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Buhari’s campaign criticises US ambassador, other Western diplomats

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign organisation has criticised the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, over his repeated calls for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria.

The campaign organisation, in a statement by its spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, said it was “deeply concerned about many of the expressions” of Mr Symington and other “Western diplomats.”

“The continued warnings about ‘flawed elections’ is capable of casting an unwarranted cloud over the process,” Mr Keyamo said.

Read Mr Keyamo’s full statement below.

AMERICA’S UNGUARDED STATEMENTS ON OUR ELECTION: A CALL FOR CAUTION AND EQUITY.

We are deeply concerned about many of the expressions of the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador W. Stuart Symington and other Western Diplomats which have been directed towards Nigeria’s upcoming elections. Whilst we laud and whole-heartedly welcome their interests in the elections, many of these expressions have been notably off- key. The continued warnings about ‘flawed elections’ is capable of casting an unwarranted cloud over the process. Instead of encouraging our country toward credible elections, such statements undermine public confidence. It would appear that these envoys seem to have discredited the election before it has even taken place.

We truly hope some of the statements attributed to these diplomats are inaccurate. For instance, the Premium News reported that Ambassador W. Stuart Symington threatened to “hold to account” anyone whose speech, no matter the motivation of that speech, engendered hatred. We all agree that any speech willfully intended to trigger violence is condemnable. However, in condemning other forms of political speech, the American envoy overstepped his ambassadorial brief. For instance, the American Ambassador was reported to have condemned a situation where a candidate says that his opponent’s political and economic policies are abhorrent and dangerous to the greater welfare of the people and calls on the citizens to hate and reject such policies. In our view, this is a correct statement because it is the duty of the candidate to tell the people these truths to protect the nation from subsequent calamity. But Ambassador Symington says his country would punish such necessary political speeches.

For us it is significant to note that such strong political speeches are not unlawful in the United States, but Ambassador Symington is seeking to penalize such speeches by Nigerians. He seeks to shrink our ambit of free speech so that we may behave in accordance with their vision of well-behaved Africans, rather than in consonance with our vision of our own democracy, no matter how tumultuous and dramatic we may be. It would appear that his position seeks to prohibit forms of expression integral to our political discourse. These forms of expression have time and time again been adjudged to be constitutionally-protected speeches by the United States Supreme Court.

However, Ambassador Symington intentionally issued his threats to place a chilling effect on speeches in Nigeria that, if uttered in America, would be constitutionally protected. Unfounded allegations and threats to penalize people for constitutionally-protected free speech is improper interference in our internal affairs. Sadly, what Ambassador Symington and some other western diplomats are doing border on the improper.

We take the view that the constant statements by Ambassador Symington and the other diplomats are implicit attacks against the government of Nigeria. These statements imply the Nigerian government is inclined to rig the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is unfair and unacceptable to us. President Muhammadu Buhari has never been accused of electoral malpractice all his life. However, in contrast, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar publicly boasted a few months ago that he rigged the 2003 election in the Southwest States. Here, we have an open confession of blatant electoral malfeasance by the PDP candidate. But in all of these, there seem to be no concern by Ambassador Symington and other diplomats about this well-acknowledged proclivity of the main opposition.

We expected that such open confession to rigging in the past would have drawn condemnation from the United States. Rather what we witnessed recently was the ignoble act of giving such a self-confessed rigger with a decade-old indictment in America for corruption hanging over his head a special status to enter the U.S for a few days. Such is the double standard that America now displays for the whole world to see.

It is unfortunate that most of these countries that sermonize about free and fair elections have ugly histories of denial of voting right to people because of their colour and are still facing many challenges with their electoral systems till date.

The continued reference and praise of the 2015 election by Ambassador Symington clearly shows he needs further briefing about the Nigerian situation. For his information, the 2015 presidential election, at the end of the day, produced the correct outcome, but with flawed figures in many areas. Though they lost, the figures attributed to the PDP were inflated in many places, especially in the South South, to save the face of the past President and to reduce the margin of his defeat. President Buhari is determined to improve on the 2015 elections and so it cannot even be our benchmark.

An American ambassador has a great responsibility in representing the strongest economic and military power in the world. His comments carry weight because of the status of his nation. This means his comments should reflect a deep knowledge of the subject. Sadly, Ambassador Symington has not shown the deep knowledge of Nigerian situation. The impression he creates by constantly harping on suspected government interference with the electoral process is that President Buhari cannot win without tipping the results. He seems to be saying that only a PDP victory will be evidence of a fair election.

Again, he is in great error. From all of the information at our disposal, President Buhari can and should win a free and fair election. However, it appears to us that Ambassador Symington is substituting his subjective conclusions for the sovereign will of the Nigerian people. In doing so, he has abandoned the impartiality of a true envoy and has trespassed into interfering in our electoral process.

Instead of encouraging free and fair elections, these judgmental statements and threats only cast an unnecessary pall over the elections and the nation. This is an international disservice and not international diplomacy. The days of unquestioned condescension to Western powers are long gone and we are not prepared at this time in Nigeria to recede to that era.

Nigerians will define Nigeria’s democracy. We shall hold fair and just elections, not because of scolding by diplomats, but because we have sufficient intelligence and morality to do what is right for ourselves. If Ambassador Symington has familiarized himself with Nigeria’s history from 1999 till date, he would have realized that those in the main opposition are being haunted by their past: they think President Buhari would behave exactly like they did all these years when they consistently rigged elections and denied Nigerians the right to choose their leaders

If Ambassador Symington truly intends to be impartial, his statements should acknowledge that both Government and Opposition (particularly in States where the opposition have Governors in place) must respect the process and refrain from rigging. We expect him to counsel both governing party and the Opposition from any form of electoral malpractice. After all, it is not only Governments at the center that rig elections. Elections can also be rigged in opposition-controlled areas.

It is not too late for Ambassador Symington to repair the damage of his uninformed statements. He needs to speak as an impartial envoy instead of a person who appears to have prejudged the quality of the process and the outcome. Until he attains that level of informed impartiality, whatever good he seeks is better achieved by his silence than by tendentious utterances.

Thank you.

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Umar Mohammed Bago, Man With Passion For Service

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-Why He Wants To Be Reps Speaker 

Umar Mohammed Bago is not just another member of the Federal House of Representatives, he is a man that has the wherewithal and the qualities of a leader of the 21st Century, whose antecedents show that he could turn a stone to bread and bring water out of the rock. 

The people of Chanchanga  Federal Constituency in Niger State knew better,  when they voted for Bago to be their representative in the House of Reps in 2011  and repeated the same in 2015 and 2019. 

Bago has since proven the be the best man for the job with the way he has influenced development to the area and touched the lives of the people in the constituency. 

The 45-year-old politician is an alumnus of the Federal Government College, Jos and he graduated with a degree in Political Science from Uthman Dan Fodio University,  Sokoto and holds a Post Graduate Diploma. 

His educational career continued as he went ahead to obtain Masters Degrees in Management, Business Administration and Finance and he is an alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. 

Bago cut his teeth in banking at the Central Bank of Nigeria, United Bank of Africa, Standard Trust Bank (STB), FCMB,  and Afribank. 

As a member of the Federal House of Representatives, his experiences are for the records. 

He was a member of the House Committee on Banking and Currency,  Appropriation and Communication Technology,  Defense, as well as Loans and Debts. 

He has also served in other committees such as National Planning and Economic Development,  Media and Publicity,  and he is a member of several civil societies and donor agencies. 

In 2015, Bago was made the Chairman of the House Committee on Maritime,  Safety,  Education and Administration. 

While some of his colleagues could not boast of making differences in the green chamber,  Bago has so far moved 20 motions on the floor of the House, sponsored 15 bills and co-sponsored several others. 

The people of Bago’s constituency are living testimonies of his people-oriented empowerment programmes and constituency projects. 

The cerebral nationalist is well travelled, exposed,  urbane and speaks Nupe,  Hausa and Yoruba fluently.

Bago is one of the politicians that have no baggage and people believe that the House of Representatives deserves such a politician to be it’s leader. 

Some of his thoughts have become reference points for those, who believe in quality leadership and progressive minded politicians. 

Bago once stated that “I observed with continued amazement and curiousity that the issue of equity in geopolitical balancing  as enshrined in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, has not been seen and taken seriously rather the issue of capacity and competence is being touted.

“The question is capacity and competence in what? To move motions and bills? Chair committee sessions? Educational background? Party loyalty? humbly speaking; if these are the indices to define capacity and competence, I am very qualified.”

Bago  believes that if its the job of Speaker that “we are talking about, the Speaker will not be moving motions or Bills. Only Speaker Yakubu Dogara had moved a bill on the floor of the house of representatives in recent history of the house over the last twenty years.”

He stressed that a great speaker could  not emerge from disdain for the constitution with which he will be sworn in, adding that the capacity and competence must be situated within constitutional prescriptions. 

“Lastly the Speaker must enjoy earned confidence of members out of his relatability capacity and quotient 

“An effective Speaker must be able to ride on provable ability that every member  and stakeholders will find comfort  and accommodation in him, by reputation. 

“I am called Mr.Relatable because this is what my life embodies and it did not start with the aspiration to be Speaker,” he said. 

Bago was quoted to have said that the demand for equity is at the “nucleus of my aspiration before my nature as a very relatable personality or my capacity and competence,  and so demanding  for equitable treatment is not about indulging or being gratuitous to the North Central, rather its fact based and well earned, not frivolous; from the facts that the North Central zone gave our party the third highest votes at the 2019 Presidential election, to the zone never had a speaker of house of Representatives in 20years since 1999! 

“These are facts! Of course in the mix is the need for a youth inclusion at that level of our political administration; these are claims that are real making my aspiration legitimate, fair and just…”

He said further that “I just watched the Seun Okinbaloye’s Politics Today and saw how the North Central geopolitical zone asking for equity was dismissively and condescendingly referred to by my colleague Hon. Abdulmumini, when he said there are other positions “within” the house leadership that the North Central can be “given”, affirming that south west zone(lagos) that gave our party 2million votes and has Vice President of Nigeria by entitlement should also get the Speaker House of Representatives while Northcentral geopolitical zone that gave APC/President Buhari 2.4million votes should settle for Chief whip?Or Deputy Whip..etc! My heart bleeds…”

He maintained that a zone that in 20 years had never produced Speaker or Deputy inspite of huge support for APC…where is equity, justice, fairness that the Nigerian constitution  and that of APC prescribed. 

“A case of a father of six openly showing favouritism to a child out of  the six, in a six bedroom  house is giving two rooms to the favourite child and asking four others to take the remaining four rooms and sending one child to go and stay in the boy’s quarters, even when he has been a good child… hmmm…May God bless Nigeria…” he said. 

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FG: We’ve not found a formula to end fuel subsidy

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The federal government says it is yet to devise a workable formula for the removal of fuel subsidy.

Speaking at the federal executive council meeting, Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, said removal of subsidy would have negative effect on vulnerable Nigerians.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), had advised Nigeria and other countries to remove fuel subsidy, saying the money spent on subsidy can be redirected to health and education.

Four days after making the suggestion, Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, said the landing cost of petrol is now N180 per litre, with the federal government spending N1.86bn on subsidy daily.

Ahmed explained that while the country appreciates the advice of the IMF, what works for others may not be operable within Nigeria’s context, describing the country as unique.

She said the government is still considering various options and until a decision is reached, no action will be taken.

“In some countries, they provided buses to transport people, in some countries they provide subsidies in a manner that the people that are directly requiring the subsidies,” Ahmed said.

“We have not found a way to do it. What we are doing now, the subsidy, it is everybody that it benefiting, whereas it is the people who are really vulnerable that need subsidy.

“So, in the executive with the support of the legislature, we have to find a formula that will work for Nigeria. And until we do that, we should not be contemplating removing the subsidy because, indeed when we do, there will be people that will suffer. So, we are not yet there.

“We discussed this periodically under the Economic Management Team but we still haven’t found a formula that works for Nigeria. And you know that Nigeria is unique. What works for Ghana might not work here.

“So, it’s still work in progress for and there is no intention to remove fuel subsidy at this time.”

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Gov. Yahya Bello Declares For Second Term, Gives Reasons

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Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, on Wednesday, officially declared his intention to seek reelection for a second term on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Bello made the declaration while inaugurating the board of the State House of Assembly Service Commission at Banquet hall Government House, Lokoja.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has slated the governorship election in the state for Nov. 2.

The governor said his declaration came after consultations with the leadership of his party both at the national and state levels and pressure from the people of the state on him to seek re-election.

He added that his decision is premised on the official release of the State’s Election time table by INEC.

“I would like to inform the good people of the state, the APC family and supporters from the state, the Local Government Areas (LGAs) down to the wards and polling units, as well as various stakeholders, opinion molders, families and friends of my interest to run for a second term in office as the Executive Governor of the state.

”I have sought the blessing of the Almighty God and our good people; I will have to contest for the second term so that we can build on our modest achievements so far in the state by taking it to the next level,” Bello said.

He urged members of the board to always let the interest of the state be paramount in their mind, and shun any form of tribal or religious sentiment.

He further enjoined them to serve well with all their capacity and ensure they cooperate with the members of the state House of Assembly.

Mr Matthew Kolawole, the Speaker, commended the governor for his magnanimity to have signed the bill and for inaugurating the board.

”All of us in the House of Assembly are happy with the inauguration of the board of the commission, because it marks the beginning of our financial autonomy,” Matthew said.

He expressed happiness over the governor’s declaration for second term bid, saying they had been expecting it.

“Our prime objective right now is to see him returning on Nov. 2, as the 5th executive governor of the state, and it shall come to past,” he said.

Mr Andas Momoh-Jimoh, the Chairman of the Commission, commended the governor for the opportunity given to them to serve.

”I believed in oneness and unity of the state and I am going to carry out this assignment without any bias, fear, favor or any religious or tribal sentiment,” he said.

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