Why I still Drive Myself At 85 – Balang Balami

At 85, he still drives himself around and mixes with both the young and old. He engages in political debates very often. Mr Balang Balami told nationalTRAIl during his birthday, that Nigeria has lost its democratic essence when one compares the experiences of his time with contemporary democracy. Exerpts:

At your age many people have to be c h a u f f e u r driven, and hardly mix with the younger generation, but we see you driving yourself and mixing with the younger generation. How does that give you pleasure? Driving is a hobby I developed since I was much younger, and I still find it exciting, especially when people who have dismissed you as incapable of doing anything on your own. Let me tell you that, old age itself is fun. It accords one the opportunity to be a witness to the life of generations and even be part of them. I am 85 years old by the grace of god abut I feel much younger, given the fact that I have no health challenges that could further complicate my old age condition. I enjoy listening to people as much as I enjoy letting them into the world of the old, so that we can blend. Honestly I feel young and agile, and mixing with the young further agitates that feeling, which also aids my good health. How would you describe your childhood, compared to the life most young men lead today, because I can hear you speak excellent English? The English young men speak today are mostly learnt on the streets, which often corrupts with other competing dialects. Hardly could they speak the correct one taught in the class. We were taught the Queens English and we do not allow it to be corrupted. Today you speak what you call, pidgin or slangs and pride yourselves as speaking English. You are merely communicating, but one cannot say you are speaking English. As for my childhood, let me say I have an intriguing and fascinating history behind me. I was handed over to White missionaries when I was much younger, shortly after I was born and the loss of my parents, especially my mother. With nobody to take care of me, I was taken to the motherless babies home in Garkida, in the present day Adamawa state, and a missionary lady, Mrs Ruth Utz developed interest in my welfare, so she picked me and brought me up by the hand. Unlike other children, I did not have the
privilege of growing up with my parents, so my life was structured along that of the missionaries who were my foster parents and regular companions. While in school, I learnt of the story of my life, that my parents had to allow me grow up with the missionaries because of the socio economic realities of that time. That does not however severe me from my roots, as I have kept in touch with my other siblings and relatives. Life in the hands of missionaries is such that you are trained to avoid all sorts of vices, and imbibe the culture of honesty, hard work fear of God and above all benevolence. These are the virtues that have shaped my life, which I also try to translate to my children and others. I must confess that I am disappointed with many young men today, who take pleasure in negative behaviors, and relegating the virtues we want to bequeath to them to the background. You were a politician and you were in the parliament in your days. What would you say of the politics of today? Anybody who is privileged to have experienced politics of the late Sardauna’s time will be saddened with what we are seeing today. The only basis for comparison may only be the fact that they were both responding to the realities of their era. Except that, they are totally different tea pots. The most fundamental difference is in the fact that while money and wealth played little or no roles in our lives as politicians, the
current situation is caught in what we call machine politics. This is an era where corruption is not seen as an offence, rather as an order, I recall an incident during my days as an active politician when I was arrested and thrown into Jail for giving somebody four Shillings. I did not consider it an offence given by background as a benevolent person but the manner I gave the money was seen to be improper and I was locked up, until I explained. Today, unless you give in millions, you are a non starter in Nigerian politics. In my days, you could contest and win elections without anybody asking about your religion or your tribal belonging, but today, you have to hypocritically profess a certain faith depending upon the environment for you to belong and you must be a a particular ancestral descent to be accepted. In our days, you seek to invest in the community, but today you have to invest in a particular individual or group before you qualify to even contest an election. Some of the things happening today are at total departure with what happened during our days in politics. It is sad that we have degenerated so low and democracy has lost its essence, but we pray that before we leave the scene, things will be better. How would you say the Boko Haram insurgency has affected life around here and what do you think is the way out of the present suffering by Nigerians? We have been suffering in silence in this part because nobody seems to be aware of the fact that our people were most affected by the bokjo Haram issue than others who have been shouting. You may recall that our people were the initial targets. Our houses have been razed down. Our churches have been demolished. Our people were first given quit notices from their ancestral homes, and those who refused to leave were massacred. We have not been able to farm since the crisis started and we are running out of food. We have never enjoyed the relief materials being donated to victims. We have been left to our fate, but god has been merciful and we are still alive. To me, if the situation is the same everywhere as it is with us, I think Nigeria is at its worst ever. The sufferings could only be compared to the days of famine when we were much younger. People were forced to device means of survival, including g eating what they ought not, just to remain alive. I do not know of other places, but here we are in hell. As for the way out, I will advice Government to seek out the silent majority of victims spread all over southern Borno and come to their aid. All those who are in the habit of diverting items donated to victims should have the fear of God.

Sheriff Holds The Ace In PDP Crises – Hon Mikko

Hon. Bernard Mikko, from Ogoni Area in Rivers State started his political career as a Councillor in 1988, and rose to become acting Chairman of the local government then. That local government, Bori, has now been divided into four LGs of Kana, Gokana, Eleme and Tai local governments. In 1998, upon the death of Abacha then as a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, he joined forces in forming the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Where he was elected to the House of Representatives, representing the Kana and Gokana constituency. He served as Special Adviser on Monitoring to the former National Chairman of the party, Dr. Bamanga Tukur from March 2012 to 2014 when Bamanga resigned. He believes it is time to re-position the party for the grave challenges ahead. He spoke with a team of nationallTRAIL editors.

What in your views were the immediate and remote causes of the crises in the PDP? In political theory, they say, it is said power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now, the issue of opposition in Nigerian politics is not new and it didn’t start with the PDP and APC. It started in the colonial era when the nationalists fought for the nation’s independence from the British who had the policy of divide and rule as its strategic tool. They handed over to who they felt they wanted. Upon independence they handed over to the people they wanted to rule. Then upon independence, the same divide and rule tactics manifested itself in the party system and even in the entire political system, leading to the collapse of the first Republic when the military took over. Even the military as a very highly disciplined organization anywhere in the world, there were counter-coups, coup de tat and sharp divisions and that division within the system still manifest itself up till this very day. So we can see that the solution to Nigeria’s problem is neither in APC or PDP but in the polity or the system itself. Let me now give why there is an overt political turmoil in the party. Political parties are formed by like-minded people coming together. They share basic ideology but this is lacking in our system. The people that formed the APC, PDP and all these political organizations are just strange bedfellows, not sharing any basic values or ideologies but coming together to wrest power. Before independence, they came together to capture power from the British. After independence, they came together to take over power from the military. That is what has manifested itself. The President that took over in 1999, was virtually out of the political scene, he was packaged by the system just to give power so you strange bedfellows coming together without sharing any values or basic ideology. Now the party has been in power for more than 16 years. We produced three presidents in a row, back to back. With this concept of power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely, so many things were taken for granted. We have a constitution in the party and we have the rule of law that governs society. Because majority of people were in the PDP, and a few were in opposition, they felt might is right and when elected officials make mistakes nobody is bold enough to tell them in them face that sir, I don’t agree with you. You can’t see anyone having any contrary view. You can’t see a Commissioner or a minister resigning his position because of ideological differences. Now, that has led to many party chairmen elected on the platform of the PDP resigning before the end of their tenures. That is because we had a strong block that became so very powerful under the second term of Obasanjo’s administration apparently because he was looking for their support in his third term bid. So he gave them a lot of powers. When he lost the constitutional amendment that would enable him a third term run, Yar’adua that took over from him couldnt sustain the tempo because of his illness so the Governors Forum became the group that filled the gap standing between the Nigerian people and governance. They became a rallying point of authority. You would remember the budget issue. Budget has been signed, it has not been signed. Governor Bukola Saraki then was the Chairman of the Governors Forum. So he started briefing Nigerians as if he was de facto President. Then when he left, Amaechi Stepped in. He became so strong that anything they wanted they would go to the President and put pressure on the President and insist that let this National Chairman resign .The would have no choice than to ask him to resign. Now we do not have a President that they can put pressure on that would whip everybody in line. We are an opposition party. If candidates are imposed there is no federal structure within the grip of the PDP to ram the person through an election. So what you are seeing today has been existing. It is just that the choice they made now… they wanted to bring in Modu Sherriff to continue the same impunity but they met a brickwall. If you look back when we lost the general election, the presidential election, the Muazu resigned. Other members of NEC stayed on and in line with our constitution, Article 47 of our constitution, the deputy national President is from the south, is supposed to step in and act for three months. And within that period they would get a substantive Chairman from the zone where the other Chairman came from. But this fid not happen as Secondus stayed on for eight months until Barrister Ahmed Gulak went to court enforcing his fundamental human rights, saying it was unconstitutional for him to remain acting for more than three months. The court on the 16th December, 2015 gave judgemnet that Secondus continued stay was illegal and unconstitutional. That decision was appealed for a stay of execution but on the 3rd of January it was quashed and thrown out paving a way for Gulak to declare himself Chairman of the party after invading the party secretariat. At that point it was now obvious that Secondus can no longer hold to the position of either acting National Chairman or in any capacity. It was at that point they called in Sherriff. From what we understand he was considered about the only person who has the courage and capacity to hold all persons together and do the needful to see the party through transformation and reformation and reposition the party for victory. If you look at the judgment certificate that gave Gulak the judgement, it said that “ Barrister Ahmed Gulak or any other person could take over the position of the Chairman.” But why some people in the party opposed the idea of Gulak was perhaps the need to get a more acceptable personality and some of us conselled that there was no need for him to be selfish by insisting on taking over the party. That is how Sheriff came in. We had our reservations about Sheriff emerging Chairman of the party but
they were smart enough to immediately call the NEC ana formalized his emergence. They conducted election on behalf of the National Convention. At that point, all of us that were in the same camp with Gulak felt since these things have been formalized, and we had the arguments to and forth we have no choice than to tow the party line. They now scheduled a convention to fill in other party positions. From what we understand two days before the Convention in Port Harcourt after they notified the INEC, a court order came from a Lagos High Court saying that the Office of the National Chairman, National Secreatry ang Auditor, would not be monitored by INEC, that was on a Friday. Then on Tuesday, eve of the election, another court order came apparently from Abuja saying that 17 other positions that make up NEC should also not be contested. Sheriff as a law abiding Chairman put off the convention. After putting off the convention, everybody would have been quiet and gone home but what we saw is now the problem of the party. It suggests there selfish interests in this whole drama running through your party ? Obviously, there is so much impunity. Impunity could arise from selfish interests of some undertakers trying to own the party. That is indeed the condition in the party today and most of our stakeholder, most Nigerians don’t seem to understand that for the fact that most of them are Governors doesn’t makeit right. People shouldn’t at Sheriff or the Governors but what the law says. Does the law allow for a caretaker administration or an interim contraption? Those that are pro-Sheriff are saying follow the law. We are not saying that w are supporting Sheriff because it is Sheriff but because we have looked at the law and he merits. We have also looked at the contraption called caretaker committee, we can not also find that one in our constitution. Even in the Military era, the Babangida administration also tried such a contraption by setting up the interim government. He was challenged and Justice Bassey Ikpeme then ruled against, thus ending the illegal reign then. The judgement led to the collapse of the Shonekan administration, paving way for the then government by late General Sani Abacha to start. This exactly what we are seeing in PDP today. It is just that people are not vocal . We have a society that hopes on what they can get from the leadership. The unemployment rate is high. They can’t speak the truth before these elected officials. Initially, it appeared the governors stood behind Sheriff, soon they backed out. Why do you think they moved against him? Like I told you the arguement thet put forward was very suspicious and I was very circumspect until they formalized.At that point I was not looking at who was bringing him but the due process. After NWC adopted him, presented him to nEC, they did an election. If it was merely to complete the tenure of Muazu, then it was not necessary because his tenure ended 26th of March. Then there wouldn’t have been need for a NEC meeting just for him to stay just two, three weeks. When they formalized his stay, at least we agreed but I think there some other forces behind the scene which we have not seen. I have listened to arguments by two of the Governors saying or that the made a mistake by bringing Sheriff. I think they should be punished by this mistake. Nigerians and party supporters should punish them. I have alos listened to the caretaker Chairman who said that the APC is sponsoring Sheriff to cause disaffection through the ranks of the party. It is common sense. If you are loking for APC agents in PDP, you should go and look at those who marketed Sheriff. When he was in his house and they had to convince him for two days, they they may just be the real APC agents, since he did not on his own foist himself on the party without their prodding and support. They showed to NWC, from there to NEC and today they are labeling him an APC agent? They are the real APC agents. I have never heard anywhere that APC agents carried Sheriff from his house and forced on the party either in either in Wadata House or anywhere. Do you think Sheriff deserves an apology for this seeming embarrassment he has been put through? Honestly, they should apologise to him. Because the reasons they are given appear superstitious. It is not based on facts. When you argue on religious matters, you argue based on superstition. These issues they are playing up cant be substantiated. Sheriff has gone to court and is parading the papers supporting all these. So what is there problem? I think if they want this party to move forward they should rally round Sheriff. There two options. Get along with him or persuade him to resign. Who holds the ace as it is now? Sheriff holds the ace.

Why Govs Owe Sheriff An Apology- Bwala

Inuwa Bwala is one of the closest allies of embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. He has been speaking on the
crisis in the party, and insists that anything short of an apology to Sheriff by the Governors who are plotting his removal may not be acceptable to the former Borno State
Governor. Excerpts

At a time Nigerians are expecting the PDP to put its acts together and
stage a come bqck in 2019, the party seems to be facing implosion.
What do you think are the problems with the PDP? To me, intra party
squabbles are normal in a fragile democracy, as we have in Nigeria. It is
not happening for the first time and it is not in the PDP alone that we have been experiencing
some sour moments. But essentially, when a party has been in Government
for a very long time, and suddenly loses an election it ought not to have lost, and finds
itself as an opposition, as has been the case of the PDP, one can
appreciate why the party has been convulsing. The problems of the past
may not have threatened
the cohesion of the
party like what we are
currently facing, but I
am confident that it will
survive it and even come
out stronger. Be that as it
may, I think the present
hiccups was borne out
of the falling apart of
two contending forces,
both very powerful and
essential in the drive for a
better PDP. On one hand
are those who plundered
the goodwill the PDP
has been enjoying over
the years, through acts
of impunity, disregard
for the wishes of the
party, and mismanaging
its resources. These
people have recycled
themselves around the
party for too long, and
have entrenched their
interests across all the
states.
They had their hands
into every pie, and insist
on becoming people
for every season. They
virtually schemed people
with contrary ideas out of
the party, and canonized
the government into
doing their bids. After
losing the 2015 elections,
this group of people
abandoned the PDP for
dead, while keeping in
the shadows to protect
what they may have
looted through the party
over the years. Some had
their sources of money
blocked, others are broke
having either squandered
what they had or hidden
them beyond their reach.
At the risk of sounding
immodest, most PDP
stalwarts were at the
verge of total exit from
politics. Others have
been hibernating and
waiting for somebody
to bell the cat. On the
other hand are those who
still nurse the hopes of
reviving the PDP, against
the background of the
seeming failures of the
APC led government.
Those still in elected
positions in particular
needed somebody to take
the lead, as most of them
have been thoroughly
intimidated by the ruling
party. It was I think at
this period of dire need
that Ali Modu Sheriff
came on the scene. And
even those who did not
like Sheriff ’s face for
whatever reasons have
to give to him that he
galvanized the PDP back
into reckoning. Those
who had either kept
distance from the party,
or gave it up for dead
suddenly showed up,
claiming to have better
ways of managing the
party more than Sheriff.
There has been serious
interplay of forces since
sheriff came on board,
and as perhaps you know
the rest is now history.
Is it history because
Sheriff is out or that the
party is dead?
Far from that, rather
Sheriff is still in control
of the situation. All that
you hear, read or see on
television are tissues
of propaganda, which
sheriff ’s opponents
unfortunately have
greater advantage. Some
of them own the media
houses, and others have
been using the huge
resources available to
them to spread all forms
of disparaging items,
intended to poison the
minds of the public
against the national
Chairman. . But I assure
you we are giving them
the run for their money.
Common sense tells you
that Sheriff has the upper
hand and it is a matter
of time before that fact
dawns on them.
Being somebody close
to him, what do you
think Sheriff may have
done wrong to warrant
the last minute betrayal
by the PDP Governors
in particular who were
reported to have drafted
him into the race?
You may have listened
to or read comments
credited to either
Governor Ayo Fayose
of Ekiti or Nyeson Wike
of Rivers on why they
turned against him. I
have also listened to the
obscenities they churn
out, which from every
sense of them were too
pedestrian and lacking
substances. I heard
one of them mention
issues bordering on
the presidential race in
2019 and the slot of the
vice president which
each of them seem to be
struggling to corner. I
heard others talk about
how Sheriff took control
of the structures of the
party ahead of possible
future elections, and yet
others insinuate about a
N40 Billion deal and jets,
he promised to make
available. All these were
lame excuses. Politics is
about interest, and when
these people approached
Ali Sheriff to come
and be the National
Chairman, they told him
their interests were how
to bring the party back
to live, and Sheriff has
the capacity to deliver
on that. No strings were
attached to his choice
as far as I know/ But I
also know that, having
demonstrated the
capacity to reposition the
PDP, and having noticed
in Sheriff the capacity
to put them in check,
these Governors decided
to go for a lily livered
alternative which they
can control. They have
approached two or three
people before narrowing
down on Senator
Makarfi, as their fall guy, because of his perceived
presidential ambition in
2019. What they may not
have known is also the
fact that Makarfi may not
play the Man Friday they
expect of him, even if
they succeed in imposing
him on the party at the
end of the day.
They said one of the
reasons was that he was
not qualified and has a
moral burden. What can
you say to that?
I don’t want to sound
combative as before that
is why I will make my
response lighter. But I
am sure you know that
the office of the national
Chairman of the PDP is
a political assignment.
Permit me to lay
before you a resume
of Senator Sheriff, and
allow you to judge
whether he is qualified.
Ali Sheriff started his
politics by getting
elected to the House of
Representatives, before
he got elected three times
as senator of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria. He
remains the first to get
elected two times as
Governor of Borno State,
He was Acting National
Chairman of the now
defunct ANPP, he was
Chairman of the Board
of Trustees of the same
party. Ali Sheiriff was one
of the founding fathers
of the ruling APC, and
contributed immensely
to its formation before
he left. It could not have
been by accident that he
got into all these offices.
And all those who say
he is not qualified may
never be privileged
to attain this political
height. I appreciate their
fears, because Sheriff ’s
credentials and pedigree
in politics are enough to
intimidate any politician,
including those who
talk about qualification.
Political sagacity is never
learnt in the four corners
of a classroom, it is gained
on the field and in the
ballot box. On this issue
of morality, I challenge
anybody, including the
Government of the day
to come up with any iota
of proof of any of the lies
and fabrications being
recycled. They should
learn from the lessons
of such loud mouths like
Femi Fani Kayode, who
is standing trial for acts
of immorality, at a time
he was accusing others
of misconduct. I rest
my case. I think when
political colossus like
Ali Sheriff bestrides the space of any political
party; it is only natural
for Lilliputians to quiver.
What is the situation
now as it stands?
The situation in the
crisis had given rise to a
plethora of legal suits, and
the courts will determine
who did what rightly and
wrongly, and let us wait
and see if any can act
in disobedience to any
court pronouncement
on the matter. But even
as a non lawyer, I know as
a matter of fact that, Ali
Modu Sheriff was elected
by the NEC of the PDP to
serve out the four- year
tenure of Adamu Muazu
who resigned as National
Chairman of the PDP,
following the party’s loss
of the 2015 Presidential
election. And as the
National Chairman I
know that he convenes
and presides over the
national Convention of
the party in accordance
with Article 33(2)A of
the PDP constitution. I
am also aware that, any
gathering or assemblage
of any sort, no matter
how neatly organized
which flaunts the orders
of a court of competent
jurisdiction, is a nullity.
It is an open secret that
two courts from Lagos
first and later from
Abuja had forbade the
conduct of elections into
virtually all the national
offices of the PDP, with
the rider that the status
quo must remain. The
Independent National
Electoral Commission,
INEC, which supervises
the conduct of elections
into any office of the
party had written to
the national Chairman,
Senator Ali Modu
Sheriff, reminding him
of the orders of the court
and informing him that
it will not supervise any
election into the office of
the National Chairman,
National Secretary and
the National Auditor.
I attended the Press
Conference at which
the National Chairman
put off the National
Convention, citing the
various processes as
reasons for his action. To
this effect, I can assure
you that, the gathering
in Port Harcourt, just
like the one in Abuja on
that fateful May 21st lack
any form of legitimacy
in the eyes of the law.
Even more scandalous is
the fact that there is no
window for a Caretaker
Committee for the PDP
in her constitution, at the
national level. The NEC
of the party for cogent
reasons may dissolve the
leadership at the state
levels and put in place
caretaker committees,
but not at the national
level. As it stands, the
matter is in court, and
having demonstrated
his willingness to obey
court orders, Ali Modu
Sheriff is pursuing the
matter to its lawful
ending. Perhaps after
that, we may still seek a
political solution to the
logjam. I am aware that
the national Chairman
has been reaching out
to key stakeholders and
wed may still be a united
house at the end of it, no
matter what the courts
will say.
Supposing the
Courts uphold the
Port Harcourt Meeting
as a valid national
Convention and agrees
that even though not
provided for by your
laws, the Caretaker
Committee stands, what
will be Sheriff ’s next line
of action. Will he leave
the party?
We have infinite
confidence in our
courts and that was
why we chose to obey
their orders from the
beginning. We trust that
our judges will interpret
the laws correctly as they
affect the matter. But
even if the unexpected
happens, as law abiding
citizen, I know Sheriff
will always tow the path
of lawful conduct. As
for leaving the PDP, that
matter has never been
contemplated, If he has to
slug it out with anybody,
he will do it from within
as a member of the party.
What becomes of the
order by the BOT and
the enlarged caucus
which called on Sheriff
to withdraw the suit?
No decision by anybody
or group of persons,
including the BOT and
the enlarged caucus can
supersede the order of
the court, It may interest
you to know that, Sheriff
was virtually begged to
come on board. It is most
uncharitable for whoever
is the brain behind the
whole plot to try the man
for no particular offence
and to try subjecting him
to ridicule. His integrity
is at stake and he has to
do everything possible to
safeguard it.
No gathering of any
group, however powerful
they may be can compel
Sheriff to back out, except
they beg him. What he
has done for the party
so far speaks volumes
of his love for the party,
and none of those talking
can claim to have done as
much for the PDP. Rather
than issue ineffective
orders, they should
apologize to the man,
and revert to the path
of law. Let me also tell
you, that some of these
governors making noise
have never contributed
one naira to the party
since Ali Sheriff came
on board, and the party
was not run on empty
promises, somebody
spent resources to
re-engineer the party,
we cannot allow a few
people to hijack it and
use for their selfish gains.

Nigerians Should Just Be A Little Patient, Because They Will Soon Smile-Oyegun

Chief Odigie Oyegun is the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, a party which was has now made history as the first opposition to defeat a ruling party in the country. The Edo born politician who once govern the state, last year led the APC to clench power from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has been in power since the countrys returned to democracy in 1999. Oyegun was in Benin City, the capital of Edo State, where he spoke with newsmen. He spoke on the allegation that he was on his way out of the party leadership position, President Muhammadu Buhari constant foreign trips, and a host of other issues, where nationalTRAIL was represented by its Benin correspondent, Monday EBALU. Excerpts:

Nigerians are complaining that President Mohammadu Buhari continuous traveling abroad is nothing, but a waste of resources, especially that they are suffering, as the national chairman of the ruling party, what is your view concerning this?
Well, for the journey embarked upon by Mr. President since assuming office last year, I will say what makes me sad, is that, if there is anybody who does not recognise the fact that Nigeria had almost become a paralyzed state by all standard, the fact that we have no respect all over the world, and the reality is that because the APC won the election based on the personal credibility of the president. Based on the respect he commands, not only in our country Nigeria, but the world over.
So It seems to me like most people in Nigeria do not recognise the very sorry state of the Nigeria economy. They say we should stop blaming anybody, yes I am not going to say I blame anybody, but the facts remains that the Nigerian economy was ruined, and ran to the ground. Fact number three, as if these two were not bad enough, is the reality that in a few months after we came into office, the price of oil crashed, from about 120 per barrel to a sad and low level of about between 30 to 40 dollars per barrel, these are all big problems in a state that you are almost broke, and when the president made such comments, and then people starts to complain.
Because I always use this example, and let me say, I will not be tried of using it. If a family income falls from N120 to N40, the family will feel the pressure, it will not be able to meet its basic needs , there will be the need for him, I mean head of such a family to take emergency measures to shore up the economic situation of his family, and the president is doing exactly the same thing with the travels, they are not for leisure. Take note that a rapid revival depends on the understanding of the rest of the world, so he had to go and meet the world.
The president has taken his prestige and time around the whole world to shop and polish our image, which has been badly damaged to make it possible for world leaders to want to deal with a new Nigeria, and to get the type of resources and the expenditure that we so need badly at the moment, because the kind of problems we have, are not the types that can wait for one or three years. We do not have the resources to take down and put to reviving the economy, so hat the president is doing is a great inconvenience to his person. He is a well trained military officer, he trained abroad and he has been to most parts of the world, so it is not as if he enjoys going and spending sleepless nights in one capital to another.
The capitals he has visited are those that are critical to peace in Nigeria, or critical to our economy, and its speedy revival. Think of countries like, China and the United States of America, USA, they are very critical to our economy right now. The long and short of it is that Mr. President is getting the world to respect and know the new Nigeria and to be ready to put money into the country with conventional rate, to help to revive the Nigerian economy, and get it back on track for the good of its people, which am sure you agree with me.
Recently Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti, was said to have written a letter to the Chinese government, asking it not to honour president Buhari s request for a loan, do you think that was the right thing for him to have done?
I just hope that Ayodele Fayose did not really do what we are told he did, I don’t even think he is capable of descending into this low depth by do that, but if he did, I can only say that I feel deeply sorry for him and the people of Ekiti State, I think that is all I can say about that and Governor Ayodele Fayose.
It is almost one year since the APC which you lead as chairman took over power and formed the government at the national level, yet the economy still remains the same, if not even worst, what is wrong?
Well, the budget is around the corner, succor will soon come the way of Nigerians, succor must come, because of the president personal commitment to Nigerians, he believes in the well being of the ordinary Nigerian. Everything he has done including the foreign tours since he came to power is to gather and mobilise all the support that is necessary to make a dramatic impact on the condition of Nigeria as quickly as possible, so that has been his main preoccupation, so people should be a little patient, soon things will get better for them.
A lot of these things we did not create, yet the president have pleaded with the people to be patient with him, and he is working on all fronts, whether it is electricity, or even the lingering fuel crisis. What is happening now, is that arrangement is been made to ensure that we are seeing the last of it, that is what the president is working on.
The major problem Nigeria has is that we depended on just one product, the oil, for ninety percent of her foreign exchange. Both the fall in oil and the foreign reserves drop, it means we cannot survival the consumer habit that we have. We don’t produce, even the oil we have is like cocoa beans. You can imagine a Nation like Nigeria, in 2016 is still exporting cocoa beans instead of processing it for additional value.
We don’t process because of interest of people who don’t wish this nation well, our refineries have never worked, because it is better for them to import finished products. For the past 16 years, our refineries did not work because their agents were busy importing fuel, making huge profits at the expense of the Nigerian people.
They did not think of making petro chemical plant for producing things like, plastics or other industries that could have added value and help shore up the economy of this country, as well as create employment for our unemployed youth.
So we have remained a raw material exporting country. Once this budget, which the agents of retrogression have tried hard to mess up, a few individuals out of pure selfish and personal interest have tried to put their constituency projects, and trickily remove projects like the Lagos/ Calabar rail line, once is signed, you would see the difference. It means that there are still people in our country who do not want change from the way things have all these years been.
The simple message is that change is not going to come easy, that the forces of retrogression, the forces of business as usual, are still there and well with us in this country, and still playing their games.
But we in APC, we are sure that the principle of change must prevail. Change is our percussion, change in the way we think. Our assurance to the country is that nothing is going to divert us from the total change which we have started already, and has remained key, and they should just key into it, join us, as well as give us the opportunity to make things work in the country.
Did your party initially underrate the enormity of the problems facing Nigeria as a country?
No! we didn’t underrate the problem, but you see, you cannot come into government and stop the clock. Yes we have done a few little things at the top, but after 16 years, the rot is virtually in all the institutions in this country, there is corruption, so it takes time to put people in these major institutions to drive the system. Meanwhile we are doing the best we can to make sure everything moves on well, because this is the right thing to do.
There were rumours that you where to be removed from office as chairman of the party ?
You know there was nothing like that, nothing like that ever happened. What I can tell you that if you are a leader and you don’t offend people, it then means that something must be wrong, with your leadership style
you cannot agree with everybody every time, and you also cannot do what everybody wants.
Some people are hiding behind you the media, something that was generated from outside the party, it did not happened in APC. I needed a rest and so I called the media and said, I am going away for ten days to rest, the gentle man standing by me will act till I return, and that is the gentle man they said moved to my office, but there was nothing like that at all, it was externally created, nothing like that happened.
Saraki is presently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, is your party envisaging a safe landing for the President of the Senate?
What is safe landing, it is only when the judicial processes are completed, after that, we will then know what to do next. Talking about Safe landing at this moment means we are going to interfere with the process, we go and say Mr. Judge give this kind of judgment. If we do that what is the change we are preaching? So we will allow the judicial process to be concluded, that is the message of change we have been talking about.
But it has been alleged that the whole case is political, and that your party definitely has a hand in it, how true is this allegation
But starting from where you started, the party doesn’t have anything to do with the court case involving the senate president, as a party, we do not know how it originated, we also got to know of it just as you also did, so the party has nothing to do with the case of Saraki, so how can we have a hand in it.
I can tell you that It is a judicial process. And as you know, this is a regime of change with due process in place. It is a regime of following the law as it is, and as such, we will not at any point interfere in a matter that is legal in nature.
What will you say about PDP threat to produce the next President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, should Saraki vacant the seat
I don’t know about the PDP producing the Senate President, that is all I can tell you, I don’t know about that.

FKK Attacks On Ali Modu Sheriff Unfortunate – Hon. Iduoriyekemwem

Hon Matthew Iduoriyekemwen is a leading aspirant seeking the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic
Party ahead of the September 20, 2016 polls. He served as two time lawmaker representing Ikpoba-Okha constituency at the Edo State House of Assembly and also a commissioner in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).in this interview with some journalists in Benin, he speaks on his aspiration, the PDP national chairman, and other sundry issues. Monday EBALU was there for nationalTRAIL. Excerpts…

How is the Campaign going so far?
So far, the campaign is gathering omentum, right now I just joined the state executive to tour the 18 local government areas, and I am sure that the field is okay, we have come across a lot of people, people are coming because everybody is committed towards taking Edo state to the next level, and that is the level of greatness which we think Edo State rightly deserve to be in the face of greatness in all the administrations. If you look at my campaign, we say greater is still possible, but we will change that after the primaries hoping that we emerge for a greater Edo. We have declared a clear programme for the development of Edo state, the current APC government has done their bit and Edo State people have seen the best of the APC government, but I want to take governance to another level that will directly affect our people, that will make the people appreciate the essence of creating development and an elected government, a government where we hope to redirect the economic structure of the state, where we hope to make a solid economic foundation for the overall development and economic growth of the state, where the people will see the direct effect of governance affecting them individually, a government that will be participatory where everybody in Edo State will have a sense of belonging and see themselves as part of that government, a government that will go above parochial, partisan interest and see Edo and the interest of its people as first , second and third option.
Feelers within your party is that some people are working to make sure one of the aspirants, Osaro Onaiwu, emerge as candidate, what do you make of this?
Well, I don’t listen to rumour and work with speculations, but I will tell you for sure that the valid candidate for the PDP is going to be determined and decided by the PDP members in Edo State. The support from the PDP governors across the country for the party to win in the state is not targeted at an individual. Everybody have to sell his or herself to the people, if they are to pride themselves about being in PDP, I think I should pride myself most among all the contestants. I have been in this party since inception, I have legislature, I experienced, I have also served in NDDC, I have shown to people my account of stewardship, I have all the experiences it takes over and above anybody when it comes to putting personal CV on the ground, but then personal politics is not like that. We all agreed as aspirants that everyone of us competing, should sell himself to the party members and whoever emerges, every member of the party irrespective of your own personal aspiration should join hands to ensure that PDP is delivered in the election of Edo State. If anybody comes out to say there is an anointed candidate in the PDP by anybody, there is no truth and there can be no truth in it.
Do you think that the PDP has what it takes to win Edo State?
I have gone round most states in this country, and I have seen states that Edo is better positioned, where the government has done extremely well. I always tell people, I don’t believe in criticising a particular government, but I always tell you that with the funds that came to Edo State, I would have expected to see more on ground. Yes the APC have done their very best, and we have seen the best that can come out of them, now it is an opportunity to give room to somebody else even in the face of challenges to express himself and try to see what that person can achieve. There are many PDP states that you will go to and you will wonder if it is Nigeria, because of the performances of the governors. In all of those states, both the allocation and the revenue profile are far below Edo State.
What is your reaction to Ali Modu Sheriff’s emergence as PDP National Chairman?
You should realise that yes, PDP is in opposition, but PDP still remains the biggest party in Nigeria, PDP still remains the party that has structures across all the local governments in Nigeria, PDP remains the party that has the proper ideal of a political party, and because of those ideals, no matter the vastness of the country and the differences in individual thrust, the party will remain the primary interest of loyal party members. But because of the way the party is too, you should expect divergent views when the issue of congresses comes, you must realise that there is one thing that is a denominator among all politicians, and that is interest. So it is virtual that some persons will prefer a particular candidate to be chairman of the party whether at the level of the national, state, local government, or ward, but what is important is once you become the chairman of the party, it is the interest of the management team of the party led by the chairman of the party and the national executive that the interest of the PDP must remain paramount and must comes first. And what is that interest; to provide a government for Nigerians where Nigeria will have an even spread development, where every Nigerian will feel that spirit of self belonging in the country, where you will see yourself as part of the country no matter which part of Nigeria you come from, and I still believe that PDP is the only political party in this country with real party ideal.
What’s your reaction to Femi Fani-kayode’s remarks on Ali Modu Sheriff, when he emerged as chairman of your party?
FFK is someone I have great respect for, as a party man he has stood out at different times to speak in defence of the party when others are afraid to speak out, but I also think that as an elder statesman in the party, he should also know that in democratic practices, it is not every time that your own wish, or will can come first . As a true party person, if he supported somebody else and it is unfortunate that the person you supported didn’t win, if the party’s interest is far ahead of yours, you should queue behind others at once so that the party can move forward. The issue of apologising to Buhari doesn’t arise, because Buhari is president of Nigeria, he has never been a member of the PDP so what are you going to apologise to him for? That someone who is a member of the party who was presented from his geopolitical zone had majority acceptance than those who decided they want to be national chairman. I think that the statement is unwarranted, and if he actually said so I think it is a most unfortunate statement to make in these turbulent times that the party has found itself.
What’s your take on the anti corruption war by the President?
As far as I am concerned I am not against Mr. President fighting corruption, but I am taken aback. I would have expected that all the time you need to develop this country, you use it to talk about fighting corruption.
If he is fighting corruption, it should be done holistically, not selectively, that is why some persons say he is not fighting corruption, but a persecution of the opposition, because there are cases of persons that have been brought to the fore as governors and other APC people up till now, EFCC has not even thought of looking at them. There has been cases of people who have mismanaged funds. I pray that the EFCC do not reduce itself to becoming an instrument by presidency to hunt the opposition, because that will be taking up to dictatorship not democracy. If we allow him to continue like this, it’s like we are taking three steps forward and about a hundred steps backward. The fight against corruption is commendable, but it should not take all the efforts of government. Let all governors since 1999 till date come out to explain every single element of what they did with their security votes. So there is nothing affecting PDP as a party, when they are doing what they are doing, let them also show to the world monies that are coming into this country how they are being spent.
How about the budget, what have you to say about it, considering that it is delaying?
For the first time we are having issues with budget in the National Assembly that is APC controlled, they could still criticise the budget that was presented. We must know that Nigeria has to compete with countries that have respected us and see us as giant of Africa; we must know that there are things we must keep as Nigeria’s problems. Right now the quality of life is though today and all you hear is that is due to the effect of the PDP led administration. If you knew there was a problem and you came with a mind to solve it, so why almost one year into government you are still discussing the problem not the ways you want to solve it.
Today dollar is selling for more N200, and we are been told we have not seen the last of it, nobody is addressing it; we are seeing foreign government policies that we know are not working. So life is getting harder for the common man and you continue to lay blame on the previous administration when you are now in charge.
What will be your area of focus if elected Governor of Edo State?
In Edo State right now, we don’t have an economic base, one of the areas of thrust for me is to lay an economic foundation for the state, and when that becomes the focus of government , those things that are basic to living are taken care of. Guaranteed food, clothing, shelter, then you now think of security. If you take care of those things and there is security in place, you are going to attract entrepreneurs and investors to come here to do business. As we speak, in Edo today, because of taxation, many people are closing down businesses in the state. Some persons are beginning to move to Asaba, especially those electronic dealers in Mission road in Benin, so as a government, those are the areas we will look at. To me the performance of any government is not speaking English and making verbose economic theories, it is the happiness and satisfaction that are derived by the citizens of that place.
But the governor is said to be supporting an aspirant because of the economic policy put on ground?
Well, I am not in APC, but I will say if that is the idea, you are in Edo State, you are in Benin City, and you live in this town, if they ask you as a journalist to talk to people about the economic status of the state, what would you say? Do you see any economic activities by government in this state, do you see policy of government to strengthen the economic activities, instead, economic activities here are been tightened, squeezed, and strangulated. If they say we have a strong economic team, what has the economic team offered to us, what have they on the table to show us. The index of a good government is the satisfaction and the happiness of the people. I don’t like to use the word failed, but I have not seen anything that the economic team has done.
What will be your major source of funding government, if you become governor?
Now I have always been one of those that say that until we go beyond the point of government, or state government, relying on allocation from the federation account, and that only then we are not ready to move forward. I think Nigeria is about the only country where every month, money is collected from government coffers. Every government should be able to look inward, and as I said we can only achieve this, if we set up an economic agenda to lay up an economic foundation to encourage entrepreneurs to come here and do business. There is nowhere in the world where government account for more than 15 to 20 percent of employment in those days. What does government do, government create the enabling environment for different people, for entrepreneurial development and growth. For example; look at that place they call industrial layout on Sapele road, is there anything happening there?, they have no infrastructures and no incentives to attract investors to come in there, so it is just there.
Those are the area people overlook that I am going to take a serious look at. Once that is done, those industries will engage persons from Edo State to work and solve the issue of unemployment. When the persons starts making money, they will start paying taxes to government after sometimes. It is those taxes that government need to maintain infrastructures, and when some of these things are there and the government is doing well, through their own corporate social responsibility; they will also chose some areas where they can partner with government to bring development. So whether naira falls or not, economic activities will still go on, and it is how you encourage and strengthen economic activities that will give you the economic push that you need in your state.
Do you think NDDC is doing well?
I don’t know the situation and circumstances under which they operate, but I will like to make this clear that NDDC is underfunded. Yes there could be some high expectations from people that they are unable to meet, I have been close to the commission long enough to know that when people say NDDC’s budget for the year 2016 is N300 billion, we have the misconception that the budget estimate is the amount of money available. The budget estimate is the propose spending, but I tell you most of the time the monies that goes to the commission some times when it comes to performance by way of money released to the commission, it is not up to 30 percent. The only thing I think NDDC should do right now is that they should stop awarding new jobs, concentrate on all ongoing and existing jobs, put funds into it, let the people finish those jobs instead of awarding new jobs and you have no fund to fund them. If you go to NDDC today, I heard the debt profile is almost up to N1 trillion based on certificates of performance that people have already presented and submitted, and you don’t pay you want those people to go back to site and continue the next milestone.
Your advice for the people of Edo?
My advice is for people Edo to pray for a candidate who has love of for them, a candidate whose business is Edo first and not business as usual, a candidate who is really zealous and hungry to see the proper and genuine commitment to the development of our state. And that our people should go beyond partisan affiliation to see the real person who can bring the desired positive change to the state, that is what should inform the decision of the people to vote and I think looking at the array of persons in both parties, PDP appear to me the only party that has serious candidates.

Why Parents Must Support Education In Yobe – TSB Chairman

Hon. Baba Ali Maidala is the Executive Chairman, Yobe State Teaching Service Board (TSB); in this interview with nationalTrail, he spoke on how to improve educational standard under Governor Ibrahim Gaidam led administration in Yobe state and other sundry issues. He spoke with Our Correspondent, Yahaya WAKILI. Excerpts.

When you assumed office as Chairman TSB, you immediately embarked on a tour of schools in the state; can you tell us what informed that move?
This is natural as with any appointment. However, my motive is to set a standard and also to know the prevailing situation or problems facing these schools and to know how teaching is effectively being administered for our younger ones. I went round to know where to make some improvements. It is from this knowledge that I will now determine the nature of approaches to the challenges or problems which I thank God today that we have made significant improvement and both teachers and students are happy with that move. In the course of my going round, I have discussed with both students and teachers, we have shared ideas with some parents and they gave us some advice which we are also implementing to better the future of our children. This basically is the first steps we took and it has yielded very good result for which we are being applauded today. We did not only listen and come back to sit in an air condition office, but we back everything we learnt on our tour with immediate action because we believe in the future of the state and we want tomorrow to remember us that once there was somebody who cares and made efforts to make a difference.

We have heard of teachers being promoted, can you please give us the figure and what informed this rapid promotion of teachers in the state?
We promoted about 2000 teachers and we are now about to promote about 1000 plus this year in the next sitting. This is a way of saying thank you to these people who are the background of education. They need to be motivated and the way to motivate any worker is for you to find a way of saying thank you, because actually, the salary being paid is not enough to make a difference but when you tell a worker that you appreciate what he or she is doing, you make that worker to put in more in the job and that is what we are doing to our teachers. We are still on course; many teachers will soon smile home with their promotion letters. We also have the non-teaching staff in the schools, and we have so far promoted not less than 500 last year and more God’s willing will be promoted this year.

When you visited the schools, you must have seen the level of facilities in there, tell us about it and what you are doing to enhance the learning environment in schools across the state?
Well, I can tell you that government is doing its best. When you are talking about facilities in a learning environment, there is always one need or the other. Nothing actually is enough if we are talking about giving the best for our children but with what we have seen in the schools we visited; it is a good effort by government to ensure that the schools are being attended to in all areas of needs. This is not enough like I said, but it is something good to start with. We are above average in terms of giving the needed facilities in whatever form to our schools in Yobe state. This has gone to show in our level of passes in NECO and WAEC examinations. As we speak, we have about 600 teachers undergoing in-service training, we have sent teachers to workshops to obtain the needed teaching skills and we have given attention to improving on the structure in the schools. Yes, I can also tell you that the training of teachers is not only here in Nigeria but we have sent some abroad to acquire knowledge, which we hope they would impact such knowledge to our students as well as retrain other swho are yet to go for such training.

We have observed that, there is shortage of Science teachers in Yobe state. Do you have plans to recruit science teachers in other to bridge this gap?
Of course, we need teachers. We are making every effort to recruit because science teachers are never enough. Our problem is money. If we have enough money we can recruit more and put them in reserve if I may use that word. Teachers, particularly science teachers are in high demand, we need them in our schools and like I said even more. However, that is not to say that we do not have science teachers in our schools. We have them.

What are your challenges since assumption of office as a Executive Chairman, Teaching Service Board?
Challenges are many, but I have a target to meet. That is to improve education standard in Yobe state and to be remembered for that is all my interest, which I consider most important. I am working towards that goals and by God’s grace we shall achieve that goal.

How would you rate the Gaidam’s administration in terms of provision of education in the state?
Excellent! If I have better word than that; no government in the past in Yobe state has put in what this administration is putting in the education sector. No government has contributed as much as Gaidam is contributing, no government in Yobe has promoted teachers to the standard Gaidam is promoting, no government in Yobe has given the teachers furniture loan to the level this administration is giving to teachers. No government in Yobe has sponsored up to 600 teachers for training and pays their salaries regularly. To this, we commend the Gaidam’s administration and are doing the little we can to back the administration in every area we can.

Finally, what message do you have for teachers and parents in Yobe state?
Teachers should reciprocate the gesture of this government by putting in their best; giving the student’s the best. We cannot settle for anything less. It is our prayer that our governor continues with the kind of support he is now giving to the people of the state particularly to education. I would urge that, Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) should also come in, assist the schools to develop the students because funding of education is a task that should not be left to government alone.

Governance: Igbo’s Deserve A Better Place – Comrade

Although he is of the civil society, National coordinator, Human Rights Writers, Emmanuel Nwabiko, in this interview with nationalTRAIL editors accuses President Muhammadu Buhari of bias and outright neglect the Igbo people of the South East, and insists that such must be corrected. He also spoke on several other national issues, as well as that of the indigenous people of the Federal Capital Territory. Excerpts.

 

In this very critical times, Nigeria is facing so much crisis, we think that the civil society would have been so very active in trying to point out the way forward, there is so much docility in the system, why is civil society inactive in pointing out the way Nigeria should be and you are one of the leaders?
I think the civil society community in Nigeria is not docile, but maybe I think just a section of the civil society community in Nigeria has affiliated itself to the government of the day that is just what has happened, in fact the significant percentage of the civil society leaders that are outspoken and are reputable in terms of years of service to the civil society sector for a very long period of time, we are invited to a particular platform that is affiliated to, but then when APC was about to be formed so many meetings were held while people who later created APC were fratenising with prominent members of the civil society and PDP within their own national hierarchy were busy registering fake, ghost NGOs, that is the problem, but when APC became APC from the alliances of other parties, Tinubu was a civil society person and a stakeholder (cuts in an advocate), yes, am talking about Bola Tinubu now, so all those members from the civil society were galvanized into a particular platform with some people, if I mention their names you will know them, they always hold meetings to strategies on how to guide the party that was about to be formed and they succeeded and luckily for those people who agree to stay in that platform, the party that was created out of those alliances that later became APC won the election, so you expect any of them to speak out against the people they helped to nurture?.
So will you now say that as a country under APC, Nigeria is really forging ahead?
APC is just less than a year in power, so you don’t expect me to give a considerable response to that, but if I want to borrow from the founding fathers of philosophy, it said the most important step in every enterprise is the first step, which means first impression matters a lot, so if we want to talk from the point of view of the impression, I think the government has not really started given out the dividends of democracy to Nigerians, Nigerians have not really started getting benefit from the government.
Who will you point out particularly to be the issue that has caused this backwardness in what we are experiencing. What really is the problem?
Nigeria’s problem, just like what Chinua Achebe said is purely that of leadership, we don’t yet have…
(cuts in), you think the President is not yet prepared for leadership?
The president himself for a very long period of time, more than 12 years have been campaigning to become the president, but Nigerians are really very surprised that nine months after the current administration came to power, that is taking a lot of time, almost eternity for things to begin to work out positively for them, so Nigerians are very surprised that it appears the government in power, that is the stakeholders in this very government, some of them didn’t prepare adequately for business of governance, but as per the president himself, President Muhammadu Buhari, I think compared to any Nigerian, living or dead who has canvassed, who has worked adequately to become the president of this country, so I am really a bit surprise that Nigerians are asking that the president should wake up and give Nigerians the proper leadership that we deserve.
What is exactly the problem?
The problem everyone know is there is disunity everywhere, there is instability, there is insecurity in terms of lives and property, Nigerians are not really safe in their homes, they are not safe in their farms, Fulani herdsmen are all over the place, killing people everywhere, killing farmers in Benue State, so many other states like Taraba, Plateau and even Enugu, so this Fulani herdsmen are creating a lot of national security problem for this government and this government has not fully grabs it properly, have not really implemented or unfolded the proper solutions, perhaps to the increasing and widespread specter of mass killings and cases of insecurity all over the country, and if you don’t have a very secure environment, the economy cannot grow.
Cuts in… it also affect investors?
Of course! no investor will put his or her money in a place where you are not too sure if you are going to derive benefits, because investments are all about profitability, you cannot make profit in an atmosphere of insecurity
If you are going to make a difference, you are a man that is known as a game changer, assuming you are place in a position of President Muhammadu Buhari, what difference will you do differently?
It is not possible for me, that is a political question and that cannot be answered that straight, but what I will say, if I am asked to advise the president, what I will say, I think what the president need to do first of all, I just penned an article on what the president should do, the president need to become a unifier and not the person who creates divisions among the various nationalities we have in this country.
How?
First and foremost, the president needs to treat every component part of this country as his constituency; the president may have been misadvised abi nitio, if you look at the first interview he granted when he visited United States of America, the president said, you don’t expect me to treat the five percent, that means out of 100 percent, there is a particular region that gave him over 95 percent votes, you don’t want me to treat those people the same way with the people that gave him five percent, of course, he was referring to the South East of Nigeria and South South, the 95 percent, he is talking about is the North and the South West, but I think the president is wrong, because the moment you became a president, you are no longer the president of those people that voted for you.
If Buhari wanted to favour only the 95 percent who voted for him, how many people really voted for him in actual facts, he didn’t get more than 15 million votes, I think he got about 14 million votes and PDP got about 12 million votes, so if he is going to treat 95 percent of those who voted for him, so the people he is talking about will not be more than 14 million people and how many million do we have in Nigeria, we have about 60 million Nigerians, so the president is not really been fair to a lot of Nigerians.
First, he constituted his defence council, a lot of Nigerians don’t really know what is called national defence council, when you talk about national defence council, many will say, it is an economic council, because they are not aware, there is a body in the constitution that talks about national defence council, that body is the one that takes the last decision on any issue, if for instance, this country is going to war with another country, it is that body that will tell the president where to bomb, it is like a war room, it is the final body as far as our national defence security is concerned, and we have more than 50 million people, (the Igbos in Nigeria are more than 50 million), if you have 160 million Nigerians, of course we have the three most dominant ethnic nationality in Nigeria: Yorubas, Hausas and Igbos, the Igbos are over 50 million according to the precise census they did, they gave the Igbos about 38 million, but in the real sense of it, there are over 50 million people and 50 million out of 150 million and you don’t even have a representative at the national defence council, so tomorrow, you can sit and decide to bomb the South East and the Igbos will not be there to defend that decision and their people…
Cuts in… has it been constituted?
Long time ago, it is assumed it has been constituted, because there are people that formed the national defence council; we have the president himself which of course is the chairman of the council, we have the service chiefs as members of the Defence Council and other civilian member of the defence council is the Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, Inspector General of Police is part of the defence council, there are up to 10 and among all these people, there is no single Igbo speaking officer.
In fact some of us thought the president will amend his ways by appointing an Igbo person as Minister of Defence, even the only Igbo man he trusted so much, Ogbonna Onu, he couldn’t even give him the defence portfolio, he gave him one inconsequential place he posted him to where he is talking about how to create crayon, pencil, that is the position he gave to an Igbo man. Why couldn’t Buhari give his trusted friend as the minister of defence, so that he can bridge the gap between him and the Igbo nation, look, let me tell you, that is even one of the reason why a lot of boys are joining this IPOB, a lot of people don’t… why will anybody want to leave Nigeria, why will an Igbo man want to leave Nigeria…
Okay, let me tell you, the same Buhari is been castigated that he has not even favoured any part of the country?
Anybody that says that, maybe that person has taken the highest quality of palm wine from Udi in Enugu State, anybody who says that Buhari has not favoured any particular person, go and check that person must have taken palm wine, maybe when he wakes up the next day, he will speak the truth, how can you say Buhari has not favoured any particular side, No, the North East in particular has been favoured, the North East has over three people out of eight-member national defence council; such as Buratai, there is another defence chief and National Security Adviser, then in terms of even the recent appointment that the President has made, Kano State alone cornered over 30 percent, the Vice Chancellors posted to those Goodluck Jonathan’s Universities, so nobody can say he has not favoured anybody, then in Katsina State, he has favoured his own people, the Daura people, if you go to Katsina State, maybe the Katsina people will say he has not favoured them, but I agree with you, but the Katsina people are complaining that he has only favoured his Daura people.
Katsina is also divided into different sections, Daura is like the minority where the president comes from, people are alleging that the President has cornered all the federal government appointments to that his small area and the main Katsina, none of them has gotten anything.
What do you think we can do now?
We cannot do anything, the president has to amend his ways, he has to really listen to people, or alternatively people should go to court, like yesterday, I read the papers today that a group has decided to challenge the President for not appointing any Igbo man as a member of the national defence council, it is something that my NGO has been clamouring for a very long time, we have been complaining using the media that the president should amend his ways.
Fortunately for the president, we don’t have enough finance to go to court, but unfortunately the people we are fighting for, that is Igbos, a group has now come out to file a case, the case is already before a Federal High Court to determine whether it does not amount to a breach of federal character principle that the president will scheme out a zone out of that defence council, in fact to even tell you, even the Akwa Ibom people, that is the Efik, they have representative at the national defence council.
Now that we have seen all these loopholes, where would you want the president to make amends that is not enough, but the economy is also downturn, what is the way forward?
The economy of Nigeria, Dangote says people who say the economy is bad are exaggerating, I think I will go with the position of Dangote because he is an employer of labour, but I think we have to get back to the drawing board and take measures that will upgrade and promote the real sector, that is the manufacturing sector, because Nigeria seems to be so much dependent on foreign products, no country in any part of this world can sustainably grow her economy if virtually everybody in that country depends on import for the survival, even the smallest country you can ever think of, they have become great today because of their productivity, a country like Japan, Japan is a very small country, it is not bigger than FCT, you put all the FCT lands, all the landmarks of Japan is not as big as FCT, 50 percent of Japan is made of high seas, and their typography is very unfriendly in terms of natural disasters and all of that, but Japan has been able to form that country to become a world power today in areas of their productivity and their brain.
Nigeria has to really develop their manpower, we have good enough percentage of manpower that is already sophisticated and developed, we need to harnessed such things…
Cuts in… People are talking of agriculture as the way forward…
Agriculture is also very important, agriculture is one of the way to grow our economy, agriculture is not the only sector that can grow our economy, the most strategic sector that can make Nigeria the most respected country in the world is the human capital resources; manpower, the quantum of talents we have in this country, if they are properly harnessed, encouraged, if Nigeria can encourage research, Nigeria government has not created the enabling environment to encourage research.
Those who are scientists are finding it very difficult to move the products of their creativity, their invention, they find it very difficult to move it from mere inventions to commercial level, the most developed countries of the world have become what they are today because of their inventions, because their governments, like America, China, Japan, Britain and the rest of them have been able to create good enough environment and atmosphere to encourage their inventors to grow.
Think again, the government has created a lot of platforms for investors to move around, there is the automotive industry, there is also the policy on small and medium scale enterprising, where again do you think there is a missing link?
The government has a lot of agencies, those agencies are just there to create job for the boys, ok let me even tell you, you are talking about an automotive agency, yes, I agree with you, we have a lot of local manufacturers, like the Innoson Motor industry, the Nnewi based manufacturing and assembling of cars has been able to achieve a lot of remarkable feats, I just read in the press that the government is trying to bring in the Chinese to bring in their mass transit buses, why would a government of Buhari not promote local content, why would they go as far as the China, to purchase a product, the buses that are made in China, when you have buses that are build right under your nose in Nigeria, in Nnewi, Lagos where they manufacture this kind of buses, even in Kaduna, if you don’t want to buy from Nnewi (cuts in… even in Bauchi), yes, so why should the president even contemplate involving the Chinese to bring their buses, when we have a local car assembling plant that we should encourage, you don’t buy made in Nigeria and you are going to China to buy Chinese products, even if the Chinese people are actually the people you are looking up to fund the budget, even if you went and borrow $2bn from the Chinese to run part of the deficits you have in this budget, that does not make it right, we are not slaves, if we are borrowing from a particular creditor, part of the conditionality should not be that you are spending part of the money in enriching their economy, it is no longer done…
Do you think that the president is not well advised?…
The president does not seem to, maybe he is not properly advised, or if he is advised, he does not implement those policies because, first and foremost, why should a government that has been in place for nine months still be facing the issue of whether the government has the economic team or not, it is unheard of, it has never happen in this country, where you have the president in place, Nigerians don’t even know whether he has an economic adviser or not, or whether he has an economic team, this is the first time in Nigeria that people, even the market women are arguing about the president’s economic team.
Government is trying to just know what it can do, to a point that a man who is not an economists, a literature person now have to suggest to the government that it need to organise an economic conference, the government now has bought into the agenda of that writer who is not even an economist, the government now wants to organise a conference. The solution to Nigeria’s economic problem is not talk shop.
Is it belated?
It is not relevant, the economic conference is grandeurs, it will not achieve anything.
Fighting corruption is what has been driving whatever they called their change agenda, in the fight against corruption now, are they really doing the right thing?
Government is working very hard, as they claim to fight corruption but what most Nigerians are saying is that if you want to fight corruption, you must be broad based, for instance, are you going to focus on the campaign funds, expenses of one party, then what happen to the campaign expenditures of the other party, is not only one party that run for the presidential election, APC and PDP ran for the same office, why will you unleash EFCC on PDP and APC seems to be secure and immune from investigation.
How do the APC fund their presidential campaign, that questions has to be asked. Are they saying that some of the governors that people are accusing of diverting their state funds did not actually contribute to the presidential campaign of APC, because it is inconceivable that the party that is not in power to defeat a party that is in power, because the party that is not in power does not have the resources to campaign for election, it is not possible, because Nigeria is a large complex state that you need massive amount of resources to be able to cover the length and breadth of a complex nature of the country and people saw how APC presidential candidate was flying all over the place with exotic jets, apparently and clearly those jets did not belong to the government of the day, how do they get that.
Are you now saying that our electoral system are rife with corruption?
No, it is not so, what I am saying is that running for an election in any part of the world is capital intensive, in fact in America, before you even run for a primary, because in their primary you will run for more than six months, you start from ordinary member on the streets who are party members and card carrying members of the party will first of all go to merging, that is state by state campaign. American political system is very capital intensive; to a point that a man who couldn’t win up to 10 votes, that is Mr. Jeff Bush, a former state governor was said to have spend more than $135 million, change this to Naira, that amount can fund 30 states in Nigeria for one day, that is how one person spends trying to become a candidate of the Republican party, he could not even win his own state. So American politics is very expensive, so Nigerian politics cannot be less expensive that will give us politics, so in this case, Nigerian politics is not even as close enough to the expensive nature of American politics. It is quite expensive.
What we are saying is that you can’t play politics without money…?
You cannot play politics without money, because you need to campaign to sell your manifestoes to people, you need money to go from one point of the country to another point, it is not possible. Maybe except in heaven that you can campaign without money.
Okay, with this kind of scenario that you have pointed out, what then can we start doing to get a very clean political atmosphere?
What we need to do, like in the States, even though American politics is expensive, but still they have ceilings, they have a limited amount that cooperate bodies, individuals cannot donate to a candidate, they have put a ceiling, but in Nigeria, there is no ceiling, there is no way of finding out how much anybody is donating, but in America if you donate one kobo, it is registered, if you are going to donate money for a particular candidate, it must be receipted, they will give you receipt, if you are paying one kobo, they will be a receipt, everyone knows at once a receipt enters the system is already known, how much this so and so person is donating, so you cannot donate above the ceiling that the government of America has set, and it has already gotten out to the congress, but in Nigeria, there is even no law, the Independent National Electoral Commission is not independent enough, they are incapable, they are not competent, they are so compromised, they cannot even enforced the rules that governs campaign financing.
The last presidential election that was doped free and fair and all that, from the judgments coming out from election petition tribunals, will we still say that that election was free and fair?
Last election like most elections in Nigeria in most part of the country were disputed, maybe the presidential election was the only one that was not disputed, because maybe the person that was defeated felt that there was no need for him to go to court, he just wanted peace in country, so he eased himself out. I am talking about the PDP presidential candidate who was the incumbent president, apparently he didn’t want to go to court, because he wanted Nigerians to have peace, but it is natural in Nigeria for a politician who losses election to go to court, it is a natural thing, and you cannot use that to judge whether the election is free and fair. But one universal fact everybody knows is that Independent National Electoral Commission as it is constituted is not independent in anyway.
What do you think can make that body independent?
What can make the body independent is to remove the power of appointing the members, or the chairman from the office of the president, I think we need to cede that appointing authority to the National Assembly, it is only the organ of our democracy that pretends to represents the majority of the people…
Cuts in (pretend)?…
Oh yes!, they pretend because in actual fact some of them got to where they are today not through fairness.
The unbundling of the NNPC, stakeholders are kicking and some oil workers went on a day strike, will the unbundling solve the problem in NNPC?
Well, those who know have their reasons for canvassing for the unbundling of NNPC, personally as a Nigerian, I think the concern of this government should not be the unbundling, if what they mean by unbundling means to split NNPC into smaller companies, whereby those companies will be sold to private owners, I think it is wrong; because if you look at the examples of what has happen to us, in electricity power sector, it is already a failure, people don’t have light more than how many years after the power sector was privatised and you cannot explain that a sector that has already been privatised is still going cap in hand to the CBN to receive almost free money over the years.
CBN allocate a lot of facilities to these DISCOs and the rest of them, it means that privatisation exercise that was done in the power sector has not been a success, so if what is about to happen at NNPC or what has already happened, is going the way of what the electricity sector has turned out to be, it is unacceptable, and first and foremost, the National Assembly has to play a role in that. If you want to unbundle an agency of government that was created by states’ law, you also have to go back to the National Assembly for amendment.
You appeared to be an Igbo apologists, because you have said a few things that Igbos are marginalised and so on, it is worrying, giving your background as a civil society person, you are suppose to represent the whole Nigeria, why are you so concerned about the Igbo agenda?
The reason why I raised the matter of Igbo is because, that is the only thing that is in contention now, after all the Igbos are not the only one, the killings in Benue, I have talked about the killings by the Fulanis, that was the first thing I mention about, the reason why I talked about the issue of the Igbos is that, maybe you are not from that part of the country, if you are from that part of the country and you traveled down and see how that place is, you will weep for the people. The only things that you are going to see in the South East are just individual efforts, if you are an Igbo man, when you raised your money, what you are going to do is to go to your father’s house, raised a mansion, and that is all, there is no road leading to that your father’s house.
The federal government is not to be blame completely for the problems of underdevelopment in the South East. The blames are big enough to go round to everybody, even to myself as an individual who has decided to stay in Abuja, if you stay in Abuja as an Igbo man and you don’t take back the part of your income to the East to re-invest, you are also a problem to the South East, if an Igbo man will come to Lagos, settle in Lagos, make all the money in Lagos and spend all the money in Lagos, he is a terrible man, in fact, worse than even the person you are accusing of marginalising the Igbos, but self-marginalisation is the worst kind of marginalisation.
The Igbo underdevelopment is the major one, the Igbo question is important to talk about the fact that you have a national defence council and you have even ethnic nationalities that are not even big enough to constitute one local government in one of the five South East states, have a member in that body and people who constitute that so-called five states that the power that be has decided to give us, they don’t have a representative of Igbo there. Igbo’s right is human rights issue is also a Nigerian human rights issue, that is why I am talking about it.

No Formal Complain About Electricity Tariff Increase – NERC Boss

Since the announcement of a new electricity tariff, which came into effect from February 1, this year, both the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC), Civil Society Groups, as well as the country’s legislative arm of the Nigerian government have all protested and condemned the increase, the labour and civil society groups on their part, took to the street in protest, which also saw them picketing some of the electricity distribution companies, which the federal legislature on its part out rightly called for an immediate reversal of the tariff, back to its original rate, several commentators have also argued against the new tariff regime, insisting it wasn’t fair and sensitive to the reality as well as the plight of the Nigerian consumers. However, while the controversy rages on, the industry Regulator-In- Chief, acting Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Anthony Akah, in this interview with nationalTRAIL correspondent, Shola AKINGBOYE, said that the recent nationwide protest organised by the Labour, Civil groups and several others was uncalled for. The regulator also called on workers’ union to avail itself of the well established channel at the commission in addressing their grievances. He insist that as far as the commission is concerned, on one has made a submission as required by its Act in respect of the tariff increased, just as he also said that the less privileged in the society were not affected by the increased tariff. Excerpts:

The recent electricity Tariff increased is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians, particularly owing to the countrywide protest against it. Has your organization, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) come to terms with the reality of what the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and other civil society groups are asking for?
Well, we welcome some submissions from NLC and other interested groups in line with our regulations and the Act is that any aggrieved party is given the sixty days to file their protest before the commission and those areas will be looked into by the commission in the most passionate manner, and ensure that we come up with a most fair adjustment, if need be, or to sustain what we have, if we fill that is expedient. Therefore, we implore all Nigerians, agencies, or association to avail themselves that opportunity rather than going on public protest, this is certainly the most appropriate thing to do, and more effective.
What else would you have expected from labour unions in times like this?
There are avenue for any interested group to file submissions against the DISCOs and the GENCOs before the commission. We on our part, will then look into that, but we have to understand the fact that electricity is a product, just as we have any other tangible product in the market place. So, electricity is also affected by the changes in the micro-economic indices just as the foreign exchange rate, as well as the inflation rate. And the critical factor is in getting both the quality of power and the quantity of power that we are looking at, and to also give a market reflective tariff that will encourage investors going into the business. No investor will go into any venture that will not produce return on such investment, neither would any financial institution give you any loan if from day-1, there will not be a proof that there is going to be a return on the investment.
Is NERC speaking for the Discos?
At NERC, we are also mindful of the plight of the Nigerian electricity consumers, and to ensure that in the tariff order, strong consumer protection mechanisms are tied to that order. We also look forward to a constructive submission from members of the public, and see if there is need to make adjustments, but in the absence of that, we make use of the data at our disposal, covering the market in ensuring that the tariff we have is market reflective, in line with the reality on ground. What we need to do is to come up with initiative, and part of that initiative is cost reflective management, and energy efficiency drive.
How?
We as regulators have just consulted with Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), NESREA, NOA, as well as SON, so that Nigerians will have more efficient way of using power, and that will reduce their bill, as much as 35 percent, and thus increase access for more Nigerians on those energy they save. So we have the initiative that will help Nigerians deal with this.
Like….?
We have the Power Assistance Consumer Fund, as we are mandated under the Act to take care of the less privilege. As soon as wehave wrapped up the meter levering method, we should be able to get the minister to help us implement those framework. But most importantly, as Nigerians, we have to accept the fact that this is also a business, just as those individuals whohave adjusted their cost in reality of what is accruable to them in the market, so do this group of people. But as regulator, we make sure that the only tariffs that we approve are those tariffs that are strictly cost incurred based on prudency and are absolutely necessary for the production and the distribution of power.
You mentioned that you act when you get submissions, are you saying NERC does not act until it gets submissions from the public, and what action have you taken since the NLC tariff protests began?
Submissions should be based on fact; the tariff order is there on NERC website for all to see, and we are available to continue to give clarifications where need be. And you can only say that the inflation rate is this, and we use the wrong inflation rate, not in criticising the tariff structure. So, based on that critical condition, we can now make informed decisions. But when you make a protest and you don’t submit in concrete and clear terms, it becomes difficult to make any informed judgment. For example, last year we got submissions and representations from Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), and we took a decision that lets zero down the collection loss; though we realise that it wasn’t the best decision that should have been taken at that circumstance. The regulation time is not yet filed out, we are given sixty days to submit.For example, saying line A under the old tariff,‘we feel it should be this, because of these factors;but we have not gotten such from NLC, but we are still hoping to get that within the sixty days window.
Does that means that something can still be done by NERC on this matter?
We are open to continue to engage them, and we are confident that base on the reality, and the fact before us.For example, foreign exchange is now going for as far as 318 Naira to a Dollar, and every producer is adjusting his cost; the inflation rate on cost of gas is there, it does not gives incentive to the cost of producing gas, and under this tariff, we have adjusted it to the reality of the market cost of gas, which is $3/30cent plus a willing charge of 80 cent, so such adjustment is certainly going to affects the tariff. So let’s face the reality and see what we can do within the circumstance to build a more vibrant economy through a vibrant and productive power sector. We cannot continue to pretend that electricity is not a product, for as long as you continue to see electricity as a social commodity that is free, so long that we are pretending that the sector is not dyeing; the sector is dying.But we as regulator, consumer interest must be protected while the distribution companies must adhere to their performance agreements, and we have given them a market reflective tariff and so, no excuse whatsoever for them not to do what they have to do in order to give Nigerians value for money. Though, they also have expressed concern that we gave them five years period to do that based on the performance agreement, we are now saying that we give you an order of one year with their submitted concern to us, and in sixty days, we are going to look into it. We are not looking at anywhere that is more than two year time-frame.
But what is NERC doing against the Discos on the question of metering gap that current exist in the system?
The distribution companies on their own are delighted and more eager to meter Nigerians, because there is a factor that is in-built in the tariff order; that factor means that Nigerians have power.For example, if you are a metered customer and you are given a bill that you feel is unrealistic, you know you are not going to pay it until that particular time that the bill under dispute is resolved, so you only pay the bill that you last agree to pay. What that means is that the distribution companies now have a trigger to work so hard to meter the whole Nigerians, rapidly as much as possible, simply, because they won’t have more Nigerians protesting on their bills. So, we have done the right regulatory framework to protect Nigerians. And it is important that I plead that everyone should understand that the less privilege Nigerians are not affected by this tariff. The R1 Customers tariff still remains at four naira as of last year. It is not correct for them to be saying that the poor are going to be made poorer. Two, the tariff order takes care of the poor, the R1 as I said is still at four naira, the tariff mechanism is a cross subsidy mechanism, where some of us who are more affluent should bear more of the burden, not our less privileged among us.
What happen to other class of consumers under this tariff regime?
The R2 Class has a little bit increase tariff, we have the commercial class, which eventual will pass through the cross to help the poor, but the poor are more protected on this tariff. The poor also have a mechanism for the window on the long run to be protected through the Power Assistant Consumer Fund. The commission is working so hard to come up with it. We want every Nigerian to understand that for the first time, we have got good market reflective tariff that will trigger the much desire growth in the industry and also trigger a better quality of life. There is no need coming out in public protest, when you do public protest, you heighten the polity, it is unnecessary, instead, explore opportunities that are available at the commission to achieve a better result.

Govt Economical With The Truth In Insurgency Fight- Gabassa

  • Against the background of conflicting positions on the
    true situation of the fight against Boko Haram in the
    North East; MBURSA GABASSA; Deputy Chairman of the
    Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Borno State, believes
    that, while the Federal Government may have genuine
    intentions towards ending the mayhem, the Borno State
    Government is deliberately shielding it from the truth for
    obvious political reasons. He spoke with nationalTRAIL
    editors in Abuja. Excerpts:

 

MBURSA GABASSABriefly sir, may
we know you?
My name
is Mbursa
Gabassa, a
town planner by training;
I worked with the FCDA
before retiring to join
politics. I am currently
the Deputy Chairman of
the Peoples Democratic
Party, PDP in Borno State.
I am from Gwoza Local
Government Area, one of
the areas worst affected by
Boko Haram in Southern
Borno. Greater numbers
of my people are today
displaced, including my
own mother who stays
with me.
Insecurity and the
economy are the biggest
twin problems of
government, which of
them takes precedence in
your view?
Security is paramount in
everything. The economy
may be the superstructure,
but security is the
guarantee for its success
or failure. Under the
present circumstances,
every Nigerian will tell
you that our greatest
headache remains
insecurity, whether Boko
Haram, Biafran struggles,
Niger Delta Militancy,
Kidnapping, political
assassination, rape or arm
robbery. They are inter
related in term s of how
they affect our lives as a
nation. For me, security
is first, security is second
and security is third until
people can go to their
beds and sleep with both
eyes closed, the main
concern is security. You
have to be alive to talk
about the economy, but
you can be poor and still
seek to remain alive.
We understand your
area was amongst those
worst hit by Boko Haram,
what is the situation now?
Well, the situation has
not changed much from
the time we were displaced.
The Government says
they are on top of the
situation, and they went
and brought back some
of our people from the
IDP camps in Yola, and
they are living there. The
truth is that, the peace
that they say has returned
to Gwoza is the peace of
the grave yard, so to say.
Here are people brought
back to the town against
their wishes, and living in
constant fear as Gwoza is
still surrounded by Boko
Haram terrorists. From
the hilltops of Mandara
down to Limankara there
are routes directly linking
Sambissa, and we know
that they follow these
routes and attack villages
in the process. They are
still visible and still cause
problems once in a while
in Gwoza East, behind the
hill, in Barawa, Ngoshe,
Wara, Arboku and other
places that soldiers
don’t go. Gwoza town
in particular is highly
militarized as you see
soldiers everywhere, but
we are not oblivious of
the fact that Boko Haram
still lurks in the dark all
around d us, and it only
takes a small walk away
from the soldiers for
one to be either killed or
captured by Boko Haram.
Unfortunately nobody
talks about us, all the
noise you hear is as if it
is only the northern and
central parts of Borno
that are affected. Let me
place it on record that, in
the southern part, Gwoza
is virtually empty, as even
those who are there are
virtually hostages, Chibok
has been virtually sacked,
Damboa is a ghost of its
former self, Askira /Uba
has been scattered, parts
of Hawul is still under
siege, and people only
talk about the north and
the central as if our own
people are sub humans.
We have been watching
the governor, Kashim
Shettima speaking always
about his own people at
the neglect of the people
of the south. We take
exception to some of the
comments of his Special
Adviser on Press affairs,
one Isa Gusau, who does
not seem to understand
what is going on, because
he is not from the state.
He talks as if he is drunk
or is concerned with the
welfare of the people
of his paymaster. All
these are politics. The
Governor and his people
have been deceiving the
President that is why
the president sometimes
makes statements that do
not reflect the realities on
ground. Let me tell you,
that, that Senator who
said Boko Haram is still
everywhere was telling
the truth. The Governor
denied him because of
political considerations,
if not, that was the truth.
The senator is Governor
Kashim Shettima’s friend,
and they are always
together, so how can
he say what the senator
spoke was not what he had
in mind? He merely made
a u-turn when he realized
that the President or the
Military will be angrier
with him than they have
been before, so he decided
to disown the senator. All
these are politics and we
know the truth. If Boko
Haram are not there,
where did the attacks on
Dalori, Chibok, Dikwa,
Mafa, Beneshiek and other
surrounding villages to
Maiduguri coming from.
They are only playing
politics with the issue
and they are succeeding
in diverting attention
from the truth. Too much
politics is affecting the
war against Boko Haram
and they know it and yet
they don’t want to do
anything.
What is your take on the
conflicting claims about
Boko Haram by people in
the same Government?
There is no sincerity
amongst them and that
is why they contradict
themselves. The President
should look beyond the
statements credited to the
senator and the reactions
of the governor. It looks
curious to me that people
who are hardly separated
could disagree on the same
issue, knowing the truth
to be hidden between
their two positions.
Nigerians are being taken
for a ride, but those of
us who know the truth
cannot be fooled. We may
not be listened to, but we
are being ignored at a very
high cost. There may be
no more flags hoisted on
poles, but that does not
mean they are gone, they
are still lurking around.
They removed the flags
for strategic reasons,
and it is a matter of time
before you hear them
again. I may be wrong,
but what I know and what
I hear are different from
what the Government is
saying. Why can’t we even
ask ourselves this simple
question, like, Why can’t
one drive from Mubi
through Gwoza passing
Bama into Maiduguri if all
these areas are liberated?
Why are the roads leading
to Damboa, Chibok and
Biu form Maiduguri
still blocked if Damboa
and chibk have been
liberated? Again why is
the route from Maiduguri
to Gamboru Ngala or
Maiduguri to Mobar still
closed if Boko Haram
have been pushed back? I
think Government should
do more action and less
talk, and stop playing
politics with the issue of
Boko Haram if we hope to
get out of the problem.
How do you think the
Government should go
about the issue?
You see, there is no
sincerity in saying
everything is ok when
we know it is not true.
The President should
stop believing what the
Borno state Government
is telling him, if he
hopes to deal with Boko
Haram. They are not
telling him the truth,
because there is too much
politics associated with
their position. They just
want to attract financial
patronage and donations
from across the world in
the name of resettlement
or reconstruction. They
have never planned for
the matter to end, and
they seem to be dragging
the federal Government
along in this journey of
deception. They have
never properly utilized
all the money they got for
the people, most of it is
going into their pockets.
They are playing pure
politics with the lives of
people. How can they say
everything is ok when
they know it is not so. I
have always used Gwoza
and Chibok because
Boko Haram have been
attacking these places
and nobody is talkin g
about it. As we speak, you
cannot go to Talala from
Chibok, or Mbulakuduka
or Yimirkila or any of the
areas that were bubbling
with life before, because
Boko Haram are still there
surrounding these places.
It is sad that, when things
happen in Maiduguri,
Bama, Konduga, Dalori,
Dikwa, Mafa or any area
in the North or South, so
much noise is made and
prompt attention is paid,
but when it happens in
any area in the south, they
are being deliberately
suppressed for political
reasons? May be because
they perceive the South
as being a PDP area.
There were incidents
that did not reach what
have been happening in
the south, but because
they are in the north or
central, politicians and
government officials
fly in from all over and
sympathize and make
donations for the upkeep
of victims. We never saw
it happening in any of our
areas, because we do not
belong perhaps. A first
class emir from southern
Borno was killed by
Boko Haram, besides so
many prominent people.
Villages were razed
down; take the example
of Kimba, in Biu Local
Government, and other
villages in Hawul and
Askira/ Uba, yet nobody
gave us a mention when
it comes to resettlement
or reconstruction. We
have been left at the
mercy of God. We are
proud that inspite of
all that happened our
emirs remained with the
people, for example, the
emirs of Biu and Shani did
not go anywhere outside
their palaces, they stayed
back with their people
and we are proud of that.
All others have relocated
to Maiduguri.
What would a PDP
Government have done
differently in the current
circumstances in Borno
State, since the matter is
political?
The issue is not whether
APC or PDP, the matter
is about human lives that
are being toyed with. We
have good people with
conscience in the PDP
that cannot do what this
Governor is doing. I
cannot imagine being a
party to stealing money
meant for unfortunate
victims of disaster. I
cannot be telling lies
to the Government at
the center, knowing
that there is the need
for synergy to end the
sufferings of people.
We cannot be seen to be
aiding the retrogression
of our own state and our
own people into more
than thirty years of under
development. I know that
a PDP Government could
have done better. But the
matter is beyond party
considerations. Even the
stigma of being regarded
as Boko Haram by fellow
Nigerians is enough to
push the average Borno
person to strive towards
ending the crisis. We have
a situation where they
seem to take pleasure
in what is happening.
We must work towards
peace and everything
else will follow. I tell you
the eyes of the president
will open one day and
he will see the realities
on ground, For now, we
can only pray that god
gives him the wisdom
to differentiate between
truth and falsehood.
What hopes do you
have of giving the people
better programmes in
Borno when the PDP
does not seem to be on
ground?
We had the opportunity
to take over the state
during the last elections,
but we had some moles
amongst us who sold
out. We had a candidate
that was coasting home
to victory only for some
people to be sponsored
using the judiciary to
scuttle our chances. You
can imagine getting your
candidate substituted
with only ten days to an
election. In any case, what
took place in Borno was
not an election. There
is no word in political
lexicon to define what
took place, as people just
conspired and cooked
up figures, and because
there was an intra party
conspiracy, everything
went on unchallenged
to date. We have learnt
our lessons and we know
those to avoid next
time we go out. You can
imagine the candidate of
your party driving to the
government house in a
convoy to congratulate
his supposed opponent in
an election. No wonder,
some people nearly beat
up some of our candidates
for being sell outs. To
be frank with you, we
knew that candidate that
was eventually foisted
on us was not going
anywhere because he was
compromised. It was not
surprising that he fizzled
out immediately the
election ended and the
eventual senatorial bye
election was a testimony
to our efficacy, even with
what happened in 2015.
Given the crisis in
the PDP, do you think
the PDP can revive and
make impact by 2019?
I remain confident
that we shall overcome
the present challenges.
It is not only the PDP
that has problems, APC
is also having crisis. Let
me tell you that most
of the people you see
parading themselves as
APC, they are actually
PDP and they will return
at the appropriate time. I
assure you the PDP will
bounce back.
What is your take on
the agitation for power to
rotate in Borno, so that
the southern part which
has never produced a
governor could have a
shot at the governorship?
I am an advocate of
equality and justice and I
believe that our brothers
from the other zones
will support somebody
from Southern Borno in
2019. We are all one, and
it is just and fair that all
sections have a shot at
the Governorship. We
are in times of changes
nad we need to embrace
that in Borno so that our
bond of brotherhood will
be further strengthened
when all sections are seen
to be equal and enjoy
equal opportunities. We
are hopeful and we shall
continue to push for it to
happen. It has happened
in Koigi recently, it has
happened in Nasarawa
and it can happen in
Borno God willing.
All that we need to do
is to close ran ks and
appeal for reason and
conscience

I Still Have Faith In PDP – Sen. Ibrahim Mantu

In the face of stories making the rounds that some top
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, notches may be heading
for other parties, former Deputy President of the Senate,
Ibrahim Mantu, says his fortunes are better guaranteed
in the now opposition PDP, despite the challenges being
faced by the party. He spoke exclusively to nationalTRAIL’s
Jonathan Ipaa in Abuja

 

Distinguished
Senator, what
is the motive
behind this
political
summit in the first place?
Well, I am a politician
who has benefitted from
democracy, and all its
processes in recent time,
and I would love to bequeath
its dividends to the next
generation in a way that
providence will remember
me. Like other politicians of
my contemporaries, I wish
to be counted among those
who contribute towards the
strengthening of stronger
democratic institutions to
the next generation, so that
even the unborn, so that
what we will have on ground
in Nigeria will be in line
with what its obtainable in
the advanced nations like;
the United States, United
Kingdom, France, etc.
To answer your question,
the ideal behind the summit
therefore, is to strengthen
our democracy, make
it functional, stronger,
transparent and accountable
to the people including;
you the press. We want to
bequeath a democracy that
in the hands of the people
through their truly elected
leaders, and strengthen its
institutions for the next
generation.
As you are aware, the
annual national political
summit was declared
open by the President and
Commander In Chief,
President Muhammadu
Buhari, who was represented
by his vice, Prof. Yemi
Osibanjo, in attendance were
also the Senate President,
Senator Bukola Sarki, the
Speaker of the House of
Representatives, Rt Hon.
Yakubu Dogara, who also
presented key note addresses.
This summit is our
own modest contribution
to the effort of other key
stakeholders in strengthening
our democracy. You can see
that it attracted so many
dignitaries, both local and
international across political
party leanings. The former
Interim Leader of Liberian
government, Prof. Amos
Sawyer, the Mayor of New
York, Nigerian top officials,
organised labour, civil
society groups, the media,
every stakeholder, and you.
Who is actually sponsoring
this summit, and how much
does it cost the taxpayer?
We members, participants
all put our naira and kobo to
hold the summit. The Save
Nigeria Group, Africa, is
the platform, and if you can
recall, it is a well known body
accepted by the democratic
world, and Nigeria recognises
it. This is the platform under
which we came here, and not
the taxpayers’ money.
So it is not true that the
APC government is behind
this summit?
Not correct, I am not
aware of any, because we
are all involved. I am of the
opposition PDP, Ghali Na’aba
is a board member of the
ruling APC, we have Mrs
Josephine Anenih, Senator
Hangar, Senator Adeyeye,
ex ministers, lawmakers, the
organised labour, the civil
society, and the mass media,
etc.
But for those familiar with
your style of politics; Mantu
may be on his way to the
APC: What about this hot
story that the whole summit
is aim at providing a platform
for you to defect to the APC
like your contemporaries?
Kai! That is the Nigerian
press for you!! God forbid!
That is not why we are
here my brother; I have
no reason to leave PDP as
being speculated, if at all and
don’t forget, this summit as
I said earlier, is not about
PDP or APC. It’s about the
strengthening of democracy
in Nigeria. You know we
are the giant of Africa, and
most of the countries in
sub Sahara, look unto us for
example, so we have to get it
right for them to follow.
As for your question, I am
a strong member of the PDP,
and like other stakeholders
you see here, we have like
minds, but defection is not
the issue on our table as far
as the summit is concern.
How can I defect from a
party that made me, and for
what reason? Why would
anyone think I would leave
PDP for who and why?
May be for the fear of
being probed and witch hunt
like the fears of most PDP
leaders who have said, Is
it not safer to join the APC
and avert being chased like
some of your colleagues in
the opposition camp under
whatever guise?
I don’t know. I have not
given it a thought yet. I have
no further comment on this
please. Let me tell you, I am
still in PDP, and I have no
reason, or plan to defect to
any political party.
Rather than raise
imaginary questions outside
this summit, let’s dwell much
of this session on some of our
declaration and the frame
work of action for strategic
partnership and corporation
of stakeholders for political
development in Nigeria
which is what I am here for.
Okay, what was the
agenda like, and how will it
benefit the common man on
the street?
We, the stakeholders in
Nigeria’s electoral democracy
comprising leaders, political
parties, elders statesmen, civil
societies and representatives
of the entire spectrum of
Nigerian society, assembled
in Abuja for the inaugural
national political summit
on the theme 2015 General
Elections: Consolidating
the Gains and Building
Positive political culture
for sustenance democracy
in Nigeria organised by the
Save Democracy Group
Africa and other partnering
organisations, are convinced
that the positive attributes
of Nigeria’s 2015 elections
including peaceful conduct
acceptance of defeat by an
incumbent president, the
alternation of power at
the national level, and the
sustenance fight against
insurgency demonstrate
Nigeria’s leadership role in
democratic governance,
and the entrenchment of
democratic cultures and
values in the West African
sub region.
We underscored the
disturbing reality of politics
of attrition and the inability
of politicians including
us here, to overcome the
bitterness of elections and
rise over partisan divide to
promote national unity and
coherence.
It is disturbing and
alarming that insurgency
has continue to threaten
our unity and stability in
spite our continue resolve
for peace and unity. We have
noted with great concern that
outstanding issues of under
representation by the youth,
women groups and the
vulnerable in governance, are
still key, and these are some
of the areas we debated at this
summit.
How are we sure that the
outcome of this summit
would not go the same way
many others have gone, and
What is the political will, for
instance; this declaration
will it get the National
Assembly backpacking?
Don’t forget that I was a
Deputy Senate President
and Ghali Na’aba was the
Speaker of the House of
Representatives. We still
enjoy respect, and if possible
patronage of the lawmakers.
We are still working together,
and I can tell you, the
outcome won’t be the same. It
would receive the light of the
legislators and the executive
as far as good governance is
concern.
We noted with great
concern that outstanding
issues in the reform of the
electoral process as contained
in the report of the Justice
Uwais Electoral Reform
Committee, and the relevant
recommendations of the
2014 National Conference
are yet to be incorporated
into the Amendment of
the Constitution and the
Electoral Act 2010 (as
amended), and we are
praying that the ongoing
Constitution Review process
by the National Assembly will
ensure its logical passage.
But you were the head of
that committee during your
days. What caused the delay
up to this time?
Well, its dynamics and
priority is tie to the demands
of the government of the day.
For instance, the demand
for states creation, resource
control, increase in elective
and appointive positions for
women, etc, keep growing
in every government, and
this democracy, you can’t
stop interest groups from
agitating for their rights.
We are persuaded that
the civil societies are
representatives of the
people, and communities
have important role to play
in the promotion of the
democratic process which
include election observation
and transparent use and
management of public
resources.
What are the parameters
for attaining all these
set goals, are you sure
Muhammadu Buhari led
APC government will key
into this PDP dominated
political summit agenda?
Well, it’s not about
individuals, it is about
Nigeria and democratic
institutions. The
inadequacies of the Nigerian
educational system which
cannot empower the youth
to engage in self employment
through entrepreneurial and
technical skills in addition
to the minimal role in the
politics and decision making
positions have constrained
opportunities for all round
development of the youth
population.
We like any other citizen
are dissatisfied that the
absence of common values,
uniform standards and
code of conduct for elected
local government officials
have continued to diminish
the performance of local
governance across the nation,
as well as their funding, etc.
It is dismaying by the
continuous delay in the
dispensation of justice and
inconsistencies in their
judgments among others,
and we all frowned at the
incessant use of caretaker
committee by state governors
to govern the affairs of the
grassroots governments.
But the cry has been
narrowed to your party the
PDP for those 16 wasteful
years. Do you share this
blame at the summit?
Gone are the days of
campaigns and sentiments,
we must move forward and
strengthen our institutions.
We challenge stakeholders
across board to make
concerted efforts to revert
to the positive ideals of its
founders which include the
fight against corruption, in
fact, a corrupt free democratic
system in which leaders and
citizens commit themselves
to the values and cultures of
democracy such as free, fair
and credible election, strong
and internal political parties
with respect for internal
democracy and transparent
use of state resources for the
development and welfare of
citizens.
What were the resolves
and the goodwill expected?
The summit under the Save
Democracy Group, Africa,
Nigerian chapter, has agreed
to strengthen the legislature
as the pillar of democratic
governance to enable it
continue to play its role of
checkmating the excesses
of the executive branch,
protecting constitutional
limits of terms of office,
passage of high impact
legislation, and carry out
investigations that expose
corruption and strengthen
institutions and mechanism
for public accountability.
The summit tasked
stakeholders of the political
class, and the political
leadership to eschew
politics of bitterness that
characterises elections, and
work in harmony with other
stakeholders to strengthen
the bonds of national unity
and focus on national interest.
The conference called on the
legislative arm of government
at all levels to urgently carry
out the amendment of
relevant sections of the 1999
Constitution (as Amended)
and the Electoral Act to
improve the electoral process.
The stakeholders demand
that the government must
end the culture of impunity,
tyranny, witch hunt, and
observe the basic tenets of the
rule of law in the concerted
war on corruption and
ensure that monies recovered
by courts of appropriate
jurisdictions are used for the
development and welfare of
Nigerian citizens.
We also charged the
federal government, and
those at the states and
local levels to undertake
a comprehensive reform
of the nation’s educational
curriculum to make
Nigerian youth employable,
and accommodate
entrepreneurial training and
skill acquisition to reduce
dependencies on white collar
employment as it is today.
Save Democracy Group
is calling on the judiciary
to recognise the import of
the Maxim, Justice delayed
is justice denied, and the
need for consistency in their
judgments.
We affirm that Save
Democracy Group, Africa
be made a platform for the
operationalisation of the
resolutions of the Abuja
Peace Accord.
What is the framework for
achieving this?
The framework of action
for strategic partnership and
corporation of stakeholders
for political development
in Nigeria detailed the
responsibilities of individual
stakeholders towards the
realisation of the declaration.
Where we are now, where we
want to be, and how to get there
from here, the benchmarks
that will help mobilise for
effective monitoring and
oversight necessary for
factual assessment when we
return for the 2017 edition of
our summit