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Battle for Okorocha’s Job Intensifies……

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In this piece, S.A takes a look at the political developments in Imo State as the 2015 governorship race gathers momentum
As activities for the 2015 elections gradually gather momentum, the quest for the political soul of Imo State continues to witness an increase in the number of contestants.

According to political observers, governorship elections elicit in Imo State uncommon interest due to the unique nature of its politics. The state has a fair representation of the three dominant parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress, the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Peoples Democratic Party.
Before now, Imo had remained a core PDP state but the inability of the party to produce a governorship candidate in 2007 changed the equation as the state fell into the hands of the little known Progressive Peoples Alliance, whose candidate, Ikedi Ohakim, emerged winner. But midway into his tenure, Ohakim defected to the PDP, following complaints of overbearing influence by the founder of the PPA, ex-Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State.
In 2011, Ohakim’s second term ambition was halted when his re-election bid suffered a loss. There were allegations of maladministration, highhandedness and disrespect for the clergy. He lost to the incumbent Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who came in on the platform of APGA but later defected to the APC.
APGA, which felt betrayed has been aiming at reclaiming its mandate come 2015. On the other hand, the incumbent, who had before now promised to be in office for only one term, changed his mind and is now desirous of a second term on the platform of his new party, the APC. But the PDP has vowed to reclaim the state at all cost. Imo parades a good number of PDP chiefs such as Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Arthur Nzeribe, Nze Ozichikwu Chukwu, to mention a few. Thus, all the three parties are leaving nothing to chance in their quest to occupy the Imo Government House in 2015 but the quality and credibility of their candidates in the make-or-mar exercise will play a major role in determining the winner of the race.

Based on the foregoing, a brief perusal of the profiles and chances of the various aspirants jostling for the exalted position has separated the contenders from the pretenders.

Okorocha

Okorocha came in as the people’s darling in 2011. His popularity at the beginning of his tenure was at its peak as he was generally seen as the best option to wrest power from Ohakim whose popularity had dwindling drastically. Okorocha hails from Orlu zone which also produced ex-Governor Achike Udenwa who was in power for eight years (1999-2007). He rode to power on the goodwill of APGA and also enjoyed the support of the people at the beginning of his tenure. His decision to slash his security vote and plough back same for the development of education endeared him to many even as he was tipped for the prestigious position of Igbo leader at the demise of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. His oratory and outspokenness on national issues – especially those concerning Igbo interests – added an impetus to his growing popularity across the South-East. His massive developmental projects also counted in his favour.

But his rising political profile nosedived when he joined the APC; a step many political analysts believe was miscalculated. Despite the fact that Okorocha for now seems to be the only known governorship aspirant of the APC in the state, political observers say he has very slim chances of winning re-election for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the consideration that if Okorocha is re-elected, his Orlu senatorial zone would have unfairly dominated the governance of the state, a development political forces in other zones, particularly Okigwe zone, have vowed to resist.

Okorocha’s critics also accuse him of working against the Igbo interest by distancing himself from governors from other South-East states. His opposition to the Presidency is also believed to have denied the state some federal interventions and goodwill, particularly, ecological funds. They say his fraternity with the North and the South-West over his rumoured vice-presidential ambition is not in the interest of the Igbo.

His free education policy is also believed to be neither here nor there. There is serious grumbling among ‘Imolites’ that the tertiary education policy of the governor, which makes indigenes pay less than non-indigenes, is rather injurious to the state as more admission slots are given to non-indigenes in a bid to generate more funds. These notwithstanding, the massive structures in Owerri, the state capital, as well as the transformation in Orlu are all to Okorocha’s credit. His supporters also believe he will coast to victory because of his transformations in the health sector. Time will tell whether or not the governor would be able to scale the hurdles before him.

Agbaso

Chief Martin Agbaso is one of the backbones of APGA in Imo State. But for some political opponents, Agbaso would have won the 2007 governorship election in the state. The Owerri-born businessman has since then maintained close ties with the APGA national leadership just as he did maintain a close relationship with the late Ojukwu. His political structure was very instrumental to Okorocha’s victory in 2011 when his younger brother, Jude, was elected the deputy governor but was later impeached when he fell out with his principal. Since then, the elder Agbaso, who felt disappointed in Okorocha, wants to unseat the governor come 2015. He is widely seen a strong leader of APGA in Imo State today. But the recent defection of an ex- Minister, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho (retd.), from the PDP to APGA, poses a serious threat to Agbaso’s governorship ambition as both stalwarts hail from the same political bloc in Owerri zone.

Iheanacho

The defection of the Emekuku-born politician to APGA is already causing ripples within the party. The financial capacity and educational background of the oil magnate have put him in good stead in the race. Another factor which seems to be counting in his favour is his perceived cordial relationship with the Presidency. He is believed to have maximised his opportunity as Minister of Interior to empower a lot of Imo indigenes and this has endeared him to many Igbo youths.

But analysts believe it would be difficult for Iheanacho, who is considered a newcomer in APGA, to hijack the party’s structures. Some believe his apparent popularity is because of his financial capacity.

Be that as it may, the people of Owerri zone are strongly gunning for the number one seat using two formidable platforms – APGA and PDP. They believe that should both Agbaso and Iheanacho fail to clinch the APGA governorship ticket the zone will press its governorship quest through PDP.

Ihedioha

The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, is one of the prominent PDP governorship aspirants from Owerri zone that is generally believed would make a serious impact in the race. He is a three-term member of the House of Representative with vast political experience. The Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala federal lawmaker is also believed to have the needed resources and political clout to match Okorocha’s power of incumbency. His closeness with the Presidency is also a plus to his ambition. He also enjoys the overwhelming support of notable PDP heavy weights in Owerri zone.

But the odds against him include the growing animosity that he allied with House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, to negate the zoning arrangement of the PDP, which ceded the position of Speaker to South- West. His critics say he should not be allowed to be a beneficiary of zoning in his state because he worked against it at the national level.

Apart from the anti-zoning slogan against the deputy speaker which political pundits believe will soon fizzle out as the election draws nearer, Ihedioha appears set for the race to occupy the Imo Government House come 2015.

Anyanwu

Senator Chris Anyanwu, who has represented Owerri zone for two consecutive tenures, has not hidden her ambition to be the first female governor of the state. She is one of the most charismatic senators in the National Assembly. Her numerous empowerment programmes as well as her stance on national issues have endeared her to many. Her recent defection from APGA to the PDP seen by many as a strategic political calculation has further brightened her chances of realising her ambition.

But her major hurdle remains the fact that in the political circles many do not think the state is ripe for a female governor. Imo still parades a large army of political lords that may prove too tough for a woman to control.

Ararume

Senator Ifeanyi Ararume from Mbano in Okigwe senatorial zone is no debutant in the Imo governorship race. But for the stiff opposition of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, when the former President openly campaigned against him despite being in the same party, there is a strong possibility that Ararume would have been Imo governor. Even when he took the PDP to court to reclaim his denied victory at the party primaries, Obasanjo, bent on stopping the multi-billionaire politician declared at a rally in Owerri that the PDP had no candidate for the election, thus paving the way for Ohakim to sweep the polls. In protest, Ararume defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (now APC) on whose platform he almost realised his ambition in 2011.

Some of the things that may work in his favour are his contributions in the restoration of Imo and Abia states to the Niger Delta Development Commission when both states were unjustly removed from the commission.

Ohakim

The former governor, whose second term ambition in 2011 was shattered by Okorocha, has vowed to reclaim his mandate in 2015. His loyalty to the national leadership of the PDP seems to be working in his favour. He is also believed to have learned from his mistakes. But his public rating doesn’t seem to have improved.

Uzodinma

The Omuma-born Senator Hope Uzodinma, who represents Imo-West senatorial district, hails from Orlu senatorial zone that is being accused of dominating Imo governance. The PDP lawmaker’s popularity has been on the increase and many believe he may clinch the party’s ticket if he decides to run especially considering his closeness to Aso Rock. But his major challenge is the zoning formula as the PDP is less likely to try the people’s patience by giving its ticket to an Orlu man in 2015. Already, party stalwarts from Owerri zone have threatened to defect en masse with their structures and followers to APGA should the PDP deny the zone the governorship ticket

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – ELEGUSHI FOUNDATION DONATES SANITARY PADS TO 2000 SCHOOLGIRLS

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International Day of Menstrual Hygiene, observed annually on May 28th, is dedicated to breaking taboos and raising awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to highlight the importance of menstrual care, and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to menstrual products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma.

In celebration of this year menstrual hygiene day and in continuation of its tradition of donating sanitary pads to young girls, the Oba Saheed Elegushi Foundation donated sanitary pads to 2000 secondary schoolgirls in Lagos State.

The distribution, which was done in collaboration with the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, underscores the importance of community collaboration in addressing menstrual hygiene challenges and demonstrates the power of joint efforts in creating lasting change in young girls.

Speaking at an event to mark this day, Executive Director of the foundation, Aiki Odiawa said the collaborative effort with Island Maternity Hospital is essential to extend the reach of the program, ensuring that every girl in need receives adequate menstrual hygiene products. By pooling resources and expertise, we can also develop comprehensive educational campaigns that address menstrual health and advocate for policies that support this critical aspect of women’s health.

She added that in the last one year, more than 200,000 girls have benefitted from the sanitary donation, which the Elegush i foundation embarks on a monthly basis to young schoolgirls within Ikate-Elegushi kingdom.

The Apex Nurse of Island Maternity Hospital, Mrs Oluwatoyin Champion thanked the foundation for the donation of the sanitary pads, saying that every girl of adolescent age have access to hygienic menstrual cycle.

Over 2000 schoolgirls from Eko Akete Junior Secondary School, Lagos Island, Ilasan Secondary School, Eti-Osa, Gbara Secondary School, Jakande, Eti-Osa and Girls Academy, Lagos Island, benefited from the initiative.

 

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Emefiele didn’t get approval to redesign naira – Ex-CBN director

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The trial of the immediate-past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, continued on Tuesday with a former Director of Operations at the apex bank, Ahmed Umar, telling the court that the naira redesign embarked upon by Emefiele late 2022 did not have the approval of the Committee of Governors.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on May 15 arraigned Emefiele before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on charges bordering on alleged unlawful redesign and printing of the new naira notes.

In the charge marked CR/264/2024, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele carried out the naira redesign policy without the approval of the CBN Board and President, Buhari.

The anti-graft agency said without the approval of the CBN Board and the President Muhammadu Buhari, Emefiele spent N18.96bn for the printing and swapping of new naira notes worth N684.5m

It alleged that Emefiele, “knowingly disobeying the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007” approved “the printing of N375,520,000.00 pieces of colour swapped N1,000 notes, at the total cost of N11,052, 068,062 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, among other things.”

At the trial opening on Tuesday, the EFCC fielded ex-CBN Director of Operations, Umar, as its first witness.

Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Umar told the court that his department in 2022 was directed to come up with the new design for the naira.

“The management of CBN directed my department to come up with a memo on the design of the naira note sometime in August 2022.

“We prepared the bill with the Committee of Governors and passed it through the line Deputy Governor Operations, which he forwarded to the Governor and it was listed for consideration by the Committee of Governors.”

The ex-director, who told the court that he joined CBN 35 years ago and retired in July 2023, explained that the Committee of Governors comprised five members, including the CBN Governor as chairman.

The witness told the court that the naira redesign memo was presented to the Committee of Governors for their consideration/ review on October 26, 2022, but the committee did not approve it.

Umar said, “We humbly requested the implementation of the amendment. (But) the extract from the COG did not approve item one and item three. While item two was modified to include N200 denomination, the proposal for the exercise in 2023 wasn’t approved by the COG.

“The procedure requires the Board of Directors to recommend to the President for design and form.

“The design shall be contained in the currency after the approval of the President then the production of the currency will commence.”

Justice Anenih, admitted in evidence, the Certified True Copy of the memorandum filed by the Operations Department and marked it as Exhibit A.

The EFCC, in the charges, accused Emefiele of spending N4.4bn to print “coloured swapped N500 notes.”

According to the EFCC, Emefiele spent N3.4bn to print “137,070 pieces of coloured N200 notes.”

The EFCC said Emefiele carried out the alleged actions between October 2022 and March 2023 in Abuja in clear violation of Section 19 of the CBN Act.

The EFCC alleged that Emefiele disobeyed the direction of the law with the intent to cause injury to the public with the manner in which he implemented the naira swap policy.

Emefiele was also accused of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of N124.8bn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

The ex-apex bank chief, however, denied all the allegations, pleading not guilty.

 

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TROUBLE LOOMS FOR CULTURE MINISTER, HANATU MUSAWA, OVER N290M STREET LIGHT PROJECT

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The Minister of Art, Culture and the Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa is at the center of yet another scandal.

This time, she was accused of voting 290 million naira for street lights to be located in her local government and if not properly handled might culminate into a major crisis.

According to an article published by Daily Trust Newspapers on
May 22, 2024, the Ministry of Culture voted 290 million naira for street lights to be located in Minister Hanatu Musa Musawa’s local government.

While reacting to Daily Trust article, the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mr James Sule, said the project was a strategic one but industry watchers are peeved that the Perm Sec did not disclose the cultural jobs, culture attractions and the emerging innovations that the project will contribute to gross Domestic productivity of the nation.

The minister was also alleged to have budgeted a whopping sum of three billion naira for culture research and development in her 2024 budget.

Sources squealed that prior to this current scandal rocking the ministry, Musawa had used her appointees to falsely lay claim to culture projects done by the immediate past administration and now have resorted to deploy a tested technocrat like her permanent secretary to accuse Daily Trust of alleged misinformation on the budgeted solar lights to be domiciled her local government.

A staff of the ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity said “If all our ministers, agency heads, and legislators now compete to domicile constituency projects exclusively in their local governments, other areas in Nigeria that did not produce ministers will end up with nothing, no roads, lights, railway, hospitals, airports and etc. What a clever way to practice nepotism and misappropriation in the name of budgeting for constituency projects”

It would be recalled that Musawa was embroiled in NYSC status scandal.

This started about three years ago when Musawa could not provide evidence of national service to senators during the screening for an appointment she was nominated for by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

But the controversy resurfaced when following the confirmation by the management of the NYSC that Ms Musawa, who was inaugurated as Minister by President Bola Tinubu, was still undergoing her national youth service.

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