By Kola King
A medley of issues ranging from absurd to the sublime has been in the public domain this past week. The fuel crisis still persists with long queues in major cities. Indeed the fuel crisis is emblematic of a man living by the bank of a river who prefers to wash his hands with his spittle. The fuel crisis is a major indictment of the Buhari administration for failing to fix the refineries after more than six years in power. It is a crying shame that the nation continues to import fuel despite the fact that it is an oil-producing country and a major player in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel.
Despite millions of dollars spent on the revitalization of the refineries, there’s little to show for the huge outlay of scarce foreign exchange. Many Nigerians view such expenditures as drainpipes of public funds. Due to the scarcity, fuel was being sold between 250 to 400 Naira per litre. The fuel scarcity was blamed on importers who brought in dirty fuel. Although the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) has assured that it has received enough stock to offset the current imbalance in petroleum products supply. There are indications that Nigerians may be in for a hard time as the situation may go from bad to worse, as prices at the pump rose to over N300 per litre in some filling stations across the country, especially those owned by independent marketers. Another spanner in the works is the rising price of crude oil in the international market due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
In a bid to reassure Nigerians, the NNPC had said that 2.3 billion litres of additional premium motor spirit were being imported into the country to complement the existing one billion litres as part of measures to address fuel scarcity. According to Guardian reports, most marketers, especially depot owners who had made payment for products since December last year, were yet to receive the consignment.
Beyond that, for the umpteenth, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) announced a one-month warning strike to protest the non-implementation of agreements between the Union and the government. According to the ASSU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke the sum of one trillion is needed for the revitalization of public universities. ASSU’s action has thrown out of gear the academic calendar and there are fears that another round of prolonged strikes may lead to the collapse of public universities.
In this mode, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) met with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. The meeting tuned out rancorous as the NANS President Sunday Asefon berated the government for the poor funding of tertiary education. He also took a swipe at the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who he claimed celebrated his son who graduated from a foreign university on Facebook. Apparently stung by the criticism, Mallam Adamu walked out of the meeting with the students singing solidarity songs. In the same vein, the House of Representatives rejected the call for a ban on public officers from sending their children to study abroad.
Meantime, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced new dates for the 2023 general elections. According to INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu the presidential and National Assembly elections have been fixed for February 25 while the governorship and State Assembly elections will take place on March 11, 2023. Also, INEC has closed the window for fresh registration of new political parties. According to INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, only 18 political parties will be participating in the 2023 polls.
Still, the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), is up in the battle to elect a new executive for the party. A new date has been fixed for the party’s convention after a lot of rigmarole. The Convention could make or mar the party as there are various forces eager to take control of the party machinery with an eye towards picking a flagbearer for the 2023 presidential polls. After a lot of confusion and horse-trading, the APC has finally fixed March 26 for the party’s convention, while March 12 has been fixed for its forthcoming zonal congresses.
On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the adoption of consensus candidates to fill the party executive slots, however, contestants gearing up for the party’s convention have rejected the idea of a consensus candidate for the party’s chairmanship and other offices. The president has zeroed on Senator Abdullahi Adamu, former governor of Nasarawa as the candidate for chairman. He urged the Governors’s forum to work behind the scenes to achieve this objective. But this has created discordant tunes in the party. Again, the sudden removal of Governor Mai Mala Buni as the Caretaker Chairman of the party may not be unconnected with the ongoing high-stakes politics for control of the party machinery. Niger State governor, Sani Bello is the new Caretaker chairman of the APC.
Also, the Senate has reviewed submissions for Constitutional Review. The Senate has passed a bill that seeks to allow independent candidates to contest elective positions. The Senate also voted to reject changes to the constitution to allow citizens abroad to vote in national elections, while a provision to allocate special seats for women in the National Assembly and State Assembly’s failed. Both the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, and Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of the Vice President had supported the bill.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Paullen Tallen had described the rejection of this proposal for women as a gross disservice to women. Pauline Tallen expressed disappointment about the outcome of the bill seeking extra legislative seats for women and affirmative action, which failed to sail through on the floor of the National Assembly last week.
It will be recalled that prior to the constitution review, Tallen had led the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari to the Senate chambers as a subtle way of lobbying the legislators but while the clause-by-clause consideration of the constitutional amendment at both chambers of the National Assembly went on last Tuesday, it failed to garner the necessary votes to support the course.
On politics, a third force to upstage the two major political parties will take off next month. The third force is a combination of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), National Rescue Movement (NRM), and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Also, the Labour Party is aligned with the third force. In the run-up to the 2019 general elections, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo mooted the idea of a third force that was expected to take over from the two main political parties, that is, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC. At the end of the day, all the zeal and efforts geared towards the birth of the party later fizzled out. In short, Obasanjo’s third force suffered a stillbirth.
This time the prime movers of the third force led by former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, and Professor Pat Utomi met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, at the weekend to elect the Southwest coordinating officers for the National Consultative Front (NCF).
The objective is to birth a third force that can wrestle power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election.
Other members of the third force include the presidential candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP) Kingsley Moghalu and a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN). Also at the Ibadan meeting were, Dr Usman Bugaje, and Buba Galadima, amongst others.
Still, on politics, two old warhorses former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu have been in the public eye lately. Both political gladiators have been strategizing and building alliances in the run up to the 2023 general elections.
Abubakar, 75, declared his intentions while speaking to lawmakers of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party in a meeting at an undisclosed location. The remarks were distributed in a video shared on social media on Thursday and confirmed by a spokesman.
“I chose you to be among the first set of people that I will be meeting to personally declare my intention to contest for the president of Nigeria in 2023,” Abubakar said.
The spokesman said Abubakar’s remarks were made during consultations with party stakeholders, and a formal declaration may be made in the coming weeks. In a related development, Atiku Abubakar at the end of a closed-door with Chief Obasanjo in Abeokuta called on Nigerian youths to summon enough courage to compete with elders for elective offices in 2023, including the office of the President, saying, seeking to deny the old ones their constitutional rights to pursue their political ambition is not right.
Abubakar was the PDP’s presidential candidate in 2019, when he obtained 41% of the ballots cast, against Buhari’s 56%. He later mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to the outcome of the election.
“I humbly present myself to you and seek your support to win our party’s presidential ticket,” Abubakar, who was the vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, told the group.
On his part, Tinubu said the country is in dire need of a leader who can unite the people, tackle insecurity and bring about the desired socio-economic developments during a consultation with members of the Ekiti Traditional Council
He said the consultation with the traditional rulers which he has begun was in furtherance of his 2023 presidential aspiration and to get the prayers and support of the royal fathers.
We chose democracy and we must not fail in this task. I’m in this race to renew the hope and make the future great for our children.
“For Nigeria to stand united and develop, we require patience and wisdom. We have to be united, that is the only way we can be great. That was why we formed APC based on principles.
“I want to tell you that Nigeria needs serious change. I knew how Lagos was when I took over and we had never failed any election”, he said. “We have struggled for democracy and today we have democracy but we are not stable yet.
On current security challenge, the security forces reportedly eliminated over 200 bandits in a military operation in Niger State penultimate week. According to PR Nigeria, the bandits were eliminated by airstrikes of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The state’s Commissioner for Local Government, Community Development, Chieftaincy Affairs and Internal Security, Emmanuel Umar, made this known in a statement last Wednesday.
According to the statement, Mr Umar said many commanders of the terrorist groups were killed in the operations, pointing out that the eliminated terrorists belonged to the camps of Ali Kawajo, Yello Janbros, Kachalla Halilu, and Bello Turji.
Niger State has been the hotbed of banditry activities in the North-central zone of the country.