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We Should Go Back To Option A4 – Prince Benebo

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Hon Prince Benebo

Hon Prince Benebo

With months of prepara
tion and concentration of efforts and resources to conduct the governorship election in the least populated state in Nigeria, many did not envisage any issues around adequacy in availability and functionality of materials for that election. But it is now history that the card readers again failed in that election thereby raising concerns and questions about this device that is intended to tame the evil of electoral fraud in Nigeria.
In this interview with Opaka Dokubo, Hon. Prince Benebo, one time local government chairman and governorship aspirant  in Rivers State proffers a way forward in our electoral process among other issue, in the polity. Excerpts.
What do you make of the fight against corruption at the federal level?
Fighting against corruption is good for the overall good of the country. If the problem of corruption is objectively addressed, it will indeed help this country considerably. Having said that, I believe that the fight against corruption is not the only promise made by the president during his electioneering campaigns.
The president, we are told, is a man of integrity and the test of integrity is the ability to keep to your word. Therefore, keeping to his promises to the Nigerian electorate by fighting corruption and also creating jobs, as well as addressing the security challenges will go a long way to show to the entire nation that indeed he is a man of integrity. If he does that, he will be a role model to young men and women as well as young politicians in this country.
Are You Impressed by the way the fight against corruption has gone so far?
Well, he has started the fight against corruption but we also hear some politicians who are crying that the fight is one sided, that its only PDP members that are being witch-haunted. I believe that party affinity does not limit corruption. Every human being has that tendency to be corrupt, including party, government and so on. Therefore the fight against corruption should be holistic. In other words, irrespective of party leanings, if somebody is reported to be corrupt the government should take necessary steps to investigate and prosecute that person and recover the money. For us to assess the success or otherwise of Mr. President’s fight against corruption, we need to see the facts we will be given. For instance, number of persons arrested, amount of money recovered, number of persons prosecuted and how effectively corruption has been prevented. Indeed the fight against corruption must include the prevention of corruption.
When these facts are made available, we will be in a position to say yes there is fight against corruption. It is not enough for party faithful to shout that they are fighting against corruption.
Is the political atmosphere in Rivers State conducive for development?
Well, as one who does not belong to either of the two dominat parties, my own objective assessment of issues is that when there is instability, it breeds further instability and adversely affects economic growth and development generally.
Election was conducted and somebody was declared winners by INEC. Others said there was no election. All of them went to the tribunal, presented their facts, the tribunal looked at those facts and looked at the law and took a decision which nullified the governorship election and some other legislative elections. Now the governor has gone on appeal.
The practice in Nigeria is that there is a stay of execution of judgement. If it were a place like the United States, the governor will be out of office until a superior court overturns that decision of the lower court. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria and that’s what is keeping the governor in office. Now that the case continues, all of them or the other. In the face of such situation, there can be no stable development.
What  do  you make of the  black   Monday  by the APC  and  white  Friday by the PDP in Rivers  State?
This is tied to the issue of political instability in the state. Yes, in a democratic society people are free to air their views, people are free to embark on peaceful protests. But that protest should not degenerate to create crisis or to cause a breakdown of law and order in the society. At the same time, I want to say that Rivers State is bigger than PDP or APC. Parties come and go. In the 1960s, we saw the NCNC, Action Group, NPC. They are gone. Nigeria remains. We also saw the NPN, UPN, NPP< GNPP, PRP.
They have all come and gone. We also saw the SDP  and the NRC. They have all come and gone. Now we are in this era. The truth is that in terms of membership, the PDP  and the APC probably have more members but it time will come and we will not see them.
They can lawfully do whatever they intend to do but it has to be according to law.
Your  feeling about  Bayelsa  elections
Well, I do not have personal preference for either candidate since I have not got details about them, both in character and manifesto. But even if I have personal preference, the ultimate decision lies with the people of Beyelsa. That is democracy. Sovereignty lies with the people and it is they that can surrender their sovereignty through the social contract, through the election and say we give you four years to govern us. Which ever way they decide, to me they have made their wise decision.
The election is already on and I think the people should vote not against their conscience and they should know the candidates and not for them to regret after they have made the choice my advice to the candidates first and foremost, and indeed the parties, is that once the election is conducted, and also seen to be credible, free and fair, they should be courageous enough to congratulate your opponent. It is about service, every one wants to serve that state.
On the other hand, if any one has reason to dispute the outcome of  the election, there are legal processes.
I will advise all of them to follow the due process of law and not to take the law into their hands in the interest of peace, progress and development of Beyelsa.
The overall interest of that state and the people should override individual ambitions.
Your  thoughts on the performance of the card  reader machines in Bayelsa
My own thought about this is that, in Nigeria, there are people who are obstacles to doing the right thing.
The late president Yar’Adau set up a committee to review the electoral process and to make recommendations on the way forward. That committee was headed by retired Chief Justice Uwais and there were other notable members like Prof Bolaji Akinyemi. Even Prof. Atahiru Jega was a member and  part of their recommendation was the Option A4, open ballot system for Nigeria. We tested it under the SDP and NRC era and it clearly reflected the true voting pattern of the people.
President Jonathan submitted that recommendation to the National Assembly but the National Assembly deleted that recommendation.
Jega and his team brought in card readers and we’re all living witnesses to what we’re experiencing. Even in the last general elections, so much crisis was created.
The election has been won and lost, agreed but those problems are still there with us. If in a state election that they have used so many months to plan is having this type  of problem where the name of a former president is disappearing, then what hope has the common man in that electoral system that they’re applying?
I remember watching a television program where a legislator was making the point that he could not understand how a peaceful state like Kogi could record only 40% PVC distribution while Borno that was in crisis achieved over 90% distribution rate.
And even though many people had moved to other states, Borno returned up to one million votes in the election. There are indeed a lot of questionable issues in the way that election was conducted. It has come and gone but if this issue is not addressed, perhaps one day it might  lead to something else.
My take on this is that if INEC knows that their machine is not working, they should remove those machines. My recommendation is that we should go back to Option A4, Open Ballot system. I don’t know what we are afraid of. It is your inalienable right to vote for who you want and not to vote for who you don’t want. I think it is a lot easier to rig election in the system in place than under the Option A4.
Is  your ambition still alive to be Governor of Rivers State?
With every sense of humility my desire is to serve the people of Rivers State in the capacity as governor and I believe that I will serve them right. That desire is alive and well. I believe that Rivers people need a very committed, honest, pragmatic person to serve them. Service needs humility. You need humility to serve people and so having gone round this state, and seen the people, they themselves recognise that fact. But it is this lack of internal democracy in the parties that has been the problem.
Yes, I am still ready to go into contest for the position of governor of Rivers State.
Do  you have a time frame?
The time frame depends on what I’m working on and at the appropriate time it will be made known to the people. I know that time will come and the people will recognise who indeed is ready, willing and humble enough to serve Rivers State in the capacity of governor. As long as god fathers are installing people and not the people themselves, as long as there is no internal democracy in the parties and manipulation is going on, any governor who emerges will not be able to sincerely committedly, humbly serve this state.
I know that is only in this part of the world that people only one who has amassed wealth that can go in for governor. In being a governor you’re not going in to do business, you’re going in there to serve people. It is the people who are supposed the candidate to go in so they can own the government and make that government accountable to them.
Is this realistic here?
We might say it’s not realistic but, believe me, time is coming for that because those who say they will not make available their five naira or two hundred naira to support a candidate even when they know that this candidate is going in for what is good for them, when those candidates who are imposed by godfathers and money bags come into those offices, they pay more through the education system, the healthcare system roads and all kinds of ways.

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Rivers Lawmakers’ Defection, ‘Monkey Politics’-CSO

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Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance, Budget and Accountability has condemned the defection of the 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Executive Secretary, Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance, Budget and Accountability, Amb. Emmanuel Nkweke, who said this in an interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt also described as illegal all legislations passed by the defected lawmakers.
Amb. Nkweke described the defection as “monkey politics’, queried the rational behind the action of the lawmakers few months after being sworn into office, adding that members of the civil society community were yet to be told reasons for the defection.
“Up till now, we are yet to be told why they defected just few months of being sworn into office. For me, that is monkey politics”, he said.
He urged the lawmakers to go back to their former party and beg Rivers people for forgiveness, adding that if that is done, they may be welcomed back.
Amb. Nkweke also cautioned the lawmakers not to allow themselves to be used to do the bidding of an individual, adding that the present administration in the state needs the support of all to move forward.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the group has commended Governor Siminalayi Fubara for giving civil societies the latitude to operate freely in the state.
He alleged that civil societies were caged in the last eight years, adding that there was no breathing space for civil societies in the last eight years in the state.
Amb. Nkweke described civil society as the engine room of democracy as it engages in sensitisation on the policies and programmes of government, regretting, however, that their inputs were never taken into considerations.
“Civil societies give signals, civil society creates the awareness and sensitize the people towards achieving a reliable democracy.
‘’i want to let you know, very frankly, that civil society space in Rivers State, for the past eight years, was suffocated. There was no breathing space, they didn’t breathe. Civil society was dead completely”, he said.
Amb. Nkweke said the situation also affected upcoming activists as some of them had to operate from hideouts.

By: John Bibor

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Sack Incompetent Officials In Your Govt, NANS Urges Tinubu

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The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has called on President Bola Tinubu not to condone incompetent personalities in his government.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, NANS President, Comrade Pedro Obi, expressed concerns about the competence of the Minister of State for Youth Development and the SSA to the President on Student Engagement.
Comrade Obi, after staging a peaceful protest at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), reiterated that the NANS will not be intimidated and will continue to fight for the interests of Nigerian students.
He said, “The message is very simple, we have incompetent people who have been appointed to offices. It’s unfortunate and it’s not the President’s fault, of course he believes in Nigerian youths and has also given us the opportunity to showcase our capacity in various roles that he has given us.
“We have the SSA to the President on Student Engagement, who has shown incompetence. He cannot continue to hold that office and we are calling on Mr. President that he should be sacked with immediate effect.
“Also we have the Minister of State for Youth Development. We are also calling that immediately he should be sacked, because he has left what he ought to do and has dabbled into the affairs of NANS.
“These people have displayed incompetence and are destroying the youth community. There are so many competent youths that President Tinubu can pick from.
“NANS can never be intimidated. This is an organisation that we grew up to meet and we will continue to protect the dignity of this organisation.”
Receiving the NANS on behalf of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office in the SGF, Dr. Maurice Nnamdi Mbaeri, assured the NANS of relaying back their complaints to the SGF which he said will land on the listening ears of President Tinubu.
According to him, “I have listened to the complaints you raised. I assure you that your complaints will get to the listening ears of Mr. President.
“Let me assure you that I’m happy this was also re-echoed in the NANS President’s speech that President Tinubu has indebt love for the youths of Nigeria and also for the students of Nigeria. This has been demonstrated by polices that (has) been put in place for the youths.
“I want to assure you that the President has your concerns in his heart and he’s always ever ready to attend to your needs.
“With this, I am going to report back to my boss the SGF, who will take up the matter with the President. I urge you to continue to maintain peace and tranquillity. Don’t do anything that will make Mr. President feel bad about you.”

 

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Ayu Withdraws Case Against PDP Ahead NEC Meeting 

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Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyiorchia Ayu, has withdrawn the court action he instituted against the party over his controversial removal from office barely two years into his four year  term.
His action has removed legal impediments likely to militate against the emergence of his replacement from the North Central.
Several meetings have been held and being planned following this new development.
On Tuesday, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) passed a vote of confidence on the Ag. National Chairnan, Amb. Umar Damagum, whom members said has discharged his functions creditably.
It was gathered that the North Central Caucus of the party had long before now started mobilizing to ensure that the zone produces Ayu’s replacement to complete his tenure which expires in 2025.
In a related development, Amb. Damagum has held series of meetings with various groups to perhaps shore up his chances of retaining his seat as acting chairman.
He led the members of the NWC on Wednesday to interact with the PDP National Ex-officio ahead of the NEC meeting.
Immediately after the meeting with them, he led the NWC members to another meeting with the State Party Chairmen from the 36 States, including FCT, Abuja.
The meetings were  held at the NEC Hall, PDP National Secretariat at Wadata Plaza, Wuse Zone 5, in Abuja.

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