The designation of a former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as the head of the All Progressives Congress (APC) reconciliation committee is one that has drawn attention for different reasons. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM reports on the implication
Undoubtedly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is enmeshed with crises in all fronts going by reports from the ward, state, zone and national levels of the party. Therefore, to most stakeholders of the ruling party, the reconciliatory committee recently constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari though long overdue is a welcome idea. The committee led by the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, according to the presidency, is to consult, reconcile and build confidence for the party.
While the national leadership of the party initially kept mum over the development, apparently over the claim it was not consulted before the decision was arrived at there is no doubt that the committee must do everything possible to put the APC house in order before the party holds its national conventions ahead of the 2019 general elections.
This is against the backdrop that as at today, only very few APC states is free from crisis. Most of the states across the different geopolitical zones have one problem or the other capable of tearing the party apart. In the South West APC, it is only in Ekiti State one can say there is no seemingly crisis.
From Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and Osun, there is one or two crises that if not properly manage could cause political misfortune for the ruling party. In Ogun State for instance, there are two factions led by the governor, Ibukunle Amosun and a former governor of the state, Segun Osoba. In Oyo State, the political difference between Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu is in the public glare. The situation is not different in Lagos, Ondo and Osun as one can easily point out divisions between the governors and some APC stalwarts in the states.
In Lagos for example, there are alliances capable of undermining the victory of the party in the forthcoming elections. The governor (Akinwumi Ambode) and Tinubu are on one side, while some party stalwarts like the National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola (also a former governor of the state) are in different camps. The story is not much different in Ondo and Osun states. It was glaring that it was as a result of internal wrangling that made the party to lose the recent senatorial bye-election in Osun State.
The story is the same in the South-East. In Ebonyi State, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu is pitched against some other party chieftains in the state. So it is in Enugu, Imo and Abia states. Similarly, the APC in the South South geo-political zone is not spared of crisis. In fact, the national leadership of APC has just waded into the feud between the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Ameachi and the senator representing Rivers South East senatorial district, Senator Magnus Abe.
In Edo state, there is a cold war between the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie -Oyegun and the former governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The latter and the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki are in the same camp against Oyegun. Up North, the only states which are free of crisis are Sokoto, Katsina, Borno and Kebbi. The party in the other 15 states of the region is battling one crisis or the other.
The states that are worst hit are Kogi, Kano and Kaduna. Describing the APC crisis, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus said: “What we have ruling Nigeria today is a broken party and a broken government. Spiritually APC has already left the villa, what we must fine tune is the physical accomplishment.”
To many, Secondus only stated what is on the public domain that APC as a political is not doing well and that this has affected its administration. For a government in power to do well, the party must do well, analysts argued. The analysts further opined that for a party to do well, there must be discipline, party loyalty, party cohesion and party supremacy.
These many APC members believe are lacking in the party. Former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Engr. Buba Galadima, who lamented lack of party supremacy in APC said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC ought to have deregistered APC. These defects may have informed the President’s decision to set up a national reconciliation committee.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President, Garba Shehu, which announced the setting up of the committee, read in part: “As part of on-going efforts to improve cohesion within the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari has designated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead the consultation, reconciliation and confidence building efforts. “The assignment will involve resolving disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in some states of the federation.” But as noble as the President’s decision may be, some party members have faulted it.
Those who queried the decision said it was not under the purview of the President to do that and if he needed to do that it would have been in conjunction with the APC National Working Committee (NWC). For some other persons, the choice of Tinubu is wrong. They reason that the APC national leader is also an aggrieved person and therefore he is not in a position to reconcile the warring factions.
It was further advanced that Tinubu has an ass to grind with some leaders of the party in Ogun, Kogi, Ondo and Oyo states as well with the APC NWC members. Some members of the party, against this backdrop, believe that there is no way his reconciliation would not be tainted with bias. However, for another political school within the party, Tinubu should first reconcile himself with members of the party leadership before he can have the strength and morality to reconcile other aggrieved members and avoid escalating the problems in the APC.
We’ll use dialogue to resolve myriads of problems in maritime industry–Nwabunike
Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike last week emerged the new National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in the election held in Enugu. Nwabunike, who is the Managing Director of Mac- Tonnel Nigeria Limited, and pioneer chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), in this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he speaks on the programmes of his administration. He insists that there are more civilized ways of addressing issues not lockouts.
ANLCA’s national elections have come and gone; what does your victory entail for members?
My victory is not only for members of ANLCA but is also a victory for all because it will bring about total emancipation from foreigners, who have taken over our businesses and jobs for our people. It is total emancipation from the unwholesome activities of some government agencies that do not want to play the game by the rules.
It is victory for all the operational challenges faced by our people in the course of doing their legitimate businesses. We will ensure that freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents are seen as professionals and not dropouts.
We will embark on an aggressive training and re-training of our members to make them globally competitive in their operational activities. We will enthrone a regime of international best practice for our members and also network with international bodies and agencies in terms of training and re-training our members on international best practice. You will see a total re-organisation of the customs brokerage and freight forwarding profession in Nigeria.
There is this clamour for ceding certain percentage of import duties collected by the customs brokerage agents. What is your take on this?
We will interface with the National Assembly in many areas. One of them is making input into the import guidelines of the country since we are directly involved. Secondly, since we generate the revenue for the Nigeria Customs Service in terms of import duties and other fees and levies collection, it will not be out of place if our welfare is taken care of in the process of doing this.
There may be challenges and difficulties at the beginning, but we will triumph in the end. We will seek adequate reward from government agencies for our members, in doing all these; we will apply dialogue and consultations not confrontation. This is why we will partner the National Assembly with a view to creating the needed legal framework.
A lot of freight forwarders and customs brokerage agencies are not computerised. What do you intend to do about this, especially in terms of helping them acquire modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT)?
First and foremost, we will put in place a wonderful and ICT compliant secretariat for the association. Like I told you earlier, the new executive will train and retrain members on international best practice, in international trade business. ICT would form part of this training and capacity building programme.
We are considering exploring the possibility of guaranteeing loans from Micro Finance Banks to enable them acquire modern ICT equipment that would ease their jobs and by so doing enhance professional efficiency. How would you relate with the Federal Government in terms of international trade policies that affect freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents? Like I told you earlier, caution will be our watchword and so we will employ dialogue not confrontation and lockouts. We will employ every legitimate and modern means of addressing issues.
For instance, we would want to make inputs into fiscal policies that affect us, especially fixing tariffs and charges, we will dialogue with relevant government agencies in this direction. For instance, we believe that the government should revisit the issue of the 41 items blacklisted from accessing foreign exchange through the official market.
We also think that the government should at this time review its vehicle import policy, especially the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders. Everyone knows that this policy has not achieved its desired objectives for obvious reasons.
So it is high time the government allowed the importation of vehicles through the land borders, especially Seme and Idiroko but efforts must be made to ensure that appropriate duty is paid on any vehicle so imported.
We will also seek a review of import tariff and charges for some staple foods consumed mostly by the poor masses such as rice, tomato puree. It is commendable that the government is trying to encourage local production of such products, but we propose that in situations where locally produced ones cannot meet the needs of the over 180 million Nigerians, the shortfall should be imported, at least until the country is self -sufficient in the production of such items.
What would be the association’s relationship with the Nigerian Shippers Council?
As a regulatory agency of the government, ANLCA under my watch will liaise with the Nigerian Shippers Council to check some of the excesses of shipping companies and terminal operators.
The current rampant cases of imposition of arbitrary levies and charges by terminal operators and shipping companies would no longer be tolerated. We will not allow a situation whereby you wake-up in the morning and find out that the entire charges have been reviewed upwards without any form of negotiation or all the notice to that effect.
It is also a well- known fact that our jobs are being taken away by foreign customs brokerage agents, Customs officers and even members of the Nigerian Plant Quarantine Service today do clearing jobs at the ports.
We will not sit and allow all these to continue and so we will device mechanisms to ensure that all these anomalies are corrected. Cargo clearing business must be done in Nigeria the same way it is done elsewhere including neighbouring African countries and indeed all over the world. So we will take a critical look at these issues, activities of shipping companies, terminal operators and even bonded terminals and other service providers at the ports
There is a disagreement between the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and ANLCA over Practitioners Operating Fee (POF). What is your take on it?
You know ANLCA is currently in court with the CRFFN, but we will resolve all that through dialogue. The new Executive Council of the association would take urgent steps to resolve the debacle. We will seek legal advice from the legal department of the association as well as from independent sources with a view to urgently resolving the crisis. There must be a way forward.
How would you relate with other members of the various associations in the industry?
You will recall that the immediate past president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) was at the venue of the election that saw my emergence. So I have a good rapport with all of them. We need to speak with one voice. We will synergise with the Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and even the association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF), among others.
Controversies over INEC’s poll dates
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently rolled out the dates for Nigeria’s elections for the next 36 years. ONYEKACHI EZE writes how far the commission can go in adhering to the dates and the challenges posed by the controversial amendment of the Electoral Act
For the next 36 years, the dates for Nigeria’s general elections are no longer speculative but certain. The elections will begin on the third Saturday of February in the election year to be completed two weeks later, just like Americans know that they will go to the polls on the second Tuesday of November in the election year, to elect their president.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said this was to ensure certainty in the dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by all the stakeholders in the electoral process.
“Our democracy is maturing and the commission believes that there should be certainty with regard to the timetable for elections,” said Prince Solomon Soyebi, an INEC National Commissioner who also doubles as Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity Committee.
Soyebi, who announced the date for the 2019 general elections, told newsmen on March 9 last year that the presidential and National Assembly elections, which will be the first in the series of elections, would hold on February 16, 2019 while the governorship, state Assembly and Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections would hold on March 2, 2019.
In furtherance to this, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, three weeks ago, rolled out the timetable for the nation’s general elections for the next 36 years.
Prof. Yakubu told leaders of political parties at the quarterly meeting with the commission in Abuja that apart from next year’s general elections, the 2023 general elections would hold on February 18 and March 4.
“In 2027, the dates are February 20 and March 6; in 2031, it is February 15 and March 1. In 2035, it is February 17 and March 3; in 2039, it is February 19 and March 5 and in 2043, it will hold on February 21 and March 7.
“In 2047, it is February 15 and March 2; in 2051, it is February 18 and March 1; in 2055, it is February 20 and March 6,” Yakubu said.
Nigeria holds seasonal elections once every four years and elected members of the executive arm sworn in on May 29. Presidential or gubernatorial proclamation is issued thereafter for elected members of the parliament to convene for legislative business.
The Nigerian Constitution provides that elections should hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure.
Apart from America, election dates for countries like Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and even neighbouring West African country, Ghana, are known in advance. Ghana’s election takes place on December 7 of the election year.
Unfortunately, since the dawn of the present democratic dispensation, election dates fixed by INEC have not been sacrosanct. On two occasions, the commission was forced to shift the poll date, first, in 2011 by two days, and in 2015 by six weeks.
On April 2, 2011 after Nigerians were already in the field to elect their National Assembly representatives, former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega announced the postponement of the election by two days, citing logistic problems. Even former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was already in his electoral ward in Otuoke in far away Bayelsa State for the election, had to return immediately to Abuja to meet with the commission on the way forward.
In a nationwide broadcast, Prof. Jega said the election was re-sheduled for Monday, April 4.
“The reason for this is the unanticipated emergency we have experienced with late arrival of result sheets in many parts of the country. Accordingly, in many places, our officials have not reported at the polling units, making it now difficult to implement the Modified Open Ballot Procedure that we have adopted,” the former INEC Chairman explained.
He described the result sheet as central to the electoral process, adding: “Not only do we have to enter the results in the sheets, the number of accredited voters is also to be entered in the result sheet.”
Part of the logistic problems was the distribution of ballot papers meant for the gubernatorial election scheduled for April 16.
Before the shift in date, elections had already begun in Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu, and other states. Jega further explained that in order to maintain the integrity of the electionand “retain effective overall control of the process, the commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the National Assembly elections to Monday, April 4, 2011.”
Four years later, in 2015, the poll date was again shifted by six weeks, this time at the behest of the military.
INEC had in January 2014, fixed February 14 and 28, 2015 for the national and state elections respectively. But on February 7, 2015, Prof. Jega said the election dates were shifted to March 28 and April 11, 2015.
“Let me state from the outset that the commission’s position was reached after carefully weighing the suggestions from briefings held with different stakeholders in the electoral process,” he said.
Jega said the elections were postponed after the nation’s security agencies indicated that they would not be available to support the elections planned for February 14 and 28.
“Last Wednesday, which was a day before the Council of State meeting, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) wrote a letter to the commission, drawing attention to recent developments in four Northeast states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe currently experiencing the challenge of insurgency.
“The letter stated that security could not be guaranteed during the proposed period in February for the general elections.
“This advisory was reinforced at the Council of State meeting on Thursday where the NSA and all the Armed Services and Intelligence Chiefs unanimously reiterated that the safety and security of our operations cannot be guaranteed, and that the security services needed at least six weeks within which to conclude a major military operation against the insurgency in the Northeast; and that during this operation, the military will be concentrating its attention in the theatre of operations such that they may not be able to provide the traditional support they render to the police and other agencies during elections,” he explained.
Jega said the commission relied on Section 26(1) of the Electoral 2010 (As Amended), which states that: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said though the dates have been fixed, “if the commission ascertains that the lives of its officials or voters will be at serious risk or if there is a major armed conflict that could put the safety of the general public at risk,” or “if there is a major natural disaster, like massive flooding or earthquake,” the date could be adjusted.
Perhaps, what brought about the need for the certainty in election dates was the stability of Nigeria’s democracy. For the first time since independence in 1960, Nigeria has had 18 years of uninterrupted civilian rule, and May 29 has become a date set aside for the swearing ceremony of newly elected members of the executive.
The two other republics were short-lived, which probably was the reason why there was no attempt at certainty of election dates.
The timetable has attracted commendations from Nigerians.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), an umbrella body of registered political parties in the country, said the advance fixture of election dates would engender certainty in the election calender. IPAC also said the dates were within the period stipulated by the Election Act.
IPAC Chairman, Mohammed Nalado, described the sequence of elections as a constitutional issue.
“I think this is a constitutional issue and electoral matter. What INEC has done at the moment is based on what is in the provision of the constitution.
“If there is any law that supersedes what they have done, that law is not to be abandoned. So we stand on the same page. So, we have to be working together, INEC, political parties and most important the stakeholders in the democratic development,” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Ali Ndume, also said early release of the timetable would help INEC start early preparation for the elections.
“When I took over as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, I personally encouraged INEC to start preparing for 2019 now. When I looked at the budget of INEC, I discovered that there was no provisions for the 2019 elections. I advised them to make provisions for the 2019 election so that such items that are not sensitive and not perishable can be procured in time.
“It is not good for us to wait until a day or two to the election then we start running helter-skelter for the materials such as the data capture machine or other thing that should be in place. I personally believe that this INEC wants to improve on what has been done before and all encouragement and support should be given to them. So, let’s give them a chance,” Ndume said.
The Action Democratic Party (ADP), however, faulted the scheduling of the presidential election before the governorship poll. ADP National Chairman, Yabaji Yusuf Sani said it was an attempt by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to rig the 2019 polls.
“The order of the elections as released by the INEC is one thing we are not comfortable with because once you have a president sitting there, then he calls the shots. He can have his way against the wishes of the people of the country. So, this is one area we are not comfortable with and I think that area can be looked into,” he said.
ADP said the general elections should start from the State Assembly election and end with the presidential poll.
The National Assembly has also amended section 25(1) of the 2010 Electoral Act to re-order the sequence of the elections. Chairman of the conference committee that harmonised the decisions of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Suleiman Nazif, said the constitution only empowered the electoral commission to determine the date for the elections and not the sequence.
According to the amended sequence, which was, however, rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly election comes first followed by State Assembly and Governorship election while the presidential election comes last.
The amended section of the Act states: “25 (1), Elections into the offices of the president and vice president, the governor and deputy governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly of each state of the Federation shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election, (b) State Houses of Assembly and governorship elections (c) presidential election.
“The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.”
The amendment, however, did not alter the dates fixed by INEC for the eelection but the sequence.
President Buhari, in rejecting the amendment said it was in conflict with section 25 of the Principal Act, which he said: “May infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statute to the constitution.”
The president also noted that the “amendment to Section 138 of the Principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates, unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process.”
He added that “the amendment to Section 152 Sub-section ( 3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise Constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”
Until the 2015 general elections, the sequence of the elections had been the National Assembly, state House of Assembly and the governorship while the presidential election comes last.
Some persons have called on the National Assembly to veto the president on the bill. The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the power to amend the Electoral Act rests with the National Assembly.
The House of Representatives has said it would override the president on the bill while Senate said the court order barring it not to veto the president did not affect it.
‘I don’t think Buhari should seek re-election’
Fiery Lagos cleric and the General Overseer of Glorious End-Time Evangelical Ministries, Prophet Lai Bamidele, speaks on why President Muhammadu Buhari should not contest the next presidential election and what he describes as the betrayal of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
Some of the President’s men are still saying he is capable of ruling the country for another four years. Are you persuaded?
Well, the assessment will be based on some of the things I said in my previous interview last December, even before the open letters of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida to Buhari, and all the rest of them came up. I have said it early December that the best thing for Buhari is not to dare say he wants to re-contest. This is because the situation in the country now does not call for someone like Buhari as the next President. Much as Nigeria may have no good alternative to Buhari, the truth is that, the man is too old. Nigeria doesn’t need a 75 years old man to be the President over a population of 170 million people.
Besides, Buhari needs to go and take care of himself, because, from all indications, he has health issues, because his first two years in office were virtually spent in and out of the hospital. Again, the Buhari administration is too slow. Buhari got to the government, it took him seven months to appoint ministers; it has never happened in this country. You have only four years to spend, seven months is a waste and you say the government is running, which government is running? Now we wasted seven months and by the time he came up with ministers, he came up mostly with people who don’t know their right from the left. But I can only tell him the truth as a servant of God, because, the people that are eating under the government of Buhari don’t want him to go …as long as they are making their own money.
Are you saying the government does not have its good sides?
May I say this? This government has its successes and its failures but its failures are far more than its successes. Buhari’s failures started immediately after he won the election. From the onset, we knew the direction he was going. The first problem was that he betrayed all the people that helped him to get to power. Life is not like that. He betrayed Bola Tinubu, Abubakar Atiku and Bukola Saraki. These are the key people we all know that greatly assisted him to realise his ambition. I’m not a politician but we know what is happening in the country. He betrayed all of them;
he stabbed them in the back. But to crown it all, he made a fatal error to have sidelined Tinubu immediately after getting to power; that was the root of all the problems he has now found himself. A Yoruba adage says a stream that forgets its source will dry up. Tinubu too is to be commended to have deployed maturity. He kept on saying one word, that the party’s supremacy is number one. Buhari broke party supremacy. He said ‘I am for nobody but I am for everyone.’ Anybody can be anything, but that statement is working against him now. Saraki who was initially there for him has now turned against him, now that his government is having problems.
Do you think members of the opposition PDP, especially Ayo Fayose, the Ekiti State governor, are now justified in their various allegations against Buhari?
I am not a supporter of Fayose for anything, but let the truth be told: What Fayose was saying then about Buhari that all of us said he was insulting him are beginning to manifest as the truth. I was a very good supporter of Buhari, especially before and during the 2015 election. Much was expected from him.
What would you make of the recent reconciliation committee that President Buhari appointed Tinubu as head, to resolve the various disputes in the ruling APC?
It will be foolhardy of Tinubu to dance to the tune of Buhari now. He has to be tactful in his assignment of reconciling aggrieved APC members. This is because, having been betrayed by the Buhari government once, he should not allow himself to be fooled for the second time.
…Unlike Obasanjo who is shrewd because he is a nationalist and wants things done along that line, Tinubu would always look beyond that, thinking of good leadership and credible service to the citizenry. For Obasanjo, he brought in a sick president, knowing he could die any moment and brought Jonathan who was not prepared for leadership to be the Vice President.
But look at Tinubu; he brought up Fashola. Fashola did excellently although he has his lapses as there is no human being that is perfect. So, when again Tinubu brought out Ambode, a lot of people criticised him saying Ambode was a green horn. But look at the Lagos governor today. What Ambode has done under about three years surpass all the things done in the entire eight years of Fashola.
We were all thinking there would be no governor in Nigeria that will be raised in Lagos that can be like Fashola, but Ambode has proved us wrong. And indirectly too, Tinubu has proved us wrong through his ingenuity.
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