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Don’t Be Misguided Over Poll Timetable, Senate Warns INEC

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The Senate has warned the Independent National Electoral Commission against being misguided on the extent of the powers of the National Assembly in the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while declaring open a public hearing on the bill seeking to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission on Monday, made reference to the controversy generated by the recent amendment to Section 25 of the Electoral Act, which seeks to re-order the sequence of polls during the general elections.

INEC had expressed its intention to challenge the amendment in court but later made a U-turn.

Speaking at the hearing conducted by the Senate’s Joint Committee on INEC; and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Saraki stated that the National Assembly had powers to legislate over the electoral body and other agencies of government.

Saraki, who was represented by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, also pointed out that the lawmakers could not be involved in any legislation that would violate the constitution.

“Of recent, there have been arguments on who has power to do what,” he said, adding that Nigeria had a lot of people who knew how to go to court to get all kinds of judgments.

“INEC should be cautious of who it is listening to. We would not sit anywhere this constitution will be violated. It is necessary we caution ourselves. We need this country, we love this country,” Saraki said.

The Senate President also decried that some political aspirants and parties were already campaigning when INEC had yet to declare electioneering open.

He said, “The Senate in particular would be very worried, if INEC begins to condone the actions of some political parties. You have not declared campaigns open, and some are already campaigning.”

Saraki asked INEC to exercise its powers and sanction such persons or parties.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in his presentation to the committee, disclosed that the electoral umpire currently had about 1,080 cases in courts relating to the 2015 general elections.

He added that the commission had received 124 case files of electoral offenders from the police, out of which 60 had been prosecuted.

Yakubu, who expressed support for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission, stated that INEC could not effectively prosecute electoral offenders and focus on its enormous responsibilities simultaneously.

The electoral body’s tasks, he said, included registration and regulation of political parties as well as monitoring of parties’ congresses and finances.

The INEC boss, however, noted that the Secretary of the NEOC should be appointed by the commission and not by the President as being proposed.

He also warned against appointment of ex-officio members, while calling for a proper definition of “electoral offences.”

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Guber Polls: Second Term Seeking Governors Fret

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By Eric Elezuo

As Nigerians march to various polling units across the 36 states of the federation to elect 28 governors out of 837 candidates and 993 House of Assembly members out of 10,240 candidates, a special prayer for a smooth electoral process devoid of what was obtainable on February 23, 2023 when the presidential and National Assembly elections were held has been canvassed.

It is on record that the February 23 elections were marred by violence, none transmission of results electronically, harassment and intimidation of voters not loyal to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by thugs allegedly loyal to the APC and flagrant distortion of election results. While some governments have congratulated the announced winner of the presidential election, most international bodies including The Financial Times, New York Times, The Economist and many others have condemned the election and the emergence of the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu, saying everything was heavily flawed. Presently, the matter is in court as two presidential candidates; Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who felt aggrieved are seeking redress from the judiciary.

But with the way things turned out during the previous election, regarding how the emergence of the Labour Party and Peter Obi proved to be a game changer, and practically retired some old politicians as well as swept votes in places considered strongholds of some politically godfathers, governors who are seeking reelection have become jittery as fear of the Labour Party sunami has created a new chapter in the political equilibrium.

In the 28 states where governorship elections will be held, 10 are seeking reelection. They are Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Abdulraman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State, Mohammed Bala of Bauchi State, Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State, Muhammad Inuwa of Gombe State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State.

Most of the governors listed above did not perform in delivering their states to their presidential candidates, and as a result, have come under intense tension as to what may go down at the polling units with special regards to their quest to return to their various government houses for another four years. Consequently, supporters of some governors and political parties resolved to attacks of supporters of other political parties either physically or emotionally.

In Lagos where Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is having a running battle with the candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and to some extent the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olajide Adediran, situation has degenerated to ethnic attacks, with the indigenes throwing tantrums at the Igbo for supporting the LP, and by extension Rhodes-Vivour. The Yoruba has insisted that the candidacy of Rhodes-Vivour has been rejected because he was born of Igbo-mother. Consequently, many Yoruba have cast aspersions at his candidacy, saying he was Igbo, and Lagos was not going to hand over their affairs to a ‘foreigner’. These notion, which has not only been perpetrated by the ordinary man, but by supposedly high placed citizens including Femi Fani-Kayode, who also almost in his characteristic stride, set up a conflict between the Igbo and Yoruba, with a damning article, “The Truth About the Igbos”, and the many others, has created skirmishes against the Igbo in Lagos. the thugs, who were well on ground during the presidential election, have also returned with threats of dealing with any Igbo voting against the APC.

In a viral video, a known thug, Musiliu Akinsanya, known by his nickname, MC Oluomo, was seen threatening the people of the Southeast not to risk coming out to vote if they are voting against the APC.

“We have begged them. If they don’t want to vote for us, it is not a fight. Tell them, mama Chukwudi, if you don’t want to vote for us, sit down at home. Sit down at home,” he said.

But the Police, speaking through the Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said Oluomo was joking when he made the utterance. As a result, he was not even as much as invited to explain his position or why he made such a costly joke.

“So, let us take it for a joke like he has said. But nobody has the right to tell Nigerians not to come out and vote. It is not allowed. It is not possible; not proper. But he has come out to debunk that it is not true. So, let us leave it that way – that it is not true and a joke within one or two persons in that area at that particular point in time. Even the CP of Lagos was on a television programme this afternoon to address that if it is true, they are investigating that matter,” Adejobi said during a live TV show.

But one thing was sure, the threat of losing his position because of the overwhelming support the LP was receiving in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu became more visible in campaigns, and became to appear on TV interviews which he had hitherto shunned and became more accessible to Lagosians, who agreed that he had been faraway from the people in the last four years. He had paid pension, increased salaries of civil servants, released seized property among other people oriented actions he was wont to have taken long before now.

Another angle the Yoruba elites have stooped low to attack Igbo is in the area of unconfirmed notion of Igbo saying Lagos was ‘no man’s land’. So far, not one of the speakers, or writers, who made the assertion has quoted a source where the statement came from, prompting observers to conclude that the mindless attacks were products of hatred against the Igbo race. It has also been noised that the Igbo wanted to conquer Lagos through electing Rhodes-Vivour, who also is a Yoruba man.

“That is one of the most laughable part of this whole scenario. How can the election of a young Yoruba man means conquering Lagos. Isn’t it the more reason people should see there’s no credence in the entire setting. The Yorubas have, because of hatred forgotten that everyone wants the stranglehold of Bola Tinubu for over 24 years in Lagos to end. Yet, even those that are supposedly in the know have turned around to weave a tale of Igbo aiming to take over Lagos because Gbadebo is contesting against Tinubu’s candidate,” a prominent Lagos indigene, who craved anonymity said.

What is more worrisome, a cross section of Lagos residents told The Boss, is that the yarn is not only being peddled by illiterates or layabouts, but by people who are well looked up to by the younger generation. It would be recalled that during the prelude to the presidential contest, Sam Omatseye, who is the chairman of the editorial board of the The Nations Newspapers, owned by Bola Tinubu, pen an opinion titled Obi-tuary, where he derided the person of Peter Obi and the Igbo race. His was not the last as many others followed.

What is more obvious than clear is the fact that a new precedence has been set by the so called Yoruba people fighting against Gbadebo. It means that many of them married to women of other tribes including foreign women, has automatically denied their children of Yoruba heritage. If a child born of another tribe-woman but Yoruba father is not of full Yoruba blood, then the race should be in for a crisis as many Yoruba men are spread across the world, and no one knows where the arrow of love will strike him.

Of more importance is the fact that Rhodes-Vivour contested the senatorial position for Lagos west in 2019 under the PDP, but no one remembered that he was a half breed. Then he had no chance of winning. Today, hatred has arisen because the young man was riding on the new found popularity of Peter Obi as the face of Nigerian politics presently, to sell himself.

“The day we purge ourselves of the crisis of ethnicity and tribalism, especially the one rooted in blind godfatherism, that will be the day a little respite of brotherliness will be deposited in the nation’s body polity,” a political analyst said.

In Oyo State, the sitting governor, Seyi Makinde, has every reason to worry. He is one of the G5 governors, who abandoned the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to support Tinubu to victory in Oyo. Today, the APC has denied any form of alliance with the governor, and transferred allegiance to its governorship candidate, Teslim Folarin. The sitting governor will battle to regain the confidence of the party he abandoned, and how he can make APC keep to their side of the bargain during the presidential race. As it stands, other members of the G5 has been made irrelevant having lost their bid to seek senatorial election. They are Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Samuel Ortom of Benue State. The last and leader of the group, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is battling to ensure his candidate, Sim Fubara emerges the governor of Rivers State. If Fubara and Makinde loses today, that would mark the inglorious end of the G5.

In Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule’s loss to the LP during the presidential election, is an eye opener, and has made the PDP family to intensify campaigns to ensure they return to government house. This is not forgetting that the APC is also hot on their heels.

In Kwara State, the government of Abdulrazaq will be facing another set of Otoge revolution chiefly because of the the general view that the governor under-performed, and again with the Bukola Saraki rising profile in the last four years..

In Bauchi State, Governor Bala Mohammed of the PDP is having a photo finish with his rival from the APC. The race for superiority has been the major cause of armed skirmishes between the supporters of both parties.

In Ogun State, the rivalry between the incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun and former governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun continue to heighten. Though both men are in the same APC, Amosun is however sponsoring and supporting the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Biyi Otegbeye as thye incumbent owing to person issues. Abiodun will need more than his track record to defeat Amosun again.

In Adamawa State, the government of Ahmadu Fintiri will have a running battle with the APC candidate, Aishatu Binani, who is a woman. The crave for a first woman governor is keeping Fintiri at the edge of his seat as the governorship election lasts.

Whichever the pendulum swings, it must be noted that the sitting governors, who are seeking second terms are fretting owing to pronounced and tangible oppositions.

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Photo News: Dele Momodu Meets FIFA Executives in Rwanda

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Veteran journalist and Chairman, Ovation Media Group, Chief Dele Momodu, was among the special guests of honour at the special FIFA event held in Kigali

Amaju Pinnick, Dele Momodu, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Isha Johansen after the FIFA Council Dinner in Kigali…

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Court Set to Decide Nigeria’s Next President

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By Eric Elezuo

The much awaited February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections have come and gone. Not only has the election been concluded, the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also concluded collation of results, and on March 1, 2023 declared the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Progress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the winner, and president-elect.

But the declaration of Tinubu as winner has popped up more electoral act crisis as two of the major parties and their presidential candidates in the election have rejected the election in its totality, calling for a total cancellation. They maintain that the elections were heavily flawed with potent evidence of manipulations, harassment, violence, intimidation and stealing and destruction of electoral materials all in the name of denying a group of people their rights to vote.

Consequently, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) have taken their grievances to the judiciary to seek redress with each claiming that they won the election. They agreed that INEC worked to favour the ruling party, ignoring the use of the much publicised Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the promise to electronically transmit results to IReV in real time. But all the calls made to INEC to call off the announcement of results to review identified lapses were rebuffed with the continuation of election results and the subsequent declaration of Tinubu as winner. The battle has therefore shifted to the Appeal Court where the first part of crossfire will take place before the Supreme Court finally decides without recourse to another authority.

Except in 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan took the path of honour and conceded defeat to Muhammadu Buhari, all other elections have been contested in the courts, and the courts have been the ultimate decider. Buhari remained the chief litigant as he has practically gone to court on record occasions including against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Musa Yaradua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Presently, all the parties in the suit have been granted permission to interrogate all INEC election materials.

Declaring his decision to challenge INEC’s declaration in court, Obi addressed a press conference a day after, and declared as follows:

“This is my first time of speaking to the media, and I thank all of you for your understanding. For me, it is a very simple thing to speak to Nigerians who on the 25th of February trooped out en masses as committed citizens to participate in what all of us have called an existential election, for a supposedly free, fair, credible presidential and national assembly election. We give thanks to God.

“For me, the number one thing is gratitude. Gratitude to God Almighty that continues to protect and bless our dear country Nigeria. Number two is gratitude. Gratitude to Nigerians that participated in the election, answering the call as true citizens in our dear country. Number three is gratitude to those of you Nigerians, especially the youth, that believed and worked tirelessly for a new Nigeria, I thank them for the hard work. Gratitude to the Obidients, Youths, those who believe that a new Nigeria is possible, and I say to them that a new Nigeria is possible, and we will work for that new Nigeria.

“The resilience, the hard work, for a new Nigeria should not wane. Datti and I remain committed to that new Nigeria. I know how they will be feeling now because of the way the elections have come and gone. The commitment of Nigerians, even in the face of unwarranted attacks, is a testimony that a new Nigeria is indeed possible. I look at people like Lady Jennifer who was stabbed but insisted on voting, and that gives me courage to believe that a new Nigeria is indeed possible –and there are so many other Nigerians.

“The election that we just witnessed has been conducted and results announced as programmed. It is a clear violation of the electoral rules and guidelines as we were promised. This election did not meet the minimum standard expected of a free, transparent, credible fair election. It will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria.

“The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed leaders whom they trusted. However, very humbly, I must appeal to all Nigerians to remain peaceful, law-abiding, and conduct themselves in the most responsible manner. Please be assured that Datti and I, and indeed all of us, this is not the end but the beginning of the journey for the birth of a new Nigeria. Datti Baba-Ahmed and I remain undaunted and committed to the project of a new Nigeria that will be built on honesty, transparency, fairness, justice, equity.

“All the above starts with a process. The process through which people come into office is far more fundamental, more important than what they do thereafter. It is my belief that if you must answer “His Excellency”, the process through which you arrive to office must be excellent.

“We must now require that we do the right things. It has to generate the confidence and moral authority to lead. As you know, the destruction of a society begins and gradually progresses when we act rascally, with the deliberate manipulation of the rule of law and the suppression of the will of the people. During my campaign we have been saying that we will govern by the rule of law because we know what not doing that will bring about.

“I assure the good people of Nigeria that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to recall our mandate.

“We won the election, and we will prove it to Nigerians.

“Please, do not despair. We have elections coming up on the 11th. I enjoin you to go out. Campaign. Come out and vote in that election. We still have so many massive support out there that we need for our subnational and state assemblies. Please, come out and be part of that election. I assure you that I will be part of it. I assure you that I am totally committed to a better future in this country, and nothing will stop that. Datti’s commitment, my commitment, is total.

“Be rest assured that your support will not be in vain and you will not find us wanting. We must build a better Nigeria where Nigerian youth will be happy, glad to call their own country.

“Thank you and may God Almighty continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Also, the presidential candidate of the PDP followed and declared as follows:

“Fellow Nigerians, it is with a heart full of sadness that I address you today.

“I have in the last three decades devoted my life to the battle to birth and deepen democracy in our country.

“It was a battle that started during the military era. It was a struggle that nearly caused me my life and that of my son, Adamu, in Kaduna. I survived the assassination only by the mercies and grace of God.

“Following that attack, I was forced into exile. But that attack claimed the precious lives of some police officers. That was not all: my businesses were nearly crippled and my signature business was eventually appropriated by the maximum ruler of that era. My commitment to enthroning democracy ensured that I joined forces with other compatriots. As a leader of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), we fought and won the 1993 presidential election, which was acclaimed as the fairest and freest election in our history. Sadly, Chief MKO Abiola, who embodied that hope for the birth of a new Nigeria, paid the ultimate price

“Our fight to enthrone democracy continued. Indeed, the motivating factor for the birth of the Peoples Democratic Party was to force the exit of the military from government and their permanent return to the military barracks.

“Following the exit of the military and the advent of democratic rule in 1999, I did not rest on my oars. I deployed the same level of commitment to advance and deepen our democracy. I did this because our democracy was bought at a huge price of human lives. My mentor and true Nigerian hero, who this venue in which we are gathered this evening is named for, was one of those who paid the ultimate price in that battle. So, also was Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief MKO Abiola and his dear wife, Chief (Mrs) Kudirat Abiola.

“It was also for this reason that I sacrificed my political aspiration and fought against the actualisation of Third Term. Whether during the military or civilian era, I have, no matter how inconvenient, pitched my tent with the people against dictators. During the military regime, it nearly cost me my life and the near decimation of my businesses. In the civilian administration, it had serious adverse implications on my political life. But I have remained undaunted because I was, and still convinced, that the only reason why I am in politics is to work in tandem with other compatriots in the advancement of the wellbeing of the people.

“The 2023 presidential election presented our nation and its people the greatest opportunity for a reset. We had everything going for us: a legal framework in the 2022 Electoral Act and the BVAS technology. The enthusiasm of Nigerians to turn out and in large numbers was an added bonus.

“However, the dreams and aspirations of Nigerians who braced all the challenges to go and cast their votes on Saturday, 25th of February, 2023, were shattered by the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which failed to live up to expectations. The weekend election was neither free nor fair. Preliminary assessments indicate that it is the worst conducted elections since the return to democratic rule. The manipulation and fraud that attended this election was unprecedented in the history of our nation. I can still not understand why the electoral umpire was in such a hurry to conclude collation and announcement of the result, given the number of complaints of irregularities of bypassing of the BVAS, failure of uploading to the IREV, and unprecedented cancellations and disenfranchisement of millions of voters in breach of the Electoral Act and the commission’s own guidelines. It was indeed a rape of democracy.

“Having consulted with leaders of our party and Nigerians from different walks of life, I have come to the conclusion that the processes and outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly election of last Saturday was grossly flawed in every material particular, and as such must be challenged. This has been attested to by both local and international observers. I want to believe that this was not the legacy that President Muhammadu Buhari had promised. For President Buhari, it is not too late to make amends for the good of our country and the future generations and indeed to assure his legacy.

“This battle to right the wrongs of Saturday is not about me. It is a continuation of my battles to deepen democracy and for a better life for our people. It is about the future of Nigerian youths.

“I know that Nigerians, especially the youth, are traumatised by the developments, but I want to urge them to conduct themselves peacefully. Like I have done over the years, I assure you that I will commit the rest of my life in ensuring that true democracy, which affirms the supremacy of your votes and your will, will take firm footing and guarantee a stable, prosperous and peaceful Nigeria. This is more so as Nigeria represents the hope of Africa and the Black World.”

The duo of Atiku and Peter Obi must have at the back of their minds that no presidential election result declared has ever been upturned by any court in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. It will be a new precedence if by any stroke of luck any of the two is able to make the justices of the Supreme Court change the results already declared.

Saddled with the responsibility of making the right decision as the choice of the next Nigeria’s president shifts to the judiciary are Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who is the Chief Justice of Nigeria; Musa Datijo Muhammad, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Chima Centus Nweze, Amina Augie, Uwani Musa Abba Aji, John Inyang Okoro and Lawal Garba.

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