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THE NIGHT THE JIHADISTS CAME TO OUR TOWN. (Part 1)

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By Martins Tachio

On a quiet night in febuary 2017, Ada was startled out of sleep by distant shouts of ‘fire, fire, fire please help’, as she tried to figure out where the persistent shouts were coming from, she was again jolted by sounds of intense and sustained gun shots that sounded even closer!

She made to hide inside her wardrobe, but as she jumped out of bed…she kicked the side stool she had sat on bed to eat dinner with 4 hours earlier, In pain she crawled into the wardrobe as her shin begun bleeding ceaselessly.

More gunshots rented the air as the shouts ‘fire, fire’ started fading out.

About seventy meters from Ada’s one room apartment was a church building belonging to the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. It had been attacked on first site by the gunmen on entering Azinda town where they splashed gasoline and quickly set it ablaze!

The local pastor and his family of five in the adjoining pastor’s lodge in the church compound were all roasted alive… the blaze was still raging full force when the Invaders started going door to door demanding for money, laptops, phones, women and in some cases the holy Koran.

Ada was listening to the various noises outside of her small apartment, the more she listened, the more scared she became.

She had zero chance of survival unless she did not come face to face with the marauding hoodlums.

Buried inside the closet, she could hear chants of ‘Alahu Akbar! Alahu Akbar!’ as doors are kicked open or rammed with timber logs. Home occupants were screaming in agony from a distance!!!

She pulled herself together, picked up her phone and tried to call the divisional police officer (DPO) of the local police post, whom she was familiar with… Assistant Superintendent of Police Kelvin Musa, the phone rang out until on the fourth attempt when ASP Musa picked up the call and sounded extremely terrified!!! He said ‘Ada what is the problem’? Before he could complete his sentence, she had started whispering back at him ‘sir, some people are in our area burning down houses and breaking doors, please send your men to come over and help us’…. Musa’s response was shocking as he responded ‘We cannot come as our police post is on fire and many of my men are missing please bear with us, I will see you tomorrow’… the line clicked and went Dead.

Ada started sobbing alone in her hiding, lamenting what had become of her lovely country Nigeria and Azinda town, a place she chose to stay shortly after her national youth service Corp.

She was young, beautiful and single. She sobbed and said a silent prayer to the God of heaven!

The attackers had just murdered a man, his wife and her cousin who came visiting from the village that same evening… and moved a block farther from Ada’s residence.

More chants of ‘Alahu Akbar’ pierced through the air of the grim night again and again, next stop was a small compound built of mud, inside the living room was no flooring…the door was flimsy, so the armed men kicked it open just to be confronted by a leper and his equally leprous wife and their 3 year old daughter.

When the Invaders observed that the occupants of the house were perpetually ill people, they demanded from them to bring out their copy of the Koran! When the leprous couple could not do so, the turbaned attackers just shot them dead leaving the 3yr old daughter crying on the mud ground the house was built on!

The gunmen’s next stop was Mr Bisade’s house, where he lived with his wife, children and dependents. Bisade’s family ran a thriving grinding Mill in the community, so when the men came, they ransacked the household for money, collected every dime they could get; although Bisade was a Muslim, they tied him up and slaughtered him like a ram, shot his wife on the leg and left with two adult daughters and a boy.

Next was Mr Josiah Garba, a police constable whose house was just a few feet away. He was off duty so was at home, his family lives in Gombe…on entering his house their flashlights noticed a police calendar on the wall and freshly ironed uniforms, without a word they shot him dead instantly.

The armed men went round many houses in Azinda, killing, stealing and abducting young men and women! Ada was well awake when the jihadist’s ‘Alahu Akbar’ chants began interchanging with the early morning cock crows!

Meanwhile as the ‘Godsent’ killings was going on, signals were sent to the nearby Nigerian military base on the fringes of Azinda around 1.30am, but as at 4.45am, the soldiers were yet to receive command from Abuja to proceed to the troubled spot! In that same murderous night, on another side of town, ASP Kelvin Musa was seized and slaughtered on a slab!

As Ada hid in overwhelming fear for her life for hours, she suddenly felt the town go quiet… no more gun shots and no more chants of ‘Alahu Akbars’. Only the sounds of early morning cold breeze.

She limped out of the closet to see the first lights of day break.

She braved outside of her residence to meet other community members that had survived the night of horrendous slaughter… everyone looked on in horrified silence as all began to go round to see what happened to friends or relations.

Instantly, everyone headed the direction of the district head’s (local chief) house. There, the chief was slaughtered along with six of his guards! The palace was completely incinerated! Only the ruins were there.

Just a few houses were lucky to evade intrusion. Goats and various livestock were carted away. Dogs were shot dead; headless bodies of dead men littered every street corner and footpath!

In-patients at the local hospital were attacked with some butchered all together!

By the time Ada and the other surviving men in the community had gone round, each and every one was forlorn and depressed. She continued to cry like an orphaned child as she walked back to her apartment.

A few minutes past 6am, sirens blared, and a military motorcade drove into Azinda.

As it is common in the north east and all insurgents held territories in northern Nigeria, the army hardly goes on offensive, they remain defensive!

With a mega phone, the Nigerian troops called everyone out. Ada had already made up her mind to leave town as soon as day break, so she’d packed just her clothes and credentials.

The army evacuated the wounded and guided the much traumatized inhabitants of Azinda to the nearest internally displaced people’s camp about a 100 kilometers away from the community.

The state government on its part was to begin arrangements for Mass burials for the headless bodies that could be found.

At the IDP camp, Ada spent the night and next day left for Oturkpo, Benue State, to reunite with her parents and siblings… from there she will think and decide what next to do in Nigeria that is at war, while its political and military leaders live in denial… they know, but they are watching it through rose colored eye glasses!

Boko Haram has waged war on the Nigerian state since 2011, the murderous group’s intention is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria because it believes the country’s political and economic fortune has been hijacked by a very corrupt northern cabal over the years…the group, Boko Haram is making uncurtailed progress in its mission.

This is a work of fiction but…

Martins Tachio is a multi-media journalist based in Abuja Nigeria and a good governance enthusiast.
martins.tachio@gmail.com

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Opinion

Was Lawan a stranger to Nigerians before his emergence as Senate President?

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Senate President Ahmad Lawan
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By Ola Awoniyi

I might have titled this piece: “Re: Once again, most legislators will not return to National Assembly,” because it was prompted by an article under that title written by the highly respected academic, rights activist and columnist, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, and published by some media outfits on Friday, 17th June, 2022. However, I decided otherwise because Prof. Ibrahim’s commentary, as usual, made many points that I consider valid and thus have no issue with.

But an aspect of the article is capable of leaving the reader with a wrong impression, and that is what I have set out here to correct.

Which means this piece is actually not a rejoinder, in the full sense of that word, to the  article by the good Professor.

Just an amendment to it, as they would have described this effort of mine in Parliament.

The focus of Prof. Ibrahim’s article was the stranglehold of state governors on their political parties in their states and how this continues to reflect in the high turnover of lawmakers, especially in the National Assembly.

The writer mentioned the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as one of a few lawmakers who have had long tenures in the National Assembly, despite the harsh political atmosphere he observed.

His misstep was in how he explained Lawan’s survival.

Prof. Ibrahim wrote: “The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, is the most spectacular exception that breaks the rule.

He has been in the National Assembly since 1999, first in the House of Representatives and subsequently in the Senate.

For some reason, successive governors of Yobe State have always given him the green light to stay on.

I wonder why? Could it be linked to his style and record of being unobtrusive and inconspicuous as a legislator  who did nothing and was therefore perceived as non-threatening?

What is clear is that until he became the Senate president, hardly anyone noticed him.

He was discovered when he became Senate president three years ago and then broke the Richter scale of political ‘arrivism’ when the APC chairman announced him to be the ‘presidential’ choice of President Buhari.”

I would have ignored it if those assertions were made by an undistinguished writer.

But they are hard to overlook in the well-read column of a Professor of Political Science who is universally respected for the fairness and profundity of his opinions.

It is a typical of the columnist to claim that Lawan was unknown prior to his emergence as the 14th President of the Senate in 2019, because that claim is not true.

And it is not fair to say Lawan was “an unobtrusive and inconspicuous legislator” as of 2019.

Those claims left me curious because, more than most people, Prof. Ibrahim is in a position to know better.

He knew Lawan was the choice of his party,

the APC, for election as Senate President in 2015, based on his reputation as one of the most effective and better known opposition lawmakers in the Fourth Republic by then.

Of course, Prof. Ibrahim would remember that Lawan was the Senate Leader before his emergence as Senate President.

So, how can the Senate Leader be “unobtrusive and inconspicuous”? Even if a person was randomly appointed to the position, the role would haul him out of obscurity.

Aside from the presiding officer, the next most visible in parliament is the Majority Leader, who leads in championing the cause of their party’s government.

The Majority Leader harnesses support for executive bills and government policies in parliament.

Parties hardly assign such a critical role to a greenhorn, talkless of an “unobtrusive and inconspicuous” member of parliament.

And Lawan did not step into that position from darkness. Before his election to the Senate, he had spent two terms of eight years in the House of Representatives, where at different times he was privileged to chair critical committees like Agriculture (2003-2005) and Education (2005-2007), despite the fact that he was in the opposition at those times.

Such committees are usually chaired by members of the majority party in Parliament, so it is a reflection of what his colleagues thought of him to have accorded him those privileges.

At the Senate, to which he was first elected in 2007, Lawan held the very important chair of the Public Accounts Committee for eight years(2007-2015) and the Defence Committee for two years (2015-2017).

All those were before he became the Senate Leader. Does that profile fit the description of the “unorbtrusive and inconspicuous”?

I cannot understand why Prof. Ibrahim tried to serve his readers the impression that a man with such resume and history in Parliament was unknown before his emergence as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly. Did he forget Lawan’s political journey out of
familiarity?

Lawan spent 10 years in the academic and acquired a doctorate in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System before he ventured into politics in 1998.

That year, he was elected the pioneer vice chairman of the defunct All People’s Party (APP) in Yobe State and in 1999, was the Secretary of the Electoral Committee of the APP National Convention which held in Abuja.

As I was quick to say at the start, I have no quarrel whatsoever with the focus of Prof. Ibrahim’s said article of June 17, which addressed two phenomena that have become a malaise that needs to be checked for the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

One is the system that allows state governors to unilaterally determine who become party officials and candidates for elections. The other is the high

turnover of lawmakers in our legislative assemblies, especially in the National Assembly, as captured by the current situation whereby about half of senators did not get their parties’ tickets for the elections.

On those points and for his usual well-grounded interventions, I salute the good Professor.

Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to Senate President

 

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Opinion

APC presidential ticket: Memo to SW leadership

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APC Meeting
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By Ismail Omipidan

This advice may be unsolicited, but it will help the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership in the South West to avoid the pitfall of the past. Although our leaders claim they have learnt from their past mistakes, nothing so far shows they have learnt any lesson.

About a month ago, the South West leadership met with presidential aspirants in Lagos. The governors from the region were also in attendance. But from the events that followed subsequently, there was nothing to suggest that they reached any compromise other than mouthing that they all resolved that the slot must come to the region.

Until now there is nothing to suggest that the meeting said anything on the region’s preferred choice for the ticket.

But this evening, they must not leave the meeting without deciding on who they will be recommending for the ticket from the region. This, for me, is the only way to show unanimity of purpose and serious commitment to ensuring that the region is not shortchanged.

Only recently, one of the aspirants and Ekiti Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, affirmed that the leaders would ensure the region produces the candidate.

Addressing party faithful in Osun, Fayemi urged the delegates in Osun to exercise unity of purpose in supporting “South-West agenda”, saying that victory for one was victory for all.

He continued: “For me, the victory of South-West means that we are all victorious, because there is no aspirant from the zone who is not eminently qualified. Our values have remained constant and we are leaders in the progressive movement.

“We are driven by the same beliefs; we are driven by the same passion; we are driven by the same commitment to improve the condition of our people. That is what is driving whatever we are doing.”

On his relationship with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he said: “It is important to dispel any insinuation that there is one big battle going on among us. This is not true. As a matter of fact, I told Asiwaju that I am coming here (to Osun) today. So, people should be careful not to inherit non-existent enemies. What is important is the progress of our people and the success of the South-West.

“If there is going to be any risk to the success of the South-West, I want to assure you that there will be a collective resolve. We are specially endowed to help our people and make a difference in Nigeria”, he added.

Today, is the day to make that collective resolve. In taking that decision, you must be frank among yourselves. Be brutally frank to one another on who best fits the bill, taking into cognisance alliances across the country, acceptability, capacity and ability to deliver.

Speak like brothers, and in the end forgive one another and move on. Above all, the progressives have an age-old tradition of resolving knotty issues that way. It was effectively deployed in deciding who should have the governorship ticket of the defunct Alliance for Democracy , AD, in Osun in 1999.

If, as leaders, you allow political actors outside of the region to take this decision for you, history will never be kind to you all. It is the hour of decision, and you must take that decision and prevail on all others to step down for that preferred choice.

Unless you resolve this knotty issue as leaders, you will be making the race a little bit difficult for the aspirants from the South West.

But if you zero in on one person, using the criteria listed above, I bet you, the region’s preferred choice will have the buy-in of other stakeholders from the rest of the South West States . And from the region, everyone will market him. It will reduce bickering and friction.

US is usually our standard measurements for electioneering and politics. If a Joe Biden and Donald Trump can run for the presidency at about age 70, then, age should not be a factor in deciding the preferred choice. At any rate, the PDP’s candidate is also in his 70’s.

Finally, if South West is desirous of producing first the Presidential candidate of the ruling APC, and subsequently the President of Nigeria, it must perish the idea of wanting all the aspirants from the region to go into the race at the same time.

For once, we must make a statement that we are politically strong and cohesive to shame those who have always held the erroneous impression that we are political crumps hunters.

I make these submissions in good faith as a reporter who has covered politics from the North for over two decades, a participant observer in the emergence of at least four presidential candidates and one desirous of a united South West. Where I have erred, may Allah forgive me, for perfection belongs to HIM alone. I rest my case for now.

Omipidan is a former Assistant Editor (Politics) with The Sun Newspapers.

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Opinion

The Ninth National Assembly and Electoral Act 2022

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National Assembly Complex
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By Ola Awoniyi

The happy ending of Electoral Act No.6  2010 (amendment) Bill 2022, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 25 after much apprehensions, reminds one of the Petroleum Industry Bill, aka PIB.

For almost two decades, the PIB was at the National Assembly, during which time it changed in shape and contents, and became an enigma too difficult for the parliament to handle. It took Ahmad Lawan’s Ninth National Assembly to deliver the bill from its “demons” and get the President to sign it into law, ending decades of frustration. Today, we now have the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.

Like the PIB, the electoral reform bill had been languishing at the National Assembly since 2017. It was eventually passed in November 2021, amid noise on the mode of transmission of election results.

But President Buhari declined assent to the bill and instead sent it back to the National Assembly in December 2021, precisely on the eve of the commencement of the lawmakers’ Christmas and New Year recess.

That was not the first,  second or even the third time of its forth and back movement within the Three Arms Zone of Abuja.

The same bill was denied presidential assent thrice during the Eighth Assembly, a casualty of the frosty relationship between the Executive and that Assembly.

It is therefore good news for Nigerians and lovers of democracy that the President finally signed the bill into law on Friday, 25th February, 2022, marking the fourth time the electoral law was repealed and re-enacted since the return to democracy in 1999.

However, the back and forth movement of the bill this time around, before the eventual presidential assent on Friday, is significant for how it underscores the beauty of democracy and the health of that system in Nigeria.

While appending his signature, President Buhari said “the current bill comes with a great deal of improvement on the previous Electoral Bill 2021…From the review, my perspective is that the substance of the bill is both reformative and progressive.”

The successful birth of Electoral Act 2022 thus provides another opportunity to appraise the Ninth National Assembly and its responsiveness to the yearnings of the Nigerian people.

It has been exciting watching and listening to even the most critical civil society groups in the country applauding the National Assembly for a job well done and President Muhammadu Buhari for finally assenting to the bill.

There have always been very interesting comments about the Ninth National Assembly under Ahmad Lawan. Some of them have been complimentary, taking into account the many jinxes it has broken to improve the Nigerian legislative environment.  Some try to put things in perspective, noting the high and the low points.

But some others have been deliberately venomous. To this category of public commentators, the Ninth Assembly is a rubber-stamp and has done no good. Some of them go as far as calling for it to be scrapped, forgetting that parliament is the fulcrum of democracy. In fairness to them, their dark view of parliament is not a recent or sudden affliction. They also had nothing complementary to say about the previous Assemblies.

However, this piece is not a specific response to the views of any of the stated tendencies. Rather, it is to record the extent this Ninth Assembly under Ahmad Lawan has gone to deliver an electoral law that for the first time in our recent history arrived to almost universal applause.

To start with, the Ninth Assembly made the electoral reform bill a top priority in its Legislative Agenda, which was launched at its inception in 2019. This decision was not just informed by the importance of the bill to the integrity of our electoral process and democratic governance. The lawmakers were also determined to avert a repeat of what happened to the bill in the previous dispensation.

The bill, which essentially was an amendment to the law made in 2010, suffered a monumental setback on about the eve of the 2019 polls, largely due to the cat and mouse relationship between the Executive and the Eighth Assembly. That era was characterised by distrust between the two arms of government. The rest is now history.

This time around, everything was done by the National Assembly to ensure the bill passed and assented to. But nobody anticipated that its passage would be this dramatic and exciting.

The drama notwithstanding, the entire process projected the Ninth Assembly as an institution that rose above the ego and political, sectional and other sentiments of its members to do the will of the people they represent.

Some observers may probably find it difficult to agree with this view. That is expected. But I stand to be corrected.

From the moment the Executive sent the bill to the National Assembly, work began in earnest. At a point, members of the public became uneasy at the length of time it took the relevant parliamentary committees to report back to plenary for the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill by each of the two Chambers.

It was during that clause-by-clause consideration that the first hurdle showed up. This had to do with the mode of transmission of result.

The drama was gripping in both Chambers. At some point, the House of Representatives had to adjourn sitting to invite experts to elucidate on the subject matter.

The Senate too was not spared of drama. Calling for a division to determine issue is provided for in the standing rules but this is rarely invoked. This time, in the midst of tension, it was invoked by the Senate Minority Leader, as his last card. But it failed to achieve the intended result.

Both Chambers eventually scaled through the hurdle after rowdy sessions. The contending parties and interested members of the larger society heaved a sigh of relief, thinking the matter had been resolved before the parliament adjourned on Sallah recess. But the feedback from the Nigerian people would not allow the lawmakers to rest until there was a recomittal of the bill immediately after they returned from recess.

The Senate had to adjust its earlier position on some clauses and also concur with the House, especially on the modes of transmission of election results and primaries by political parties.

The Senate had initially voted Direct or Indirect mode of primaries but was persuaded by the House to limit it to only one option by deleting the indirect option. They had thought that would deepen democracy but some Nigerians saw it as self-serving.

President Buhari too felt it was unfair to deny political parties options for their primaries. For this reason in particular, Buhari withheld his assent and sent the bill back to sender with explanations. That was the first time Buhari would send back a bill passed by the Ninth Assembly.

This development undoubtedly provoked fears that, with electoral reforms, history was about to repeat itself. Political pundits were sure that the bill was destined for a second death. The insinuation was that the APC-led Federal government was afraid of electoral reforms that feature electronic transmission of results.

But this Assembly had a promise to keep. All that was needed was further consultations with the Nigerian people. This they did during the Christmas and New Year recess.

On their return from the recess, the lawmakers amended the bill to provide three options by which the political parties can conduct their primaries.They went a step further by prescribing how to conduct each mode of the nomination process to forestall possible abuse.

For the Senate, that was about the third time of shifting position to get the bill passed. This was a clear demonstration that the Ninth Senate and indeed the Ninth Assembly are people-centred in their primary responsibility which is law-making.

They have demonstrated flexibility, sensibility and sensitivity to the yearnings of the people they represent. It is this approach to their national assignments that has now given the country a new Electoral Act ahead of the 2023 polls. For the Ninth Assembly, this is a promise made and promise kept.

President Buhari too has demonstrated good faith by appending his signature to the bill despite his reservations about a particular clause that affects political appointees. Buhari did not hide his discomfort about an aspect of clause 84 of the new Electoral Act which bars political appointees from voting as delegates or being voted for at a convention or congress of political parties for the purpose of nominating candidates for any election.

Buhari’s observation that the provision, in his opinion, contradicts the provisions of the Constitution, would have been enough reason for him to withhold assent again. But he opted against that, due to the cordial relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive.

It is however very doubtful that the avowed critics of the present dispensation will see it this way. It is on record that Buhari acted in the same manner on the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 and the 2022 Budget.

Here is precisely what the new Electoral Act 2022 says on interesting issues like voting devices, mode of transmission of election results, mode of selection of nomination of candidates by political parties and the fate of serving political appointees:

Ballot boxes and voting devices:

Clause 41:

(1) The Commission shall provide suitable boxes, electronic voting machine or any other voting device for the conduct of elections.

(2) The forms to be used for the conduct of elections to the offices mentioned in this Act shall be determined by the Commission.

(3) The Polling agents shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of the election materials, electronic voting machine and voting devices from the office to the polling booth.

(4) Polling agents who are in attendance at a polling unit, may be entitled, before the commencement of the election, to have originals of electoral materials to be used by the Commission for the election inspected, and this process may be recorded as evidence in writing, on video or by other means by any Polling Agent, accredited observer or official of the Commission.

(5) A Polling Agent who is in attendance at a polling unit, may observe originals of the electoral materials and this may be recorded as evidence.

(6) The Commission shall, before the commencement of voting in each election, provide all election materials for the conduct of such election at the polling unit.

Clause 50(2): Subject to section 63 of this Act, voting at an election and transmission of results under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.

Nomination of candidates by parties:

Clause 84(2): The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Consensus Candidate:

Clause 84(9):

(a) A Political Party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.

(b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.

(c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated.centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Political Appointee not Eligible as a Voting Delegate or Aspirant

Clause 84(10): No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.

 

Ola Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to the Senate President

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