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Yoruba National Assembly Communique


Text of the communique from the Yoruba Assembly held at the Oyo State House of Assembly, Ibadan, Oyo State — 30 August 2012
Representatives of various political parties, sub-ethnic groups of the Yoruba of Nigeria, professional and vocational groups, at a PAN-YORUBA CONFERENCE to which the following categories of eminent Yoruba personalities were invited: All former Heads of state of Yoruba stock, All former Vice Presidents of the military era, Chiefs of General Staff or Chiefs of Staff (Supreme Headquarters), All former and current state governors of South West states and Kwara, and Itsekiri who are Yoruba, All Yoruba former Presidents of the Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, (CJN) former Justices of the Supreme Court and other retired judges, all Yoruba former and serving members of the House of Representatives, all former and serving Speakers of the various Yoruba states Houses of Assembly. They also include leaders of all political parties from Yoruba land, Top Yoruba professionals, Chairmen and secretaries of all Self-determination Groups at the state levels in Yoruba land; Yoruba Trade Groups Chairmen and Secretaries at state levels, Chairmen and Secretaries of Diaspora Groups, Women and Youth Leaders of Yoruba land at state levels, Yoruba Academics, Religious Leaders and other Yoruba leaders from across the States of Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, Kogi and out Itsekiri kith and kin of Delta state,met in Ibadan on the 30 August 2012 and discussed the general state of affairs of the so-called Nigerian federation.
At the end of robust deliberations on pertinent issues, the following decisions were adopted as resolutions:
1. Noted that Nigeria is, once again, at a critical crossroad. After more than 50 years of Independence and less than 2 years short of 100 years after the 1914 amalgamation, deep structural issues and Nationality Questions, such as Federalism, Fair and Equitable Revenue Allocation, Security, Free and Fair Elections, State Police and inter-relationship amongst the different Nationalities remain unresolved! Indeed, the need for a National Dialogue to resolve the issues has never been more pressing. The general state of the Nigerian federation is disturbingly unhealthy. There is general insecurity in the land, there is growing decay of infrastructure, and there is increasing tension in the polity, exacerbated by mounting unemployment all over the country.
2. Observed further that the failure of the Nigerian Federation to meet the challenge of building a modern multi-ethnic democratic state can be traced to several factors that include: absence of a negotiated constitution by citizens, existence of a constitution that erodes the pre-military federal character of the Nigerian State, political and bureaucratic corruption that seems to arise from a sense of alienation from the state on the part of those expected to provide a sense of belonging and direction for the citizenry, and the menace of religious and cultural intolerance.
3. Noted in particular, the 1999 Constitution, on the basis of which the country is governed today, is seen as a source of tension between federating units. The constitution imposes a unitary model of government on a country with diverse cultural and religious orientations and values, thereby putting most of the powers and resources to develop the federation in the hands of the government at the center, the farthest government from the citizenry.
4. Noted that the growth of the Yoruba region, referred to as the Southwest in the 1999 Constitution, has been stalled by the imposition of a unitary form of government that denies states the right and benefit of fiscal federalism, a corner-stone of federalism worldwide. In this respect, all aspects of modern life in the Southwest: education, health, transportation, and social welfare of citizens have declined so sharply that the quality of life of the average citizen in the region today is lower than what it was in 1970.
5. Expressed alarm towards the commencement of the cashless policy in Lagos state while living out equally vibrant commercial centers such as Kano, Onitsha and Port Harcourt. The Assembly recognizes that making Lagos a guinea pig of this policy amounts to a deliberate attempt to ruin the base of Yoruba economy.
6. Viewed the menace of Boko Haram as a sign of religious and cultural intolerance that is capable of destroying the unity of the country and of endangering the life of citizens not only in the North but all over the country. We believe that central ideology of Boko Haram regarding modern or western education is not a matter to be settled by security forces, but one that needs to be discussed at a national conference that is designed to restructure the federation.
7. Observed that sustainable unity and development of the country cannot flow from over concentration of power and resources in the central government. For example, we note that lack of effective law enforcement and assurance of security and safety for citizens is traceable to the over concentration of powers in the central government: police, intelligence gathering, and crime prevention. This arrangement leaves states without the power to enforce laws made by their elected officials for ensuring public order.
8. Noted that on the basis of the evidence that the failure of governance in the country has grown with the transfer of powers from federating units to the central government, we affirm the urgency to restructure the polity at a national conference of federating units, at which representatives of federating units chosen by citizens strictly for such purpose will produce a new constitution to be ratified through a national referendum.
9. Agreed that the process of restructuring should start with federating units, which must in their own space first discuss and determine the type of relationship they want between their region and the central government and relationship between states and the region in which they are located. For we, the Yoruba, the country Nigeria, is a forced marriage of diverse ethno-national groups, struggling to find form and shape, and limiting promises and possibilities.
10. Re-affirmed the commitment of the Southwest to the territorial unity of the country and resolved to work for enhancement of the country’s unity by cooperating with other regions to resolve peacefully the conflict and tension thrown up by the current unitary constitution that limits the control of federating units over their affairs and development.
11. Recognized that the best way to sustain unity in a culturally diverse polity and society is to organize the politics and economy of such country on the basis of a federal system of governance. Most culturally diverse countries of the world that are able to sustain peace and development have been able to do so through a federal constitution. Nigeria’s cultural diversity is too pronounced for the political elite to pretend that a unitary constitution can be substituted for a federal constitution that is generally designed to respond to diversity and optimize the benefits of diversity for peace and development.
12. Resolved to set up the Southwest Constitutional Commission (SCC) for the purpose of coordinating memoranda from citizens and groups in the Southwest towards a federal constitution for the country and of producing a constitutional framework for the region as unit of the Nigerian federation.
13. A new Nigeria consisting of a federal government and six regional governments (based on the current six geo-political zones) operating federal and regional constitutions, respectively.
• A single legislative list which will be the Exclusive Legislative List consisting only those functions ceded to the Central Government.
• The adoption of the Westminster model of parliamentary government.
• A Regional and State Police force structure.
• The establishment of a Constitutional Court with jurisdiction over inter-governmental cases and petitions from elections to the national Assembly
• The Conference fully supports the on-going Regional integration in the South West.
• That all public officers who currently enjoy immunity be made amenable to court processes on charges bordering on commission of crimes.
• That an informal role for traditional rulers in the political structure be recognised.
The conference further decided as follows:
• The adoption of Open-Secret ballot system for voting at elections.
• Total condemnation of Boko Haram’s indiscriminate violence in killing people, including Yoruba in the North.
• The setting up by the South West States of vigilante groups to protect them against the re-insurgence of crimes and violence perpetrated by nomadic tendencies or motivated by faith or otherwise. In this respect, each State House of Assembly in the region should pass appropriate laws.
• That the Yoruba as an ethnic group should design and produce a common flag and anthem. This is without prejudice to the anthems and flags of each state.
14. Finally and in conclusion, the Conference thanks the Governor and people of Oyo State for hosting this most important and crucial meeting of a comprehensive cross-section of the Yoruba people.
Culled from Punch Newspaper

AKWA IBOM GOVERNORSHIP TUSSEL: Trials Of Engr Frank Okon


Engr. Frank Okon

Judge Kafarati

Governor Akpabio

Can Frank Okon overcome the great obstacles on his way and actualize his ambition of being the governor of Akwa Ibom State?

What happened at the federal High Court Two, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati, on Thursday, July 12, would for many years remain indelible in the memory of those who were privileged to be in court that day, other Nigerians and the international community who later got the news from the media. Weeks earlier, notification of judgement in the 2011 Akwa Ibom State governorship tussle between Frank Okon, an engineer, and Godwil Akpabio, a lawyer and governor of Akwa Ibom State, were sent by the same court to the parties involved. And the parties were in court to receive the much expected judgement.

However, after long wait, to most people’s amazement, Babatunde Ashada, registrar of the court, came out and dismissed the court without giving any reason! It was later rumoured that the judge had traveled out of the country that very day. Four days later, the Federal High Court, proceeded on along annual vacation which will last from July 16th to September 14th, 2012. It is now hoped that Justice Kafarati who is now back in the country will fix a new date for Judgement when the annual vacation is over.

In the meantime, some lawyers argued that the Judge could easily have given the Judgement which had been written, to another Judge to read. Again, they insist that he could also deliver Judgement during the annual vacation if he so wishes as skeletal court services continue during the period. However, some other lawyers alleged that the Judge’s hands were tied and there was nothing he could do in the circumstances. Those in this school of thought argue that the Judge could even have been deliberately placed on an international Seminar outside the country.

Okon, a former special assistant to former Governor, Victor Attah, was a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governorship Aspirant in the April 2011 elections in the state. He went to court seeking the nullification of the election of the April 26 governorship election on the ground that he was illegally excluded from the party primary held on January 15, 2011, which returned Akpabio as the party standard bearer. This, he argued before the court, breached his fundamental human rights.

According to Okon, he was screened and cleared by PDP to participate in the party primary initially held on January 9, 2011 which was later canceled by the party. However, “I was schemed out by the collusion between INEC, PDP and Akpabio from the subsequent re-run fixed for January 15,” he said.

Put together, Okon in an amended originating summons of January 5,  2012, formulated 10 issues for determination by the court, supported by a 65-paragraph affidavit he deposed to. Furthermore, he asked the court to grant him nine reliefs. Some of these are: a declaration that the purported re-run primary of January 15, 2011, which produced Akpabio as the Governorship candidate of PDP, did not comply with the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended; that the purported re-run was ordered by the National Working Committee, NWC, presided over by Okwesilieze Nwodo, then chairman of PDP after his tenure had been terminated by an order of an Enugu high Court could not have produced a valid candidate, making it unlawful, null, void and of no effect; that the re-run was discriminatory and prejudicial as he was not issued any notice of re-run by the party, thereby violating his constitutional rights; that the re-run did not comply with the 7 days notice condition before it was conducted with the purported notice issued on January 14 and the re-run conducted on January 15! According to PDP constitution, the NWC has no power to order a re-run; such power resides with the NEC. But the party argued in court that it was as a result of emergency, which Okon described as untenable “as no one is allowed to substitute or vary content of a document orally.”

Consequently, “The conduct of the January 15, 2011 re-run primary election was gross violations of PDP Constitution, the PDP Electoral Guidelines, the Electoral Acts as amended and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” argued Okon.

Okon also raised the issue of Akpabio’s eligibility when he did not have valid evidence that he paid his taxes in the three years preceding the primary. According to Article 14, Part IV of the PDP Electoral Guideline, “an aspirant to gubernatorial primary election shall not be qualified to be nominated or to contest  the primary election, if he/she fails to produce his personal income tax certificate as at when due for the last preceding  three years or evideince of exemption from payment of personal income tax”.

Accordingly, Okon averred that, “The requirement of tax payment is part of the party’s guidelines to be qualified for nomination; once an aspirant shows evidence of exemption from tax, he would have met requirement for nomination and failure to so qualify is fatal.” Against this background, Okon asked the court to declare him as the valid winner of the PDP Governorship primary in Akwa Ibom State; or in the alternative order a re-run of the party primary in the state.

When the court sat on May 3, 2012, the presentation of final briefs by all interested parties on the originating application earlier fixed for the day, was put off due to an application by Paul Usoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Akpabio’s counsel, raising a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court over the case. He cited the April 20, 2012 Supreme Court Judgement which dismissed the appeal by Timipre Sylva, former Governor of Bayelsa State, against his exclusion as candidate in the recent governorship primary in the state. The Supreme Court in the Bayelsa case held that the decision to sponsor a candidate for election is the internal decision of the political party, and not subject to being contested in court.

However, Lasun Sanusi, SAN, Okon’s counsel, argued that the two cases are fundamentally different. For instance, “Sylva was never cleared by the party to stand for election,” he argued. “In the plaintiff’s case, he was screened and cleared by the party to stand for that primaries election, and therefore has the right to challenge the conduct of that primaries election. Again, his name was conspicuously displayed on ballot paper for the January 9, 2011 election. So also was it on the result sheet of that election.” The Judge reserved the ruling of the preliminary objection to July 12 along with the final Judgement.

On its part, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, which is the first defendant,  asked the court to dismiss the application against the commission for wrongful acceptance of a candidate for an election, saying the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act have not granted it any powers to reject a candidate for election that has been forwarded to it by the relevant officials of the political party. The commission pleaded that once that was done, only the court can decide the legitimacy of the choice, according to relevant laws. “As an umpire, INEC is enjoined to be neutral; hence, it must presume that any name forwarded to it by a political party is a name that emerged from a due process,” submitted the commission. However, it pledged to “Abide by whatever decision or order the court deems fit to make in the circumstance.”

On the other hand, Olusola Oke, SAN, counsel to the PDP, argued that claims by Okon that he was excluded to contest the primary could not be true as evidence showed that he was aware of the rescheduled election of January 15, 2011, but chose to stay away for personal reasons. The party further revealed that Nwodo’s signature was on the documents because they were signed in advance!

However, Sanusi countered that there is nothing in the constitution and regulation of the PDP to show that the party is authorized to accept as valid its documents printed in advance for an election, pointing out that if that is acceptable, then the party may publish the result of the election before they are held.

This was the state of affairs when the date of judgement was set. In Akwa Ibom State, the tension was palpable. There was visible fear at the Hilltop Manson, seat of power. And suddenly, the judgement could not be read. Meanwhile, Okon is on exile abroad. He has received several death threats; his phone and internet accounts have been hacked into to keep tabs on him. It’s a kind of David and Goliath duel as he has little weapons to fight other than the grace of God. His trial is the predicament of the average Nigerian who wants to exercise his right to run for any elective position of his choice as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

Knowing that a sitting governor has a huge financial war chest and immense connections nationwide, the underdog should have the right to, at least contest, and lose honourably but not to be deliberately excluded from contesting. The court is still the last hope of the common man and Okon has left fate to God through the Court.

By Anayochukwu Agbo

Tell Magazine

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