If they want to initiate moves to breakup the country, fine, if they want to secede and form their own Oduduwa Republic or the MOSSOB people want to re-enact the Biafran tragedy, they are welcome to it. But they should know that it is not going to be their own decision only; it is going to be the decision of all Nigerians.”
These were the words of social critic and second Republic parliamentarian, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who, by his closeness to the corridors of power in Nigeria in a long while, and attachment to governance can unarguably be regarded as an elder-statesman. He spoke at a recent meeting he convened on the nagging issue of Sovereign National Conference (SNC).
Put subtly, Mohammed expressed the opinion that those who clamour for a SNC are doing so out of their selfish interest, either to favour themselves, or the group they represent as against the idea that it is in the interest of the country at large.
In an interview in “The Sun” of March 4, 2012, Mohammed hinted that having an SNC is not a wrong idea but that all key stakeholders in the Nigerian State must be given an opportunity to be represented, if for nothing, to avoid a reoccurrence of the 1967 to 1970 Nigerian Civil War.
According to Mohammed, “Where an issue has become a national issue, rightly or wrongly, whether the issue has been properly defined at all, and we are at the risk of being dragged or pushed to slip into another Civil War, without knowing it, I think anybody of conscience, especially those of us who are young men, we have a responsibility to say, ‘look, yes here I am, if this is a valid and meaningful discussion, I will participate.’
Consequently, he said “let us go ahead to have the conference, but I want to warn every Nigerian that what they call Sovereign National Conference is nothing but a complete transfer of power from the current leaders of the executive branch, from the legislative and even certain judicial powers to the SNC, which will be sovereign, it will be the ultimate authority in the land.”
Part of Mohammed’s grievance over the call for a SNC stems from his belief that proponents of the conference consulted Balarabe Musa, who allegedly spoke as a representative of the Northern Nigeria.
“That, to me, showed the level of duplicity and audacity of this people and those behind the calls for the SNC. If you want people to be represented, you look for their genuine representatives, the genuine people who speak for them.
“Whether what they say is pleasant or not, you know that they are speaking for some people. If you speak to a rather nobody like Balarabe Musa, then he will speak for nobody. Then when it suits you, you say that Balarabe Musa is representing the North, and when it does not suit you, you say the North does not like SNC.”
On record, proponents of the call for an SNC express the belief that the National Assembly, made up of the Senate and House of Representatives, as constituted, will be incapable to come up with a truly representative Nigerian constitution which would comprehensively address the anomalies in the Nigerian State, hence the call for an SNC, which they believe, will be more representative of all facets of the Nigerian populace.
They say from decisions that would be reached at the proposed conference, an improved federal constitution will be drafted from the 1999 edition.
However, renowned legal luminary, Chief Ricahrd Akinjide, thought otherwise; according to him, “people think as long as you change the constitution, things will change. I don’t accept that, I think that is nonsense.
“The fault is not in the constitution, it is in the people.” He gave credence to the Chinese constitution, saying as small as it is, it takes care of a far higher population than Nigeria.
“Go and look at the Chinese constitution, it is a very small document, and is being used to govern 1.4 billion people so, even if you summon another conference and write a new constitution, can you tell me it is going to work?”
The major problem, Akinjide said, is that “Nigeria is just a country, not a nation.”
This, he explained, is because “you have people shouting they want Yoruba President, they want Igbo President, and they want Northern President. Why don’t we say we want a Nigerian President?
“No matter from which part of the country he or she comes from, until we see ourselves as brothers and sisters, this nation cannot move forward.
“The problem we have is that when somebody from another section is the President, another person is agitating and wanting the President to come from their area as if the other President is not elected by the people of the country,” he said.
This, to a large extent, adds credence to the activities of the Boko Haram sect with base in the North, which has produced the greatest number of the country’s leadership from independence in 1960. Boko Haram’s initial grudge was against Western education including its development paradigm, which they claim was inimical to their existence and why they would prefer a Sharia country.
Currently, they claim their actions are necessitated by apparent poverty in the North, warranted by unjust revenue allocation, as alleged recently by Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, with full backing by northern governors as clearly enunciated by Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State. He said his state got between N2.4bn and N4.5bn monthly allocation, while some others got 20 times the amount.
Therefore, “it will not serve any useful purpose if some parts are not doing well while others are doing exceptionally well,” hence “the pressure from Boko Haram will continue until we are able to find a solution.”
The question, therefore, is how will this solution, or whatever solution for that matter, come if there is no opportunity for dialogue by the Nigerian populace which constitute the sovereignty of the country?
Meanwhile, the Senate says any quest for a change in the political configuration of the country must be pursued through members of the National Assembly because it must follow stipulations of the constitution, particularly Section 9, which prescribed how the constitution may be amended.
However, The sun, as quoted earlier, disagrees with this stand in its editorial, saying “We disagree with the position of the Senate that Nigerians can only dialogue on the way forward and the best political configuration for the country through the politicians in the National Assembly.
“This preposterous idea stands on its head. Sovereignty without any equivocation belongs to the people, and not the politicians in the National Assembly. Election of politicians as representatives of the people in the National Assembly does not in any way limit Nigerians’ right to self-expression and self-determination. Legislators should be subject to the wishes of the Nigerian people, and not the other way round. Any view contrary to this is an affront on democracy.”
Senator Pius Akpor Ewherido, representing Delta Central Senatorial District seems to have this in mind when he said in The Nation of Thursday, March 15, that “the democratic institutions that you see are not as free as you look at them. So you cannot just come up and say it should be as it is in the constitution.
“The provisions in the constitution are being flouted daily and nothing is happening.”
There could not have been a better picture than the fore-going that the issue about the SNC is not whether it should hold, but how best it can be held in such a way that decisions will truly represent all facets of the Nigerian state, without prejudice to any personal interest seem to be the crux of the matter, and on which concentration should be focused for a better Nigeria.
APC: C’River LP Disowns Decampees
The Labour Party (LP) has disowned one Mr. Maurice Ekeng, who claimed to be Chairman of the party in Cross River State, and his purported exco who defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC)
The party, in a press statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, described the action of Ekeng and others as “laughable and unfortunate for an old man who parades himself as an elder of the church”.
The statement signed by Comrade Dr. Ofem Lekam, State Publicity Secretary of the party said, “The attention of the leadership of Labour Party in Cross River State led by Ambassador Ogar Osim as Chairman and Comrade Asuquo Etim as State Secretary has been drawn to publications claiming that the State Chairman and members of his executive have decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“Mr Ekeng is an impostor who was never made a State Chairman at any Congress. We challenge him to publish the names of his executive, pictures taken in 2021 extra-ordinary NEC meeting in Benin City where the National Chairman, Julius Abure and the Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim were elected, as well as that of Home Land Hotel Calabar where the National Leadership represented by the Vice Chairman South South, Prince Reuben Nuka inaugurated the current State Caretaker
“The impostor from all available evidences is a member of APC sponsored to create confusion in a peaceful party of idealists who are making sacrifices in travelling round the nooks and crannies of the state to revive the structures of the party at all level in the state which is already making monumental impact in the state ahead of 2023.
“We want to put it on record that, Labour Party is intact, and is not contemplating merging with All Progressive Congress (APC) and any other political party; rather it is a party to beat come 2023.
“We appeal to the general public to disregard any news making the rounds that the LP Chairman and his executive have decamped, it is the imagination of political jobbers and mischief-makers whose occupation is to sacrifice their integrity and ideology just for peanuts.
“It is also instructive to advise Mr. Bassey Ita serving at APC Secretariat at Marian Road Calabar not to allow the temporary excitement of the moment to cloud his sense of reasoning by accepting people claiming a platform without verification.
“It is pathetic that Mr. Bassey Ita is yet to realize that with Governor Prof. Ben Ayade now as leader of APC CRS, the days of kangaroo administration of APC CRS should have been over by now in Cross River State.”
INEC To Deploy 5,346 Personnel For CVR
INEC said on Monday in Abuja that it would deploy 5,346 personnel to 2,673 registration centres for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) resuming nationwide on June 28.
Its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at the presentation of INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) and online registration portal for the exercise at a meeting he held with media executives.
IVED is an Android tablet to be used in place of the existing Data Capturing Machine used for CVR in previous exercises.
Prof. Yakubu said that before now INEC had 1,446 registration centres where it registered 14. 2 million voters between 2017 and 2018.
“Learning from the experience of what happened, we have now almost doubled the number of those centres.
“Our hope is that unlike 14.2 million we registered in the previous exercise, we are targeting a minimum of 20 million registrants this time. It will take the number of registered voters to about 100 million,’’ Yakubu said.
He said that majority of the 5,346 personnel to be deployed would be INEC officials, while ad-hoc staff would be used where the Commission lacked the required number of personnel.
He said that the Commission was working with stakeholders for the security of personnel and equipment to be deployed.
Yakubu disclosed that the design for both the online portal and IVED were done by INEC engineers, taking into consideration Nigeria’s peculiarity, including weather, for its durability.
He said registrants would be able to know where machines for registration are located via the portal.
He also noted that the Commission was working on ensuring that Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for internally-displaced persons were reproduced for them so as not to be disenfranchised.
Many would have lost their cards while under siege, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also said that PVCs for newly-registered voters would be produced on quarterly basis after the registration, noting that the list of the registrants would be displayed at the registration units for claims and objections.
Presenting the online portal and IVED, INEC’s Director of ICT, Mr Chidi Nwafor, said that the online portal was designed to serve various needs of eligible Nigerians for the registration.
These, according to Nwafor, include new registration, review of registration, and review of personal details or voting centres, PVCs replacement or collection.
“As a new voter, you can pre-register online, or as a registered voter, you can revalidate your voter registration, request to update your information or transfer your voter registration to another polling unit, Nwafor said.
He said that registrants could register their details online before going to the nearest registration centre selected by them for photographs and finger prints capturing to complete the exercise.
Nwafor said that the portal was designed in a way that once an intending voter completed the online registration, an appointment for physical registration would be generated by the portal for the registrant.
He added that any registrant who could not meet up with the appointed date and time could reschedule the appointment via the same portal.
He said that the portal also made provision for people to contact the Commission in the event of challenges during online registration.
He noted that a registrant had 14 days to complete the online pre-registration and a year to complete the whole process.
He advised registered voters to make use of the portal to identify polling units or centres nearest to them.
Nwafor also assured that the Commission was putting adequate security in place to protect the device and the portal against hacks or cybercrime.
He also said that concerns about underage voter registration would be taken care of as those that registered online would still visit the registration centre before the process could be completed.
The media executives in a communiqué issued after the meeting suggested that the CVR be devolved to INEC LGA Council offices based on thorough appraisal of security situations and related factors.
They also recommended that the CVR be gradually devolved to other designated registration centres nationwide after assessments of security situations and other factors relating to safety of personnel and materials.
They tasked relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, traditional institutions, religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to mobilise all eligible registrants to participate in the CVR.
PDP NWC Harps On Unity Over Anambra Guber Poll
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) has called for unity among stakeholders in Anambra state, ahead the June 26 primaries for the state governorship election.
The party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made the call during the NWC meeting with the party aspirants, leaders and other stakeholders from Anambra, held in Abuja on Monday.
Secondus said the meeting was called to enable the NWC to interact with stakeholders, as elections held off season were always very stormy and tough.
“We are here basically for us to make sure first and foremost that all our leaders and all our aspirants are in unity. It is very important for this trying period and you know the period, we are in,”he said.
Secondus said that unity was key, especially now that the country was passing through challenges including insecurity that must not be taken for granted.
He said the only way to get out of that was to make sure that things were done properly.
“Let there be fairness, equity and justice, which is in deficit in our country; and that is what the PDP stands for.
“We stand for fairness, equity and justice under the rule of law. This is a party that believes that all Nigerians are one. We must live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The party chairman said that Anambra was key to the mission of rescuing Nigeria and uniting the country.
“Anambra is the economic key of our country and we must conduct our affairs to show the world that PDP is different and ready to rescue this country.
“That is why we are to interact with leaders of our party, and at the end of this meeting, I think we will go home happy that on Saturday it will be the freest congresses ever that are conducted.
“So, Anambra, we want to advise, we want to call our people, the time to put down ourselves is now.
“This is the time to look at each other. We must not allow both Anambra and our country to fail. We must show that good example.
“You have been leading in several areas, you must lead politically now. Our leaders must be statesmen. They must look beyond an individual and narrow interest.
“It is time for us to look at Nigeria. If we get it wrong, the consequences will be great. It will reflect on other parts of the country,” Secondus said.
Also, PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, said the meeting was customary anytime PDP had major contests.
Akobundu said the meeting was called to ensure everybody was carried along in the primary to ensure peaceful outcome.
“It is for this reason that the NWC directed to meet with all stakeholders in Anambra.
“This is just a cross section of our quality stakeholders in Anambra that were invited to attend this meeting.
“It is simply to rub minds, have an interactive session and discuss ways and means that we can employ to have hitch-free primary with everybody on board.”
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