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Nsima Ekere: The promise of a new Akwa Ibom, By Ubong Effiong

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There are few politicians with his spirit. Everywhere he goes and everywhere he speaks, the atmosphere is ablaze with love and hope. Unlike the typical politician, he seeks votes with the humility of a servant and the responsible mien of true leaders.

In this season of political acrimony, mudslinging and hate speeches, Nsima Ekere, the Akwa Ibom State Governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is a chunk of good news that we must relish.

Last Sunday at Cardinal Ekandem Catholic Church Uyo, Ekere’s essential personality was in full display. In a move quite unfamiliar in this clime, Ekere smashed bitterness and acrimony under his feet and embraced his main rival in the March 2ndgovernorship election-Udom Emmanuel, the incumbent governor of the state, shortly after service. The two were locked in a warm embrace that was long enough for the congregation to soak in.

It was a move that electrified the atmosphere with joy and jubilation. A rare display of camaraderie by political gladiators in a state where threats of thunder and rainstorm were common campaign vocabularies. The crowd that gathered to watch the rare spectacle felt a joy akin to that of beholding something that one had waited so long to see.

Ekere spoke after the embrace when he urged the Church to pray for the state and the political process so that it could be devoid of violence. “It’s not about APC. It’s not about PDP. It’s about Akwa Ibom State. And you know that God knows the end from the beginning. So, even as we stand here, God knows who the next Governor will be. And so, all we have to do as Christians is to continue to pray.

“So, please, pray for us, sir (Bishop), pray for the political process. We need peace and we need security. We do not need to spill the blood of any Akwa Ibom child in the course of these elections.” Ekere however used the occasion to alert of plot by some desperate politicians in the state to bring in thugs to disrupt the political process and cause widespread violence in the state. He called on the Church to fight and defeat such plans with prayers.

It was a promising moment for the state, and the significance of the day was not lost on the incumbent who also deserved commendation for providing the right environment. Governor Emmanuel also took his part in the historic occasion. Taking a cue from Ekere, he said: “Let me also say here, I want to join my faith with what my brother(Ekere) has said, at the end of the day, it is not about us. It is about the soul of the state. It is about the destiny of this state.

“Whatsoever we do today as government, it is for the destiny of Akwa Ibom State. Everything we do in this state today is about the future of our own children.”

The import of the moment was also not lost on the Church which provided the venue for the historic meeting. The Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Uyo, John Ayah referred to the two governorship candidates as children of the church and declared the Catholic Church would be neutral in the forthcoming elections.

He said: “I wish to state it very clearly that the church doesn’t stand in preference to one party against the other. There are my sons who are in PDP. There are my sons who are in APC. They all belong to me.”

Senator Godswill Akpabio, immediate past governor of the state who has been at loggerheads with his successor, was also part of history. In the spirit of true leadership, he also exchanged greetings with Governor Emmanuel, who is believed to be his political god son, after the ceremony.

Akpabio, also a politician who espouses peace and strongly believes in the guidance role of the Church, said prayers by the Church would ensure peace before and after the elections in the state. Akpabio who is popular called the “Uncommon Transformer” for his achievement as two-term governor of the state, urged the people to embrace peace.

Ekere, who is the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), kicked off his gubernatorial campaign late last year with a public lamentation of the backwardness and poverty that had swamped the state in recent years. He said he had come to make Akwa Ibom great again and promised to reverse the trend with his five-point vision for economic prosperity: infrastructural and rural development; education, health and social protection; security; and governance and infrastructural reforms.

Ekere also said when he first indicated interest to contest the 2019 governorship election, his desire was founded on the need to offer the state a new vision for collective prosperity and promised to domesticate in the state all Federal Government social intervention programmes if elected governor next year.

He had stated: “Our government will launch a N20 billion to fund and raise a critical mass of transformative entrepreneurs (TEs) who will use and innovation to grow the private sector and create wealth,

“Best practice Indian models of TE development will be put in place. About 3,000 TEs will be produced and empowered every 6 months in the State,

“In four years, we would have created 24,000 TEs who in turn will stimulate the economy and create no less than 120,000 jobs.”

He promised to improve food security in the state by harnessing the value chain for major food and cash crops such as oil palm, cassava, fruits, and seafood, stressing that his goal would be to create policies, implement the Graduate Farmers Scheme to enable self-sufficiency in food production by 2023.

In a region where youths are taking to militancy and crimes, Ekere’s plan holds the promise of a developmental vision that is youth-focused. He said his government, if elected, will promote the participation of 15,500 Akwa Ibom Youths annually in farming and as extension agents, promising that the Extension services will be revived and made an important unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Akwa Ibom State may well be on a march to becoming an economic hub that is set to rival the neighbouring Rivers State. But March 2nd would show whether the people of the state have bought into his vision.

– Effiong wrote in from Uyo

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OPINION

Hammed Olamijuwon to youths: Vote wisely, shun violence and don’t sell your vote

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Young and dynamic, Hammed Solomon Olamijuwon has urged youths across the country to vote massively for young and vibrant candidates into respective position that would represent their interest in different level of government in the forthcoming general elections.

Olamijuwon in a statement issued at the weekend, implored Nigerian youths to be an active participants in the February 16 and March 2 elections.

His words: “In few days to this time, we shall be taking a major decision concerning our nation by electing leaders that will steer the affairs of this country. Our decision in the next few days will determine our next four years. The people we decide to elect to the position of power will determine a lot concerning you and I.

“I argue youths to go out and vote during the general election. If we all sit in our homes claiming that our votes won’t count, remember that some persons go out on that day and vote. If they vote-in the wrong people; we will have no choice than to be bound by their decisions over this nation for the next few years to come.

“If you have your PVC, kindly makes sure you go out to vote. Vote wisely. Vote credible and responsible candidates. Do not sell your vote. We must ensure that the right people are elected this time.”

Olamijuwon, a Real Estate developer and Managing Director of HSO Global Limited, while stressing the need for Nigerian youths to play active roles in the forthcoming elections, said the youth votes has the potential to be extremely influential in Nigeria.

“I believe the youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential in this country. Young voters notoriously neglect the importance of voting, but their voice is an important one on both sides of the aisle. Key issues in every election increasingly relate to the concerns of students and professionals between the ages of 18 and 35, making it essential for members within that age group to educate themselves on political issues and take to the polls,” he said.

On his political ambition; the Ijesha man who hail from Ilesa East Local Government Area of Osun State and founder of a Non-Governmental Organisation, HSO Foundation whose youthful political pedigree has endeared him to young and old in the town especially those in the grassroots, disclosed that: “I am taking my time and consulting political stakeholders across the country and my state to know the next step regarding my ambition of serving my people. By 2023 I believe the youth is taken over full time and I can assure my people I am ready to serve them.”

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OPINION

This is what next level means, By Tunde Ajose

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When the news hit the media that the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a press release, calling the attention of the federal government to his fears towards the 2019 presidential election and beyond, it is not surprising that the media took a mere advice out of proportion.

Right to free speech is a fundamental human right and well recognised by the Nigerian constitution.

In the release, OBJ as he’s popularly called while stating his desire for a change of government, insisted that Nigerians must vote in his preferred candidate to replace the incumbent, President Mohammadu Buhari, and send the country back to the dark days better forgotten.

The question that one would have expected to be asked should have been whether this was because he loved Nigeria or there was a selfish motive behind it all. Why?

It is not coincidental that his preferred candidate happens to be the same person he once ruled the country with. This same preferred candidate is the one same OBJ had rubbished severally in the media as unreliable and even went to the extent of writing a book; dedicating substantial pages to why Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must never be allowed to smell power again.

I could remember an interview Chief Obasanjo gave a long time ago, when he was also faced with cries of non performance. He was asked why it was taking like forever to fix Nigeria based on his promise. Obasanjo answered, “As a farmer, I know where I can hit a storey building with a caterpillar and it would all collapse within few minutes. But it takes months to build the same without changing its specification.”

Obasanjo believed that many years of military misrule can’t just be undone with few years of democracy as it would take time.

This is the same belief of the Buhari led government. That 16years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s rule, where money meant for national projects were shared by the privileged few. The insurgency caused by Boko Haram which has been greatly decimated by our gallant men of armed forces would have been a thing of the past if PDP 16 year rule has not diverted the fund meant for standard arm procurement into few pockets.

President Mohammadu Buhari came into power with the believe that even though the corrupt elements had already done havoc to the national treasury, he could not comprehend extent of rot he eventually met.

So with the believe that you can’t build a solid house on a rotten foundation, Buhari, despite enormous expectations placed on him, decided to start rebuilding the foundation into a stronger institution for the country in his first term and hope to consolidate and erect a befitting edifice, where corrupt elements, insurgency, unemployment and many social vices would be things of the past.

And this is the next level.

 

– Ajose, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.

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OPINION

Atiku’s US Trip: So much ado about nothing, By Tunde Ajose

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For good watchers of the Nigerian politics, one thing has come to stay in our political experiment at getting it right in this country and that is the ability for smart politicians to easily sway the electorates with mundane issues.

The campaigns are no longer issue based but media sensationalism.

Latest of such was the sudden appearance of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the United States of America! Then one begins to wonder why the opposition would think such is the needed magic wand to win the election.

And the euphoria may not be unconnected with the report that Atiku was barred from entering the States because of his fraudulent nature but the question is, why would any serious opposition believes such action would immediately translate into winning the Aso Rock.

One would have wondered why Atiku has chosen to travel with the current senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki? Could it be that he actually traveled under the diplomatic immunity of Saraki’s official delegation?

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, but they can still be expelled.

We need to be circumspect as we move forward as a nation and be more discerning. The current government of Nigeria is focused more than before in ensuring that Nigerians, regardless of the class or status has a befitting country they could fall back to and call a home.

It is quite obvious that while the opposition are playing to the gallery, the presidential campaign organisation of president Mohammad Buhari is busy rolling up its sleeves and getting down to fields where the real electorates are and connecting with them.

This past week especially has been full of activities for the president despite his age. Within a spate of two weeks, Buhari had sat down to two interviews in-between journeying from the length and breadth of the country in getting the message of hope down to the people.

The president does not rely on his privilege as an incumbent, but insisted on talking to his people and ensuring that Nigerians are united as they go to polls come February.

No one is in doubt that his message also resonates well with the citizens as they troop out en masse to welcome and listen to what he has to say. With the multitude of crowd recorded today as he presented the gubernatorial flagbearer of the party to the good people of Delta State and the ovation that greeted it, there is no doubt that Buhari is truly loved.

As we count down to the elections, Nigerians need to bear it in mind that the 2019 election is about building on a new foundation which the present government has been able to achieve in the first four years and giving the solid foundation out to the marauders to destroy along with the better forgotten 16years in power.

If Atiku is in the United States today, there is no way the intelligence agencies of the federal government of Nigeria would not know about it.

 

Tunde Ajose, a political commentator, writes from Lagos.

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