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Pendulum: An Evening with Two Presidential Aspirants in Abuja



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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You’ve Nothing to Offer Nigerians, Only Insults, Akwa Ibom Gov Slams Tinubu




Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, on Monday, replied the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying that he (Tinubu) always resorts to abusing and insulting people during campaigns because he has nothing to bring to the table for Nigerians.

He also said that despite being insulted by the former Lagos State Governor, he would prefer to allow peace to reign by ignoring him and focusing on helping install good governance to rescue Nigerians from their present woes.

Emmanuel spoke on Monday evening at Government House, Uyo while inaugurating newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Members of Boards and Commissions, as well as a Transition Committee to ensure the smooth transition of power to the next administration.

Recall that Tinubu had during his rally in Uyo Monday afternoon, reportedly said, “Akwa Ibom, that boy wey bring Atiku here, wey de call himself Governor, tell him enough is enough! He lives in my backyard in Lagos, If no be say we be one, I would have driven him home. You see that mansion he is living, I would just use lizards, pigeons and scorpions to put him inside.“

But reacting few hours later, the Akwa Ibom State Governor said, “for the country to remain in peace, one party must ‘play saint’ and that is why he would refrain from replying Tinubu.

Emmanuel who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential campaigns said, “I also go to other states, and if you watch our campaigns, my principal (Atiku Abubakar) has never spoken about any Governor, he has never spoken openly about Asiwaju before.”

He added that it was unfortunate that Tinubu, who was granted state-owned facilities such as the airport, security, stadium, and a good atmosphere to come in and sell his manifesto, ended up coming to insult the integrity of over 7.9 million Akwa Ibom people.

The Governor wondered if it is possible for any Akwa Ibomite to go to Lagos that Tinubu stays or the actual state that he hails from, to insult Tinubu in like manner and still be allowed to safely return home, “but here our people at the stadium including some state governors just laughed and applauded him.”

“What makes him think he will govern Nigeria? If I reply him now, people will call me and say, haba oga you are not like that. But I will reply him one day. There is nothing like ‘emilokan’ (it is my turn) here, Nigeria is in God’s hands.”

He maintained further that despite being the highest revenue contributor to the federation account, Akwa Ibom State has not gotten a single kilometre of road from the APC-led Federal Government for nearly 8 years adding that the poor response from the Federal Government also caused the delayed commencement of the seaport in the state.

Meanwhile, the governor thanked the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries for accepting the onerous task of service, and urged them to see themselves as ambassadors and work towards raising the bar of leadership which would encourage productivity and promote good working relationship with subordinates in the service.

“This is one thing I promised Akwa Ibom people that appointment of Permanent Secretaries shall be totally on merit and not by mercy, let those that can do the work be given the opportunity. Permanent Secretary is not a promotion, it is an appointment on merit.

Governor Emmanuel also reiterated his commitments towards enhancing efficiency within Civil Service, noting that during his administration civil servants have been promoted on yearly basis.

He assured that before he exits office more Permanent Secretaries would be appointed into the service to fill vacant positions left by the ones who retired.

Addressing Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, Governor Emmanuel who described them as pillars in government, acknowledged their commitment particularly, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection & Waste Management Agency, Prince Akpan Ikim, for winning laurels for the state through his outstanding performance in keeping and making the state the cleanest in Nigeria for five consecutive years from 2018 through 2022, and tasked others to create an impact that will stand them out.

In the same vein, the Transition Committee members were handed the task of ensuring a seamless transition of government to an incoming administration, and also verify all projects executed by the present administration.

The newly appointed Permanent Secretaries are; Mfon Inuaesiet Edemekong Esq., Dr. Stephen Effiong, Atim Chelly Okoko, Iquo Okon Abia Esq., Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien, Isaiah Robson Ntekim and Emaeyak Nyong Akpan as Auditor-General for Local Government.

The Transition Committee has Mrs. Ekereobong Umoh -Chairman, Uko Udom SAN, Prof Augustine Umoh, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, Mrs. Nsemeke Daniel, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, Mr Elijah Udoiyak, Mrs. Esther Inyang, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, Mr. Isaiah Ntekim, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong and Mrs. Bella Akpanya as members.

The Punch

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PDP Condemns Attack on Buhari in Kano, Blames Tinubu, Ganduje




The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council, has blamed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attacks on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the state on Monday.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Dino Melaye, who shared one of the videos from the reported attack, wrote, “The fight between Tinubu and Buhari is entering a new dimension. The attack in Kano was properly coordinated and funded allegedly by Asiwaju.

“The meeting to push Buhari to submission or face sponsored attack in the north was said to be hatched in Bourdillon. Me, I am busy with Atiku.”

A political activist, Deji Adeyanju, who shared another video of the reported attack, said, “They are showing Buhari and APC Shege in Kano and many northern states.”

Similarly, the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Monday also blamed Tinubu and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attack.

According to the party, the attack was designed to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections “and derail our democracy having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”

The statement read in part, “The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State.

“More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari while performing his official duties in Kano.

“It should be noted that the APC presidential candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.

“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.”

Ologunagba reminded Nigerians about Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that “political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte.”

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Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu Battles for Freedom, Appears in Court Tuesday




A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, will on Tuesday appear again in court in the United Kingdom where he has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after Staines Police Station received a report from a young man claiming to have been trafficked into the UK.

The young man, who made the report shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, also alleged that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

Ekweremadu was immediately arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court for bringing a child into the UK to harvest his organs.

While the lawmaker had been in custody since June 23, his wife, Beatrice, who was arrested with him, was granted bail by a criminal court in London shortly after their arrest.

Monday (today) makes it 221 days since Ekweremadu was placed in the custody of UK authorities.

The case against the lawmaker which had been slated for May was later scheduled for January 31.

The 60-year-old, who denied the allegations against him, will again appear before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Johnson.

His daughter, Sonia, had on November 7, 2022, appeared in court to defend the accusation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself.

According to Daily Mail, the 25-year-old, who is battling a kidney-related illness, pleaded not guilty to the charge level against her when she appeared again in court on January 13.

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