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•APC charges lawmakers-elect to ensure victory in Saturday’s elections 

•We hope to win minimum of 30 states, says Senator Musa

President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stepped into the simmering issue of the prospective leadership of the 10th National Assembly, saying he has no preferred candidates for the leadership of the federal legislature to be inaugurated in June. Tinubu made this known at the Old Banquet Hall of the State House, while addressing new members-elect to the National Assembly at a meeting organised by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The president-elect’s position on the composition of the leadership of the soon-to-be composed 10th National Assembly was delivered at the meeting by Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima.

Although there were speculations ahead of the meeting that it was convened by the ruling party to sort out the likely distribution of leadership offices in the two chambers of the National Assembly, to avert a repeat of the 2015 scenario in which the party lost control of the affairs within the chambers, despite having the most seats in both houses.

The meeting chaired by the party’s chairman, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, was exclusive, as journalists were not allowed inside.

But one of the elected members of the House of Representatives, Festus Adefiranye of Ileoluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo Federal Constituency of Ondo State, confirmed that Tinubu’s speech was read by Shettima.

He said Tinubu urged the lawmakers-elect to network among themselves to agree on the emergence of a leadership that would be agreeable to them. He added that Tinubu said whomever they came up with would be presented to the party leadership, which would ensure that such complies with the principle of justice, balance and equity, in line with the zoning arrangement of the party.

On why the president-elect was absent at the meeting, another member-elect of the House of Representatives from Ilaje/Ese Odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State, Donald Ojogo, said Tinubu was busy working in Lagos ahead of the March 18 governorship and state assembly elections in the state.

Ojogo said Tinubu also charged the lawmakers-elect to return to their constituencies to work at the grassroots to ensure victory for the party this weekend.

The meeting, which held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, had in attendance, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, and other national executive members of the ruling party.

Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, the member-elect for Bungudu/Maru Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, Hon Abdulmalik Bungudu, said the issue of who would take office in the 10th National Assembly was not Tinubu’s priority for now.

Bungudu said the message delivered by Shettima, on behalf of the president-elect, was aimed at spurring members-elect to focus on the upcoming governorship and state legislative elections.

Bungudu stated regarding Tinubu, “For now, he said he doesn’t have anybody that he prefers to have as Senate President or Speaker, but consultations are going to continue to get the way out for the party and to also ensure the party emerges victorious in the forthcoming governorship and Houses of Assembly elections.” 

But some of the senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, disclosed that APC’s message to them had nothing to do with choices for leadership positions in the in-coming National Assembly.

Aside agreeing that the issue of zoning of leadership positions in the National Assembly was not a point of discussion at the meeting, the members-elect, who turned up in an their number, confirmed that the focus of the meeting was on next Saturday’s governorship and state legislative elections.

Four of the members-elect, who spoke with newsmen, including Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume; Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Sani Musa; and the member-elect for Kaura Namoda/Birnin Magaji Federal Constituency, Aliyu Sani Jaji, all said the focus was next Saturday’s elections.

According to Gbajabiamila, “The meeting was to bring members-elect, both Senate and the House, together to assure members that in spite of all the odds against the party, we were able to overcome and we were able to congratulate everybody.

“On the issue on zoning, we did not talk about it because we’re not there yet. We have an election coming up this weekend. And we needed to make sure that everybody goes back home, roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty. We’re not there yet so we need to compel the victory before we start talking about the leadership of the national assembly. The reason we didn’t discuss zoning is because we all agreed to tarry for a while until we finish the elections.”

On the rumour surrounding him being considered for the office of Chief of Staff, Gbajabiamila said, “I don’t know anything about that Chief of Staff thing. All I heard was that I didn’t come here last week to pick up my certificate and for that reason, somebody conjectured that I must be in line for the office, because I didn’t care about my mandate.

“I was in Lagos and I could not leave Lagos because I was campaigning for my party. That’s number one. Again, it’ll interest you to know that I was not here four years ago to pick up my certificate, because I couldn’t make it. I don’t think it is anything significant. I’ll pick up my certificate today or tomorrow.”

Ndume, a former Senate Leader, said, “The meeting ended up well. That is what we are expecting from the party. We did an assessment of our performance and also go back home to ensure that we take the victory to the end. Nigerians have spoken and decided to elect APC and we have some ups and downs as usual in every electoral process.

“The party appealed to National Assembly members-elect to play down the leadership issues and focus more on ensuring that we take the election battle to the end and that is to ensure that we win our states. So the party has charged us and agreed that interactions like these should be frequent to allow us go in the same direction to avoid bad experiences of 2015 and 2019.

“The issues of zoning did not come up. The Nigerian government now is going to be the National Assembly government, because the president, vice president, party chairman, and secretary are all senators. So, we are going to have a rancour-free relationship.

“What we agreed is the members of the National Assembly should produce their leadership, based on who they think is the best and also considering the issues at stake and putting in place justice, fairness and equity. The president-elect will at the appropriate time take his decision.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa said, “This is a family affair meeting and it went very well. The national chairman and the vice president-elect welcomed all elected National Assembly members and we appreciated the thoughts they have given us, that we should all go back to our various states to make sure that come March 18, we are able to present our governorship candidates to the people so that on that day, they will emerge victorious.

“It is a family affair. This is not the right time to talk about zoning. All we need now is to consolidate our victory. We have won the presidential and we should be able to take at least a minimum of 30 states.

“After the governorship election, we are going to gather again and by then we’ll take stock of what we have achieved and then the zoning system that the party wants to adopt will be given us. The party agrees that all members will agree with what the party decides.”

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Anyim Pius

A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has berated the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party for his suspension from the party. He also said he had no regret for supporting the All Progressives Congress to win the governorship election in his home state of Ebonyi.

Anyim, who contested the party’s presidential ticket in 2022, said the leadership should rather hide their faces in shame for leading the party to defeat in the presidential and other elections. He also said the failure of the party to give the suspended members fair hearing before taking such an action had made it a nullity.

The former President of the Senate was suspended by the NWC of the PDP on Thursday over alleged anti-party activities. But in a statement, on Friday, he noted that the NWC should busy itself with how to move the party forward, rather than further dividing it.

The statement partly read, “The action of the NWC is, to say the least, disappointing. I thought the concern of the NWC now would be how to undertake a thorough self-examination on why they performed so poorly in the general elections rather than seek to further divide the party by shifting blame.

“It smacks of arrogance for the NWC to put up a bold face instead of showing remorse and being sober for leading the party to such a colossal loss in the 2023 general elections, thereby dashing the hopes and expectations of party members and indeed Nigerians.”

The party chieftain also accused some members of the NWC of working against the party in the election.

He stated, “It is clear that arising from the leadership style of the NWC, many members intentionally and proudly worked against the party, including members of the NWC. Therefore, it is a display of innate cowardice for the NWC to choose soft targets to suspend and fear those who daily demonise the party.

“It is difficult to explain why the NWC is in a hurry to suspend leaders of the party without recourse to fair hearing, without which their action is null and void.”

Speaking on the Ebonyi governorship race, he stated, “In the case of Ebonyi State, the NWC imposed a candidate from the sitting governor’s zone, contrary to the zoning formula of the state. Every effort to let the NWC see reasons fell on deaf ears.

“On the day the party’s presidential rally was held in Ebonyi State, I told Dr. (Iyorchia) Ayu I was boycotting the rally because I cannot support the candidate they imposed on Ebonyi State. Dr. Ayu did nothing. He did not care even as I did not attend the Ebonyi rally. The NWC may wish to know that I am proud to have supported the APC governorship candidate to win the election because that conforms with the equitable formula in Ebonyi State. It is therefore my expectation that the NWC should reverse itself in the interest of the party.”

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Accord governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dumo Lulu-Briggs

The Accord governorship candidate in Rivers State, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, has rejected the outcome of the governorship and House of Assembly polls in the state and called for the cancellation of the elections.

Lulu-Briggs, who made this call yesterday while addressing journalists at the party’s secretariat in Port Harcourt, said the party will challenge the outcome of the election in court if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not revert the result allegedly allocated to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

He stated that the election was marred with violence, snatching of ballot boxes, killings, manipulation of election results, police and thugs intimidation on the electorate among others.

According to him, the outcome of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly was responsible for voter apathy in the state.

He alleged that thugs working for the PDP hijacked the electoral process in most of the 6,866 polling units in the state and thwarted the electronic transmission of results.

The Accord standard bearer in the March 18, 2023, said INEC allegedly failed to meet their mandate in the election process, accusing them of conniving with the ruling party in the state to thwart the people’s will.

“In the last couple of days, the Rivers State Executive Committee of Accord, members of my campaign council, my running mate and I have painstakingly evaluated the governorship and House of Assembly elections of March 18, 2023.

“Based on INEC’s assurances, Rivers people came out in their numbers on March 18, 2023 to elect a new governor and new members of the state House of Assembly but instead of ballot papers, they were served with various degrees of violence that resulted in deaths, bodily harm and destruction of properties.

“They wanted a change, a redirection of their beloved state. But political thugs, gunmen and unscrupulous state security agents unleashed violence and bloodshed on them. As it were, the violence of 2015 and 2019 has repeated itself. Again, the blood of our innocent compatriots has been used to water the ambition of desperate Rivers State politicians.”

Lulu-Briggs revealed that days before the elections, Accord House of Assembly members were kidnapped, harassed. 

“The residence of Miss Nenubari Princess Nlenwa, the House of Assembly candidate of Accord in Tai Constituency was surrounded on the eve of the election by 30 men dressed in police uniforms. Their mission was to pick and lock her up and stop her from physically participating in an election in which she was a candidate. She escaped through the backdoor and spent the night in the forest.” 

He also informed that “local government chairmen were asked to write their resignation letters in order to coerce them into delivering their LGAs at all cost to the PDP or lose their jobs. Traditional rulers were also made to adopt the governorship candidate of the PDP.”

He said ahead of the elections, all the polls indicated  he was a topmost contender, reason he was invited to all the debates for topmost governorship candidates. “On election day, I got feedback on how well I was performing but my votes were changed by the PDP in most of the places that I won.

“There was no proper governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State on March 18, 2023. The exercise was marred and disrupted by killings, massive violence, heavy voter suppression, voters’ intimidation and other forms of irregularities and non-compliance with the electoral law and INEC regulations.

“It was characterised by vote buying, result forgery, result sheet mutilation, serial thumb printing, etc. These happened not just substantially but on an excessive and systemic scale.

“In the light of the above and lest the dead die in vain, I call on INEC to cancel the entire elections of March 18, 2023 in Rivers State and hold a fresh governorship and House of Assembly elections. Failure to heed this call will leave my party and me no choice but to file a petition at the election tribunal to challenge this travesty,” Lulu-Briggs added.

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High Chief Victor Ikeji

High Chief Victor Ikeji was actively involved in campaigning for Governor-elect Dr. Alex Otti. A member of the Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Council, Ikeji responds to questions on the prospects of an Otti administration in Abia State. He spoke with Nduka Nwosu. Excerpts:  

You were actively involved in the Alex Otti campaign network, how do you feel today?

The feeling comes with a sense of liberation, the realisation of a dream, the understanding that finally it is time to sit down and join the Governor-Elect in this God-ordained assignment to rebuild Abia State and set an agenda for the future. I am happy that in my age, my generation will be part of this re-building project of a state that has all it takes to be a key player in the economic growth of our country.

Do not forget that the former Eastern Nigeria of which Abia State was a part of, and under Dr. Michael Okpara who came from the state, took the economy of this region to a level it was considered Africa’s fastest growing economy. The high point of that growth process was agriculture, complemented with four industrial villages in Port Harcourt, Aba, Umuahia and Enugu. Aba made an impact as a trading hub of the sub-region of West Africa until recently when under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration, its infrastructure network collapsed. Since then, Aba went into a comatose and its industrial hub diminished in meaning and significance to the extent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu considered the opening of a fast-food joint in the city an achievement. 

The Governor-Elect is eager to revamp the infrastructure network in Aba and Umuahia the state capital which looks like a village and without a Government House, whereas Ebonyi State, carved out of Abia, now boasts of two Government Houses and fly overs across the state capital Abakiliki. 

Our Governor-elect has all it takes to go to work. Ndi Abia will witness less stress as he goes to fix things in their right places and remove what over the years has proved to be an impediment to the progress of the state. As a private citizen, he has used his Foundation to award scholarships to indigent students, made significant impact in assisting those with life threatening problems and general donations to improve health facilities, built roads in Arochukwu, Isiala Ngwa and Isuikwuato. He has also attracted a First Bank and Diamond Bank branches across Abia while working for the two organisations, and a host of other civic activity contributions too many to mention here, all within his limited resources. Now that he has access to the Abia treasury, he will utilise the resources to effect by deploying them where they are most needed. In the eight years ahead, there will be cause to celebrate. Those who put Abia State to shame, will live to see a difference.

How will the Governor-Elect raise the resources to execute what looks like a gargantuan project, considering the domestic and foreign debt profile of the state?

First, the Governor-Elect will obviously use his connections in corporate Nigeria to do deals that will be in favour of Abia State. He is highly respected in the industry and among his first assignments will be the restructuring of Abia’s debt profile, to get a breather in doing what needs to be done. If you study his manifesto, unity of Abians, rebuilding or reconstruction of the state and security of life and property, will be key points of his administration. The Governor-elect wrote the manifesto and as he put it, it is not the job of a paid consultant. To that extent he knows what he is talking about. The 35-page manifesto is his covenant with the people of Abia. He has said among other things that he would bring power and development to the people through the local governments because that is how it is expected to be.

Abia is a rich state whose economy was squandered by ungodly leaders and the Governor-elect will re-write that narrative. Our internally generated revenue, if effectively managed, will help create wealth outside the resource from oil. Long before now, Abians in the Diaspora had shown keen interest investing their earnings back home. With an improved security network which is a hallmark project in the governor-elect’s manifesto, foreign direct investment (FDI) including Diaspora earnings, would help boost resources available to the state. 

 The Governor-elect will do it the way of former Premier of Eastern Region Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara and the former Governor of Imo State before the creation of Abia State, Dr. Sam Mbakwe. These two great statesmen contributed to the growth of this section of the country. Fastforward, one would have thought that today, Aba should have witnessed the planned integration with Port Harcourt in terms of a huge industrial village or city as was in the original plan of the former Premier of Eastern Nigeria. What do we see instead? A decapitated city whose infrastructure network has been completely shaken down the drain.

The World Bank partnered with the Abia State Government to help in arresting perennial floods in the state especially in the Aba axis. Akwa Ibom was a beneficiary of that arrangement and has gone ahead to produce the expected results from the partnership. Surprisingly as the Ikpeazu administration prepares its hand over letter, that project has not realised its objectives, part of which principally was to halt flooding in Aba and its environs. The 27.4 billion Ndiegoro Abia World Bank project was queried by Mr. Martins Ichita, a legislator in the Abia State House of Assembly representing Aba South State Constituency. He is not the only one asking questions on how this collaboration has proved beneficial to Abia State, Aba in particular.

Specifically, the Ndiegoro Flood Control Project, was meant to fund road construction and erosion control in Aba, Port-Harcourt Road, Uratta Road, Obohia Road, Ohanku Road and Ngwa Road; this state of affairs gives you an idea of how profligate and unaccountable the Ikpeazu government had piloted the affairs of Abia State these past eight years. There was no attempt to improve on what he met on the ground. These are part of the problems facing the Governor-elect, but he is in no way fazed by issues of this nature.

Do you think the Governor-elect will place special emphasis on road construction?

The road infrastructure network in Abia is a major problem on both federal and state roads. The Governor-elect Dr. Otti is going to give top priority to road reconstruction. His administration will definitely make a difference. Our neighbours especially Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, have set a pace for us. 

Under Governor Sam Mbakwe, Imo State had a road network that was the cynosure of all eyes using Monier Construction Company (MCC) of which he was at a point its legal adviser, to create a modern road network in Imo State. Those halcyon years of trail blazing achievements are the expectations of the people from the Otti Administration. He knows he cannot achieve all of this in a twinkle of an eye, but he is able and excited to do the needful with his team.

Considering the huge wastage and corruption that occurred under the PDP, will Governor-elect Otti let go of recovering some of the loot and focus on the more important project of rebuilding Abia?

If you have been listening to his recent interviews, he is saying just that, which is that the task on ground calls for minimum distraction. A probe into the malfeasance that engulfed the state from the word go, will be more damaging than rewarding. Nothing will come out of such a probe. Therefore, the governor is not likely to travel along such a trajectory. My take is that right now the Governor-elect is working towards hitting the ground running from day one. That is who he is. He knows there are outstanding salaries to be paid; he knows that hungry and sick pensioners have been dropping dead for non-payment of salaries and gratuities; he knows about the problems of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH). He knows that our hospitals and the health sector are severely damaged. He knows so much is wrong with Abia State, and these are the reasons he is assembling his arsenals for action, gathering a team with zero corruption tolerance as its mantra.

 Finally, what is your message to the Governor-elect?

I have already sent out my message to him. It is an encapsulation of the way the majority of Abians feel right now comparing him with Solomon, king of Israel who was charged to rebuild the Lord’s temple. His victory came with a wide margin over his closest contestant Chief Okechukwu Ahaiwe of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). His entry into the gubernatorial race was strewn with thorns along the way but he withstood the tests and trials guided by the unseen hand of the Almighty. Ndi Abia are jubilating across the country and the global village where they remained awake praying that this huge opportunity of liberation must not be allowed to slip off our hands by the same forces that held Abia captive for 24 years. 

To whom much is given much is expected. There is no doubt that looking at the Governor-elect’s pedigree, that of a man whose mission has been defined, that he would deliver. He is a banker per excellence, just as His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi who chaired Fidelity Bank and helped it experience huge growth. Governor-elect Otti’s years in Diamond Bank as Chief Executive took it out of the doldrums before his resignation to face a greater challenge of liberating Abia State. As an economist and columnist, he has tutored us with brilliant postulations and ideas on how to grow the economy. All of these will come to bear at this momentous opportunity to reconstruct Abia and its economy. 

Ndi Abia will remain loyal partners in this rebuilding project The task ahead is enormous, but we believe one with God is majority. Ndi Abia believe our new governor-elect is a Godsend and are therefore wholeheartedly behind him.

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