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OPINION

Delta politics of zoning: The myth and deceit, By Godwin Buwa

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Deltans have never been more apprehensive of their political future like they felt before the 2019 Governorship election. This feeling was occasioned by not only the empty threats from the APC Chairman, Adams Oshomhole on the desire to colonize Delta State but also on what happens in 2023 when the zoning system imposed on the state in 2007 by the then Governor James Ibori expires. Fair as it appears, this zoning was a mere exercise designed to satisfy the interest of certain individuals, as the only way of hanging on to the corridors of power.

Like as in every good movie that has two ends, the zoning arrangement in Delta State seems to be heading towards a tragic end. What will happen at the end arena remains a matter of prophetic guess work as many nationalities in the state are beginning to ask the inevitable question ‘How Did we get Here and who is the ultimate beneficiary’ of this so ‘beautiful’ zoning forced down our throat?

There is no doubt that the PDP has remained the political landlord of Delta State having won all the elections so far in the state.

It is also an established fact that the zoning and the PDP has produced excellent leadership in the state. However, there is an emerging school of thought with already an established large followership that now question or view the political arrangement as serving their interest of a select few. This school of thought has its main campus in the Ijaw axis of the state with satellite campuses in Isoko and Ndokwa axis of the state and their students are many. Their grouse, if the zoning arrangement must continue in Delta State, it must continue from the South Senatorial District that houses the Itsekiris, Ijaws and Isokos.

Their argument is hinged on the premise that by 2023, all the three senatorial districts in the state would have had a taste of the exercise and it will only be fair that the South Senatorial District which has consistently turned in the highest number of votes be allowed to enjoy the highest office which their votes gave to Central and North Senatorial Districts. They argue further that Central Senatorial District has already produced two civilian governors of the state in Chief Felix Ibru and James Ibori. The Ijaws who hold strong to this argument has the sympathy and understanding of the Isokos who feel highly marginalized in the zoning arrangement.

For the Isokos, they have been turned to the wretch of the earth or so they argue. They are vexed by the fact that in this present dispensation, under the government of Okowa, all they have gotten is a miserable office of the Majority Leader of the House of Assembly while the Urhobos who are waiting with smiles for 2023 are gifted with the powerful position of the Speaker of the House, the number three man in the state. The School in Isoko argue that since they have nothing to live for, they would rather work with the Ijaws and Ndokwas to make sure that the next Governor does not come from the urhobo axis as the PDP has not really fared well in urhoboland.

In these cacophony of arguments, what is evident and sure is that it will not be business as usual in Delta, come 2023 because the Ijaws and Isokos are spoiling fogger the pound of flesh. How the political leaders led by incumbent Governor handle the emerging threat will determine which party wins the next gubernatorial election in Delta State.

Until then, the comedy is still loading.

And while the comedy is still loading, it must indeed be a tragic handover story for governor Okowa as party leader in the state to allow the zoning that brought him to office collapse immediately after his tenure, when a simple equitable rejigging of the zoning formula will be all that is required to sustain the party’s winning streak.

The question one must ask is: is it fair for Delta Central Senatorial District to angle for the state’s highest office when it has taken double shot at it while Delta South, undoubtedly the greatest contributor to PDP success in the state has not and remains largely marginalized? Does it make for strategic political permutation for zoning if prime offices are not to be extended to other offices below that of the governor?

One would have expected that if the highest office in the state should elude a senatorial Districth like Delta South in one breathe, some form of balancing must be made not to rub it in to their faces by considering their interests in the immediate next offices. What manner of equitable arrangement will consistently serve the interest of one senatorial District at the expense of others? For instance, Delta Central is primed to produce the state governor in 2023. And it has served as Speaker of the state house already for one term in this closing dispensation with a possibility to run another term ahead of enjoying the chance to produce the state governor in 2023. I find this over pampering of one particular senatorial District completely obtuse because Delta Central if anything, isn’t the only senatorial District in the state. Besides, it has already overshot it’s chance to produce the state Chief executive even as it’s contributions to winning election in the state does not make it superior to the other two senatorial districts.

It’s hoped that the Governor Okowa and the entire leadership of the PDP would save the party’s winning streak by deploying requisite damage control now before it is too late. Feelers from marginalized Itsekiris, Isoko and Ijaw people are already indicating that unless the PDP as a party engages a proactive gear, the greatest shocker awaits it in 2023 elections. It is certain the zoning arrangement will not receive the nod of Delta South if remedial measures are not take to correct what approximates to disdainful imbalance in sharing prime offices. Can any one for instance, convince Delta South citizens why Delta Central that will produce the governor in 2023, will still be holding the office of Speaker in this dispensation? Does Delta South not have formidable enough lawmakers that can handle the office of House Speaker?

If Delta State PDP wants to sustain it’s hold in the state in the face of a rampaging APC government at the center, the genuine agitations from Delta South must be given the attention it deserves. Flavours of alliances are already being perceived from very formidable but dissatisfied Political leaders of Itsekiri, Ijaw and Isoko extraction. Any seed of alliance allowed to be planted by such politically sagacious leaders will spell untold trouble for PDP in Delta State.

But all of the troubles can be averted now that there is the chance to redistribute offices drawing wisdom from the present imbalance and projected zoning arrangement for 2023.

– Godwin Buwa write from Warri, Delta State

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OPINION

NNPC and the fuss over staff re-deployment, By Gbenga Adeleke

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It’s hardly tenable that any enlightened interest could question the rationale for the announcement of staff retirement and re-deployment at a public institution the way the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did last week.

The NNPC last week announced the retirement of 11 senior management staff and redeployment of 19 others in an exercise it described as statutory. Most of those redeployed are to replace those exiting the Corporation into retirement by end of May and early June.

But there have been insinuations about the exercise in the media, and some have questioned while the GMD did it at a time of transition for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Some have even read ethnic interests into the exercise.

I am sure the Group Managing Direction, GMD, of the Corporation, Maikanti Baru, who must have initially felt relief being able to get the approval for the retirements and redeployments at once(considering his busy schedule), must be bewildered by grumblings in the media over the exercise. The frustration was almost palpable in a press statement issued by NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, explaining the exercise.

He described the staff movement as “normal replacement and backfill exercise” to bridge the gap occasioned by impending retirement of some management staff of the corporation, among others. He stressed that the process followed extant rules and that such replacements were always effected before the final exit of the concerned staff.

The NNPC spokesman said it was usual for the corporation to obtain approval on replacements of retiring staff ahead of schedule. He said this was the case with the recent exercise that takes effect as at when the retiring staff departs at various times within the period. Ughamadu said the exercise was effected to ensure uninterrupted operations of the corporation in achieving its mandate and urged members of the public to disregard any insinuations.

It certainly beats the imagination that some vested interests would not see the exercise for what it was- an administrative effort to promote efficiency and prevent lethargy. While it is not always a surprise that some Nigerians would be skeptical about NNPC figures or operational efficiency due largely to the unsavory history of the Corporation, it must be the height of pessimism(or even mischief) to ask questions about an administrative action that did not breach any law or public service rules.
It is quite obvious that the retirement of these officers will open up gaps in the management of some important Strategic Business Units and Commercial Strategic Units of the corporation. This undoubtedly calls for urgency in proposing competent staff within the corporation for promotion to fill up those vacancies. Only an indolent management would allow a vacuum to be created at such strategic units of the Corporation.
It is quite instructive that the faceless critics of the NNPC action are not concerned about those retired.

The grumbling, as is to be expected, must be coming from those whose sense of entitlement had been hurt by the exercise. These are NNPC senior staff who had hoped to reap from the retirement of others, but who were, in the wisdom of those at the helm at NNPC, not suitable yet for the offices.
This is why there is such desperation to discredit the exercise as a promotion of cronyism and ethnic interest by those who had waited in the wings, and perhaps lobbied to no avail for those positions.
It is almost a rehash of the sentiments usually expressed by mischief makers anytime the Nigerian military announced new promotions and posting. The military often found itself having to explain that its exercise was a routine activity which carried no sentiments.

While the NNPC is not the military, those who alleged the exercise did not follow due process have not stated what rules were breached. And those who claimed the redeployment favoured only a section of the country have not mentioned those who were suitable for the appointments but were bye-passed.

It is pathetic that a promotion exercise at a profit-driven public institution such as the NNPC would be viewed as if it were political appointments. Anyone who has cared to look through the list of those recently redeployed would appreciate the thoroughness of the selection process.  These are positions requiring special technical and administrative skills. No one has said any of those redeployed was not suitable for the position appointed.

While one cannot claim to know the level of competence of those appointed, we must have faith that those who carried out the exercise knew what they were doing. The NNPC has only one group managing director and the bucks stops at his table. If the GMD has to respond to queries on simple administrative actions from his table like staff redeployment, what right have we to demand efficiency from NNPC?

The fuss over the redeployment is a storm in a tea- cup. It is simply noise making, and it helps no one. The question any serious-minded Nigerian must ask on the exercise are few and simple.  First, did the exercise follow extant corporate guidelines of the Corporation? Two, are those retired due for retirement within the month or two or three as required by the rules? Three, are those redeployed to fill the expected vacancies qualified and competent? Is the approval for the redeployments beneficial to the efficiency of NNPC or not?

So far from what is available in the media, the answers to these questions are positive. If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, it goes without saying that any insinuation about other ulterior or exterior motives must be what it is: mischief!

The NNPC under Baru has earned our confidence, even if it’s in a small way, and we must give him the benefit of doubt. In a first of its kind in recent times, the NNPC was able to detect fraud in its operations and stop it.  Through fraud and forensic investigations of activities of its subsidiary groups, the NNPC was able to save $1.6bn that could have gone to the Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Nigeria Limited. This is already in the public domain.
The companies were fleecing NNPC’s flagship Upstream subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and the Corporation got an award against them to refund 1.6 billion dollars to the NPDC. Incidentally, the NPDC is among companies affected by last week’s redeployments.

Baru was the second Chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee in 2004, and as GMD he’s ensured all staff of the corporation and its various stakeholders were educated about NNPC’s corporate policies and the various anti-corruption acts in the country in order to avoid fraudulent transaction.

This is why the frenzy over the redeployments is meaningless.

Adeleke writes from Lagos

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OPINION

Babatunde Fowler: The zero sum game in political appointments, By Abubakar Ismail

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Let’s first look at the role of the media in politics. The media is supposed to be a medium where news and events is transmitted in its pure form to people. In Nigeria the media has become mediocre. It’s an avenue some pawkvy journalists and so called bloggers use to enrich themselves. It’s also an avenue for people to malign each other. Most news these days are sponsored and specifically targeted at opposition or someone perceived to be an enemy. They receive douceur to publish news these days, ofcourse there are a few trusted mediums.Even the president himself has been a victims of these bloggers/journalists. A story was written to say he’s a double called Jibrin, how can someone fabricate such a story and isn’t punished for his or her act. This is because the laws of our country regarding fake news and the media are lacking, government should ratiocinate putting a new law in place to curb this menace.
For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.
Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands.
Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again.
Adversaries can easily turn into enemies. If quality parties never let minority parties come away with half a loaf, the losers are bound to conclude they can only win through the utter destruction of the quality. Once adversaries think of democracy as a zero-sum game, the next step is to conceive of politics as war: no quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown.
This is the scenario currently being played out at the highest levels as the brilliantly acclaimed FIRS Executive Chairman Mr. Babatunde Fowler is witnessing an alarming character assassination attack on his person all in a bid to wreck his celebrated career. Let there be no mistake about it. The chairman honestly has a JOMO. Tunde Fowlers adversaries have declared war and surreptitiously worked behind the scenes under the vicious cover of social media to publish vile and unconscionable articles designed to sway public opinion on his person. No quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown. You can’t even pin point this wilder  pseudepigraphy. What do they stand to gain? They want his seat, Thats all. They have realized how juicy and important the position is. Mr Tunde Fowler raised the revenue generated to over 5 trillion naira last year and trying to achieve an estimated 8 trillion this year even in this trying times. Government is beginning to see that revenue from taxes can surpass revenue from crude oil sale, which was the main source of income for the country.
But we ask. Is this what high level lobbying in Nigeria has been reduced to? What happened to the days when the appointment or reappointment of top government assignments were adorned with competitive honor? When they were decorated with competence and brilliance and ultimately assigned or reassigned to the benefit of our great country? When the saying “may the best man win” was greeted with pride. Let there be no mistake about it. The industry and the corridors of power know the truth. They know that this accomplished academician and innovator of brilliant policies . Most times consummate professionals like Mr. Fowler are so engrossed in their work that they do not feel the need to address petty character assassination attempts on their person. But in this day and age. To remain silent  in the face of surreptitious social media mischief is seen to some as consent to the barrage of lies that are published on unverified on those poisonous social media handles who will kill the character of any man for a few shillings. At some point the Federal Government will get to the bottom of the peddlers of such falsehoods. However, in the meantime. All the lies in the world cannot change the accomplishments of the soft spoken brilliant advocate of fair taxation and ample representation of the people. To this we say, we salute you Mr. Fowler. Executive Chairman FIRS, Chairman African Tax Administration Forum, Board Member and First Vice Chairman United Nations Tax Committee of Experts On International Cooperation on Tax Matters.
It is with this in mind that we urgently seek to advise Nigerian Political Appointee seekers. As well meaning Nigerians whose primary responsibility it should be to deepen our young democracy. Try to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
We also ask people to be camp and know that there’s always a reward for hard work. Pls say NO to FAKE NEWS.
– Abubakar Ismail is a public analyst and lives in Abuja.
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OPINION

9th Senate Presidency race: Why Danjuma Goje is the man to beat

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Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje
By Sebastian Anuforo

At no time since 1999 has the race for the senate presidency been so competitive in a robustly healthy manner. Unlike in 2015 when some ambitious senators-elect ignored the ruling party’s zoning arrangement for the National Assembly, this time senators-elect are sticking with the party.

Barely a month before the inauguration of the 9th Senate, the race for the senate presidency is too close to call. Although the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, had zoned the seat to the North East and anointed Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, returning and new senators are yet to officially endorse hm.

If the APC expect a coronation for Lawan when the next senate is inaugurated, it may be in for another shocker as it was in 2015. This is because whether the APC admits it or not, the emergence of Bukola Saraki as senate president in 2015 showed that legislators want to choose their own leaders and may not tolerate a third party doing that for them.

This is why in my opinion, despite the choice of Lawan by the party, forces in the National Assembly and outside of it have thrown up other candidates for the throne. Alli Ndume, the senator representing Borno Central was the first to challenge the choice of Lawan as soon as it became public knowledge after senators-elect met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa shortly after the general elections.

Ndume, as expected, boasted he was the most qualified person for the position and that he enjoined the support of his colleagues. But a few days after he declared interest, some senators and groups started calling on Danjuma Goje, a senator from Gombe, to declare interest in the senate presidency. These senators worked underground to sell the candidacy of Goje to all the senators-elect.

Goje was a two- term governor of Gombe State who transformed the infrastructure of the state. He put Gombe State in the national limelight with his aggressive performance as governor. His cool-headed, progressive leadership style endeared him to the electorate who fondly called him “Limamu Change” (leader of change).

Among leaders of the APC in the north, no one did more for the party than Goje. Despite the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,was in power in his state, he staked everything to ensure the people voted APC in the presidential election of 2015 and 2019. It is a mark of high he is in the estimation of his people that he has won re=election to the senate twice.

The fact that he is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation is a strong indication that his colleagues in the senate hold him in high esteem. Unlike Ndume who has remained a controversial member of the senate, Goje has remained focused on his legislative duties and keeps a clean record. It is incredibly admirable that Goje has also managed to avoid getting involved in any legislative scandal despite heading a critical committee.

This is why it is not surprising that he is the only senator from the north east that has been endorsed by different groups and individuals who are not in the national assembly. The support he has enjoyed from people and groups outside the national assembly clearly show that the people strongly believe he is the only one among the three contenders who could properly represent their interest in national affairs.

If the APC is smart, it should give Goje all the necessary support to ensure he becomes the senate president in June. The party should be thinking of 2023 and the leaders who could ensure victory for the party in all zones of the country. Clearly, none of the three contenders have the political clout of Goje in the north east zone. Given him the senate presidency would help APC consolidate when Buhari is no longer in the equation. This is what smart parties do to keep their party in power.

Several groups including the North East Consultative Forum (NESF) and five other groups in the geo-political zone, had endorsed Goje and asked him to declare his intention to contest for the office of the Senate president.

The groups including North East Elders Mobilization Forum, APC national youth caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and North East Youth Awareness for good governance, urged Goje to run.

The group followed up with a letter to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on their endorsement of Goje. In the letter, dated 17th April, titled: “North East stakeholders endorse Goje,” the conveners, Barrister Mustapha Saidu and Alhaji Bello Ambo, commended APC for zoning the Senate Presidency to the North East.

They said the zoning of the position to the geopolitical zone was a confirmation of the party’s commitment to reward hard work, following the zone’s contribution to the party’s victory in the just concluded general elections.

“Following very wide consultations among stakeholders, party members and North East Consultative Forum and after careful assessment of his contribution to the party and Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration, we hereby present to you, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje as the choice of the people of the North East for the Senate President of the 9th Assembly.”

Since that letter became public knowledge, no group or individuals in the north east has contradicted the claims contained in it.

Feelers from lobby groups in the national assembly show that Goje is the man to beat in the race for the senate leadership. More and more legislators are said to be jumping on the Goje train. His admirers are impressed that he has an unblemished administrative and legislative record after so many years in governance. Not many are able to pull this off.

Compared to Lawan or Ndume, Goje would undoubtedly bring prestige and integrity to the office of the senate president. These are the attributes the next senate president must bring to the office if the national assembly wants to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the world.

-Mr. Anufor writes from Abuja

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