An average student of
Government or Political Science knows that a major feature of any democracy is periodic elections. In Nigeria, the people go to the polls every four years to elect their leaders and rightly so, that time for them to cast their votes in a general election is about a month away.
For the country’s main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, the forth-coming election may be both a battle of wits and strength, having lost a major election in 2015 after holding sway for about 16 years.
Presently, the circumstances are reverse in a manner of saying that the PDP is going to the ballot (maybe battle) like a wounded lion poised to recapture a lost territory, nay a familiar terrain from a known political foe, the All Progressives Congress, APC, a party that is about running out its first tenure of four years as provided by the constitution.
Keen followers of political events in the county are not oblivious of the gale of defections, alignment and realignment that preceded the last general elections. Therefore, to say that the nation had witnessed a similar scenario as the countdown to another major election winds down is to say the obvious. There is no gainsaying the fact that the unfolding political razzmatazz just witnessed with high ranking politicians dumping the ruling party to join its major challenger ahead of a major election is like dejavu!
With the stage now set, the grass is also preparing to suffer like it is said when two elephants do battle. Just recently, the APC flagged off its South-South Presidential Campaign in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
Next Tuesday, precisely on January 8, 2019, the PDP would be holding what has been described as the mother of all campaigns as the party prepares to hold its South-South Zonal Presidential Campaign in Port Harcourt, capital of Nigeria’s crude oil and gas rich Rivers State.
A Facebook post by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah on December 30, 2018 at 9:42 am reads, “It is not like any other gathering. It is the mother of all campaigns. Port Harcourt 2019: PDP South-South Zonal Presidential Campaign holds on Tuesday 8th January, 2019 at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, (near the International Airport), Port Harcourt at 10am. It’s PDP or nothing!” Okah said.
One of the issues on the front burner today is whether a free, fair and credible election devoid of violence is feasible in Rivers State?
During a visit by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 6, Calabar, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi to Governor Nyesom Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt, the latter had used the opportunity of that meeting to advise two key institutions in the country, the Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to commit themselves to credible polls in the interest of the nation.
The governor said on that visit held on Friday, December 14, 2018 that it was the negative actions of the Police and the electoral umpire who manipulate the electoral process that makes it difficult for politicians to be held accountable by the electorate.
Wike in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu specifically said that politicians take advantage of the ‘illegal electoral system’ to deny the people good governance.
The statement read, “Don’t allow yourselves (referring to the Police and INEC) to be used negatively to influence the Electoral Process.
“Please, save Nigeria so that we can continue to remain united beyond 2019. The greater interest of the nation is paramount. You people make politicians not to be accountable.
“If votes count, every politician will sit up. Here, our votes don’t count. People rely on Police and INEC to get into office,” Governor Wike stated, noting that the actions of these important institutions generate violence in the political space.
“Violence is caused when security agencies lay the scene for the rigging of elections. INEC manipulates the process and it leads to violence.
“Our major problem in the country is the Police and INEC. It is the duty of the police to stop the crime of rigging,” the governor admonished, even as he assured the Police that the state government will always support them with the logistics and funding to fight crime and criminality.
Earlier, the AIG, in charge of Zone 6, Mr Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi had assured his host (Governor Wike) that the police will perform their responsibility professionally to ensure credible polls in 2019.
Ogunjemilusi further said that Police officers and men are receiving the required training to be neutral and professional during the polls, even as he heaped praises on the Governor for his logistic and financial support which has assisted the police in carrying out her duties.
He informed the governor that the Zone will arrange a peace accord for security agencies, political leaders and INEC ahead of the 2019 elections.
Not only does the governor has words for the Nigerian Police, he does too for the Nigerian Army, when he alleged that the latter has been transformed into a political weapon thereby abandoning its primary responsibilities.
Wike made the accusation in Odiokwu, Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State where he flagged off the construction of a Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Odiokwu Internal Roads, Odiokwu-Anwuigboko and Odiokwu-Oyigbo Roads on precisely on Thursday, November 29, last year.
Governor Wike while reacting to the disruption of the training of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (RIVNESCA) taking place at the permanent orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Nonwa-Gbam, Tai Local Government Area of the State by the Nigerian Army same day he was away flagging off construction of a Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Odiokwu Internal Roads, Odiokwu-Anwuigboko and Odiokwu-Oyigbo Roads, described the action of the Army as the worst act of irresponsibility aimed at instigating insecurity in the state.
A statement issued by Simeon Nwakaudu, the Governor’s media aide, said, “The Army is not concerned about the killing of soldiers in Borno. They are only interested in creating insecurity in Rivers State. If you do not want Rivers State to be safe, then, Nigeria will not be safe. They want to use their guns against us”, he alleged.
He stated that Zamfara and Kogi States have vigilante outfits which were commissioned by the Nigerian Army and the APC Federal Government, wondering why the Nigerian Army would stoop so low to disrupt a legal training exercise.
”Zamfara and Kogi States have vigilante groups. They commissioned them and the Chief of Army Staff did nothing. The House of Assembly passed a law approving the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency. The Chief of Army did not challenge the law in court, but today he sent troops to invade the training camp”, he said.
The Rivers State Chief Executive regretted that the Nigerian Army has been turned into an outfit to stoke insecurity in order to attract huge security votes, saying, “The Army is the agency causing insecurity mainly to attract more security votes. They collected $1Billion from our excess crude account, yet our soldiers were killed.
“All they are doing is to intimidate people for political reasons. When you fight a state blessed by God, you will crumble. Nobody can intimidate us in Rivers State,” Wike declared.
He explained that the State Government worked with the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other Federal Agencies to ensure that only law-abiding citizens are recruited into the agency.
“We did not hire boys for political reasons. This has been a transparent process and that is why the personnel are trained at the NYSC Orientation Camp. We involved the Police and the DSS to ensure that the trainees are profiled for the good of the society.
“The main aim of this agency assist the security agencies with intelligence and information, since there is a lacuna in this regard “, he said, even as he declared that the State Government will continue with the training.
He further said that all the antics of the Nigerian Army will not deter the government and people of Rivers State.
Briefing newsmen shortly after the incident, the agency’s Director General, Dr. Uche Chukwuma corroborated the views of the governor and described the episode as very unfortunate.
“I can tell you authoritatively that before the training commenced, we wrote to the Army, Police, Civil Defence, Man O’ War and other agencies for training assistance in drill, physical training, leadership among others, hence, the gestapo action is therefore unwarranted and unjustifiable,” the agency’s DG narrated tearfully.
But in its defence, the Army in a statement issued by Deputy Director, Public Relations, 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu alleged that its troops discovered an illegal militia type of training at NYSC orientation camp.
According to Ilyasu, “Troops of 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA) today the 29th November, 2018 while on a routine surveillance at Nonwa Gbam, (NYSC Orientation Camp) in Tai Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State, discovered an illegal militia training camp. The troops met over 100 recruits undergoing military type of training.
“Preliminary investigations into the discovery has commenced in conjunction with sister security agencies in the state to fish out the sponsors of the militia and the training camp.
“Recall that similar illegal militia training camps were discovered and disbanded in Benue and Taraba States earlier in the year and measures were promptly taken to forestall breach of security and safety of citizens, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the police, the major outfit in a democracy entrusted with responsibility of ensuring the protection of lives and property of the civil populace has assured that it will be unbiased, but professional in the discharge of its duties during the coming elections. In fact, the former Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed is hopeful of a peaceful election in the state.
At a recent media briefing at the Police headquarters in Port Harcourt, Ahmed advised politicians and political parties in the state to be peaceful and play by the rules throughout the campaign period; even as he expressed the hope that the elections in the state will be peaceful.
According to Ahmed, “The elections of 2019 will be devoid of violence as we (the police) promise to be neutral, apolitical and professional in the discharge of our constitutional mandate.
“We promise to provide level playing field for the political parties and appeal to them to play the game by the rules. We shall spare no effort in dealing with anybody or group of persons found breaching the peace of the land no matter how highly placed,” he said.
The former police boss further called on the political parties and their candidates to always talk to their members and supporters on the need to conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the elections.
“Leaders and candidates of political parties are further enjoined to talk to their members and supporters to embrace the peace, as the state will outlive the elections. You (political parties) are further directed to put us on notice on all campaigns and party activities to enable us provide adequate security,” the State Police Commissioner stated.
Like the Police, the Nigerian Red Cross Society also expects the 2019 general elections in the state to be peaceful, despite reports that the state was among flashpoints of violence.
Chairman, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Port Harcourt Division, Mr. Yibotemeka Kalio gave the optimism during a two day training the body organized for journalists in the state.
But unlike the Police that foresees a peaceful poll in the state from the lenses of its promise of neutrality and professionalism in the discharge of its ‘constitutional mandate’, the Red Cross said its expectations for a peaceful poll in Rivers was borne out of the organisation’s positive disposition because according to Kalio the society always prepares for disaster rather than waiting for it to happen.
He said, “The elections in Rivers State will be peaceful. But that is not what the reports are saying. The last report I saw said Rivers State is among four other flashpoints where there will be violence.
“My confidence why I said the election will be peaceful is mainly that for us in the Red Cross we are always positively minded. We prepare for disaster. Not for it to happen. And we feel that if everybody understands what election is supposed to be then elections will be peaceful.
“So we are expecting that between today that we are talking till the time for the election. The necessary things will be put in place by way of public enlightenment. By way of synergising with the candidates and the political parties.
“So that we understand that it is a matter of casting your vote and allowing your vote to be counted. Once that is done we are going to have a peaceful election in Rivers State.
“Secondly. Yes, the reports have come out that there will be violence. We expect that if your neighbour warns you of an imminent danger. You should take the necessary precaution to avert it,” Kalio said.
He said further, “So now that the reports have come those in places of authority should will know the one or two things to do to avert it. And working together we can avert it and expect a very peaceful election in all our polling units.
“Government who are the people organising the election should be able to get the candidates and everybody to be on the same page. We (Nigeria Red Cross Society) expect that our body language and the words that come out of our mouths should be such that will be friendly to one another.
“Threats (by political parties and politicians) should be brought to the barest minimum. We also expect that government should assist everybody and make them play by the rules of the game.
“Election has rules. If we say it is ballot papers and the ballot papers should go with the necessary forms, they should be provided.
“We have the monitors. INEC, the security agencies, all should work together to make sure that it is peaceful. The fault should not come from them,” the Chairman, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Port Harcourt Division said.
Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt precisely on July 30, 2018 ahead of the August 18 bye-election in Rivers State, INEC had assured the people of the state of a free, fair and violent-free poll.
The bye-election for the seat of Port Harcourt Constituency III in the State House of Assembly it would be recalled became imperative as the former occupier of the position, Mr. Victor Ihunwo, left, contested and won the local government election in the state and is now the Mayor of Port Harcourt.
During that meeting, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Mr. Obo Effanga, had urged political parties and their supporters to shun any act that would disrupt the elections.
Effanga, who said measures had been put in place to ensure a hitch-free bye-election, pointed out that the exercise would be a test-run for the 2019 general election, describing it as a priority for the commission.
The state REC explained that INEC was ready to work with civil society organisations and youth groups in ensuring a high level of sensitisation that would encourage a high voters’ turnout during the exercise.
“For groups that have shown interest in partnering with INEC on voters’ sensitisation and publicity, we will be part of that. I will ensure that every party, contestant is given a fair chance to register.
“I will also ensure that every party, candidate participate and vote during elections. We will talk with party agents, political parties and other stakeholders in the state,” he had said.
Whether INEC kept to that promise of conducting a free and fair election as far as that particular poll is concerned remains a matter of debate, as the exercise was suspended and still stands so six months after.
From the foregoing, one can safely glean that the police and the Red Cross as privileged bodies maybe be seeing what the rest of us are yet to see.
However, from whatever lenses they may be looking at the forth-coming polls, what is important is for the political actors, including political parties, the politicians themselves and their supporters to heed the advice of the Red Cross and be guided by the warnings of the Police as the elections draws closer.
Similarly, if the admonitions of the Governor to the Police and INEC to commit themselves to a credible election, a point which the Nigerian Red Cross Society aptly reverberated are taking to heart by the key actors, the political gladiators and stakeholders, maybe, just maybe, Rivers State can change the narrative of being one of the flashpoints of violence but one of the states that election took place without hitches, violence and or rigging.
In the main, it would be unwise to run into conclusions, but safe to give these institutions (especially the Police and INEC) the benefit of the doubt, save there is sufficient reason to think otherwise.
But if the reservations of the governor and many others like him are confirmed during the elections, it would be on record as he did during previous elections in the state since he became governor in 2015 that he indeed raised the alarm.
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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