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Anambra Central: Re-run holds after a long wait

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The long wavering over the Anambra Central re-run would be resolved tomorrow as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts the court-ordered poll to elect a representative for the senatorial district, FELIX NWANERI reports

 

The people of Anambra Central senatorial will go to the poll tomorrow to elect their representative in the Senate after over two years the court ordered for a re-run in the district. The seat became vacant after the sack of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, who was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Returning Officer for the March 28, 2015 National Assembly elections, Dr. Pius Okoye, while announcing the election result said Ekwunife, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), polled 101,548 votes to defeat 14 other candidates.

Former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh and a former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige (who is presently Minister of Labour and Productivity), who contested on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) came second and third respectively with 77, 129 and 20, 850 votes respectively.

While Ekwunife declared the outcome of the election as “victory for the masses” and urged her opponents to sheathe their swords and accept her victory in good faith, the APGA and APC candidates rejected the results. Ngige particularly called for a cancellation of the election, while Umeh headed to the State and National Assembly Election Tribunal to challenge Ekwunife’s victory. After four months of legal battle, the tribunal, which sat in Awka, the state capital, on October 9, 2015, dismissed the petition filled by Umeh.

The Justice Naiyi Aganaba-led three-man tribunal unanimously upheld Ekwunife’s election and struck out all relief sought by the APGA candidate. Affirming the result declared by INEC, the tribunal declared that by its calculation, Ekwunife scored 93,300 votes as against Umeh’s 85,898 to win majority of votes cast during the election.

Justice Aganaba also ruled that the petitioners – Umeh and APGA – failed woefully to establish their case, which they hinged on alleged mutilations and incorrect figures of results upon which the PDP candidate was declared winner by INEC. He also ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt that some errors and mutilations found in some result sheets as spotted by the petitioners were enough to nullify the election.

Umeh had approached the tribunal for it to declare him winner on the ground that he got the highest number of lawful votes cast. At the tribunal, through his lawyers, the APGA candidate, going by the ruling of the court, was able to show that the result announced by INEC was false by re-calculating the figures on the certified true copies of the results declared by INEC. A re-calculation of figures presented by INEC showed that PDP got 93,860 on the face value instead of 101,548 while APGA scored 85,898 instead of 77,129.

There was also the issue of whether Ekwunife was validly nominated. Umeh in his petition argued that the PDP in Anambra State had been factionalised in the past 12 years. He argued that before the primaries started, internal squabbles in the PDP took a heavy toll on the party, necessitating that Ekwunife and her group became candidates without going through any primaries or any process as provided by the Electoral Act. Despite the issues raised by Umeh, the tribunal ruled that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.

Expectedly, the APGA candidate appealed the judgement and after about eight weeks of legal tussle, a Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, on December 7, 2015, sacked Ekwunife and ordered a fresh election within 90 days.

Chairman of the three-man appeal panel, Justice A.D Yahaya, in his lead judgement faulted the earlier judgement of the lower tribunal which upheld Ekwunife’s election. “The perverse judgment of the lower tribunal cannot stand.

The appeal succeeds. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct fresh election in Anambra Central within 90 days to elect a new senator for the senatorial district,” he ruled. The two other judges in the appeal panel, Justices T.O. Awotoye and D.S. Sanga, also concurred with the lead judegment.

While, series of litigations by interested parties stalled the re-run, hope was raised for the people of the district in November last year, when the electoral commission announced January 13th date for the poll. But, their optimism of electing a senator was dampened shortly after the timetable was announced, when a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who is one of the PDP aspirants as the validly elected representative for the district. Though INEC responded by saying that it is studying the judgement, one of the contending parties –APGA – went ahead to flag-off its campaign for the re-run.

The party’s candidate, Umeh, who assured that the re-run will hold as scheduled, said the court order was a ridiculous one, especially as it came from a High Court in a matter that has been settled by the Supreme Court.

While the conflicting positions raised doubt over the poll, the coast was cleared yesterday, following the refusal of the Court of Appeal to stop the election. The Abuja division of the appellate court in refusing an application that sought to restrain INEC from conducting the rerun held that the earlier order made on November 20, 2017 directing INEC to conduct election for the senatorial seat within 90 days cannot be reversed so as not to make mockery of the judiciary.

Another PDP aspirant, Senator Annie Okonkwo, had approached the appellate court for leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal which had on November 20 last year ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election into the vacant Anambra Central senatorial seat within 90 days.

Senator Okonkwo declared that he was interested in challenging the judgement of November 20, 2017 as a senatorial aspirant. However, the application could not be entertained because most parties joined in the application were not served with the court processes.

Okonkwo then applied for an adjournment to enable him serve court processes on the respondents. He also applied for an order compelling INEC not to conduct the election until his application has been dully determined. INEC, however, objected to the request on the ground that huge public fund has been expended on preparation for the poll.

The commission’s position was upheld by the court as Justice Yahaya ruled that the court cannot compel INEC to make any undertaken to postpone the election because of an application that was not ripe for hearing. He further ruled that the Appeal Court having made an order on November 20, last year, cannot probate and reprobate at the same time.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we have not restrained INEC from conducting the election as ordered by this court on November 20, 2017,” he said. With the coast cleared for the poll, 14 candidates will file out tomorrow to seek the electorate’s mandate to represent Anambra Central in the upper legislative chamber.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, who declared this yesterday, however explained that the PDP would not participate in the exercise following a court order barring it from fielding a candidate.

He added that a total of 7,670 ad hoc workers have been recruited for the election scheduled to hold in 1,548 polling units. The REC further said that non-sensitive materials have already been distributed to the seven local government areas that make up the senatorial district.

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Politics

My plans for Oyo State, by Obisesan

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A former commissioner in Oyo State, Chief Lowo Obisesan, is a lawyer who is aspiring to govern the state on the platform of the Labour Party. In this interview with SUNDAY ADEBAYO, he speaks on why he is in the governorship race

 

As a successful business man and a barrister, what informed your interest in politics?

Actually, I am a lawyer like I earlier said, and the way things are going in Nigeria politically am not really happy about it and have not been so happy to attach myself. Some good friends and I weighed the options of joining politics then and felt it was better to wait and join at a later time. If you believe that politics is what everybody should get involved in why don’t we join the rest? And that is the reason why we find ourselves in the mist of politicians.

 

Why your choice of Labour Party instead of the major ruling party?

You know for the mere fact that some people are doing certain things in a particular way and that thing is not right does not mean we should join them. I was once in ACN that eventually fused into APC, but when I discovered that things were not done in the right way in my state I decided to let go of the party. Also when you consider other parties particularly PDP you can see that PDP is the type of the party where grabbers are many and people like that don’t have the interest of the people they want to govern at heart, but how to enrich themselves at the detriment of the innocent people of the country and particularly my state and you can see the way things are now. PDP brought us into this problem. We thought APC would bring us out of the problem, but look at what we are suffering today. The fear of God is not in the mind of these people that we can refer to as the leaders of the society.

 

What are the things you are going to do differently from what others have done to make Oyo State a better place?

I am going to do so many thing that will be quite different from what others have done and part of those thing is what I have said that you should have fear of God.

Without god fatherism it is usually difficult to win election. What’s your own view on this?

I don’t believe in that. I don’t share the idea and the principle because the issue of god-fatherism led us into this problem. A god father will push you and support you. When you win he wants to control you and will never let you deliver. But I have a lot of political leaders and mentors who are principled.

 

How would you analyze the Senator Abiola Ajimobi government?

Senator Ajimobi is my leader, my brother. He was my Oga and I can’t say anything about his government for now.I am grateful to him. People know me as a lawyer and but for Ajumobi I won’t be known in politics. When I was first made the Commissioner of Establishment and Habitat, I will never forget what he said about me. He said ‘you are honest and straightforward and to cap it all you have the means but you didn’t steal money in government. I will never run him down because God has used him for me sometime and if anything is wrong with the way he is running his government our people will decide whatever they deem fit when the next election comes.

 

What will be your main agenda if you eventually become the next governor of Oyo State?

Our economy needs to be improved considerably. If I tell you what I have found in line with what my leaders have been discussing ahead of 2019 people might steal it. So I won’t say it. If God says I will be there I will make sure that I work properly on the economy.

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Politics

Osun State deserves better deal –Ogunbiyi

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Dr. Akinade Ogunbiyi is the Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance and a well-grounded innovative scholar, In this interview, he speaks about his blueprint for the rescue mission in Osun State

 

What is your view of the security situation in the country vis-à-vis the herdsmen and other crimes?

It is really sad and inexplicable at this modern age that this is happening in Nigeria. I am sorry to say. I am gunning for a political position, because I am convinced that leadership can make the difference in everything. They will tell you that people are the most important when it comes to factors of production. But, I tell you, it is having the right people, not just people, but the right people. I don’t know how a country so blessed when you see the biblical country flowing with milk and honey, I have not seen any country in the world that fits into that description but God just decided that we won’t have the right leadership.

Fulani herdsmen (or killer herdsmen as they are called), communal clashes here and there, religious war, for crying out loud, we have to talk about what people need. I will be 56 in the next couple of weeks. We grew up in this country. I am a village boy to the core.
My primary, secondary, modern school, my university, everything was in the village. My father’s best friends, especially in my town, Ile-Ogbo, were from the Hausa community. My father was a herdsman. They thrived and they lived in harmony. You find Igbo community; you find in virtually every locality within the South-West.

You say Kano is a no man’s land just as they say Lagos is a no man’s land and you get to Kano in those days and you find every ethnic group represented and they lived as if they were in Umahia or Ile-Igbo. You get to Kaduna, it is the same thing. Is it not the same country? It is all about leadership.

You have leaders who have the capacity to lead well but they choose to do other things. This leadership issue we are talking about, they have the capacity to do the right thing, but they’ve decided to do otherwise.

 

You said your father was a herdsman…

Yes! My father was a herdsman. I grew up to know him as a herdsman. He would go with his friend from Ijebu to Kano and buy herds of cattle, 400 to 600, 1000; the two of them would trek, 90 days, 100 days to lead the cattle down to Oyo. There was no harassment in my locality; they were herdsmen. The three localities that make up Iwo land, Aiyedire, Iwo , and Olaoluwa local governments, we had herdsmen. We never had these issues.

If you come to my farm, about 25 kilometers from my village, you will see serve or eight year-old boys, two of them controlling about 400 herds of cattle. They pass through farms, they know when to stop them; they know when they see virgin land, they know when they see free grazing land.

 

So, what’s the way forward?

This is just political. The day our leaders will come together and say: ‘heck, we are one and let us line up as one these things will end.’ What else do we talk about? We are using ethnicity to divide ourselves. What do you say of India, a country of 1.3billion population; over 300,000 ethnic groups and their ethnic groups are as much as their religious beliefs. It is unfortunate. I can only appeal to our leaders. When people fail to give the deliverables that are needed for the common man to live a decent, peaceful life, they will look for alternative to engage us. This is exactly what is happening.

 

You are contesting on the platform of PDP. Looking at the state of the party as of today in Osun State, how confident are you that is the right platform? Looking at the economy of Osun today because it is heavily indebted, will you still be able to work within that kind of environment?

I will start from the second question. One of the things that spurred me into taking this decision is because of the common man of Osun State. For the past eight years, it has not been what it ought to be. They always say: ‘If it is not broken, don’t try to fix it.’ But as you just said Osun is indebted. We don’t even know how much the debt is. Some say it is N400billion; some say its N200billion.

The government itself said it is N143billion. But for eight years, this is the best that government can give. There is nothing bad in borrowing, the question is, what did you use the fund for? We know that Osun State is heavily indebted and luckily for all of us, there is no hidden place any longer. the Debt Management Office, every month, publishes the statistics.

So, there is nothing that is hidden. Not everybody would ride a car in his life time. Not everybody would build a house in his lifetime. Not everybody would buy bicycle or wear rubber slippers in his life time. But good leadership dictates that everybody must have access to the basic needs of life in order to live a decent life.

Coming back to the platform, I am not just new in politics. I may not have been out there in the open but I have been in PDP from God knows when. I have impacted the party. There are so many reasons why the country is going through what it is going through now. We thank God for the crisis in PDP.

Now, we have the benefit of a standard and which is the standard of APC coming into government. Failure isn’t a bad thing. But for the discerning eye, failure is an opportunity to start all over more intelligently. This is what PDP is presently is.

I was part and parcel of resolving the crisis of PDP in Osun State. Without a peaceful platform, no matter how well meaning, there is nothing you can do. PDP has got its act right especially in Osun. And Osun is like the new foundation the PDP at the national level is going to ride on.

We have learnt our lesson from our mistake. There is nothing bad in failure. It is a man who fails and still fails to rise above his failure that is a failure.

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Politics

Oshiomhole and his new dawn message

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Following his strong desire to inject new blood into the leadership and membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) the immediate past Governor of Edo State and aspirant for the National Chairmanship position of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken far reaching steps to galvanize, mobilize and sensitize all segments of people across the six geo political zones of the country.

This meeting with the elders, leaders and members who form the bulk of what today constitutes the mirror through which citizens of the nation and the world see how the party has fared in managing the collective patrimony and welfare of the people, is not only arduous but also interesting.

Indeed, the challenges facing the APC came to the fore last Tuesday when Comrade Oshiomhole visited the party caucus in the Senate to solicit their support ahead the National Convention of the party. It was an opportunity for the senators to bare their minds about the happenings in the party. It was so touching as the senators lamented how rotten the party has become under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

The presence of the entire leadership of the Senate at the meeting showed how important it was to them. And some who are sympathetic to the APC were happy because from the close door meeting, which lasted for over one hour, it was learnt that the senators were not keen on leaving the party but all the want is to be given that sense of belonging. That has given a lot of hope to majority of members of the party who equally see the coming of Oshiomhole as the solution that the APC needs.

And to show the acceptability of Oshiomhole by the APC senators, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who warmly welcomed Oshiomhole to the House, noted that majority of senators have this optimism that Oshiomhole has the capacity to lead the party at this point in time.

“I know Comrade has been working hard to talk to people about his ambition and I want to thank him for finding time to come personally to meet the APC caucus in the senate. I have known Comrade for many many years. We have worked together at various levels. So I know him very well and his ability to do all he said he wants to do in our party. I know he has the capacity to take up the challenges before us as a party and I have no doubt that he will do well and make APC a formidable party once more.”

Addressing the senators, Oshiomhole was able to touch on the burning issues in the party to the admiration of the senators. He stressed that the current disagreement in the party can be resolved when all parties sincerely come to the table with open minds for discussions. He said: “Today, I have come not only to solicit for your support but to also say that I dream of a political party where everybody will have that sense of pride and even the sense of ownership. I believe Sir, that the very part of our being a democratic voluntary organisation which a political party represents, means that the basis for coexistence has to be mutual respect.

“I believe that part of the challenges we had which are no secret is that the various organs of the party have not functioned in a manner that was anticipated. And I believe that without those organs functioning, we are just a collection of individuals, who can speak to a party when party members at various levels meet, debate and agree on a particular direction and that agreement becomes the party’s position. And when we now speak on issue of party supremacy, it is in the context of a decision that we democratically arrived at in which members of the party, from the “President to the senate, Reps, to governors and everyone is expected to abide by that decision because they are our own decisions. So I am convinced Mr. President, by my background, as someone who has been victim of power, both economic power and political power which pushed me into unionism and someone who has grown to become a governor, I never oppressed any one, I think I have passed through all the stages and I am fairly informed about the challenges of governors and the challenges of a political party.

“I believe Sir, and I want to assure our senators, that given the opportunity to chair our party, there are couples of things we must do differently. We cannot dream of a party in which there are no disagreements. If we have one like that it means the party is not democratic. Even in the military there are some disagreements and agreements.

“So in a genuine democracy, nobody is seen to get everything that he wants but everybody can get everything that we are able to negotiate. And the driver of this process has to be compromise. Nobody has all the monopoly and nobody is bereft of ideas. And I believe that if we approach issues with open mind with open mind we can do business

“I believe that getting support from all of you and all our leaders, that together we can strengthen our party, giving it more positive image, given our members that sense of participation and together we will confront the forthcoming election and remind Nigerians that even if we have not fix all the problems there is genuine commitment to fix them. And again cannot fix in three years what was destroyed in 16 years. This party is capable of delivering and sustaining the change that we have promised.”

Watching Oshiomhole say all these gave a number of Nigerians hope that the APC is back after the problems that plagued the party in the just concluded congresses in some states. And like Oshiomhole said, many believe that with sincerity of purpose and the spirit of sportsmanship, the crisis rocking the ruling party will be over soon.

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