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We Insist That Power Must Shift In 2023 -Robinson

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As the activities leading up to the 2023 general elections in Nigeria go into full swing, socio-political cultural and regional organisations as well as pressure groups have also been very vocal in their advocacy for what they think is best for the country, lending their voices and addressing burning national issues.
One of such foremost organisations that has left no one in doubt concerning where it stands on such issues as what the part of the country that should produce the next President of Nigeria and corollary matters is the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
Acting Political Editor, Opaka Dokubo caught up with the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Hon Ken Robinson in Port Harcourt and had this chat with him. Excerpts.

PANDEF is demanding a Nigerian President of southern extraction, are you satisfied with the way things have gone so far?
Our major concern has been the attitude of some of our brothers from other parts of the country, particularly Northern Nigeria because of a supposed majority . In every country, you will find that the South is more populated than the Northern part. But here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case and because of that supposed majority, they throw up this attitude of thinking that they can always control power or always decide who becomes the President of Nigeria. And that is the attitude that is being displayed as we go towards the 2023 elections.
Having said that, if we love this country; if we want this country to be united, to be peaceful, to be progressive, to become the great country that it should be, or to be what we claim to be, the giant of Africa, then, we must do things in a way and manner that will promote equity, fairness and justice.
Without equity, fairness and justice, without ever sharing of power in a diverse country like Nigeria, what you’re calling for is further crisis, is anarchy, is disaffection. There is a strong feeling of alienation in certain sections of the country, particularly in Southern Nigeria and that is why we have insisted and will continue to insist that after eight years of a Northern Presidency, the next President of Nigeria should come from Southern Nigeria.
And for us in PANDEF, we have said that whether it goes to the South west, Southeast or South South, it’s a different matter all together and we will not mind if the next President comes from the South-West, South-East or South South, power must rotate, or power should rotate to Southern Nigeria in 2023.
What we see today is the display of political arrogance, political irrationality, political dishonesty to the greatest height. We hear particularly in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the people should consider winning election rather than zoning the presidency. Does that mean that there is any zone in Nigeria where there are no competent persons to win election in Nigeria?
Obasanjo won an election for the PDP; he is not from the North. Goodluck Jonathan won an election for the PDP, he is not from the North. Of course, Yar Adua won election for the PDP, he is from the North.
What it means is that anybody in Nigeria that is competent, that is capable can win election for any political party. The person must not come from the North in particular for him or her to win an election. So, the insinuation or the impression that if PDP zones its presidential ticket to Southern Nigeria, PDP cannot win an election is insulting to the people of Sothern Nigeria and completely unacceptable to us, and we have insisted that power must rotate.
Any political party in Nigeria that does not zone its presidency to Southern Nigeria, the people of Southern Nigeria will mobilise and work against that party. That’s our position.
I was actually going to ask you what will happen to the PDP in particular that seems not keen on zoning the Presidency to the South?
PANDEF is actually working with Afenifere from the South-West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the South-East and elements of the Middle Melt under the Middle Belt Forum. We want to believe that they are together with us in all that we have said because these pronounaments have been made under the anspices of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders forum comprising these aforementioned orgainsations.
We have said that if any of the major political parties in the country does not zone its presidential ticket to the South, we are going to work against that party.
The position we have taken is that we will wait until the party primaries are concluded. After the party primaries are concluded, we will see the choices that are presented to us and if one of the two parties gives us a Southern Presidency, and the other does not, we will sit down and discuss and see how we can mobilise and ensure that Southern Nigeria punishes the party that is against us.
Beyond the issue of zoning, what are some of the other issues that should be on the front burner as we go into the 2023 elections?
One of the greatest challenges in Nigeria today is insecurity and the next President of Nigeria should be able to stabilise Nigeria. The next President of Nigeria should be able to defuse the disaffections and the feelings of dissent in the country. The next President should be able to promote unity. And of course, the economy of the country. The next President of the country should be able to see how we can boost Nigeria’s economy and make living in Nigeria less difficult. And we are saying that we have those kind of persons in abundance in the South South, in the south-East, and of course, in the south-West.
So, beyond the issue of zoning, we need a Nigeria that is stable if we are not stable; we can’t talk about any other thing.
Now, after the stability of Nigeria, for PANDEF and the Southern and the Middle Belt Leaders Forum, we are concerned about the inqualities, inequalities, structural defects in the country, and that’s about restructuring to bring about devolution of powers; let some issues that are over centralised at the centre be devolved to the states; and let there be stronger institutions so that some of the excesses that people fear may arise if more powers are given to states may as well be checked.
So, outside zoning, we’re talking about the stability of Nigeria, the restruturing of Nigeria; we’re talking about peace in Nigeria.
Going into 2023, are you confident that the elections are going to be remarkably different from previous exercises?
Nigerians clamored clamoured and insisted that the National Assembly should incorporate the electronic transmission of election results into the Electoral Act and reluctantly they did; reluctantly, the President signed it into law. So, INEC has a legal mandate to ensure that the transmission of results is done electronically.
Don’t forget that one of the major problems the Nigerian electoral process has faced is the transmission of results between the voting point and the collation point. We had seen situations where results that are announced at the polling units are completely different from final results that are announced.
So, if this electronic transmission of results is strictly adhered to in all parts of Nigeria (don’t forget that when the card reader issue came up, in some parts of Nigeria card readers would work, in some other parts of Nigeria, card readers would not work).
So, we will hope that INEC will have the administrative will and courage to stick to the electronic transmission of results across Nigeria without stories of network failures in some parts of the country and network access in other parts of the country.
If it is done across Nigeria, we think that the 2023 results will significantly, have a shift from previous ones.

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2023: Bayelsa PDP Delegates To Support Pro-Restructuring Aspirants – Diri

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Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri has said People’s Democratic Party (PDP) delegates in the state would support any presidential aspirant of the party that will restructure Nigeria if elected.
Governor Diri spoke on Friday when he received former Senate President and presidential aspirant, Senator Bukola Saraki, in Government House, Yenagoa.
According to the governor as an oil and gas producing state, which contributes huge revenue to the country’s economy, restructuring would ensure equity and fairness to the oil-producing Niger Delta region, the state and the Ijaw nation in particular.
The governor, while stating that the Federal Government, as presently constituted, does not encourage productivity and competitiveness, but has turned the federating units to beggars where states go cap in hand to Abuja on monthly basis for revenue sharing.
He said there is too much concentration of power at the centre, which has prevented the country from functioning effectively, adding that devolution of power would enable states to develop at their own pace.
The Bayelsa governor restated his call on aspirants to place the interest of the party and country above their ambition, saying that as an opposition party, what is required to wrest power from the ruling party and rescue the country from total collapse is unity among members.
“You talked about certain things that touch us as a state. You talked about the restructuring of this country. The Ijaws have always talked about justice and equity. As a state that produces oil and gas, which has been the mainstay of our economy, we subscribe to any aspirant that has included restructuring of this country in his manifesto, to ensure equity and justice.
“The Federal Government is too centralised and nothing will work. Certain powers have to be devolved to the states and let the Federal Government face only common issues that are central to all of us. So this blame game of the previous government will stop.
“Let us go back to the foundation of this country where we had regions that took responsibility for their economy and policies. Allow the states to carry some of the responsibility.
“The present structure does not make room for productivity and competition among our states. State governments go cap in hand to our Federal Capital Territory in the name of federal allocation.”, he said.
Earlier, Senator Saraki said Nigeria was moving towards becoming a failed state in terms of security and its poor economy and needs a competent person to reverse the drift.

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2023: NNPP Vows To Spring Surprises

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The National Chairman of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, says his party will shock those taking it for granted.
He said this Saturday during a media briefing held at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja.
Alkali said the party leadership had commenced the process of repositioning NNPP into the political landscape of the country by offering Nigerians an alternative platform to save democracy and rescue the nation from the stranglehold of the “two old, hegemonic and visionless political parties”.
On NNPP primary election, he said the party had begun the process of electing candidates for the 2023 general elections, stating that, “This will start on Monday 16th May 2022 with the screening of state Houses of Assembly aspirants culminating in the presidential primary in Abuja on June 2nd 2022.”
He said the party was equal to the task as it had put in place all measures to avoid rancour during the forthcoming primary election.
“Let me assure you, and through you the Nigerian public, that come 2023, NNPP will spring surprises in the polls.
“And when by the grace of God we come into government, we shall tackle all the issues of insecurity (by whatever name called), restore the value of the Naira, create job opportunities for millions of our youths, accord women their rightful place in government, revive moribund industries, including the textile, manufacturing and SMEs as well respect the rule of law and fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
“Let me once more assure Nigerians that unlike what is happening now, the NNPP administration would give every Nigerian a sense of belonging as nobody would be treated as a second class citizen or discriminated or marginalized on the basis of tribe, religion or sex.
“Given the massive support we have received and continue to receive so far from people across the country, we are very confident and optimistic that very soon and in no distant future it would move from its current ranking as the ‘third force’ to the top in Nigeria’s political space….I can assure you that NNPP will soon be the number one force in the country,” he added.
On zoning controversy, Alkali distanced NNPP from the arrangements, saying the party would not carry “excess baggage” of other political parties as it was not founded based on ethnicity and religion.
He, however, promised that the party would provide inclusive governance and ensure balancing along geo-political zones.

 

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2023: NSA Puts Top Politicians On Watch List

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Ahead of the 2023 general elections and other off-season elections in the country, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has placed politicians who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process on the watch list.
Accordingly, the ONSA said heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been tasked to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors no matter how highly placed.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), disclosed this in his remarks at the meeting of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.
Monguno said that his office had noted with utmost concern, the growing uncertainty heralding the conduct of party primaries for the 2023 general elections.
“This is in addition to the unabated spate of violence that threatened the upcoming off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, arising from internal party wrangling, increasing acrimony and bickering among political actors as well as the inability of various contending political blocs to amicably resolve differences in line with democratic tenants,” he said.
Mungono who was represented by Sanusi Galadima, said the disturbing development had already culminated in intense power play capable of heightening unnecessary political tension across the country.
More worrisome according to him is the unguarded utterances by some highly respected individuals and groups which, more often than not, amplify divisive narratives to the detriment of national security and stability.
Accordingly, he said, “Heads of security and law enforcement agencies have been tasked to step up close monitoring and profiling of political actors no matter highly placed who exhibit tendencies to subvert the electoral process, even as thugs and their sponsors would equally be trailed for possible arrest and prosecution.”
He emphasised the need for INEC to enjoin political parties to consistently abide by prescribed rules as outlined in their respective manifestoes.
Earlier in his remarks, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, lamented the general security situation in the country and its impact on the electoral process which according to him is a source of concern to the commission.
Yakubu said the commission was however confident that with nine months to the 2023 general election, there was enough time to respond to the security challenges and secure the nation for elections to take place nationwide.  He said the timetable for the election has also been released.
“Let us not wait until a few weeks to the election before we realise that time is not on our side and begin to seek for extension of timelines.  The time to act is now.
We wish to reassure the security agencies that we will continue to work cooperatively with you to ensure the success of all forthcoming elections and electoral activities,” he said.

 

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