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Pendulum: An Evening with Two Presidential Aspirants in Abuja

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, nothing is more uppermost in the minds of Nigerians and friends of Nigeria than that of Nigeria’s general elections next year and, in particular, the Presidential race. I have had the honour of talking to a few of the Presidential aspirants in recent times, one or one or by telephone. So far, I have interacted with former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Cross River State Governor, Mr Donald Duke, the Chairman of BEN TV London, Mr Alistair Soyode, and my former running-mate, Dr Yunusa Tanko. Two nights ago, I succeeded in sitting down with two very formidable aspirants, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, at their homes in Abuja. The separate meetings, which took place one after the other, lasted till the wee hours of Friday morning.

I was simply curious to catch a glimpse of their mind-set and, trust me, my efforts truly paid off. First to receive me two nights ago was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Sitting down with this friendly leader is always a great delight. This occasion was not different. We discussed frankly and openly. His confidence level is truly that of a man who has been in the system, and in the race, longer than most of the other aspirants. Before I go into details of our latest conversation, let me do a recap of my general observations of the ruling party, APC, and the leading opposition party, PDP.

I was one of those who suggested that President Muhammadu Buhari has no business seeking re-election, on account of age and diminishing stamina, but that advice seems to have been rubbished and dismissed by his apparent decision to go ahead, and contest again, next year despite the obvious. Though it is now belated, I wish to place it on record that the best way for APC to retain power is for President Buhari to do the unexpected, sacrifice his personal ambition and hand over to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who was able to relatively stabilise and unite Nigeria while the President was away on medical vacation in Nigeria. I wish to assure the President that he would get accolades and a louder ovation than he did when he honoured Chief Moshood Abiola and June 12 recently. President Buhari, by this decision, would instantly kill several birds with one stone. He would have helped Nigeria kill the hydra-headed nonsense of unproductive zoning and ethnic jingoism. He would have also rubbished those who see and label him as a religious bigot and Islamic extremist which no one has been able to prove in concrete terms except through conspiracy theories. He would also have bequeathed to Nigeria a more than worthy successor who he can be confident will vigorously continue with the fight against corruption, whilst taking Nigeria to greater economic heights.

Failing to do this, the President would lead his embattled and beleaguered party into a war they are not likely to win, and risk being humiliated out of power and totally demystified forever. For the sake of all the fervent supporters who laboured strenuously for his victory in 2015, this is not the road and route to take. But I know this simple and straight-forward and patriotic suggestion would be dismissed and derided by those who view power as the beginning and end of life, the present beneficiaries who are ruling our country from behind the “iron” curtain. In the next few weeks, as the melodrama begins to unfold and explode in the faces of those who have failed to learn the lessons and examples of history, let it be said and remembered that I said my own, even if my saying was considered a heresy and anathema to their obstinate position and ambition.

Let’s now briefly move on to likely scenarios and possibilities. It is certain that going by the recent National Convention of APC many formidable members of the ruling party are more than disenfranchised and disgruntled. The only option left is for them to carry whatever is left of their dignity and self-worth and find other parties to join. Most naturally, and definitely, the greatest beneficiary will turn out to be PDP. APC would be shooting itself in the foot to think PDP has become so weak and can no longer spring any surprises in the near and foreseeable future. History has an uncanny way of repeating itself and what I can see very vividly from my crystal-ball is that the same grand conspiracy that swept PDP out of government in 2015 is about to recur with mathematical accuracy.

There is not a single State won by APC in 2015 that it can confidently say it would win bigger and better this time. Rather the figures would shrink and diminish. If in doubt, please, exercise patience. That is how divided the seemingly unifying party at the time has now become. The war of attrition within the party is eating at its very soul and core and it is making it to bleed and lose supporters and voters.  The chickens will certainly come home to roost.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is upbeat that this is payback time for him and he is ready to finally claim the mandate that has eluded him since 1993 when he had to step down for Chief Moshood Abiola and in 2003 when he succumbed to pressure and allowed his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to seek and secure a second term. For him, life is a journey of destiny. He believes no one is as prepared and ready to hit the grand running as him. I asked if he is very sure that he will get the PDP ticket, his response is that he has reached out to all the stakeholders and he believes that those who don’t want Buhari to come back are very serious about who they see as having the national appeal to defeat him at the polls. His mathematical permutation is that he is the most visible and readily recognisable Nigerian politician in the race.

He says the Nigerian government has lost total grip on all aspects of governance and that President Buhari appears to be totally confused. He believes Buhari has refused to tap into the huge human resources and talents it has pleased God to bless Nigeria with. He is of the opinion that Nigeria is bleeding dangerously because Buhari has virtually polarised the country like no one else since the civil war. “Therefore, the leader Nigeria needs urgently is one who can unite the country and heal the deep wounds, not another Buhari who would further divide Nigeria and deepen the wounds,” Atiku declared matter-of-factly. He is relying on his track record as someone with the requisite cosmopolitan experience and exposure. He said Nigeria is being led by those whose views belong in the stone age and if Nigerians give him the chance, they will see the difference instantly, because he would assemble the best and most competent Nigerians for the best posts as he’s always done.

“Check my records Dele, my office as Vice President reflected the best of Nigeria; the guys were young and vibrant, and I gave them the wings to fly…” he said. I asked how he intends to tackle the seemingly pervasive public perception that he is a corrupt leader and he responded with all the emphasis at his command: “I have thrown the challenge repeatedly that anyone who has any corrupt charges against me should come forward… I never stole government money. Do you think President Obasanjo would not have exposed me if there was any such act of stealing?”

I fired the next shot as always and told him Nigerian youths are asking why he cannot enter the United States and he answered again like he did during our last chat in Lagos: “The youths have every right to ask and be answered convincingly. The youths of today are confident and bold. No leader can treat them as nobody. But in my case, they have been lied to about Atiku and fed with a lot of propaganda. I applied to America for visa which was not granted. A man who is afraid of being arrested won’t go near the American Embassy, it is simple logic. If America says come today, I will board the flight and go there soonest. Perhaps, America was fed with lies about me. It is normal in politics. The Indian and Kenyan leaders could not visit America at a time. America is not like Nigeria where we convict people on the pages of newspapers.”

He pleaded that his business dealings are above board and very professional and that any of our past and current leaders who have done better should come out to show what they have done. “I will definitely create an enabling environment for our business icons and young entrepreneurs to thrive. What I see today in this government is the promotion of poverty and the glorification of backwardness. How can a government be gloating that they are fighting corruption when thousands if not millions are losing jobs and even their lives,” he opined.

Before I left, he said he has done his best to persuade members of his party about his ability to defeat Buhari and reverse our lack of progress. ‘Nigeria has to be managed as serious business and I’m certainly equipped in that aspect more than any other…”

I left him and headed to Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso’s home. We had met in South Africa last year and I was looking forward to this interaction. Our recent meeting was graciously arranged by his wonderful son, Mubarak, a much younger friend of mine, very calm and intelligent. Kwankwaso was having dinner with his hordes of supporters when his son sent him a message that I was around. He immediately asked that I should be ushered in to join them at dinner, but I already had mine. He looked very relaxed despite the tension of the moment. I waited for him to finish and we moved into his small office. He reminds me of the friend of the ‘talakawa’, in the mold of late Mallam Aminu Kano.

My first question to him was if he’s still in APC since he boycotted their National Convention in Abuja last week. He smiled, almost sarcastically, and said, it was obvious some people did not want to see his face there and he too did not dignify them with his presence. “A man who respects himself should never force himself on anyone,” he stated. He said he is proud of his contributions to APC and how God used him to deliver 1.9 million votes to Buhari in the last election. Does he mean he has finally dumped the party? He appeared serious this time without exhibiting any bitterness: “I’m a free man now and available to try my luck elsewhere but I know that PDP is the biggest party and as long as they follow democratic principle, Buhari will easily be defeated, but if they handpick and force any candidate on the party, they will fail. “

I really enjoyed the way he analysed things and broke down the politics of Presidential electioneering in his own simple terms: “PDP needs someone from the 3k States, Kano, Katsina and Kaduna to win the next election. That’s where the votes are. It would be difficult to win if they pick someone from any other zone…” This was new approach to me. So, I asked if he feels he is the only candidate who can beat Buhari in a popularity contest, he said “of course, yes.” He likes to showcase his humongous achievements as the Governor of Kano State. He has compiled his work into a book and I must say, it is very impressive. He expects Nigerians to allow him replicate what he has done in Kano nationwide. His experience also as a former Defence Minister makes him a veritable choice to tackle the menace of terrorism in Nigeria.

He claims he gave APC the structure that produced the monumental result that catapulted Buhari back to power and that he still holds that magic wand. He said there is no way Buhari can repeat such impressive showing in Kano when he is fighting him and his counterpart, the former Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau. He studiously avoided discussing the chances of Atiku picking the PDP ticket and if he would support who ever emerges as the flagbearer of the party. His simple and non-committal response is that he cannot hand votes over to those who are not better than him and that PDP would have to think well and make the best decision.

“I can guarantee them that I will beat Buhari if given the chance…” he declared before we stood up to take pictures to commemorate our meeting. As I said good night, I could see the face of a man so determined to go into battle with Buhari, but in need of a good and viable platform.

The next days ahead should be very interesting indeed …

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Akpabio Commits to Collaboration with Tinubu, Governor Umo Eno

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The President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has stated his commitment to working closely with Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governor Umo Eno to ensure the delivery of democratic benefits to the people of Akwa Ibom State.

Akpabio stated this in his country home, Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, while briefing his constituents on the journey so far as their representative in the red chamber.

He assured the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District of his commitment to their welfare in appreciation of their total support for him, President Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in last year’s election.

The Highpoint of the constituency briefing was the distribution of over 10,000 bags of rice and other essentials for his constituents from the wards, to the local governments.

A statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Jackson Udom, quoted Akpabio as saying, “I am here once again, to thank you for standing by me, our President and the party, before, during and even after last year’s elections. I have come to say thank you and also bring Renewed Hope to you all.

“As the President is doing his own, the Senate President is also doing his bit and being complemented by the state governor, Akwa Ibom would be the better for it. We have finished elections and politics, we are now into governance. The governor of the state must touch you, because he is the governor of all the people in the state irrespective of political affiliation.

” As I am touching you now from the political angle, I will also touch the state without any political party affiliation. Most of the projects we are putting in place would be used by people resident in the state. Relax, things are getting better.”

The former Governor of the state, assured his constituents that his current position as the Senate President would be used for the development of the state in collaboration with the President and the Akwa Ibom State Governor.

Hear him: This Senate President is not the one that would be fighting the state government. I will collaborate with , I will collaborate with , to make the state better for us all. We cannot be out of government for a long time. You have to go to a government that carries you along”

Akpabio promised to work for his constituents and Nigeria with all his strength, noting that, “as the President of the Senate, I am for the Southern region and the entire country. I may not come here regularly to tell you what I have been doing for you, but you will be feeling the impact on way or the other. Our unemployed youths would be gainfully employed. I will construct a mini stadium in all the local governments in the district, for our youths to develop their sporting potentials. ”

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Akwa Ibom Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure Projects

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…DAKKADA OIL PALM FACTORY COMMENCES MILLING SOON

“Since May 2023, Akwa Ibom State Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure”

Commissioner for Works and Fire Service, Prof. Eno Ibanga disclosed this when he presented a breakdown at the State Executive Council meeting in Uyo.

He revealed that 39 new road projects have been undertaken with N78.77 billion released to fund them, while old projects have been funded to the tune of over N30 Billion, with an additional N12 Billion recently released by the Governor.

Details of the Exco meeting were made public by the Commissioner for Information, Ini Ememobong.

The Executive Council also approved the increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

Following the ongoing harvesting of fruits, milling will soon commence at the Dakkada Global Oil Palms.

The Managing Director of the Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, Pastor Imoabasi Jacob announced this during his presentation at the State Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Umo Eno.

Two projects executed through the Direct Labour Agency have been completed with 19 other ones ongoing.

The Director of Operations of the Agency, presented a status update on the projects under their supervision, also disclosed that 31 of the 100 initial ARISE Compassionate Homes will be completed and presented soon.

The Council was also briefed on the progress at Ibom LED, where 800 people have been trained and N400m has been approved to fund the grant of N500,000 to each of the participants, which will soon be done.

The Governor charged all the Executive Council members to ensure that all the projects and programmes under their supervision are people-centric from ideation to execution. He advised that project monitoring should be ramped up to ensure quick completion.

Major Highlights of the meeting are as follows:

√Status update on Food sufficiency received; proposal on increased cocoa, rice production & Ibom Model Farm submitted by HC for Agriculture & Rural Development

√Presentation of proposal by MD, AKICORP on Ibom Towers, FalconNext, Landmark Beach Resort.

√Dakkada Global Oil Palms Ltd ready to commence milling of ongoing harvested fruits

√Confirmation of N400m disbursed at N500,000 each to 800 IBOM-LED trainees in two batches

√Briefing by HC Works & Fire Service on N112 billion disbursed by the Governor for road infrastructure since May 2023, with 39 new road projects receiving N78.77 billion & N30 Billion for old projects, with additional release of N12 Billion

√Presentation by HC Culture & Tourism on tourism blueprint for proposed development of Tourism hubs at Ikot Abasi, Itu, and Oron

√ Two projects ready, 19 ongoing through Direct Labour Agency on 1 Project per Local Government Area; 31 ARISE Compassionate Homes nearly completed

√Approval for increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

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Oyo Prince Encourages Peace and Continued Charitable Acts Among Muslims

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Prince Afeez Siyanbola Oladigbolu, the grandson of the 40th Alaafin of Oyo and the youngest contender for the Alaafin throne, is calling on Muslims in Oyo State and across Nigeria to uphold peace and carry forward the spirit of sacrifice and kindness observed during Ramadan.

Prince Oladigbolu made the call in his Eid-El- Fitri message where he bemoaned the state of affairs in Oyo Kingdom.

According to him “We don’t have an Alaafin and we also currently do not have a Chief Imam. The two vacuums remain unfilled due to the passage of HRM Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and late Mashood Adebayo Ajokidero and this requires urgent attention because of the leadership gap it has caused in Oyo.

“The absence of the Alaafin has led to a state of stagnancy since Oba Adeyemi joined his ancestors in April 2022, while our spiritual growth has not been at its highest without a Chief Imam”

The young prince challenged Muslim leaders and communities to be fervent in unstoppable prayers for Almighty Allah’s intervention in the affairs of Oyo town, the State and Nigeria.

He also used the opportunity to urge the youths to be calm, stay away from violence and embrace hard work.

In his words ” Violence leads to crime , while crime leads to jail”

He further also advising youths to abstain from being used against the government, noting that nobody or group of people have the capacity to fight the government at any level.

” If the political behaviour of any candidate is not going down well with you, wait for the next election and vote such a candidate out. That is the civil way to react.

” Violence, insults, and most especially curses on our leaders are not options we should explore and will not change anything. Let’s pray for them so that they can always fulfil their campaign promises.

The former Mariner and real estate Entrepreneur also extended some assistance to senior citizens to commemorate the season.

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