Can we meet you?
My name is Ambassador Chijioke Okoro. I’m the Chairman, South East Democratic Movement, SDM.
What does the organisation stands for?
It is a movement meant to reshape our political atmosphere especially in the south east geo-political zone. It is to bring about good governance and ensure that we are properly placed in the scheme of things at the federal government.
What is your take on the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar as the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic , PDP, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
Yeah. We, the members of SDM welcome the development, especially as it came from former President Obasanjo whom we have been waiting for, to hear his voice about Atiku. Now that he has spoken and endorsed Atiku as the 2019 Presidential candidate, we are happy that he made the declaration at the appropriate time.
He has made a good choice as a respected national statesman of this country given the bleak state of our economy and security under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. We are happy supporting Atiku and backing Obasanjo simultaneously come 2019.
Considering the power of incumbency, do you think Atiku can defeat President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections?
The coast is clear. At least, every dick and Harry knew that Buhari does not deserve re-election and have nothing to offer. But Atiku has what it takes to defeat Buhari and run this country very well.
In fact, Atiku will not only defeat Buhari but will even defeat him in Daura, his home town of Katsina state. This is because Buhari has woefully disappointed this country. And he is still frustrating many Nigerians on daily basis.
On this premise , Atiku has the available chances to defeat the incumbent President in the forthcoming elections. Indeed, Buhari will soon be disgraced at the poll.
You’re aware that Buhari promised to ensure a free, fair and credible election come 2019. Don’t you believe him?
Going by what we experienced during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, I don’t see Buhari conducting a free and fair election in 2019.
This is because from his body language and utterances of his handlers, the President wants to remain in power come 2019. Worse still, Buhari does not bother about conducting a free and fair election because he knows the masses and most Nigerians have rejected him even before the election.
As it stands now, we are not even praying for him to contest the election, let alone, declaring him a winner of the election. With his jihadist mind, Buhari doesn’t want to leave the presidency. And there is no sign that he can conduct a free and fair election.
As you don’t believe that Buhari will conduct a free and fair election, why are you sure that Atiku will win the 2019 presidential election?
Most Nigerians will vote for Atiku. But Buhari will attempt to rug it. That is where we can resist him. We, the Nigerians populace will resist Buhari to rig the election because this issue is far beyond ethnic and chauvinism and religious bigotry. This movement to vote out Buhari in 2019 is all inclusive. It involves majority of the people from all the geo-political zones of this great country.
The people will resist Buhari despite the fact that he may massively deploy armed security agents as rigging machines. The masses are prepared to challenge these undemocratic agents and use their Permanent Voters Card, PVC, to vote out Buhari from Aso Rock in 2019.
But there is disagreement in the south east over the choice of former governor Peter Obi as Atiku’s presidential running mate.
Well, my take is that the way some people reacted to the choice of Peter Obi as vice presidential nominee for Atiku’s presidency is very bad. The negative reaction from some quarters shouldn’t have come up. Let me even ask, where were the naysayers when Buhari made key appointments excluding the region? There was no protest against the glaring marginalization by them.
Now that somebody came and recognised the region with an offer of number two citizen in the land, they are agitating because they want to nominate one moron who they can control. So, we say no to them and, shall support Atiku/Obi’s presidency 100 percent. We shall mobilize, educate the masses to vote for them overwhelmingly.
Are you not worried that in certain political circles, you are called Obasanjo?
I’m not worried. I’m proud of that name. I love that name and the great man bearing the name. This is because former President Obasanjo is my mentor and role model.
I usually respond positively when somebody calls me Obasanjo because he is calling me an intelligent person. He is calling me the wisest King. You are calling me a man whom God has blessed and brought into this country to positively reshape and reposition things to work. You are calling me a man with a very big experience with a great influence that transcends this country to the whole world.
Look at Obasanjo coming from a poor background. But today, he is the maker of many great men in this country. He has made great leaders and still making contributions to the nation’s overall development. At 80s, Obasanjo is still waxing. His detractors are not God. Take it or leave it, he remains the political deity of this country who must be consulted to move this nation forward.
2023 presidency: President of Igbo extraction difficult task with IPOB – Balarabe Musa
Balarabe Musa, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, has hinted that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is creating enemies for the South East in their push for 2023 presidency.
Musa insisted that IPOB was making it difficult for an Igbo presidency to emerge in 2023.
He said this in response to the call for zoning of the presidency to the South East in 2023.
In a statement, Musa said: “IPOB are now breeding enemies for the South East. We are campaigning for the presidency to go to the South East, even though zoning was introduced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that we are opposed to.
“It is good for us as a country because it gives every person and area a sense of belonging.
“So we support the zoning and we are saying the presidency should go to the South East and we have our reason. Now, they are making our job even more difficult and they are not helping even the people in the South East .”
Musa also condemned the attack on former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu by some members of IPOB in Germany.
According to Musa: “IPOB is wrong to have attacked the former deputy president of the Senate. Even though we are opposed to them because they are a separatist organisation, because they are an organisation that wants to separate NIGERIA, but we also have sympathy for them because they have genuine grievances.
“They are now spoiling the little sympathy they have by doing what they did. It is uncalled for, the person they attacked is an individual, not an organisation. I think it’s wrong for them to have done so.
“They are also making it difficult for us. Even though we are opposed to them as a separatist group, we have sympathy for them because of their grievances.
“But this mindless violence is making them to lose sympathy. I expect them to be concerned with organisations, not individuals; they should engage individuals with reasons. They should stop this violence.”
Oshiomhole turning APC into regional minority party — Okorocha
The Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha, said his administration has completed over 1000 projects ready for commissioning by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said his mission to the State House was to invite Mr Buhari to to commission some of the projects.
Okorocha stated this in an interview with State House correspondents on Monday shortly after he met with Buhari behind closed doors in his office.
The governor also spoke about the controversy surrounding his certificate of return, internal politics of the APC and the need for the South East to be considered for top principal positions at the National Assembly.
Q: What is the true position regarding your certificate of return from INEC?
A: As it stands today, I am just waiting patiently for the release of my certificate of return for an election that I duly won, and I am hoping that INEC will release my certificate of return. I have not contravened any section of the constitution and I have not done anything wrong not to be given my certificate. I pray and hope INEC would do what is just and what is right.
Q: Why are here to see the president?
I came here precisely to discuss with Mr President to come and commission my projects. I have completed the construction of a new Cargo Airport Terminal, Warehouses and cargo sheds that is to be commissioned. I have also completed a new police headquarters and also a new prison headquarters in Imo State. These are federal government projects built by Imo State government. Another landmark project is the Justice Oputa Court – the new Imo State High Court Complex which we have built.
So, we have over a thousand verifiable projects to be commissioned. So I am requesting Mr President to kindly commission the federal ones and see how many of the state’s projects he could commission for me. This is precisely why I am here.
Q: People are wondering why you didn’t complete the 27 model hospitals that you started?
A: Those hospitals are much bigger than the state will need. Those hospitals were built for possible concessions – as people come, they take over the hospitals and equip it. But we have some of them running already – the one in Ikeduru is running, and has been taken over by an American company and we have some taken by some churches and some organizations. That was our style of making Imo State a tourist destination for Nigeria by building these 27 general hospitals with another diagnostic centre and a free child and mother hospital and Imo Medical Centre. So put together, we have 30 hospitals of close to 10,000 beds built by this administration.
Q: The one in Aboh Mbaise seems to have been abandoned?
A: That is part of it too. Those hospitals are meant for people to take. They are more than what the state will need. They are futuristic so to say. But if you notice, they have all been roofed, they have all been tiled, finished and fenced. Why it remains there is because we are looking for management because if we park in now, we may not have the need for it. I was thinking about the future, not now.
Q: Did you discuss your INEC issue with the president?
A: I don’t think that would have been necessary to do because it’s a straight forward matter. INEC conducted election, results were declared – the returning officer declared the results and I won. Only one week later to hear that somebody wrote a petition that he issued that declaration under duress. I say where? Was it in his private house or was it in the collation centre? If it is the collation SSS were there, police were there, international observers, INEC officials and many others. So who actually put him under duress? The man has not been able to say that. Nobody has ever sent a statement about that but I think INEC would want to do the right thing very very soon.
Now, in the same way, the governorship candidate of PDP never won that election because the election flouted section 179 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says that you must have the highest votes and you must have 25 per cent in two thirds of the local governments. Now, this gentleman who was declared the winner by the same INEC, had 135,000 votes from 24 local government but had over 130,000 votes from his three local governments. Of course you know, he didn’t win that election. But even at that, we had the highest mark, the Returning Officer of INEC was never patient to even calculate to know that it was 200,000 votes where there (was) supposed to be a rerun. Also flouting that basic constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which says you must have 25 percent in two-third, he doesn’t have it.
So, as far as I am concerned, there will be a rerun in Imo State and the Prof that did that should either be derobed as a professor and he should be charged for that serious offense of not respecting the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. What this means is that someday, one crazy person might just walk on the street and take one mad man, give him result sheet and declare him winner even if the man did not belong to a party. And we are getting to stage in this country that once you are declared, you are declared. This is the crazy thing that is happening in Imo State and also it happened in Okigwe zone where a loser ran away with the result sheet. The person came fifth, and is trying to return himself. Up till now as I speak to you the Okgwe senatorial seat has not been declared. I don’t know what INEC is waiting for because the man who won the election they could not declare him. Now the person who ran with the result sheet, and the Prof ran away to the US, he is not back. So there is a stalemate everywhere, I think INEC should revisit Imo matter.
Q: Why is it that your party is not making any case for you over your certificate of return?
A: I won’t be surprised because, of course, you know the imposition we suffered in the party. When you say the party, you talk about the leadership of that party, it’s not the party. I don’t have problem with the Working Committee of that party, I only have problem with the chairman of that party, who took it upon himself to do the wrong thing against me for just no cause and to fight a battle that he can never win. No, he is the one that is behind all these impositions, can you imagine, as I speak to you the APC candidate in Imo State did not win a seat, APC does not have a councilor in Imo State now, it does not even have a House member. But the AA candidate has eight seats in the Imo State House of Assembly, two Federal House and they have one senator about to come to the senate. This is why internal democracy must be respected, let the will of the people prevail rather than this imposition. It is unfortunate what has happened in Imo State. At least, I have been vindicated for the fact that I said the APC candidate they are imposing on Imo people is not popular, he came from the opposition. When I was the leader of that party, when I was running the affairs of that party, we won 24 seats in the House of Assembly, we have governor, federal house members but today APC does not have because of imposition.
Q: Talking about imposition, what will you say about the mistake of 2015 and the emergence of new leadership for the National Assembly?
A: I have been watching carefully what is happening in the National Assembly, it’s a very interesting drama. But all I ask of them is that they should consider the South East in their calculations. This nation will not be properly balanced if South East is not carried along properly in the affairs of the National Assembly.
Nobody seems to be talking about the South East, it looks like the South East doesn’t have a place anymore, that is wrong, politically speaking and that is not good for APC. Because there is going to be a bigger APC after President Muhammadu Buhari must have left the seat. My fear now is that APC might have a serious set back in 2023 because the Oshiomhole led executive is actually turning APC into a regional minority party which shouldn’t be because of his mistakes. Right now in the whole South East, we don’t have an APC governor. So if there is any discussion in Nigeria now within the APC governors and President Muhammadu Buhari, there would be nobody from the South East.
This is what the APC chairman has done in the South East. I think it’s a capital attempt to frustrate the efforts of the South East but I appeal to every Nigerian to support the cause of the South East – their cause germane and it should be supported in whatever position that is due them. They shouldn’t think about giving South East, whatever position for giving sake. You can’t just wake up and give them any position. South East is a key primary zone in this country and if we don’t get the number one seat, we should get the number two seat.
Q: Has your relationship with Mr President been affected in anyway as a result of the outcome of last elections?
A: As a matter of fact, Buhari is a great man, he is a man of wisdom, a visionary leader. That is why you see some of us going along with him. It’s for what he has upstairs – he can see far that is why he made that declaration in Imo State – “vote according to your conscience”. It was in Imo state that he first used that word. So my relationship with him is not affected in anyway.
Kidnappers released us in exchage for their leader’s mother – Sheikh Sulaiman
Sheikh Ahmad Sulaiman, a famous Kano Qur’anic reciter, was abducted by kidnappers along Sheme-Kankara road in Katsina State. He spent 13 days in captivity. In this interview, Sheikh Sulaiman recounted his ordeal in the hands of his abductors.
How were you kidnapped?
It happened on Thursday, March 14, 2019, while we were on our way back from Birnin Kebbi. There was a wedding fatiha of three of my daughters scheduled for Friday, March 15. Before then, I had a condolence visit to pay in Birnin Kebbi, but because it had to do with Government House, I had been trying to secure an appointment but couldn’t get it until the day preceding the fateful day. I was told that the wife of the governor asked me to come, first thing the following morning, which I did.
Our car was not sound enough for the long journey, so when we took off, it was giving us problems, such that we had to stop a number of times; hence we arrived Birnin Kebbi late. Consequently, we left there late to return to Kano. The incident happened after we left a village called Kakumi, before we reached Kankara in Katsina State.
The kidnappers appeared in army uniform and began shooting. One of the bullets hit our car. They brought us out, beat us and marched on our backs while we were lying on the ground. Initially, they collected N500,000 and asked us to go, but they later decided to take us with them. They dragged us into the bush. That was about 11pm. We trekked in the bush until daybreak. After trekking the whole night, they took us on motorcycles further into the bush and we arrived a hamlet with small huts that you have to crawl before you get in. After we crawled in, they began to shoot in the air.
Who were the other five captives?
They were my children, brothers and other relatives. That’s how we usually travel.
How would you describe your experience in that place?
It was a terrible experience. We were in constant fear, depression and anxiety. They were always threatening to kill us if their demand was not met. But fortunately, with the help of Allah and the prestige of the Holly Qur’an, they were not able to touch me, especially the leaders of the gang. But sometimes the stubborn ones among the boys attempted to molest us. In fact, one of them even slapped me on the face.
We stayed in a terrible condition. If one wanted to answer the call of nature, one had to seek for their permission. If the permission was granted, they would escort you and hold their guns and machetes until you finished. Again, they hardly allowed us to take a bath, but as the leader of my people, I was allowed to bathe three times throughout our stay with them. Eventually, they said I won’t bathe again, so I spent the last six days with them without taking any bath.
What about the food you ate while in captivity?
Initially, they used to buy food for us, but later, they began to cook. It was always rice, beans and spaghetti with some palm oil and salt. But when I complained about having a bladder problem, they always gave me pap. And that would be my food throughout the day. But food was not an issue for us, what worried us much was the condition we were subjected to. Two or four of them would lie down at the entrance to the hut with their guns facing us. Eight young men were assigned to guard us. They would smoke cigarettes and marijuana and blow the smoke into the hut, abusing and threatening to kill us since our people didn’t care to bring the ransom in time. They issued all sorts of threats.
However, I noticed that some of them are not happy with what they are doing. They complained that they didn’t have cattle and farmland, and when they entered into towns, they were constantly harassed. That’s why they resolved to engage in such dirty business. That’s my understanding of them. So I believe that, should the government intervene, a lot of them, especially the sincere ones, could be rescued. They claim that they are Muslims, but they don’t observe Sallah.
Which language did they speak?
They didn’t speak any other language among themselves except Fulfulde. It’s only when they wanted to talk to us that they would speak Hausa. That’s an indication that they are Fulani.
Were you allowed to recite the Qur’an?
For the 12 days we spent in captivity, I was able to recite the Qur’an from the beginning to the end, at least five and a half times. Every day, I would recite half of the Qur’an and a lot of other azkar (prayers). That was an opportunity I could not get at home. They didn’t prevent me from doing that. It got to a point that they regretted having us in their captivity. They said they had never been so terrified, to the extent that they asked us to pray for them so that they would not be attacked and killed. I believe that had to do with the fervent prayers of all the people for us and what we were doing by ourselves in terms of prayers to regain our freedom.
Did you observe the five daily prayers accordingly?
Sometimes they were the ones that would tell us to come out and pray, even though they didn’t pray themselves. One of them used to pray with us; if he missed he would pray later. He was the one that was telling me to pray for him to stop what he’s doing
Did you meet other captives there?
No, we were the only captives there. When they began to have disagreement among themselves, they changed our location.
What was the disagreement about?
Some of them said they should release us while others said it was a great opportunity to make money. As a result of that, they transferred us to another far location. They told me that the reason for the change of location was that another group was planning to abduct me.
I am the chairman of the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy in Kano, so somebody called them and said I was responsible for whosoever was jailed in Kano. So one of them met me in the hut, abused me and threatened that when he returned he would break all my legs. As a result of that threat, trouble ensued among them. They said he should leave me alone since he was not the one that abducted me. I was later told that two of them lost their lives as a result of the fight that ensued among them.
Did you witness the negotiation?
Sometimes it was done in front of me, in other times in my absence. They negotiated in front of me just to scare the party negotiating on our behalf because sometimes they would hear me crying because of frustration. What usually frustrated me was the feeling that my people failed to mobilise the ransom to rescue us, maybe because they didn’t know the kind of condition we were in, not knowing that there was serious effort on the part of security agents who deployed intelligence to rescue us. I didn’t have any means of getting information.
How did the negotiation end?
I was told they were offered N33million, but the money was not completed. They threatened that even if the ransom was paid, they would kill us since one of them was arrested. Somehow they became very terrified. On the night before our release, they came to us and said we should quickly wear our shoes and come out as they learnt that a group was coming to attack them because of us.
We were escorted to a remote location by two of them who were not carrying any weapon, with the intention that if it was confirmed that it was that other group they fought earlier, they would show us where we would follow to escape. It was later realised that those who came were the people that would take us to swap with the mother of the leader of the gang, who was arrested for that purpose.
That was how we were brought, on one side by the kidnapers, and on the other side, the security agents brought the mother of the gang leader and we were swapped in the presence of some military personnel at Danmusa in Katsina State.
We learnt that the mother spent seven days in the hands of the security agents because she initially denied that the man was her son. But eventually, that was the reason for our freedom.
What do you think government should do to salvage the situation?
Government should negotiate with their leaders and provide them with what they said they were lacking, in terms of farming and cattle rearing. If that is done, I believe a lot would change for the better.
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