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Amaechi Town Hall Meeting: The Opobo/Nkoro Response

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When the legendary Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “Government of the people, by the people;  for the people; uninformed skeptics of his contemporaries mocked has aphorism as balderdash without conventional syntax. Little did they know that the reality of this definition that emphasised on “the people” will survive generations unborn. The fact is that the splendour of democracy is the determination of supreme will of the majority people as embellished by its mass participatory attribute that distinguishes it from all other systems of government.

As the most universally acceptable system of government, it’s stance presupposes good governance based on the doctrines of the rule of law which in prutanity projects equity, transparency, sovereignty and freedom of expression of the citizens as distinct from military dictatorship, where might is right, as survival is only for the fittest through the obnoxious jingle rule of “do or die”. An act which left the vast civil population oppressed and their voices suppressed with the most vitriolic inhumanity hence the clamour for democracy to bring about peace to enhance rapid infrastructural and human capacity development.

Thus the introduction of meet the people tour simply referred to as the “Town Hall Meeting” by the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-led administration in Rivers State is indeed a welcome development.

The Town Hall Meeting is significant in many respects in that it brings governance nearer to the people by creating an enabling environment whereby the people, especially those in the rural areas could meet with the Governor face-to-face and express their feelings about government.

With this development the people are given the seldom opportunity to massively and freely partake in the governance of the State. This free-for-all interactive session among other things gives the governor first hand information about the people and places to enable him know their immediate and pressing needs and how best they could be addressed.

On the other hand it demystifies the assumed invisibility of politicians once elected into office. It is incontrovertible that many politicians have made themselves unreachable to their people whose mandate they hold as a trust. The wrong signals emitted from such politicians without good intension and vision made some people to often call politics “A Dirty Game” and remain cynical about it.

However, Governor Rotimi Amaechi in his exemplary leadership has disproved the wrong impression by making himself reachable to the people through the town hall meeting. He made it possible to discuss, share ideas and opinion with the rural people in a common forum like members of one family. The town hall meeting in a nutshell is an enlarged political family meeting in which the governor makes every community he visits his home and the people, his own people.           .

Since the inception of the Town Hall Meeting, non performing Chairmen and contractors handling community development projects have started working to justify the huge monthly allocation and mobilisation fees they received. The visit· in many places have exposed chairman and contractors that are performing below expectation through response of the people as it was used to assess the performance of the various councils in developing their communities.

 It is another way the Governor uses to make Chairmen and Councilors give account of their stewardship in their presence for confirmation and otherwise of their people, while in turn he unfolds State projects in the local government areas and same time unveils his administration plans for the benefit of the people.

More importantly, because of the visits, work has resumed in many abandoned projects as contractors that had gone into hiding after receiving mobilisation fee have resurfaced and commenced work; this has risen hope that the once denied dividends of democracy have started reaching the people. In some places the visit has helped to reunite opposing groups within the traditional and political institutions. The groups bury their grievances against one another and unit to give the governor the ovation he deserves and in one voice make request for assistance from the governor who is liberal to assist.

Many local government areas have in so doing attracted extra development projects directly from the Sate Government while some local government councils have been relieved of huge overhead and security costs among other things. The recent town hall meeting with governor Amaechi at Opobo Town, headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area (ONOLGA) was unique as it brought to the fore democracy in action through exhibition of visible dividends of democracy in form of social amenities and long term infrastructural development that would benefit even generations unborn.

The people’s response in testifying to have never had it better than now gives credence that the Maclean Uranta’s administration of the local government council has lived above board in rendering meaningful service to people. His administration has in spite of the not so huge allocation it receives against difficult and expensive geographical terrain has embarked on many projects which include the building of Opubo Hotel to boost tourism and revenue to the council, construction of concrete bridges to link the kala-ama communities of Opobo kingdom, installation of solar powered water projects at Opobo town_ and Nkoro, installation of solar powered water projects at Queen’s town .Others are construction of new office complex, building of staff quarters and internal roads, modern  toilets at Opobo and Nkoro, renovation of the council secretariat, and legislative building, purchase of buses and boats to ease land and water transport, renovating native court at Opobo town as well as offices and staff quarters at Nkoro.

 He also provides regular electricity supply and adequate security services for protection of lives and properties. The Council is also assisting the various health centers to function effectively as well as helping members of National Youth Service Corps posted to the area.

On the State Government part, the Governor announced the award of contract for the construction of eight primary  schools at Ekere-borokiri, kalaibiama, Nkoro town, Queen’s town, kalama, Iwoama Nkoro and two others at Opobo town. On health, he disclosed that work is in progress at health centers at Opobo, Queen’s town and Nkoro) while he had delivered (2000KVA) generator sets at Opobo town in addition to the existing ones.

He promised that the Unity Road projects will soon reach kalaibiama town in Opobo kingdom. He used the occasion to announce to the delight of the people about the competition of landing jetty at Epelema, land reclamation at Opobo town and shore protection projects at Queens town. His visit to Opobo/Nkoro gave him first hand information of how the council spends millions of Naira monthly on security services which he promised to relieve the council of such burden. With this development, money that would have been spent on security by the council could be channeled to other aspects of development.

Condemning violence and militancy he stressed on the need for giving children the opportunity to have good education as to produce the much needed manpower to project the state high in overall developn1ent. One of the major achievements of the Town Hall Meeting was the Governor’s promise that the state government will partner to make the Opobo International Boat Carnival (OIB) a great success. And that it will form part of the state cultural and tourism agenda. So from all indications the Amaechi administration is a blessing in verification.

One good turn, they say, deserves another, and to whom much is given, much is expected. Maclean Uranta has at the council level given much to the people of Opobo/Nkoro; Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has also given much to Opobo/Nkoro people and Rivers State in general. This bears eloquent testimony that the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) manifestoes is a true statement of assurance for peace and progress of the people and development of the entire State. The peoples-oriented leadership Rivers people have been yeaning for has come through the party; let the people not be  deceived to derail but to continue following the path of peace to enhance rapid ‘infrastructural and human capacity development in the entire State through continuity with PDP and support to the hardworking Governor.        .

Let them reciprocate the good gesture by supporting PDP government at all level with true spirit of patriotism and honesty now and beyond this tenure.  But then, non performing Chairmen, and representatives of the people at various level of parliament should improve their relationships with their people by making themselves available and answerable to their people. They should justify the purpose of the peoples mandate they are holding with execution of constituency projects and empowerment of their people.

Let it be known to them that those they met on their way going up, will be the same people they will meet on their way coming down. The Amaechi humility in service which necessitated the ongoing Town Hall Meeting is the right step in the right direction, which should continue and emulated by other leaders who mean well for their people.

 

Austin Brown

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Adeleke Denies Sacking Workers, Monarchs

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Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, has denied making executive orders to sack traditional rulers and workers in the state.
He said he only set up a review panel and nobody has been sacked.
His Chief Press Secretary, Olawale Rasheed, who spoke on a radio programme in Osogbo, said Executive Orders one to five showed the intentions of the administration to review, nullify, and set aside while the instrumentality to effect the orders was Order six which is the composition of the panel.
He said: “There was never sack of any worker or traditional ruler. We only set up a review panel. It is impossible to sack and put a review panel in place.
“The review panel is to look at the number of the people that were employed, due processes of the employment, and qualification among other things.
“Before our taking over, there were issues of backdating of employment, even till last year. So, order 1-5 will be operationalised by order 6 which are the panels.
“Those that were employed from July 17 till our takeover are still at work presently, they have not been sacked. The staff audit will review the employment.”
However, a statement by Rasheed said the governor has approved the dissolution of all non-statutory boards in the state with immediate effect.
“As a follow-up to the pronouncement of Governor Adeleke, on Sunday, November 27, 2022, all non-statutory boards, commissions and parastatals, including those of tertiary institutions (with exception of UNIOSUN) are hereby dissolved in the state, forthwith.
“Consequently, all accounting officers of such boards, parastatals and commissions are to take charge with immediate effect,” Rasheed said.

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Elect Leaders That’ll Seek Development, Jega Urges Nigerians

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Ahead of the 2023 general elections, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has called on Nigerians to elect into power leaders who will seek the development and growth of the country.
He added that they should not collect peanuts given by politicians, thereby refusing to contribute to the problems of the nation.
Jaga stated this while delivering a keynote address at a summit organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.
The former INEC chairman noted that enlightenment, sensitisation and voters’ civic education were very important, saying that it was not only the responsibility of INEC but also a primary responsibility of political parties because, “they are the ones that recruit candidates, prepare them for elections and they want people to come and vote. How can they sit back and expect INEC with its limited funds to do that for them.”
He condemned the political class for their inability to engage citizens on substance, ideas, ideologies or realistic programmes, but rather mobilize people based on ethnicity and primordial identities to create us-versus-them distinctions which seemed like a strategy for winning elections but has now been weaponised, leading to violence.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Director General of NIPSS, Professor Ayo Omotayo stated that the summit would be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produced a set of leaders that will move the country forward.
Omotayo who was represented by the Director of Research, NIPSS, Professor Dung Pam Sha said that the institute had specially organised the summit to present a platform for political parties and other political actors from government agencies, the Civil Society, academia and non-governmental organisations and developmental sectors with the opportunity to brainstorm and have deep reflections on the state of political parties in Nigeria and how to conduct successful elections.
He noted that the meeting was expected to make a thorough examination of the theme and proffer solutions on questions concerning credible elections, improvement in national politics, sustaining faith in the democratic process as well as meeting the avenues of constitutional changes of democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa.
“Amongst the questions that we will seek answers to are how do we sustain efforts in ensuring credible elections? How do we ensure improvement in the Nigerian politics? How do we sustain faith in the Democratic process. How do we prevent reversals of the things we have reported in our Democratic process? How do we meet the avenues of constitutional changes of Democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa?

“The summit will be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produce a set of leaders that will move the country forward.” he said.

He called on political actors and stakeholders to enable the summit to become an avenue for political parties to build consensus on common areas leading to free, fair and credible elections in 2023 as well as ensuring a formidable and united Nigeria.

The Director General also urged political parties and their candidates as well as their mouthpieces to conduct their campaigns with credibility, saying that their campaigns must be devoid of character assassination that contribute to heating the polity and creating room for violence.

The National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Alhaji Yabagi Sani, stated that elections and the power to choose generally were fundamental rights for people to make choices, adding that elections should not be characterized by rancour.

Sani said that the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa has always been a very hard nut to crack, noting that, to a great extent, it was the absence of leadership that had caused the problems that have led the country to its present situation.

He said that it would be a huge task for the electoral umpire to manage the over 66 million Nigerians who have been given the opportunity to vote into power leaders because this is the first time such a number has been captured, adding that it was handy that NIPSS had brought together political parties, their leaders and stakeholders to ensure Democratic governance in the country.

The Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Her Excellency, Samuela Isopi, noted that ahead of the general elections there was a lot of work to put in, hence the collaboration was necessary for the smooth running of elections in Nigeria.

In the same vein, Chairman INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Hauwa Habib, a Director in the electoral commission, said that through the summit there was a visible intention by stakeholders to consolidate Democracy in the country by proffering solutions to the challenges faced by political parties, electioneering and the need to ensure fundamental and Democratic objectives for the citizens.

The annual summit of political parties and stakeholders was organised in effort to establish a link between political parties, elections and consolidation of democracy in the country by critical examination of issues and challenges of electoral laws and credible elections and formulating strategies for the general elections.

 

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2023: “Critical Assets Lost To Attacks”

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says critical facilities and assets were lost in attacks on its facilities across Nigeria.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this at the opening of a two-day induction retreat for the commission’s Residents Electoral Commissioners (RECS) in Lagos on Wednesday.
“These facilities included a total of 1,992 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles and 22 electric power generators, and thousands of uncollected PVCs (Permanent Voter Cards), among many other items,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Mr Yakubu said in the last four months, unknown persons attacked five local government offices of the commission.
“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections. The best solution for us is the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators,” the INEC chairman said.
He said the timely arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of attacks on its facilities and assets nationwide would end the trend.
“The ultimate solutions are the arrest and prosecution of the culprits so that vandals and arsonists do not feel that bad behaviour is acceptable in our country. It is really very sad as elections approach.
“However, I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks, those materials will be replaced, but there is a limit to our ability to keep replacing lost items with just 86 days to the general elections.”
According to him, the commission will continue to work with the security agencies, traditional and community leaders and all well-meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks.
He said INEC was committed to ensuring that nothing would stop the elections from going ahead as scheduled,” and the will of Nigerian people will prevail. That is what we have been assuring Nigerians about.”
On the retreat, Mr Yakubu said it was part of the preparation for the 2023 general elections.
He said the retreat would also dwell on standard operating procedures for collecting PVCs, guidelines for voters distribution to polling units, a framework for electoral logistics and a code of conduct for the commission’s members, officials and staff.
Mr Yakubu said copies of the code of conduct for members, officials and staff would be made available for all.
Speaking on the rumour that voters could vote without PVC on election day, Mr Yakubu described such as “absolutely incorrect”, saying, “for any person to vote, he or she must be a registered voter, issued with the PVC.”
Commending UNDP for supporting the retreat, Mr Yakubu said that the long-standing partnership with INEC had gone a long way in sustaining the incremental progress being witnessed in the electoral processes.
In his goodwill message, Deryck Fritz, the Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, urged the RECs to implement the commission’s policies effectively and be proactive frontline problem-solvers.

 

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