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“Poor Funding bane of Niger Delta”



Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

This is the continuation of The Tie Roundable encounter with Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN), published Friday July 17, 2009. Continued from Page 17

Petroleum act?

I don’t think that it has become an Act yet. It is still going through the process in the National Assembly. The last we reviewed that was April or there about when we went for the session of the business law conference. The Act is proposed as a bill now has made for reaching proposals for the reform of the petroleum industry in Nigeria if these proposals are finally passed, that becomes law and if they are faithfully applied there will be nothing adverse to the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. What is usually the problem is the implementation of prepositions of law and the political will of those who are charged with the implementation of the law to do what is right as stipulated in that law.

Either and above the provisions of that bill, the critical point which needs to be addressed is constitutional divesting of all the minerals in the country in the Federal Government.

That is where the problem mainly arises because all the talk about the greater share in revenue derived from oil and petroleum product.

We are all sitting here and they are prospecting for the crude oil and natural gas. At the end of the day what we get is nothing compared to what we should be getting because the story there was fairness and apathy in the system, there should be no reason why the Niger Delta states should not be getting a higher percentage based on the derivation principle which everybody agree is something to be applied to assuage the sufferings of the people in the Niger Delta or wherever minerals are prospected.

So let us hope that the effort to amend the constitution will address the fundamental problem, and then all other laws will fall in place. Then we must hope that those charged with the implementation of all those laws that lead to petroleum and natural gas will also faithfully implement them, having in their minds the interest of the Niger Delta.

Does that mean the petroleum Act is the major problem in the petroleum industry?

No. No, …… the principles in the constitution that all minerals belong to the Federal Government is a major problem. The Land Use Act is just a law, is not part of the constitution. It was only entrenched in the constitution as a statute which you needed a special majority to amend. The Land Use Act is still an Act in the National Assembly and as you know, the President himself has sent certain proposals for amendment to the National assembly. The Land Use Act vest all the land in the territory of each state in the concern of that state, excluding land vested in the Federal Government so that has to do with land use and land management. The point I was making is that the right and interest of the people of the Niger Delta will best be provided for by radical amendment to the constitution particularly the section of the constitution that says that all minerals are invested in the Federal Government and of course the revenue allocation formula which is in the constitution that now stipulates 13 not less than 13 percent for all mineral producing areas.

Those are the areas we want to quickly attend to.

Let me just follow up in the last question, not too long ago, Governor Amaechi said, if that Bill being discussed is passed, it will impoverish the Niger Delta people

I wouldn’t know why he said so. I would like to be directed to the particular provision in the bill, because you see, what that bill does is to break up the companies that are in the petroleum industry. NNPC would be broken up into several different companies and each will have the relevant faction of the oil industry to deal with so, I’m at a loss to answer that question because I don’t know what particular section or sections the governor was referring to.

Simply because everything didn’t go well. The Electoral Act is currently as was obviously and still need to be reformed I would take you to the panel headed by the former, Chief Justice of Nigeria Uwais panel that looked through our electoral system decided that not only the electoral Act but also the constitution of 1999 as far as sections relating to election were in need of dire reform. You see the way elections are structured now under the old electoral Act, is that much power is given to the Independent Electoral Commission but there is no check on the activities that the commission can engage in to receive what we would ordinarily say are democratic principles.

The situation is such that INEC has turned out to prove to all of us that it was incapable of conducting free elections in this country. INEC does not have financial independence, they ended up depending largely on the wishes of the sitting president of the day to conduct elections and we remember what happened, uptill three months to the elections; they were still talking about funding to produce voters registers and so on and so forth. And for logistic reasons, both helicopters and the vehicles they needed to carry electoral materials to places. So INEC as it was under the current law did not have true independence.

Again the Electoral Act did not provide, elections time table, it was left to the discretion of INEC to wake up one morning and told us that presidential and governorship elections will hold on one particular day. That can not be democracy.

Again INEC as you remember played to the right to either disqualify candidates or refused to accept the nomination of candidates, who were properly nominated, or supposedly properly nominated by their parties and remember the case of Atiku and Obasanjo. That went up to the Supreme Court a week to election, was when that case was decided, so those were the few difficulties that emanated from what was and still is our Electoral Act. I don’t practise much in the field of election petition, but these are the obvious lapses that were in that practice and of course the actual conduct of the elections did not prove to be free and fair INEC apparently was compromised, law enforcement Agencies were compromised and many people ended up not voting, because they didn’t have the opportunity to vote, that was a reality.

Independent Monitors from outside the country were present on ground, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) set up an election monitoring committee and the report nationwide was that the elections were not free so that is the reason for the clamour for the amendment of the Electoral Act so that the process can be democratized such that people will be allowed to choose their representatives, look at what happened in Rivers State, candidates were being imposed on particular ward, particular electoral district by so called political godfathers. Our Governor now suffered the same fate. He was duly elected at the party primary held by the PDP only to have his election, you know somebody said that there was a K-leg, I think it was Obasanjo who said that Rivers State had a K-leg. At the end of the day, the court had to intervene to resolve that matter. The Electoral Act stipulated in clear terms, that for you to withdraw the name of candidate that you have elected, you must have cogent and compelling reasons.

So you don’t just say error of choice, there must be cogent and compelling reason, and that was the matter that went to the Supreme Court and the court up held that there were no cogent and compelling reasons for the withdrawal of the name of the candidate who had been nominated.

So the electoral system in Nigeria in my opinion had not been properly articulated. You and I sit in our houses and you hear that somebody has been selected as your representatives. The people had no right in the choice.

There should be free electioneering processes when a man comes out and say he is serving the people and the representative of the people you would be satisfied that it was indeed the people who elected him.

You are Shell legal consultant, what can you say of oil spill?

Let me say this with all sense of responsibility, Shell that I represent, as one of their numerous legal consultants or external counsels, is one of the most responsible oil operating companies. You see the reality of the situation is that anywhere in the world where there is oil production, there is bound to be incidents of oil pollution, leakages here, spills here and there.

And for every genuine cases where there was a spill that I have been involved in, I know as a fact that Shell has made immediate move to one, stop the leakage, two contain the leakage and its spread, and three clean up the mess. The problem always arises on the area of compensation. Of course, any body whose properties had been damaged under the Pipeline Act, who has suffered a serious damage on his property land or water or whatever is entitled to compensation, and that is a right which the person has and our obligation which the oil company involved has to be stressed.

As I said the problem always arises on what is fair and adequate somebody can claim, one billion, if you claim one billion, well the quantity of oil that is spilled is not up to two barrels everybody will know that this claim is obviously exaggerated, and Shell as responsible corporate citizen and indeed all other Oil companies will be interested in enquiring into that matter because if you cannot reach agreement on what is fair and adequate, the laws stipulate that you must go to court and settle that matter and the court will now determine this is fair, this is just, this is adequate compensation and I know that in most cases, the courts have raised those determinations. Shell has gladly paid so much as I am also an indigene of Rivers State, it will interest you to know that I have done two cases against Shell and won against them, before Shell hired my services as far back as 1992, 93 to become their external counsel. So is always a controversial matter.

And you know that this new incident that most time we have used as our bases of defence, sabotage. If there is sabotage on a pipeline, you don’t expect an oil company to pay because that has been unlawful act of an unknown third party, Sometime the third party who caused the breakage of the pipeline is known and some are being prosecuted for damage and destruction to oil pipeline in their vicinities. Yes is a controversial matter, but thank God, we have the court, it is here in court that we know the extent of it, the damage caused and the value which you have claimed, and I know that the courts have been very active in doing those cases and giving judgment to whom judgment is due.

What are the benchmark for compensation?

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) stipulates what you should pay. And like I told you the figures they are using are not really commensurate with reality. They will tell you that a palm tree should be valued at N80 or so. You know a palm tree is something that regenerated and somebody said every part of the palm tree is valuable. The stem, the frond, the fruit the nut you understand.

So first you must look in the direction of DPR. They should stipulate fair and adequate bases for assessing the cost of damage caused to any body who has lost properties as a result of an oil spill. Those rates unfortunately are stipulated by DPR and of course everybody will like to use that as the rate to pay you compensation; but I can tell you speaking from experience some of those claims are not realistic.

How can stem of plantain cost N20. One bunch of plantain is worth more than N20. So those rates were made long ago and there is no effort on the part of the DPR to review the rate which is why the courts are now relying on the values put on those items and properties by evaluation experts, estate surveyors and valuers.

Even they and us say that you must pay market price. Economic price, economic value.

Our problem; that is the problem of Nigeria today is the Niger Delta issue. Federal Government created the NDDC, created the Niger Delta Ministry, and MEND took up arms to press their case, recently Federal government has offered amnesty to militants, but some Nigerians feel that the problem of the Niger Delta is the problem of irresponsibility on the part of Niger Delta leaders, considering the amount of money that has been coming to the areas since 1999, Sir, what do you think government has left undone to solve Niger Delta problem?

Well, is a good point, irresponsibility of our Niger Delta leaders, had led us to this sorry part where we are now; is a good point.

Some have argued and I agree that most of our leaders, especially our elected leaders have not applied the funds that are coming to the Niger Delta in a judicious manner. Indeed you remember the national Political Reform Conference, the story was that the Northerners, who were asking, Oh; you people should go and ask your governors what they have done with the money, you are getting 13 percent. But that is an argument which any body can write. The reality is that what is being advocated to the Niger Delta states is not commensurate with what is expected. And we want to recall that before we had a region, the principles of derivation was fixed at 50 percent, and with 50 percent, most of the regions were able to develop their infrastructures.

Now the federal government is taking more than the lions share and apaltry 13 percent is coming to oil producing states, that cannot be sufficient to develop infrastructures in this long neglected region.

There can be no argument about the fact that 13 percent will only scratch the surface. They tried with OMPADEC, even the 3 percent under OMPADEC was not getting to OMPADEC. NDDC 13 percent, the states 13 percent, the money was not getting to those states. Now they created the Niger Delta Ministry, something which I thought was misplaced. Still the problem is sufficient funding is not going to the ministry and you are now having two parallel agencies, ministry of the Niger Delta and the NDDC, which one are you looking at. You know my people have a proverb that, goat that belongs to many people usually die of starvation. Because somebody is expecting somebody to feed that goat. So the reality is, Is an argument which I am not prepared to throw my hat into this point whether our leaders have faithfully applied the funds. But the real problem is, sufficient funding is not coming to the Niger Delta. Let us face it, Agriculture is relegated, Agriculture, including arable land agriculture and acquatic agriculture, fishing, farming and all that relegated to the background.

The mainstay of Nigerian economy now is the oil revenue and they will tell you that over 90 percent of the federation account is the oil revenue.

That little that we should get for derivation should be given to us the Niger Delta states. That little should also be increased to a reasonable percentage so that there will be some thing meaningful to this neglected area and it will take more than a super human effort to rebuild, restore the area to also rebuild infrastructures. So that is my answer to the question.

The argument by Ijaw National Congress that more states should be created for the Niger Delta region is that the solution?

Let me say this, and let us be frank, the problem of the Niger Delta is not creation of States. Is money. Whether the money goes to ten states, or to one state, is neither here nor there. Indeed, it makes more sense to me that the money goes to one state and let that State use that money because the lower the percentage the existing state will get. What I am saying is the quantum of fund. Instead of dividing 13 percent to how many states we have now in the Niger Delta; Six states, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. If you are getting 13 percent, you created ten states, the same ten states will be sharing the 13 percent so the quantum going to individual states will be reduced. As for me is better to have the money in bulk.

Sorry Sir, just follow up if you look at Bayelsa State it has eight recognized local Government Councils, Kano has 44, now when these go to the federation allocation committee, they share funds to these local Governments, Kano gets that of 44, Bayelsa gets that of eight, don’t you think is right if another state is created out of Bayelsa and perhaps ten more councils created, Bayesla then will be getting for eighteen that is the question, he is trying to ask?

You know the object that is being shared is a fixed amount it is unfortunate that they have politicized this matter of creation of state and local governments. The Northerners and political leaders of the past thought that was agimmick in which they will use to get more money to their states.

You know, I like to say, let every state generate its own revenue, all this junketing to Abuja to share federation account or federation Allocation Account monies is meaningless. And it is meaningless because everybody is looking at oil revenue as that being shared. If we had each state catering for itself, getting just a subvention, based on acceptable principles, I’m sure the clamour for more states, the clamour for more local governments will die down because we are using it now as a basis, yes there is a valid argument to say, we need more states, we need more local governments, but if we realised that what is being shared is a fixed amount, the more we are, the smaller the share we would get from that fixed amount then we would see that more states, more local governments are only irrelevant.

We should not be tied up with revenue allocation, each state should generate its own revenue and any state that cannot survive on its own should merge with other states. And you will see that the thousand and one state that you have there in this country cannot survive on their own without this money from federation account allocation. Is a political matter and that is the reason why everybody now wants more states and more local governments.

Are you now saying, we don’t need creation of more States?

For overriding progress of this country, creation of more states will not solve our problem, it will not because you see, we started as regions. We have been fragmenting this country to smaller units, smaller units and unless we put a stop to it we would continue to fragment this country.

Most communities in the world are coming together. There is the Europen Union (EU), there is the Organization of American States (OAS), there is SADC in South Africa, we even have the African Union.- (AU).

You make more progress as a large group than as a small entity, because what you get is bigger and how you planned to use that which you get is more focused in your articulation of it. The current states cannot survive, infact, if you look really true, only ten states can survive in this country, without federation allocation.

So you don’t subscribe to calls for confederation?

That is a political matter, you know, we haven’t really practice true federalism in Nigeria and some people are now saying, lets us be confederation, that principles arose during the days building up to the Nigerian Civil War and I was already a secondary school student, 1964 and I knew that , that argument was a political argument. There was nothing wrong with the regions, the way they were structured in the first place yes there was ethnic domination in some parts. We the minorities in the East had difficulties with the majority tribe that was dominating the day but I still believed that regions, particularly those that were properly managed made more progress as regions than we are now making as states.

Go to the west for instance, so we have to evaluate it very critically, is not something one can say, I think that the principle is that, you make more progress when you are a strong entity. The smaller you are the more marginalized you are. The less revenue, you would be getting, the less ability you would have, where is that lead to, because issues of fragmentation will continue to arise.

Q: ??????

Okocha: My father served in the Colonial police the only problem, my father ever had in the Police was that of tribalism. Because, he was minority in the old Eastern Region, Ikwerre man. Whoever heard of Ikwerre people becoming Police Officers but even at that his promotions came as at when due.

He went to Police Colleges in England, out of merit and then the Police was dedicated.

Your character needed to be examined before you enter the Police my father was recommended to join the Police by an old headmaster from Ohafia, through his relation that was in government in the Eastern Region. That was how my father got into the Police.

As a minority, hewent to Police Colleges and was able to perform and on merit. He got deployed to the branch alled special branch.

Special branch is the brach of the Police, that eventually became NSO and became SSS.

Chief Horsfall served under my father, in special branch in the Eastern region, and that time just before the civil war broke out, he was the deputy to MD Yusuf in a special branch. Then a Police man was really a friend, you would walked along the road and you stopped a Police man, very knowledgeable.

You are going to Aggrey road, Policeman will take pains to tell you where Aggrey road is, in fine language. You know they used to carry buatons in those days and alone Policeman standing at the end of the street was enough to drive criminals away, but now Police is for all kinds of people.

I can tell you that the stories we have indicate that some of these check points that you see armed robbers operating, some of them are wearing Police uniforms.

Some Policemen have also been implicate in armed robbery. Police need to be trained you know, overhaul, thoroughly overhaul. Any and any person cannot be recruit into the Police; because the Police is a civil force for maintenance of low and order. When you have criminals in the Police you have difficulties.

You know in those days, if you are a Police constable, and you bought a motorcycle, you need to explain where you got the money to buy a motorcycle constable, everybody knew your salary, but today, you see a constable operating 20 buses, 20 taxis, in the days of Okada, there were Policemen who owned 20 Okadas.

So the Police now is not what it was my father used to tell me stories of how they used to investigate cases. Detectives were trained. Now you go to the Police, they asked you who do you suspect.

How can you suspect, you are sleeping in the night somebody came to steal.

Your properties, and you know there was something the Police had, they had this supernunary Police Officers. They had what they called Police informant.

By the time, you go to an informant, he would know where, armed robbers came from to operate in Elechi street Diobu.

Is o longer the same, they are not trained, they are not properly motivated, they are not properly equipped.

And in those days, every Policeman who signed for Rifle will signed for the number of cartridge what do they cacled it bullet, that will go into that rifle.

They had an Armoury, you had hand writing experts, you have forensic analysts in the Police in those days and you know what they say, just by dusting this envelope now, they will tell you how many people had handle this envelop and they had record, without record, you can’t to police anywhere I had a problem once with a young man in America, and I wrote a letter to Chief of Police in Boston. They picked up the man finger printed him and told him they don’t want him any where within three miles of where I was staying in Bostom, and they were able to monitor that young man, and they succeeded in making sure he was nowhere near me for the three weeks I stayed in Boston that is what the police want to do. They know the criminals, they monitor them on a daily basis. So we need to retrain the police properly equipped the police and then properly motivate them.

Q: What is your comment on the current ASUU strike

Okocha: Yes, is unfortunate progressively, I will says I won’t want to use the word responsible, but I will say government has been unfaithful to its obligation to the educational sector. The time, we went to the university late early 70s, we were satisfied that we entered university in September of 1973 and graduated in June of 1977 four years for a degree programme, we were satisfied that lecturers were being paid their salaries as at when due and their salaries were commensurate with the work they were doing.

Government as we however and heard, had several agreements with ASUU and the university teachers, but government had not been faithful to implement those agreements.

Why should that be so. And we are talking of universities. The some thing goes down all the way to secondary education, primary education. I don’t know whether government actually recognizes that without education without proper education foundation this country is in jeopardy. Who will take over tomorrow from those of us who have gone through these processes. Most people are now sending their children to school in places like Ghana, Togo, because our educational system cannot guarantee a proper education for our children. Is unfortunate, and I think that government would wake up to its responsibilities.

The educational sector must be given immediate attention. All agreements signed with university teacher must be implemented and without any delay.

Q: Sorry before we go back to the police, let go back to Niger Delta, if you are in position to suggest what percentage should come to the Niger Delta, what will you suggest?

Okocha: 50 per cent because they are precedents. We started with 50 percentage should be anything less. And people are telling you those who want to play the politic of Nigeria Oh nobody is producing the oil, the oil was put there by God. Have they for gotten that in the traditional principles of land ownership, the man who owns the land owns everything under the land. So we leave me with my land and if any oil company wants to take oil from my land or gas, let that company negotiate with me.

In that case I will have 100 per cent. Isn’t it. The argument cannot be sustained that any body should tell us, that God put the oil there yes, but we came and live here where we migrated from, everybody ended up somewhere and that place you ended up to is your own land. For Nigeria to claim Oh: that the oil is there, God put it, so did he put gold and other minerals in other lands. Let everybody exploits his own and what ever you can make of it, make of it and take it 100 per cent.

So the principle that exist, and the principle is fair is that Nigeria as a federation started with 50 per cent derivation as in the 1960, and the 1963 constitutions. That is the principle that already exist. The principle we should go back to.

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

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Rivers State: Governance, Economy and the People



VOLUME – PP. 654
The Review
The title of the book –Rivers State: Governance, Economy and the People – seems to have been borne out of an undying passion and love for Rivers State not just because it is the author’s state of nativity but most certainly by reason of  its undeniable socio-economic, socio-political, and socio-cultural relevance to Nigeria and by extension the globe in its entirety.
With its foreword by a legal icon and a man of inestimable social stature – O.C.J. Okocha (SAN) – the book attracts a badge of honour not just by mere optics but by reason of content going by the fact that O.C.J. Okocha, as a man given to excellence, would not put his name on print except it is wrapped in editorial splendour. The author on his part should be commended for his boldness in choosing a crème of the legal profession for this vestige. This boldness can only be inspired by an intrinsic confidence in the editorial content and ideological substance of the book.
The book is spread across ten chapters with each chapter exhaustively treating a distinct yet not disparate component of the entire ideological construct. When pieced together, it makes a comprehensive whole but when disaggregated it assumes the form of an unfolding scenario which leaves the avid reader with a longing to flip the pages so as to satisfy a knowledge-bound quest.
Chapter one takes a look at the socio-cultural dynamics of Rivers State. The author in this chapter demonstrates a complete grasp of the ethno-genesis, socio-linguistic links and cultural variegations of the state and its people.
The chapter begins with a conceptual overview of environment as a primal nomenclature. To demonstrate depth in knowledge, using an inferential approach, the author draws from an expansive review of cognate literature. Worthy of commendation is the fact that the resources as cited herein are not dated but current. The author’s hindsight to draw from contemporary literature also stems from the fact that he is well schooled, tutored, and grounded in philosophical adumbrations and prognostications. In-depth analysis of the geological formations and topography of the state was highlighted in this chapter. The summation as given by the author is that “… the soils of the state are organic in nature and sandy in texture” (p.22). The author further opines that:
The value of the mean thickness appreciates upward to about 45m in the northeast and over 9m in the beach ridge barrier zones to the southwest (p.23).
A geopolitical peep of the state was also given by the author. He notes that fifteen of the twenty-three local government areas of the state are upland with varying heights of 13m to 45m above sea level. According to him, the upland areas produce vastly the food consumed in the state and beyond while the riverine areas produce fishes as well as other sea foods that serve as sources of protein for the people.
The presupposition interestingly is that the state is self sufficient in terms of agricultural produce. To say that chapter one is loaded with facts and figures is indeed an understatement. The author in this regard draws the admiration of his readers by a demonstration of the fact that his knowledge base is not journalism specific but enviably vast drawing from his peroration that the “… the inter-tropical discontinuity at various locations within the year controls the temporal patterns of rainfall in Rivers State” (p.25).
Forays into the people of the state, their religion and culture were also highlighted in the chapter. Worthy of note is the fact that the author focused more on the things that bind the people rather than the things that divide them. In this regard, the author detached himself from the prism, being an indigene himself, and confined himself within the purview of objectivism which truly is the hallmark of scholarship.
Chapter two is titled- Rivers State: The story of Creation. This chapter looks at the socio-political history of the state. The discourse contextualizes the people of the state as cosmopolitan going by early contacts with the Europeans. A vivid account was given on p.47 where the author notes that:
In Kalabari, the era produced King Amakiri (Amachree I), who through the combination of rare display of political-cum-diplomatic maturity, military prowess, and commercial acumen established the Kalabari kingdom on a firmer foundation that enabled the city – state to withstand British imperialists in the second half of the 19th century (p.47).
Drawing from rich historical antecedents, the author traces the contemporary history of Rivers State to the coming of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. As noted by him:
Prominent Rivers people, including Chief Dappa-Briye, Chief Edward Kobani, Mr. Robert P.G. Okara, Kenite Giadom, Finimale Nwika, Mr. Wobidike, Mr. Graham  Otoko, and others had signed a memorandum for the creation of Rivers State. The memorandum had support from many persons across the communities (p.62).
Consequent upon this, the author further notes that;
Gowon heeded the advice of the two men and in a nationwide broadcast on May 27, 1967, the Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, announced the creation of Rivers State, as part of a 12-state structure for Nigeria. This was also validated through the promulgation of Decree No. 14 titled: States (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Decree of 1967 (p. 63).
The historical account of the book accords a pride of place to Lieutenant Commander Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff by denoting him the first Military Governor of the state. In evoking imagery, which is a rare literary skill, the author describes Lieutenant Commander Spiff as a twenty-four year old naval officer from Nembe, in present day Bayelsa State.
By a stroke of historical accuracy, the author bridges the gap between the past and the present through an ideological symmetry by noting the fact that “as more states are created to solve the perceived marginalization of minorities, other minorities are created in the process, leading to agitations in the future” (p.79). This postulation is a philosophical masterstroke by the author and speaks volumes of his rich repertoire in scholarship.
Governance is the title of chapter three. In this chapter, the author adopts a heuristic pattern by tracing the etymology of the word – government. As shown in his discourse, the word is traced to the Latin verb – Gubern- as derived originally from the Greek – Kubernaein- which means to steer. Again, the author demonstrates literary proficiency by casting these non English words in italics. This is in line with best practices and deserves humongous commendations.
The author avers that the world over governance is the main framework for assessing the effective utilization of human and material resources for the development of a state or organization. From the conceptual overview, the author took an in-depth look at the various administrations of the state and notes that the state has had about sixteen (16) administrations that left imprints of development in the sands of time. Optimism is interestingly expressed here by reason of the reference that “… more growth and development are expected in the coming years” (p.83).
A systematic account of the various administrations with a graphic composition of their Executive Councils was given by the author. This also demonstrates resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness on his part going by the perennial dearth in secondary data as occasioned by the unwholesome absence of databases and resources.
As an offshoot, the searchlight was also beamed on the judiciary as a statutory arm of government. A period of judicial inactivity was delineated by the author which he aptly typified as “the period of judicial hiatus.” By chronology, the author situates this period as stretching from June 2014 to May 29, 2015.  In a graphic presentation embellished in rich vocabulary, the author opines that “… the judiciary, as it were, became the chessboard on which political mavericks displayed their sophistry” (p.161). The intrinsic role of traditional rulers in governance was not left out in this masterpiece. These accounts are rich, inspiring, and thought provoking.
Chapter four is titled – Issues in Rivers State Development: Resource Control, Militancy and Cultism. In this chapter, the author chronicles the interplay that marked the clamour for true federalism and how the crusade was marked by politicization and criminalization with widespread communal conflicts.
The chapter adopts a systematic approach as broken down into cognate ideological components. The first subordinate stream in the light of the ongoing discourse is resource control. In the unfolding narrative, the author took more than just a cursory glance at issues of environmental degradation. In his words:
Oil extraction and production has cost the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta extensive ecological damage… what is worse is that environmental guidelines to safeguard the people are either non-existent or observed in the breach (p.181).
Following the first subordinate stream is the presidential amnesty programme. The author sees it as a necessitation by the growing militancy and insurgency in the Niger Delta Region. He describes the programme as a “systematic way of reintegrating the former militant and non-militant groups into the economy as an urgent priority to increase employment…” (p. 198). The author further argues that the “payment of the monthly N65, 000.00 has had the unintended consequence of making some beneficiaries larger than their communities” (p. 201).
For cultism as a sub-stream in chapter four, the author shied away from being chronologically specific as to its origins in the state but traced its beginnings to the universities as marked by the founding of the pirates confraternity. He however attributed the snowball feature of cultism in the state to pre-democratic chieftaincy tussles in the state. In his narrative, the author commended the administration of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for setting up the social rehabilitation institute in Okehi as a way of positively engaging the youths.
As a writer of great repute, the author attempted a synthesis of the carrot and stick principle as panacea to cultism in the state. In his analysis, he espouses that “irked by the act, Governor Nyesom Wike took tougher measures to curb cultism and other criminal acts in the state” (p. 217).
In concluding the chapter, the author raised a poser as to the presence of oil being a blessing or a curse. Not minding the ideological cacophony, the author allowed his readers to draw the inference.
The political economy of the state was reviewed in chapter five. As unveiled in the chapter, agriculture had been the mainstay of the state prior to the discovery of oil. The author recalls with fond memories the prioritization of agriculture and the establishment of PABOD Food Company Limited.
In this chapter, focus was also on rural-urban migration as orchestrated by the presence of multinationals in the capital city – Port Harcourt. The account details that by 1988, the state had over 150 industrial concerns by private and public orientations.
The author notes the importance of industrialization by drawing attention to the fact that:
… If you do not create opportunities for industries to thrive where mass production will result in mass employment… the local economies cannot grow (p.281).
This narrative draws attention to a twist of fortune in the tide of events by noting that the communities are truly unproductive. In all succinctness, this twist has been described by the author as “migrant remittance dependent economy” (p.283). Worthy of note in this chapter is the fact that the author cited some of his earlier works to buttress his discourse. This besides being commendable speaks volumes of his grasp in epistemology and pedagogy.
Another point worth noting in this chapter is the expansive review of other sectors of the economy with the oil and gas sector as the central pulse. With reflective disposition, the author raises a poser on the future of Rivers State without crude oil. This interestingly calls for brainstorming that would most certainly reposition the state in the eye of global investors as wrapped around propensities for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). As a corollary, ideals of the Bonny-Dubai vision were played up in this chapter with medical tourism as a beacon.
Women have never been left out in the general scheme of things. It does not therefore come as a surprise that chapter six was dedicated to “Women and State Building in Rivers State. In highlighting the undeniable potentials of women, the author notes that:
Women hold the key to progress and development in any nation. How they are treated and the opportunities that are open to them can make them tools for positive change. They are a significant and indispensable portion of the population (p.333).
Factors that inhibit the optimization of women potentials were highlighted in this chapter. Historical accounts of Opobo Women Riot of 1929 were given illumination as well with a cascading on modern Rivers State women. With an approach akin to that of Yellow Pages, the author makes a list of women who have etched their names on marble in their respective fields of endeavour.
In his outline, the author notes that:
Nyesom Wike’s choice of a female, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, as his deputy and the swearing in few days after he became governor of the Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Daisy Okocha, and the President Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Christiana Nwankwo, both females, marked a new dawn in Rivers State (p.345).
The author’s analytical skills were also brought to bear in this discourse. In this chapter, the author gave a breakdown of Rivers State women’s involvement in governance. This interestingly accorded empiricism to the unfolding discourse.
Rivers State’s contributions to National Development formed the fulcrum of chapter seven. The author in this chapter gave a detailed overview of national development without limiting it to the conspectus of economic development. The argument interestingly is that national development is an all round development that finds expression in every facet of human endeavour.
The fact is clearly stated in this chapter that the state has continuously impacted the nation with its abundant human and material resources in all spheres of national endeavour. Without the fear of contradiction, the author unequivocally states here that “Nigeria’s progress among other nations has strong roots in the contributions of the people of Rivers State” (p.372). From Arts and entertainment to NAFEST enveloping the movie industry and notable personalities in the demonstrative industry, the author leaves no one in doubt as to the veracity of his postulation.
Focus also was on the Real Madrid Academy which the author foresees will change the age long perception and narrative about Rivers State of Nigeria since the Academy is sure to produce the future stars of the country.
The chapter delineates and streamlines the contribution of the state to national development along the lines of oil and gas, manpower, energy, and lots more. This approach of logical conclusion, in philosophy, is known as deductive reasoning.
Chapter eight is titled – Education: Growth and Development. In this chapter, primary and secondary education assumed the first level of focus. The author in his scholarly mien animated a paradox which cannot be wished away when objectivism is accorded its place of honour in the descriptive analysis of this most important sector. According to the author, citing Cookey (2016), “…while western education came to the area now called Rivers State before it reached most other parts of the country, the state seemed to be lagging behind in education by the 1960s” (p. 453).
The reason for this aberration was attributed to the policy of the British colonial administration which left the establishment of primary and secondary schools in the hands of non-state actors. The author was also quick to narrowcast on the way out of the woods which according to him was made manifest through the First Development plan of 1970 – 1974. The plan, the author notes, was subsumed in the notion of inalienability which saw education as a right which the Rivers State government guarantees all its citizens.
With a knack for statistics, the author recounts that:
As at 1990, there were a total of 17 pre-primary (private) schools; 1166 primary schools, 295 secondary schools, 5 technical colleges, 2 teacher training colleges, 1 polytechnic, 2 colleges of education, and 2 universities. By 2013 the number of primary schools rose by 894 (p.456).
A progressive trend was observed by the author as he notes that the administration of Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi between 2007 and 2015 committed a lot of resources to ensuring that education received a great boost in the state. Fortunately, that progressive trend was not broken even as the administration of Chief Nyesom Wike renovated over 11,000 classrooms across the state besides the renovations and furnishings of all state owned basic, secondary and vocational secondary schools in the state.
A welcome development as espoused by the author is the massive training of teachers and school administrators under the State Universal Basic Education Board. The scheme the author notes has “contributed immensely to the performances of the institutions; administratively and academically” (p.457).
As touching on tertiary education in the state, the author situates its essence within the framework of ensuring manpower development for adequate resource needs of the state in particular and the world in general.
The Rivers State University was given a primal concern in the unfolding analysis. From the status of a College of Science and Technology to that of a university, the administration of Melford Okilo upgraded the college to a University of Science and Technology thereby making it the first university of science and technology in the Niger Delta region and by extension Nigeria.
By 2017 the school experienced a rebirth from a university of science and technology to a conventional university. In his remarks, the visitor of the university explains that:
Today, Saturday, April 1, 2017 will be the last day that this institution would be known as the Rivers State University of Science and Technology… the university will henceforth be known as the Rivers State University (p. 459).
The author was also quick to note that since the renaming of the institution the Rivers State government has sustained the dedicated funding of the university which has led to widespread improvement in infrastructure and manpower. Besides the listings of the faculties and institutes, a profile of the pro-chancellor and vice-chancellor was given adequate illumination.
Focus was also given to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital. As further illuminated in this chapter, the Rivers State government in 2021 approved over N5 billion for the revamping of the two hospitals affiliated to the university with a view to boosting learning, training, and research.
The second focus was on Ignatius Ajuru University of Education which was upgraded from the status of a College of Education affiliated to University of Ibadan. The author notes that the main ethos of the university is the search for teaching, research and community service. The success story as recorded by the university bordered on the successful accreditation of 21 programmes in 2022.
The University of Port Harcourt, Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic and the Rivers State College of Health Science and Management, Federal College of Education (Technical) Omoku, and Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny were all given a kaleidoscopic attention.
The title of chapter nine – Local Government Administration in Rivers State- draws its justification from the fact that this is a very important tier of governance being that it is the closest to the grassroots while addressing their sensibilities.
In this chapter, the author takes a look at the historical background of this tier of governance as backed up by extant secondary data. The author’s depth in scholarship is beyond bounds being that he accorded animation to the legal framework with specific reference to the provisions of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.
Discourses on how this tier of governance has fared in Rivers State were also situated in the nexus with a review of a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a primal focus. According to the author, the report states inter alia that:
The performances of local government councils in Rivers State were shocking and disastrous… a view which is widely shared among residents of Rivers State academic, civil society groups and even government officials (p.501).
More damaging is the fact that the report notes that local government Chairmen in Rivers State “have no goals, no objectives; with 99% seeing the local government office as an opportunity to get paid for doing nothing” (p.501).
The author interestingly triggered off a sigh of relief when the enthused that:
… A lot has changed in the governance of local government councils in Rivers State. With the coming on board of suitable manpower rather than unqualified and unskilled individuals in the helm of affairs, a lot more is being achieved in the local councils (p.502).
He attributes this fortunate twist to the visionary style of Governor Nyesom Wike. In his narrative, the author opines that the chairmen were determined to carry out the Governor’s noble directives to the last dot. A typical example in the light of the foregoing is the soot menace as occasioned by illegal crude oil refining activities in the various communities.
A systematic approach was adopted in the chapter to look at the performances of the local government chairmen in the 23 local government areas of the state following an alphabetical sequence.
In all, the author notes that the local government chairmen have performed creditably in their respective domain which he contextualized as complimentary being that the government at the center is blazing the trial.
Chapter ten is titled – Impactful Personalities in Rivers State. This chapter in all modesty and pride speaks volumes of the elite human capacity of the state. The author draws antecedents from the state’s early contacts with the Europeans. It is true that the Rivers people are cosmopolitan in nature. It is in this light that the author notes that:
Over a century ago, forebears of the people of Rivers State welcomed and stood in the shadows of European explorers and mercantilist who through commercial interaction, overbearing and domineering influences, sometimes punctuated by conflicts imposed their ways of life  on the people… (p. 508).
These individuals the author notes have been very outstanding in their contributions to the growth of the state. This chapter can aptly be tagged “Who’s Who in Rivers State” going by the rich and intimidating profiles of the individuals so listed.
The author accorded the book an undeniable touch of scholarship in the reference section. Referencing is in line with best practices and obviates the pitfalls of plagiarism. A great deal of precision and accuracy was observed in the rich repository of resources; both online and offline.
With a comprehensive index that clearly serves the purposes of cross referencing, the resource commendably completes the 360 degrees of the basic components of a book as delineated by internationally acclaimed standards.
Through this book, Celestine Ogolo, the author has earned a place in scholarship. The book by all standards is a masterpiece. The language is lucid, unambiguous, and unequivocal. Scholarship to a large extent is assessed through the prism of written communication. One’s ability to articulate thoughts and condense them in a written form is a mark of deep intellectualism. The ability to navigate syntactic infractions as borne on the wings of morphology and mechanical accuracy does not come by chance. What this means is that the author is intellectually balanced with a high dose of rational sagacity.
Writing a book is not for the faint hearted because by so doing, one opens up himself for attack – constructive and destructive. It is a ventilation of one’s thought processes. It tells if one is reasonable or contrary. Bernard Shaw in his criticism of censorship opines that “… he who kills a man kills a reasonable creature but he who destroys a book destroys reason itself.” This ironically depicts that a book is accorded more value than its author.  A volume of 654 pages can only be a product of diligence, tenacity, and assiduity.
This book, by all shades of opinion, should be seen as a good resource for not only those in governance but by all across varied demographics. By my own assessment, it should be seen as a must read by those who desire to be in governance at all tiers.
Governing and administering a state like Rivers does not call for “learning on the job.” It requires vision, tact, and style. This book interestingly is a compendium of these traits. It is a map, a compass, and a glossary for governance. For those already in governance, it is recommended they read and assimilate its content so as to adequately and safely overcome the challenges their predecessors faced. This is so because the book is rich in history and precise in data. In these days of strategic thinking government decisions can no longer be based on hunches, conjecture, and speculation. With facts, nothing fails. This book in the light of this is a repository of facts.
The unique thing about this book is its ideological balance. The different segments and aspects of governance were not just treated as disparate entities but condensed within the web of intricate interlink which serves to give vent to the Systems theory. By this commendable feat, the author has shown to the world that he has the rare gift of literary poise. His choice of words is apt and his literary construction quite enviable.
What more can be as fulfilling as putting up thoughts on marble? For the author, posterity beckons. With this book on the shelf, ingested, and digested, one begins to acknowledge that wisdom can no longer be an exclusive preserve of the elderly. The wisdom, knowledge, and ebullience so demonstrated by the author, in this discourse, position him as a walking encyclopedia of the multi-faceted dynamics of Rivers State. Why such people are not given a place in governance despite their luxuriant repertoire remains a rhetorical resonance.
For the academia, this book holds widespread relevance across a plethora of disciplines. It is a good resource for extant literature both conceptual and empirical. For those in the Humanities and Social Sciences, it should be seen as a handbook with overbearing relevance for ethnography and anthropology.
The book no doubt is not without its flaws knowing that perfectionism is beyond humanism. While commending its editing and proof reading, minor infractions were observed in the referencing going by the conventional style sheet in use. This infraction by my assessment is distinctively infinitesimal.
Having worked in the knowledge industry for about thirty unbroken years, I can at best affirm that this book is an excellent piece of philosophical erudition. To this end, my seal of scholarship which is an undeniable mark of endorsement is here affixed without any fear of ambiguity, contradiction, and equivocation. Herein goes my unalloyed recommendation as preconceived in the foregoing.
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2023 Polls: ‘Media Faced Myriad Of Challenges In Performance Of Their Roles’



Being the presentation of Dr. Chima Matthew Amadi at the 19th all Nigeria Editors Conference (Anec) On November 16, 2023 at the Ibom Icon Hotels And Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Titled: “Post-2023 General Elections: Assessing the roles played by the media, Inec, Security agencies and others”.
I am grateful to the leader
ship of ANEC, organisers of this conference, for inviting me to give this presentation at this very important event being held at this very important time in our national history. Conferences like this are important because they help shape the national conversation and help Nigerians distill fact from fiction, take stock of situations and map a route towards the country that we all dream of.
In inviting me to give this presentation, ANEC gave me the arduous yet important task of assessing the roles played by the key stakeholders of our electoral process in the conduct of the 2023 general elections. The task is arduous due to the complexities surrounding the involvement of multiple stakeholders in varying degrees, who all have to perform their roles optimally for the successful conduct of elections. It is also arduous because one has to navigate the emotive state of large sections of the Nigerian populace, at home and abroad, who may not have a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the elections and yet, respond passionately about it.
Yet, it is important to assess the roles played by key stakeholders in order to appraise the assess the success of the elections. We need to know who did what, when, where and how. We need to know which officials or agencies performed their tasks optimally and which did not. Only by doing so, will we be able to ascertain the areas of improvement, the areas where there are gaps that need to be filled and areas that need to be strengthened.
The stakeholders involved in the electoral eco-system can be broadly categorized into 6 groups. They are:
The Media
The electoral umpire, INEC
Security agencies
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Observer Groups
The Judiciary
Like the fingers of one hand, these groups all need perform their roles effectively to ensure successful elections. But also, like a hand the slight lack of capacity in one finger does not prevent the functions of the hand.
As this is a gathering of senior members of the media, I will begin my assessment with the roles played by your profession. The media has always had to bear the burden of maintaining a balance during election season. This task involves maintaining a balance between:
passing information and curbing the spread of fake news;
saying things as they are while not inflaming tensions and igniting fires;
promoting free speech while dissuading hate speech, and
preserving our rich cultural heritage while dissuading ethnic, religious and tribal sentiments.
The media’s role has always been particularly important to maintain a peaceful, just and egalitarian society. It is also particularly precarious because the major political players use the media as a tool to advance their own interests.
The constant attempts by government to “regulate” (read suppress opposition voices), the rise of fake news and the decentralization of information dissemination by the rise of social media makes the role of the media all the more important, and all the more precarious.
The media faced myriad of challenges in the performance of their roles in the 2023 general elections. Notable among these was the deployment of fake news which was done blatantly and effectively by major political players or on their behalf. It was so widely done that observer agencies had to note the desperation political players had to spread damaging, but fake news, against opponents.
In many instances, the media did not live up to its fact checking responsibilities. In other instances, it did so too late. In yet other instances, it did not matter because political players persisted and the people went ahead to believe what they wanted to.
A third challenge the media faced was the deployment of incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric. Given that this was the first election since 1999 where a major political party fielded a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the nation was already charged along religious lines. This was a topic that ought to have been handled with the greater care and responsibility than it was. In the end, it pushed to the country to the brink, from which the country has not really recovered.
Closely allied to this was the conversation around the ethnicity and zoning. Like the conversation around religion, this was a charged topic. And like the conversation around religion, the conversation around ethnicity and zoning was perhaps not handled with the care and sensitivity with which it should have been.
One can reasonably surmise that the media could have, and should have, done better in assessing the twin issues of religion and ethnicity and their roles in our society, as well as leading the national conversation about the importance of religious consideration vis a vis the need for national cohesion and tangible development.
In my assessment, the media did not do enough to point out the critical security challenges the electoral umpire faced before, during and after the elections. For instance, over a 4-year period between 2019 and 2023 there were 50 attacks on INEC facilities in the country. A breakdown shows that in 2019, INEC recorded eight attacks; 22 in 2020, 12 in 2021, and eight in 2022. The incidents occurred in Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Borno, and Taraba states. One is of the opinion that not enough media spotlight was given to these attacks which were obviously done to weaken the capacity of the electoral umpire to conduct free and fair elections.
Finally, the media did not always perform its role of leading the conversation on critical issues. In some instance, the media caught onto those issues late and in others, not at all. The end result was that the public often got its information and had its narrative shaped by opinions on social media by political players, most of whom had agendas.
It is important to the consideration of the above identified issues to probe whether the ownership structures of the media house and the political inclinations of their owners impede the objectivity and performance of the media. In many cases, the correlation between owners and the political leanings on the one hand and the reportage and slant on critical issues on the other is very apparent for all to see, especially in cases where the owners are prominent members of political parties or are aligned with one political divide or the other.
One must also consider that many media houses simply shy away from firm, objective and consistent reportage of critical issues simply for the fear of losing advertising patronage, particularly from government. As a result, critical issues and events are barely discussed and, where reported, are barely footnotes hidden at the bottom of pages in obscure segments of print and audiovisual programming.
I will not deign to tell professionals such as yourselves how to carry out their jobs. I will, however, sound a note of caution. Social media presents a valid threat to the existence of conventional media and will weaken its effectiveness and reduce its relevance if the media does not retake the lead on reportage, lead conversation relevant to the Nigerian people and provide unbiased and objective analysis of the issues as they occur.
The Nigerian media needs to find the fine balance between the instinctive need to survive and pay the bills vis a vis the duty to give fair, unbiased and objective reportage on issues are critical to the Nigerian people. You have to evolve or you will slowly watch the media industry as you know it die.
Seeing as INEC is the constitutionally authorized body to prepare for, conduct elections and announce results I will assess their performance second. In this wise, it is important to point out that elections are a process not an event. It is a process that commences with the announcement of the Notice of Elections, goes through Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), collection of Permanent Voter Cards, sundry logistic arrangements, political party primaries and the selection of candidates, campaigns, campaign finance, voter accreditation, voting, collation of results and announcement of results.
Any credible assessment of elections in Nigeria has to appraise the entire process from start to finish, and not pick at parts of the process in isolation. In this wise, it is worthy to note that the 2023 elections had the following important highpoints:
Despite certain challenges, CVR and PVC collection went rather well resulting in the highest number of eligible voters in our national history at over 94m.
This is the first election in the last 12 years that was not postponed.
There was a very visible improvement in the logistic of deployment of election materials across the country as a result of which accreditation and voting started on time across the country.
In times past, the announcement of results no matter how invalid could only be overturned by the Courts. However, the Commission was able to exercise its power of review to prevent constitutional crises in a number of states, most notably in Adamawa State.
There are many other examples. However, most of the post-election assessment of the elections has unfairly been narrowed down to the deployment of the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Instant Result Viewing portal, IReV.
BVAS was designed to perform the dual role of curbing incidents of impersonation by ensuring that only a properly accredited voter could cast his or her ballot and transmitting the results from the polling unit directly to the IReV portal.
Several local and foreign observers have put its performance at 98% success rate in ensuring successful accreditation of voters. This level of success is phenomenal and is evidence that a lot of work has been done to curb incidents of multiple voting and overvoting.
However, the BVAS machines suffered a set-back when they encountered a glitch in the system which caused a collapse of the IReV portal making it impossible for the results to be transmitted in real time. This led to INEC suspending the electronic transmission of results and relying on manual transmission, as also allowed by law, while work was being done to fix the system.
The Commission receiving severe criticism over the occurrence of this glitch, perhaps rightly so. But having suffered a technical glitch in the middle of election day, INEC did the best it could, in compliance with the provisions of the law, and ensured that the manual transmission of the results was done, and copies of Forms EC8 appropriately handed over to the political party agents as well as pasted on a wall at the polling unit.
I will not bother to go into the fine print of the legalese stipulated by our court systems. But I want to draw your attention to certain numbers:
APC                   15, 424,921
PDP                   12, 853,162
Difference   2, 571,759
APC                 15,191,847
PDP           11,262,978
Difference 3, 928,869
PARTY                      NO OF VOTES
APC                               8, 794,726
PDP + LP + NNPP        14, 582,740
Difference                 5, 788,014
APC basically maintained the number of votes they garnered in the 2015 and 2019 elections, losing only 233, 074.
PDP lost 1, 590,184 votes between 2015 and 2019. This reduction in votes can be attributed to a variety of reasons.
Amadi is a human rights activist based in Abuja.
By the 2023 elections, the opposition support base had been balkanized into 3 parties – PDP, Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
– Between 2019 and 2023, APC lost a staggering 6, 397,121 votes, a situation reflective of the public disapproval of President Buhari’s management of the country.
– Between 2019 and 2023, the opposition gained 3, 319,762 votes, a situation reflective of the public desire for a change of the ruling party.
– The results indicate that the ruling party actually lost the election. The opposition actually won the election. The ruling party cannot lose a rigged election by more than 6million votes.
– The only reason why there has not been a change of the ruling party is because votes given to the opposition were distributed to 3 parties rather than a single party.
Given these numbers and these facts, it is next to impossible to conclude that the elections were rigged.
One must admit that the Commission faced a number of other challenges in the conduct of the election, most of which were not of its own making. If one considers that the elections were held in the middle of a debilitating cash crunch as well as a fuel scarcity, one will reach a conclusion that the Commission deserves commendation for getting its logistics around the distribution of sensitive electoral materials right.
Of course, one cannot complete an assessment of INEC’s role in the 2023 elections without commenting on the poor conduct of INEC permanent and ad-hoc staff in isolated incidents across the country. We had instances of senior officials going rogue like in Adamawa State, where the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), declared a candidate winner without due process of any sort of legal authority to do so.
We also had instances where ad-hoc staff, retained to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections, received monetary inducements to sabotage the same processes. We all know that many Nigerians see the elections as an opportunity to cash out and indeed create pockets of challenges in the process.
However, one must commend the Commission’s determination to follow the process of the law an ensure the prosecution of all officials caught sabotaging the electoral process. The announcement that the Commission intends to prosecute as many as 215 people for various electoral offences is commendable. If you recall, in the aftermath of the 2019 elections, the Commission prosecuted as many as 300 people for various electoral offences and secured over 200 convictions. What this means is that it is establishing a pattern for the arrest, prosecution and conviction of electoral offenders – something that was never done before.
The occurrence of internal sabotage of the electoral process was to be expected. In the months before the 2023 elections, several Resident Election Commissioners (RECs) were appointed and sworn into office. These appointments were made in apparent violation of the provisions of the law and in spite of protestations by many stakeholders over their partisan pasts. These included at least a former governorship candidate of a political party; the younger sister of the South East National Vice President of a political party; a former civil servant dismissed from service in a state on account of corruption, and the manager of a hotel belonging to a politician who served as minister at the time of the appointment.
A cursory study of the electoral trends will show that many illegal activities occurred and attempts at disrupting the system occurred in the states where these people were posted to serve.
I do not believe there was sufficient public pressure to resist these appointments and attempts at sabotaging the electoral process from within. I also do not believe that enough was done to bring this issue to the limelight.
On a connected note, one must point out that there has been a slow but remarkable departure in the “activist” outlook displayed by the Commission since 2015. This departure is not unconnected with the reduced appointment of people from the civic space and committed advocates for a return to democracy to members and acolytes of political parties who have a clear and present incentive to be biased. I am rather disappointed that this is happening, given that this activist approach has led to an improvement in the legal and regulatory framework around elections and the deployment of technology designed to improve the credibility of elections.
We have seen several instances in the past where the electoral umpire has insisted on preserving its credibility as an unbiased umpire by disowning results whose integrity it could not vouch for. Unfortunately, it has not done so often enough and seems increasingly reluctant to do so. I will give an example by citing the Kogi State gubernatorial election of 2019 and asserting that the electoral umpire had no business given the wide scale violence that destroyed the credibility of the results, a fact attested to by INEC staff, CSOs and observer groups that participated in the elections. There are so many cases where the Commission departed from recent history and failed, refused and neglected to intervene in blatant cases of electoral malpractice.
This is a stance that the Commission must depart from. Otherwise, it will give vent to increasing levels of desperation within the political class, who are already desperate enough as it is.
My final comment on the Commission is note its failure to replicate its commitment to open and transparent information dissemination as it did in 2019. In the build up to the 2019 elections, the Commission deployed all its available resources – including its chairman – on all available media platforms to keep Nigerians informed of the state of the election, especially when a postponement was announced. On the contrary, in 2023 the Commission failed to keep Nigerians sufficiently informed of events as they occurred, particularly when the IReV portal experienced a glitch leading to it malfunctioning. This failure ultimately led to a vacuum which was ultimately filled with a potent mixture of facts and conjecture that have almost undermined the credibility of the process.
8. Having spoken about the Commission, one must analyze the role played by the security agencies in the conduct of the elections. After all, without a peaceful, safe and secure environment, elections cannot be held nor results declared.
Commendably, the 2023 elections were held in a largely peaceful atmosphere across the country. In most places, people were able to arrive their polling units, cast their ballots, wait for the announcement of results and go home without any incidents or breach of the peace. One must point out that the coordinated deployment of security agents led to a drop in the casualty figures from the two previous election cycles.
However, there were a number of flashpoints in certain states that nearly led to a breakdown of law and order. Notable amongst these states are Benue, Cross Rivers, Delta, Imo, Kano, Kogi, Lagos and Rivers.
There must be some criticism for the security agencies regarding these incidents of violence. In many cases, the security agents deployed to provide security for the peaceful conduct of the elections actually provided operational cover to enable the perpetration of these acts of violence by thugs sponsored by political players. In other cases, they stood by unwilling and unable to do anything to stop the violence. And in other cases, they responded late to calls for help or did not respond at all.
It must be said that 161 reported casualties, as well as the maiming of several others and kidnappings of several others, is bad enough – no matter that there was a reduction in the occurrence of such events from previous years.
The security agencies have to do more to discipline officers who collaborate to subvert the electoral process, improve response times and train officers in de-escalation techniques while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.
The security agencies also have to do more pro-active policing aimed at gathering intelligence and preventing these attacks before they occur. It is no longer enough to react long after the attacks have been carried out, nor has it ever been enough.
To achieve this, the security agencies have to overcome the problem of under-policing and over-policing during elections. While I am aware that it seems incongruous to this, a careful study of elections will reveal that this is an actual problem that occurs when large numbers of security agents are deployed in urban centres or specific locations to the detriment of rural areas or other locations. The result is what while elections remain peaceful in certain areas due to the concentration of security agents there, it leaves other areas susceptible to the nefarious activities of political thugs.
Hopefully, we will get to a point in the not-too-distant future where there are no casualties or breaches of the peace during the conduct of our elections.
But it almost feels like this is a vain hope given that the security agencies are mostly deployed with partisan considerations in the first place. It happens all too often that security personnel are deployed to parts of the country and allowed to operate with obvious partisan agenda. How then will elections be peaceful when the security agencies who have the duty to maintain the peace descend into the arena on behalf of one side?
And the true conundrum about this descent into the arena is that it varies according to local considerations in the various. As such, a security agency that may be pliable and favourable to a political interest in an area may be aggressive against it in another area.
Nigeria desperately needs a return to a situation where the security agencies are loyal to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our constitution rather than this situation of being loyal to different fiefdoms and interests.
9. Civil Society Groups (CSOs) and Observer Groups
The role of CSOs and Observer groups in the 2023 electoral cycle cannot be over-emphasized. The deployment of many of the legal, regulatory and technological innovations for the 2023 elections were only possible because of the relentless pressure applied by CSOs to ensure the passage of the Electoral Act 2022. I must speak to the memory of my late friend and brother, Comrade Ariyo “Aristotle” Atoye, who drove the process and rallied critical stakeholders to pressure the National Assembly. Unfortunately, he passed away in October 2022 and did not live to see the benefits of his hard work in operation. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
Many CSOs also played very commendable roles in voter education and sensitization. They spearheaded so many initiatives designed to discourage flaws like vote buying, electoral violence and to encourage high voter turnout and peaceful conduct during the elections.
It is important to observe that the participation of CSOs was not all positive. There are several instances where CSO were established or retained with the intention of pushing negative and divisive rhetoric along regional, ethnic or religious lines or to promote fake news or to attack political opponents. In so doing, their activities served to heighten tensions and worsen the climate in which the elections were held.
This presents us with the need for an urgent national conversation around the role of CSOs in our democratic process. It has become increasingly important to find the balance between the rights to freedom of speech and the rights to freedom of association vis a vis the need for some sort of regulation that prevents organizations from exacerbating tensions during electoral season.
There were several commendable things about the participation of observer groups in this electoral cycle. Most notable amongst these was they served to point out the loopholes/gaps in the electoral process and make recommendations to plug such gaps in the future.
However, many observer groups did not observe the entire electoral process and so only gave their recommendations about election day activities. As such many of the recommendations do not give any insights about how to improve pre-election day aspects of the process.
It must be said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a CSO and observer group that gives a fair, balanced and objective assessment of the electoral process. And this is traceable to the vice like grip the government and donor agencies have over the activities of these organizations. It has also become increasingly frequent to see reports written by these organizations differ greatly from the press statements and media interventions they make.
The end result is that one is often left wondering whose/which agenda CSOs and observe groups serve, why the conflicting positions and where (if) one can find unbiased and objective assessments of the electoral process. And this presents a challenge to the improvement of the process as it becomes difficult to find objective ways to improve the electoral process.
For instance, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) prepared a report that assess the 2023 general election as fair and credible, a far cry from what is contained in the press statements made by the organization and media interventions given by its staff, which gained significantly more traction than the report.
It is my recommendation that more electoral observer groups get involved in the Nigerian election process from the beginning rather than only towards election day. This will, amongst other things, ensure that gaps in the process are identified and plugged well ahead of time.
I also strongly recommend that CSOs and observer groups find and toe the fine line between the instinctive need to maintain their funding and the duty to objectively assess the electoral process and report their findings to the Nigerian people.
10. Politicians
Having discussed all else, I will now come to the biggest challenge to the electoral system itself – the politicians. It is ironic that politicians pose the biggest threat to a democratic process. However, the winner takes all nature of our political system means that politicians have the most incentive to subvert the process. And over the years, they have demonstrated the willingness and desperation to subvert it.
The ingenuity employed by politicians to seek out the loopholes in the legal and regulatory framework is enormous and their determination to find the gaps the process cannot be over emphasized.
It is the politicians that have designed the system of vote buying to circumvent the innovation of card readers and BVAS. It is the politicians that offer monetary inducements to key stakeholders in the electoral process including security agents and staff of the electoral commission to subvert the process or to look the other way. It is the politicians who continuously stress test the electoral eco-system to find the ways to weaken the process and gain an undue advantage. It is the politicians who pay thugs to disrupt the casting of votes and collation of results, and in so doing endanger the lives and properties of Nigerians.
It is now evident that the first step towards ensuring freer and more credible elections must resolve with designing systems that limit the influence politicians have over the electoral process. And this limitation must begin with reducing the influence politicians have over the appointment and employment of permanent and ad-hoc staff of the Commission.
We must also ensure speedier trials for people found subverting the process, including the politicians who offer the inducement and provide the logistic support, and enact legislation prescribing stiffer punishment for those crimes.
The challenge with achieving this objective is that we require the input of the very politicians whose excesses and influence we seek to curb in the first place. While the deployment of technology is proving very effective in curbing the shenanigans of the politicians, the human factors still remain highly susceptible to the inducements provided by the politicians.
I hope we find a solution to this conundrum soon because before our eyes the politicians are displaying and will continue to display a determination to find an undue advantage by subverting the electoral process as much as they can.
Even as I say it, the difficulty of this prospect stares me in the face. After all, it is the same politicians who perpetually refuse to abide by the internal rules of their own parties or conduct free, fair and credible primary processes, and who deploy all sorts of vicious antics against even their own party members.
Every single act of violence, every single piece of fake news, every manipulation of the electoral process, the subversion of law and regulations and the use of divisive rhetoric are always traceable to the interests of one politician or the other. And it leaves one in wonder – if you are so desperate to be voted for, why not just do good and be good to the people so they reward you with their votes? Why fail and then desperately seek to hijack the electoral process to get into office?
Nigerians seem to have the short end of the stick with its political class and scarily it appears that there is no help in sight.
11. I was a bit hesitant to include the judiciary in my assessment of the 2023 election, or indeed any other election. But its critical role in the preservation of our democracy can no longer be taken for granted. And it is my belief that the importance of the role of the judiciary and the need for it to be seen as an impartial arbiter must be restated at every available opportunity. The judiciary must now not only do justice, it must be seen to be doing justice.
This stance has become necessary in the wake of the all too frequent inconsistencies displayed by the judiciary, many times in violation of the provisions of the law and in flagrant disregard for decades of jurisprudence and decisions of the Court. Or the reliance on technicalities to determine cases rather than doing substantial justice in a bid to protect interests of politicians.
It has long since been the desired position that elections should be decided by the ballots not by the courts. However, every Nigerian must be worried when a former senator stands in the hallowed chambers of the Senate to say his wife used to give favourable judgments to his colleagues. Every Nigerian must be alarmed when a senator alleges that his election was overturned at the behest of the President of the Senate because he did not pander to certain interests. Every Nigerian must be concerned when a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria alleges that the bench is a cesspool of corruption, increasingly people by judges appointed on the basis of nepotism rather than competence and increasingly unwilling to be a fair arbiter in the best interest of the wider population.
It used to be that the outcome of certain cases can be determined by a careful study of previous decisions of our courts in the knowledge that the principles of stare decisis or judicial precedents will apply. However, this is no longer the case. It now seems “justice” is served dependent on the parties before the courts and whose interests need to be protected rather than the law.
Otherwise, how do you explain the judgment of the Supreme Court that declared Senator Ahmed Lawan as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Yobe North, even though he clearly did not participate in the primaries to produce a candidate? Or how do you explain the judgment of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Imo State nullifying the election of Ikenga Ugochinyere as the House of Representatives member for the Ideato Federal Constituency on the basis that the primary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) did not comply with the party’s constitution, even though the position of the law and the Supreme Court is that only members of parties who participated in a primary can challenge the outcome of that primary? The list goes on and on.
We have departed from an era when litigants approached courts as the last hope of the common man into an era where the judiciary has become a willing tool in the hands of the political elite who subvert the electoral process to further rob the people of their electoral choices.
The unfortunate thing is that this era into which we have been unwillingly pushed threatens to consume us all as it only ensures that an already desperate political class is given an extra incentive for further desperation. And unless something is urgently done to compel the judiciary to assume its role as an impartial arbiter, politicians will view elections as a no holds barred venture they must win, regardless of the rules. And the phrase, “Go to court” will continually be thrown around in condescension and mockery.
The good thing is that the judiciary can save itself. The National Judicial Commission must immediately and more forcefully implement its rules and regulations and enforce its powers of supervision and discipline of any judge found to have given judgment that fly against the letter and the spirit of the law, and the disregard of jurisprudential principles established over the years. This internal mechanism designed to self-heal must be activated while there is still hope and while the faith of the public in the judiciary can still be restored. Otherwise, a day will come when the judgment of the people will be visited on the judiciary, as it is being visited on Nigeria’s political elite.
12. I think this is a good place to bring this presentation to a close. And I’d like to end the way I began by thanking the organizers for deeming me fit to lead this conversation today and by thanking all of you present for listening to me.
13. I will close my presentation by saying a short but very poignant prayer I have come to believe in so much: Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and all its peoples. Amen.

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Correcting The Narrative About Fubara



A lot has been reported from the media parley our leader, former Governor Nyesom Wike, granted yesterday, where he alleged a lot of things about his successor, Governor Siminalayi Fubara, happenings in the politics of Rivers State, and the issues surrounding the crisis in the state.
A lot of us have avidly followed and had an experiential experience of the events in this state since time immemorial, irrespective of the silence of our people for fear of the uncertainty of the future. Even in our silence, we know the truth when we hear it and we know our history.
The truth is that Governor Fubara is too loyal, calm and very humble to even think of fighting anybody. Our leader, Chief Wike, even affirmed this in his media parley yesterday, wherein he stated that Sir Fubara was his best bet because the other aspirants would not have been able to tolerate him for two weeks.
A man, who wanted to destroy any structure would not have proposed to resign as governor, instead of fighting. Governor Fubara, whom we all know, has never been desperate for power because we all know how he emerged. If not for the public humiliation-laden impeachment ambush against his reputation, he still would have carried on quietly as the very humble person that he is and hoped that the issues would be resolved internally.
In this state, we heard in a recorded conversation where a local government chairman was violently threatening another, that he and Governor Fubara should get prepared for war, because he is coming for them, and the governor who has been accused of fighting the structure has not responded or taken any action against the chairman. Such could not happen during the eight years of our leader; when chairmen were suspended and their allocations deliberately delayed as punishment.
If Fubara was fighting as many people had expected him to, the man would have since dissolved his cabinet and relieved a lot of people from their duties, but alas that is not the case, which was the common practice during the administration of our leader.
Amidst the disrespect from even his cabinet members by some very powerful commissioners and chairmen, Governor Fubara has remained calm, respectful in words, and humble. Such tolerance, restraint, and humility should be studied. This is what those struggling to be governor through impeachment will never endure.
One clear take-home in all of this is that we have examined and x-rayed Governor fubara and we have found him not guilty. But as usual, the system will always come up with a reason to lead Rivers State people into a needless battle, thus the allegation of destroying the structure. How can a man who practically inherited all political office holders of the former administration be accused of such a charge?
He, Fubara is destroying our structure, I’ve asked him to maintain the structure that brought him. – Wike
Response: As a people, we can choose to feign ignorance or not but the truth is that, Governor Fubara in the beginning of his government was even called a puppet and a weakling because he practically inherited the working team of his Oga. From personal boys of our leader to special assistants, to commissioners, to security and even his chief of staff were provided for him. The elders that used to move with our leader, are still the ones moving with the governor. Every appointment so far in this state, except for a few special assistants and the two commissioners from the local government of the governor, was processed directly by the structure. So, how then has the structure been destroyed, which is yet to be made known to the public? I would not want to dwell on speculations for now, hence my question.
I’ve respected President Tinubu by keeping calm, but Governor Fubara has disrespected the President and Vice-President. – Wike
Response: After the intervention of President Tinubu in the imbroglio of a failed mutiny attempt that bedevilled our state. It is Governor Fubara, who has carried himself more in a peaceful manner. For the first time in the history of our state, the governor appeared in a state broadcast to apologise and even called the minor setback a father and son issue that will be resolved. The governor has never threatened anyone publicly, rather it is our leader, Chief Wike, who has threatened to cause more issues in the state which will cripple governance and development, even with the presidential intervention.
27 Assembly members are against the governor. – Wike
Response: That they are against the governor is no fault of Fubara, because even the members do not know why they are against him. They are only following orders as directed by the structure that purchased their forms just as the governorship forms were purchased for all aspirants. A lot of members who have dared to open up in private said they were coaxed into the decision because of their pending appeal judgment. To date, there is no public rationale as to why the failed impeachment attempt was enforced.
He is an ingrate and only ingrates will support him. – Wike
Response:  For a man who was declared wanted by the EFCC because of you, yet he stayed loyal, went into hiding and took the shame all because of the structure. Then such a man cannot be said to be an ingrate. Everyone in life has one or more persons that have helped him/her to grow and disagreeing with one who helped you to grow on some certain issue does not amount to betrayal or being an ingrate.
We still remember the painstaking roles President Jonathan and his wife, Mama Patience, played in ensuring that another Ikwerre son took over as Governor of Rivers State from an Ikwerre son who had served eight years straight. Even after the efforts of these Ijaw Icons, we stopped seeing them in our state, we stopped issuing an official birthday wish to them as a state until recently, but this did not stop our Ijaw brothers and sisters in Rivers State from supporting and standing in defence of our leader, Chief Wike.
I fought my battles. – Wike
Response:  Our dear leader has forgotten that he did not fight his battles alone. It was the combined efforts of all Rivers people that ensured that he came out victorious. The women of KELGA, The women of Ogu/Bolo and Okrika, the youths of PHALGA, the sons of Nyemoni in Akuku-Toru and many others, all played their part.
In all the victories of our leader, it is Rivers people that have made it possible and the Grace of GOD, so it should not be about self.
It is Atiku’s people who are trying to use Fubara against me. – Wike.
Response: If only our leader had handled matters with his son internally, and protected him from the disrespect he was subjected to amongst supposed family members, instead of attempting to use the Assembly to remove him unjustly, it would not have been a free-for-all fight.
Trying to link this to Atiku because of the presidency is a disservice to Rivers State people, because of a truth, this is just Rivers people standing and defending the integrity and personality of Governor Fubara, the number one citizen of their  state, just as they did defend you, our leader.
In a society where influence outweighs democracy, the true value of our voice diminishes, as power is wielded by position rather than the genuine voice of the people.
I remember when Governor Fubara, once said that nobody should send him any message because he would show it to his Oga, our leader. The truth is, there is always a limit to how far you can continually push a humble man, no matter how loyal he is.
Until kingmakers realise that there is an elastic limit to which they can stretch their authority, everybody will contnously be called an ingrate and betrayer.

By: Ezebunwo Ichemati
Ichement, son of Rebisi Kingdom, writes from Port Harcourt

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