On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States, would troop out in their numbers, to vote for candidates of their choice in the governorship elections which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed on that day for the two States.
Expectedly, preparations for the elections have reached an advance stage, as the electoral umpire has put everything in place for a smooth and hitch-free exercise. This time around, expectations are really high for INEC to acquit itself creditably, by ensuring that the elections are not only peaceful but also credible, free and fair.
On this score, feelers indicate that INEC has already distributed over 2.4 million permanent voters cards (PVCs) to the electorate in both states, to ensure that they participate maximally in the electoral process.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while dropping this hint during a quarterly meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Abuja, said a total of 889,308 PVCs were collected in Bayelsa State while 1,485,828 PVCs were collected in Kogi State as at September 30.
Yakubu equally disclosed that the commission had accredited 135 domestic observer groups and 16 foreign observer groups for the polls in both states, hinting that the commission was desirous of deepening transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.
There is no doubt that political tension has reached fever pitch in the two states, considering the volatility of these areas, particularly when it comes to matters of politics and elections. To say that the political atmosphere in both states today is fully charged is to state the obvious.
Speculations that violence may characterise and mar the elections are rife. It is even alleged that the various political gladiators in the states are warming up for a serious political showdown come November 16; and are ready to throw everything at their disposal to the ring to ensure that they clinch victory at the polls. The political indices on the ground are frightening.
Just recently, stakeholders from Bayelsa and Kogi States listed violence, vote buying and manipulation of the youths as some of the issues that would determine the outcome of the elections in the two states.
According to one of the stakeholders, apart from violence orchestrated by the Army and other security agencies, the electorate see INEC officials and security agencies as agents of fraud rather than arbiters of fair play.
It is, however, heart-warming that INEC has indicated its willingness and determination to correct the mistakes of the 2019 General Election with the November 16 polls in the two states, stressing that the two elections would correct the mistakes in the general election and set a new standard for future elections.
The chairman of the Board of INEC’s Electoral Institute, Prince Solomon Soyebi, who gave this assurance said, “the elections will provide the commission with yet another opportunity to test-run its policies, process and new initiatives”.
According to the INEC National Commissioner, “Athough the conduct of the 2019 general election and the commission’s performance had some challenges, we can use the 2019 general election as a barometer for comparison with subsequent elections, including the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. Clearly, the commission is not under any illusion about the many issues and challenges posed by the electoral process”.
There is no gain saying the fact that INEC’s performance in the 2019 General Election was not too encouraging, as it fell short of the expectations of most Nigerians. One obvious area where the electoral umpire performed abysmally was the manual recording and transmission of results instead of the electronic transmission from the polling units. It is mind-boggling and shocking that INEC, going by attestation at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, had no server. This, indeed, leaves a sour taste in the month, as it offers and provides room for easy manipulation of results.
The Tide believes that the governorship elections in the two states, this time around, offer INEC another opportunity to redeem its battered image. The polls are, indeed, another litmus test for the electoral body, as all lapses and mistakes of the past must be corrected, through them.
The truth is that we are not yet satisfied with what is on the ground in both states in terms of preparations for the elections. INEC must be thorough. It must do all within its capacity to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process. This, it can do by being truly neutral and independent.
Above all, all the institutions, including the Police and other security agencies must be up and doing. They must all provide the enabling environment for violence-free, peaceful, free, fair and credible elections to take place in the two states.
There is the need for politics to develop in the country to the point that the people can have confidence in the electoral system in such a way that the electorate, irrespective of political part affiliations, should be allowed to vote for candidates of their choice.
Again, all stakeholders including political parties must realise that what is at stake is the interest of the two states, as it relates to development and good governance. Elections are only vehicles in actualising the yearnings and aspirations of the people in this regard. Elections are never a do or die affair.
Only the best should be allowed to emerge at the end of the day.
Thus, there should be no room for desperation and manipulations. The people must be allowed to vote with their conscience.
It is also high time INEC gave the electronic voting system a shot. It can experiment this with the governorship elections in the two states. There should be no manual thing, as we experienced in the 2019 General Election. The world is still watching. The most important thing is, let the votes count in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
Fresh Call For National Unity
Fifty years after the Nigerian Civil War, which claimed well over 2.5 million lives, destroyed hundreds of thousands of properties, and rendered millions permanently maimed and traumatised in just about three years, principal actors, survivors, political leaders, historians, activists and other players in the Nigerian Project, last week, converged to provoke a sombre reflection, and warned against utterances and actions capable of triggering the disintegration of the country while advising that the catastrophe of the war years should serve as pivotal driving force for the promotion of peace, national reconciliation, cohesion and unity.
The warning was accentuated by diverse leaders across the nation from different professions, religious and ethnic orientations at the ‘Never Again Conference 2020’ organised by the Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in collaboration with civil society organisations. At the core of the conference was an x-ray of the major causes and consequences of the ill-fated Civil War and a critical appraisal of the present state of the nation which shows a seemingly dangerous replay of events in virtually all spheres of the Nigerian state.
Consequently, speaker after speaker noted that the complex dynamics, including heavily diverse cultures, tradition, religious affiliations and social backgrounds which have made it difficult for Nigerians to forge a strong, virile, progressive, peaceful and united nation, should be quickly harnessed, coalesced and weaved together in harmony to shut out any tendency to plunge the country into another Civil War. They regretted that the failure of Nigeria to move forward in peace and sustainable progress was because of the brazen disrespect of the majority and crass insistence of a minority group to foist its interests in the workings of the executive, legislative, judicial and even military and security superstructures without regard to the consequential violent implosion which such could unleash on the nation.
The leaders pointed at the various unfolding events of the last few years, including rising cases of abuse of power, outright impunity, looting of national treasury and assets, disregard for the rule of law and constitutionality, nepotism, tribalism, lack of compliance with the federal character principle, and targeted systemic violent attacks, killings and acts of war against people of other ethnic groups, and warned that the situation was capable of forcing the majority to fight back, thereby pushing the country into the brink of another civil war.
The Tide completely agrees that the songs of war, inciting, toxic and inflammatory attacks on people of other ethnic groups are heightening tension. We worry that violent attacks, killings, and kidnapping of people of certain tribes, religion and/or perceived to be of a given social status are taking a dangerous crescendo too. Even the deliberate government strategy to recruit and appoint people from a section of the country into virtually all critical sectors, agencies or departments at the federal level calls for concern.
We, therefore, caution harbingers of discord and war to remember the atrocities of the civil war and realise that so many things have changed and that the result of another potential war may never be the same. We say so because history tells us that no nation has ever survived two civil wars intact.
While we insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, we appeal to all players to respect the expressed interests of others, and allow the divergent views to co-exist for the peace and unity of the nation. Indeed, the best way to bring this to life is to key into the urgency to restructure the country with the objective of giving the people a true and acceptable federal structure under which each federating unit would deploy its resources to conquer poverty amongst the people while the rich and the poor cohabit in harmony.
We believe that only a patriotic commitment to peaceful and united Nigeria would lead the present and future generations to a country with tolerant and inclusive political, economic, social and security systems for all. To achieve these, our leaders must entrench the core values of democratic principles and eschew ethnic, religious differences so that the country’s driving force can revert to the ideal: merit, hardwork, creativity and innovation.
For us, there is no better time to raise the alarm than now because the fabric of the Nigerian state has been threatened and weakened by years of degenerate government tactics aimed at marginalising and alienating the majority in governance, repression and deployment of brute force to crush opposition, glorification of injustice and inequality, and other antics that enhance division and incite people to hate.
This is why we urge leaders in various sectors to heed the lesson of the civil war and the clarion call to do everything within their powers to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity. This is a call to duty and a task for all Nigerians.
Pains Of NIN Registration
Controversies have been trailing the ongoing National Identity Number (NIN) enrollment as the exercise imposes severe hardship on Nigerians in various centres across the country. The process has left a good number of people with frustration on an unprecedented scale.
NIN enrollment activities seldom succeed without physical altercations. An enrollee is expected to visit a designated (NIMC) centre to undertake biometrics after filling a form. Then they are asked to return for the NIN, usually after a minimum period of two weeks.
NIMC officials, their cronies and security agents among other concerned personnel, have made the process a fiendish complexity for Nigerians in dire need of the registration by extorting them. In some enrollment centres, there are stipulated amounts of money NIMC officials demand from applicants to get them registered.
In other centres, NIMC officials work in close collaboration with security agents to perpetrate the illicit act. The officials usually demand between N500 and N5,000 depending on the corresponding multitudes in the affected centres and the exigencies of the enrollment. Those who pay the money are given preference while others who fail to comply wait perpetually in exasperation.
Some applicants get desperately far to refuel NIMC generators to prevent officials from finding reasons to end registration for the day. Those who cannot bear the rigours of waiting and returning each day, gratify men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to expedite the process. The resentment has made many Nigerians move to other cities to have their enrollments effected.
In profoundly populated areas across various states and cities, the enrollment modus has been tough on applicants, particularly with the development that requires students seeking university admission to have NIN as a criterion.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) had in September last year directed prospective candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to enroll for NIN in order to check examination fraud, address the challenges of underage and multiple registrations, and cut down enrollment costs.
However, in a sudden wrench, the examination body announced a pull back from the initial plan to implement the policy with effect from next year, citing technical issues, stakeholders’ concerns, and difficulties faced by candidates in the NIN registration.
Going by the galling experiences of Nigerians in the NIN centres, it is doubtful whether the NIMC/JAMB collaboration will be successful. While registration centres are few and far between, the NIMC grossly lacks adequate staff and equipment to discharge the exercise.
Given the grisly situation, the House of Representatives advised JAMB to suspend the NIN-for-UTME policy. While we commend JAMB for putting off the scheme to next year, we urge the Board to extend the time furthermore until there are enough awareness and preparations.
To facilitate efficient NIN registration process, therefore, we suggest that more centres be created across the country while additional equipment and staff be mobilised for the exercise. We equally urge NIMC to end the massive corruption in the registration centres and hope the culprits get the sanctions they deserve.
Also, the commission needs to establish active collaboration with states and local governments for valuable and less-stressful registration. It is unbelievable and quite grotesque that policy administrators in this country only mull over the benefits of policies without any careful consideration for their execution.
We recall a recent statement by the Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, admitting that the NIMC had succeeded in registering only 35 million Nigerians. We are doubtful if half of this number has been issued the permanent registration card. For a country of about 200 million people, the performance of the commission in this task is hardly good enough.
The Tide deeply deplores the chaotic nature of the NIN registration exercise nationwide and impetrates the authorities involved to ensure that the task is seamless and less hazardous. There is a need for those in charge to simplify the registration process. We hope that NIMC management is aware of the many obstacles that stand between Nigerians and a successful NIN registration.
Remembering Our Fallen Heroes
The 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration activities which began on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 with the Emblem Appeal Launch by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal Executive Council Chambers, Abuja, climaxes today with the President, state governors and chairmen of local government areas expected to hold ceremonies in the Federal Capital Territory, state capitals and local government headquarters.
Formerly held on November 11 (also known as Popy Day) across countries of the British Commonwealth in honour of fallen heroes and veterans of World Wars I and II, the date of the annual ritual was changed to January 15 to commemorate the day the Biafran troops surrendered to the Federal forces, an event that effectively ended the 30-month Nigerian Civil War in 1970 and brought Nigeria back to a united country from the brink of division.
Speaking at the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day church service in Abuja, last Sunday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of the Federal Government, hailed the military for not only keeping the country safe but also preserving it for posterity while expressing the central government’s commitment to improving the lives of officers and men of the armed forces through enhanced budgetary provision.
According to the Vice President, “The government is determined to better the lives of the military men and officers by improving the budget of the armed forces. We thank you for your faithfulness and pray God to bless and protect you”, adding that their labour would never be allowed to go in vain.
In the same vein, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, paid glowing tribute to the roles played by the Nigerian Armed Forces in keeping the country united and safe from external aggression and ensuring internal security and socio-political stability.
The governor vowed to continue to honour, applaud, appreciate and reward heroic accomplishments of the men and officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces and charged them to uphold highest professional standards in all their engagements in order to maintain their integrity and enjoy the desired respect and regard from the populace.
For Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, “the military martyrs paid the supreme sacrifice for Nigeria to remain one and for us to sleep with our too eyes closed. Let us look around us; let’s find a widow; let’s find a widower; let’s find an orphan of a fallen soldier; let us reach out to them”.
He added that “As an administration, we shall continue to support the Nigerian Legion. We shall continue to appreciate all our fallen heroes”.
The Tide joins these and millions of well-meaning Nigerians in raising the banner of encouragement, commendation and appreciation to the men and women whose sacrifices of personal and collective comfort, convenience and blood have kept our nation together, still striving and thriving.
Indeed, we recognise that the very existence of any nation (chief of all, Nigeria) is fundamentally predicated on the courage, bravery, gallantry, selflessness and sacrifice, including the supreme sacrifice of the crop of individuals who dedicate their lives to ensuring that the lives of the rest of their compatriots run safely, securely and smoothly.
This is why we urge government at all levels, corporate bodies and all Nigerians not only to celebrate and pay homage to our fallen, falling, surviving and fighting heroes just today but to mainstream it in our national, collective and individual activities and consciousness.
To this end, we strongly appeal to the Federal Government to endeavour to do more in the provision of modern and state-of-the-art arms and ammunition to the armed forces in order to give them a strong advantage over the Boko Haram and ISWAP forces threatening the territorial integrity of our country. In addition, government should continue to do all it takes to motivate, boost confidence and ensure the sustenance of very high spirits in the troops, including adequate medical care for the injured, befitting treatment for the fallen and prompt and adequate care for their surviving dependants.
Government needs to creatively evolve a system that guarantees a reasonably decent and dignifying living condition for all ex-service men in Nigeria. Gone and forgotten should be the days when retired military personnel go through dehumanising experiences to get their retirement benefits, die while trying to secure same or are consigned to a life of slow, painful death due to conditions foisted on them by material destitution.
We as well urge corporate bodies to not only support and assist the Nigerian Legion but to engage legionnaires in duties they are fit and qualified for. On the part of private citizens, we’re convinced that according servicemen and their retired counterparts courtesies and privileges at public places especially, will boost their morale, make them feel appreciated and spur them to do more for the peace, safety and security of our country.
Finally, truth be told, the Nigerian military have a lot to do to regain the glory, esteem and awe of the service in the estimation of the Nigerians. This is why the admonition of Governor Wike to return to the path of professionalism and complete avoidance of involvement in strictly civilian activities like politics and sundry issues should be taken to heart.
The parlous security situation in the country calls for all hands to be on deck and the army of ex-servicemen who are still able and fit should respond to the need of fatherland by making themselves available for engagement in vigilante activities by state and local governments.
As the nation celebrates this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, The Tide wishes to remind our political leaders and security forces that the task to keep Nigeria one, undivided, peaceful, politically stable, cohesive and economically prosperous is still work-in-progress. All that is needed for victory in this regard is for everyone to do their bit with sincerity of purpose and commitment to the common good. It is the only way to make the labour of our heroes past count.
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