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.
Kano Tribunal Judgment, Slap On Constitutionalism, Rule Of Law -NNPP
The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) has described the judgment of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the election of Governor Abba Kabiru Yusuff as a slap in the face of constitutionalism and the rule of law.
In a signed statement made available to newsmen by its acting national chairman, Abba Kawu Ali, the NNPP said its candidate won convincingly in the March 18, 2023, election, which it described as free, credible, and globally acclaimed as a fair election.
He said the pronouncement of the 3-man tribunal is laughable and a pure miscarriage of justice, which is capable of eroding the confidence of the electorate in the judiciary.
He, however, called on the party’s supporters across Nigeria to remain calm as the party will appeal the tribunal’s judgement.
“The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) receives with utter incredulity and disbelief the judgment of the Kano State Election Petition Tribunal on the March 18, 2023, Governorship Election.
“The reported judgement nullified the free, credible, and globally acclaimed fair election of our gubernatorial candidate, Engr. Abba Kabiru Yusuf, and brazenly awarded the election to the APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna.
“The Tribunal arrived at this unjust judgment by unfairly subtracting 165,663 votes from the governor’s tally to enable it to unfairly award the result to the candidate of the ruling APC.
“In doing so, the tribunal obviously affirms its belief that the vote tally of the APC candidate was sacrosanct.
“The judgment of the 3-man Kano State Governorship Election Petition is laughable and nothing but a pure miscarriage of justice.
“The decision of the Tribunal is a slap in the face of constitutionalism and the rule of law and is capable of further discouraging the electorate from having confidence in the judiciary.
“The NNPP recalls with regret that this Tribunal has simply replayed the unholy script of 2019 by overturning the will of the people and awarding results to those who evidently lost the election.
“The NNPP will appeal this most unfair judgement.
We call on millions of our supporters in Kano and in the rest of the country to remain calm and maintain peace. A lopsided judgment cannot stand on the altar of justice”, he said.
Ondo Assembly Moves To Impeach Dep Gov
Indications emerged on Wednesday, that members of the Ondo State House of Assembly have commenced the process of impeaching the state Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
This is coming following an emergency plenary session summoned by the House of Assembly on Wednesday, with heavy presence of security men at the Assembly gate.
The Tide source gathered that at least 23 lawmakers have already appended their signatures, supporting the impeachment notice against Aiyedatiwa.
A source disclosed that the Deputy Governor is under investigation for alleged gross misuse of office and might be eased out of office through impeachment.
According to the source, trouble started when Aiyedatiwa reportedly approved the sum of N300 million for the purchase of a bulletproof SUV for his personal use.
The source said the approval was allegedly given while the state Governor was recuperating in Germany and it was approved without the knowledge of the governor.
He said the Deputy Governor further complicated matters when he ordered that the N300 million should be sourced from the Palliative fund.
He said “This fund, provided by the Federal government, was intended to support states in addressing the needs of their citizens.”
The source said the impeachment proceedings underscore the Assembly’s commitment to accountability, even at the highest levels of state governance.
Further developments in this case were being awaited as the situation continued to unfold.
Bauchi Tribunal Upholds Gov Mohammed’s Election
The Bauchi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the victory of Governor Bala Mohammed in the March 18, 2023 governorship election.
Delivering the judgment on Wednesday, Chairman of the three-man panel of the Tribunal, Justice P.T Kwahar, dismissed the petition of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakr (rtd), who challenged result of the election.
The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, electoral irregularities as well as bypass of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (B-VAS) machines in some polling units of Toro, Dass, Zaki, Itas-Gadau, Alkaleri, Bauchi, Tafawa Balewa, Ningi, Dambam and Ganjuwa Local Government Areas.The Tribunal held that there was no tangible evidence to show that the BVAS was truly manipulated.The judge explained that the witnesses brought by the petitioner presented evidence based on hearsay as they were not present at the polling units, “they have failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the APC candidate won the election.”
“This court therefore returns the second respondent as the elected governor of Bauchi state by the first respondent in the conduct of the governorship election of the 18th of March, 2023,” he held.
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