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A Prize for Chief Victor Umeh’s Resilience

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By Okechukwu Anarado
No one person in Anambra political turf has fought more tortuous political battles in defence of their political convictions than Chief Victor Umeh; none either has enjoyed as much legal victories in their dogged adherence to legitimately seeking redress in the face of daunting manoeuvres antithetical to recognised political and legal best practices. Indeed Chief Umeh’s political life for over a decade running tends to present a vignette of crusades for seemly precepts in democratic practices, particularly as they affect elections and political party administration. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, would provide him the nexus for bold expressions of this cause.
Though Chief Umeh’s electoral value handsomely played out in APGA’s impressive performance in 2003 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, his prefigured ingenuity seemed to be tied more to the rigorous legal battles that saw APGA’s Mr. Peter Obi reclaim a gubernatorial mandate in 2006, three long years after it was highhandedly appropriated by Dr. Chris Ngige’s People’s Democratic Party. But for Chief Umeh’s downright rejection of underhand arbitrary counsels and ploys to compromise the party’s pursuit, Obi’s scheme for governorship probably would just have fizzled out. In and out of the courts, Umeh’s robust support counted substantially in Obi’s variegated journeys to the Government House. This cannot be controverted by any; neither Chief Umeh’s most ferocious traducers today nor their pampered surrogates would dare.
Umeh’s trajectory in Anambra politics captures the intricacies, the travails and the successes in the making of modern Anambra State. This is not farfetched considering the critical role he played in APGA’s formation and its entrenchment as a formidable ruling party in Anambra State. Chief Victor Umeh readily provided the youthful zeal and mental energy which the all-time leader of APGA, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, needed to impress the mission of the party in the consciousness of the deprived peoples of Nigeria, particularly those resident east of the Niger. His steadfastness in driving the fortune of the party through formidable trials unarguably justifies Ikemba’s preferences for him as a leader whom he trusted to grow the party’s ideals to prime legacy in good governance. As its National Chairman, Umeh superintended over APGA’s containment of the Peoples Democratic Party’s electoral improprieties, particularly in Anambra State, a pilot state for APGA’s good governance model. Chief Umeh it was who literarily trod the fields to ensure the delivery of Rochas Okorocha as the governor of Imo State under the APGA banner. Unfortunately the APGA good governance culture was yet to stick in Imo before Okorocha went his way – deep into the wilds of his unrestrained bizarre impulses in governance, thereby leading Imo to the prevailing woods.
Still fresh in our memory is Umeh’s successes in ensuring Obiano’s first coming (2014) when he (Umeh) was the National Chairman of APGA, and his stellar role in the Governor’s unprecedented reelection result (18th November, 2017), as the Chairman of the Governor’s Reelection Committee.
Given his persistent frontline role in APGA’s subsistence and growth over time, in the years of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s unassailable presence and beyond; given the fine blend of his composite knowledge of Nigeria’s political dynamics and his inimitable boldness (a bit of which was showcased in his very brief but most brilliant participation in the 2014 National Conference), one would hardly fault the appropriateness of Chief Victor Umeh as a mouthpiece for Anambra Central Senatorial Zone in the 8th Senate.
But for a few who, for mundane reasons, would not bear Umeh’s rising profile in Anambra political space; but for the clique who, in the past, surreptitiously laboured to undermine Umeh’s leadership of the party by lavishly sponsoring internal leadership distractions such as Maxi-Okwu’s; but for the few whose underbellies have eventually been laid bare by their characteristic prowls on him, Chief Umeh’s representation in the 8th Senate would have long taken effect. Recall that the 8th Senate was inaugurated on the 9th of June, 2015. And this group would spare no reason yet in their insistence on depriving the people of Umeh’s representation.
However, if the November 20, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal restraining the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from participating in the rerun election which the Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct within 90 days provided an elixir for the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District, the renaissance spirit displayed by Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC in promptly fixing January, 13, 2017 for the rerun restored the people’s hope in the electoral umpire to avail them fair representation in the Red Chambers of the National Legislative House. These crucial turns by essential arbiters in electoral decisions largely diminished the sworn conclusions of Chief Victor Umeh’s denigrators to stretch their judicial taunts endlessly, and anger the people till doomsday.
The enthusiasm of the people over the rerun was aptly captured in the submission by the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, in Anambra urging INEC to ‘ensure that enemies of our democracy do not prevail in their nefarious plot to abort the conduct of the election of January 13, 2018, and thereby permanently denying Anambra Central Senatorial district due representation in the 8th Senate.’ This enthusiasm took flesh in the quiet but determined participation of the electorate who, defying the high cost of petrol, came out to ensure overwhelming victory for Chief Victor Umeh, the candidate after their heart.
With the successful conduct of the Anambra Central Senatorial District rerun of 13th January, 2018, INEC furthered its mettle as a disinterested umpire posting improvement on the appreciable record it established during the Anambra Gubernatorial Election of 18th November, 2017. The January feat therefore announced INEC’s deepening integrity and emboldens the electoral body on its march to future elections.
By these celebrated Anambra experiences, the courts of the land and INEC may have found their voices in reinventing prudent democratic practices. The salient missing link becomes the willingness of many a politician to separate crass selfishness, rash hate and limitless mischief from the practice of democracy and service to people and society.
Nigeria’s electors seek no more than fair play from INEC, the security operatives and the government in a collective resolve to correctly choose the bona fide leadership that would genuinely bear the burden of headship in the country’s stuttering avowals of nationhood. Anambra State today beckons other geopolitical blocs in Nigeria to freedom from the stranglehold of estranged leadership – that Nigeria might better be.

Okechukwu Anarado writes from Adazi-Nnukwu.

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Emir Sanusi: Path to Africa’s development

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Africa’s development agenda must focus on the socio-cultural and commercial interests of Africans and the upliftment of Africa’s trade and economic ecosystem, said Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and a former Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, during his address at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group in Busan, Korea.
“Africa’s economic transformation will be best achieved through fast-tracking regional cooperation and the execution of hard-nosed structural reforms that focus on the development of the continent’s human capital and material resources,” said Emir Sanusi II.
The Emir shared insight about revamping African regional integration, trade and economic relations with Executive Directors and Governors of the Bank, comprising Finance, Budget and Economic Planning Ministers from member nations.

An economist and financial risk expert, the monarch traced Africa’s post-colonial economic woes to the continent’s fiscal indiscipline and endemic disregard for its competitive advantages. For these reasons, he asserted, Africa’s development was stunted and its global trade ties lopsided in favour of offshore trading partners.
“Nine out of every 10 countries in Africa have huge trade deficits with China, but Asia developed mostly on domestic investments and resources,” he noted, underscoring the need for African Governments to invest in and promote creativity and indigenous enterprise.

The Emir advocated a series of structural reforms, including strategic investments in key sectors including agriculture, infrastructure, education, and small and medium enterprises. He called for deliberate industrial diversification noting that China has begun to move its mega-sized manufacturing capabilities out of low-cost industries.
African Governments also need to eradicate constitutional provisions and structures that increase the cost of governance at national and sub-national levels, manage demographic growth, and revamp and harmonize moribund and ineffective customs and excise duties that promote cross-border smuggling and revenue losses to governments, he said.
Africa’s debt burden continues to inhibit capital investment in industrialization, he observed, lamenting the misallocation of resources: “We need to begin to ask ourselves, ‘what do we do with the available funds in our coffers?’”
“Perceptions matter. So there is an urgent need for improved transparency, as this is clearly linked to good governance,” he said. “We need to accept that we have a perception problem that we must address. We need to tackle corruption, block leakages and create opportunities for new jobs.”
“Private sector capital is crucial for sustained economic growth but so is government’s intervention in guaranteeing business externalities like power, water and waste management, roads, housing and the legal and regulatory environment for innovation, commerce and industry.”
On trade, the Emir called for a regional and pan-African approach to trade negotiations, a tactical model which should be led by the Bank.
“The African Development Bank has the intellectual resources and clearly is better positioned to negotiate with China on behalf of Africa as a bloc of nations,” he said. “Europe approached global trade as a bloc so why can’t African nations do the same? This is clearly another area in urgent need of the Bank’s intervention.”
President Adesina recalled the Emir’s progressive posture during his time in public service.
“As Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was pro-development. He channeled significant investments into agriculture, infrastructure and SMEs.”

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Ndigbo ask for Better Nigeria with Ekwueme Square Declaration

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By James Eze (eziokwubundu@gmail.com)

The Igbo ethnic nationality of Nigeria rose from their Summit on the Restructuring of Nigeria in Awka the capital of Anambra State on Monday with a Ten-point wish list seeking for a balanced federation that would meet their needs and the needs of other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The Igbo position on restructuring which has been re-christened as ‘The Ekwueme Square Declaration;’ is a tightly knitted ten-point demand for a better Nigeria which opens with a demand for a Constitutional Conference backed by a law from the National Assembly that would provide a unanimously accepted platform where the diverse people of Nigeria would hammer out a new constitution that would be known as “The People’s Constitution.”
Delivering the Declaration at the hugely successful ceremony, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof Chukwuma Soludo who is the Chairman of the Organizing Committee stated that the second item on the Igbo demand seeks a slight amendment to the current system of government as it recommends the retention of the presidential system only at the federal level, leaving the regions or states to choose the type of government that is best for them. But perhaps the most audacious demand under this point is that the tenure of the office of the President should be a single term of six years with five Vice-Presidents representing each of the geopolitical zones except the zone that produced the President. The demand prescribes the same tenure for Governors and Deputy Governors which would be rotated among the senatorial districts.
The third demand asks for six geopolitical zones forming the federating units or six regions of the country. There will therefore be six regional governments, each comprising the current states within each zone and any other state that may be created within the zone from time to time. Each Region will have its own Constitution, for the good governance, peace and development of the region. Such Regional Constitutions have to clearly delineate levels of authority between the regional government and the component states (that is, defining powers that are exclusive to the Region and powers that are residual to the states). The Regional Constitutions will not be inconsistent with the Constitution of the federation, and will be invalidated to the extent of its inconsistency with the federal constitution. It seeks a review of the current revenue sharing formula based on local governments to a new structure based on regions. Consequent upon this, the Ekwueme Declaration therefore demands for an additional state for the South East Zone in line with the 2014 National Conference which states that in the spirit of reconciliation, equity, fair play and justice, a new state should be created in the South East.
The forth demand is for equality of all the regions or states that become the federating units while the fifth insists on the scrapping of the concept of State of Origin from the constitution to be replaced by the State of Residence. Expounding this concept The Ekwueme Square Declaration recommends that ‘any child born of Nigerian parents anywhere in Nigeria should acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area at birth. It also recommended that any Nigerian citizen who has resided in any part of Nigeria and paid taxes there for a period of ten years can acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area, except the right to their traditional stool.
The sixth demand makes a solid case for a two or three-tier police structure with defined responsibilities that would be controlled by the federal and state or regional governments respectively while the seventh seeks the abrogation of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution which vests control of resources in the federal government. It recommends a truly federal system that gives control of resources to the federal units, vesting ownership rights, control and exploitation of resources in the states. It also argues that the federating units should keep 50% of rents, royalties and profit taxes on minerals from their lands while paying 20% to the regional government and 30% to the federal government.
Demand number eight makes a strong case for the replacement of the Federal Character Commission with Merit and Equal Opportunities Commission to ensure that merit is entrenched in the conduct of national and regional affairs, prescribing that 60% should be reserved for merit and 40% for affirmative action.
The ninth item demands that elections into the office of the President and federal legislature should be conducted by the electoral body of the Federal Government while elections into regional/state offices should be conducted by electoral bodies set up by the regional/state Constitutions or laws.
And finally, the tenth declaration seeks the latitude for federating units to have their own judicial systems with courts of first instance, appellate courts and Supreme courts to adjudicate on matters that are in the concurrent and residual lists as well as matters exclusively preserved for the federating units.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano had recounted that for 58 years, Ndigbo had worked tirelessly with other Nigerians to lay a foundation for a better federation and a more perfect union.
“We have made the most sacrifices and more often than not, we have also paid the supreme price for the unity of this country. But we have made these sacrifices in the belief that in the contemporary history of mankind, the road to nationhood is often paved with the blood of patriots. Indeed, Ndigbo have paid the price for Nigeria’s greatness. We paid in blood. We paid in FULL!” he declared.

Then, rallying Ndigbo to rise to the occasion, Governor Obiano observed that “the future summons us to a brighter dawn! And we must walk in the shadows of our fathers. Yes, our fathers played a major role in Nigeria’s long road to independence. And today, we have gathered to dream a balanced federation into existence for Nigeria and Nigerians.”

Noting that every nation on earth is work in progress, Governor Obiano observed that “citizens of both advanced and developing countries continue to ask their countries hard questions that will lead them to a better federation, a better nation and a better society. And Nigeria cannot be an exception to this rule. So, we must ask Nigeria hard questions too!”

Governor Obiano further observed that following in the footsteps of their forebears who invested their youthful hopes and intellectual power in Nigeria, the younger generation of Ndigbo have ‘invested our wealth, our enterprise and our emotion in remaking Nigeria. Indeed, no other ethnic group has as much emotional investment in the Nigerian project as Ndigbo. And now, we have been called upon to re-imagine Nigeria. We welcome this challenge with both hands.”

Articulating the wishes and aspirations of Ndigbo, Obiano declared that “as governor of Anambra State, I was born and raised in Nigeria and I have lived in Nigeria for the better part of my life. I have lived the Nigerian Dream and experienced the horrors of Nigeria’s many Heartbreaks. I know what my people want from Nigeria and the question we must ask of Nigeria. We must ask what every forward looking people want from any socio-political arrangement… life, liberty and a chance to raise happy families. We must ask for a just, fair and equitable federation where every citizen is guaranteed the freedom to be the best they can be and to aspire to the highest position in the land regardless of their tribe, culture or religion. And this is what Nigeria in its present structure, has not given to us!”

Also speaking, the 91-year old leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Chief Edwin Clark observed that Ndigbo had been treated very unkindly by the federal government and wondered why Igbo youths who bore no arms and hurt nobody had to be branded as terrorists.

Chief Clark also blamed the federal government for not giving Ndigbo an additional state as recommended in the 2014 Constitutional Conference and insisted that such denials and deprivations were behind the spate of separatist agitations from the region.

The event also featured moving speeches from the leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Middle Belt, Dan Sulaiman, Chairman of the occasion Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu among many others.

 

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Zimbabwe applies to re-join Commonwealth, 15 years after leaving

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Lagos, Nigeria – Zimbabwe has applied to re-join the Commonwealth after the country withdrew its membership 15 years ago under former President Robert Mugabe.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, said Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa submitted a application on May 15 for the country to return to the 53-member group of mostly British former colonies.
“Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history,” Scotland said in a statement.

To rejoin, Zimbabwe must go through an assessment followed by consultations with other members states, the statement said.
Zimbabwe was first suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 on the grounds that Mugabe, who had ruled the country since independence in 1980, rigged his re-election in 2002 and persecuted his opponents.

The former dictator withdrew Zimbabwe’s membership out of the group after the country’s suspension was renewed in 2003.
Mugabe was ousted last November following a military takeover and impending impeachment ending his 37-year rule over the country.
The Commonwealth secretariat will send observers to monitor the country’s elections in July, following an invitation from the Zimbabwean government, the statement said.

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Ohanaeze Ndigbo seeks 6-year single term for president, governors

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Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a socio-cultural umbrella of Ndigbo, has called for the adoption of a six-year rotational single tenure for the president and governors of 36 states in the country.
It also demanded creation of one additional state in the South-East geo-political zone, scrapping of local government system and resource control for states where natural resources were exploited.

These were some highlights of the resolutions tagged, “Ekwueme Square Declaration 2018’’, which members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo reached during their one-day summit in Awka on Monday.
Charles Soludo, the Chairman, Planning and Strategy Committee and Organising Committee, read out the resolutions.
Mr Soludo further said Ohanaeze want the federal government to adopt the report of the 2014 National Conference.
He said the resolution already ratified by all the component arms of Ohanaeze, equally demand that the current Constitution of Nigeria, which he stated was the product of the military, be redrafted.
Mr Soludo added that Ohanaeze recommended that a constituent assembly for the drafting of a new constitution be constituted and thereafter a referendum be held, adding, “Whatever recommendations of the group would be sent to National Assembly.”
He said the group also demanded for the scrapping of state of origin and its replacement with residential rights whereby a Nigerian would have full right in any place he or she resides for 10 years.
On the six years single tenure, the group noted that six vice presidents from each of the six geo-political zones should be elected, while the governorship seat would be rotated among the senatorial districts.
On his part, John Nwodo, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the summit was organised to enable Ndigbo articulate major challenges affecting the country.

Mr Nwodo claimed that the present constitution of the country was skewed against Igbo people and should be redrafted to give Igbo people fair treatment.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, challenged the Ohanaeze leadership to convince those yet to support the restructuring of the country to back the idea.

Mr Ekweremadu assured that he would table any bill on the restructuring of the country whenever the Ohanaeze present it at the National Assembly.
A former Foreign Affairs Minister, Ike Nwachukwu, who also spoke called on the people of Middle Belt to support the call for restructuring of Nigeria, claiming that they stand to gain more.
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the Chairman of the summit, called on Igbo people especially the leaders to exhibit honesty in their affairs, to help move the people forward.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra in his address thanked the organisers for choosing his state for the summit organised for the Igbo people to articulate what they want as Nigerians.
Earlier in a sermon, Ben Osisioma of the Anglican Communion, called on Ndigbo to rely on God for solution to their challenges in Nigeria.
The summit was attended by prominent Igbo leaders from Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Rivers and Delta.
(NAN)

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Flutterwave Chief Executive Joins World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Community

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Flutterwave, Nigeria Chief Executive Iyinoluwa Aboyeji has been nominated amongst one hundred that are joining the World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Global Leaders community this year.

He is the co-founder of a digital payments platform designed to make it easier to do business across the continent. Previously, he was one of the founders of Andela – a company training African developers and hiring them out to global tech companies – which received investment from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

The one hundred of the world’s brightest under 40 invited to Shape an inclusive and sustainable future according to WEB. “One hundred of the world’s most promising artists, business leaders, public servants, technologists and social entrepreneurs have been asked to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders. They are joining a community and five-year programme that will challenge them to think beyond their scope of expertise and be more impactful leaders. They were nominated because of their ground-breaking work, creative approaches to problems and ability to build bridges across cultures and between business, government and civil society.

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