the Appeal Court Justices. Also, all the cases, especially election petitions handled by the Court of Appeal since Justice Salami became president must be reviewed and all petitions arising from the cases investigated without further delay. Furthermore, Justice Salami must be made to step-aside while these investigations are being conducted. Finally, if found to have deliberately denigrated the judiciary with a view to perpetuating himself in office, and also influence judgments to favour anyone, all sanctions available must be applied to Justice Salami so as to serve as deterrent to others and bring sanity to the bench. 

Dr. Adeyemo is the President, Society for Rule of Law in Nigeria (SRLN).

Minister’s trial for alleged corruption begins today


 

The trial of Minister of State for Health Alhaji Suleiman Bello will go ahead today, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said yesterday.

The Minister, who was served a notice of trial on Thursday, will face an eight-count charge for alleged corrupt enrichment of about N11.2million.

As the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Adamawa State, he was alleged to have conferred a corrupt advantage upon himself when he unlawfully solicited from Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State about N11,245,000 as ’hardship allowance.’

The offence is contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

The Federal High Court in Yola on December 21, 2010 granted leave for his trial. Investigation revealed that the fate of the Minister has caused a split in the Presidency with some powerful forces in the Presidency suggesting that the Minister ought not to resign.

The ICPC in a statement yesterday through its Resident Media Consultant, Mr. Folu Olamiti, said there is no going back on the trial of the Minister.

The statement said: “The Minister of State for Health Hon Sulaiman Bello and two former top government Officials of Adamawa State government will be arraigned on Monday (today) by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over their alleged involvement in a N268million bribe scam.

“Those to be arraigned alongside the Minister are a former Secretary to Adamawa State Government, Mr. John Eddie Mannassa and Former Commissioner for Finance in the State, Mr. Emmanuel Vahyala. The three accused persons are to be arraigned separately before the court.”