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Thepledge Big Story: 2023: Can Tinubu Really Trust The North?

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By Augustine Akhilomen

 

With just three months to the all-important 2023 Presidential election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate and former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be banking on the massive support from the Northern region in a bid to have a breakthrough in his ambition.

The north, which has always served as the key region that often determines where the pendulum will swing to as far as bloc votes are concerned, will again come to the fore in the 2023 election. There has, however, been doubt in the minds of more than casual observers of Nigerian politics, that the North might not be totally in support of Tinubu’s ambition.

Democracy, as the saying goes, is a game of numbers. The North has the numbers and going by the numbers recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), it has the preponderance of voters and has always wielded considerable influence on who becomes president in Nigeria with its massive swathe of the politically-sophisticated population. The North is politically adroit and always makes solid and decisive political statements that resound with a loud, united thud in the entire Nigerian landscape, its leaders would boast.

Although the North had always made profound political choices, it had shared equally in the strings of leadership failures that had visited Nigeria since independence. Its leaders share in this leadership malfunction too, so the North has shared both in the glory and afflictions of the Nigerian state since independence.

But Tinubu, according to his core supporters, is arguably one of the best accepted and loved Southern politicians in the entire North today. A cosmopolitan, urbane, charismatic politician, Asiwaju has built massive bridges across the country, particularly in the North. He has cultivated love, acceptance and a widespread constituency in the North, such that he is more acceptable in the North than many top Northern politicians.

Many of the APC leaders also said the strong man of Lagos politics has borne his pains with such equanimity that he offers excellent support to the Buhari government to date. “It is only natural that the North reciprocates with their votes to Asiwaju in the coming presidential election. He has paid his dues quite satisfactorily”, one of them told Thepledge.

Tinubu is running on a joint ticket with Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno state (2011-2019) and former chairman of Northern Nigeria Governors Forum. Shettima is an astute administrator and is seen as skilled at bringing together fellow governors. But the decision to go with Shettima means the APC is running a Muslim-Muslim ticket, a move which goes against the convention of having a “religiously balanced” ticket in Nigeria.

However, many wonder if the former Lagos Governor can really bank on the Northern region to help him deliver the winning magic considering the other Northern candidates, such as Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will also be battling for their votes.

A very close political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari in Kano, Abdulmajid Danbilki Kwamanda has declared that Northern Nigeria has made its choice and will only vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“If you compare Tinubu to other candidates, including those claiming to be pan-Nigeria, you will realise that they have nothing to show that they have done for their people or constituents.

“Northerners will never vote based on myopic sentiments of tribe or religion, but based on the quality of the candidate and what he can do for them.

“The North will never allow the PDP to come back to power with the calibre of candidates they are presenting to Nigerians who are only after their personal whims and caprices”, he said.

In the same vein, Jigawa State Governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, one of the early backers of the APC National Leader, said the Northern part of the country will pay back Tinubu in the coming 2023 general election.

“Tinubu is the only friend to the north, he supported five different northern presidential candidates including Shehu Shagari, Umar Musa Yar’adua, Atiku Abubakar, Nuhu Ribado and President Muhammadu Buhari”

“So it is payback time and we are ready, we are honest people, we respect keeping to our promise and we are ready to compensate you for what you have done for the North”

Good enough, some of the governors under the umbrella of APC have thrown their weight behind Tinubu, despite the Party’s chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, insistence on the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan as the party’s flagbearer during the primaries.

Recall that Ahmed Lawan was announced as consensus presidential aspirant by the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, a day before the convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja. Adamu was strongly resisted by the APC governors in the North, most of whom insisted that power must shift to the South.

It indeed, further created some sort of chaos in the party as those loyal to Tinubu voiced their anger on Adamu’s stance, claiming that the South deserved to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. It was the persistent efforts of the Northern governors that made the emergence of Tinubu as the APC flagbearer a reality.

Even so, it was not a secret that Tinubu was in the past seven years relegated by President Buhari and a tiny cabal led by the President’s influential nephew, Mamman Daura. For years, the Lagos godfather had been the butt of jokes from the opposition as many of his key allies were sidelined in Buhari’s government.

In 2018, Tinubu’s wife, Remi, accused the President of dumping her husband, saying, “We were running three campaigns in my house and for him to be trashed like that?” However, Tinubu remained resolute as his eyes were fixed on the grand prize- the Presidency of Nigeria.

As he recanted during his last week visit to the Leader of Afenifere, the Pan Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Tinubu said he was nearly giving up his ambition because of the opposition he met on the way to realize his ambition. He said his belief in the unity of the country was rekindled with the level of support he got from the northern part of the country.

It’s important to note however that no Northern bloc has shown any displeasure or indisposition to Tinubu’s Presidency, an indication that the North may well have embraced him as their President come 2023.

As the ruling party with 21 state governors, the APC has the advantage of incumbency, but it remains to be seen if the northern political establishment will throw its support behind a man who is seen as a game changer; a man who is widely seen as a power broker, who understands the use of power and money.

The next few weeks will be decisive as the various political parties round up their campaigns. The odds largely favour Tinubu, given the division within the ranks of opposition PDP, but in politics, the dynamics may change at any moment. For now, Jagaban, as he is widely called, holds the ace as voters weigh their options before the February elections.

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One Killed In Multiple Accidents On Kara Bridge, Motorists Groan In Gridlock

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About seven vehicles including a container-laden truck were involved in the multiple accidents that have paralysed movement and left motorists and travellers on the ever-busy road stranded in nerve-racking gridlock.

Already, first responders including officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) have arrived the scene.

The FRSC Sector Commander in Ogun State, Ahmed Umar, told Channels Television that a traffic hawker was killed in the unfortunate accidents, adding that emergency responders are still rescuing those injured.

Umar attributed the cause of the accidents to brakes failure by the truck whose driver rammed into the vehicles in front of him from behind.

Similarly, a spokesperson for LASEMA told our correspondent that rescue efforts are ongoing at the scene of the accidents.

The situation, coupled with the repair works ongoing on the narrowed road, has caused intense traffic along the axis with scores of motorists struggling to find their way out of Lagos.

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Naira Hoarding: Sterling Bank In Fresh Trouble, Faults ICPC’s Arrest Of 2 Staff

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Few days after Sterling Bank defended allegation of hoarding new N200 notes in the vault of  its Ekiti  branch office, the bank on the evening of Tuesday February 8, 2023, faced similar ‘charges’ at its Abuja regional office and other Federal Capital Territory branches.

Sterling Bank, in a communication, admitted that ICPC invited two of its staff for questioning in respect of the naira hoarding allegation.

The new allegation, this time coming from the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), hinted of the bank deliberately withholding new naira notes from customers, two days away from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN)  February 10 deadline for return of old notes.

ICPC had, on Tuesday evening, tweeted  that it discovered millions of new naira notes in Sterling Bank’s Abuja offices, an allegation the bank denied in a statement.

Sterling Bank Respond ICPC’s Allegations

But the bank in a carefully crafted response to the naira hoarding allegation early Wednesday evening, said it complied with all complied with all guidelines on distribution of redesigned notes from inception to date.

What the bank is saying:

OUR ABUJA REGIONAL OFFICE

This report is developed for the purpose of providing the true representation of events to the narrative as expressed by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in a tweet late on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

Background

  1.  A regulatory monitoring team visited our Abuja Central Business District (CBD) Complex on February 3, 2023.
  2. The monitoring team, in the company of the branch service manager and other staff, inspected and observed the following꞉
  3. The branch’s ATMs were dispensing all denominations of the newly designed notes.
  4. The branch was in full compliance with the regulator’s recommendations on Over ‑ The‑Counter (OTC) disbursements.
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During the inspection, the monitoring team made inquiries about the details of the cash observed in the vaults. To which the team responded with details of the branch’s ATM and OTC cash disbursement processes.

To our knowledge, all responses provided were satisfactory as no further queries were raised.

The monitoring team promptly left the premises upon concluding the inspection.

  1.  Approximately  one  hour  later,  officials  of  the  Independent  Corrupt  Practices Commission (ICPC), accompanied by the monitoring team, returned to the branch and removed two of the branch’s staff for further questioning at the ICPC headquarters in Abuja.
  2.  The Sterling staff were held at the  ICPC office and were later released withoutany charges levied against them by the close of the business day on February 3, 2023.

About the visit to Sterling Bank, CBD, Abuja

  1.  The Sterling branch at the Central Business District, Abuja, is a regional headquartersand serves as a hub for 5 Sterling branches and 15 ATM terminals within the region.
  2.  During the visit, members of the monitoring team inspected the vault of the branchand observed the sum of N258,000,000 in N1000, N500 and N200 denominations.
  3. The distribution records from the CBD branch to other locations served within the region were presented for the evaluation of the monitoring team.
  4. The  monitoring team  proceeded to visit two  branches  in  Utako and Wuye as  both locations receive their cash disbursements from the regional headquarters ofSterling in CBD.
  5.  Upon their visits to the Utako and Wuye branches, the monitoring team reviewed the records submitted for the movement of cash from the CBD branch to other branches served within the region.  It is important to state that cash was being paid over the counter at  both  branches,  and  the  ATM  terminals  were  dispensing  the  newly  designed denominations during the monitoring exercise.

Matters Arising

Sterling deems it necessary to point out the following꞉

  1.  Members of the regulatory monitoring team were informed of the sums contained in the branch’s vault prior to the inspection. These sums were confirmed with are view of the records as presented by representatives of the Bank.

The assertion of a “discovery”, as presented in the narrative, is inaccurate and grossly misleading.

  1. All cash observed in the vault of the CBD branch was earmarked for distribution to other branches in the region for disbursement to customers of the bank and the public.
  2. The sum of N5,000,000 each as contained in the monitoring team’s report,represents the cash moved to augment the vault balances of the Utako, Wuye, Seda Close and Kotangora branches (in line with the bank’s daily routine of cash management) and also for disbursement to the public via their ATM terminals.
  3. All balances in our vaults are reported daily to the Central Bank of Nigeria and form the basis for the allocation of new notes in an efficient manner; it is therefore,untrue that such monies are ‘stashed’ or ‘hoarded.’

Sterling’s Distribution of New Notes

From the commencement of the distribution of the re‑designed denominations, the CBD branch has received the total sum of N1,543,000,000 from the apex bankand paid to customers as summarized below꞉

  1.  The  sum  of  N892,700,000  paid  out  in  about  104,821 transactions  across  15ATM terminals between January 6 to February 6, 2023.
  2. The sum of N78,600,000 paid out in approximately 3,892 over‑the‑counter transactions across all 6 branches in the Abuja region between February 2, 2023 to February 6, 2023.

This was commenced upon receipt of the directive from the regulator to disburse the new notes over the counter ‑ subject to a limit of N20,000 per transaction.

  1. The sum of N1,000,000,000 in a combination of old and new notes, wasdisbursed to customers over the counter in about 2,124 transactions betweenDecember 15, 2022 and January 5, 2023.

The current balances across the 6 branches in Abuja as at the close of business on February 7, 2023 stood at N178,670,000.

The average vault balances currently held in the six locations is N30m per branch; well below our historical vault balances.

Conclusions

  1. The  representatives of the  bank duly  informed the  regulatory  monitoring team and officials  of  the  ICPC  of  the  sums  in  the vault,  stating  the  purpose  as  intended  for distribution to other branches.
  2. It must be noted that no cash was “stashed” in the vault of the regional office.

For emphasis, we wish to state that Sterling Bank has complied with all the guidelines on the distribution of redesigned notes from inception to date,” the bank said regarding the naira hoarding allegation.

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MC Oluomo: Remove Lagos REC, Now, Atiku Tells INEC

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The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Lagos, Olusegun Agbaje, for his partisanship and compromise.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, said it was curious that Agbaje had insisted on using the Lagos State Park and Garage Management Committee led by transport kingpin, Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.

Shaibu described as watery Agbaje’s excuse that INEC would not be able to use the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) because they had been barred in Lagos State.

He stated, “The law is clear that only a court has the power to proscribe an organisation. That was why the Federal Government had to go to court to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).

“What Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did in Lagos State was to arbitrarily announce a ban on the activities of the NURTW because the organisation suspended MC Oluomo, the APC’s henchman. INEC must not promote illegality by working with a partisan organisation which is filled with APC members that are working for Bola Tinubu.

“How could such people be given sensitive materials to be distributed across Lagos on election day? This has already undermined the possibility of a free and fair election. INEC must sanction Mr. Agbaje for insisting on using MC Oluomo’s committee despite protests from members of the public.”

Shaibu recalled that Agbaje was the REC who superintended over the fraudulent 2018 governorship election rerun in Osun State which even the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union discredited.

He added, “Recall that it was Mr. Agbaje who superintended over the fraudulent and violent Osun governorship rerun which produced Gboyega Oyetola as governor. US Consul General, John Bray was spot on when he stated, ‘We witnessed what appeared to be incidents of interference and intimidation of voters and heard reports of harassment or party monitors, journalists and domestic observers.”

Shaibu noted that even election monitoring groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) dismissed the Osun rerun as “fraudulent and anti-democratic”.

He added, “Unfortunately, it is the same Agbaje, who could not effectively supervise a rerun in a few polling units that has been given the task of superintending the election in Nigeria’s largest state with over seven million registered voters. The election is doomed to fail if INEC doesn’t do the right thing by removing him.

“We remind the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, that this will be his last general election before the end of his tenure. We ask him to protect his legacy by removing Mr. Segun Agbaje if he insists that MC Oluomo must be the one to handle sensitive INEC materials. This election must not only be fair but it must be seen to be fair as well.”

Shaibu noted that as of Wednesday morning, over 17,000 Nigerians had signed a petition on Change.Org titled, ‘Remove Olusegun Agbaje as the Lagos INEC Commissioner for Incompetence and Bigotry’.

Agbaje has been under fire for the last one week following his comments over the inability of a large number of non-indigenes in Lagos to vote. While explaining the development on Channels Television, Agbaje, who was visibly disgusted, stated that people of the southeast migrated to Lagos and engaged in double registration hence their inability to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC).

Responding to the development, Shaibu stated, “It is disheartening that the Lagos REC, Mr Segun Agbaje, has begun to show open partisanship. We find it curious that it is the local governments considered as opposition strongholds that were unable to get their PVCs.

He stated, “Historians and analysts have described this 2023 general election as a watershed. The destiny of over 200 million people is at stake. INEC says it is ready to deliver a credible and free election but one weak link in the chain of command can undermine the entire process.

“We call on Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu to remove the Lagos REC, Mr. Agbaje, as his credibility is seriously in doubt. Again, we call on INEC not to use the MC Oluomo-led partisan organisation to distribute ballot papers on election day.”

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