THE COURTS AND INTERNAL DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA. By Dr Muiz Banire

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In Nigeria, the biggest and most constant headache that confronts the legal adviser of any political party in Nigeria is the non-observance of internal democracy by the party hierarchy. In the Nigerian political landscape, until recently, internal democracy is a mere tag that only existed in the imagination of politicians. In this vein, any electoral position within the structure of a political party is a subject of conferment without any consideration of the electability of the beneficiaries of the conferment. In other words, only those that the political kingmakers consider worthy are conferred with the “honour” of being the party’s candidates; the process of engaging a method that includes the members of the party in the decision making generally and nomination of the flag bearers of the party is considered alien by both the party oligarchy and their suitors. Without mincing words, minority will have both their way and say. The few occasions where the majority get to have their say (when purported primary elections are held), the minority still retain the ultimate power of having their way by superimposing their decisions on the outcome of such internal elections. Internal democracy is slaughtered on the altar of imposition.

By my calling as a legal practitioner, i have the hallowed responsibility of ensuring the observance of rule of law and the tenets of democracy. My duty here extends to political institutions, particularly, with regard to compliance with the applicable laws and the rules of the game. This easily brings to mind the sacred words of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON at the Call to Bar Ceremonies held on July 13, 2017. His Lordship, in his speech, admonished thus:
“As legal practitioners, you cannot close your eyes to the social, political and economic problems of our time, therefore you have a duty to help rescue our society from pervasive lawlessness, corruption and anti-social activities.”

It is, therefore, not in doubt that it is immoral for a legal practitioner to close his eyes to political parties’ lawlessness. Rescuing internal democracy from the hands of political oppressors and the jaws of imposition falls with the ministerial function of every legal practitioner.

At this juncture, it must be noted that internal democracy transcends the internal affairs of a political party. This is because the Nigerian legal framework duly recognizes it and commands compliance with it. In this regard, section 228(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) confers on the National Assembly the power to make laws providing for:
“…guidelines and rules to ensure internal democracy, within political parties, including making laws for the conduct of party primaries, party congresses and party convention….”

It was in the exercise of this power that the National Assembly enacted section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). It clearly set out the guidelines, rules and steps that a political party must follow in the nomination of its candidates for elections. Here, section 87(1) of the Act is instructive, clear and unambiguous. It provides thus:
“A political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions” [Emphasis mine]

Section 87 of the Act is so elaborate that it states the types of primaries that a political party may adopt (direct or indirect) and the procedural steps a political party must follow where it adopts either of the two types of primary election in case of each election mentioned therein. Emphasising the purpose of section 87 of the Act, in PDP v. Sylvia [2012] 13 NWLR (part 1316) 85 at 148, paras. A-B, Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC opined thus:
“The clear object the provisions of section 87 is intended to achieve besides the inculcation of internal democracy in the affairs of political parties in this country moreso in the conduct of their party primaries includes thus making them transparent and providing level playing ground for their contestants in party primaries….”

Equally important is the fact that the constitution of political parties contains the procedure for the nomination of candidates and voting at congresses and party conventions. In this respect, the constitution of the political party sets out how the party’s primary elections are to be conducted in a manner that institutionalises internal democracy. An example that easily comes to mind is Article 20 of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress (as amended), the political party in which I am the legal adviser. A look at the provisions of the said Article 20 makes it clear that candidates of the party can only emerge through a democratic path. In case of indirect primaries, the delegates that will vote at the primary election must have been democratically elected by members of the party from the various wards contained in particular constituency at congress. Even where an aspirant is unopposed, democratic principles still have to be followed to ensure that the unopposed aspirant is not a product of imposition. Without a doubt, the party constitution has entrenched internal democracy and eschewed imposition of candidates by the “powerful” minority.

Based on the foregoing, it would be reasonable to assume that when it comes to nomination of candidates for elections, the legal adviser of a political party could go to sleep knowing that the legal framework would hold sway. However, it is common knowledge that this is rarely the case. The fact is that any legal adviser that urges compliance with the legal framework and adherence to internal democracy easily finds himself to be a lone voice. He is considered a rebel that is deserving of being ostracized from the decision-making and deliberation within the party structure.

Despite the foregoing, it gladdens my heart to say that the Supreme Court, under the leadership of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Hon. chief Justice Onnoghen, has taken the courageous step of ensuring that the political oligarchy do not succeed in casting internal democracy into the refuse bin. Now, political parties are faced with the fact that the erosion of internal democracy will not go unpunished. A case worthy of consideration is the very recent and yet to be reported decision of the Supreme Court in Mato v. Hembe & 2 Ors. SC.733/2016 (delivered on 23rd day of June, 2017), amongst others.

Before delving into the recent landmark decisions of the Supreme Court on this issue, it is necessary to note that the Supreme Court has always made pronouncements on the importance of internal democracy and the need for political parties to obey its own constitution as well as the jurisdiction of the courts to intervene in this regard. In the case of Shinkafi v. Yari [2016] 1 SC (Part II) 1 at 31, line 13 to line 23, the Supreme Court held thus:
“… it is now trite that where a political party conducts its primary and a dissatisfied contestant at the primary election complains about its conduct of the primaries, the Courts have jurisdiction by virtue of the provision of Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to examine if the conduct of the primary was in accordance with the party’s Constitution and Guidelines. The reason is that in the conduct of its primaries, the Courts will never allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. A political party must obey its Constitution.”

The Supreme Court made a similar stance in Tarzoor v. Ioraer [2016] 3 NWLR (part 1500) 463 at 529, para. G. In the leading judgment of Rhodes-Vivour, JSC in PDP v. Sylvia (supra) at 125, paras. D-E, the Supreme Court held thus:
“…where the political party conducts its primary and a dissatisfied contestant at the primary complains about the conduct of the primaries the courts have jurisdiction by virtue of the provisions of section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act to examine if the conduct of the primary elections was conducted in accordance with the parties constitution and Guidelines. This is so because in the conduct of its primaries the courts will never allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. A political party must obey its own constitution.”

Also, pertinent is the hallowed warning of Supreme Court in the case of C.P.C. v. Ombugadu [2013] 18 NWLR (part 1385) 66 at 129 to 130, paras. F-E where Ngwuta, JSC held thus:
“An army is greater than the numerical strength of its soldiers. In the same Vein, a political party is greater than the numerical strength of its membership just like a country, for instance, Nigeria, is greater than the totality of its citizens. It follows that in the case of a political party, such as the 1st appellant herein, the interest of an individual member or a group of members or a group of members within the party, irrespective of the place of such member or a group in the hierarchy of the party, must yield place to the interest of the party. It is the greed, borne of inordinate ambition to own, control and manipulate their own political parties by individuals and groups therein and the expected reaction by other party members that result to the internal wrangling and want of internal democracy that constitute the bane of political parties in Nigeria.
….
…It is apparent that a few powerful elements therein hijack the parties and arrogated to themselves right to sell elective and appointive positions to the party member who can afford same….
There is a popular saying that politics is a dirty game. I do not share this view. It is the players who are dirty and they inflict their filth on their members and, by implication on the society. Politicians must learn to play the game of politics in strict compliance with its rules of organised society.” [Emphasis ours]

It is now trite to give due consideration to the impactful decision of the Supreme Court in Mato v. Hembe (supra). In that case, Onnoghen, CJN held that holding a primary election in a manner contrary to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the constitution of the political party will render such primary election null and void. At page 37 to 40 of His Lordship’s judgment, His Lordship held thus:

“The facts deposed to in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the affidavit in support of the Originating Summons show that the said primary election was held at HAF HAVEN HOTEL, MAKURDI quite outside the headquarters of the Federal Constituency. So, apart from the irregularities catalogued in exhibits 4 and 2 reproduced above, the holding of the primary was contrary to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the constitution of the 2nd defendant.
Section 87(4) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) provides:-
‘A Political Party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below-
(c) in the case of nomination to the position of senatorial candidate, House of Representatives and Head of Assembly, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates-
(i) hold special congress in the Senatorial District, Federal Constituency and State Assembly respectively, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants in designated centres in specified dates’
As a corollary to the above provision, article 14.11 of the 2nd defendant’s Constitution provides that every member shall assemble at their respective Federal Constituency Headquarters and voting shall be by secrete ballot. A combined reading of these two provisions reveals that it is mandatory for the political parties to hold their congresses for the purpose of selecting their candidates in the headquarters of the Constituency. As was pointed out by the learned counsel for appellant in their written address, the Electoral Act and the 2nd respondent’s constitution make detailed provisions for the way and manner by which primary elections are to be conducted. This is to ensure a level playing field for all aspirants. Any contravention of the Act and the Constitution of the Party in this regard would be regarded as a ploy to negate the principle of due process of law enshrined therein.
It is trite that where a statute provides for a means of doing a thing, no other means or manner shall be permitted. Both the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the 2nd defendant make it mandatory that primaries be conducted in the headquarters of the Constituency. The failure to comply with these provisions makes the entire exercise null and void…
The truth must be told and that is, that the 1st and 2nd defendants did not respect the provisions of the Electoral Act and the constitution of the 2nd defendant in the conduct of the primaries. This court has decided in quite a number of cases that political parties must obey their own constitutions as the court will not allow them to act arbitrarily or as they like….
From all I have endeavoured to say above, it is crystal clear that the primaries which produced the 1st defendant was frought (sic) with manifold irregularities aside the fact that he was not even qualified to contest same.” [Emphasis mine]

Beyond doubt, by this singular pronouncement, His Lordship seeks to enthrone internal democracy in the affairs of political parties. In the same vein, Kekere-Ekun, JSC asserted that where political parties appear to violate the principles of internal democracy, the courts will not hesitate to whip them into line by wielding the big stick. In Mato v. Hembe (supra) at page 2-3 of His Lordship’s judgment, Kekere-Ekun, JSC held thus:

“This case, in my view is a clear example of the mischief sought to be tackled by section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. While it is true that the courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a political party nor its choice of candidate, Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act ensures that in making their choice of candidates for elective office political parties do not stray beyond the confines of the Electoral Act or their own electoral guidelines. The section seeks to curb the impunity with which political parties hitherto acted without regard to the democratic norms they profess to practice. As stated by my learned brother in the lead judgment, this court in a plethora of cases has asserted the fact that political parties must obey their own constitutions and guidelines and where necessary (as provided by law) the courts will intervene and wield the big stick to prevent arbitrariness. The only way our democratic dispensation can work effectively is where every aspirant for political office, who is qualified to contest an election, is given an even playing field. The failure of internal democracy within our political parties right from the grassroots level eventually leads to instability in the entire political system. The failure of internal democracy is one of the reason why the courts’ dockets are congested with pre-election disputes. In Ugwu vs. Ararume (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 376 @ 514 D-E, this court per Mahmud Mohammed, JSC (as he then was) admonished:
‘My lords if we want to instill sanity into our human affairs, if we want to entrench unpolluted democracy in our body polity, the naked truth must permeate through the blood, nerve and brain of each and everyone of us. Although credit may not always have its rightful place in politics, we should try to blend the two so as to attain a fair, just and egalitarian society where no one is oppressed. Let us call a spade a spade!’

I am in entire agreement with my learned brother, that in the circumstances of this case it was crystal clear that not only were there irregularities in the primary election that produced the 1st respondent, the 2nd respondent failed to follow its own guidelines in the selection of its candidate. I agree that in the eyes of the law the plaintiff/appellant was the only candidate of the 2nd defendant/2nd respondent as found by the report of the 2nd defendant’s Appeals Committee.”

At page 4 of Eko, JSC’s judgment in Mato v. Hembe, His Lordship did not mince words in calling the 1st Respondent an impostor.

Another very recent decision of the Supreme Court is between Alhaji Shuaibu Isa Lau v. Sen. Sani Abubakar Danladi regarding the Taraba North Senatorial District (delivered on June 23, 2017). The Punch Newspaper, under the caption: Harsh verdicts await unqualified candidates, S’Court tells political parties, quoted, Augie JSC thus:

“This is a hard and very bitter lesson for political parties to learn. They may have chosen candidates or eminent personalities they want to present as candidates to INEC, but they have to play by the rules.
“The chosen candidates must comply with requirements of the law; they must abide by the provisions of the Electoral Act, which creates a level playing field for all aspirants who seek to contest elections.
“So, the political parties and their candidates must obey the rules.”

I need not say more. Ordinarily, this ought to sound a death knell on the untoward practice of imposition of candidates contrary to the provisions of the applicable laws and the party’s constitution. However, it appears that party oligarchy appear to enjoy turning a deaf ear.

In the recent decision of the High Court of Lagos State (per Okuwobi, J.) in Suit No. ID/1838/GCM/2017: Hakkem Abolaji Saka v. All Progressives Congress & Anor. (delivered on July 7, 2017), the court did not hesitate to nullify the nomination of candidate without the conduct of primary election in accordance with the stipulation of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission Law and the Constitution of All Progressives Congress. Consequently, the Court, inter alia, made and order restraining the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission from recognising, relying on or using any list of chairmanship candidates submitted by All Progressives Congress for the forthcoming Local Government elections in Odi-Olowo Local Council Development Area.

Without a doubt, the foregoing is commendable as it shows that parties do not have to get to the Supreme Court before the judiciary wields the figurative big stick where a political party jettisons internal democracy in the conduct of its affairs. This is, particularly, instructive because the elements behind imposition always rely on the fact that it would take years before the matter would be decided by the Supreme Court in the course of which their imposed candidate would have enjoyed a substantial portion of the tenure of office. The good news however now is that, not only are pre-election cases on fast track now, impostors are now sanctioned by both removal and restitution of illegally gotten dues. With the proactive pronouncement of High Court of Lagos State, the erosion of internal democracy will be nipped in the bud and good things will not suffer irreparable injury before salvation comes.

Good governance is the desire of every sane society. In order for any society to have good governance, there must be good leadership. For there to be good leadership in a democratic setting, internal democracy must be effectively and effectually practised. One can only hope that political parties see the writing on the wall and behave accordingly.
In conclusion, I believe the role of Courts in contemporary times in the strengthening of internal democracy is not only commendable but proactive. It is only hoped that more of our courts will see the wisdom in this approach and political parties learn the art of respect for the rule of law.

Nigerians are extremely docile, It can be frustrating –Dr Muiz Banire(SAN), APC Legal Adviser

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Culled from Punchng.com

The National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Dr. Muiz Banire, in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, speaks on the issues of lack of internal democracy in the party, the performance of the incumbent government so far and why he seems to hold a different view from the majority in the party

Your party made a mockery of internal democracy at the recently held local government primary election in Lagos State, by trying to impose candidates. Was that the decision at the national level or the electoral committee and the state chapter acted alone?

As far as I’m concerned, there was no primary election, because the election didn’t take place at all. That is my own position, from my vantage position, from my observation and from the point of law. There was no primary, so nothing happened on that day.

But the drama at the Teslim Balogun Stadium that day was as a result of your primary election that was to hold.

That must have just been an assemblage of human beings, the purpose of which I wouldn’t know, but certainly not for primaries. My own view is clear, which is nothing personal. Our constitution is very clear on the way to go about it. If you look at Article 20 of our (APC) constitution, it says a lot about the procedure for nomination of candidates at all levels, from councillorship to the President and that is what must be followed. That has been my own position from time immemorial. If you recall the run-up to the primaries for the governorship election in 2014, that was the same posture I maintained, and all over the nation up till today, I maintain the same posture. The good news is that the Supreme Court in Nigeria has consistently been telling us its position that people must comply with the party’s constitution. That is why I always counsel to avoid this pitfall, and it is not peculiar to Lagos alone. So, for me, it’s nothing personal and what the constitution requires is not optional.

We have reports that high-ranking members of your party who should know what the law requires are guilty of that attempt to impose candidates on the people. For example, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was said to have reeled out those names even before the election. Is that the kind of practice APC wants to be known for?

Let me tell you my understanding. People said to me that Asiwaju had earlier announced some 18 candidates for chairmen. Even at that, I said he must have been misquoted because there is a difference between endorsement and nomination. They are two different things. I reserve the right to endorse anybody, but when it comes to elections, then I don’t have the right of imposition. So, I told them clearly that they must have been misquoting him because he (Asiwaju) certainly has a right to preference.

He wouldn’t have been misquoted because it was the names that were mentioned that were eventually announced as the candidates.

I heard he said 18, but what happened covered the entire state. Then, you yourself must have seen that the process was hijacked.

Can we say it was hijacked, when members of the party waiting to vote simply resisted imposition?

Let me tell you, there are so many godfathers, for selfish reasons, all about bread and butter and it is not in APC alone. It’s in all political parties and that is the essence of having a constitution because the tendency of every human being is to be domineering. It’s innate in us and that is why we agree as members of the same club to say we must have rules and regulations that would bind us and regulate our affairs. And having subscribed to it, then, you are bound by it. The APC is a bigger party, unlike AD, AC, ACN, etc. It’s a conglomeration of several interests and that is why for you not to have an implosion, you must consistently be bound by the rules and regulations.

But there is currently an implosion because some of the aspirants described the Lagos APC as undemocratic and fraudulent. Are those not clear signals?

They are signals. Personally, I think I owe it as a duty as the custodian of the APC constitution to ensure it does not happen. That is why I kept on saying and warning every day that don’t do this thing, do the right and proper thing. If we all agree that all these people are our party members, why discriminate against them. Allow all of them a level-playing ground. Whoever emerges is an APC candidate; simple and straightforward. Are the governor, the President and many others not proud that they went through the primaries before the 2015 election? In fact, part of what put our party on global map today was the presidential primary election we had; that everybody saw and witnessed it. We will not give up because we know it’s not easy for people to change.

One would expect that, as the National Legal Adviser, you would have advised them against that decision, because the imposition was already a matter of discourse before the day of the primary?

Yes, you’re right. That wasn’t our consensus when I attended their meeting. The meeting we had with all the local government officials, the stakeholders and the state executive, I was there and I advised them. They were very happy, they all subscribed to everything in the constitution. In fact, I was very proud of them that day, just for them to somersault suddenly because we had some scavengers who were able to profit from the venture; because people were just selling the party ticket all over the whole place. That was the problem. So, in order for me not to be guilty of standing by, that was why I even had to write them to say I heard something, please do not allow it to happen, follow the constitution.

Those who masterminded the charade are senior party men, like the party chairman in the state, Chief Henry Ajomale and Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, who have tried to defend their action.

Well, I do not even see Afikuyomi as a senior party man; he’s just like any other party member in Lagos. He doesn’t hold any position in the party, and being the chairman of the electoral committee was only a transient thing. Several of them we appoint every day. Some mess themselves up and some will perform creditably and commendably.

In that duty, has he performed creditably?

As far as I’m concerned, he has not even done it or discharged the responsibility.

But he read the pre-selected names, which is part of his responsibility as the chairman of the electoral committee.

He announced names of people he felt that he wanted. As a person, did you witness any primary? Nomination presupposes voting, and was there any voting? Up till now, there was no voting and there must be. If any other person who succeeds me decides to introduce anarchy, so be it, but while I’m still there, I will ensure that the proper thing is done.

It seems criminal to sell forms to aspirants and still want to impose people on them. Is the party going to refund them?

It’s not even a matter of refunding them, it’s about allowing internal democracy to prevail in the party. People tend to trivialise this issue but it’s an issue that I’ve signed into. There has been several intimidation, harassment and deprivation every day, but I’m not bothered. As far as I’m concerned, all those issues won’t work for me, because my religion preaches dying for what is just and proper. For me, I suffer it every day, from the security agents to government and people all over; that I’m their stumbling block, but I’m nobody’s stumbling block. I only believe that proper things must be done.

Will the party now hold another primary?

It’s not my role to organise primary, as the National Legal Adviser. It’s for the state to do the right thing, subject to guidelines from the national.

The national chairman of your party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has not said anything on this matter, and some would think it is because of the issue he had with Tinubu that he chose to stay off Lagos matters?

For me too, it’s a possibility. I would reckon the same way, but I don’t know the reason why a pronouncement has not been made, which is allowing court action to fester. My expectation is that the Vice Chairman, South West, Chief Pius Akinyelure, the Deputy National Chairman, South, Mr. Segun Oni, and others should have intervened. Look at cries all over and the way the thing disparaged the party all over. They should have called a meeting urgently on the issue. That’s my expectation because I’m from this state and I don’t want to push anybody. In other states, ask them at the national, I would trigger the process and force the meeting on.

But should you fold your arms in your own state?

The assumption would be that I’m biased and that’s why I’m distancing myself from it a bit. But I know that the way things are going, they themselves would wake up shortly.

Now that election is fast approaching and another date has not been announced for the primary, what if the party goes ahead with those names. What will happen?

Nothing will happen if no aspirant challenges the party. Some have challenged them, my own role is to go and defend. And I’ve told them I will not lie. I’m a very senior member of the bar. I’m a bencher and a senior advocate, so you won’t expect me to go to court and say we did primary where we did not. Of course, I will submit to judgment. It has happened before, where we submitted to judgement. In such cases, I would simply tell the court that My Lord, they did not follow our constitution. So, if anybody goes to court and the matter is to be defended, we will go to court and tell the truth. I will never lie in court to protect party and I often tell our party people not to put us in a position where they would expect us in the legal department to lie, because we won’t.

Also, governors, those under your platform inclusive, find it difficult to conduct local government election. Is it that you don’t advise them?

Well, again, I have advised them on that. That is why most of the states are doing it now. One charlatan recently placed an advert in your newspaper referring to it that I had the effrontery to ask the governor why he appointed sole administrators. It’s my duty to tell anybody. Those are the people that mislead them. In fact, one must commend the governor for saying okay let’s conduct the election. Look at Osun State, it has not conducted election for almost seven years, which is unfortunate and absurd. It’s an impeachable offence. The constitution says no local government must be run by any less than democratically elected leaders. The Supreme Court has pronounced it in Imo and Ekiti states condemning it and I’m sure the apex court would be excited dealing with such issues now because they have made several pronouncements condemning that practice. No governor can substitute his own opinion of what true federalism is for the position of the law, which is clear. My expectation is that people themselves should wake up. Nigerians should wake up.

If refusal to conduct that election is an impeachable offence, and given the quietness across the board, would you say Nigerians are docile?

Extremely docile. I’ve never seen this kind of people in my life. I must confess to you, ha! I get frustrated. At times, when some people decide and say let me take their battle on, what do you find out? The people would even be the first set of people to persecute that person, they would ask him which one is his own? Is he the only one? I start wondering that me I’m okay, it’s because of you that I’m doing this. So, they are just too docile. Ha! It’s too much.

Given the prominent role the party plays in our type of democracy, why has the party not been able to call people elected on its platform to order?

Well, our democracy is still developing. My personal opinion is that it’s because of the financial status of most parties. They tend to rely heavily on these offices rather than on membership dues.

But that itself is wrong; using state funds to run parties.

That is what we are aggressively trying to correct in APC now. The moment we are able to get everybody to be paying their membership dues, the party would be able to flow on its own financially, have a life and be able to take position on issues.

Given your stand on several issues and many of such you have had to deal with over time, are you sometimes embarrassed by some actions of the big men in your party?

Yes, a lot. Honestly. I get embarrassed and that is why I’m even anxious to quickly finish the tenure. Let me tell you something, which is another point that needs to be made clearly to a lot of people. We are sacrificing for the party. We are not paid officials. I’m not being paid anything. I go to Abuja practically every week with my money, I pay for my hotel, maybe occasionally when we have NWC meeting, they used to pay N100,000 now N120,000. My ticket alone is almost N140,000, my hotel is not less than N60,000 per night, apart from the internal transportation and other things. But it’s all about sacrifice. We don’t derive any pecuniary gain from it but we are happy doing it for now, and that is why I maintain that don’t rubbish me over what I’m even doing gratuitously. We just believe that some of us must be able to add value to the system and at least set the template that will outlive us and that is my ambition every day, and that is why when people continuously fight me, particularly in Lagos here, I just laugh. All these things are not personal. I’m not fighting anybody; everybody is my friend. But when it comes to the rule of law, I apologise, I can’t compromise it. It’s as simple as that. I’m unable to compromise it. That’s all I’m living for, that’s all I’m about.

But the big men in your party do these things and get away with it?

Again, that is another thing I normally have issues with. I don’t believe there are strong men in any political party. For me, party is party. Apart from the officers of the party, all members are equal. Once I pay my dues, I’m entitled to the same powers and privileges in the party. The moment we continuously discriminate against some people, that is the source of our woes. That is my own position. That is why given what happened in Lagos, everything I do, I direct to the state chairman. I don’t recognise any other person as the person controlling the party machinery in Lagos. It’s the state chairman that bears responsibility under the constitution for whatever happens. What happens behind, under, beneath, I don’t know about it. By the time you are talking about people that are not officially responsible, you are descending into their arena which is not your business. I don’t have a problem with anyone pulling so much weight, but my problem is where there is no compliance with the rules.

Are you saying you don’t recognise the position of the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who lives in Lagos?

Officially, the only person I can interact with officially are the party officials. That is what I mean.

People see him as the godfather of APC in Lagos…

(Cuts…) Let me tell you, I do not even see Asiwaju as a godfather, because he is not the person directly involved in that charade. He once drew my attention to it, that Muiz, are you saying I don’t have a right to endorse a candidate, and I told him, sir, I concede. Asiwaju wasn’t the one that came to the field to destabilise the process. Blame the party structure in the state.

People believe he did it underground.

I can equally do anything underground but you can’t hold me for it. How do you prove that?

But some have pointed out that it seems you don’t agree with him on certain things and that you don’t let him have his way sometimes.

It’s not true, let me tell you, it’s people that are hungry that are saying so. I, personally, am telling you I have no problem with Asiwaju at all. Asiwaju is my boss any day but the responsibility on my shoulder makes me not to see him regularly like before. Those people always want to create problem. If you don’t go and poison his mind or misdirect him, there is no problem. When has he himself come to say all of you must vote for a particular person? Some people only do name-dropping for their personal reasons. Same way they said the President told them to pick Yahaya Bello as the candidate for Kogi election at that time. At times, most of these people are innocent, people are only using their name to perpetrate evil.

Are you saying  you have a cordial relationship with him?

As of this time I’m talking to you, there is no enmity between us. Let me even tell you, there is nothing I’m doing that I didn’t learn from him. Look at his antecedents. He is the greatest rebel of our time. He taught us how to be rebellious. He’s a very courageous man and he taught us courage. He taught us to hold our views and be tenacious. In fact, he enjoys me facing and disagreeing with him.

Would you then get in touch with the APC chairman in Lagos to do the right thing as regards the imposition issue?

I have written; I don’t talk to them by mouth because they would deny it. I have written to them, I mean several letters. I keep on writing our people to do the right thing, even beyond Lagos. What does it cost people to stand by the truth? Even if they would sack you tomorrow, let them sack you and you go to your house. The problem is that majority of the people that are in politics today, especially at elective level or appointed level, are people without alternative contact address. They have no other job in their lives, so, they can kill or do anything, because they are always desperate to remain in the corridor of power. That is the problem.

There have been several calls for restructuring of Nigeria, and fortunately the first item on your manifesto is that you would restructure the country. Now that people are calling for it, your party that promised it has gone silent. Is that fair?

Again, that is an issue I want to bring up at our next meeting. Personally, I subscribe to it. My only area of conflict is the perception of the restructuring itself, because from what I’ve seen, restructuring means different things to different people. Some would say fiscal, national, complete, organisational restructuring and so on.

Perhaps that is what you get when you leave people to speculate and you maintain silence at the wrong time.

We must fundamentally agree on the type of restructuring that we want to embark upon. Let it be clear to everybody. When it is clear, all of us will go to the next stage and I think that is where the party needs to trigger a process, towards aggregating opinions on what we even mean by restructuring. Let’s agree. When we do that, we can then draw the timetable.

But when you were preparing your manifesto, what kind of restructuring did you have in mind?

We had our own conception of it, but I’ve read several other versions. If it’s our own we are already implementing, but not in the manner people are saying now.

Could you tell us the ones you have done?

Most of the ones we are looking at is fiscal restructuring and that has started. We used to have inequality in appointment of ministers; some have two while some have one, but that has been eliminated now. A lot is also happening on the issue of local government autonomy and the judiciary. Look at the issue of appeal, not every appeal will now go to the Supreme Court and that has gone far at the National Assembly. But people want more than that and I have no problem with that.

But why has your party not taken a stand in response to the calls for it from everywhere?

Like I said to you, some of these issues, I might be the one to trigger the process, maybe because the party is overwhelmed; running from one election to another regularly and it doesn’t even have so much logistics to anchor some of these programmes.

If you have been overwhelmed with winning elections, does it mean the APC is only concerned with winning elections, not minding if the promises made earlier had been fulfilled?

Certainly, you know that for every election, there must be campaign and you campaign on the manifesto. So, we can’t run away from them. If we are not implementing, people would see them and they would have raised it. There are also issues with the one people are calling for now. It seems we are doing it in piecemeal at the moment, maybe what we need, which I agree to, is a holistic approach to it. I’m sure the party is not averse to it conceptually.

It would seem you are about the only one prompting some of these things. It seems your members go to sleep once they win election.

With due respect to most of our members, I think there is what I will call economic impairment affecting them. You know at times, you need stamina to talk. If you haven’t eaten, you probably won’t be able to talk.

A lot of people have doubted the integrity of your party because when late President Yar’ Adua was sick, your party, through Alhaji Lai Mohammed as the then spokesperson, was on his issue, maintaining that Nigerians deserved to know the state of health of their President. But now that President Muhammadu Buhari is equally ill, the same Alhaji Lai Mohammed said such is a confidential information. Aren’t you taking the people for a ride?

You know the dangers of precedence that I spoke about at that time, that when you talk, know what you are talking. I will escalate this issue to Alhaji Lai Mohammed and seek further explanations on why disclosures about the President’s health are not being made. They might know things that I don’t know. There are several human beings with different ailments. So, continue exploring the channels available to you, like the Freedom of Information.

Should we need to go that far if your party that promised change is sincere about being transparent and accountable?

The actions of some individual officers should not be equated with that of government. Look at what happened the last time when your reporter was sent out of the State House and the government decided to deny it. It happens sometimes like that in government that somebody overzealous somewhere would do something. But for me, we must never get frustrated by any system.

Your manifesto is a very beautiful document, but as a person, when you pick it, are you satisfied with how your party has fared?

Yes, I’m satisfied. The manifesto is not a document for four years. It is a document that is expected to endure for the next 50 years. We have just spent about two years.

So your target is 50 years?

It cannot be minimum. The things there are ideal situation and it can’t be implemented in one day. Those are aspirations and the things we want to see. For example, at times, when people talk and they get into government and they see what resources are available, they face reality. But before they get there, they feel all these things are possible.

Since that was what your party did, it would seem that it hoodwinked the people into believing in your promises.

No, we are saying given all factors being constant, these are the things we want to do. The situation we met was worse than what we even anticipated. Unfortunately again, several other inhibiting factors came in. So, it’s not a document that would just die in four or eight years. It will live for a long time, so give it the benefit of survival.

But shouldn’t we blame the politicians that throw money around?

Yes, that is why at times I wonder if our leaders are not wicked, as they consciously put our people in abject poverty so that they can’t reason. For me, we need a major movement in that regard. The press need to do a lot in that regard. They need to educate people and enlighten them. I have always been saying that there is need to continuously establish the nexus between the people’s lives and their votes. We must connect it to say if you take money for your vote, it’s your life you are selling. Let them see clearly how they would not see hospital, good road, good school and other things, by just mortgaging that votes. We owe it a duty to them, particularly the elite. If that is the minimum we can do.

People have always talked about expensive elections, but for local government election, is N555,000 not too much for the form, excluding N5,000 for the expression of interest?

Again, I, as a person, disagreed with it, because the question I even asked them was that what is the minimum wage? Are you saying that somebody on a minimum wage can’t contest? No. It can’t be. There are some of these things at times that people are not even challenging. That is the problem. That is where it lies. The aspirants should challenge it.

Your signature campaign programme was anticorruption fight. Given the next to nothing achievements recorded in that regard, how would you rate the government’s performance in that regard?

For me, I have a different view about that. I have always believed that little would be achieved with the way and manner we are currently fighting corruption. I want to see that document on the socio-economic diagnosis of corruption in Nigeria. Before you can fight corruption, you need to know what the attractions, the causes and what creates the opportunity, the sociologist must tell us. We underestimate the capacity of those people. We need to do the study. It is when we have the study, then you now start gradually to tackle it, like discouraging the attractions. I have always believed that if all of us wake up and every day at our various churches and mosques, we send curses after the corrupt people, I tell you corruption will reduce.

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How Mrs Bolanle Ambode made a mess of Leadership and sacrilege against the Church.

Culled from Punchng

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Ambode’s wife committed sacrilege and should apologise —African Church Bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Adeyemi is the head of the African Church, Ifako Diocese, and the boss of the Presiding Chaplain of the Chapel of Christ the Light, Ikeja, Venerable Femi Taiwo, who was sacked by the Lagos State Government for allegedly disrespecting the wife of the governor, Bolanle. In this explosive interview with SAMSON FOLARIN, Adeyemi states the position of the church.

What relationship exists between The African Church and the Chapel of Christ the Light?

The chapel belongs to the Lagos State Government, but it is being managed by the entire Christian body and, specifically, the various blocs that form the Christian Association of Nigeria. In CAN, there are five blocs. The African Church belongs to the Christian Council of Nigeria, which is one of the blocs. The position of the Presiding Chaplain of the Chapel is rotated among the blocs to avoid any disharmony in the body of Christ. So, it is our turn to produce the Presiding Chaplain.

Venerable Taiwo, who is from this (Ikeja) diocese, was the chaplain for three years and after the three years he applied to become the presiding chaplain. He was interviewed and discovered to be qualified. He was subsequently employed as the Presiding Chaplain.

He started in January 2016, and was supposed to spend three years, but this incident happened. His predecessor came from the ECWA bloc of CAN and it was when his predecessor finished his tenure that he was appointed.

What is the process of appointing chaplains?

When the position becomes vacant, it will be published in the newspapers. Normally, applications will be invited from everybody, but in the end it will follow the usual order of rotation. So, when everybody applies, there will be a panel that will interview the applicants and the qualified person will be employed.

What do you know about the events that culminated in the sack of Taiwo?

It was on Monday, May 15, that Venerable Taiwo called me that there was a development in the chapel and that he was coming to see me. He came and showed me the sack letter, saying that his appointment had been terminated.

However, before now, there have been some issues in the chapel. He said the governor’s wife called him and the chaplain, who was his assistant, to see her. The two of them went there and they had a good interaction. There was no problem. That (incident) happened in the first week of May.

He said some members of the governing council then called him to know why he went to the First Lady’s office and he explained to them that he and his assistant were invited. The council then told him he shouldn’t have gone to see her and that he should have allowed them to resolve any issue. The council then asked him and his assistant to write an apology letter, which they did. The governing council said the letter was to assuage the First Lady because she felt she was being challenged and accused of fraternising with a former presiding chaplain. According to Venerable Taiwo, that was the only encounter they had before the Monday 15th sack letter came.

But are you aware that he got some queries as the government alleged? Has he ever told you he was queried at anytime for any offence?

I asked him specifically if he had been receiving queries from the officials of the chapel or the government, but he said it has never happened.

I know Taiwo. He is a very responsible minister of God; very knowledgeable, humble and disciplined. I have worshiped at that chapel a few times myself. And I made personal investigations about him. Even the members of the chapel are saddened by this development. If you know about what they have been doing since this incident happened, you will know venerable Taiwo is a man everybody respects.

Like what?

They accommodated him and furnished the place just to make him comfortable. They have also written to the government to rescind the decision. He is not a wayward person.

A lot of Nigerians are outraged about what happened. Do you think that this anger is justified?

It is highly justified. Even as a church, we are furious with the government. But we are trying to approach the issue from different angles. One is to appeal to the government, if reasoning will prevail. The governor himself and his wife can rescind the order. The head of the church, His Eminence, Primate Emmanuel Josiah, has written to the governor’s office. He has been asked to book an appointment with the First Lady. We are aware that the letter written to the First Lady is not being attended to; she is not even ready to make herself available.

Has the church received any formal complaint against the Venerable?

That is where as a church we are angry with the government. If he is a serial offender as alleged, nothing stops them from reporting him to the church, that the person you seconded to the office here has a bad attitude and we would have called him to order. We have many others that we could have sent to the chapel. But we are very sure of him that was why we sent him. The government failed to inform us and for government now to have taken such a drastic step and tell him to leave (his official apartment) within 24 hours leaves much to be desired.

You mean the 24-hour ultimatum was truly stated in the sack letter?

I was here (in my office) when he (Venerable Taiwo) called me that they asked him to pack out within 24 hours and that he was even told that the governor’s wife would not like to hear that he was still being seen around. Then we started wondering what could have happened? Somebody that has a wife and kids, and you asked him to go within 24 hours? Where do you expect him to go?

This is very ungodly! It is a sacrilege for someone who happens to be a Christian. Even when Fashola (former Lagos State Governor) was there, despite being a Muslim, he never took such a decision. Now that the governor (Ambode) is a Christian, which we all fought for, he is the one taking ungodly decisions. We have written letters to CAN and CCN, including the Methodist Church where the Venerable Taiwo’s assistant came from, that if Mrs. Ambode, is trying to cause divide and rule among the Christians, she should go ahead. We are not afraid of anything.

We understand that Mrs. Ambode is also a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, let her go and ask the RCCG Pastor, Enoch Adeboye, whether what she did was the right thing to do to a minister of God. It is ungodly and very sad.

When the church heard that the sack was about anointing oil, what was the general reaction of the church?

Anointing oil is a personal thing. Nobody has the right or power to force anybody to take anointing oil. It is even ungodly to say a worshipper should take it by force. Even Holy Communion is voluntary; there is no protocol when it comes to that. When you are in the House of God, rich or poor, old or young, you are all equal before God. If Ambode will recall, anytime she comes for service, she will be the one to sit in the front and she has the right and privilege of going to the stage first if she is interested.

What did the Venerable tell you happened at the service that day?

I have tried to confirm from Taiwo what really happened on that Sunday and he said the service held as usual. There were three of them who stood to minister the anointing oil and few of them who wished to receive the oil came forward. Ambode’s wife later joined the queue. And she even participated in the thanksgiving service.

But why was she angry that day? The church members said she left in annoyance.

From my findings, her point of annoyance was that she was not recognised. She was not duly recognised and I asked that at what point was she expecting that recognition? I was told that Venerable Taiwo mounted the pulpit to deliver the sermon, she expected him to recognise and welcome her to the service. To some extent, I agree with her because the Bible says we should give honour to whom it is due.

Was that enough for a sacking?

That did not call for a sacking. The procedure they adopted was ungodly. If she felt offended because of recognition, there is a procedure. She could have called the chapel members and the management body and let them query him and ask why he didn’t recognise the governor’s wife. And then the management body would make their recommendation to the governing council. And the council will then forward their decision to the government. That is the way it should be done. But they didn’t do it.

Whatsoever it is, our own point is that the right procedure was not followed. Government has the right to employ and the right to sack. But if you are now sacking and asking the person to leave within 24 hours, that is too much.

As a church, we are demanding apology from the governor and the government of Lagos State. We demanded that we wanted a Christian governor. We came out en masse and supported the political ambition of Ambode. We told our members to go out and vote for him. Unfortunately, people have started mocking us.

What has happened is a sacrilege and Mr. Ambode should know that. We have been appreciating his efforts in Lagos. Why will he allow himself to get involved in such a trivial issue that can spoil his public image? You are the governor and the image of Lagos State and the father of all. When any report comes to you, you should dissect that report and know what steps and action to take.

Has CAN tried to mediate in this matter?

Yes, CAN and CCN have been trying to do some underground work to ensure that the matter did not get to this level. But now that it has got to this point, we have served them letters and I am sure they know what to do.

Will the church query the Venerable over the incident?

Yes, however, it might not be in the form of query. The church will do its findings over his activities over there and we will forward out findings to the centre. But so far from our findings, we have not found any fault in him. Some of the elders and chapel leaders are also angry over the sacking. They were not informed. He has not done anything to warrant what happened.

What has been the experience of the pastors of the church with Mrs. Ambode and former first ladies in Lagos State?

While I will not want to be too personal, as a church, we are very much at home with Dame Abimbola Fashola than with Mrs. Bolanle Ambode. Mrs. Fashola is a mother, very humble, knowledgeable and mature. She has a way of dealing with men, women, young, old, men of God of different cadres and she knows how to appreciate people. Many of these attributes are somehow lacking in Mrs Ambode. Maybe this is because of her tender age; she needs to acquire more experience.

What is the state of the Venerable and his family now?

I want to thank the members of the Chapel of Christ the Light. They have been very fantastic. They accommodated him and furnished the place he is staying now. His car got burnt where he parked it. If a car is parked in a government house and that car got burnt in the middle of the night like 2am, there is foul play. Even that alone, if government is very fair, they were supposed to set up a panel to investigate it. But that did not happen.

When this incident happened, it was these members that bought him another car so that he would not feel the impact of what happened. Even as a church, we are making plans to ensure he is not stranded.

He will not be without a ministry. We are going to give him a station very soon, if he is not called back. We just don’t want to rush it.

What will the church do if the government recalls him?

If government calls him back before he resumes at his new station, then we will need to sit down with them because this is a complete embarrassment to the church. Ambode, his wife, the state government, embarrassed and insulted the African Church. We must sort things out and give them our stand.

They may decide to recall him because of the tension that has arisen over the incident only to do something worse. These politicians cannot be predicted. Any politician that does not have the fear of God cannot be trusted. The embarrassment they caused us has never happened to any other denomination. Even during the military era this can never happen.

Why do you think some government officials don’t respect pastors and priests?

They lack the fear of God. They are conscious of position and money and with this, the society cannot move forward. Also, our religious leaders have messed themselves up because of money. They are patronising the politicians and they are making them to believe that their anointing is not real.

But I believe that any politician, who has the fear of God in him, even if any minister misbehaves, you are not the one to judge him. You should ensure you do your part. If Ambode or his wife knows the tenets of Christianity, they will not deal with Venerable Taiwo like that. They will know that this is a man of God.

They should have said have written to us, saying they don’t want to embarrass the church and we as a church would have handled it. We have a lot of other ministers across the state and the country. But they didn’t do that because there is no fear of God in them. They are not ready to submit to the Will and Word of God. Ego is killing us.

If not ego, why should Mrs. Ambode feel embarrassed that she was not called first to receive the anointing? But when ego takes the better part of any individual, that person will misbehave and if you tell him or her the truth, he or she will not agree.

CREDIT: THE PUNCH

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CELEBRATING LAGOS @ 50

Lagos the city of aquatic splendor, centre of excellence, the citadel of swag, the commercial nerve of Nigeria. Eko akete ilu ogbon(meaning Lagos heap, city of wisdom). It has been 50 years of leading Nigeria into her dream future. The hustle and bustle of Lagosians in the morning is synonymous to the Cat-Rat race. One democratic governor to another has changed the way we see Lagos from 1999 till date.

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50 is a landmark, from lekki gardens, to shopping malls springing up everywhere, to the free trade zone, to BRT and LAGbus, to the little improvement in the education sector, to a better road network, etc Each of this was great but more applauds to the traditional 100 days accountability townhall that kept us abreast all the works of the government before it was suspended. Publishing the audited financial details of the government was a laudable stride to an open government that led to citizen trust in the government. Today, we are looking forward to the return of the 100 days accountability townhall/press briefing and the financial document on all government online portals since the current governor was auditor general  in one of the past administration.

I want to ask why we need to spend so much on Lagos @ 50 when there are still so many grounds to cover. The government is throwing celebration when we are in recession. Did they forget there is no money to spend? What value does this celebration have for the present and future of Lagos?

What value does this jamboree or felicity have on the provision of quality education, water, housing and et cetera? Why many economists keep advising a cut in cost of governance, politicians keep thinking about a rise in the cost of governance.

In a state where government can’t provide water for the citizen and even in the governor’s house (the state house uses borehole). Is celebration the next thing? In a state where many children do not have access to quality education, is celebration necessary? In a state where to cut the cost of governance we have to break the law (constitution) by installing sole administrators in LGAs and LCDAs, is celebration not adding to this cost? In a state where government audited financial document are hidden from the electorate, is celebration priority? In a state where health facilities are in shambles, is felicity a top list? In a state where depression and suicide are increasing because of the economic depression, is festivity our major concern?

Who is the celebration for, the elites or commoners? How much will be spent on the celebration? Who will fund this celebration? What is the value of this celebration to the ordinary man in Lagos? Are there no ways we can invest in the future to mark the 50 years of Lagos.

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Lagosian open or shine your eyes, when did our city of wisdom become a city of fools? We must ask question now from the government of the day on how the tax payer money is spent. We must demand compliant to the rule of law from this government. We must demand transparency and accountability from this government. The government owes us some explanation on how our funds are spent. We must ask now else we return to the dark days.

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On Thursday, 16th, 2015 at the graduation of Agidingbi high school, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, there was over 500 sstudents and their teacher gathered in the school hall as they round up the session, it was a time of reflection as a school, as some were graduating, others were promoted and other had failed and have to repeat their classes. This informed the school choice of THEME: WHAT NEXT?

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This is a question that every productive person should ask everyday, the speaker who is the finance secretary of Global Alliance for Youth Leaders (GAYL) motivated the students to find direction for their life as life will only offer them what they ask from life, he asked them to work hard and we don’t fail until we accept failure and not accept to re-launch, he encourage them to paint a picture(VISION) of who they want to be, create short and long term goal for their lives.
He concluded with the habits of successful people which included: determination, risk-takers, learners, responsible, good association, grateful, etc. He told them how he lost direction and focus after the death of his father and how his life turn around once he committed himself to serving other people as community organizer. @toebheey @youngprotegela fb: Toby michael akinnike