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The (Re) Election Of Prof Iwu …As The Umpire Scrambles For Votes

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05041003The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. Without this  work… which the world does not need- this life is hell.

William E. D.D Bois

(To His Newborn Great-Grandson)

By June, this year, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu would have served out his tenure and ought to start preparing to walk away, shoulders high or crest fallen. The choice he makes shall depend largely on the outcome of his on-going ‘re-electioneering campaign’ and those of many other Nigerians battling to truncate his ambition of superintending the next series of elections, billed for next year.

Iwu did not require campaign posters, paid or unpaid supporters, rallies, newspaper advertorials and sponsored or unsponsored public speeches by notable Nigerians about his very impressive credentials, before former President Olusegun Obasanjo graciously named him Chief Umpire of the 2007 elections. But from all indications, he does now, if only to retain that plum job.

Worried sick that the much trumpeted electoral reforms may truncate his, now very obvious campaigns  for re-appointment, Prof. Iwu has demonstrated, in my view, a regrettable measure of desperation not expected of an umpire of not a school soccer competition, but one to determine the future, fate and fortunes of a country of over 150 million citizens.

In that capacity, Iwu will again be expected to decide who should be disenfranchised or not and those who must aspire to any office or not, no matter how popular such a politician may be among members of his constituency. In the process leading to 2007 elections, the fear of Iwu, among ambitious politicians, was the beginning of wisdom. He, along with the powers that be determined faces that should not appear on national television as electable, but if they must be seen on pages of newspapers at all, it must be as ‘DISCLAIMER’ by the Nigerian state, which Iwu represented. So despicable was the process that duly elected candidates on various party platforms got turned back and were replaced by sorry substituted with strange names on the instructions of, many believed, the Presidency, his employers.

Infact, there were instances when, many repeatedly accused Iwu’s INEC of bending the rules in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to allow for replacement of questionably disqualified candidates with new ones, even after the timeline that was legally permitted for such changes. In other circumstances, candidates duly elected by parties at their official primaries and which INEC directly monitored, were denied accreditation by the electoral body because the party that elected them in the first place had a rethink and simply wrote in to say that the earlier name forwarded to it was “done in error”. Even when the electoral laws insisted on cogent and verifiable reasons for such change, Iwu’s INEC did the opposite.

For such acts of omission and commission, men like Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi went through hell before getting justice from the nation’s highest arbiter-the Supreme Court. Others who could not brave the odds against such risky legal voyage berthed and prayed for the unfriendly referee’s tenure to elapse before contemplating any new electoral move.

If the processes leading to the elections were flawed, the elections themselves were a huge failure, a disgrace to Nigeria and above all huge shame in the eyes of the international community. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), whose members also  monitored the elections along with other volunteers described it as less than credible, violence-prone and unacceptable. These are to put them lightly.

Infact, there were instances when, the official result sheets of an election got to a given party weeks before the election, to enable it prepare results before the official date. It reminds me of former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili’s second term election, when, more than the registered list of voters in Rivers State miraculously turned out to vote their beloved governor.

When the dust died down an ever so eleoquent, and grateful Governor Odili told an assembly of Labour activists on May Day, in 2003, “I thank you for voting massively for me” and joked in pidgin English, but ona nearly put me for trouble-o, in veiled reference to the truth of over-voting.

All the attempts by one of Odili’s embattled opponents, Chief Sergent Awuse to display facts and figures, using voters registers to prove, where, voting did not take place, in addition to brandishing unstamped voters cards, but whose holders were believed to be part of the victory march, came to naughts.

Under Iwu’s watch however, names like Ban Ki Moon, Oliver Tambo, Bill Clinton, Sarah Bush, Late Saddam Hussein, Late Adaka Boro, Late Sani Abacha and even Cocoanut Island, appeared on voters registers, as members of the Nigerian electorate and there are no valid proofs that anything has changed. So disgraceful, some candidate even won an election while in prison custody.

Generally, the elections were believed to have been rigged in favour of the highest bidders, seating executives and at other times, Iwu’s power House clearly, played out the ruling party’s script. In clear terms, INEC, under Iwu’s watch, in the view of most Nigerians, failed to exercise the independence of an electoral umpire and that I agree greatly affected the credibility that ought to have been ascribed to an election of the kind.

How then, can one with such depleted credibility; one believed to have compromised positive discretion when most needed and one whose judgements on elections were roundly criticised and upturned by various courts of law as immoral and unjust, be depended upon to supervise yet another general elections? In 2011?

This consideration, without doubt, accounted for the March on Abuja, penultimate Wednesday, by organised Labour under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with the warning of a nationwide strike, should the Presidency re-appoint the embattled professor. Tagged, “March Against Our Common Enemy- Election wuruwuru,” the NLC rally urged government never to contemplate Iwu’s re-appointment.

Strangely, not ready to sit by, and  be out-done without a fight, the supposed umpire, it appears to me, is all out seeking support of notable Nigerians, singers, drummers and T-shirt and face Cap loving youths to counter the huge opposition to his re-election, sorry possible re-appointment.

For the same reasons, Iwu met with those who matter at the National Assembly, first on March 11 and then on March 19, this year and where, he virtually sought their understanding and eventual re-consideration. That save-my-job tour, many fear, might have had little to do with the controversial Senate decision, to leave, with the Presidency, power to appoint an INEC chairman, against the suggestion by the Uwais Electoral Reforms Commission. But I disagree, although, mine hardly matters.

As if that was not serious enough, an obviously pro-Iwu praise singing ensemble by the stage-name, Alliance for Defence of Democracy and led by one Ikenga (not the famous Ikpokirikpo Crooner) but one with Imo Ugochinyere surname, staged a walk to the same National Assembly that Iwu, had visited earlier to, protest against the removal of the professor. For a job well-done?

Seriously, the appointment of an electoral umpire ought not be subject of these kind of controversy, because in the hands of such an appointee rests the destiny of a nation, her credibility and respect in the comity of nations.

With the grandstanding thus far demonstrated by Prof. Iwu, the respect for a thankless national service, which chairmanship of an Independent National Electoral Commission ought to earn, seems replaced by a desperation grounded in personal desires and appetites. An individual with such appetites to protect deserves not a chance to seat in judgement over the fate of others.

My Agony is that the Senate has inadvertently, played into Iwu’s hands and narrowed down what should have been a rich list of honest, nationalistic and credible Nigerians to choose from, if screened by the National Judicial Council (NJC) and re-examined by the Council of State before forwarding the likely choice or choices for confirmation by the National Assembly, as demanded by many Nigerians.

The argument by arrow-heads of the senate to the effect that even some judges appointed by the NJC are also not above board Methinks, begs the question. That, one of two judges failed to impress the senators does not remove the importance and urgency of a country still rebranding to have a properly independent electoral commission, selected from the best, by all three arms of government, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature.

In that way, such an appointee will not bend the rules in favour of a party through the issuance of advance copies of election result, sheets, to be completed and returned as valid on Election Day.

It is the failure of that noble move to insulate INEC from the Presidency, thanks to the senate, that has encouraged Iwu to continue his open re-election campaign. I think the Presidency should reject him. And fast too.

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

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Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW

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Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.

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Wike, Pride Of Nigeria’s Democracy, NUJ Affirms

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The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as an exhibit of pride to democracy in Nigeria.
The NUJ also noted that Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.
The National leadership, the 36 State Executives, and the FCT, including members of the NUJ across the country made the assertion in Port Harcourt during the inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by the governor in the state.
The National President of the NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold governments accountable to the people.
Isiguzo posited that having placed the projects side-by-side with the expectations of the populace, it was obvious that the governor’s investment in critical infrastructure would remain lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
”We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.
”At the much-talked about Real Madrid Football Academy, where they are going to train the young ones, we saw that they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
”That’s also to catch-them-young, and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources is continuously invested in sports development in Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, it will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”
On her part, the National President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala said that the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.
According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters stand out as first of its kind in Nigeria, with its serene ambiance that would translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin.
”I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State, and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them, and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
”I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working, and we are very proud of what we have seen here”, she added.
In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, stated that Wike was a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of life of his people.
Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, said that his show of love for journalists confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.
On his part, Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital, and the Real Madrid Football Academy were part of projects Governor Wike was using to secure a productive future for the youths of the state because they meet global standard.
Also speaking, the Vice President of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city tourists’ destination of choice.
In the same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Comrade Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Wike and his projects’ mantra, and asserted that it was leaders like him that were needed at the national level.
Also, Comrade Ikechukwu Ordu of Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted the need for other political leaders to emulate Wike in providing dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortunes of his state.
Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, said she was completely overwhelmed by what Wike has done in constructing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi Flyover Bridge delivered within one year.
Chukwudieke also praised the quality of work on the Rumuola Flyover Bridge, Ogbun-nu-Abali Flyover Bridge, GRA Junction Flyover Bridge, and the Orochiri-Wurukwo flyover project at Waterlines Junction by Aba Road.

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