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Principled Political Choices are not Betrayal

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Babafemi Ojudu
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– I was already made before I met Asiwaju.

By Babafemi Ojudu

I have seen a statement made by me, many years ago, to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu making the rounds. Yes I did make that statement. And more of such will come in my autobiography. We, together, have seen good days and bad days.

I and Bola Tinubu have come a long way and we have been there for each other. So let no one use my acknowledgment of his good deeds and my refusal not to support him in his bid for Nigeria presidency to portray me as a betrayer.

Tinubu remains my leader and I will forever cherish him and the contributions he made to my Organisation during our fight against the military.

He however knows I don’t follow the herd. I make my choices based on very rigid parameters . He will tell you I am very Independent in my actions and ways.

As a third year university student my dad chose to be in NPN. I never considered the fact that he fed me and paid my school fees to join him in a party I despised. I went to UPN and became a youth leader.

Tinubu will tell you that whatever and whoever Ojudu is committed to is in for 100 percent commitment. Reasons I did rather faced torture and possible death in General Sani Abacha’s detention than reveal certain things they wanted me to reveal about him.

The idea that everyone who has related with Tinubu and disagrees with him on this Presidential bid is a traitor and a betrayal is puerile. Many of us, his associates, were not made by him as you also want the world to believe.

We were already made before meeting him and in the cause of relating we gave one another a helping hand. As far back as 1992 when I came to know him I was already one of the editors of a popular news magazine with a good standing too in the civil society. I walked out of my job when our billionaire publisher (Chief MKO Abiola) requested I and my colleagues to apologize to General Ibrahim Babangida over a story critical of the regime. That was 1992.

When I left that job, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, a man whom I was indebted to greatly (gave me a scholarship in my school days alongside King Sunny Ade) invested in my publishing platform (The News, publisher of PM news). The same one that was consequential in the battle to bring democracy back to Nigeria.

At the conclusion of that struggle, Chief Fawehinmi insisted we seat out politics. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu disagreed with this notion, and I did as well. Against an obvious choice to blind loyalty, I went along with Senator Tinubu even serving severally in critical roles as he assumed the Governorship position. My actions angered Chief Gani so much he asked that I repay his investments. Guess what? I gladly did.

So if my principled stance against NPN, against IBB and against “siddon look” was not betrayal of my father, Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi respectively, why would my principled stance against our leader present ambition be.?
So, on this matter of 2023 I wish him well but I cannot in good conscience give him my support or cast my vote for him in the coming primary. It is my right. I am above 60 years of age for God sake. I almost died seeking this inalienable democratic rights, held up in detention and severally tortured. Your god is not my god.

Let no one think he can browbeat or blackmail me to do what does not go with my conscience or my ideals. Enough of your phone threats and embarrassment of my family members.

I know Tinubu. I respect and adore him. Many of his latter day supporters do not even know him. If they do, they won’t resort to emotional and physical blackmail. When Tinubu decided to go against Afenifere and the Yoruba elders in 2003 by not supporting President Olusegun Obasanjo, he wasn’t betraying the Yoruba nation or a traitor to Afenifere. He made a choice and history has been his judge. Let history be my own judge too. When he supported Chief Olu Falae against Chief Bola Ige , our respected leader, who for him to emerge candidate of Alliance for Democracy in Lagos, no one shouted betrayal.

For the irritants who have been sending threat messages or calling to abuse me for not supporting Tinubu, do know that is not democracy. It is something else. I spent my youth years fighting autocracy and intolerance of the military and I am still willing and ready, even now, to stand up for what I believe , even if it will cost me my death. Enough said.

 

 

Senator Babafemi Ojudu writes from Abuja

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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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