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Much ado about Presidential ambitions

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Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

There is something akin to the paranoia about our reaction to aspirants for elective positions. I use ‘our’ rather loosely to refer to netizens who constitute the most vocal group of the polity. This is especially so with the presidential and governorship ambitions of some politicians in some of the states. No doubt, there is some paranoia about the likes of Senator Orji Kalu, Professor Osinbajo, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, Senator Bola Tinubu, former Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and a few others declaring their interest to contest for president of the Federal Republic. The sub-text in the paranoid response is ‘You too? In other words, by our estimation, such fellows should not attempt to exercise their fundamental right as enshrined in the Constitution of the land.
Perhaps there is a reason. There is the remote fear that given our political antecedents, the system could produce anybody, fit or unfit, that the cabal of clandestine rulers of the country favours. The narrative is that the people do not have a say in who becomes president or governor. For most aspirants, therefore, the real fight is to get the party nomination. Else any unpopular or unfit candidate of any political party will meet their waterloo at the polls. But deep down there is a vote of no confidence in the electoral system.
To be sure, anyone, that is any Nigerian who is of age and is not an ex-convict has the right to signal interest in the presidency. It is left for the electorate to make the ultimate decision. This is how it works in a democracy. The party’s internal mechanism produces its candidate after going through a screening process. The party decision should be based on certain criteria that have been fully discussed. In preparing for the general elections in 2023, there is something to be said for the presidency moving south after eight years of power in the north in the spirit of power rotation. Yet, the PDP has thrown the contest open to all fit and proper persons, no matter their regional background. There is the feeling that the PDP took this decision to calm the nerves of one of the strong aspirants within the party. It is now left for the screening and elective processes to conclude the matter.
While all the jostling was ongoing, we hear such inane and anti-democratic statements from the incumbent rulers as ‘I will not hand over power to Mr A. or Mr B! is it the duty of an outgoing president or governor in a democracy to choose who to hand over power to? What if the people think differently? It shows the anti-democratic mindset of the practitioners of democracy who currently hold the reins of power. The APC under President Muhammadu has mismanaged the country, especially in relations between and among the ethnic groups. The most obvious failure is insecurity. In a normal country, the APC would be jittery about facing the electorate. The PDP would be drumming on the ineptitude of the ruling party as the country prepares for general elections. No party that has decimated the social and economic lives of the people ought to be returned to power in the next elections. No party that has kept all strategic political appointments in the north should return to power. All politicians who kept silent while an elected president whom they could hold accountable drove a knife into ethnic unity deserve to rule this country. No party that opposed any step toward re-ordering the political structure of the country should return to power. But sadly, in Nigeria, there are primordial and extraneous factors that shape election matters.

READ ALSO: ZONING: To be or Not to Be!

If truth be told, we need new hands in the saddle. Nigeria is too complicated to be left in the hands of persons who want to do business as usual. The old, grizzled politicians have led Nigeria into a mess. The future is uncertain. The economy is in terrible shape. There is hunger in the land. There is anger in the land. The personal weaknesses of the incumbent president have affected the nation negatively. The narrative of the absentminded leader has finally taken a toll on all segments of the polity. It is tragic. In old age, there are certain things we should not embark upon. No old man should inflict himself on the electoral process in Nigeria.
Most of the aspirants have brought themselves forward as a way of negotiating their future. They know that they will not get the party nomination. They know that they do not stand a chance before the electorate. But it inflates the ego of politicians to proclaim that they were once presidential or governorship candidates. No more. Some who could not govern their tiny states effectively, some who do not remember the names of their wives, some who left jail on technical grounds, and some who are facing corruption charges in the court of law are all in the field. We should lose no sleep about them. The system will reject them, I hope.
2023 will be a make-or-break election. The greatest threat which is facing the nation is that of insecurity. The Buhari administration road to the sear for power with so much promise and hope. The APC promised to end the insurgency in the north. The APC promised to end darkness in the land by making electricity available to the people. The APC promised to restructure the country. The APC promised to fight corruption to a standstill. The APC promised employment for the youth. The APC promised to stabilize the naira and make it more powerful. The APC promised to end strikes in the universities. As we write, all the federal universities are paralysed by a strike by all the unions. What has been the experience of Nigerians under the APC-led Buhari administration? An abysmal performance. The level of despair in the country is palpable. All presidential aspirants should be held accountable and should address these issues.

VISIT US: @theharmattan1

Nigeria must take itself seriously. That is the only way Nigeria will be taken seriously. That is the only way serious things can emanate from Nigeria. That is the only way Nigeria can be respected in the comity of nations. To choose a presidential candidate for all the wrong reasons is a sign that we are not ready to leap out of the stranglehold of poverty, hunger, and disease!

Professor Hope O. Eghagha, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Lagos Nigeria

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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