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2023 Election Failure’ll Polarise The Polity, Set Democracy Backwards -Wike

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Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged Nigerians not to allow the 2023 general elections to fail.
He said the failure of the 2023 elections would increase political polarisation, exacerbate social fault lines and set Nigeria’s democracy backwards.
Governor Wike gave the charge at the 2023 Port Harcourt International Conference, sponsored by Rivers State Government, with the theme: Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria”, held at Obi Wali International Conference in Port Harcourt, last Thursday.
The governor, in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, noted that barely one month away, Nigerians are hoping and praying for the 2023 general elections to herald the deepening of democratic culture, the rule of law and good governance in the country.
Governor Wike, however, insisted that the opportunity to elect a new President of the federation and 30 State Governors should be a success because it will consolidate and strengthen the roots of democracy in the national life of Nigeria.
“In a democracy, periodic elections are the only legitimate means for the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. Since 1999, Nigeria has had six general election circles, but none was considered substantially clean and fair.
“The outcome of the 2003 general elections was rejected at different levels by the opposition and the losers, and litigated up to the Supreme Court. The outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests, riots, the loss of several lives, and the destruction of property in particular sections of the country”, he noted.
Governor Wike also recalled that even President Musa Ya’ardua had promised necessary electoral reforms when he publicly denounced the process that brought him to power because it was severely flawed.
According to him, the 2011 general election also suffered a similar experience and was litigated by the opposition to the Supreme Court.
“None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud”.
Governor Wike noted further that the 2015 general election, though considered rigged, recorded some improvements with the use of the smart card reader and the emergence of opposition candidates as the winners of the presidential.
The governor said the 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected as highly compromised by the opposition and litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in the 2015 and 2019 re-run and general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory and retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens”, he said.
Governor Wike pointed out that when the government compromises the integrity of elections through election management agencies, it denies citizens their constitutional right to elect the leaders they want and can hold accountable.
Conversely, he emphasised, when elections lack integrity, the leaders who emerged from outside the people’s will are illegitimate.
According to him, “Such leaders without trust are likely to be authoritarian, divisive and incapable of effective governance. Serial election rigging threatens our democracy and constitutes an existential challenge to the nation’s future stability.
“Therefore, deepening democratic culture and institutions for sustainable development and security is important to us as a nation, and free and fair elections with integrity remain the only path to achieving this objective”.
Speaking further, Governor Wike said the new electoral law, especially with the provisions of the use of technology, holds the prospect for a brighter democratic experience for Nigeria if implemented effectively.
However, he stressed, that beyond the legal regime, political parties’ internal practices and external electioneering behaviour must conform to democratic norms and standards.
“The efficiency of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing the existing regulatory regime, including the laws, regulations and guidelines beyond reproach and the capacity and consistency of INEC and the security agencies to be firm, impartial and independent in the discharge of their functions are most crucial.
“Safeguarding and deepening our democracy lies with every citizen. We must have the courage to stand up for justice, the rule of law, an independent and courageous judiciary, and our rights and freedoms to vote and be voted in a transparent election”, he stated.
Presenting his keynote address, former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who titled his paper: “Respecting the Principles of Democracy”, noted that Nigeria’s democracy has gone through twists, dives and turns since political independence.
He said the best of the country’s history has been the sustenance of democracy since the military transfer of power to an elected government in 1999.
He however, observed that there may be reasons to doubt how much lessons the leaders and followers have drawn from the country’s past and how far they are willing to go to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and democratic practice.
The former president declared that the ways in which the political class have practised democracy have deepened contradictions, negative coalitions, distrust, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies within and between communities and constituencies all over the country.
He stated that this means that there is a deep structural and philosophical problems that must be deal with.
Chief Obasanjo informed that if the practice of democracy is superficial and opportunistic and it is designed to pursue a struggle of limited objectives, it would precipitate variants of fractured engagements that cannot address structural and philosophical contradictions and challenges.
“In fact, the order of the day would be community against community, religion against religion, leader against leader. Ordinary citizens are then dragged into the directionless, meaningless and opportunistic personal or narrow ambitions of leaders. The end result will be confusion, diffusion, distraction and possibly leading to separation and disintegration”, he said.
The former president stressed that democracy is possible in Nigeria and the people have the capacity to build a culture of democratization. However, he insisted that Nigerians must recognise and accept the fact that it is an evolutionary process with principles.
“Without retracing our political steps to the right direction, the current process will either not produce the right leaders or it will leave so many broken blocks on the path to governance and attract resources and energy away from the task of rebuilding Nigeria and consolidating our democratic practice.
“The result will be democratic quagmire, increased corruption, insecurity and survival of the fittest, richest and better connected with little or no recognition of merits. The implications and cost of such a scenario to our present and future can best be imagined. I pray that God will grant us the wisdom to do what is right for our country and people at all times and more so now”, he said.
In his opening remarks, former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the theme of the conference addresses itself to the imperative of enhancing democratic governance to the benefit of Nigerians and the country.
Fayemi pointed to the scholarly assertions of late Claude Ake, on feasibility and possibility of democracy wherein there has to be enduring democratic culture and democracy being structured to be developmental in nature.
He observed that Nigeria’s democracy is bedevilled by lack of party based politics, issued based politicking, untamed political violence, winner take all mentality, growing influence of money in politics, exploitation of loophole to subvert the will of the people and social media and spread of fake news.
“Though, there are some political milestones achieved since 1999, there is no doubt that we still have a longway to go in building a robust culture of power and politics that is both democratic and sustaining”, he said.
As part of the event, there was the unveiling of the book, “Bridging Rivers”, under the chairmanship of former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.

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We’ll Prioritise Health Sector In 2025 Budget, Fubara Assures WHO …Recommits To More Healthcare Access

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that Rivers people deserve a functional healthcare system that will avail them easy access to reliable and affordable quality services to enable them to stay healthy always.
To achieve this goal, Governor Fubara reiterated the determination of his administration to commit huge budgetary allocation to the sector in the 2025 budget in order to give necessary financial support to drive the activities in the sector.
This, he noted, will further strengthen what is being done already in ensuring that healthcare facilities in the State are functional at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels to achieve universal access for the people.
Governor Fubara give the assurance when he received in audience a delegation of the World Health Organisation (WHO), led by the Country Representative, Dr Kazadi Walter Molumbo, at Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Governor said: “As a matter of fact, in our 2025 budget, we have three key areas: Health, Education and Agriculture. They are our key areas in our 2025 budget. We believe that when we roll out that budget, greater part of the health issues and services will be accommodated.”
Governor Fubara recalled the disheartening state of health facilities his administration inherited, as there were no functional intermediary health facilities given the fact that all the zonal hospitals were not completed.
Saying that the situation was unacceptable, Governor Fubara said, “I know quite alright that one of the most important things, if we go by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda: affordable healthcare is one major thing that is key target, and it is something the World Health Organization (WHO) is working to make sure that it shouldn’t just be an item for the privileged, but even the less-privileged in the society should afford it and fast too.
“So, as a government, when we came on board, we also knew that one very important area that we need to touch is the healthcare. Development cannot be complete if the health sector is abandoned. So, we did all we could within our power to make sure that we revitalize that area.
“And some of the achievements like the Health Insurance Scheme that has been there for long before now, that we have activated. We might not have gotten it right completely, but the most important thing is that we have started it. Rivers State has keyed into it.”
Governor Fubara insisted: “The very active state of our primary healthcare system now is better than when we came on board. Whatever it is that is required; their resources, we don’t even tamper with it.
“We ensured that they get their resources as at when due so that the aspect of their control and administrative duties are discharged. Accordingly, the primary healthcare system has improved compared to what it was before we came on board.
“We did not end there. We know the situation of the tertiary health services. We only have two: Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). You can imagine the pressure on those two. So, we also took it upon ourselves to make sure that the intermediary health services must come to life.
“As a policy of our government, we have even started the completion and expansion to standard of all the Zonal Hospitals. We have the Degema, Bori, Ahoada, Omoku and Okehi, and we are already working on them. We didn’t end there. We also have a key facility in Bonny.
“People living in Bonny can’t come from there to access the Zonal Hospital. So, we have already started work to improve the state of the Bonny General Hospital. We know the importance of health, and we are doing our best to complement what WHO is also doing to make sure that healthcare gets to not just the rich, but the poor at affordable rate, with quality service.
Governor Fubara appreciated WHO for the wonderful work that it is doing in both supervisory and support role in the health sector and other areas of health concerns, not just in Rivers State, but in Nigeria and the world at large.
The Governor pointed out that everything is being done to sufficiently provide needed preventive and intervention measures against cholera and all related communicable diseases.
Governor Fubara said: “I have already directed the Commissioner for Health to commence all the necessary processes needed to checkmate the situation. We honestly prioritise health issues. We don’t joke with it.
“We have already started whatever it is, not just the issue of cholera. We are even talking about the issues that could arise from the anticipated flood situation in the state.
“We have also set up a medical team, knowing fully well that, definitely, there will be health issues when the flood situation breaks out. So, we are on top of the situation.”
In his presentation, the Country Representative of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Kazadi Walter Molumbo, commended Governor Fubara for his efforts and political will towards the various healthcare interventions in a bid to achieve the target for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensure that the people enjoy good health and well-being by 2030.
Dr. Molumbo stated that Nigeria, like most countries of the world, was lagging behind in terms of reaching the target for SDGs by 2030, adding that it was for that reason that there is a global call to do things differently and accelerate the rescue of the people.
He, however, noted: “But, something is very encouraging in your administration, and I will like to commend the effort of your government in providing the enabling environment for all stakeholders in the health sector.
“We also noted your commitment towards improving primary healthcare services and the revitalisation and drive to improve the health status of the good people of Rivers State.
“I will like to specifically commend you for some of the key achievements that have come to our notice, namely: the reactivation of the task force on primary healthcare in line with the Abuja Declaration, and again, I like to emphasize the need for other departments to participate towards efforts to reach that reactivation.
“The consistent release of counterpart funds for supplementary immunization activities. This is something we like to see in many states. What is happening in Rivers State is truly encouraging,” he said.
He commended the Governor for his determination to complete and upgrade the zonal hospitals, strengthen primary healthcare services, and support other efforts to improve the quality of life of Rivers people.

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Tinubu Consults Labour, Defers Decision On New Minimum Wage

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President Bola Tinubu yesterday held consultations with the organised labour in furtherance of his engagements with critical stakeholders toward arriving at a new national minimum wage.
Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting yesterday in Abuja.
Onyejeocha said, “The meeting was a conversation between a father and his children, and not a negotiation on the new national minimum wage.”
Also speaking, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Joe Ajaero, said there was no discussion in terms of what the new national minimum wage would be, and that the status quo remained.
“We didn’t discuss figures.
“The status quo remains, the Federal Government stands on N62,000 while labour is sticking to N250,000.
“We will be back after one week to continue the discussion,” Ajaero said.
President-General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr Festus Osifo, also said labour presented the issues bothering Nigerians to the President as part of his consultations toward arriving at a new minimum wage.
Osifo said the meeting was an opportunity for labour to let the President know how the economic difficulties and the value of the Naira have affected the prices of goods in the market.
“We are all aware of what is happening in the country, how the high cost of living has impacted the ordinary Nigerians and workers.
“So, it was necessary to let the President know the exact situation of things in the country,” Osifo said.

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We’ve Started Preparing Our 2025 Budget -Fubara …Says Amaewhule, 24 Others’ Seats Were Declared Vacant On Dec 13

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that his administration has started the process of preparing the 2025 budget, just as he insisted that the legislative seats of Martin Amaewhule and his co-travellers that were declared vacant on December 13, 2023, will remain so.
The Governor stated that they are truly gone and will eventually return home because they desired it to be so when they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which they won their election, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), voluntarily.
Governor Fubara spoke when he received on solidarity visit the leadership structure, critical stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at Government House in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The Governor, who dismissed their recent ranting as noise-making from delusional folks, urged the 25 former lawmakers to wake up from their slumber to see the ship of governance in the State sailing on smoothly.
Governor Fubara also said that his administration has started preparing details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority placed on education, healthcare and agriculture.
He said, “Let me assure you that agriculture is an area that we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already started preparing, will address. Don’t bother about those people that are delusional. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so that they can hear anywhere they are.
“I wanted to help them, sincerely because I know them. And I have said it before, these are people that I have helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rents. So, I wanted to help them.
“We all knew what happened when they crossed (defected), and how did they cross? Because of our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed! They are gone, and they are gone. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I accepted to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as it is said.”
Governor Fubara stated: “But, they thought they are smart. What is holding them is the declaration of their seats vacant that was done on December 13, 2023. That is what is holding them. We are not doing any budget to nullify that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.
“For me, as I am talking to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I am going to present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, healthcare and agriculture.”
Governor Fubara explained that the three priority areas that the 2025 budget will focus on will ensure that even if more roads will be constructed, emphasis will be placed on providing quality healthcare services to keep the people healthy.
“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they can’t go to private schools, let them go to the public ones that have standard. We need to go to good health facilities owned by government and get standard healthcare services.
“Even if we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones, you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our thinking.
“And when we get to the issue of agriculture, it will address the issue of unemployment. When we start engaging our youths, they wouldn’t have time to be involved in crime. So, our thinking is to secure and protect our State,” he added.
Governor Fubara reiterated that his administration is not fighting anybody, and will continue to show appreciation to those who have contributed to the good fortunes that he has received in life.
The Governor, however, clarified that in being loyal, it does not mean losing one’s liberty, sense of discretion, and what is right, which is why he will not be a Governor forced on his knees to stair the affairs of the State.
He added, “I want to assure you one thing: we are not fighting anybody. We appreciate what God has used people to also do in our lives. But, we are not going to rule (govern) this State on our bent knees. We will rule standing this way I am standing.
“If it is only being on our knees to rule that is the way that they will see us as being loyal, then, I will pack my few things that I have here, and go and relax in my house comfortably because it will be a disaster, not just to me but to everyone in thd State and even my own generation.
“So, I will continue to stand tall and stand on the side of truth. So, let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing your people, the great people of Etche and Omuma together to come and pay us a solidarity visit.
“We want to assure you that we recognize all ethnic groups, and we are not here because of any particular group. We are here and standing for Rivers State. Our greatest support has come, not from my own people (Opobo), but from all of you.”
Governor Fubara urged the people of Etche Nation to sustain their support for his administration because its vision is clear and encompassing to advance the well-being of all Rivers people.
The Governor said, as stated in the national anthem, he is determined to establish a climate (State) where every man should be free of oppression, and freely pursue their aspirations.
He emphasised: “We are asking for only one thing from you: Support us because our interest is very clear and straight. We mean well for our people. We want everyone to be free. We want to lead with the fear of God. We want you to express yourselves without fear.
“So, I want to assure you that we are on the right track. With your support, we are going to get there. Don’t allow anybody deceive you. They can go to the media and dance; when they go behind, they cry. It is the truth. We don’t know how to dance but we say it the way it is, and stand tall anywhere we go.”
Governor Fubara, in responding to the requests of the people, said his administration is working with the Nigeria Police in finding lasting solutions to the hydra-headed issue of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area while urging them to continue to provide vital information of strange people and their operations to the relevant authorities.
The Governor also promised to address the issue of illegal dredging activities in the area, and undertake reconstruction work on priority areas, including roads, schools and health facilities, just as he announced the donation of N50million to Ogbakor Etche Worldwide for the smooth running of the organisation.
In his speech, Oyeisi Etche, His Eminence, Eze Emmanuel Opurum, said Etche and Omuma people will continue to give full support to Governor Fubara and ensure that his administration succeeds.
Eze Opurum, who also said that the political crisis in Rivers State is an ill wind that will do no good to anybody, called on governors of the 36 States of the Federation to quickly summon a meeting to collectively find a lasting solution to the crisis, which should be communicated to President Bola Tinubu and eventually enforced.
On his part, the President General of Ogbakor Etche Worldwide, Sir Charles Nwonuala, said the Etche people, who share in the travails, joy and the many victories of Governor Fubara, came to pledge their unalloyed support, confidence and faith in him and his administration.
Sir Nwonuala also presented a list of roads, schools and other development needs plaguing them as a people, while insisting that they endorse and support the good governance provided by the Governor in the State.
In his speech, Head of Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke, said the Oyeisi Etche, the entire leadership structure plus 70 academic professors from Etche Nation, have come together with women and youths to express solidarity to Governor Fubara to enable his administration succeed.
Dr Nwaeke emphasised that they are particularly happy to identify with the administration because they rank among first who felt liberated when the administration of Governor Fubara started giving his all-inclusive leadership approach and love for peace.

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