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Pendulum: Nigerian Politicians and the Latest Craze in Town

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me say how worried I’m about our dear beloved country Nigeria. Yes. I’m troubled because of how much we have allowed politics and politicking to turn our land into a playground of beasts and vampires. It is sad, very sad.

Just yesterday, an old friend woke me up from my deep sleep. He is no other than the former Governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu. I had tried to reach him desperately in the last few weeks after reading all kinds of reports online about him. The one that alarmed me the most was a purported ‘Breaking News” that said Orji has just died after an unsuccessful operation in Germany. I was so rattled that I quickly put a call through to my dear friend and former colleague at Concord Newspapers of Nigeria, Eric Osagie, now the Managing Director of The Sun Newspapers. As soon as he picked his phone, I tried to check if I would hear, or feel, any wailing, or gnashing, of teeth in the background but my friend sounded as boisterous as ever. Ever since I knew Eric, I have never seen or heard  him in a dull moment.

Eric screamed my moniker as always “Bob Deeeee!” I retaliated, “Ericooo!” and I went straight to the reason I was calling him.” Where is Orji Kalu?” I asked, hurriedly. “Your friend is in his house in Abuja,” Eric responded, matter-of-factly. Somehow, I thought he was just being clever and tactful and didn’t want to break the sad news, just yet. I wasn’t going to allow Eric do that to me. The reporter in me took the upper hand and I thundered, “I just read that Orji is dead!” But Eric, in his characteristic confidence mode, responded authoritatively. “Bob Dee, don’t mind them, “your friend is in his house in Abuja, please call him.” Wow, thank God, I sighed and simmered. I called but got no response from my friend of over 27 years.

No matter the situation, my friends are always my friends. Business or politics should never separate friends. Orji was already a successful businessman when I met him around 1990. I used to call him “the Aba Trader” then and he changed my nickname from Bob Dee to Don Dee. He used to pick me up, every now and then to visit his various sites and properties in Lagos and I was quite impressed about his business acumen and vision. I loved to gist with him, as he had incredible information on everything and everyone. One of the most fascinating stories I savoured endlessly from him was that of the coup that almost toppled General Ibrahim Babangida from the seat of power at Dodan Barracks. Orji is an extremely affable man whose wealth of friends, from North to South, and East to West, is remarkable and commendable. I wish every Nigeria was like members of their generation who saw Nigeria as one nation and not a country of fracticidal fractional nationalities.

When I was in exile in England, Orji contacted me regularly whenever he breezed into London and he always invited me to his beautiful home in North Finchley. We had fun visiting the best restaurants and we were so close then and remain so now. I will always recall his visit to our former home, on Romford Road in East London, when my wife and I had the naming ceremony of our second son, Enitanyole, in July 1996. Also present was Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate most of the photographs taken on that special occasion, but we still have that of Tinubu and myself.

When Ovation took off full blast, we did an exclusive interview with Orji Kalu at home in London, titled “Aba Trader Eyes the Government House.” It was the first time Orji revealed that he was nursing the ambition to go into politics and contest the gubernatorial election in his home State of Abia, in South East Nigeria. I was excited by the story which was lavishly garnished with beautiful pictures of his London home. Though I had my doubts about his ability to take on and dislodge the firmly rooted professional politicians in Nigeria, I was nonetheless happy that successful managers of men and resources were getting into politics instead of abandoning governance in the hands of semi-literates, mediocres and never-do-wells.

My only worry at the time was the risk of duelling with political sharks and alligators who were ready to tear everyone and everything into shreds if it threatened their entrenched interests. I felt that Orji might end up a veritable victim of their customary shenanigans. Orji soon started his campaign and I monitored him from a distance. His raw courage always marked him out and I assumed his humongous business conglomerate was the source of his confidence and suavity. He contested and won the Governorship race and I was very elated. We met a few times whenever he was in his Lagos home and I relished our breakfast meetings at his home in Victoria Island. He had bright ideas about how to transform Aba from a rural setting to a cosmopolitan society. I noticed in his first term that he embarked on an aggressive modernisation of roads which was hailed in many newspaper reports which, I believe gave him the opportunity to win a second term, despite his running battle with President Olusegun Obasanjo. The only time I visited Abia State was when I was made a Chief by HRH Eze Dr Ngozi Israel Ibekwe, the traditional Ruler of Etiti Mgboko Umuanunu Ancient Kingdom. Unless I am doing a story, or I am expressly invited for some activity, function or even visit, it is not my style to bother my friends who are in positions of power. I believe that they have enough on their plate and that I should not add to their problems or distract them from their serious work of nation building.

I had no means of assessing or ascertaining how well he did as Governor, but he seemed very popular from the way he was handed a second term by his people. At some point, he even nursed Presidential ambition. I will not be surprised if he still does because I know he is passionate about Nigeria and feels that we have so far been short-changed by the quality of leaders that we have had. He remains resolute and firm in the belief that he still has a lot to offer the country. Orji was one of the most vociferous critics of the Obasanjo regime. He must be commended for surviving the blistering Hurricane OBJ that swept away several Governors of that incredible era. Since he left power, his critics have attacked him too endlessly and he’s been dragged before the anti-corruption agency, EFCC, accused of pilfering some of the resources meant for developing his State. The latest controversy has now led to the rumour of his death.

Well, Orji woke me up from bed yesterday morning. “Don Deee, how are you?” Then he went into the rumour of his death. He said he’s happy that he survived his operations that lasted many hours. He wondered why some people wanted him dead after serving his State and country meritoriously. He reminded me of how long we’ve known each other and recalled how he had made his billions via his SLOK GROUP, long before he went into politics.

He was very excited to chat with me just like old times and as we usually do whenever we have the opportunity to interact. He said he was returning to Germany to recuperate properly and fully and I wished him a safe trip. It is always a delight chatting with a man who has some of the hottest gist about men and women of power. His tentacles and reach also go beyond Nigeria.

Orji is not the only butt of jokes and ridiculous rumours in this season of political giddiness. I have had to practically engage in hot verbal exchanges with supposed educated and intelligent Nigerians over the cloning or body double speculation about our President Muhammadu Buhari. I sat recently with a Senator at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja who insisted that Buhari is no longer on this planet and he’s been replaced by a nebulous Jubril from Sudan. My God, what manner of country is this, I soliloquised. The thought that any rational or reasonable person could contemplate that such far-fetched subterfuge and con could be perpetrated by any group of Nigerians with the collaboration of foreigners, especially the English, just makes the mind boggle. It is for example utterly ridiculous and sheer madness to ascribe to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo – a cerebral, discerning man of God, a Professor of Law and the immediate beneficiary of any unfortunate accident to the President – any role in such a farcical debacle. Indeed, it is such a crying shame that supposedly brilliant, intelligent and wise men and women would even deign to condescend to join the cacophony of noise and excitement about the existence of such a dastardly plot. For me, this is a distraction that we can least afford when there are important matters to engage us as a nation particularly as we draw near elections which may turn out to be the making, breaking or otherwise of our great country.

I have met Buhari at close range on at least four occasions since 2011, including engaging him all alone in a room in Aso Rock in 2015. As far as I am concerned, he remained the same person now as he was then. He may be affected by the aging process and ill-health, but that happens to us all.  It does not make us cloned or a body double or doppelganger of a Sudanese man. How can anyone want to brainwash Nigerians like common idiots? The fact people disagree politically is no reason to manufacture such malicious, irresponsible and fallacious tales about anyone least of all the President of our country.

All our political gladiators must purge themselves of this poisonous bile. At the same time, I have a generous advice for Buhari and his handlers, in particular. They should resist the temptation to play politics of coercion. While I agree that there is plenty of fake news going around which is a mere part of the internet phenomenon, not many of it is hate speech, but mere irresponsible, spiteful or just jocular people who do not know any better. Only God gives power. To label rational, but dissenting speech as fake news just heats up the polity and clearly degrades us and our democracy. Dissent and criticism are the hallmarks of true freedom and the ability to tolerate such critique is the difference between celebrated statesmen and despised autocrats, dictators and tyrants. Some of the moves of certain government officials and agencies in recent times have been interpreted as a sign of panic and desperation. Blocking and obstructing opposition on all fronts may actually make certain candidates more popular. We have recent history to refer to in this regard. A word is enough for the wise.

As we approach 2019, another year of elections in Nigeria, the unification, security and economic well-being of our countrymen and women should be our priority. It is not how long we rule or reign but how well that is important and vital.

God bless Nigeria.

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Atiku Hails Judgment on Full Financial Autonomy for LGs, Says It’s a Win for Nigerian People

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The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections, and a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court, ordering that henceforth local government allocations be paid direct into various local government accounts, saying it is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The Waziri Adamawa made his views public via his social media handle, saying categorically that “I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.”

He wrote:

The judgment of the Supreme Court earlier today affirming fiscal autonomy to local government councils in the country is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The court’s ruling is a step in the right direction and a major corrective action in greasing the wheels of national development across the country.

The decision by the Federal Government to consolidate disbursements of local councils’ revenues into the state government accounts was a decision that was borne out of politics of hasty compromise.

I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.

I also share the belief that fiscal autonomy to the local governments should not be limited to revenues from the Federation Accounts, but indeed, should apply to Internally Generated Revenue from the respective local government authorities.

Many of our states, especially those in the ultra urban areas with high density economic activities, have become notorious in muscling local councils from generating revenue on items that border on motor parks, outdoor advertising, rents and many more.

The verdict of the court is in tandem with the core functions of the Supreme Court as an arbitration court between and among governments. -AA

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Supreme Court Grants LGAs Full Financial Autonomy

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria has ruled that the 774 local government areas (LGAs) be given a full financial autonomy across the federation.

A seven-man panel of Supreme Court Justices led by Justice Garba Lawal delivered the ruling on Thursday, July 11, 2024.

The apex Court initially heard the suit between the Federal and State government on the autonomy of local government on June 13 and reserved judgment.

The suit marked SC/CV/343/2024 was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), and it sought full autonomy and direct fund allocation to the 774 local government areas (LGAs) in the country.

Fagbemi requested the Supreme Court to order that funds for LGAs managed by caretaker committees appointed by governors, rather than elected chairmen and councillors, be withheld.

However, the 36 state governors, represented by their attorneys general, oppose the suit on various grounds, including their argument that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

In its ruliing on Thursday (today), the Supreme Court ordered that full financial autonomy be granted to the LGAs, recognizing them as an independent segment of the federation.

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Wike vs Ireti Kingibe: Time to Stop the Bully

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By Eric Elezuo

It is an understatement to say that there’s no love lost between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesom Wike, and the Senator representing the FCT, Mrs. Ireti Kingibe. Their relationship has turned more soured than the proverbial cat and rat. In fact, both cannot see eye to eye, in as much as they are saddled with the same responsibility of promoting and developing the FCT.

While Kingibe, one of the four female senators in the Senate, is operating on the mandate of the people, having been duly elected under the Labour Party in a well contested election in the 2023 General Elections, Wike is an appointee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

No one has been able to explain the origin of the beef between the two political figures, but source close to The Boss, has said that differences in political affiliation may have triggered the initial animosity before it blossomed into full time hatred and cross verbal attacks, leading to the bullying of the Senator.

Senator Kingibe had complained earlier in the life of the administration that the FCT has shun all her approaches to synergise for the benefit of the Abuja residents, since she’s a direct interface of the people as an elected representative. But Wike, in his response tackled the Abuja Senator, asking her to stay away from him that he does not wish to be friends with her.

Wike had lambasted the Senator, accusing her of blackmailing him instead of communicating her problems through the right channels or better still focusing on her oversight functions.

He stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, stating that the lawmaker is aggrieved because the Senate President snubbed her for the position of the Senate Committee on FCT.

“I don’t want to be personal…she’s the Senator for FCT. She went around saying ‘oh, oh Wike is busy scraping roads…I should leave the roads till when the potholes come?” Wike said.

“Somebody wants to be your friend and you say ‘I don’t want to be your friend. Is it by force?’ The problem is that she wanted to be Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT and the Senate President said ‘I’m not giving you’.

‘What are you going to supervise me? You cannot supervise me. What is her interest, that I must see her? If I have a problem I’ll go and see her. I don’t have a problem. Nobody can intimidate me. Look, I was a Minister before. I became a governor of one of the most important states in Nigeria and she thinks that the only way you can bring me down is to go to Channels, TVC, saying the Minister is not carrying me along.

“I don’t have the back to carry. It’s not about blackmailing. Do the right thing. You know her problem? She ran election with my friend Philip Aduda and she sees me taking Philip everywhere instead of her being the Senator. Should I abandon my friend because he failed election?” Wike queried.

However, while the Senator has refused to stay bullied, Nigerians have said that time is now to tame the bully, and save the bullied from any further acts of disrespect.

Kingibe has made it clear however, that she is not in any interested in the friendship of Wike, who she only knows from a distance, but in working together to answer to the needs of the FCT residents, whom both of them have been mandated to serve at the moment.

Speaking on Arise News interview, the Senator reviewed as follows, taking into cognizance that Wike addresses her as one, who claims her senatorial role:

“That’s what he says. I am the senator, but he said in interviews that I claim that I am the senator of the FCT, and he is not obliged to deal with me. But I am saying that by sections 122 and 124 of the Evidence Act, he is bound by the judicial notice of the occupier of the seat of the senator of the FCT.

“I am also saying that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, imbues on him a duty, that is, the honourable minister, (I am not calling any names because anybody who is the minister is bound by those same laws and duties) to abide by the constitution, to respect all its ideals, institutions and legitimate authorities entirely.

“So just the same way that some Nigerians would have voted for the president, and some would not have, but as soon as he is declared the president, he becomes the president for everybody, and nobody can pick and choose who would rather be the president. And therefore, same applies to all offices regardless of party or any other position.”

She added, “Please what constitutes friendship between two people who have never met each other? I have never sat in the same room with the minister except in the senate committee. So how does friendship arise? Why would I want to be the friend of somebody I do not know?

“The truth of the matter is that the minister refuses to speak or communicate in any way with the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory. So, how are the wishes and the needs of the people to be communicated to him? Please tell me if you know a way.”

Responding while inaugurating the construction of Mabushi Bus Terminal, Phase I, in Abuja, came hard on the senator for her remarks threatening to unseat her as a serving senator in the next election.

Referring to her as a nameless person, Wike asked her to go hug the transformer, in a most derogatory attempt to inform that she does not matter in the scheme of activities in the FCT.

Wike said: “I overheard somebody in Arise this morning. Unfortunately, I hear the person is a member of National Assembly and it is unfortunate I say so. With all due respect, what you don’t know, you don’t know, what you know you know, and the good thing for you is to tell people you don’t when you don’t know, then people will educate you.

“The Honorable Minister of State and my humble self have not been in office for more than 11 months and the person is angry that they are praising us. If you don’t want to or you are angry about that, go and hand yourself in a transformer. If we have done well, we have done well. If we haven’t done well, we haven’t done well. I’m proud to say that in the short time that Mr. President has appointed us, we have done well.

“You said there are no hospitals and there are no hospitals. You, as a legislator, what have you done? How many bills have you sponsored for us to improve our education and health sector?

“I challenge that legislator. If you are very popular, 2027 come and run under Abuja, we will fail you. Do you think that what happened last time, will happen again? It will not happen again. Luckily for me, I am the FCT Minister now. So that is my territory and I’m not afraid.

“So, People should be able to come out and be able to accept the truth. We are not begging for anybody to become our friend, we have so many friends that we cannot even carry along. So how can we go and beg people to become our friends? We are not interested in that.

“If you are angry that people are praising us, by next year your BP level will go very high because the praises you would see would be too much.”

Many legislators were at the event, and they clapped for the minister at the remarks.

In another commissioning activity, the Senate President was on hand to deliver a speech, but ended up talking down on his colleague.

“I saw one of the legislators on television talking about you (Wike) and mentioning the fact that she was not carried along.

“Well, she is a member of the Senate. Once a decision is taken, she is bound by the decision. So, please ignore every distraction (from her) and be rest assured that no matter what you do, not everyone will praise you. Others will still try to find faults,” Mr Akpabio told Mr Wike, who was beaming with smiles.

Many other Senators were present at the event.

But Nigerians have come hard on the FCT Minister for his unguided utterances against an elected public officer, who is also a septugenarian, accusing him of lacking respect and playing God in the affairs of men.

In their response, the Labour Party, FCT branch, accused Wike of falling out of line, saying that Kingibe did nothing  y calling his attention to main needs of the Abuja residents.

The FCT chairman of the party, Comrade Diugwu Chukwuemeka, said by Wike’s outburst, he showed that he is not at home with the peculiarities of the FCT, nothing that the area is a conglomeration of different persons from across the length and breadth of the country.

“Does he not know that he is a tenant in FCT merely appointed by  the president and  if Mr. President decides to remove him, he will be removed without any ceremony,” the LP chairman queried.

On his part, the National Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr Ajuji Ahmed, described Wike’s attack on Senator Kingibe as verbal violence.

He said that Wike does not have the power to stop other politicians’ re-election because he is not the one that brought such politicians to the office in the first instance.

“That (the attack) amounts to verbal violence because there is no reason why he (Wike) should do that. He is not in the LP. It was LP that elected her. He has nothing to do with LP and he is not the entire electorate of the FCT. There is no way somebody can stop someone from being re-elected in three years time. It’s not a savoury statement.”

Also speaking, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, also described the verbal exchange between Wike and the FCT as bad.

He appealed to the two public officers to sheathe swords and collaborate for the overall progress of the FCT.

“For me, it is all politics. But it is unfortunate that they allowed their political differences to affect their service to the people.

“The senator representing FCT represents all Abuja and the entire Abuja has one FCT minister.

“It is the National Assembly that presides over Abuja. One would have expected the two to work together. But it is bad that they are fighting each other,” he said.

However, in total condemnation of Wike’s bullish approach to the administration of the FCT and attacks on Kingibe, the women of Abuja have held a protest, asking that Wike be checkmate in his untoward utterances against Kingibe.

“We, the Concerned Women of FCT, Abuja, are therefore calling on all women in Abuja to rise against Wike’s antics,” the women noted.

While Nigerians expect the legislators to come to the rescue and support of their colleague, the contrary is playing out, encouraging Wike’s bullish attitude. But Nigerians are stepping out of their comfort zone to curb the menace.

Nigerians also understand that Wike’s bullish stance extends to his Rivera State primary constituency, where he is slugging it out with the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Siminalayi Fubara, over the control of the state. The state has,  in recent months, been a subject of political intrigues and violence as the parties fight for supremacy.

But time will tell.

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