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Governorship: Agbaso Waits On The Doorsteps Of Justice

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Slowly and steadily, Martin Agbaso, the Imo State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is inching his way to the state house after nearly three years of legal contention arising from the way and manner the 2007 governorship election in the state was mishandled to produce a pre-determined result. It is true that there was virtually nothing to write home about the entire farce that was passed as the 2007 election but the manner it was manipulated in Imo State to produce the present occupant of the state governorship stool stands out. The contradictions in the decision to void the election of Martin Agbaso on the contentious ground that it was marred with violence while upholding a state assembly election cast in the one and same ballot had gone to show another version of the general atrophy that was visited on the Imo governorship election in 2007. This singular faux pas will certainly point the way to the fact that there was more selfish and ulterior consideration in the decision to nullify an election that had been concluded than the flimsy one proffered by the Maurice Iwu-led INEC. The last nail was driven into the attempt by INEC and the Ohakim government to ward off the Agbaso challenge by the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously on September 29th that it was wrong for the two parties to attempt to prevent Agbaso from demanding justice in a glaring case that will go a long way to define the sanctity of the electoral system in Nigeria. The court was unequivocal that the arguments Ohakim and INEC have been proffering on why Agbaso should not press for the validation of his mandate are trite and meaningless and it saw the clear effort on the sides of the two parties to waste time and ensure that even when Agbaso gets justice, such will amount to a pyrrhic victory because Ohakim would have succeeded in illegally exercising his mandate. I believe it was such concern on the side of the legal team of Agbaso that made the Supreme Court to counsel Agbaso to exercise patience since his mandate will start counting from the day he is sworn-in if he wins his case. This was made on the 23rd June 2009, when his counsels, apparently feeling uncomfortable with the more than five months adjournment of the case Ohakim instituted at the Supreme Court to question the jurisdiction of the Appeal Court to hear Agbaso’ s case, sought an accelerated hearing of the case. With the dismissal of the Ohakim case by the Supreme Court and the ordering for an accelerated hearing at the Appeal Court, it is obvious to INEC and Ohakim that the game is at the finishing ends. There is no better way to show this than at the Appeal Court, at the resumed hearing when the counsels for both teams were reciting trite and mute issues that have become boring fairy tales, even to their own ears. The point is clear and concise. Could INEC graciously locate where it secured the power to cancel an election that had been concluded? It is that simple and clear! Pressed further, one would go to question how violence (some say, Iwu-induced tsunami) made a clean choice of one of the two ballot papers cast in the same ballot box. If we care to go further, could INEC locate these hair-raising cases of violence, where they occurred and who and who caused them? At least, these are parts of the processes of electoral conduct. Truth is that INEC is peddling a cock-and-bull story to justify an obvious illegality. There was indeed an election in Imo State on April 14,2007. There was no significant case of violence in any part of Imo State. Martin Agbaso was the undisputed winner in the results collated in over 95 per cent of the state and was waiting to be declared winner. Somehow, Iwu felt that his fellow Mbano man should be the governor and made this plea to Obasanjo and he was granted his request. Pronto, an election that was almost concluded, was aborted in the same manner as the June 12 annulment-a case the late Chief MKO Abiola aptly captured as aborting a baby that was already born. Iwu now reached to his kinsman, Ikedi Ohakim and a sham process that never took place in over 80 per cent of the state was organised. The results must have been concluded before the mockery of a process even started and with no poster, no campaign office and no supporters, Ikedi Ohakim became governor. He rewarded Iwu by making his brother the Secretary to Government, his daughter, an Adviser and his in-law, a Special Assistant to Ohakim! Faced with the collapse of the weak and untenable argument of violence and the sparse reasoning that Agbaso forfeited his right to ask for his mandate by allegedly contesting in the purported election of April 28 (apologies to the Court of Appeal), INEC and Ohakim are grasping on straws for survival. But it is clear that their survival in this case would be impugning the electoral process by granting INEC with powers the constitution never allows it. While the argument about violence has seemingly collapsed, the one of participating in what is obviously an illegal concoction on April 28 is hollower. The case that has progressed so far to the Appeal Court was instituted at an Abuja High Court on April 18, which not only predates the April 28 purported election but also Ohakim’ s wild fantasy that he would ever be governor and not the has-run, which clearly was his intent in joining the Imo governorship race. There is this whistle acknowledgment among Ohakim’s men and INEC itself that Ohakim will not survive the present legal onslaught and is therefore, working for alternative options. Apart from allegedly ferrying some choreographed so-called Imo elders to Abuja to President Yar’ Adua to intervene in the case and save him and practically adopting the Sultan of Sokoto as his father, in the hope the he would intervene in his favour, he is putting his eggs in several baskets. There is this speculation that INEC and Ohakim are hoping that the Appeal Court, in its expected judgment will force the issue to a stalemate. This, they hope will obtain in the court ordering INEC to officially release the results of the April 14 election. There is this muted idea that if that is the case, INEC will manufacture a fresh result that will favour Ohakim who practically did not contest the April 18 election! A real wild card indeed! Questioning the validity of the results tendered by Agbaso on the grounds that they had not been officially declared by INEC does not remove anything from the validity of the results. The questioning is akin to the contention of the pro-June 12 annulment school that Abiola was not the winner of the June 12 election because the electoral body at that time didn’t get to officially announce them. Mere academic exercise that does not affect the validity of the results as collated up to the states and in the case of Agbaso, up to the local governments. While one may not put anything behind the kind of thinking that brought the Ohakim mandate and has so far sustained it, one should point out that such an attempt will not only fall flat but will further expose the dubiety in INEC. Election results for the governorship are collated at the polling booths, wards, local governments and at the state levels. The results are merely formally declared at the state level and any candidate can simply get his results from all his agents in all the wards. The declaration sought from INEC is merely formal and contrary to their thinking, INEC is not the only institution that can have the results so it will not only be foolhardy to resort to such tactics if eventually the Appeal or Supreme Court orders INEC to release the results of the April 14 election. But we believe that the Appeal or Supreme Court can easily avoid this mischief by giving an explicit ruling based on the results which have been made available at the court since the court started and which before now, have not been contradicted by either INEC or Ohakim. This is after it had established that INEC acted beyond its known powers by annulling an election that has been virtually concluded and merely awaiting its official endorsement. As it is now, the thick pall of media hustlers in Ohakim’s payroll, hiding under various pseudonyms, are running amok in the media, trying to be judges in a case where their argument has virtually collapsed. They are repeating the old, tiring tunes that have been discarded at the courts and they want the Appeal Court to invest INEC with strange powers to call their whims into play in elections and announce results as they deem fit. All these are tailored towards ensuring that Ohakim survives a clearly impending rustication. One believes that the judges that sit at the Appeal Court are not fools that could be confused by paid media hirelings to approve an illegality that will certainly worsen the corruption-ridden electoral system we have in Nigeria today. Everything points to the fact that Agbaso stands at the very doorsteps of victory and every eye is turned to the Appeal Court as Nigerians await its judgment on the lmo governorship election. Nwahiri wrote in from Mushin, Lagos. Stephen Nwahiri

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2023 Guber Poll: Group Denies Rift Between Okowa, Ibori

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A political pressure group, Movement for Stronger Delta (MSD) says there is no fight between former Governor James Ibori and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over who governs the State in 2023.
The group in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Festus BomoPatani, said: “The attention of the Movement for Stronger Delta, MSD, has been drawn to a recent publication by a pan-Delta online platform, titled: “DELTA 2023: Okowa, Ibori Fight Dirty Over Successor”, and posted on several social media groups and portals on Sunday, January 16, 2021.
“As a conscious and proactive Movement, determined and committed to ensuring a stronger, peaceful, and united Delta, in the run-up to the 2023 elections and beyond, it behoves us to set a few records straight, concerning this publication, as our own way of educating and informing Deltans with accurate, verifiable information on the true position of affairs and also protecting ourselves from misleading misinformation that is capable of heating up the polity and instigating unnecessary and avoidable conflicts, provocations and conflagrations in the State.
“The original story was first published with the title: “DELTA 2023: Okowa, Ibori face up on successor…•Gov takes charge but counter-attack looms”, written by Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Published in Saturday Vanguard, January 15, 2022.
“The online publication in question, copied the story verbatim, and then proceeded, for reasons best known to the publisher, to change the headline from the original, without informing the readers or even acknowledging the source and author of the original story; and this, from every professional standpoint, is a crass and brazen display of unethical journalism, bordering on plagiarism. Journalists must be cautioned to avoid sensationalism and inaccurate reportage intended to deliberately mislead the people, especially when they copy stories from other more seasoned and recognized mainstream publications.
“There is a fundamental headline difference between: “Face up” in the original story and “Fight Dirty” in the copied online version, which every journalist worth his salt, especially those knowledgeable enough in the basic use of the English language, which is the major tool and instrument of the profession, should know and apply in their proper contexts.
“For the avoidance of doubt and for the purposes of educating the Journalist against future ignorances: “face up: means ‘To confront or deal directly with someone or something previously avoided”, while “fight dirty means, ‘To use every possible way and especially the most treacherous way, to beat someone in a fight’

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PGF-DG Tenders Resignation Letter

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The in-fighting between the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee over the conduct of its national convention took a fresh twist on Monday following the resignation of the PGF Director-General, Salihu Lukman.
Lukman tendered his resignation letter to the Chairman of the Forum, Abubakar Bagudu, on Monday.
In the letter, he slammed the committee over its shoddy handling of matters relating to the national convention.
He had earlier accused the Mala-Buni committee of frustrating the party’s plan to hold the convention in February.
The APC leadership and the governors had agreed last year to conduct the convention next month in a bid to strengthen the party ahead of the 2023 general election.
The committee had been under tremendous pressure to step aside following the crises that trailed last year’s congresses where several factions conducted parallel congresses in defiance of the party’s directive.
The latest development has further confirmed that all may not be well with the ruling party with just 13 months to the next national election.
Lukman said: “Progressive Governors, like all party members, will not associate themselves with any act of disrespect to decisions validly taken in consultations with President Buhari.
“They will not take the responsibility for actions or inactions of the CECPC. Every responsibility of organising the convention is vested with the CECPC.”

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Jega Tasks Buhari, NASS On New Electoral Law

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Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has  called on the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari to pass the Electoral Bill so that INEC can hit the ground running towards the 2023 elections.
Jega stated this during a panel discussion at a town hall meeting organised by Yiaga Africa on the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill on Monday.
Jega, who said it is difficult to conduct elections in Nigeria, added that since 2010, there has not been a significant improvement in the electoral framework.
He said while there could be some grey areas in the Electoral Bill that President MuhammaduBuhari declined assent to, there are other good things in the bill, arguing that the baby should not be thrown away with the bath water.
“I believe Nigeria should go into the next elections with a new law as there are many good things in the bill that will improve the integrity and conduct of elections.
“As I have said earlier, since 2010, we have not had significant improvement in the electoral framework.
“Speaking on direct and indirect primaries, some people believe that governors do influence the outcome of indirect primaries and some feel direct primaries is a way out of this, but the question is, how many parties have credible register of members?
“Give INEC the law to begin preparations for the 2023 elections. Any governor that manipulates direct primaries under this present condition will also have the capacity to manipulate indirect primaries.
“What we are saying is that you cannot throw the baby away with the bath water. Let’s think more carefully. The good things in the bill should be signed into law immediately so that INEC can start serious work for the 2023 elections.”
He lamented that the commission has a short period to put a lot of its mechanisms together for the conduct of the elections.
He called on the National Assembly to resolve all issues and give INEC the law within 10 days of resumption to enable it operate it seamlessly for the 2023 elections.
According to him, INEC made 31 recommendations to the amended 2010 Electoral Act to conduct credible elections, but NASS only approved 25 of the recommendations.
“Give INEC the law to begin preparation for 2021. Drop issue of direct and indirect primaries and let’s move forward,” he said.
Also speaking, the governor of Nasarawa State, AbdullahiSule, said the 36 governors are not afraid of direct primaries as being alleged by some Nigerians.
Earlier in his welcome address, Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, explained that the town hall meeting would specifically discuss key provisions of the Electoral Bill and their implications for election management, election security, electoral integrity and voter participation as well as legislative and executive action required to conclude the amendment process.

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