In every election year in Nigeria, there is always the suspicion that the ruling party in a particular area be it at the state or federal level would be finalising plans to rig or abort the will of the electorate.
Sometimes, these suspicions might be unfounded but the antics of the ruling party might give credence to this notion. Recently, the controversy over the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari as the Chairperson, Advisory Committee and the presidential election collation centre is being criticised by the opposition parties and other stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
According to sources, Mrs Zakari is supposed to have completed her tenure as an INEC commissioner since August of 2018. Apart from that, she is said to be a niece to the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.
The fear is that as a blood relation to the president, she might use that connection to subvert the vote counting exercise. Another area of grouse by the opposition parties has to do with the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, who is supposed to have retired from the service since January 3.
The Inspector-General has served the mandatory 35 years and his continual stay in office, according to them is illegal as the constitution bars him from being retained or reappointed as he is no longer a serving officer.
According to them, the president should do the needful by appointing a new IGP otherwise, retaining him means that Mr Idris will not be answerable for his actions but will only do the biddings of his master.
Although these claims cannot be dismissed outright the action of the president vis-a-vis the ruling party in disobeying court orders and breaching the constitution leave much to be desired.
The concern raised by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) is not just a propaganda tool or false alarm but should be seen as a patriotic act as the country should tell its leaders that we are under a democratic rule and not dictatorship in any guise.
If a serving officer has reached the mandatory retirement age or has served for the stipulated 35 years, he or she should honourably vacate such office. But where the services of such persons are still needed, then the necessary due process should be followed to avoid the situation where eye brows would be raised.
However, the recent pronouncements by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that it is now set to conduct a free, fair and credible election by presenting copies of the voters register to the political parties is highly appreciated. This is because with the register, political parties now can monitor and scrutinise the number of eligible voters, monitor the voting process and also ensure that the number of votes cast during next month’s elections reflect with what is in the register.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmmod Yakubu, has said that a total of 84 million Nigerians registered to vote, that the register was up to date and that as part of the measure put in place, smart card readers would be used for the exercise. He also said the use of the separate incident form had been abolished and called on the political parties to submit a list of their agents to INEC, not later than 14 days to the election.
The implication of these pronoucements is that the political parties will no longer give excuses that the electoral body is not prepared for the elections. From observations so far, INEC has shown that it has put in place all necessary facilities for now and what remains is the conduct of the election proper.
For the political parties, the issue of having centres should be seen as a serious task. This is because from past experience, some party agents did not even show up at the polling centres and how are we sure that this time would be different with the number of parties hovering over 70 and with 97, 119,973 polling units that will be manned.
Hopefully for the candidates some of the smaller parties which would not be able to afford the services of volunteers may have to rely on agents of the major political parties especially in the rural areas. And if that is not possible, they should strive to have agents at least in the 8,809 collation centres at the ward level.
With the large number of poltical parties, the logistics will be enormous and following the confidence expressed by INEC for the task ahead, all the political parties should go into the field and start canvassing for the people’s mandate. This time around, no excuses would be accepted as what we want are zero tolerance to rigging, vote buying, violence and indolence. Serious candidates especially those vying for the state houses of assembly seats should not tie their future to that of the governorship candidate. Now is the time to tell Nigerians why they should be voted for. Since this exercise comes every four years, adequate preparations should be made by the political parties to support their candidates in next month’s elections.
The police hierarchy on its part has assured that it would not be partisan likewise that of the armed forces. But with the current tensed security situation, the fear is still there that the ruling party could probably use the situation to its advantage especially at the presidential election.
Today, the world is watching the political trend in Nigeria, the situation is still tense but not as that of 2015 where there were fears that the election would end up causing civil unrest in the country. The two major actors are all from one geogaphical region, same religion and culture, so the presidential election now has nothing to do with differences of faith.
This time around, it is less complicated and the main issues are “development and quality service delivery”.
The election should be tension-free as we are not at war. From 1999 to 2018, the security agencies including the armed forces were allowed to play roles which constitutionally they were not permitted. Nigeria should do away with the curfew tradion on election days. 2019 elections should be an improvement on that of 2015 ditto the security situations.
Why is it that Nigeria is the only, country in Africa where on election days. everywhere is blocked, the streets empty with gun-totting policemen and members of the armed forces patrolling the major highways?
Let us learn to do things differently. In neighbouring West African countries, the situation is quite not the same. Let our politicians strive to improve on the electoral process especially by allowing the free movement of people on election days. Elections can even be conducted in a way that movement can not be restricted, afterall it is not everybody that will vote on election day.
Also modalities could be put in place to make it less stressful whereby a potential voter can just walk in and cast his or her ballot.
Of Governance And Clamour For Unicameral NASS
Although the heavy cost of maintaining Nigeria’s 469 federal lawmakers has always been a source of concern, “sitting politicians’’ have joined in the campaign for the reduction of the number of federal legislators.
In fact, one of the converts even suggested the scrapping of the Senate, as according to him, it is the House of Representatives that represents.
The converts: Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; Sen. Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo and Chief Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation, made their suggestions at different fora.
Chidoka who advocates for a unicameral legislature, made the suggestion after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 budget.
“In Nigeria, we need a unicameral legislature with six members each from the 36 states and two members from FCT.
“The legislature with 218 members will be less than 50 per cent of current members and term limit of three terms.
“The 2020 budget for the National Assembly (NASS) is N125bn, higher than the combined budget of Education N48 billion (excluding UBEC and TETFUND), Health N46 billion and Social Investment N30 billion.
“Reducing National Assembly members by half will provide over N60 billion annually for the social sector, that will be 600 billion over 10 years.”
Chidoka said the new National Assembly would be both efficient and economical.
He described the budget of N125 billion for the National Assembly as “hugely extravagant,” in an economy adjudged to have over 100 million poor people with gross infrastructure deficit.
The former Minister of Aviation said that funds saved from the contraction would be available for investment on policies and projects that would serve the common interest of the greater number of the population.
On his part, Fayemi advocated for the scrapping of the Senate in order to save cost and reduce financial burden on the government.
He also advocated for the adoption of Stephen Orosaye’s report which recommended the merging of federal government’s agencies that perform similar functions.
Fayemi said the type of legislative system that would be more productive for Nigeria in this current economic situation is a unicameral legislature.
“As it stands, the country’s legislative arm consisting of 109 Senate members and a 360-member House of Representatives, on yearly basis gulps millions of Naira.
“We do need to look at the size of government in Nigeria, and I am an advocate for a unicameral legislature.
“What we really need is the House of Representatives because that is what represents.
“You have three senators from little Ekiti and you have three senators from Lagos State, I guess the principle is not proportionality, but that if you are a state, you get it automatically.
“But I think that we can do away with that. There are several things that we can do away within the government,” he said.
Okorocha, the immediate past governor of Imo, now the Senator representing Imo West, on his part called for the reduction in the number of federal lawmakers representing a state.
He suggested that a Senator and three members of House of Representatives should represent each state.
“I want one senator and three House of Representatives members per state, which will cut expenses.
“A Senator and three House of Representatives members can do what many have been doing.’’
He said that the reduction in the number of representatives from the states would help cut cost and ensure effective representation.
While advocating for ways to cut cost and ensure effective representation, Okorocha said he would sponsor a bill that would seek for the reduction of the number of Senators and House of Representatives members for each state.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), has endorsed the suggestions for the reduction of the number of federal lawmakers.
The CNPP via a statement from its Secretary-General, Willy Ezugwu, said Okorocha spoke the truth concerning the need to reduce cost of running the National Assembly.
“The former governor simply told Nigerians the truth when he said what three Senators from a state can do; one lawmaker is capable of handling the same.
“Like Sen. Okorocha asked, what is too sacrosanct that Senators and House of Representatives members are doing that only a Senator per state can not do?’’
Also, two professors of political science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Jonah Onuoha and Aloysius Okolie, agreed with the advocates for unicameral legislature, which they reiterated would reduce the cost of governance.
Onuoha, who is the Head, Department of Political Science, said bicameral legislative system is not cost effective, especially in a country like Nigeria, where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances.
“It takes huge amount of money to maintain bicameral legislative system, especially in a country like Nigeria where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances monthly.
“Bicameral legislative system is not only costly but delays legislative processes of passing bill into law, since the bill will pass through the two chambers.’’
Onuoha, who is also the Director of American Studies in UNN, urged the country to adopt unicameral legislative system as it is cost effective.
“If the country settles for unicameral, the extra money it could have spent in paying salaries, allowances and maintaining the two chambers which runs into billions can be used to carry out capital projects,” he said.
He said if the country insisted on running bicameral legislative system, the number of lawmakers should be reduced.
Okolie in his contribution said that it was as result of bicameral legislative system that every year the budgetary allocation to the National Assembly had remained the highest.
“I subscribe to opinions in some quarters that the country should adopt unicameral legislative system as it will reduce the cost of running government as well as quicken legislative processes.
“The country is spending much to pay salaries, allowances and maintaining the two chambers — 109 Senators and 360-members of House of Representatives,’’ he said.
Okolie, former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, UNN branch, also said that as part of measures to reduce cost of running the government, the country should return to the regional structure.
“If we have one federal parliament and one regional parliament in each of the six geo-political zones, it will go a long way in cutting down cost of running the government,” Okolie said.
However, a legal practitioner, Mr Dele Igbinedion, said that people should not clamour for unicameral legislature just for cutting cost, adding that the issue is not whether or not a bicameral legislature is good or bad.
“I believe the bicameral system should remain because it has been proven to be sustainable and necessary. The process of law making is a very serious business which cannot start and end within a short time.
“The problem with the unicameral system which we have at the state level is that a bill can be introduced and passed the same day and sent to the governor for assent.
“This is not the case in the National Assembly; the two chambers must meet and possibly form a joint committee to look at the bill before sending it for presidential assent.
“The rigorous process a piece of legislation has to pass through forms part of the beauty of democracy.
“I think Nigerians should stop looking at the legislature each time there is a slight challenge and asking if we really need that arm of government.
“The judiciary often doesn’t respond to executive excesses, except there is a case it initiates, but in the legislature, a member can raise it as a matter of urgent public importance, national importance or ethics and privileges, and the attention of the parliament can be brought to it.’’
Apparently, Igbinedion was surmising that many state assemblies have become rubber stamps because the governors could easily “conquer’’ them, because it is only a single chamber.
Stakeholders say that unicameral and bicameral legislature have their advantages, but the country should settle for an option that cuts costs and wastages.
Ukoh writes for News Agency of Nigeria(NAN).
Dickson Dismisses APC Candidates As Militants, Terrorists
The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, has described the the All Progressives Congress (APC), joint ticket of Lyon/Degi for the November 16 Governorship election in the state, as a representation of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality.
He emphasized that the APC government after five years at the centre has done nothing in the state but to promote violence in different communities, adding that the consequences of losing election to the APC in the state will be dare to imagine.
Dickson made the revelation during the official inauguration of the gubernatorial campaign teams and secretariat on Tuesday, in Yenagoa.
He said, “Consider what would happen if things were to happen otherwise, none of you will spend a week in Bayelsa State. APC is presenting a ticket of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality, it’s going to be a government of criminals and cultist.”
Democracy in Bayelsa State can never turn to a government of militancy and criminals.
As we are formally inaugurating the campaigns, we will also launch “Operation wind APC in Bayelsa.”
“The consequence are too dare to imagine, people will be scared to visit the state , even indigenes will be scared to visit their communities.
“If we don’t take this elections seriously, by 17th the day after the election we should be ready to leave the state. This election is not about the candidate or even me but about the future of our state and our children.
“In 2015, when I was contesting, I saw more than the defection we are seeing today but let me assure us of victory. And don’t be perturbed but that doesn’t mean that we are happy as party leaders are decamping but victory will be ours at the end.”
Okowa Inaugurates 42-Member State Advisory Council
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State yesterday inaugurated a 42-member State Advisory and Peace Building Council with a charge on the members to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
The council has Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, former Minister of Information, as Chairman.
Okowa named former state Deputy Governors – Chief Benjamin Elue and Prof. Amos Utuama – and Prince Sam Obi, Chief Chris Agbobu, Alawei Brodrick Bozimo, Brig.-Gen. B. Demeyeibo (rtd), Chief Mike Adiotomre and Chief Ignatius Agidi as members.
Other members included Chief Patrick Egone, Mr John Nwagimeje, Sen. Stella Omu, Mr Paul Enebeli, Sen. Patrick Osakwe, Dr.(Mrs) F. Nwaeze, Prof. E.C. Nwanze, Dr Pius Sinebe, Chief Joseph Ejigba, Chief Eddie Sorhue and Chief (Mrs) Esther Uduehi.
Also, Chief E.D. Oborfukoro, Chief Robert Ejifoma, Pa. John Edah, Chief Roland Oritsejafor, Chief E. E. Ebimani, Chief Judith Enamuotor, Rev. Gideon Oyibo, Mr Joseph Ikhena, Chief Denis Etaluku, Prof. Sam. Ukala, Chief Jonathan Uyeri and Chief Samuel Okoro are members.
Other members are Mrs Felicia Ajagu, Mrs Theodora Giwa-Amu, Mrs Felicia Sani, Rev. Oke Akokotu, Elder Ayo Odonmeta, Chief Emmanuel Okumagba, Rear Adm. Mike Onah (rtd), Chief Magaret Unukegwo, Mrs. Grace Boyo and Rt. Rev. Justus Mogekwu.
According to the governor, the inauguration is part of the State Government’s effort to further strengthen the wheel of governance in the state.
“As a way of tapping from the wealth of experience of our people, it is necessary to reconstitute the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council through the appointment of these men and women of tested integrity and exemplary character.
“Let me reiterate that the appointment of the members of the council is not based on any political consideration whatsoever,” he said.
He charged the council to bring their experiences to bear on their function and create environment to deepen the peace between the state executive and other arms of government.
Okowa charged the council ensure harmony between Delta government and the Federal Government and other international bodies.
He called on the citizens to give the council the needed support and corporation to succeed while thanking the members for accepting to serve.
“I urge all of you to bring your wealth of experience to bear on this appointment,” Okowa said.
Responding on behalf of the council, Oyovbaire thanked the governor for the appointment and pledged their resolve to deliver on the assignment.
Also in an interview, Rev. Mogekwu said the appointment was a call to service, adding that the council would not betray the confidence reposed on it to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
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