When the legendary Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “Government of the people, by the people; for the people; uninformed skeptics of his contemporaries mocked has aphorism as balderdash without conventional syntax. Little did they know that the reality of this definition that emphasised on “the people” will survive generations unborn. The fact is that the splendour of democracy is the determination of supreme will of the majority people as embellished by its mass participatory attribute that distinguishes it from all other systems of government.
As the most universally acceptable system of government, it’s stance presupposes good governance based on the doctrines of the rule of law which in prutanity projects equity, transparency, sovereignty and freedom of expression of the citizens as distinct from military dictatorship, where might is right, as survival is only for the fittest through the obnoxious jingle rule of “do or die”. An act which left the vast civil population oppressed and their voices suppressed with the most vitriolic inhumanity hence the clamour for democracy to bring about peace to enhance rapid infrastructural and human capacity development.
Thus the introduction of meet the people tour simply referred to as the “Town Hall Meeting” by the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-led administration in Rivers State is indeed a welcome development.
The Town Hall Meeting is significant in many respects in that it brings governance nearer to the people by creating an enabling environment whereby the people, especially those in the rural areas could meet with the Governor face-to-face and express their feelings about government.
With this development the people are given the seldom opportunity to massively and freely partake in the governance of the State. This free-for-all interactive session among other things gives the governor first hand information about the people and places to enable him know their immediate and pressing needs and how best they could be addressed.
On the other hand it demystifies the assumed invisibility of politicians once elected into office. It is incontrovertible that many politicians have made themselves unreachable to their people whose mandate they hold as a trust. The wrong signals emitted from such politicians without good intension and vision made some people to often call politics “A Dirty Game” and remain cynical about it.
However, Governor Rotimi Amaechi in his exemplary leadership has disproved the wrong impression by making himself reachable to the people through the town hall meeting. He made it possible to discuss, share ideas and opinion with the rural people in a common forum like members of one family. The town hall meeting in a nutshell is an enlarged political family meeting in which the governor makes every community he visits his home and the people, his own people. .
Since the inception of the Town Hall Meeting, non performing Chairmen and contractors handling community development projects have started working to justify the huge monthly allocation and mobilisation fees they received. The visit· in many places have exposed chairman and contractors that are performing below expectation through response of the people as it was used to assess the performance of the various councils in developing their communities.
It is another way the Governor uses to make Chairmen and Councilors give account of their stewardship in their presence for confirmation and otherwise of their people, while in turn he unfolds State projects in the local government areas and same time unveils his administration plans for the benefit of the people.
More importantly, because of the visits, work has resumed in many abandoned projects as contractors that had gone into hiding after receiving mobilisation fee have resurfaced and commenced work; this has risen hope that the once denied dividends of democracy have started reaching the people. In some places the visit has helped to reunite opposing groups within the traditional and political institutions. The groups bury their grievances against one another and unit to give the governor the ovation he deserves and in one voice make request for assistance from the governor who is liberal to assist.
Many local government areas have in so doing attracted extra development projects directly from the Sate Government while some local government councils have been relieved of huge overhead and security costs among other things. The recent town hall meeting with governor Amaechi at Opobo Town, headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area (ONOLGA) was unique as it brought to the fore democracy in action through exhibition of visible dividends of democracy in form of social amenities and long term infrastructural development that would benefit even generations unborn.
The people’s response in testifying to have never had it better than now gives credence that the Maclean Uranta’s administration of the local government council has lived above board in rendering meaningful service to people. His administration has in spite of the not so huge allocation it receives against difficult and expensive geographical terrain has embarked on many projects which include the building of Opubo Hotel to boost tourism and revenue to the council, construction of concrete bridges to link the kala-ama communities of Opobo kingdom, installation of solar powered water projects at Opobo town_ and Nkoro, installation of solar powered water projects at Queen’s town .Others are construction of new office complex, building of staff quarters and internal roads, modern toilets at Opobo and Nkoro, renovation of the council secretariat, and legislative building, purchase of buses and boats to ease land and water transport, renovating native court at Opobo town as well as offices and staff quarters at Nkoro.
He also provides regular electricity supply and adequate security services for protection of lives and properties. The Council is also assisting the various health centers to function effectively as well as helping members of National Youth Service Corps posted to the area.
On the State Government part, the Governor announced the award of contract for the construction of eight primary schools at Ekere-borokiri, kalaibiama, Nkoro town, Queen’s town, kalama, Iwoama Nkoro and two others at Opobo town. On health, he disclosed that work is in progress at health centers at Opobo, Queen’s town and Nkoro) while he had delivered (2000KVA) generator sets at Opobo town in addition to the existing ones.
He promised that the Unity Road projects will soon reach kalaibiama town in Opobo kingdom. He used the occasion to announce to the delight of the people about the competition of landing jetty at Epelema, land reclamation at Opobo town and shore protection projects at Queens town. His visit to Opobo/Nkoro gave him first hand information of how the council spends millions of Naira monthly on security services which he promised to relieve the council of such burden. With this development, money that would have been spent on security by the council could be channeled to other aspects of development.
Condemning violence and militancy he stressed on the need for giving children the opportunity to have good education as to produce the much needed manpower to project the state high in overall developn1ent. One of the major achievements of the Town Hall Meeting was the Governor’s promise that the state government will partner to make the Opobo International Boat Carnival (OIB) a great success. And that it will form part of the state cultural and tourism agenda. So from all indications the Amaechi administration is a blessing in verification.
One good turn, they say, deserves another, and to whom much is given, much is expected. Maclean Uranta has at the council level given much to the people of Opobo/Nkoro; Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has also given much to Opobo/Nkoro people and Rivers State in general. This bears eloquent testimony that the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) manifestoes is a true statement of assurance for peace and progress of the people and development of the entire State. The peoples-oriented leadership Rivers people have been yeaning for has come through the party; let the people not be deceived to derail but to continue following the path of peace to enhance rapid ‘infrastructural and human capacity development in the entire State through continuity with PDP and support to the hardworking Governor. .
Let them reciprocate the good gesture by supporting PDP government at all level with true spirit of patriotism and honesty now and beyond this tenure. But then, non performing Chairmen, and representatives of the people at various level of parliament should improve their relationships with their people by making themselves available and answerable to their people. They should justify the purpose of the peoples mandate they are holding with execution of constituency projects and empowerment of their people.
Let it be known to them that those they met on their way going up, will be the same people they will meet on their way coming down. The Amaechi humility in service which necessitated the ongoing Town Hall Meeting is the right step in the right direction, which should continue and emulated by other leaders who mean well for their people.
Okowa Sends Names Of 18 Commissioner- Nominees To Assembly
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has forwarded the names of 18 nominees for appointment as commissioners to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
The names of the nominees were contained in a letter read by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, during plenary of the Assembly in Asaba, yesterday.
The Tide reports that Okowa on May 18, dissolved the State Executive Council.
The 11 former commissioners that have been re-appointed and their portfolios, incelude: Mr Charles Aniagwu, Information, Dr Barry Gbe, Economic Planning, Mr Julius Egbedi, Agriculture and Mr Lawrence Ejiofor, Culture and Tourism.
Others are: Mr Ifeanyi Egwuyenga, Youths Development, Chief Arthur Akpowowo, Urban Renewal and Chief Festus Ochonogor, Housing, Mrs Flora Alanta, Women Affairs, Mr Churchill Amagada, Lands, Chief Fidelis Tilije, Finance and Mr Chris Onogba, Environment.
The seven new nominees are: Mr Jonathan Ukodhiko, Mrs Evelyn Oboro, Mr Noel Omordon, Mrs Rose Esenwu, Princess Shola Ogbemi-Daibo, Mrs Kate Oniawan, and Mr Johnbull Edema.
The speaker directed the nominees to forward 35 copies each of their Curriculum Vitae to the office of the clerk of the assembly on or before June 21.
He called on the nominees to appear for screening and confirmation on June 22.
The Assembly, yesterday, also screened and confirmed the appointments of Justice Theresa Diai as the Chief Judge of Delta State as well as Justice Patience Elumeze as President of Customary Court, Delta State.
The confirmation of the nominees followed a motion moved by the Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Mr Oboro Preyor.
The motion supported by Mr Emeke Nwaobi, member representing Aniocha North Constituency in the state Assembly was unanimously adopted by the Assembly, when it was put to a voice vote by the speaker.
Anambra Guber: CLO Calls For Level Playing Ground
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), an NGO, has urged political parties participating in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra to ensure free, fair, credible and generally acceptable primaries, devoid of acrimony and manipulations.
The Chairman of CLO, Anambra, Mr Vincent Ezekwueme, made the appeal while speaking with newsmen in Enugu, yesterday.
Ezekwueme urged political parties to adhere strictly to the principles of participatory and constitutional democracy; thus ensuring the tenets of internal democracy.
According to him, it is pertinent for party leaders to be honest, transparent and selfless in the conduct of their various primaries.
He urged political delegates to the various primaries to get it right by voting for the most credible, God-fearing, articulate and most qualified candidates that would render selfless service to the citizenry.
The CLO boss advised party delegates to vote with their conscience and conviction, devoid of monetary inducement or influence by political leaders and stakeholders.
“CLO decries with great disdain any attempt to impose candidates on the delegates or unjustifiably screen out or bar some candidates from contesting after collecting outrageous nomination and expression of interest fees, to pave way for emergence of anointed or favoured candidates.
“Significantly, it is only justice that will precipitate credible elections and guarantee peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the elections. This is the best and greatest yearnings and aspirations of all Anambrarians.
“Let all the stakeholders work harmonious with patriotism and selflessness for the conduct of free, fair and credible primaries and the November 6 governorship election,’’ he said.
Ezekwueme noted that any party that could not conduct free and fair primaries would be unable to guarantee and ensure a free election in the main gubernatorial contest.
The CLO boss, however, appealed to all the political parties to zone their governorship candidates to Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
“This appeal is in the spirit of justice, equity, morality and good conscience in tandem with the zoning formula propagated by former Gov. Peter Obi and which has helped douse political tension in the state.
“We commend the unique wisdom and political sagacity of Obi and we implore Anambra political gladiators and stakeholders to respect the zoning arrangement for the interest of peace and unity,’’ he said.
Ayade And The APC Albatross
Like Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State before him, Prof. Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, did not take many by surprise when he eventually broke camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre on Thursday, May 20, 2021.
A pointer to the fact that Governor Ayade had long signaled his romance with the APC was evident in the statement of welcome by a party chieftain and one-time leader of the 7th Senate of the Federal Republic, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, when he noted that Ayade had “consciously navigated the ship of governance in sync with the APC-led Federal Government”.
Of course, for a long time, close watchers of the Cross River State Governor had noted how he had openly expressed admiration for the president and leader of the APC while overtly distancing himself from every criticism by the PDP, his party then, against the Federal Government and the ruling party. In fact, it was even obvious to casual observers that all was not well between Ayade and the PDP when he became consistently absent in the meetings of his fellow governors on the platform of the party and other high profile party engagements.
However, there has been some interesting political developments in Cross River State following the defection of the state Chief Executive, and leader of the PDP until that select group of APC governors and other top ranking party leaders stormed the Government House in Calabar to receive him into their fold. Buoyed by the gathering of members of his cabinet, members of the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, some National Assembly members from the state, Chairmen of local government councils and their councilors, and other stakeholders in the state including Dame Princess Florence Ita-Giwa and High Chief Asuquo Ekpeyong, Prof. Ayade boldly declared that by virtue of the event of his detection, Cross River State had become an APC state.
As if to prove the point that there could not be another party, particularly the PDP, without the government that he leads, the governor ordered the annexation of the PDP state secretariat and convert all its property into the use of the APC just two days after. Responding to the turn of event at the party secretariat, Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to the governor said the PDP could not claim to be the ones to continue to occupy the property as the rent was paid by the governor. He said the rent for the said property was only renewed recently by the same PDP that has now totally collapsed into the APC.
“The same officials of PDP who occupied the property when it was secretariat of the PDP still occupy it, having switched allegiance and moved to the APC with the governor”|, he said.
In a swift reaction, the PDP Federal Lawmakers and Stakeholders Forum in Cross River State dissociated themselves from the governor’s move. Addressing a press conference on Friday, May 21, 2021 in Abuja, the forum pledged to remain in the PDP and declared Cross River State as a stronghold of the party.
“As far as I know, till date, the National Assembly caucus remains intact. I don’t see any of us leaving. We are legacy members of the party who have been in this party for the past 15 to 20 years. So, we are not going anywhere”, Senator Geshan Bassey who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers said, accusing Ayade of not consulting them but insisting that even if he had “we will not follow him”.
On the same occasion, Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of the state, on behalf of the PDP Stakeholders Forum in Cross River described Ayade’s defection as regrettable, even though not unexpected.
According to Imoke, an overwhelming number of Cross Riverians remains resolute with the PDP, emphasizing that “our key stakeholders, members of the national and state assemblies, and strategic grassroots mobilisers are still members of our great party. We, as a party, therefore, remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked”.
Imoke said “We understand that the people of Cross River, who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of the state are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor, who has won all his elections under the platform of the party. Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has undeniable strong grassroots in the state, we affirm that Cross River remains a PDP state”.
As developments have shown, Governor Ayade may not have had the support of all his close functionaries in his voyage as he has had to offload not less than four of his commissioners and a number of aides believed to still be loyal to the PDP.
In a press statement signed by his CPS/Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, the governor, relieved the appointment of Mr Mike Usibe, Commissioner for New Cities Development; Rita Ayim, Commissioner in charge of Women Affairs, Mr Asu Okang, Commissioner for Information and Ntufam Donatus Etim, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry.
On the part of the PDP, the regrouping of forces, especially the return of the likes of former governor Donald Duke, has not been without hitches.
Recently, the state caretaker committee chairman and secretary of the party were constrained to issue a warning to party stalwarts to restrain themselves from unguarded statements capable of causing division among their ranks. “The party will like to caution all stakeholders that this is a time for rebuilding, restoration and reconciliation. It is not a time for trading blames.
“The larger purpose of the development of Cross River State should remain our unwavering focus and should insulate party stakeholders from all other distractions”, the statement said in reaction to unauthenticated social media post by Ex-Governor Donald Duke accusing his successor in office, Senator Liyel Imoke of running a dictatorial administration.
The party, however, commended the courage of former governor Duke for returning to the party at such a time as this, hoping that his return would further strengthen the party to face the new threat posed by the APC and Governor Ben Ayade.
“We congratulate His Excellency Donald Duke for finding the courage to re-join the party on whose platform he twice contested and won elections as governor of Cross River State.
“It is our firm belief that his coming back to the party is not only indicative of the party’s strength in the state, but more importantly, will help in rebuilding a strong and virile party”, the statement said.
Prof Ben Ayade may have left the PDP but it is difficult to say if the PDP has left Cross River State. With the regrouping of battle-tested war horses in the state under the umbrella, the governor and his new party may have to work extra hard to dislodge the deep roots of the PDP in the state.
Asked how the governor’s move will affect the fortunes of the PDP in coming elections in the state, Senator Imoke said. “I think in the past, you would see that states that have that type of strength, irrespective of a defection, tend at all times to remain strong. There’s a reason for that. What you perceive as power will determine how you lead. If you perceive power to be a political party, then you will be moving from one political party to another, but if you understand that power ultimately is the people, and that it belongs to the people, you’ll appreciate that it’s not about the party.
“PDP in Cross River State has always been about the people and I think we still remain about the people; so the party has endeared itself to the people and as such a movement by the governor does not, of its own, translate to the people moving into another political party because they have already identified strongly with the party-the PDP. It is sort of like what you have in the United States and other countries where there are strongholds – a state like California, it is defined as a Democratic stronghold. Cross River State is a PDP stronghold”.
Even Ayade himself is without a doubt that Cross River State is a PDP stronghold but for how long this stronghold will hold is what is now being put to test as the governor has already made inroads into the traditional institution from whom he has extracted the same commitment and support they had always given to successive governors and their political agenda.
However, politics is about politicians and Victor Ndoma-Egba tells Ayade: “As you join us in the progressives fold, my expectation is that your coming will enrich our internal democracy and I enjoin you to be consultative, inclusive, democratic, transparent and accountable because these are the hallmarks of the All Progressives Congress family. I also expect that your presence in the APC will further strengthen the party and improve our electoral fortunes in Cross River State”.
Ndoma-Egba’s expectations are not just his expectation and those of the members of the APC in Cross River alone, they were the same expectations of the party faithful in Rivers State in 2015 and the ones in Edo State through the reign of Adams Aliu Oshiomohole. Whether the APC members in the Peoples Paradise will have a different experience remains to be seen.
What is certain is that the South-South region has not been a welcoming environment for the APC and it does not appear as it is ready to change that disposition just yet because of Prof. Ayade. He may just soon find out that what could flourish in the Southeast may require humongous effort to sprout on South-South soil.
By: Opaka Dokubo
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