The senator representing Abia South and Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe in this interview with newsmen in Lagos spoke on the contentious section 84(12) of the Electoral Act and why the Senate turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to delete the section. He also spoke on the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the presidential election in 2023.
What is your take on the new Electoral Act?
I can say that it is a good piece of legislation. It was meant to cure some of the problems that were in the previous Act, all this while. And the basic thing that we have in the Electoral Act today, is the fact that it will make rigging almost impossible.
There are two things that were done in that electoral act. First is the direct transmission of results in each polling unit. Even if you have problems in a polling unit, the cumulative of all the polling booths will give you a nearly accurate figure. And also, there is a provision in the Act that if you, by any means forced a Returning Officer to announce result that the Commission does not have, that set of result will not be processed.
The other thing about the Electoral Act, which is good, is the very famous one, which everyone saw when the Senate rejected the President Muhammadu Buhari’s amendment, which is section 84(12). What that section does is that it codified what was already supposed to be the norm of our society.
Usually, if you want to run for election, norm used to be that you would resign. You won’t sit in office and at the same time utilise your office to run and manipulate state resources in running for election.
But there is an aspect of that legislation, which people talk about, which I do not think is in the law. I have heard it said that, if you have not resigned by now, you might not be eligible to contest, that you ought to have resigned. No law is made to be retroactive, so section 84(12) doesn’t say that you ought to have resigned by now.
What is actually in the law is that if you are going to be a delegate for the purpose of primaries or you are going to be an aspirant or a contestant for the purpose of primaries, leading to an election that you will have to resign.
The stipulation as to time is what is in the civil service rules because you are a public officer and you are subjected to the same civil service rules, which is 30 days before any contest. So it is actually 30 days before primaries or 30 days before congress if you are going to be a delegate, it is not three months.
Now the parties haven’t set their dates, when the parties set their dates, I believe the 30 days will now kick-start from the date the parties put for their elections. That is what is in 84(12). The President in his wisdom has said that it conflicted with the Constitution, where that particular part of the Constitution was gotten wasn’t mentioned, so we didn’t know exactly what he meant.
As far as we know, we think that if you are in office and you still want to be in that office and also run or contest for an election, what you are doing is that you are shortchanging the country because your office will suffer. And of course, when you are running for office what it means is that you are going to neglect your official duties, and you swore an oath to fulfill your duty towards the public and towards Nigeria, so you cannot balance the two at the same time. It is not going to be in the interest of the country.
The interest of the country should come first, so when we got that communication from the President, we said some people must have misadvised him to write that letter. For example, I run the NNPC and I now want to be President and then I now want to come and contest for primaries while I am still running NNPC, something is going to suffer and what is going to suffer actually is my job for the people of Nigeria in NNPC. We should not allow that.
We just didn’t think that these are things that we ought to codify, but we have found that because it wasn’t codified people were taking advantage of it and staying in their offices and utilising the office to run elections and of course, to the detriment of their duties. That was why we declined to put an assent to it.
Why do you want to become the governor of Abia State?
My reason is simple, Abia State deserves the best possible material to lead it and I think I am the best person at this time to lead the state. This is the 21st century, this is also a transition year and this is also a year that so many things are happening both in Nigeria and all over the world. And what Abia needs now is a man that has integrity. Abia needs a man that has credibility, a man that has the capacity to do the job and Abia needs somebody, who at all times the people can go to sleep and say they know that Abia is in very good hands.
I am putting myself forward for Abia people to be the governor for all, not the governor of North, South, East or West, but the governor for every Abia person. And I think that with the pedigree I have and with what I have done for the people of Abia and indeed, the people of Nigeria, all the oppressed people in this country, they know that I put them first in everything, that I will do a great job for them.
But given that this will be your fourth or 5th attempt, do you think people will give you their votes this time?
I think that what is important is the adage that says, “If you try and it doesn’t work then you try again”. It doesn’t matter how many times I have made attempts, I think that this is the right time and Abia people know and I have their support and their encouragement.
I have had consultations with all persons in Abia, all manner of people; I have had with the leadership, I have had with the led, market women, with the youths, I have had with the political leaders, I have had with academia, I have had with all. And every point I have met with them, Abians asked for one thing: leadership that puts them first and I intend to do that.
APC is trying to get a foothold of the Southeast, what are the chances of PDP for the Presidency and to retain power in Abia State?
I don’t think APC has had a foothold of the Southeast, what APC has done, just like they have done elsewhere is to poach the leadership that is already there from PDP and when they poach them, they give them a lot of bogus promises, which they never kept, so at all times PDP will always win the Southeast, we have no problem about that.
It is obvious that APC has nothing to offer the Southeast and we repeat not just the Southeast, APC has nothing to offer the country.
What will they offer you? Is it fuel that is at N600 per litre and something? You can’t fly, diesel is at almost N800.
And ofcourse the worst, which is that we are in the middle of rising oil prices at the international market, yet we are still crying that Nigeria is not benefitting from the rising oil prices. This has never happened. At least everybody can say that when there is rising oil prices, we can no longer borrow, we can pay our debts, we can reduce the deficit but none of that is happening, we are not saving and we are doing nothing.
We should ask ourselves one question and that question is this? What manner of economic management does the APC do that has led us to this type of Nigeria where nothing, literally nothing is working and the country is grinding to a halt?
When we asked this question, we were told that the real problem is that we are paying subsidy. Two things we can take from here; this same APC said that there was nothing like subsidy. This same President Buhari said subsidy was a scam, yet subsidy has risen under this government three times or four times more than subsidy under President Jonathan’s PDP government that they persecuted so much.
We should ask ourselves another question: How did the consumption of PMS, rise under APC from the 28 million to 30 million liters a day under Kachukwu as Minister to about 100 million liters a day under the present leadership of APC.
Something is definitely wrong, how can within three to four years you tell us that the consumption of Petroleum in Nigeria has quadrupled, how could that be?
So what we see is something that is inexplicable, the United States has energy department that has the consumption rate of all fuel you use all over the world. If you check their figures, the whole of West Africa doesn’t take up to 35 million of liters a day, the whole of West Africa and you tell me that Nigeria takes over 100 million liters a day and we are paying subsidy on this phantom figures. So there are things we cannot explain.
We all know that APC has nothing to offer an average man in the Southeast, who finds it very difficult to do business, who finds it very difficult to move about, even if he is an importer he has to come to Lagos and the cost of moving his goods to Abia is costlier than what he used to bring it from Europe to Lagos, so how would anybody survive in this kind of condition?
And now after everything they told us that if they remove PDP from power, they will now give us electricity. I think that was what Fashola said then, now they are telling us that electricity has fallen because it is dry season and that the water level has fallen. The same thing they complained about under PDP, so you can see that these people came to power on the basis of an issue of propaganda, misinformation, lies and everything, they can no longer sustain it.
So there is nothing for Nigerians to look forward to other than to bring PDP back so that we can restore the country the same way we restored it from 1999 to 2015.
What is your take on Igbo’s quest for the presidency; will your party consider the region for its presidential ticket?
Yes, we are clamouring for a President from our zone because we think that every other part of Nigeria has had a shot at the presidency. But beyond that we think that we have credible, competent and very qualified persons within the PDP from the Southeast who can lead Nigeria and take it out of the problem that it has today.
And we are also encouraging them that they should come out and contest, they should talk to people from every part of Nigeria because to take the cliché, power is not served ala carte. I am sure that we have many credible people from the Southeast that can bring back Nigeria from the brinks and PDP looks good to win the presidency in 2023.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa: A woman of timber and caliber
Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa can be described as a strong woman in the midst of millions of active men. She always comes up with creative solutions, stays positive even during hard times, and looks so impressive that little girls want to be like her when they grow up.
She is successively taking on the challenges of her motherland, pushing the boundaries of activism and representation, and being an all-round Amazon. When some Nigerians hear ‘number one tough cookie’ as a nickname for this ever-solid woman, they nod their heads and agree that she is indeed tough to crack but can be relied on to be nothing other than herself.
The war in Ukraine has taught Nigerians many things, including the need to appreciate their peaceful—if leisurely developing—nation. However, while some Nigerians feel sorry for their fellow citizens trapped in Ukrainian soil, others are having a good time stoking schadenfreude in their hearts. But not Dabiri-Erewa or the Nigerians in Diaspora (NiDCOM) team that she leads.
Thanks to the timely intervention by Dabiri-Erewa and company, most Nigerians in Ukraine, especially the students, are back on Nigeria’s shores. Along with gratitude at the prayers that the more compassionate Nigerians back home offered to God on their behalf, these students are beset with joy. After all, as long as there is life, the possibilities for change are endless.
This is something that Dabiri-Erewa has shown time and again: a determined heart will accomplish great things regardless of opposition. It is consequently no surprise she has managed to exceed expectations over and over again. And just when you think a particular challenge will topple her, Dabiri-Erewa turns it into a victory song and the international community is reminded of a force in Nigeria called NiDCOM and a controller surnamed Dabiri-Erewa.
There are women and there are women, some of whom are metallic in their disposition, cold to the touch, and inclined to smite others. Then there are those with a wooden personality, gentle, reliable, but also seemingly uninteresting. Then there are the precious stones like Dabiri-Erewa who have gone through more fire and pressure than their peers. Any wonder that Dabiri-Erewa is still on top of her game?
She knows what she wants, can get her shit together and put the amount of hard work into project in order to get the desired results. She doesn’t pretend to be weak to make others do her job for her, but she delegates tasks when necessary.
An indigene of Ikorodu from the famous Erogbogbo family in Lagos State, she has, right from her childhood till date, been a front-liner, a go-getter, an ice breaker, a workaholic, a detribalised Nigerian, a patriotic citizen and a devoted servant of Allah.
There are not enough words to fully describe this ebullient woman of substance who has consistently demonstrated her efficiency and diligence right from her eventful years at NTA till her sojourn in politics, which made her a three-time parliamentarian in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2015, representing her people in Ikorodu Federal Constituency, where she played an active and impactful role in all the national assignments she was given.
Her trademark diligence and dynamism were further brought to bear when she was appointed as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs from 2016 to 2019. This office later metamorphosed into the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) where she is currently serving as the pioneer Chairman/Chief Executive Officer and where she has continued to play her role diligently, effectively and inspirational.
On March 24, 2022, the authorities of Lagos State University bestowed on her a Honorary Doctorate Degree during its 25th Convocation ceremony, an award that award changed her nomenclature to Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. It was one honour too distinctive so truly well-deserved and so uncommonly well-appreciated.
For those who have been following the selfless, proactive, exemplarily motivational life of Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, would have seen that it has been rewarded and appreciated with too many awards, honours and recognition of excellence which are, in fact, too numerous to list.
Of all of the awards she has been honoured with over the years, undoubtedly, this latest one, OON, inspires a high sense of fulfillment and elation that comes to one when one’s nation honours a person. This is what Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa must have felt when she got the surprise nomination letter on October 8, 2022. Of all the awards, honours and recognitions since she has received from 2003 till date, none has changed her status and her nomenclature more profoundly than this latest one; hence, its uniqueness.
An admirer of Abike Dabiri-Erewa said this of the harvest of awards and honours: “It is indeed an honour well-deserved. She has come a long way. She has paid her dues. She has breasted the inclement weather of the media profession, especially in this clime. I still remember her days with NTA. Confident reporter. She made reporting look easy. Congratulations sister. Barakalah fihi.”
Even more remarkably, in his congratulatory message, President Buhari believes Dabiri-Erewa’s sincerity of purpose, meticulous handling of sensitive issues, and capacity to share her vision and others along easily pedestal her for leadership positions, extolling her skillful handling of the Diaspora family and building a mutually beneficial relationship with the government and citizens at home.
CAMEROON: LAND OF LEGENDARY HOSPITALITY
A European visitor once described Cameroon and its marvels as a place where God might have chosen as His own abode to dwell. Others have described the country simply as “Africa in miniature.”
There’s no gainsaying that anything that can be found in any part of Africa can also be found in Cameroon. These bountiful resources and beautiful geographical features of Cameroon are found in its four geographical zones: the beautiful savanna grass fields, through the three Northern Sahel regions, down to the coastal or littoral regions, and back to the Fang-Beti centre/south regions.
This blend brings out the beauty—not only in the country’s geography but, more importantly, in the hospitable nature of the people.
A Cameroonian from the Centre/South may disagree with his brother from the Western Savanna plateau or regions of the West and North West regions. Yet, both cannot afford to disagree with a visitor from a different country or continent.
This is because of the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the people who inhabit the geographical expression referred to as Cameroon. It couldn’t have been different, given the rich gastronomic delights from the various geographical spheres of the country.
In Chinua Achebe’s book, The Trouble with Nigeria, the renowned African writer argues that the trouble with Nigeria is not about the climate, given that Nigeria has two seasons─the rainy and the dry seasons. The trouble is not about geography, as Nigeria has good topography. It’s not with the people either, as Nigeria has nice and welcoming people. He argues that the trouble with Nigeria is about the leadership not living up to the demands and dictates of its job. The same could be said with the rectitude of Cameroon.
The beauty in Cameroon, and by extension, Africa, is the exceptional welcoming nature of the majority of its local population. This is not only towards Europeans, Chinese and Americans but, more importantly, towards fellow Africans.
Unlike citizens in Maghrebian countries that would have to remind you each time you are visiting any of the northern African countries that “we are brothers,” Cameroonians, in their legendary hospitality, show it in deeds, not just in words.
One of the things that also make Cameroon stand out from others is its rich and diverse hospitality industry. From mouth-watering dishes from the beautiful sandy beaches and eco-friendly forests to the Sahel-Savannah carpet grass fields, hospitality does not come in short supply.
To try to capture Cameroon’s legendary hospitality in one write-up would be to behave like the house owner who thought he could market the beauty of his house by carrying around a bloc specimen rather than just presenting the whole edifice.
So, if you want to feel the hospitality of Cameroon, take Cameroon as your next touristic destination.
See you soon!
GRILLED FISH: A REASON TO VISIT CAMEROON
It is almost impossible to visit Cameroon’s coastal cities, like Kribi, Limbe, and Douala, without making a stop at a grilled fish spot. Each time a visiting tourist or expatriate is asked to recount memorable stories about their stay in the Cameroon, grilled fish is one of their most talked-about delicacies.
This delicious street food can be enjoyed with roasted or fried plantain, fried Irish potato, miondo, bobolo, boiled cassava, or even on alone. Interestingly, grilled fish is low in calories—thus, very suitable for a healthy meal.
The roasting of seafood for commercial purposes has gained considerable ground with time. The activity grew widely and gained more exposure with the influx of visitors into the country during the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Hundreds of fans from different countries, including Nigeria, who visited Limbe and Douala, employed the services of local grilled fish makers. Fans could be spotted at joints with a plate of beautifully-spiced grilled fish, accompanied by Cameroon’s spicy sauce.
On the shores of Down Beach in the Fako Division of the South West Region is a modest spot called “Bucareaux,” which has become popular owing to its supply of tasty grilled fish and other seafood.
Fish prices at Bucareaux range from 2500frs to 25,000frs, depending on the size and species, and it’s usually overcrowded during the weekend. Tilapia, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp are the most patronized seafood.
Bucareaux also has a pan-African setting, given that many arts and crafts dealers sell their artifacts around the spot. This distinguishes Bucareaux from Rue de la Joie, the legendary neighborhood of Deido Douala, where grilled fish—Poisson braissée, as it is called in French—is sold on a large scale.
Rue De La Joie is known across Cameroon and beyond for its merry traits. It is usually crowded with customers who go there to eat, drink and have fun. Life always seems to be going on happily there. Indeed, it is “the street of joy,” as it is popularly called.
Daily, as the sun sets, vendors prepare charcoal ovens, set to grill different species of fish to their customers’ delight. Music from the snack bars calls customers’ attention.
For the purpose of this write-up, our team visited a local joint called Avenida Fish at the East Entrance of Rue de La Joie, intending to know the secret behind the enticing taste of grilled fish, which has left many returning for more.
We spoke with 23-year-old Mbah Princewill, who manages the place. He assured us that the first secret lies in the deliciousness of the pepper sauce and the freshness of the fish. Mbah’s pepper sauce is prepared with a composition of local Cameroonian spices.
“This delicious and spicy roasted fish recipe is a typical Cameroonian Style. It has got a very flavorful and delicious taste. Cameroonian Roasted fish has many variations, and we try to make it as tasty as possible. We have many quality tropical African ingredients for our Cameroonian roasted fish,” Mbah explained.
The fish sold at Avenida and other joints around Rue de la Joie are gotten directly from local fishermen. Mbah is responsible for selecting the fish and giving directions for their different prices. Some are stored in a 360cm deep freezer to minimize shortages and keep them fresh.
Once a customer places an order, the fish is cleaned, seasoned, and grilled. The grilling process also depends on the quality of fish. Mbah and his team put in the necessary expertise to ensure their clients enjoy their orders while maintaining a friendly relationship with them. This relationship, he says, is important for the business.
Aside from being the economic hub of Cameroon, Douala is also a metropolitan city where business-friendly potentials attract thousands of business people year-round.
It is not unlikely to see business partners striking deals over a bottle of beer and a plate of grilled fish at famous spots such as the Naval base, the Marina Complex in Youpwe, and Petit terrain in Bonamoussadi, amongst others.
The scenario in Douala is not different from that of the seaside town of Kribi in the South region.
Kribi Beach, also known as the Cameroon Riviera, is the best beach in Cameroon. It is located on the Gulf of Guinea shore, in Kribi, 150 km South-West of the capital city Douala. The spacious beach is covered with gray sand and surrounded by a tropical forest
The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, walking in the tropical forest, riding in a canoe, playing beach volleyball and football, diving, and other kinds of water sports
Recreation on Kribi Beach is a perfect opportunity for tourists to get to know the Baka people, enjoy grilled barbecue fish on the beach in Copacabana, and take beautiful photos with the sea as background.
Among the attractions at Kribi Beach are the Kribi lighthouse, the Lobe waterfall flowing directly into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Campo Faunal nature reserve.
Moreso, it’s worth visiting Ebodjé to watch sea turtles, see the Nkolandom caves, and the village of pygmies.
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