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Saturday’s Polls And Nigerians’ Date With Destiny

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Tomorrow is yet another date with our collective destiny as a country. Millions of voters will once more troop out to the various voting units to exercise their franchise. The voters this time are to elect those who will be our governors and state Houses of Assembly men that will preside over the affairs of the various states including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory for the next four years.
Two Saturdays ago, the nation went on a similar journey to elect a President and members of the National Assembly. However those elections to those who monitored the process leave much to be desired as it was characterised by large scale arrests, intimidation, vote buying, violence, ballot box, snatching and killings.
In Rivers State alone, about 30 persons were allegedly killed by security personnel in Akuku-Toru, Bonny and Degema Local Government Areas.
And in Imo State, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof Francise Ezeonu said in the last election, there were deliberate efforts to frustrate the use of Registration Area Centres (RACs) as even wires used in reticulation of the centres were removed and taken away. In some places, community members disrupted elections at the RAC centres.
According to him, they also battled with thugs for electoral materials, with corps members kidnapped returning officers harassed and intimidated to write false results.
“The maxim was either to play along or be maimed for life”.
Also in Bayelsa State, we heard of reports that INEC was begging politicians and their thugs to return about 61 card readers that they forcibly took away from presiding officers during the elections.
Some independent observers of the last elections including civil society groups described the elections as not something to be proud of and said that to guard against a repeat of the violence and rigging in the last elections all stakeholders must comply with the electoral guidelines. They condemned the killings especially in Rivers State and the conduct of politicians and the military for their role in bringing shame to the country.
No election in Nigeria has taken place without controversy but the recent elections somehow took another dimension as some personalities of the major opposition party-PDP were it on the eve of the election. Some are yet to be released as at yesterday.
Do these people really pose a threat to democracy across the country? Why is it that during the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’ Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, mass arrests of opposition figures were not carried out? But under the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, to even whisper is an anathema and will get you detained in a military barracks.
Nobody should think that we are under a real democratic government. To think so, the person must be naïve and not a critical political thinker. What we are under is a full blown dictatorship where even the judiciary is not respected and court orders disobeyed. The government chooses what order to obey and what to ignore.
For there to be a free, fair and credible election, the Presidency must not interfere with the conduct of the elections by deploying the military to do a repeat dance that negates all civilised norms of how an election should be conducted especially with the heating up of the polity in States like Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers Akwu Ibom and Benue.
From all indications, the factors hampering the smooth conduct of elections in Nigeria especially the last election are not the use of smartcard readers or the role of INEC officials but the shameful conduct of the political class.
According to, Prof Francis Ezeonu, “there is the need for Nigerians to create rules, a conducive environment for the ad-hoc staff to do their work and urged those who claimed to be honourable, distinguished and excellent to exhibit honourable conduct.
The experiences of the last election have some shock waves so much so that some ad-hoc staff have given notices that they would not wish to participate in the next election.
The way things are going, we may come to a stage where no person will be willing to participate during election.
These fears expressed by a resident electoral commissioner is not just an isolated one. All INEC officials are human just as the youth corps members recruited to assist the electoral body to conduct elections in 2015 in Rivers State, a serving youth corps member was killed. In 2011 about eight corps members were murdered in cold blood in Bauchi State. So are we sure that in the conduct of tomorrow’s elections, security agencies will play a neutral role and be as professional as possible?
Will the violence that occurred in Akuku-Toru, Bonny, Emohua, Ikwerre, Okrika and Abua/Odual Local Government Areas be replicated? Won’t the military assist politicians to disrupt the voting and collation processes and cart away electoral materials? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed before people cast their votes tomorrow.
However, hope is not lost as traditional rulers and other political leaders of thought have pleaded for sanity and for politicians to play by the rules.
Meanwhile, the Independent, Electoral Commission has assured Nigerians that it will do a better job tomorrow, Accorders to its spokesman Festus Okoye, the commission is ready to conduct a credible election and as part of its strategy has fine-tuned all the loose ends encountered during the February polls. He said each polling unit will start at 8am and the use of smart card reader, is compulsory adding that any unit where smartcard readers are not used, all votes in such places will be voided.
Probably this assurance is coming on the heels of accusations by opposition parties that there was a deliberate and well orchestrated plan to use smartcard readers only in the strongholds of the PDP especially in the South-South, South-East and North Central zones while leaving out the South West, North East and North West zones and the non deployment of the electronic collation system (E-collation for election results contrary to the provisions of paragraph 10 (a) and (b) of the regulations and guidelines governing the 2019 general election.
Nigerians in general believe in a free and fair election but the major actors have always been the problem. People who are outside the corridors of power and make the most noise about the conduct of the election are even worse than those they accuse of election manipulations. It is quite sad that the APC which claims to parade “holy men” in its rank and file has not shown any form of decency coupled with the utterances and conduct of some of its members which are not encouraging peace in the polity.
We pray the security agencies will not allow themselves to be used to unleash violence tomorrow and allow the will of the people to be thrown to the dogs.
We also hope that the fear of violence or being killed will not deter millions of Nigerians from casting their votes.
The power of the electorate lies in the positive use of their PVCs. There is no way that a government is bad or a person is not living up to expectation without a voter doing his or her duty by voting for his preferred candidate or rejecting such a person on election day.
Our destiny is in our hands, so let us go out tomorrow and make our choice of who will preside over our political and economic fortunes in the next four years.

Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye

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Delta Poll: PDP Sweeps All 25 LGs

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The Peoples Democratic Party has won all seats in Saturday’s Local Government election conducted across 500 wards in the 25 Local Government Areas of Delta State.
The election was contested by ten political parties, who fielded candidates for chairmanship and councillorship positions.
Declaring the results, the Chief Electoral Officer and Chairman of Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr Raphael Agbaike, said the PDP contested and won in 24 LGs in the July 13 2024 election.
‘’However, the chairmanship candidate of the PDP in Udu Local Government Area was returned unopposed.
“The PDP candidates for councillorship positions contested and won 499 electoral wards while the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) won one electoral ward in Oshimili North Local Government Area” he declared.
Certificates of return were presented to 25 council chairmen.
Meanwhile, TAF Africa has commended the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission for their exceptional efforts in ensuring a more inclusive and secure election environment, particularly for those with disabilities.
The Founder of TAF Africa, Mr Jake Epelle, made the commendation on Sunday while giving the foundation report in Asaba after the 2024 Local Government election.
“Our observations from the field highlight both the positive strides made and the areas needing improvement to promote a truly inclusive democratic process,” he said.
Epelle listed some key observations including adequate security and peaceful conduct, low voter turnout due to apathy, disfranchisement due to new polling units, inclusive voting practices, and non-conduct of elections in specific areas.
He highlighted the need for SIEC to consider relocating these voters to polling units closer to their homes for better convenience and mobility.
On his part, the Programme Officer of TAF Africa, Mr. Adeolu Kilanko explained that voter apathy posed a significant threat to the democratic system, adding that the impact was more pronounced in people with disabilities.
“Voter apathy can lead to their voices being further marginalized. It is essential to ensure that the electoral process is not only inclusive but also perceived as trustworthy and transparent.
“We can encourage greater participation from all segments of society including persons with disabilities, by rebuilding confidence in our elections”, Kilanko stressed.
Also speaking, TAF Senior Communication Manager, Lynn Agwuocha called on all electoral management bodies to prioritize rebuilding public confidence and to make necessary adjustments to facilitate easier access to voting for all citizens particularly those with disabilities.

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Nigeria Lacks People Who Speak Truth To Power – Obi

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The 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has regretted the dearth of courageous people who can speak truth to power.
Obi who spoke last Saturday, during the 10th anniversary of Alaigbo Development Foundation in Umuahia, Abia State, regretted that the country had abundance of praise singers who tell leaders what they what to hear.
The former Anambra State Governor who recalled how he judiciously managed public funds while in office, also charged public leaders to use public funds for the people.
He further charged them to make people-centred policies, and pursue programmes that promote public peace.
Mr Obi blamed the woes of Nigeria on avarice and insatiable quest for wealth among public office holders.
He, therefore, challenged Nigerians to speak truth to power and stop hero worshipping.
Mr Obi said: “What we lack in Nigeria is people who can tell you you are wrong when you are. Leaders are bound to listen to the people because the people put them in the office.
“ Leaders must use public money for public purpose”.
Continuing, he said: “When I was in public office, I used public money for public purpose. I made sure I used the peoples money for them.
“ I did not spend any Kobo for personal gain. I didn’t take it owing pensions, gratuities. I did not owe any contractor. Now in private life I can do whatever I like with my money.”
The former Anambra State Governor who said he left office without owing workers including pensioners and contractors, disclosed that he also left behind $150m for the state.
Mr Obi solicited continued prayers for leaders so they would serve the people with the fear of God.
The former Anambra Governor who advocated role for traditional institution, advised Government to partner socio-cultural organisations for the development of society.
He further encouraged ADF to continue its advocacy and sensitisation of Ndigbo for advancing the cause of the Igbo nation.
Obi also preached unity among Ndigbo.
In his remark, the pioneer President of ADF, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, said the objective of ADF had been to galvanise Igbo stakeholders for the development of Alaigbo.
The new national President of ADF, Nze Coleman Emeka Chukudelunzu, called for unity among Ndigbo to rebuild Igbo land.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the event, Maj General Chris Eze (retd.), commended the doggedness of Ndigbo to overcome the challenges of the civil war.

 

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S’Court Verdict On LG Autonomy, Sheer Judicial Conspiracy – Afenifere

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The Pan Yoruba Socio-Political Group, Afenifere, has faulted the Supreme Court verdict that granted fiscal autonomy to local government areas.
It lamented that the apex court’s verdict has “done incalculable injury” to the Nigerian state.
This was contained in a statement signed by the leader of the group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Justice Faloye, and made available to newsmen in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Entitled “Tinubu and the Grand Conspiracy Against Democracy and True Federalism in Nigeria”, the statement declared that “Afenifere views the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case filed by the Federal Government on the so-called Local Government autonomy as sheer judicial conspiracy in cahoots with the Tinubu administration against the Nigerian state and its foundational principles of federalism.
“Rather than interpret the constitution to uphold its elementary but overriding federal principle which recognises only a two-tier federal structure of the central government and federating states, the Supreme Court played to the gallery and wittingly allowed itself a most retrogressive declaration that the power of the government is portioned into three arms of government, the federal, the state and the local government.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, Afenifere makes bold to say that in line with its negotiated basis of existence, Nigeria is a ‘Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory’ as affirmed by Section 2 (2) of the 1999 constitution.
“While Afenifere frowns at corruption and misuse of public funds at levels of government, it condemns in most unmistaken terms  the subjugation of the states and its constitutional roles including the Local Government system to the whims and caprices of the federal government by any means including obvious manipulation of the federation account as in the present case.
“The 1999 constitution, which in spite of its flaws, gives life and power to the Supreme Court provides in Section 162 and particularly subsection (6) that “each state shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the state”.
“Against this unambiguous provision the Supreme Court held that “demands of justice requires a progressive interpretation of the law.
“ It is the position of this court that the federation can pay Local Government allocations to the Local Government directly or pay them through the states.
“ In this case, since paying them through states has not worked, justice of this case demands that Local Government allocations from the federation account should henceforth be paid directly to the Local Governments .
“Contrary to this invented alternative routes, Section 162 of the Constitution is not ambivalent about the process and route through which “all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the state” shall become payable to the Councils.
“In other words, the interpretation does not require a voyage into jurisprudential  sophistry leading to the absurdity of deliberate judicial amendment of the grundnorm.
“By wittingly or inadvertently equating the Nigerian Federation with the Federal Government in the erroneous belief that both expressions are used interchangeably, such that the President may withhold funds to the credit of the Local Governments from the Federation Account, under the guise of having no democratically elected officials, which is obviously subject to the interpretation by the Federal Government.
“ The apex court has not only done incalculable injury to the Nigerian state, it has  lent itself to setting aside its precedent in the  hallowed judgment against the President Obasanjo administration withholding funds to the credit of Local Governments in Lagos State even when the Supreme Court agreed that the Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) created by then Governor Tinubu were inchoate and fell short of constitutional requirements.
“ It is becoming stridently eloquent that with just over a year of its inauguration, the Tinubu government,  more than even the military administrations, is uncannily determined to unitarise the Nigerian Federation.
‘Part of the unitary package is the creation of the Ministry of Livestock Development which is the audacious euphemism for the re-introduction of Cattle Colony, RUGA and those other policies by which the Buhari administration sought to appropriate lands in the states contrary to the provisions of the Land Use Act and the Constitution which vest land in the state in the Governor in trust for the people.
“Afenifere insists that the way forward for Nigeria is not the confusing rudderless tinkering but holistic restructuring of the polity to re-enact the fundamental principles of true federalism as agreed by the founding fathers.
‘ This includes the fact that the Local Government system is an exclusive preserve of the states, either by direct constitutional provisions or residual powers in a federation.”

 

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