State Governor Adams Oshiomhole
I can’t readily recall when soldiers have been deployed for the purpose of conducting election in the country. At least I know that such hasn’t happened since the rebirth of democracy in 1999. However, I recall that an attempt was made by the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State to prevail on late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to send soldiers to Ekiti during the conduct of the supplementary governorship election in 11 wards in Ido-Osi local government I think sometime in 2009. The Independent National Electoral Commission under Prof. Maurice Iwu had canvassed for troops’ deployment. The soldiers were actually moved to a military base close to the state in readiness for deployment in Ekiti for the poll.
But I recall that our own Olusegun Adeniyi, then Presidential spokesman, had categorically told State House correspondents then that soldiers won’t be deployed for the poll, a statement which had brought him on collision course with PDP leaders in the state and beyond. In the end, Adeniyi was proved right. No troop was deployed. Though there were some skirmishes here and there particularly during collation of results, that election was sufficiently peaceful. In the end also, after many court judgments, Mr. Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria eventually emerged the winner of the governorship poll, defeating Chief Segun Oni of PDP.
Today in Edo, the state Governor Adams Oshiomhole is fighting the battle of his life in the gubernatorial poll. As you read this piece, the voters should be on the streets; the combatants, the gladiators would all be on the prowl as well. But the election is taking place under an atmosphere of intense fright and trepidation. It’s as if Edo has suddenly turned into an army state. Over 3, 500 soldiers have been deployed in the state for the election. This has led to exchanges between PDP and ACN and bred condemnation across the land. Ijaw leader Edwin Clark called for caution over the deployment, saying the soldiers should not be deployed with a view to advancing the electoral fortune of any of the candidates in the poll. Troops’ deployment also engendered a rowdy session in the House of Representatives on Wednesday as an ACN lawmaker moved a motion, urging the House to call for the recall of the soldiers.
Giving security back-up for free and fair election is generally believed to be the duty of the police. Deploying soldiers at the expense of the police may be perceived as a way of using underhand tactics to win the poll in which Oshiomhole is pitted against the PDP candidate, General Charles Airhiavbere. But President Jonathan has at every turn spoken of his resolve to ensure free and fair poll, one-man, one-vote in Edo and I believe him. Curiously, Governor Oshiomhole seems to also believe him. Left with no choice, Oshiomhole has embraced the deployment asking Edo people to come out and cast their ballots and not be intimidated by the presence of soldiers, as the military men are out to protect them. It was his last trump card, if you ask me. In a broadcast to the people of the state relayed on Channels Television that Wednesday night, Oshiomhole defended the deployment, saying “I believe the President. He means well.” He added:”It’s a Nigerian troop, not an occupation force, it’s to protect you. Support them; work with them (soldiers). It’s all to ensure free and fair election.” Oshiomhole said the election would be free, “It would be like celebrating Christmas”. But I have my fears, deep fears indeed. This is one experiment I fear may not be palatable. The soldiers have no business in this election. They should have left the business of protecting the people and the ballot for the police.
Why President Jonathan Should Urgently Pick One of South-west Governors’ Three Options to Revive Derelict Lagos-Ibadan Highway
The Lagos-Ibadan highway is the most traversed in the country and one of the busiest in Africa. It’s the most important highway connecting the entire country and perhaps the most strategic in terms of the economic development of the country. I have a phobia for that road. I dread that road not only because of its craters and pot holes and all of that, but also because it fills me with terrible memories each time I ply it. It was on that road, precisely towards the Ibadan end, that my dad met his untimely death six years ago. The vehicle in which he was travelling suddenly bumped into a big crater and that was the end of my beloved father. He was the first to die, followed by the driver. Not a single soul in the vehicle survived the accident. So, because of that and because of the dangerous state of that highway, each time I pass through the road, I rain curses on those responsible for its perilous condition and the sustenance of that condition.
I still did last Sunday on my way to Ibadan. For the first time in the last six years or so, I drove myself all the way and I directly encountered the road in its terrible form. I knew I had my safety, my survival in my hands, so the hands were steady and my eyes fixed on the road’s dangerous parts, which filled the entire 100 kilometre stretch and which I never really fully grasped all the same. The road is really totally derelict. Oh, something needs to happen and urgently too. Nothing by way of the planned reconstruction by the concessionaire, Bi-Courtney Highway Services, is happening. I laughed when I glimpsed the sheer excavation of land at the Ibadan end, taken to mean the commencement of work by the concessionaire. I held my head when I glimpsed those signposts by Bi-Courtney, proclaiming ‘Work Has Begun’. Government needs to do something fast. It’s in respect of doing something far-reaching to revive that road that I think President Jonathan should consider the three options put forward by the South-west governors. The governors had met the President and proferred the three options as a way of ending the distress of commuters on the road. The options: the federal government could take over the construction of the road as it had done on other highways in some parts of the country, allow the South-west states to undertake the project or allow the region to collaborate with the federal government on the reconstruction. President Jonathan is yet to respond to the options and I think he should do so urgently.
If any of that is done, if any of the options is taken, I know government should be ready for litigations from Bi-Courtney, owned by legal luminary Dr. Wale Babalakin, the concessionaire who won the project on build, operate and transfer basis for a 25-year period. But the President Jonathan regime should be able to resolve that fast as Babalakin, as Honourary Adviser on Legal Matters to the President (I guess he is still so), is part of the government and should be ready to help the government end the miseries of Nigerians on that highway. For me, I think Bi-Courtney simply hasn’t got the financial capacity or hasn’t been able to garner the capital outlay required for the project. I said this at a recent interactive session between editors and Babalakin and the lawyer/businessman quickly took me up on that, saying money was not a problem. Nonetheless, I’m yet to be persuaded finance isn’t the major problem.
Inspite of the bribery scandal rocking the House of Representatives over the sabsidy probe report, it seems it’s too early to write off the leadership of the House afterall. On Wednesday, House Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal aka AWT did something noble. AWT gave effect to that wise aphorism that “to err is human...” He reversed himself in respect of a decision he had taken in the full glare of the gallery on a major issue as the deployment of troops for today’s election in Edo State, which had heated up the Green Chamber. The motion on the floor was to kick against the deployment of soldiers. Tambuwal put the issue to vote and even the deaf would hear the thunderous NAYEs against the motion. And as such AWT ruled against the motion, ignoring as well the House Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila who had called for a division of the House. But after a while, AWT came back to say he had erred and that the rule of the House is that once a member challenged the voice vote and called for a division, he ought to have automatically obliged the call. That division was done on Thursday and it still threw up the initial decision throwing away the motion. But AWT’s action is commendable. Accepting that one has erred is not a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of courage, if you ask me.
The Countryman Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson, deserves all the thumbs down in this world for the appointment of First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, as Permanent Secretary in the state. Or is it the First Lady that should take the prize for the infamy. Don’t get me wrong, please. Dame Patience is eminently qualified for the appointment given her educational attainment, though I doubt if she had a civil service career in the state that can warrant such an appointment (the state government had said she had been a teacher in the state before her husband was elected deputy governor). But I found it curious that Governor Dickson would appoint somebody who already has a plum job in Abuja to be Perm Sec in Yenagoa. How can the Countryman Governor appoint somebody who is ordinarily resident in Abuja to be PS in her country home of Bayelsa? Justifying Dame Patience’s appointment, you might argue that the position of the First Lady is not recognised by the constitution and you would be correct. But what else do we need to convince us that from the late Stella Obasanjo, Turai Yar’Adua to Patience Jonathan, the office of First Lady has been well entrenched with its occupant wielding enormous powers such that we may not need the constitution to back up the office any longer. By convention, their Excellencies the First Ladies have shown they could have it their way, they have demonstrated their ability to leave the imprint of their will on our national space. What the constitution did not give they had grabbed using their silent strength to whip the men into line. But why should any of them hold two jobs? Why should any of them want to call the shots in Abuja and Yenagoa at the same time? Why? Justice Fati Abubakar, wife of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, took the path of honour once the general got into the saddle. She took a leave of absence from the judiciary to be First Lady in Abuja.