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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

2015: APC Says PDP Endorsement of Jonathan, Mockery of Democracy

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has strongly condemned the endorsement
of President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole candidate of the PDP for next
year’s presidential election, to the exclusion of all other candidates,
calling the endorsement nothing but a mockery of democracy.
In a statement, Wednesday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai
Mohammed, the party also said the endorsement has come at a great price to
Nigerians, considering the obvious deals that were struck to make
President Jonathan the sole PDP candidate.
It said the parody of democracy that the endorsement represents has
exposed the shameless hypocrisy of the PDP, which is ever so eager to
accuse other parties of lacking in internal democracy.
It said the parody of democracy that the endorsement represents has
exposed the shameless hypocrisy of the PDP, which is ever so eager to
accuse other parties of lacking in internal democracy.
”Obviously, those fellows in the PDP have never heard of the saying that
those who must come to equity must come with clean hands. PDP, where is
your own internal democracy now that you have turned your party into a
fiefdom controlled by one and only one person only?
”While endorsements are part and parcel of democracy, they are never done
to the exclusion of other candidates. This is simply not democratic. When
then candidate Barrack Obama was endorsed by his party’s bigwigs to
contest the US Presidency, the party never excluded Hillary Clinton from
its primaries. That’s how it is done,” APC said.
The party said the price being paid for Jonathan’s endorsement by Nigeria
is simply too heavy, considering that the PDP Governors who spearheaded
the endorsement have now secured perpetual immunity from prosecution by
anti-graft bodies, including the EFCC and the ICPC; the automatic tickets
for all first-term PDP Governors, whether or not they have performed, the
automatic tickets for all PDP Governors running for the Senate, as well as
the free ride back to the Upper Chamber for Senate President David Mark.
”It is now an Open Sesame for the PDP Governors, who have no prying
anti-corruption agencies watching over their shoulders. They can now
simply see the commonwealth as an extension of their deep pockets. The
endorsement is also a vote of approval for the proceeds of corruption that
have been powering the noisy and outrageous Transformation
Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN),” it said.
APC accused President Jonathan of desecrating the country’s democracy
because of his desperation for re-election, adding: ”It is a cruel irony
that a man who has benefited, more than anyone else, from this democracy
has been the one who has been doing everything possible to undermine it.”
The party said President Jonathan has also abandoned domestic issues while
seeking international relevance, in a clear negation of the aphorism that
charity begins at home.
”This President has basically abandoned governance. Unprecedented
corruption is mounting, insecurity stalks the land and Nigerians grope in
darkness as power generation has plummeted. This President has yet to tell
Nigerians the full involvement of his government in the 9.3 million
dollars that was illegally ferried to South Africa on a private jet. This
President has yet to tell Nigerians why he has continued to hobnob with an
alleged sponsor of Boko Haram, who is supposed to be under a probe by his
Administration. Yet, he is eager to attend meetings with serious-minded
leaders who have done well for their own people.

2015: APC Finally Reacts To PDP’s Endorsement Of Jonathan As Sole Presidential Candidate




Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Alhaji Lai Mohammed
In an apparent flush of excitement at his recent adoption as sole candidate of Peoples Democratic Party for next year’s presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday in Lagos that the endorsement had given him the right of first refusal. Jonathan, who believed he now had the right to decide whether to accept or refuse the presidential ticket before it can be declared open for contest, applauded his party for the decision to adopt him, saying it is the practice in the advanced democracies.


But the opposition All Progressives Congress said the endorsement of Jonathan as the only candidate of PDP is a mockery of democracy. Speaking yesterday by telephone, APC’s national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, “Who then is afraid of internal democracy. It is not that endorsement is entirely bad but the apparent shutting out of other aspirants does not augur well for democracy.”

Mohammed said a worrisome dimension to the president’s endorsement was the allegation that some PDP governors were arm-twisted into submission by an assurance of non-prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission after their tenures. He added that under the deal, PDP also granted its governors automatic tickets to run for the senate next year, saying it is a dangerous development in the polity.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Obasanjo offered to support Buhari if he dropped me for Okonjo-Iweala –Tunde Bakare


  by Adeola Balogun, Nonye Ben-Nwankwo and Eric Dumo 

   



Pastor Tunde Bakare

In this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN, NONYE BEN-NWANKWO and ERIC DUMO, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly speaks on a wide range of issues including his experience as a running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the 2011 general elections
We heard you praising God for the Osun State governorship election despite the militarisation; don’t you think that the militarisation was responsible for the peaceful election?
I think I chose my words, I didn’t use militarisation; I used the word “federal presence.” I said in spite of the intimidating federal presence, things still went on peacefully. I have heard the word militarisation used, I do not necessarily subscribe to it. The reason being that the police are called peace officers and they were there to keep the peace. The military has been used lately in several elections because of the major environment, the violence going on and all kinds of electoral malpractices. In other places, elections are like picnic with citizens having the opportunity to exercise their rights. But when you are beginning to hear statements like “blood will flow,” “it is going to be fire for fire” and   “you will be roasted,” you get scared. You begin to wonder if it is a matter of life and death. But that the Osun State election went peacefully, we thank God.
I also said that a time will come when we’ll stop suspecting ourselves. There are so many things that we cook up when things don’t go our way. We must become mature enough to accept defeat and concede to the winner like Governor Kayode Fayemi did in Ekiti without blood flowing or heads rolling.
Talking about general elections, you were once quoted as saying there might not be elections in 2015, but with what you are seeing now are you still holding on to that statement?
A number of things have taken place since I spoke. I remember it was 2012 that I started saying: take care of 2014 if you want 2015. There are two reasons why I have been saying that we should take care of 2014 and one of them is the conference. The national conference has brought us together to iron out some of our differences. I am not saying the conference is a magic wand that would bring all the solutions to our problems but definitely if there is courage to implement some of the things that we have resolved and are part of that report on the side of the executive and legislature; Nigeria would not be where it used to be. We are not where we ought to be, but we are not where we used to be. We have moved on.
Besides that, part of what makes 2015 a necessity is the 2016 census. Those are two extremely dangerous years. The year you are having general elections followed by census; those things are scary. So, if the foundation is not properly laid in 2014, we are playing with disaster.
Some people saw your participation at the national conference as a signal that you were coming into politics again, is this true?
Maybe you need to dig deeper and find out why I participated. Number one, I didn’t select myself; I didn’t force myself on the government. I represented the South-West geo-political zone. When the elders met, they put my name down. I pleaded with them that I would not even have the time. But they insisted that they wanted me there and you don’t reject your elders if they feel you have something to contribute or they consider that you are relevant.
Two, while I was still battling with who will represent me at the conference, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, also put forward my name. At that point I decided to give it a chance. But I gave a condition and that condition was that I would not take a penny from the conference; I would not be given any allowance and I wrote a letter to that effect and they replied me. I did this so that if anything went wrong, I would retain my freedom to express myself freely. That does not mean others who took the allowance are bad people. No! We see things from different perspectives. Staying in Abuja is very expensive. I won’t tell you how much I spent but I travelled on each occasion with my research team and about three to four staff and we stayed in a suite which is quite expensive.
Have you joined politics again?
I have never joined politics. I am a nation builder, I am not a politician. I sleep well, I wake up well. I have no ambition; there is no desire to be anything in politics. All I want to see is a nation that works. If you ask me today if I am seeking any elective office, my answer will be no. I was asked to be a running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, I was not looking forward to it at all. But if I am beckoned upon to do something, I will pray about it and if I see that it does not negate what I stand for and believe in, why not? The truth is that if good people don’t participate in politics, then we will continue to endure the rule of idiots.
When you were asked to be a running mate, did you ask God about it or did He tell you to go ahead?
Several times Paul would say in the Bible that “this is I speaking but not the spirit of God even though I have the spirit of God in me.” With every sense of modesty, a man like me would not jump without looking. If you don’t look and you leap, you can leap into disaster that would backfire on you and everything you stand for in the society. When my book is out, it would be clear to all the process it took for me to be a running mate.
I sat in my house, leading a group called Arrow Heads which is already public knowledge after Mallam Nasir El-Rufai wrote about it in his book, ‘Accidental Public Servant.’ We gathered a group of Nigerians we felt could make a change in our clime. People like Oby Ezekwesili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Donald Duke, Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Jimi Lawal, Yinka Odumakin, Jimi Agbaje, Wale Osun and a few others. We said to ourselves that we should form the Arrow Heads to produce a change. And when I was given the privilege of being the chairperson of that group, I told them I would only accept on two conditions. Number one, that I would not join any political party and number two, I would not seek any elective office so that if there is a dispute, I can effectively resolve it. Those around me know that I have no desire for a political office but those who don’t know me think I am an opportunist. Gen. Buhari called me on January 15 of that year and said, that he had done his own little prayers and he wanted to ask me to be his running mate. I told him I couldn’t because I lead a group and I had given them my word and that my word is my bond. I also told him that I had no desire for a political office; all I wanted to see was a change and be among those who work behind the scene. So, Gen. Buhari asked me to pray about it that he would get back to me. Within six or seven hours, he called back and I told him that I had not consulted my people. The first person I called among others was my wife and daughter and then spoke to Pastor Adeboye twice on it.
Really?
Yes…you see people don’t know things that happen behind the scene. I spoke to him twice and he said look, don’t be afraid, step in there, whether you win or lose, God is taking you somewhere. I didn’t jump because of that. I spoke to my mother and she said she had a dream about it six months before; I still didn’t jump. I thought it would be unfair not to tell Bola Tinubu because I had been brokering some things between the then Action Congress and the Congress for Progressive Change before the AC became ACN. So, I called Tinubu in the presence of Jimi Agbaje and Yinka Odumakin. I said to him that Gen. Buhari had called to offer this, give me a Christian from your group so that I can present to him. I invited the former governor of Ekiti State, Niyi Adebayo to my house and told him that he would be a better person to handle this. Both of us were in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos at the same time. So, I looked for every way not to take Buhari’s offer and I didn’t fill the form. I took my team and went to the General and asked him why he wanted me to be his running mate. He said three things, “your passion for Nigeria. You have been a Muslim before, you are a Christian now. You have lived in the North, you were born in the South, you understand the geography and I think you can be a positive influence to pull the nation together. Number two, your integrity, number three, supposing I die in office like Yar’Adua, I want someone who would not sell out, who would still continue my vision for this country.” Still, I didn’t fill the form.
I went to El-Rufai’s house, we sat down there and he encouraged me to take it and I said I was not taking it. I told him I needed to clear a particular thing in my heart. Everyone who had been assistant to Gen. Buhari died before him. Tunde Idiagbon is gone, Okadigbo is gone, Ume-Ezeoke is gone, why do I want to go and put my head in a death sentence. I need to know what is responsible for that, so I can’t just jump, I will need to pray through. I told Gen. Buhari the same thing I am saying now.
The day before the final submission of names, former President Olusegun Obasanjo told El-Rufai that he was ready to support Buhari if he could drop me and replace me with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as his running mate. El-Rufai ran to me, that this was what Obasanjo said. The three of us were in the same hotel but in different suites. We went straight to Gen. Buhari and I said to him that breakthrough had come. I told him I had not filled the form and that there were five reasons why he must take Okonjo-Iweala. Number one, she is Delta-Igbo, you would have solved the problem of South-East/South-South. Number two, she’s a woman, you have settled the gender issue. Number three, Christian, balanced ticket. Number four, a former minister of finance and former minister of external affairs, experience which I don’t have. Number five, World Bank top executive, international exposure. Even though I have travelled round the world, I have not worked in any organisation, she is a better candidate. This is the form, I have not filled it. General Buhari looked at me and said did Obasanjo speak to you and I said no that he spoke to El-Rufai and I believe him. And he asked El-Rufai to repeat everything Obasanjo said to him and he did. He said to El-Rufai that well, you have worked with him and I have worked with him too, he would have something up his sleeves which we don’t know. Buhari turned to me and said, Pastor Bakare, I have waited long enough and today is the last day, if you are not going to fill the form, give it to me, I will look for someone until we can get a person like you. At that point, I became overwhelmed and I signed the form and El-Rufai seconded. That was the process; it was not an overnight thing.
Do you have any regrets accepting that offer?
Not at all. If I have the chance, I will do it again. Buhari is an incorruptible leader. He is a man whose word is his bond. He is a reliable person and he loves this country. I don’t flatter people and you know I fought almost all military impostors in this country; there was a time I couldn’t stand any of them. But getting close to him, I realised he loves Christians as much as he loves Muslims.
For those who said why Buhari? I remember Adunni Abimbola Adelakun, she wrote why can’t Bakare run as President? Why do you have to be a running mate? I just laughed when I read that. Don’t forget that Joseph served Pharaoh, Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar, and we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, so you can maintain contact without contamination. Anything that would contribute to the wellbeing of the people of this country, as much as God gives me the grace, I would do it.
You just spoke glowingly about Buhari, is that why you said if that suicide attempt on his life had succeeded it would have caused commotion in the country?
Whichever way you look at it; Gen. Buhari has succeeded in stepping into the shoes of the likes of the founding fathers of this nation. It is like killing Awo in the West in those days. They jailed him but they dare not kill him. Look at the repercussions of what happened when Saudana was killed. It is like shooting Azikiwe. A time comes when people have such a large followership that you have to be careful about them. Gen. Buhari registered a party and went to contest for election after three months and had 12 million votes. I have seen the people following him running towards a moving plane. He is not loved because he has money to pay them, he doesn’t give a dime to anybody. Buhari does not have such money, he does not have a petrol station, and he has no oil well even after being a petroleum minister and former head of state. There was a time he took his children to public schools. Obasanjo investigated him with Haruna Adamu, and didn’t find anything against him.
Why didn’t you move with him Buhari to the All Progressives Congress?
A strategic man takes his time. I moved the motion for the merger of the parties publicly at Eagles Square. I worked tirelessly for that merger to materialise. But when you perceive that your presence, whether you speak or stay quiet, affects some of the people who think you are ambitious, you leave the stage for them. If you ask me if I am in APC, Buhari knows I am in Daura APC, not Ogun State, Oyo or Lagos State so that those functioning can be free to function without fearing that this man might have an ambition and might still want to be a running mate. I have had my fair share.
In 2012 you were quoted as saying that Jonathan was on a mission to ruin Nigeria, two years later do you still feel the same way?
You do not separate a statement and body of facts that led to that statement. President Jonathan himself is a victim of circumstances. Who groomed him for what he is doing? I think he has had to learn on the job. Whether he is learning fast or is taking his time, is for others to comment. I marched on the streets of Abuja, Lagos, led Save Nigeria Group in different campaigns for him to become Acting President and he subsequently became the President of Nigeria. He is alive, if I have taken a dime from him for anything, he can say. Not that they would not want to be a blessing to me but I don’t take. My hands have provided enough for me. I am contented. I have had the privilege of sitting with the President this year about five times and it is always about how to move the nation forward. I remember when the President wanted to see me; I called Gen. Buhari immediately to inform him about the invitation because I don’t double-deal. I am a loyal person and I made the President know that I informed Gen. Buhari before coming for that particular meeting. The things he said to me are not for now; they would come out at the appropriate time. I think Jonathan is honestly doing his best but history would judge whether his best is good enough. The Nigerian issue is complex. It requires a level of capability and dynamism and that is not common among the current politicians.
You have always been critical of America’s involvement in the politics of other nations especially Nigeria, do you also think that the monstrous painting of Ebola is also part of the conspiracy to further distabilise Nigeria?
I don’t think so, Ebola is here and you don’t run away from it. The man who smuggled himself into the plane and came to Nigeria probably didn’t know the magnitude of the problem he was about to cause.
When America got here over Boko Haram, what I saw on the television is what the Americans call show. You don’t ridicule another nation to look good as if you have your acts together. Right on your own soil, in New York, right on your faces with all your technology and the power you claim to have as the police of the world, terrorists humiliated you. The whole nations of the earth rose up to support you and now we are battling with something here and you are making our leaders look useless, and redundant.
Don’t you believe in church planting?
Any church that does not believe in church planting is like a woman praying to be barren. I have done church planting the way others have done before. We had about seven other satellite churches that we planted and at a time I said no, this is not the pattern I have seen in the Bible and so we started to follow the pattern which is to train men, raise them, so that when they are strong and receive the call, commission them, support them to plant a church. By so doing, we planted several churches without necessarily calling them Latter Rain Assembly.
You once described Nigerian churches as being a theatre where one man performs and the others are just mere spectators, does this not also apply to you?
It doesn’t. If you were here this morning (Sunday, August 10, 2014), I did the least speech. If you quoted me correctly, I said the difference between the cinema and the church in Nigeria is that for the cinema you pay a gate fee before you enter but in the church, they let you come in before they take from you. When the youth pastor was ministering today, I said wow, if I am out of here today, these people can continue.
You are not too prominent in Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and Christian Association of Nigeria, is it by choice or by design?
So, one or two of our pastors attend to matters of PFN, but I don’t go there.
What’s stopping a big church as yours from establishing its own university like others have done?
I am not called to do that. I do not judge those who are doing it because they are contributing their quota to the system and they are helping the society in the area of infrastructure.
But I would have a question mark on the whole thing if part of what is going in there are the offerings of the people and their pastors’ children and members’ children cannot attend that university. Almost all the top universities in the world started from Christian organisations. My daughter graduated from Emory University in Georgia, United States, which is owned by the Methodist Church. Oxford and Cambridge were established by churches. If their real intention was mission and to educate a crop of leaders that would share the light. I commend their efforts. But if it is a money-making and profit-driven, then I don’t know what to say.
Every year we have big churches stage conventions, but we don’t see Latter Rain doing the same, is it that you don’t believe in such gatherings where lives are usually saved in multitudes or what?
It is not wrong to have an annual convention, it is not wrong to have Shiloh or Holy Ghost Congress. I have been invited to the congress about three times but I just didn’t have the time to go. Up till the seventh year of the Latter Rain Assembly, we had what we called Annual Believers’ Convention but I stopped it after then. Look at the population of people in church today and we have negligible righteousness. So, something is wrong. I am not condemning what people are doing. If they are called to do what they are doing, God would reward them. But if it is just a clever ploy to continue to control and manage people, one day they would say “to your tent oh Israel.”
What is your take on anointing oil?
People like to create their own Tunde Bakare. I love God, I love people, I love the godly and the ungodly and I try within my God-given ability to teach the truth. The reason I fought with my friend, Bishop David Oyedepo, and tore his book, I remember when we resolved this problem in London, we came out of a plane, he took me aside and said he was angry with me because I tore his book. I said I didn’t tear your book, I tore my book. That is fine, you wrote it, I bought it, so it was my book I tore. I saw errors in that book because he said the anointing oil is not a symbol of the Holy Spirit that it is the life of God in a bottle. How can you write that and I would let it pass. No! If the anointing oil is the Holy Spirit, then Jesus is a lamb walking on four legs. These are metaphors and when you have the real, you leave the shadow. Besides it is for the sick in the New Testament. So, you can anoint the entire church if they are sick and I would wonder how a sick church can bring healing to a dying world.

2015: Buhari Seeks Support from Nigerians Abroad


       

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General Muhammadu Buhari

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
     
As political gladiators in the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) brace up for showdown over who picks the party's presidential ticket for the next general elections, former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari has moved abroad to consult with stakeholders in the Diaspora over his ambition.
Buhari along with other presidential hopefuls, like the Ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso, former Kwara State Governor, Senator Bukola Saraki,  Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and newspaper publisher, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah are set to slug it out in a presidential primaries proposed to start September 25.
THISDAY gathered that the former Head of State and three-time presidential candidate has been busy touring parts of the country to consult with relevant stakeholders and party leaders in order to gauge the mood of the various political interests.
A reliable source told THISDAY that Buhari was bent on reaching out to relevant stakeholders before making a formal declaration of his ambition.
It was learnt that Buhari, as part of his strategy to court all interest groups and foreign bodies, has gone abroad to sell his vision of new Nigeria under the APC.
"Buhari is still engaged in consultations across the country and beyond. He had gone outside the country to further meet with stakeholders in the Nigerian project to elicit their support. It is after he has concluded the consultations that he will make a formal declaration," he said.
Leaders of APC in the North West, a zone where Buhari and Kwakwanso come from had tried to broker a consensus arrangement between the duo but it appears that Buhari is determined to go ahead and launch his presidential bid as soon as he returns from an overseas trip.
The aim of the leaders in the North- West was to enable the zone to present one consensus candidate at the party presidential primaries.
THISDAY gathered that during one such meetings held recently in Kaduna, both sides tried to explore the possibility of a working relationship which could see one of them withdrawing from the race and support the other.
Although there was major agreement reached at the meeting, insiders at the talks described it as purely exploratory engagement which may later materialise into a consensus-building arrangement.

Defection: Ikimi is Looking for Retirement Benefits – Afegbua


        

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Kassim Afegbua

Kassim Afegbua is the Special Adviser, Media, to Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In the wake of the recent defection by some prominent members of APC to PDP, such as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi, Afegbua noted that politics of stomach infrastructure may very well be the motivating factor behind the exodus. He spoke on other  issues bothering on governance in the state in this  interview with Adibe Emenyonu
There have been series of defection by members of Edo APC to PDP. The latest being Chief Tom Ikimi. What is your reaction to this trend?
Well, it is true that some persons have left the APC in Edo State. It is also true that APC have also gained from the PDP; those who have left the PDP and other parties to join the APC. So as for Chief Tom Ikimi who is the latest, we do not have problem with that.
How do you mean?
Yes,  because as a man of 70 years, he needs some retirement benefits and it is possible that only the PDP can offer the kind of retirement benefit he is looking for in the sense  that they can play about with money. They have big contracts to give to people. But in APC, Edo State, we devote our time and energy on performance by using the resource of the state to add value to the well being of the state and also to develop all the towns and villages within the limit of available resources. So we may not have enough to distribute or dispense to individuals who may want some level of patronage by way of lets share the money. That is not in the doctrine of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole style of governance. And so for a Chief Tom Ikimi, who has reached his political apogee so to speak, I think nothing is amiss because his political relevance in Igueben is very minimal just as his political relevance in the country is also inconsequential.
After his escapade of Obasanjo! Obasanjo; Obasanjo! Obasanjo! scenario of 2003, having been booted out of the PDP and having himself undermined and disparaged the party on a number of occasions, it is only in Nigeria that you see people try to swallow their own vomits. And so, for us in APC, we do not have problem with him. We will treat him as elder statesman but not a role model.
Are you saying the APC in the state is not worried? Because of recent events,we learn that the Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor’s Office who is an acolyte of Chief Ikimi has also resigned to join his master. Should this trend continue, don’t you think it will affect the fortunes of the APC in 2015 state assembly and national assembly elections; and 2016 governorship race in Edo State?
It is curious that such a young man, a wonderful promising young man, a great guy will tie his political fortunes to the apron string of  an old man who has reached the zenith of his political career. Chief Ikimi has seen it all. To us, when they get to that age of 70, the law of diminishing returns sets in. What they do most of the time is to look for parties that can offer them comparative advantages in terms of retirement benefits because they do not have the capacity and energy to work any longer. They look for cheap money, cheap relevance, cheap networking etc. But for the Deputy Chief of Staff, he is my good friend, wonderful guy. I would not want to believe that he will also resign and follow his political mentor. But if he did, perhaps he may also have other reasons why he has decided to take his own decision. As an adult, he also has the liberty to take such decisions. He may have well felt his political future or his political presence will enjoy more recognition by remaining with Chief Ikimi. In all these, there is no cause for alarm.
But in all these, there is one recurring issue. All those that have decamped from APC to PDP have accused the governor of running a one man show. How true is this?
I don’t believe in such. If I get my rhythm right, I will also be in the same frame of mind with the Comrade Governor to be able to add value, be able to perform and deliver on his electoral promise. Nobody thought Edo State can attain this level of development within a space of five and half years. Particularly talking from the inherited infrastructural decay we saw on ground. Those who may want to accuse Oshiomhole of being dictatorial should also search their own consciences because Chief Tom Ikimi for example, did not derive his decision of decamping from any accusation of the governor. If I get him right, he has issues to grind with the national leadership of the party. He feels that if it is not him, there should be no other person. He also has issues with Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Again, that brings to bear the politics of selfishness that is so pervasive in this part of the world. If it is not you, somebody else must be. It must not always be you at all time. Chief Ikimi at a time was chairman of a political party, National Republican Convention [NRC] and to a large extent; Nigerians know his level of performance, the level to which he was able to conduct himself. So at 70, if he looks to become the chairman of another strong opposition party and he is unable to get it, the expectation should be that he should be able to reach out to people, work with those who God has bestowed the leadership of the party on. You don’t have to insist that your own sentiment and aspiration should be the basis or road map of that political party even if you no longer belong to that party. No individual can build a party. It is not possible. It is all a collective thing. To that extent, the leaders of the party felt they will be much more comfortable with a Chief Oyegun as national chairman than an Ikimi. All this has been adduced by Tinubu. When Chief Ikimi wrote, Tinubu replied him, stating the reasons why in their own wisdom, they felt they were comfortable with Oyegun.
Coming back home to Edo State, Governor Oshiomhole has displayed enough energy and capacity to consult widely before taking any decision. He may not be a perfect man or the ideal typical politician because the typical politician wants things to go their ways all the time. If they are 10, they want things to go in their 10 ways. If they are 20, they want things done in 20 different ways. They will want you to take decisions that will favour each and every individual. That sense of collectivism, communalism that should exist within us as Africans does not hold waters when it comes to such argument. They will rather want things to be seen from the prism of individual politician. Unfortunately, the Comrade Governor is one man who does not have the kind of patience to tolerate such bestiality, inanity. What looks so pedestrian and you see people latching on it as if that should be the basis of moving the state forward. Oshiomhole does not have such patience for situations as this. He is not likely to be on the same page with individuals with such myopic manner of politics of yester years. In this contemporary time, Oshiomhole’s understanding is that give or take; two persons cannot be captains at the same time. One person must be and there is supposed to be that spirit of give and take so that we can collectively galvanise our energy and move the state forward.
If you say dictatorial, that may be in the realm of those who are typical politicians. But if you say consultation, fine because he consults. If you say he is not a man you can easily bend if you do not have superior logic that I will agree because you cannot bend Oshiomhole if you don’t have superior argument or logic. You must be informed and have superior information for you to convince him to take a particular decision against what he has in mind. Working with him, we have on many occasions argued on issues and if he discovers you have superior logic, he capitulates. I think those saying he is dictatorial are just doing so to give him a bad name.
Recently, the Benin elders raised the alarm over alleged plot by PDP in the state to deny people of the senatorial zone the Permanent Voters Card [PVC] with the intention of denying the Benin man the opportunity to contest the 2016 governorship election. How true is this?
Yes I read this in the papers. For a reputable body to raise such alarm, they must have the information at the tip of their fingers.  But such plot will not work because by the zonal arrangement in APC, the next governor of the state will come from Edo South. When you say Edo South, you are talking about the seven local government areas and its environs. So we are not bordered about the political shenanigans in the PDP or the political manipulations by their demagogues. They have always ploted graphs to favour the central zone and all that. As far as APC is concerned though I am not their spokesman, but as stakeholder, Edo South will naturally be fielded as candidate of the party in the 2016 governorship election. In any case, there is still a long rope to tow because election of 2015 is by the corner. In February next year, people will be competing for the state and federal assemblies. After that, we will begin to prepare for the 2016 governorship election. So to a large extent, those who are raising the allegation may have their reasons. However, the more PDP is in crisis, the better for APC because for us in APC, we don’t want to be distracted. This is because some of the people leaving us for the PDP sooner than later will taste the bitter pill in the PDP. Today it all sound like Hosanna music, tomorrow, the melody may change to crucify him. So we are resolute to move the state forward.
The Comrade Governor does not want to be distracted by politics of 2016 that was why he placed embargo on issues of 2016 election. That holding all manner of meetings as a precursor to 2016 should stop. This is because he wants to have three good years of maximum concentration on the developmental agenda he has set for himself, then the last year, he will do some level of stock taking and prepare the way for the new man who will take over from him. Only God knows who will take over from Oshiomhole. We may all have our dispositions, but God is the ultimate disposer in whatever intention or action plans we may want to exhibit. To that extent, we are not loosing sleep over the happenings in Edo State. The real voters, we are connected to them because once there is that connection between government and the people, then all these characters by way of mobile politicians who are here today and there tomorrow will pale into insignificance because if you want to test the popularity of a party, you go to the grassroots.
That is where you will know whether you have performed or not. You see, the beauty of APC is the fact that it has a record of performance to refer to. You don’t need to go far. All you need to do is to point a finger and people will see what the party has done in the three senatorial zones of the state. We may not have had the kind of resources to cope with the developmental challenges pointing at us as a state, but we’ve been able to make judicious use of what is available to us both from the Federal Account and Internally Generated Revenue [IGR] to add meaning and value to the commonality of our existence. And so, today those who felt that Edo State will not work are surprised that the state has bounced back. We may not have gotten it all. Six year or eight years of an administration cannot solve all the problems. But we are saying that for God sake, we are leaving Edo State better in far more superlative terms than we met it. For that, the Comrade Governor will have his place fully assured.
Contrary to your assertion, some people are of the opinion that the governor did not do as much as he did in the first tenure; that he is doing more of politics than proper administration of the state. For instance, they cite the abandoned work at the Central Hospital Benin and other numerous projects. How do you react to this?
This is not true. I think we have even done more work this second term than in the first tenure. People don’t understand that the first term was work in progress. Completing those works in progress takes much effort in terms of resources. Capital projects in this tenure must have gulped up to N100 billion if I am not mistaken. Besides, people do not understand that if you commence a particular road project in you first term and you are unable to complete it until your second term, it means you have been able to fulfill your financial obligation to the fullest. It is like the Benin Storm Water Project. In the first tenure, effort was devoted to laying the foundation. But now work has commenced, an indication that due diligence is being followed at the right time. Another example is the Upper Siluko Road, Upper Mission Road, Forestry Road and several others like the 2nd East Circular dual carriage way that has been awarded. Even the completion of the Airport Road was completed in the second tenure because of the street lightening and other beautification as well as the solar-powered traffic light which are all part of that contract. Those who make such allegation are those who believed that Comrade will not finish the projects he commenced in the first term. But now that they are seeing that he is completing these projects, they are naturally finding ways to criticise him.

The Central Hospital that is being talked about, work has resumed their. After that accident, there was a re-assessment by architects and engineers that there is need to reinforce the pillars to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened before. Even the contractor has promised that within six months, the hospital will be delivered to Edo State Government. The same thing goes to Women and Children’s Hospital, Ewohimi which has being built and furnished.
It is not about having structures in place but also bringing the right manpower to manage them. So the Comrade Governor cannot start what he cannot finish. What he has done to a large extent is that all the projects he is not able to finish during the first term, he will complete them in this tenure. There will be no abandoned project. For instance, he has assured me, just as he assured other members of my community that work will soon commence on the Okpella township roads; that the designs were ready. Government does not just work in one swoop. Government is methodical, planned and structured in such a way that when you plan your budget, they are just estimate because what you may get in the final analysis may not meet up with 40 or 50 per cent of what your estimates are. When this happen, it is now your responsibility as a good manager of resources to know how to apportion what you have gotten to meet up with the developmental challenges; and in Edo State we are doing just that. For instance, Preco Oil-Palm Company is being given additional lands for its expansion project. In doing so, they are taking away thousands of our youth off the streets by employing them.
There is a whole lot of blue print lined up by the state government. This year alone, the intention of Government is to generate about 13,000 jobs and we are moving in that direction. This is aside from the Youth Employment Scheme {Edo YES} and the Neighbourhood Watch. The Information Technology Unit is currently being expanded to make sure that everything in the state is automated. Oshiomhole is laying a legacy that anyone who comes after him and try to distort the flow of the stream, will cause a lot of flooding. Oshiomhole needs to be commended in all fronts. As an insider, what he complains most time is that “how I wish Edo State is as rich as our sister states like Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers. Naturally, nobody has challenged the quality of work he has done. What they normally quarrel about is the cost. Take Five Junction as an example. When the governor was constructing the place, nobody gave him hope. But today, that area is like a Mecca of some sort. Where are the roads in Edo State before? They were all narrow and windy. Before, nobody thinks a six lane road was possible in the state, but today, we have seen that it is possible. Oshiomhole may not be perfect. By what we are saying is that he is able to add value to governance, been able to reorder the narrative to the extent that people now have confidence in government.
What is the state of preparedness of the government to sensitise the people on  the forthcoming distribution of PVCs in the state?
We have since placed advertorial in the print and electronic media, ran series of jingles to sensitise the people to come out when the time comes. We have also used apparatus of government to ensure that people at the local level are well sensitised and mobilised. We have done so through local government party chairmen and ward leaders. It is a civic responsibility. With that card, you can to interrogate the activities of government. As a voter, you have the right to question government on how monies are expended especially those gotten from taxation. That is why we admonish people to be good tax payers and good voters because the people have to own their government since they are repository of power. This can only be done if you have a voter’s card to exercise your franchise on election day. You may make all noise but if you don’t have the card to either vote leaders you want or vote out those you don’t like, then you don’t have any basis to criticise. So we are quite prepared. Once INEC blows the whistle, the people will come out. This is when we are going to see how INEC will prevent the people from collecting their card since they have registered before, making reference to the position of Benin elders.
There is this outcry about double taxation in the state. For instance, people have complained severally of paying tax to both local government and state governments. What is government doing to address this problem?
Taxation is a civic responsibility. The Pay as You Earn [PAYE] law is not the law of Edo State. It is a federal law that if you domicile in a state, there should be some level of bilateral cooperation. So what we met on ground was some kind of negotiated tax payment. But we have been able to eliminated. In the past, it was negotiated that if you are supposed to pay 15 per cent of your income before, you now pay 7.5 per cent and all that. That was in the past because things have changed. So those are now paying more according to what the income tax law stipulated will naturally cry foul because it is not the convenience of any one the world over. But because it is a law, nobody can run away from it.
Besides, the state government has read the riot act telling local governments to stop imposing taxies and levies on people; that they must do that which is specified within the law or tax regime. So to a very large extent, they are complying. This is because government at a stage was getting embarrassed by the unwholesome attitude of some touts that go on the highways asking for radio licenses and we had to wade in. So since the riot act, we have not had any complaint. Even at that, we have told people within communities to apprehend anyone who still indulge in such unwholesome act.
Not too long ago, students of higher institution in Edo State blocked the Benin-Ore highway protesting the work-to-rull action of their lecturers over non-payment of salaries and allowances. Don’t you think this is bringing bad image to the government?
If there is anything the Comrade Governor does not joke with, it is the salaries f workers in the state. Go round the ministries and other departments of government in the state, there is no worker that receives his/her salary beyond 24thof every month. This is commendable. In Benue State, they are owing teachers for nine months; Kogi State for six months, Bauchi and quite a number of others. That we are even able to pay salaries regularly is an achievement of no mean feat. Again, this government has increased grants/subventions to higher institutions since it came on board. Only last year about N500 million was given to Ambrose Alli University. And I know that the same thing was replicated to other institutions like Colleges of Education, Ekiadolor, Iguenben, College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi; and Institute of Management and Technology, Usen. But again, speaking about the decay that this administration inherited, you know that in as much as the body and soul is willing, resources may not naturally come for you to meet all the challenges. But for anyone to say we have not added value to these institution will be missing the point because government had done so much. Nevertheless, this boils down to issue of management of resources by heads of the respective institutions of higher learning because when you give, the bulk of expenditure is used to settle salaries and wages since they have so many non academic staff than academic staff. For me, there is need to do a complete overhaul of these institutions. Government had in the past tried to take some positive measures towards addressing this but ended up being accused of witch-hunting some persons. In any case I just resumed from my holiday, I will look more into this matter to be able to furnish you with more details now that I am back.

Soyinka bombs Jonathan

by John Alechenu and Leke Baiyewu

Prof. Wole Soyinka
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, on Saturday lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan for embracing corrupt politicians and failing to prosecute the sponsors and members of Boko Haram.
Soyinka stated that he had no doubt about the Boko Haram sponsorship allegation against a former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, by an Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis.
He expressed his resolve to back a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), to seek Sheriff’s prosecution, saying security agencies had enough evidence to prosecute the ex-governor.
The Nobel Laureate said if Sheriff was prosecuted, “it is certain he will also take many others down with him.”
In a statement entitled, ‘The wages of inpunity’ made available to the media on Saturday, Soyinka challenged Jonathan to investigate the claims that Davis made about Boko Haram and its sponsors.
He said, “I am, therefore, compelled to warn that anything that Stephen Davis claims to have uncovered cannot be dismissed. It cannot be wished away by foul-mouthed abuse and cheap attempts to impugn his integrity — that is an absolute waste of time and effort.
“Of the complicity of ex-Governor Sheriff in the parturition of Boko Haram, I have no doubt whatsoever, and I believe that the evidence is overwhelming. Femi Falana can safely assume that he has my full backing — and that of a number of civic organisations — if he is compelled to go ahead and invoke the legal recourses available to him to force Sheriff’s prosecution.
“The evidence in possession of security agencies — plus a number of diplomats in Nigeria — is overwhelming, and all that is left is to let the man face criminal persecution. It is certain he will also take many others down with him.”
The literary icon also alleged that the name of a top Central Bank of Nigeria official who has major links with the sect had been forwarded to President Jonathan.
He said, “In the process of our enquiries, we solicited the help of a foreign embassy whose government, we learnt, was actually on the same trail; thanks to its independent investigation into some money laundering that involved the Central Bank.
“That name, we confidently learnt, has also been passed on to President Jonathan. When he is ready to abandon his accommodating policy towards the implicated, even the criminalised, an attitude that owes so much to re-election desperation, when he moves from a passive ‘letting the law to take its course’ to galvanising the law to take its course, we shall gladly supply that name.”
Concerning Davis’ allegation that a former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, is a sponsor of the sect, Soyinka proposed that an international panel be set up to examine “all allegations, irrespective of status or office of any accused.”
The professor also condemned the #BringBackJonathan2015 electoral campaign, a clone of the campaign of the #BringBackOurGirls global campaign for the release of the schoolgirls
Soyinka said, “Goodluck Jonathan has brought back into limelight more political reprobates — thus attested in criminal courts of law and/or police investigations — than any other Head of State since the nation’s independence.”
He berated the Presidency for turning the case of the over 200 abducted Chibok girls into a stand-up comic material.
“Spurred by electoral desperation, a bunch of self-seeking morons and sycophants chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation and drag the nation down to their level.
“It took us to a hitherto unprecedented low in ethical degeneration,” Soyinka stated.
The famous author stated that while Jonathan had since disowned all knowledge or complicity in the political campaign, “the damage has been done, the rot in a nation’s collective soul bared to the world.”
Soyinka proposed that Davis should be invited to a roundtable for further talks.
The professor, who backed the Australian’s investigations, claimed to have worked with him when the late President Shehu Yar’Adua was making efforts to resolve the insurrection in the Niger Delta.
Soyinka said, “While awaiting the Chibok girls, and in that very connection, there is at least an individual whom the nation needs to bring back, and urgently. His name is Stephen Davis, the erstwhile negotiator in the oft aborted efforts to actually bring back the girls.
“Nigeria needs him back — no, not back to the physical nation space itself, but to a Nigerian induced forum, convoked anywhere that will guarantee his safety and can bring others to join him.”
The Nobel Laureate lamented that several alarms previously raised on the activities of Boko Haram had been ignored, while stating that stiffer actions should have been taken against the sect.
He further criticised Jonathan for attending a meeting with the Chadian President, Idris Deby, in company with Sheriff.
He faulted the Presidency’s defence that Sheriff, as friend of the host President, had travelled ahead to Chad to receive Jonathan as part of Deby’s welcome entourage.
In his reaction on Saturday, Sheriff challenged Soyinka to make public whatever evidence he had linking him to the sect.
The ex-Borno governor also challenged the Nobel Laureate and those he claimed were privy to other shreds of evidence to go to court.
Speaking through the Commissioner of Information and Home Affairs under his administration, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, Sheriff said Soyinka was only entertaining Nigerians with his mastery of the English language.
He stated that Soyinka’s statement lacked any form of merit.
Sheriff said, “As the ‘cultist’ we know him (Soyinka) to be, being the founder of a confraternity for which the world is still waiting for answers from him, he is the least morally qualified to speak on the alleged involvement of any Nigerian in whatever crime.
“We challenge him to name this person he says he knows as a sponsor of Boko Haram in the Central Bank, if he is as patriotic as he claims to be. We also challenge him to prove to Nigerians that he is not the cultist we have always known him to be.
“No security agency anywhere or an individual who claims to have investigated this matter independently can dictate to Nigerians or our security personnel what to do about this Boko Haram menace. Therefore, this needless diversion is unwelcome.”
The Presidency was not available for comments on Saturday. Efforts to get the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, were not successful. He did not pick calls made to his telephone or reply the text message and electronic mail sent to him.

2015: Plot To Stop Jonathan Thickens


 by Adesuwa Tsan, George Agba, Kunle Olasanmi and Sola Adebayo
Uncertain about the eligibility or otherwise of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest in 2015, some powerful politicians and groups in the country have assembled a team of lawyers to challenge him whenever he declares his intention to take a shot at the nation’s No. 1 job, LEADERSHIP Sunday has gathered.
The constitution provides that a president can only serve two terms, which President Goodluck has served already.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Sunday show that some top politicians are waiting for the president to declare to enable them embark on the legal battle, as any move in that direction now would amount to a wild goose chase.
Consequently, Jonathan is reportedly having serious thoughts over his 2015 re-election ambition because of the constitutional obstacles in his way. Lawyers across the country have also started debating the issue.
It was gathered that the president is presently scouting for a candidate from the northern part of the country he can trust, in the event that he failed to scale through the legal hurdle.
LEADERSHIP also gathered from sources close to Jonathan that he has been on the lookout for a northern candidate since it became obvious that declaring intention to run in the 2015 elections will be greeted by various lawsuits contesting his constitutional eligibility.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “There are two constitutional provisions that are in question. The first is section 135 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which states that no president can take the oath of office of the president of Nigeria more than twice.
“You will recall that on May 6, 2010, President Jonathan was sworn in by Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu as the fifth president of Nigeria after the death of then president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Upon winning the presidential election in 2011, he was again sworn in and took the oath of office as the sixth president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This means he has been sworn in twice already, not as acting president but with full powers as commander-in-chief.”
Section 135 (1) & (2) of the Constitution provide thus:
“(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person shall hold the office of President until – (a) his successor in office takes the oath of office; (b) he dies whilst holding such office; or (c) the date when his resignation from office takes effect; or (d) he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date, when – (a) in the case of a person first elected as President under this Constitution, he took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of office; and (b) in any case, the person last elected to that office under this Constitution took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of office but, for his death, has taken such oaths”.
According to the source, the president is aware that there are people who are patiently waiting for a declaration of intent to run for the office in 2015 before they proceed to the courts for interpretation of the section and, ultimately, to stop him.
Jonathan, he continued, has never been desperate to return in 2015 but for pressure from his kinsmen and other political associates who have been egging him on.
“Also, his aspiration is not based on his conviction but due to pressure from the south-south and, specifically, the Ijaw people. This is one of the reasons he has been postponing declaration for 2015.”
Jonathan is also said to be concerned that if he decides to take his chances and declare for 2015 and in the event that the courts deliver a verdict ruling him out of the race, the PDP may lose the presidency without a ready candidate in place as flag-bearer of the party.
The president, it was learnt, is also worried that his delayed declaration may also impede the 2015 transition in view of INEC’s demand for the list of each party’s candidates by October-November this year.
“The timetable released by INEC states that parties must submit the list of their candidates by November, latest, this year, and pegged presidential elections for February. From November to that date is roughly two months and Mr president is aware that there is really no time to go through the processes of a court case even if it is expedited. Another consideration he is making is that there may not be enough time for the party to get a flag-bearer if he is disqualified and this may lead to losing the presidency to the opposition,” the source added.
So far, Jonathan is yet to settle on any candidate; he is reportedly being careful with choosing a successor whom he can truly trust.
Groups forge legal trap, lawyers debate eligibility
Prominent lawyers in the country were however divided in their opinions on the eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election.
While some said he is eligible to contest, others are of the view that his election into office again in 2015 will amount to a third term in office.
A senior advocate, Abubakar Malami, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that what Nigerians should be talking about now is the duration of the tenure of the president in office and not how many times he takes the oath of office.
According to him, if the president is elected again, he would have spent more than eight years in office against the provisions of the constitution.
“He is not eligible to contest because he would have been in the office for more than eight years. There is clear constitutional breach that has to be addressed,” Malami said.
A professor of law and a senior advocate, Chief Awa Kalu, disagreed with the views expressed by Malami. He said the period President Jonathan took over as acting president should not be seen as part of his first term in office. He said taking over as president is not about the number of times you take the oath of office but about the number of years you spend in office.
On his part, Mr Ahmed Raji, another senior advocate who was cautious in his approach to the issue, did not reach any conclusion.
Mr Raji said section 137(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution is the appropriate section that should be applied in dealing with the issue.
He said the question to ask is whether he has been elected twice into office.
“He was sworn into office in 2010 after the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The swearing-in does not amount to an election.
“In 2012, in the case of Governor Nyako and four other governors, the Supreme Court said nobody can spend more than eight years in office cumulatively. How is the Supreme Court going to resolve this issue?” he asked.
Lagos lawyer Mr Festus Keyamo said the constitution is silent on the kind of problem we are having now.
According to him, what the constitution anticipates is a person who has been elected and not a person who has not taken the oath of office twice.
Efforts by this paper to get the Presidency to react to this development did not yield results. Attempts by our correspondent to reach the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, on phone proved futile as his mobile phone numbers could not go through. Even text messages and e-mail sent to him to confirm whether the president was having second thoughts about running and whether it was true that he is searching for a successor were not replied.
The message sent to him by our correspondent reads thus: “Good evening sir. There is a report in my office for tomorrow’s (today’s) publication that some powerful interests in the country’s political circle are about to file a suit to challenge and stop the president from contesting the 2015 presidential election on the ground that he has already taken 2 oaths of office as president as stated in section 135 (1) and (2) of the constitution. Because of this, they said the president is likely to shelve his ambition and is searching for a credible northern candidate. Is the presidency aware of this?”
But Abati had, a few weeks ago, spoken to LEADERSHIP in an exclusive interview on whether, with the House of Reps caucus of the PDP and some other groups coming to ask him to do so, the president was thinking of declaring his ambition soon.
He said he had no information on this, and no authorisation to make a categorical statement on the president’s 2015 presidential ambition.
The presidential spokesman said: “I don’t have any information on that as at this moment, and I have no authorization to make any categorical statement, but you know that in a political situation such as we are in — it is not just members of the House of Representatives and some other groups who have been commending President Jonathan for his sterling performance, for his quality leadership, for his visionary leadership, for the success of his transformation agenda and for the purpose-driven government that he has provided. And the commendation is in order.
“But in terms of declaring for 2015, President Jonathan has responded to this question on many occasions in the recent past and he has said that when the time comes, it will be his responsibility to address Nigerians on what his choice, his decision, in the matter is. So, people should just wait for him to do so at his own time and not play games with what is clearly a simple matter. It is like a wedding proposal: You do or you do not? Yes, I do…”
It is an exercise in futility – NACOJSP
The National Coalition for Jonathan and Sambo Presidency (NACOJSP), has described the attempt to stop President Goodluck Jonathan through the Supreme Court, as an exercise in futility.
NACOJSP said the issue of eligibility of Jonathan to seek re-election in the 2015 presidential election has been settled by courts of competent jurisdictions, adding that those planning to approach the Supreme Court to revisit the matter, were merely “wasting their time to re-open a settled case.”
The National Secretary of the Baord of Trustees of NACOJSP, Dr. Benjamin Irikefe, in his reaction yesterday night, said such action would be tantamount to a waste of judicial process. Irikefe expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would waste no time in dismissing such case, which he described as a “frivolous and handiwork of desperate political jobbers.”
He said various courts of competent jurisdiction, which had earlier tried similar cases, had pronounced that Jonathan was eligible and qualified to run.
“The issue of eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015 is a settled matter. Any attempt to re-open the case is an exercise in futility. This case was dead and buried but some desperate and failed politicians are trying to exhume it for self-seeking motives.”
“This case had been listed and tried by many courts which have returned the same judgement that President Jonathan is very eligible and qualified to seek fresh mandate of Nigerians in 2015.
“Let them go to Supreme Court to waste thier time because the case would be dismissed with ignominy as a waste of judicial process. Let those opposed to Jonathan go to the polls with him to test their popularity rather than seeking to manipulate the judiciary. This will only be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to re-affirm the judgements of the various lower courts that President is not disallowed by the constitution to seek another four-year mandate of Nigerians.
“This is not a new thing but the latest gang-up will also fail as usual because President Goodluck Jonathan has intimidating support base nationwide that would make his re-election in 2015 a mere formality,” Irikefe added.

Photo: 2015: Plot To Stop Jonathan Thickens
by Adesuwa Tsan, George Agba, Kunle Olasanmi and Sola Adebayo
Uncertain about the eligibility or otherwise of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest in 2015, some powerful politicians and groups in the country have assembled a team of lawyers to challenge him whenever he declares his intention to take a shot at the nation’s No. 1 job, LEADERSHIP Sunday has gathered.
The constitution provides that a president can only serve two terms, which President Goodluck has served already.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Sunday show that some top politicians are waiting for the president to declare to enable them embark on the legal battle, as any move in that direction now would amount to a wild goose chase.
Consequently, Jonathan is reportedly having serious thoughts over his 2015 re-election ambition because of the constitutional obstacles in his way. Lawyers across the country have also started debating the issue.
It was gathered that the president is presently scouting for a candidate from the northern part of the country he can trust, in the event that he failed to scale through the legal hurdle.
LEADERSHIP also gathered from sources close to Jonathan that he has been on the lookout for a northern candidate since it became obvious that declaring intention to run in the 2015 elections will be greeted by various lawsuits contesting his constitutional eligibility.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “There are two constitutional provisions that are in question. The first is section 135 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which states that no president can take the oath of office of the president of Nigeria more than twice.
“You will recall that on May 6, 2010, President Jonathan was sworn in by Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu as the fifth president of Nigeria after the death of then president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Upon winning the presidential election in 2011, he was again sworn in and took the oath of office as the sixth president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This means he has been sworn in twice already, not as acting president but with full powers as commander-in-chief.”
Section 135 (1) & (2) of the Constitution provide thus:
“(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person shall hold the office of President until – (a) his successor in office takes the oath of office; (b) he dies whilst holding such office; or (c) the date when his resignation from office takes effect; or (d) he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date, when – (a) in the case of a person first elected as President under this Constitution, he took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of office; and (b) in any case, the person last elected to that office under this Constitution took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of office but, for his death, has taken such oaths”.
According to the source, the president is aware that there are people who are patiently waiting for a declaration of intent to run for the office in 2015 before they proceed to the courts for interpretation of the section and, ultimately, to stop him.
Jonathan, he continued, has never been desperate to return in 2015 but for pressure from his kinsmen and other political associates who have been egging him on.
“Also, his aspiration is not based on his conviction but due to pressure from the south-south and, specifically, the Ijaw people. This is one of the reasons he has been postponing declaration for 2015.”
Jonathan is also said to be concerned that if he decides to take his chances and declare for 2015 and in the event that the courts deliver a verdict ruling him out of the race, the PDP may lose the presidency without a ready candidate in place as flag-bearer of the party.
The president, it was learnt, is also worried that his delayed declaration may also impede the 2015 transition in view of INEC’s demand for the list of each party’s candidates by October-November this year.
“The timetable released by INEC states that parties must submit the list of their candidates by November, latest, this year, and pegged presidential elections for February. From November to that date is roughly two months and Mr president is aware that there is really no time to go through the processes of a court case even if it is expedited. Another consideration he is making is that there may not be enough time for the party to get a flag-bearer if he is disqualified and this may lead to losing the presidency to the opposition,” the source added.
So far, Jonathan is yet to settle on any candidate; he is reportedly being careful with choosing a successor whom he can truly trust.
Groups forge legal trap, lawyers debate eligibility
Prominent lawyers in the country were however divided in their opinions on the eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election.
While some said he is eligible to contest, others are of the view that his election into office again in 2015 will amount to a third term in office.
A senior advocate, Abubakar Malami, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that what Nigerians should be talking about now is the duration of the tenure of the president in office and not how many times he takes the oath of office.
According to him, if the president is elected again, he would have spent more than eight years in office against the provisions of the constitution.
“He is not eligible to contest because he would have been in the office for more than eight years. There is clear constitutional breach that has to be addressed,” Malami said.
A professor of law and a senior advocate, Chief Awa Kalu, disagreed with the views expressed by Malami. He said the period President Jonathan took over as acting president should not be seen as part of his first term in office. He said taking over as president is not about the number of times you take the oath of office but about the number of years you spend in office.
On his part, Mr Ahmed Raji, another senior advocate who was cautious in his approach to the issue, did not reach any conclusion.
Mr Raji said section 137(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution is the appropriate section that should be applied in dealing with the issue.
He said the question to ask is whether he has been elected twice into office.
“He was sworn into office in 2010 after the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The swearing-in does not amount to an election.
“In 2012, in the case of Governor Nyako and four other governors, the Supreme Court said nobody can spend more than eight years in office cumulatively. How is the Supreme Court going to resolve this issue?” he asked.
Lagos lawyer Mr Festus Keyamo said the constitution is silent on the kind of problem we are having now.
According to him, what the constitution anticipates is a person who has been elected and not a person who has not taken the oath of office twice.
Efforts by this paper to get the Presidency to react to this development did not yield results. Attempts by our correspondent to reach the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, on phone proved futile as his mobile phone numbers could not go through. Even text messages and e-mail sent to him to confirm whether the president was having second thoughts about running and whether it was true that he is searching for a successor were not replied.
The message sent to him by our correspondent reads thus: “Good evening sir. There is a report in my office for tomorrow’s (today’s) publication that some powerful interests in the country’s political circle are about to file a suit to challenge and stop the president from contesting the 2015 presidential election on the ground that he has already taken 2 oaths of office as president as stated in section 135 (1) and (2) of the constitution. Because of this, they said the president is likely to shelve his ambition and is searching for a credible northern candidate. Is the presidency aware of this?”
But Abati had, a few weeks ago, spoken to LEADERSHIP in an exclusive interview on whether, with the House of Reps caucus of the PDP and some other groups coming to ask him to do so, the president was thinking of declaring his ambition soon.
He said he had no information on this, and no authorisation to make a categorical statement on the president’s 2015 presidential ambition.
The presidential spokesman said: “I don’t have any information on that as at this moment, and I have no authorization to make any categorical statement, but you know that in a political situation such as we are in — it is not just members of the House of Representatives and some other groups who have been commending President Jonathan for his sterling performance, for his quality leadership, for his visionary leadership, for the success of his transformation agenda and for the purpose-driven government that he has provided. And the commendation is in order.
“But in terms of declaring for 2015, President Jonathan has responded to this question on many occasions in the recent past and he has said that when the time comes, it will be his responsibility to address Nigerians on what his choice, his decision, in the matter is. So, people should just wait for him to do so at his own time and not play games with what is clearly a simple matter. It is like a wedding proposal: You do or you do not? Yes, I do…”
It is an exercise in futility – NACOJSP
The National Coalition for Jonathan and Sambo Presidency (NACOJSP), has described the attempt to stop President Goodluck Jonathan through the Supreme Court, as an exercise in futility.
NACOJSP said the issue of eligibility of Jonathan to seek re-election in the 2015 presidential election has been settled by courts of competent jurisdictions, adding that those planning to approach the Supreme Court to revisit the matter, were merely “wasting their time to re-open a settled case.”
The National Secretary of the Baord of Trustees of NACOJSP, Dr. Benjamin Irikefe, in his reaction yesterday night, said such action would be tantamount to a waste of judicial process. Irikefe expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would waste no time in dismissing such case, which he described as a “frivolous and handiwork of desperate political jobbers.”
He said various courts of competent jurisdiction, which had earlier tried similar cases, had pronounced that Jonathan was eligible and qualified to run.
“The issue of eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015 is a settled matter. Any attempt to re-open the case is an exercise in futility. This case was dead and buried but some desperate and failed politicians are trying to exhume it for self-seeking motives.”
“This case had been listed and tried by many courts which have returned the same judgement that President Jonathan is very eligible and qualified to seek fresh mandate of Nigerians in 2015.
“Let them go to Supreme Court to waste thier time because the case would be dismissed with ignominy as a waste of judicial process. Let those opposed to Jonathan go to the polls with him to test their popularity rather than seeking to manipulate the judiciary. This will only be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to re-affirm the judgements of the various lower courts that President is not disallowed by the constitution to seek another four-year mandate of Nigerians.
“This is not a new thing but the latest gang-up will also fail as usual because President Goodluck Jonathan has intimidating support base nationwide that would make his re-election in 2015 a mere formality,” Irikefe added.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Stephen Davis’ 7-Year Secret Deals With Boko Haram.



.FG flew him in presidential jet, lodged him at Transcorp Hilton
.Probe those named by the Australian, Restore Joint Task Force in Borno – Col. Kontagora
.I’m ready to face Ex-Governor Sheriff – Davis

With a truckload of soldiers, a good intention and a high expectation, 63-year-old Reverend Stephen Davis, an Australian, drove into the darkness of New Marte, an uncertain darkness made accessible by the half-full moon. The large expanse of land in the corridor of the Lake Chad Basin, with President Olusegun Obasanjo had opened up for farming under an irrigation scheme which shares border with Cameroon.

It is located in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State. Instead of the intended farming activities, the field that stretches beyond where the eyes could reach, occupying a space of some 50,000 hectares, had been subdued by the Boko Haram sect.

To demonstrate their control over that land and space, the militant sect had set up camps on the farms, and had asked the Australian and the ladies who wanted to negotiate the release of close to 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok to meet them there under the cover of darkness.

“We had to drive to New Marte because that’s where the sect commanders we were in touch with wanted to talk to us,” a woman who was on the entourage told our reporter. “It was a very dangerous trip to make at night, but the sect had given us the assurance that they would not attack us.”

In was in late April, about two weeks after the abduction of the schoolgirls from their hostel in Chibok, and Reverend Davis had reached out to the sect members who wanted to know what government wanted to put on the table in the deal to have the girls released.

“It was a very scary encounter,” the woman elaborated. “At about 3.00am, we saw the sect members engaged in a kind of military drill. We initially thought it was the Nigerian Army personnel who were training, but we were wrong; it was the sect members. We even discovered that the soldiers who accompanied us to the camp abandoned us in the night. I thank God that we came out of the place alive. At the end of it all, we gained nothing, because government did not demonstrate the commitment to obtain the release of the girls.”

The scene above was one of the encounters The Reverend Davis, recognised as an international arbitrator, had in his efforts to obtain the release of Chibok girls, a five-month struggle that has come to nothing – but frustration.
His 7-year relationship with Boko Haram

Our reporter learnt that Reverend Davis didn’t jump into the Boko Hararm crisis recently. The former Canon Emeritus at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom and an associate of The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has had a relationship with the sect that spanned over a period of seven years. His initial contact with them was way back in 2003 through a group in the North-East, called Women Peace and Security Network. This group, Sunday Trust learnt, was cultivating the young men in the region, and training them on the need to eschew violence. As one who worked in the Church of England’s Ministry of Reconciliation, Reverend Davis learnt about the activities of the women and decided to visit Nigeria to appraise their activities. In the process, he became acquainted with the Boko Haram sect, its leadership, among them the late Mohammed Yusuf and even Abubakar Shekau.

“He knew all these people before the sect went violent,” one of the women who have worked closely with The Reverend Davis told our reporter. “It’s not like he came here to make a name after the abduction of Chibok girls. As at the time we came in contact with him, he had done some work in other parts of the world, including his secret negotiation for peace in the Niger Delta. Davis showed us many photographs of himself with leaders of the Niger Delta militants. Many of those photographs were in his computer. He showed us evidence of the work he has done in other parts of the world. At a point, the Tony Blair Foundation wanted to come into Nigeria to negotiate with the sect through him. But Davis was already working for government, and the Foundation didn’t want to work with government. So, he didn’t spearhead that project. His expertise is known all over the world.”

Corroborating this position, The Reverend Davis told The Mail of London in June this year that he had had an “ongoing contact” with Boko Haram, describing it as “a long process of building trust on both sides.” Our reporter learnt further that even during the period in which the Presidential Committee on Peace in the North-East was meeting with members of the sect, The Reverend Davis was helpful. “He was lodged at the Transcorp Hilton, and flew in a presidential jet. A top official in the presidency paid his bills. We held meetings with him and elements in the sect at Transcorp Hilton. You know what that means. At a time government was desperate about the release of Chibok girls from captivity, the presidential jet was used to convey him to Maiduguri. Thereafter, he would be given the security cover while he met with the sect’s leaders.”

Speaking about his own experience, The Reverend Davis said in an interview with The Cable, an online publication, recently that, “I have been involved in peace negotiations in Nigeria since 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo invited me to intervene in the Niger Delta crisis. With a local Nigerian colleague, I spoke with Asari Dokubo and took him to Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Because Asari is a Muslim, the Muslim boys in the North heard about me and warmed up to me. I did a report in 2005 on the threat of extremism among young northern Muslims.

“Obasanjo’s security chiefs dismissed the report with a wave of the hand. They said no such thing existed. In 2007, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, who desired to end the militancy in the Niger Delta, invited me and made me presidential envoy. I toured all the northern states. I went to the country’s borders. I came back with a report that there were some budding sects in the North. The national security adviser (NSA) at the time, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, dismissed the report. He said they didn’t exist. A succession of NSAs dismissed all these reports and allowed the groups to flourish.

“By the time President Goodluck Jonathan came to power in 2011, these groups had spread all over the North. They had cells and commanders in 16 out of the 19 northern states. President Jonathan called me and sought my opinion on the best way to tackle the militancy and bring it to an end.

“I knew many of the leaders. I spoke with them. They trusted me. They initially wanted to kill me. They thought I was an American but I told them I was not. They also thought I was British but I said I was not. I told them I was an Australian. They relaxed. I don’t know why but they became more accommodating. They became friendly and, gradually, we built the trust.

They started feeling free with me. I don’t call them Boko Haram. I call them JAS. People call them Boko Haram. They don’t call themselves Boko Haram.”

BUNGLED EFFORTS FOR PEACE DEAL AND RELEASE OF CHIBOK GIRLS

Our reporter learnt that last year, while government took steps to enter into dialogue and peace deal with the sect, Reverend Davis made contacts with the sect’s commanders and secured a kind of terms of peace agreement from them. We learnt that in the first instance, the sect wanted women and children of the sect’s leaders released from captivity. The Reverend Davis, Sunday Trust, learnt, successfully convinced government to release that class of detainees on June 14, 2013, but when the sect leaders who wanted to drop their arms sought unconditional amnesty, government disagreed with them, hence the peace process collapsed.

The lady who worked closely with Davis added that, “When the dialogue committee was at work, the Australian, too, was in secret talks with some of the sect’s leaders. There were 12 Boko Haram commanders with whom he worked, and their main demand was that their women and children in detention should be released as a sign of government’s seriousness. After that, they would name the persons who would negotiate other terms of peace agreement with government. That was the stage we were. Suddenly, instead of government to take that line of action, it decided to declare a state of emergency. The sect leaders, therefore, went into hiding, believing that any effort to negotiate with government would lead to their death. They gave an example of some persons who met government in Kaduna for peace talks, but were later caught and killed.”

Speaking in an interview The Cable on how this peace deal collapsed, Reverend Davis said, “They wanted training for the widows of their deceased fighters. They asked the government to give these women cottage training. They, ironically, wanted education for the children of their deceased members. That is why I don’t call them Boko Haram (“Western education is a taboo”). They asked that the children be sent to school. They also wanted the government to rebuild villages that were destroyed by the security agencies. They asked for amnesty as well. :

The president said he would not grant amnesty in the sense that they meant it. He said those who surrendered their arms would not be prosecuted, but those who continued to commit more crimes would face the law and would be charged with treason. They also wanted women and children who were being held in custody to be released. Their leaders that I spoke with were ready to accept the conditions. But the NSA then, Gen. Owoye Azazi, went vehemently against it. He said there should be no negotiation with terrorists. He completely turned the military against the peace deal I was working on, even though we were very close to bringing an end to the insurgency the same way we did it in the Niger Delta. The military then refused to back the deal. They succeeded in convincing the president not to accept it. I could understand where they were coming from: the security budget was like $6 billion and any peace deal would seriously reduce their budget.”

It was in the same manner that the effort to release Chibok girls failed, because the military didn’t want government to yield to the sect’s demands.

THE CURRENT OUTBURST AND COUNTER-ACCUSATIONS

The Reverend Davis claimed that he went to town with the story of his frustration in rescuing the Chibok girls because he couldn’t imagine how a government would behave as if all was well when over 300 girls are held in captivity by a very violent sect. According to him, “We are talking about 200 Chibok schoolgirls, but there are over 300 other girls that have been kidnapped. There are many young men that they also kidnapped and turned against their families. They asked them to go and slaughter their family members and they are doing it. Nobody is talking about those ones. They are the new child soldiers.”

Though his major concern has been the need to release the young girls from captivity, his comment on the supposed sponsors of the sect has taken a central position. In his interviews, The Reverend Davis claimed that some of the sect’s commanders named former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and General Azubuike Ihejirika, a former Chief of Army Staff, as some of the sponsors of the sect. He also listed an unnamed official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as an agent through which funds are mobilized for the sect.

Both ex-Governor Sheriff and General Azubuike have dismissed the allegations. It is not clear how the retired General was implicated in the sponsorship of the sect, but elements in Maiduguri told our reporter that the disbandment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) led to the escalation of the insurgency.

“Many of us think Ihejirika deliberately disbanded the JTF,” our reporter was told. “What it meant was that only the army would be in charge of the operation, and that’s not possible. When the JTF was in force, all the services, the SSS, Police, Navy, Air Force, Customs, Immigration, etc, were involved in intelligence gathering, which helped in the operations. But now, the army is alone, and that is why the sect has an upper hand.”

It is difficult to understand why government has disowned The Reverend Davis, saying it has nothing to do with him, but Sunday Trust learnt that a section in government believed that the Australian was not dealing with the mainstream elements in the sect.

“Davis’ contact with the sect is through a woman who truly has a measure of contact with Boko Haram,” another person who claims to understand the working of the sect argued. “However, I don’t believe the woman knows anybody in the Shura Council who take decisions. There are all sorts of splinter units, all of them in Boko Haram, but to reach the core of the group is no tea party. I don’t think the Australian did. Those in the fringes may have their own measure of influence, but the hardliners hold the ace. Perhaps, government discovered this and decided to do away with him and his roles.”

AN INDEPENDENT BODY SHOULD PROBE DAVIS ALLEGATION:

A former Commissioner of Police and social critic, Abubakar Tsav has said the federal government should constitute an independent body to look into the allegations by the Australian negotiator, Stephen Davies.

Describing the allegations as weighty, Tsav said it was rather curious that the federal government that was said to have engaged Mr. Davies is now denying ever engaging the Australian hostage negotiator.

“How can a foreigner come into the country and travel to such places without the knowledge of the authorities that be? The denial by the federal government over Mr. Davies engagement follows that same pattern of denial over the Chibok girls abduction, where the security agencies came out to say they had rescued the girls only to recant later. So they are always giving false information over security matters.

“It is therefore only through an independent body of investigation that the allegations made by Mr. Davies, that a former Borno governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, and former army chief, General Ihejirika, are sponsors of Boko Haram should be properly inverstigated,” Tsav said.

Commenting on Ihejirika’s exoneration by the DSS, Tsav said: “It is possible that Ihejirika could sponsor Boko Haram in order to avenge what the northern troops did to his people during the Civil War. For instance, it is rather curious that up till now the circumstances that led to the death of the late General Shuwa are still unknown.”

Also, speaking to Sunday Trust at the weekend, the former military administrator, Colonel Isa Kontagora reasoned that former governor Modu Sheriff might have been linked with Boko Haram because one of his cabinet members that was arrested and killed in a very suspicious manner with the sect leader, Muhammad Yusuf during the insurgency crisis in Maiduguri when he was serving as governor of Borno State, was a member of the sect. “If this and many other things are why they think he has any explanation to make concerning the insurgency issue, I think he should be thoroughly investigated.”

Col Kontagora (retired) added that it was wrong for the DSS to exonerate former Chief of Army Staff Azubuike Iherijika without investigating the allegations leveled against him on the insurgency issue. “If anyone is mentioned, I think what is proper is for the authorities to investigate him on all the allegations. Nigerians need to know if he is a culprit or not. They need to know the financiers or backers of the sect so that government can approach it in a way that will help to restore sanity to the community.”

Kontagora insisted that the claims made by Stephen Davis should not be swept under the carpet.
“Government should investigate it thoroughly to get to the root of the matter and put an end to the mess. Anyone found wanting, either in financing the terrorist group or otherwise, should be prosecuted.”

WHAT FUTURE FOR PEACE IN THE NORTH-EAST?

The lady who claimed to have worked closely with Davis and had met some of the sect members told our reporter that government’s emphasis on the use of force made those who initially planned to renounce violence to have a rethink.

“Government is not ready for peace talks, hence many of them who initially wanted to drop arms have joined the violent wing. It seems they are determined to fight to death or success, and that is very bad for our country. All over the world, insurgency is defeated through dialogue, but we have taken the other course, which is tough and rough. It’s only God that can save us. I feel strongly that Jonathan wants peace, but the issue is apparently beyond him. You have all sorts of government officials and godfathers who benefit from the violence. They are in control, so they don’t want the violence to end.”

The Reverend Davis, in his interview with The Cable made a similar statement, saying government can’t overcome the crisis without entering into a peace deal: “A peace deal backed by a strong military is the way out. But the government must first bring the sponsors of insurgency to book. Government must arrest and interrogate the politicians funding the insurgency. Government must cut off the supply of funds to the militants.

“There is a ritualist group in Boko Haram that delights in slaughtering people. This group is being heavily supported by someone based in Cairo, Egypt with funds supplied by Nigerian politicians and power brokers. If funding is cut to this guy, there are many commanders in the Boko Haram camp who are ready to dialogue, release the captive girls and end the insurgency.”

Daily Trust.
Photo: Stephen Davis’ 7-Year Secret Deals With Boko Haram.

.FG flew him in presidential jet, lodged him at Transcorp Hilton
.Probe those named by the Australian, Restore Joint Task Force in Borno – Col. Kontagora
.I’m ready to face Ex-Governor Sheriff – Davis

With a truckload of soldiers,  a good intention and a high expectation, 63-year-old Reverend Stephen Davis, an Australian, drove into the darkness of New Marte, an uncertain darkness made accessible by the half-full moon. The large expanse of land in the corridor of the Lake Chad Basin, with President Olusegun Obasanjo had opened up for farming under an irrigation scheme which shares border with Cameroon.

 It is located in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State. Instead of the intended farming activities, the field that stretches beyond where the eyes could reach, occupying a space of some 50,000 hectares,  had been subdued by the Boko Haram sect. 

To demonstrate their control over that land and space, the militant sect had set up camps on the farms, and had asked the Australian and the ladies who wanted to negotiate the release of close to 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok to meet them there under the cover of darkness.

“We had to drive to New Marte because that’s where the sect commanders we were in touch with wanted to talk to us,” a woman who was on the entourage told our reporter. “It was a very dangerous trip to make at night, but the sect had given us the assurance that they would not attack us.”

In was in late April, about two weeks after the abduction of the schoolgirls from their hostel in Chibok, and Reverend Davis had reached out to the sect members who wanted to know what government wanted to put on the table in the deal to have the girls released.

“It was a very scary encounter,” the woman elaborated. “At about 3.00am, we saw the sect members engaged in a kind of military drill. We initially thought it was the Nigerian Army personnel who were training, but we were wrong; it was the sect members. We even discovered that the soldiers who accompanied us to the camp abandoned us in the night. I thank God that we came out of the place alive. At the end of it all, we gained nothing, because government did not demonstrate the commitment to obtain the release of the girls.”

The scene above was one of the encounters The Reverend Davis, recognised as an international arbitrator, had in his efforts to obtain the release of Chibok girls, a five-month struggle that has come to nothing – but frustration.
His 7-year relationship with Boko Haram

Our reporter learnt that Reverend Davis didn’t  jump into the Boko Hararm crisis recently. The former Canon Emeritus  at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom and an associate of The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has had a relationship with the sect that spanned over a period of seven years. His initial contact with them was way back in 2003 through a group in the North-East, called Women Peace and Security Network. This group, Sunday Trust learnt, was cultivating the young men in the region, and training them on the need to eschew violence. As one who worked in the Church of England’s Ministry of Reconciliation, Reverend Davis learnt about the activities of the women and decided to visit Nigeria to appraise their activities. In the process, he became acquainted with the Boko Haram sect, its leadership, among them the late Mohammed Yusuf and even Abubakar Shekau.

“He knew all these people before the sect went violent,” one of the women who have worked closely with The Reverend Davis told our reporter. “It’s not like he came here to make a name after the abduction of Chibok girls. As at the time we came in contact with him, he had done some work in other parts of the world, including his secret negotiation for peace in the Niger Delta. Davis showed us many photographs of himself with leaders of the Niger Delta militants. Many of those photographs were in his computer.  He showed us evidence of the work he has done in other parts of the world. At a point, the Tony Blair Foundation wanted to come into Nigeria to negotiate with the sect through him. But Davis was already working for government, and the Foundation didn’t want to work with government. So, he didn’t spearhead that project. His expertise is known all over the world.”

Corroborating this position, The Reverend Davis told The Mail of London in June this year that he had had an “ongoing contact” with Boko Haram, describing it as “a long process of building trust on both sides.” Our reporter learnt further that even during the period in which the Presidential Committee on Peace in the North-East was meeting with members of the sect, The Reverend Davis was helpful. “He was lodged at the Transcorp Hilton, and flew in a presidential jet. A top official in the presidency paid his bills. We held meetings with him and elements in the sect at Transcorp Hilton. You know what that means. At a time government was desperate about the release of Chibok girls from captivity, the presidential jet was used to convey him to Maiduguri. Thereafter, he would be given the security cover while he met with the sect’s leaders.”

Speaking about his own experience, The Reverend Davis said in an interview with The Cable, an online publication, recently that, “I have been involved in peace negotiations in Nigeria since 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo invited me to intervene in the Niger Delta crisis. With a local Nigerian colleague, I spoke with Asari Dokubo and took him to Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Because Asari is a Muslim, the Muslim boys in the North heard about me and warmed up to me. I did a report in 2005 on the threat of extremism among young northern Muslims.

“Obasanjo’s security chiefs dismissed the report with a wave of the hand. They said no such thing existed. In 2007, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, who desired to end the militancy in the Niger Delta, invited me and made me presidential envoy. I toured all the northern states. I went to the country’s borders. I came back with a report that there were some budding sects in the North. The national security adviser (NSA) at the time, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, dismissed the report. He said they didn’t exist. A succession of NSAs dismissed all these reports and allowed the groups to flourish.

“By the time President Goodluck Jonathan came to power in 2011, these groups had spread all over the North. They had cells and commanders in 16 out of the 19 northern states. President Jonathan called me and sought my opinion on the best way to tackle the militancy and bring it to an end.

“I knew many of the leaders. I spoke with them. They trusted me. They initially wanted to kill me. They thought I was an American but I told them I was not. They also thought I was British but I said I was not. I told them I was an Australian. They relaxed. I don’t know why but they became more accommodating. They became friendly and, gradually, we built the trust.

 They started feeling free with me. I don’t call them Boko Haram. I call them JAS. People call them Boko Haram. They don’t call themselves Boko Haram.”

BUNGLED EFFORTS FOR PEACE DEAL AND RELEASE OF CHIBOK GIRLS

Our reporter learnt that last year, while government took steps to enter into dialogue and peace deal with the sect, Reverend Davis made contacts with the sect’s commanders and secured a kind of terms of peace agreement from them. We learnt that in the first instance, the sect wanted women and children of the sect’s leaders released from captivity. The Reverend Davis, Sunday Trust, learnt, successfully convinced government to release that class of detainees on June 14, 2013, but when the sect leaders who wanted to drop their arms sought unconditional amnesty, government disagreed with them, hence the peace process collapsed.

The lady who worked closely with Davis added that, “When the dialogue committee was at work, the Australian, too, was in secret talks with some of the sect’s leaders. There were 12 Boko Haram commanders with whom he worked, and their main demand was that their women and children in detention should be released as a sign of government’s seriousness. After that, they would name the persons who would negotiate other terms of peace agreement with government. That was the stage we were. Suddenly, instead of government to take that line of action, it decided to declare a state of emergency. The sect leaders, therefore, went into hiding, believing that any effort to negotiate with government would lead to their death. They gave an example of some persons who met government in Kaduna for peace talks, but were later caught and killed.”

Speaking in an interview The Cable on how this peace deal collapsed, Reverend Davis said, “They wanted training for the widows of their deceased fighters. They asked the government to give these women cottage training. They, ironically, wanted education for the children of their deceased members. That is why I don’t call them Boko Haram (“Western education is a taboo”). They asked that the children be sent to school. They also wanted the government to rebuild villages that were destroyed by the security agencies. They asked for amnesty as well. : 

The president said he would not grant amnesty in the sense that they meant it. He said those who surrendered their arms would not be prosecuted, but those who continued to commit more crimes would face the law and would be charged with treason. They also wanted women and children who were being held in custody to be released. Their leaders that I spoke with were ready to accept the conditions. But the NSA then, Gen. Owoye Azazi, went vehemently against it. He said there should be no negotiation with terrorists. He completely turned the military against the peace deal I was working on, even though we were very close to bringing an end to the insurgency the same way we did it in the Niger Delta. The military then refused to back the deal. They succeeded in convincing the president not to accept it. I could understand where they were coming from: the security budget was like $6 billion and any peace deal would seriously reduce their budget.”

It was in the same manner that the effort to release Chibok girls failed, because the military didn’t want government to yield to the sect’s demands.

THE CURRENT OUTBURST AND COUNTER-ACCUSATIONS

The Reverend Davis claimed that he went to town with the story of his frustration in rescuing the Chibok girls because he couldn’t imagine how a  government would behave as if all was well when over 300 girls are held in captivity by a very violent sect. According to him, “We are talking about 200 Chibok schoolgirls, but there are over 300 other girls that have been kidnapped. There are many young men that they also kidnapped and turned against their families. They asked them to go and slaughter their family members and they are doing it. Nobody is talking about those ones. They are the new child soldiers.”

Though his major concern has been the need to release the young girls from captivity, his comment on the supposed sponsors of the sect has taken a central position. In his interviews, The Reverend Davis claimed that some of the sect’s commanders named former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and General Azubuike Ihejirika, a former Chief of Army Staff, as some of the sponsors of the sect. He also listed an unnamed official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as an agent through which funds are mobilized for the sect.  

Both ex-Governor Sheriff and General Azubuike have dismissed the allegations. It is not clear how the retired General was implicated in the sponsorship of the sect, but elements in Maiduguri told our reporter that the disbandment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) led to the escalation of the insurgency.

“Many of us think Ihejirika deliberately disbanded the JTF,” our reporter was told. “What it meant was that only the army would be in charge of the operation, and that’s not possible. When the JTF was in force, all the services, the SSS, Police, Navy, Air Force, Customs, Immigration, etc, were involved in intelligence gathering, which helped in the operations. But now, the army is alone, and that is why the sect has an upper hand.”

It is difficult to understand why government has disowned The Reverend Davis, saying it has nothing to do with him, but Sunday Trust learnt that a section in government believed that the Australian was not dealing with the mainstream elements in the sect.

“Davis’ contact with the sect is through a woman who truly has a measure of contact with Boko Haram,” another person who claims to understand the working of the sect argued. “However, I don’t believe the woman knows anybody in the Shura Council who take decisions. There are all sorts of splinter units, all of them in Boko Haram, but to reach the core of the group is no tea party. I don’t think the Australian did. Those in the fringes may have their own measure of influence, but the hardliners hold the ace. Perhaps, government discovered this and decided to do away with him and his roles.”

AN INDEPENDENT BODY SHOULD PROBE DAVIS ALLEGATION:

A former Commissioner of Police and social critic, Abubakar Tsav has said the federal government should constitute an independent body to look into the allegations by the Australian negotiator, Stephen Davies.

Describing the allegations as weighty, Tsav said it was rather curious that the federal government that was said to have engaged Mr. Davies is now denying ever engaging the Australian hostage negotiator.

“How can a foreigner come into the country and travel to such places without the knowledge of the authorities that be?  The denial by the federal government over Mr. Davies engagement follows that same pattern of denial over the Chibok girls abduction, where the security agencies came out to say they had rescued the girls only to recant later. So they are always giving false information over security matters.

“It is therefore only through an independent body of investigation that the allegations made by Mr. Davies, that a former Borno governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, and former army chief, General Ihejirika, are sponsors of Boko Haram should be properly inverstigated,” Tsav said.

Commenting on Ihejirika’s exoneration by the DSS, Tsav said: “It is possible that Ihejirika could sponsor Boko Haram in order to avenge what the northern troops did to his people during the Civil War.  For instance, it is rather curious that up till now the circumstances that led to the death of the late General Shuwa are still unknown.”

Also, speaking to Sunday Trust at the weekend, the former military administrator, Colonel  Isa  Kontagora  reasoned that former governor Modu  Sheriff  might have been linked with Boko Haram because one of his cabinet members that was arrested and killed in a very suspicious manner with the sect leader, Muhammad Yusuf during the insurgency crisis in Maiduguri when he was serving as governor of Borno State, was a member  of the sect.  “If this and many other things are why they think he has any explanation to make concerning the insurgency issue, I think he should be thoroughly investigated.”

Col Kontagora (retired) added that it was wrong for the DSS to exonerate former Chief of Army Staff Azubuike  Iherijika without investigating the allegations leveled against him on the insurgency issue. “If anyone is mentioned, I think what is proper is for the authorities to investigate him on all the allegations. Nigerians need to know if he is a culprit or not. They need to know the financiers or backers of the sect so that government can approach it in a way that will help to restore sanity to the community.”

Kontagora  insisted that the claims made by Stephen Davis should not be swept under the carpet.
“Government should investigate it thoroughly to get to the root of the matter and put an end to the mess. Anyone found wanting, either in financing the terrorist group or otherwise, should be prosecuted.”

WHAT FUTURE FOR PEACE IN THE NORTH-EAST?

The lady who claimed to have worked closely with Davis and had met some of the sect members told our reporter that government’s emphasis on the use of force made those who initially planned to renounce violence to have a rethink.

 “Government is not ready for peace talks, hence many of them who initially wanted to drop arms have joined the violent wing. It seems they are determined to fight to death or success, and that is very bad for our country. All over the world, insurgency is defeated through dialogue, but we have taken the other course, which is tough and rough. It’s only God that can save us. I feel strongly that Jonathan wants peace, but the issue is apparently beyond him. You have all sorts of government officials and godfathers who benefit from the violence. They are in control, so they don’t want the violence to end.”

The Reverend Davis, in his interview with The Cable made a similar statement, saying government can’t overcome the crisis without entering into a peace deal: “A peace deal backed by a strong military is the way out. But the government must first bring the sponsors of insurgency to book. Government must arrest and interrogate the politicians funding the insurgency. Government must cut off the supply of funds to the militants.

“There is a ritualist group in Boko Haram that delights in slaughtering people. This group is being heavily supported by someone based in Cairo, Egypt with funds supplied by Nigerian politicians and power brokers. If funding is cut to this guy, there are many commanders in the Boko Haram camp who are ready to dialogue, release the captive girls and end the insurgency.”

Daily Trust.