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Opinion: Bayelsa and Other Stories by Reuben Abati




By Reuben Abati 


“Sorry about your man”

“Thank you”

“You know I used to think that this COVID-19 thing is a kind of scientific joke, but now I am beginning to take it seriously.” 

“How can you say that? It is people like you who mislead the public. I hope you have not been listening to those Pastors who tell people that COVID-19 is not real. I urge you not to commit suicide by exposing yourself unnecessarily. Are you aware that as at this moment the death toll worldwide is close to one million? And that over 21 million persons have been infected? You call that a joke?”

“But I hear it affects only some kind of people, the rich in particular. Big men.” 

“No. You only get to hear about the death of big men. You know that Shakespearean quote: “When beggars die there are no comets seen;/The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” . Thousands of poor people are probably dying every week in Nigeria as a result of COVID 19. But nobody knows. Nobody will report their death in the news because nobody knows them. In any case, the poor have their own explanation. They don’t quite believe that there is anything called COVID-19. Just like you. They often attribute every death to witches and wizards.”  

“Are you saying witches and wizards cannot use COVID-19 as a weapon of destruction?”

“In your mind. I’d rather stay with science. Superstition and ignorance are the twin threats to the war against COVID-19 in Africa. While the rest of the world is mobilizing scientists, laboratories and resources to find a cure to the disease, Africans are talking about prayers and witchcraft.”

“But I hear that even scientists are saying that the virus doesn’t quite affect some people, due to previous exposure to a virus within the COVID family, or even common cold. Such persons develop natural antibodies in their T-Cells which protect them against the disease. I am actually quoting a report recently published in the Science Journal by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top expert on infectious diseases.”

“The truth about this disease is that nothing is certain yet. What I have heard is that the virus is constantly mutating and that a new strain has now been discovered in Asia which is likely to be more lethal than the current one. It is called G614.”  

 “I forbid that in Jesus name.” 

“What are you forbidding? Just be careful.” 

“By the way, what do you think of the latest development in Bayelsa State? The Governor’s election has been nullified by the Election Petition Tribunal. What do you think will happen?”

“Governor Douye Diri himself has indicated what will happen. He says his lawyers have been briefed to go to the Court of Appeal and that he is determined to go all the way to the Supreme Court. That is the best option available to him.  A man who became Governor through the instrumentality of the law cannot be seen embracing any option other than the rule of law.”

“Poor fellow. It is as if some people just don’t want him in that position.  Four different petitions were filed against him at the Tribunal by four political parties: the Alliance for Democracy (AD) the United People’s Congress (UPC), the Liberation Movement (LM) and the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP). The petitions by the AD, UPC and LM were dismissed for lack of merit last weekend. But now a few days later, the ANDP petition has been upheld by the Tribunal.  But should Douye Diri lose his seat because of a mistake that was committed by INEC?  Diri was not the person who omitted the name and logo of the ANDP from the ballot box. INEC did that. Is it then right to cancel the election and order a re-run within 90 days on account of that?” 

“Yes. Absolutely. The Tribunal is correct. The ruling draws attention to a fundamental point about the validity of the Gubernatorial election conducted in Bayelsa state on November 16, 2019. The exclusion of the ANDP raises issues of validity.”

“But do you think Diri will win at the Court of Appeal?”

“I don’t know. We should just wait and see.”

“So, if there is a re-run of the Gubernatorial election, will the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, David Lyon now be on the ballot too. After all, he won the election originally until his Deputy brought bad luck to the ticket and the Court nullified David Lyon’s victory.” 

“No. The APC cannot participate in the re-run election. The Lyon-Degi-Eremienyo ticket was declared invalid by the court. It remains so. But I foresee a lot of re-alignments. Even without a candidate in the election, the APC is not likely to fold its hands. The party can align with one of the other political parties, put up a proxy candidate on that other platform and give the PDP a serious fight. The APC will certainly see this as an opportunity to take Bayelsa back. Once their proxy candidate wins, the deed is done. One or two months later, the new Governor will simply jump ship and join the APC. Simple.” 

“It is that simple? I don’t think so” 

“Not quite simple but it is all a matter of political strategy. Strategy matters.”

“Douye Diri will be foolish to allow the APC dislodge him with that kind of strategy. In fact, he should never have allowed the matter to get to this stage. He should have negotiated with the ANDP. Pay them off. In some states in the last election, there were some other political parties who were wrongfully excluded from the ballot sheet. The party that won at the end of the day negotiated with them and nobody went to court to challenge anything.”

“Where did that happen?” 

“Ask me again. Is it me you want to put into trouble? Are you not aware that if you say anything these days, you could be invited for a chat with the Department of State Services (DSS)?”

“You just like to talk. You lack courage.”

“Thank you”

“Okay, just whisper it to me. I won’t tell anybody.”  

“Do I look like a child to you? I am just giving you an idea of how politicians behave. But one thing is certain, in Bayelsa, there will be re-alignments. We saw it happen in Imo State in 2007. That was how Chief Ikedi Ohakim of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) emerged victorious in that election. Chief Ohakim subsequently switched to the PDP, which decided to abandon its own candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and chose to campaign for Ohakim based on agreements. Ararume had taken the PDP to court. He was expelled by the party and taught a lesson.”

“Politicians. But it doesn’t look like we will witness the kind of tension we are now seeing in Edo State in Bayelsa state, whatever happens.”

“Let’s wait and see. You can never predict politicians, although I must say that what is going on in Edo State is something else. I am just worried about the people of Edo State. The politicians are not talking about what the people want. They are more interested in their own squabbles and ambition.”

“I will be surprised if there is no outbreak of violence in Edo State on election Day, September 19 and after, followed by post-election conflict.” 

“The security agencies have their job cut out for them. If there is any breakdown of law and order in Edo State, we must hold the Nigeria police responsible, because the situation is foreseeable. Even the electoral commission INEC, has warned about the threat of violence in Edo State.”  

“INEC should play its own part too. Otherwise, the next thing we will hear is that due to so, so and so, the Gubernatorial election in Edo State has been declared inconclusive!”

“INEC has got to do what it has to do. If the politicians in Edo State do not want that to happen, then they should conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.” 

“You know an idea just occurred to me.  You know the Oba of Benin in Council can actually help ensure electoral peace in Edo State.”

“The Oba already met with leaders of the political parties. He has appealed to them to give peace a chance. But you know the Oba of Benin cannot openly take sides. He is the father of all.” 

“I know. I know. But you think these politicians will listen?”

“So what should the Oba of Benin do then?”

“Simple. You will recall a time when there was a sharp rise in human trafficking and crime in Benin City. The Oba directed the palace priests to bring out all the traditional missiles of Benin City, some of which had not been brought out in the sun for about 800 years. Clad in flaming red, the priests, native doctors and metaphysicians gathered at the palace, with the Oba in attendance and placed a curse on anyone committing crime, promoting human trafficking and disturbing the Edo Kingdom. The strategy worked. Crime rate went down immediately. Human traffickers went on holiday.  Every body just hailed the King: “Oba gha to kpe e” and behaved themselves. I understand the people of Edo believe in the efficacy of curses. So, what the palace needs to do this time is to adopt the same strategy. Place a curse on anybody that tries to sabotage the Gubernatorial election in that state on September 19. You’d be surprised these politicians will not risk the outcome of ancestral curses. And nobody will allow his or her child to act as an agent of violence.” 

“You and your primitive ideas. Where have you ever heard of any such thing? Such an idea is unknown to the democratic process.” 

“It is not everything that you can subject to textbook ideas, my friend. What I am suggesting is a kind of home-grown democracy. Democracy in Africa does not have to be an exact replica of how democracy works in America. My suggestion will work if taken. I probably won’t recommend the same approach in another state, but in Edo State, it is the best way to ensure peace and protect the people.” 

“I see you have not been going to church for a while. But now that the churches have re-opened, you need to seek salvation and confess your sins.” 

“I am not going to church for now. I want to wait till we actually know where we are going with COVID-19”

“I thought you were once a Trustee of your church.”

“Oh, no. Not any more. And in any case, Church Trustees are now in trouble. In the new Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, it is expressly stated that the Supervising Minister and Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) will regulate religious bodies and charity organizations. In addition, they can suspend the Trustees of an association or a religious body.” 

“Government is looking for trouble. The churches will protest.”

“One of the General Overseers, Daddy Oyedepo, has in fact started the protest. He says no government can regulate his Church or appoint trustees for him. One of these days, I won’t be surprised if churches are asked to start paying tax, or that a General Overseer cannot also serve as Lead Pastor in the church. In other words, you can’t be Chairman of the Church and also be the CEO, while your wife is the Treasurer.”

“That provision applies only to public companies, not non-profit organizations like churches.”

“Who told you a church is not-for-profit? Some churches in this country are richer than many banks!”

“Just be careful. You are toying with blasphemy.”  

“I know what I am talking about. Some church leaders even have private jets.”

“Well, now that international flights will be allowed, the Pastors can now start enjoying their private jets again.” 

“International flights have resumed? When?”

Not yet. On August 29, according to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika”

“Do you think we are ready? International flights to where and from where? Definitely not to or from the United States, China, France, India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina or any country that is a high-risk COVID-19 hotspot.”

“The Minister certainly needs to give more information. As for me and my humble household, no international travel till 2022.”  



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Fuel Subsidy Removal: FG, Labour Meeting Ends in Deadlock




Talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump prices to over N700 from N195 per litre by oil marketers.

The hours-long meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to, among other things, prevent a labour crisis following the recent increase in the petrol pump price occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it had adjusted the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to reflect the market realities. The agency, however, failed to state the new prices of petrol.

However, several retails outlets sold the product between 600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja , Ogun and some other states.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, pointed out that the hike in the cost of PMS would trigger galloping inflation in the country, stressing that some outlets in the South-East were currently dispensing the product at N1,200/l.

Ukadike stated, “Once NNPCL retail stations have adjusted their pumps to reflect the new price, there is nothing you can do about it; that is the new price. As I speak with you, all of them are now selling at the new prices. The situation is so bad, that somewhere in Ebonyi State our members informed us that it is now N1,200/litre.

“We thought the President would remove the subsidy through a seamless means because the source of this petrol is the NNPCL. They are the ones subsidising petroleum products, they are the people who use their revenue to subsidise this product.’’

The IPMAN spokesperson expressed worry over the rate of increase in inflation and hardship that would come as a result of the latest hike in petrol price.

“This hike in petrol price will definitely lead to galloping inflation and will worsen the hardship already being faced by the Nigerian masses. It is not something to cheer about. It came as a surprise and in the coming days, we will see the very harsh ripple effects,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike has called on the Federal Government and the NNPCL to give other marketers the opportunity to start importing petrol in order to create competition in the sector.

“The NNPCL is importing and has not given people the opportunity to join them in importing so as to see whether private sector operators can import the product cheaper or not. So there is no competition. In a deregulated regime, there must be competition, everyone with capacity should be allowed to import,” the IPMAN official stated.

When asked whether other marketers could resume imports since the government had finally deregulated petrol prices, Ukadike replied, “Marketers can import, but let me tell you some of the factors militating against this. The first is that there won’t be availability of dollars.

“You will source your dollar from the parallel market and if you are not careful in doing this, and you go into the importation of petroleum products, you might not ‘come out of it alive’ at the end of the day.

“So what we are saying is that those advantages that NNPCL has, should be shared with other major importers of petroleum products. If it is through crude buy-back, they should let us know so that independent players such as IPMAN members can come together and be able to use it in the buy-back model.’’

He added, “For independent marketers, the most important thing is that there should be availability of petroleum products, and the government should open up the space for importers and investors to come in.”

NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running, confirmed the hike in petrol price in a statement and a new pricing template released to marketers nationwide.

But the move has sparked a groundswell of anger across the nation with the Nigeria Labour Congress demanding an immediate reversal of the decision.

The union also said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday on the fuel price increase which had triggered hoarding and scarcity across the country with attendant rise in transport fares, goods and services.

The fuel price hike by the oil firm is coming 72 hours after President Bola Tinubu declared in his inaugural address on Monday that the subsidy regime had ended.

To pacify the growing anger over the situation, the FG hastily summoned some labour leaders to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday evening.

The meeting had in attendance the NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, former NLC President and immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, and others, however, ended in a deadlock as the labour and government teams failed to reach a consensus.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Joe Ajaero, said “As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”

He faulted the NNPCL over an official release published hours earlier reviewing the petrol pump price in its filling stations nationwide.

He said the move puts the labour unions in a difficult position on the negational table.

“That’s the principle of negotiation. You don’t put the partner, ask them to negotiate under gunpoint. The prayer of the NLC is that we go back to the status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people. If it is an action that must take off.

“The subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June. And before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government should be able to think of what will happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before the time,” Ajaero said.

The Punch

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Breaking: Founder, DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi is Dead




By Eric Elezuo

The Founder of DAAR Communications, owners of the foremost radio and television stations in Nigeria, Raypower and African Independent Television (AIT), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, is dead.

Reliable sources said the High Chief died while exercising on a treadmill on Monday afternoon.

The source said Dopkesi suffered a stroke some weeks ago.

Details soon…

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I Stand on Rule of Law, with Our Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, PDP, Says Dele Momodu




By Eric Elezuo

Frontline journalist and Director of Strategic Communications of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Council in the just concluded Presidential election, Chief Dele Momodu, had said that he remains a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and will always stand on the side of rule of law, and with the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Momodu made the revelations in a statement he signed himself, noting that the last election, which brought Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to power, was savagely manipulated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

He praised the steps Atiku, and the presidential candidate of the Labour candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, have taken in seeking legal redress.

The statement in details:


My position on the state of our country NIGERIA is simple and straightforward. I’m a loyal member of PDP who owes absolute allegiance to Nigeria and its Rule of Law. My political party PDP and others passionately hold the view that the last Presidential election was savagely manipulated by the ruling party APC and the cases are already in courts. Nothing will make me abandon my party on the altar of convenience and profit. Win or lose, I will continue to stand on this principle without any malice or prejudice against those who think otherwise. Democracy is a game of choice and I’m resolutely standing by our candidate, the former Vice President ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR (GCON) who has taken the honorable and peaceful step of going to court to seek redress. This is the only way we can deepen our hard earned Democracy. Sacrifice is not always convenient but painful.

I salute and respect The Wazirin Adamawa and others like my dear friend and Brother, former Governor Peter Obi, the Labor Party Presidential candidate, for promoting the best tenets of Democracy in Nigeria and I’m willing to encourage them rather than discourage their onerous quests…


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