Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha bares out his minds on recent clash with his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and his with held certificate of return.
He noted that the APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, is fast turning the party to regional minority party adding that if the activities of the chairman is not checked, APC might have serious set back in the year 2023.
Okorocha spoke with State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa in Abuja.
On the mistake of 2015 and the emergence of new leadership for the National Assembly, Okorocha said: “I have been watching carefully what is happening in the National Assembly, it’s a very interesting drama. But all I ask them is that they should consider the South East in their calculations.
“This nation will not be properly balanced if South-east is not carried along properly in the affairs of the National Assembly. Nobody seems to be talking about the South-east, it looks like the South-east doesn’t have a place anymore, that is wrong, politically speaking and that is not good for APC.
“Because there is going to be a bigger APC after President Muhammadu Buhari must have left the seat. My fear now is that APC might have a serious set back in 2023 because the Oshiomhole’s led executive is actually turning APC into a regional minority party which shouldn’t be because of his mistakes.
“Right now in the whole South-east, we don’t have an APC governor. So if there is any discussion in Nigeria now within the APC governors and President Muhammadu Buhari, there would be nobody from the South East.
“This is what the APC Chairman has done in the South-east. I think it’s a capital attempt to frustrate the efforts of the South-east. But I appeal to every Nigerian to support the cause of the South-eEast.
“They shouldn’t think about giving South East, whatever position for giving sake. You can’t just wake up and give them any position. South East is a key primary zone in this country and if we don’t get the number one seat, we should get the number two seat.” he said
He also blamed Oshiomhole for his predicament. According to him, INEC has no right to withhold his certificate of return.
Asked why his party is not making any case for his certificate of return, he said: “I won’t be surprise because, of course, you know the imposition we suffered in the party. When you say the party, you talk about the leadership of that party. I don’t have problem with the Working Committee of that party, I only have problem with the chairman of that party as he took it upon himself to do the wrong thing against me for just no cause and to fight a battle that he can never win.
“No, he is the one that is behind all these impositions, can you imagine, as I speak to you the APC candidate in Imo State did not win a seat, APC does not have a councilor in Imo State now, it does not even have a House Member.
“But the AA party has eight seats in the Imo State House of Assembly, two Federal House and they have one senator about to come to the Senate. This is why internal democracy must be respected, let the will of the people prevail rather than this imposition.
“It is unfortunate what has happened in Imo State. At least, I have been vindicated for the fact that I said the APC candidate they are imposing on Imo people is not popular, he came from the opposition. When I was the leader of that party, when I was running the affairs of that party, we won 24 seats in the House of Assembly, we have governor, federal house members but today APC does not have because of imposition.” he said
On the true position regarding his certificate of return, he said “As it stands today, I am just waiting patiently for the release of my certificate of return for election that I duly won, and I am hoping that INEC will release my certificate of return.
“I have not contravened any section of the constitution and I have not done anything wrong not to be given my certificate. I pray and hope INEC would do what is just and what is right.”
Asked if he discussed the issue with the President, Okorocha said “I don’t think that would have been necessary to do because, it’s a straight forward matter. INEC conducted election, results were declared – the returning officer declared the results and I won. Only, one week later to hear that somebody wrote a petition that he issued that declaration under duress. I say where? Was it in his private house or was it in the collation Centre?
“If it is the collation, SSS were there, police were there, international observers, INEC officials and many others. So who actually put him under duress?” he queried
“The man has not been able to say that. Nobody has ever sent a statement about that. But I think INEC would want to do the right thing very very soon.
“Now in the same way, the governorship candidate of PDP never won that election because the election flouted section 179 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says that you must have the highest votes and you must have 25 percent in two third of the local governments.
“Now, this gentleman who was declared the winner by the same INEC, had 135,000 votes from 24 local government but had over 130,000 votes from his three local governments. Of course you know, he didn’t win that election. But even at that, we had the highest mark, the Returning Officer of INEC was never patient to even calculate to know that it was 200,000 votes cancelled and there is supposed to be a rerun.
“Also flouting that basic constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which says you must have 25 percent in two-third, he doesn’t have it.
He was confident that there would be rerun election in his state.
“So, as far as I am concern, there will be a rerun in Imo State and the Prof that did that should either be de-robed as a professor and he should be charged for that serious offence of not respecting the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. What this means is that someday, one crazy person might just walk on the street and take one mad man, give him result sheet and declared him winner even if the man did not belong to a party.
“And we are getting to a stage in this country that once you are declared, you are declared. This is the crazy thing that is happening in Imo State and also it happened in Okigwe zone where a loser ran away with the result sheet. The person came fifth, and is trying to return himself. Up till now as I speak to you the Okigwe senatorial seat has not been declared.
“I don’t know what INEC is waiting for because the man who won the election they could not declare him. Now the person who ran with the result sheet, and the Prof ran away to the US, he is not back. So there is a stalemate everywhere, I think INEC should revisit Imo matter.” he stated
He said that his relationship with the President is intact despite what has been happening in his state.
“As a matter of fact, Buhari is a great man, he is a man of wisdom, a visionary leader. That is why you see some of us going along with him. It’s for what he has upstairs – he can see far, that is why he made that declaration in Imo State – ‘vote according to your conscience. It was in Imo state that he first use that word. So my relationship with him is not affected in anyway.”
On why he visited the President, he said “I came here precisely to discuss with Mr President to come and commission my projects. I have completed the construction of a new Cargo Airport Terminal, Warehouses and cargo sheds that is to be commissioned.
“I have also completed a new police headquarters and also a new prison headquarters in Imo State. These are federal government projects built by Imo State government.
“Another landmark project is the Justice Oputa Court – the new Imo State High Court Complex which we have built.
“So, we have over a thousand verifiable projects to be commissioned. So I am requesting Mr President to kindly commission the federal ones and see how many of the state’s projects he could commission for me. This is precisely why I am here.” he said
INEC plans to reduce the number of political parties
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) plans a proposal for the alteration of the 1999 Constitution as amended to enable it to reduce the plethora of political parties in the country, which it said created for it a logistics nightmare during the 2019 general election.
According to the commission, a large number of parties, which made it design very long ballot papers, confused many voters, particularly the less educated, during the election.
If the situation persists, said the commission, not only will the logistics nightmare persist, it would continue to put illiterate voters in a dilemma.
The position of INEC was made known at the weekend by its National Commissioner on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, in an address in Makurdi, Benue State capital.
He said the commission was planning a review of the process of registering and deregistering political parties as well as how the parties choose candidates for the general election.
According to him, INEC is pushing for amendments to the Constitution and review of guidelines on party registration and deregistration to empower it to tighten up the registration process and delist parties that were “mere platforms” for political jobbers.
The commission expressed dissatisfaction with the registration regime, which it said has led to the nation’s electoral process being saddled with an unwieldy number of parties.
Presently, Nigeria has 91 registered political parties of which 73 fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential election.
INEC unfolded its plans just as former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election denied planning a protest over the commission’s denial that it has a server where it stored election data.
In his address, Okoye identified the conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries as the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various courts.
As part of the overhauling of the party registration process, the commission, he said, would present a new alteration to the constitution that will enable it to deregister political parties.
He said: “Nigerians must engage in root and branch review of the number of registered parties in Nigeria. The present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties. Some of the political parties are mere platforms and have no concrete and visible presence in most states of the federation.
“The presence of too many political parties on our ballot papers has in some instances confused some of our compatriots that are not well endowed in literacy. It has bloated the ballot papers and result sheets and trucking them to the polling units has become a logistics nightmare.
European Union releases reports on 2019 elections
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Nigeria for the March 2019 general election Saturday released its final report advocating a new law that ensures full transparency in the election results collation process.
It also said a combination of factors, including incumbency, suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, a few weeks to the election, and violence shaped the poll’s outcome. The EU report said Onnoghen’s suspension did not follow due process. And it alleged that over 150 people died in the violence that characterized the elections.
The Presidency, in its reaction in Abuja Saturday night, welcomed the report of the EU observer mission, pledging to analyze and act on the recommendations. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who said this in a statement, noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report alleged widespread pressure on the independence of the judiciary.
Chief Observer of the mission, Maria Arena, who signed the report, said they were on the ground between January 5 and April 7 with a core team of 11 experts and 40 long-term observers deployed to cover all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The report did not give details of the alleged killings but insisted that there were widespread violence and acts of intimidation, including cases of security officials harassing voters, which corroborated that part of the report.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed,” the report said.
It recommended 30 areas of reform to help elections and electioneering campaigns in the country and stressed the need for the leadership of the INEC to determine the role of the military in future elections.
“Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, and the media,” Arena said. She added, “This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”
he EOM noted, “Overall, the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout.
“Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability.”
But the EU said the leading political parties failed to rein in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at the federal and state levels. It stated that except for the federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at the state level.
“Journalists were subject to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work, including by security agencies.”
The report noted that INEC worked in a difficult environment but made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures, however, with considerable weaknesses.
According to the report, “Operational deficiencies led to the postponement of the elections. There were insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.”
The EU EOM reported that the deficiencies damaged the integrity of the electoral process and might deter future participation.
It said, “During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.
“While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made to the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained, including in relation to the use of smart card readers.”
The EU EOM also noted the suspension of the chief justice by the president a few weeks before the elections, which it said was seen to lack due process and reportedly undermined judicial independence.
Other issues highlighted in the report include: conflicting and late rulings on electoral disputes that undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political finance; very few electoral offences resulting in arrest or prosecution; problems with the collection of permanent voter cards; and the further fall in the number of women elected.
Atiku denies protest plan
There is no plan to lead a protest should the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) rule against my bid to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to grant him access to information on the Commission’s central server, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said on Sunday.
Atiku, who was the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, debunked reports that he was planning to lead a protest should his request be declined by the panel.
The former vice president Atiku his party are challenging President Muhammadu Buhari victory of at the tribunal where they have prayed the tribunal to compel INEC to grant them access to information relating to the presidential election on the Commission’s central server.
The electoral umpire told the tribunal on June 13 that it has no server for Atiku and the PDP to inspect.
In a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, the PDP candidate yesterday described the report in circulation to that effect as the handiwork of mischief makers.
According to Atiku, the said report was meant to mar his “spotless pro-democratic record”, with the view to laying the groundwork on false charges against him.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement circulating in a section of the media, to the effect that Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of PDP in the 2019 presidential election and Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007, plans to lead a street protest in the event that the election petition tribunal rules against him and his party on the issue of a server for the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“I wish to emphatically state that such a statement did not emanate from Atiku Abubakar or his privies. It is the work of mischief makers who want to mar his spotless pro-democratic record and lay the groundwork for their threatened actions against him on false charges of being a threat to national security.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku Abubakar believes in the Rule of Law and in the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In his almost four decades in politics, he has never taken action or spoken words against democracy and will not start now.
APC to decide National Assembly Principal Officers
The APC national leadership is also targeting filling the post of principal officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly on or before the July 2 resumption of plenary. The party leaders, it was learnt at the weekend, might meet this week with its members in the National Assembly to decide on lawmakers to occupy the posts of principal officers.
The meeting is to be presided over by the party’s National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had upon inauguration on June 11, elected presiding officers for the Ninth National Assembly.
While Senator Ahmad Lawan and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege were elected as president of the Senate and deputy president of the Senate respectively, the House of Representatives chose Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Ahmed Wase as Speaker and deputy speaker.
Already, with the election of Lawan and Omo-Agege as Senate presiding officers, North-east and South-south had already been taken care of, leaving the remaining four zones: South-west, South-east, North-west and North-central to fill the remaining four principal officers namely Senate leader, deputy Senate leader, chief whip and deputy chief whip.
It was further gathered that the APC leadership would first zone the remaining principal offices before meeting with its 63 senators later this week.
Findings, however, revealed that the Senate leader may come from the North-central, deputy leader from the South-west, chief whip from the North-west while the South-east may get the deputy chief whip.
Those seeking to be Senate leader include former Governor of Nasarawa State and chairman of the Eighth Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and former Governor of Kano State, Senator Kabiru Gaya.
Also, Senators Ajayi Boroffice, Remi Tinubu and Teslim Folarin are being touted for deputy Senate leader, while a former Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Adamu Aliero, and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, have been pencilled in as chief whip and deputy whip respectively.