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2019 elections: Eurasia Group predicts Buhari win …despite Atiku gaining momentum

Eurasia Group, reputed as the world’s largest political-risk consultancy, says President Muhammadu Buhari will win the February 16 presidential election, according to a report by The Cable.

In its final Eurasia Group Politics First election forecast, the group, which was founded in 1998 by American political scientist Ian Bremmer, said Buhari has a 60 percent probability to win.

“Opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar has regained some momentum in recent weeks, but President Muhammadu Buhari remains favored to win (a 60% probability),” the group said.

“On election day, the ruling All Progressives Congress’s (APC’s) significantly greater control of local political structures and resources—it governs 23 states compared to the opposition’s 12—will boost voter mobilization and solidify Buhari’s advantage.”

In 2015, Eurasia Group tipped Buhari to defeat former president Goodluck Jonathan, changing its stance some weeks to the election, after it had initially chosen the former president to win.

At the time, the group said although it initially tipped “President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election, a number of factors had since changed, and the pendulum had swung to the Buhari’s side”.


Onnoghen and Buhari

The group said the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Walter Onnoghen, the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, will not affect the elections.

“Positive news coverage in recent weeks, along with Buhari’s controversial move to suspend Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen over allegations of corruption, have boosted Atiku’s campaign, but it is too late to change the electoral dynamics and Buhari remains favored to win on 16 February,” the group said.

“As we have previously noted, key actors in Atiku’s camp—including his campaign’s director general Bukola Saraki, key powerbroker Governor Nyesom Wike of the oil-rich Rivers state, and southeast governors from his People’s Democratic Party (PDP)—had been disengaged from his election campaign”.


Saraki and Wike

The group added that Atiku’s big players have been disengaged from his political campaign, adding that governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be fighting to ensure they win their own elections.

“Wike was annoyed by Atiku’s failure to consult him on key decisions, Saraki remains distracted by a tough Senate reelection battle in Kwara state, and the southeast governors are hampered by many conflicting motivations, including their own lack of political clout (which makes them reluctant to overtly challenge the federal government) and their wariness of Atiku’s running mate Peter Obi, a former governor of the southeastern Anambra state who they view as a political outsider.

“The lack of enthusiasm on the part of some PDP governors is a problem for Atiku because these officials control significant discretionary funds at the state level (known as ‘security votes’) that are easier to access without triggering graft concerns.”


Buhari’s passionate supporters

The group concluded by saying “Atiku’s voters do not match Buhari’s in passion and are unlikely to risk their lives on the streets for him”.

“Though Buhari’s decision to suspend the chief justice triggered widespread criticism and stoked passions (along with fears about a more autocratic Buhari second term), many voters blame the judiciary for not moving quicker to force Onnoghen’s resignation after he admitted he had violated rules regarding declaration of assets.

“Thus, should Atiku lose, as we expect, there will be few motivated stakeholders to encourage or instigate serious violence. Instead, we expect PDP governors to quickly turn their attention to fighting to retain their own jobs in state elections on 2 March”

A few weeks ago, Eurasia Group said Buhari will continue as a politically weak president, while Atiku may retract his pledge made during campaign season.

Court orders arrest of CCB chairman

A Kaduna state high court on Friday issued a warrant of arrest against Muhammed Isah, chairman of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

The warrant of arrest was issued by Mario Mohammed, a judge, after the chairman ignored several summons by the court in a suit between Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, and Today’s publishing Company Limited, and one other.

A warrant form obtained directed the police and to arrest the CCB chairman and produce him before the court on February 13, 2019.

Earlier, Today Publishing company, the publisher of The Union Newspapers had filed application requesting the court to subpoena CCB chairman to produce assets declaration of el-Rufai in court after several failed efforts it made to obtain it from the CCB.

Mohammed granted the approval based on the application filed by J.N. Egwuonwu (SAN), counsel to The Union Newspapers, during the continuation of defence at a previous sitting.

Egwuonwu represented by Hiifan Andrew Abuul had written an application to the court to subpoena CCB to tender the asset declaration of the governor before the court.

The governor had gone to the court over a report carried by the newspaper in which it allegedly stated that he had declared N90 billion in his CCB assets declaration form.

I remain SDP presidential candidate, Duke insists

Former governor of Cross River, Mr Donald Duke, says he still remains the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and would present himself for the Feb. 16 poll.

Duke said this in a statement on Friday in Lagos, while reacting to the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to withdraw from the election and adopt President Muhammadu Buhari as its preferred candidate.

“Regardless and for the avoidance of doubt, I Donald Duke, remain on the ballot and the candidate of the SDP as recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“This unfortunate saga is as a result of an aspirant who lost at the party primaries on Oct. 6, 2018, fair and square, does not query the conduct of the primaries but rather resorts to bigotry, querying my suitability to contest for the presidency on grounds that I come from the wrong part of the country.

“The Federal Court of Appeal has put this matter to rest. The office of president does not belong to any party and therefore not for a party to zone,” he said.

Duke identified internal management of party affairs as the bane of the nation’s democracy.
He said his decision to run for the presidency was to afford the electorate a credible alternative.

“My decision to run on an untainted political platform rather than on one which I was a founding member is grounded on a desire to afford our electorate and indeed our nation a clean break, options and alternatives to her current gladiators.

“For the SDP NEC to thereby endorse the APC or any other party, is rather unfortunate and betrays in my opinion, the desire of the vast majority of our party members and Nigerians credible alternatives to our nation’s leadership.

“I need not say more, suffice that I remain on the ballot and thereby still present myself as a candidate for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Duke said.

The SDP NEC had on Thursday announced the party’s withdrawal from the presidential race while adopting Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, for the poll.
It explained that the decision was based on the protracted legal issue facing the party.

“We cannot campaign, we cannot do anything because of the protracted legal issue and we feel that it is impeccable to technically withdraw from the presidential election.

“We want to focus on the National Assembly, Governorship and State House of Assemblies election for which we have fielded candidates across the country.

“We are therefore adopting Buhari, the APC Presidential candidate, as our preferred candidate for the Feb. 16 election,” it said.

FIRS to go after 40,000 millionaire tax defaulters

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says it will go after estimated 40,000 millionaire tax defaulters in 2019.

Mr Wahab Gbadamosi, the Head Communications and Servicom Department of FIRS, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.

Gbadamosi quoted the Executive Chairman of the service, Mr Tunde Fowler, as making this disclosure when he received the Acting Inspector General of Police, (I-G) Mohammed Adamu, who paid him a courtesy visit.

Fowler said that FIRS identified 45,000 millionaire tax evaders in 2018 and recovered N23 billion through substitution of their bank accounts.

He explained that N23 billion was realised from over 45,000 tax defaulters that had over N100 million as turnover in their accounts.

FIRS boss said that the service would go after another estimated 40,000 millionaire tax defaulters in 2019.

He called for collaboration with stakeholders like the Police to continue to go after wealthy tax defaulters in 2019.

Fowler requested the Nigeria Police to help the Service bring the tax evaders to pay their taxes.

He thanked the Nigeria Police Force for its support and collaboration over the years in assisting FIRS to achieve its target.

He sought for more support and collaboration to enable it recovers due taxes from more 40,000 rich tax defaulters in 2019.

“Let me put on record that the Nigeria Police Force has been extremely helpful to FIRS. Without the Police, I doubt if the Service would have been able to achieve what we have achieved.

“2018 was a successful year. The FIRS collected a total of N5.320 trillion of tax revenue. This is the highest revenue collection in the history of the service.

“This is significant, because this collection was when oil prices oscillated between $50 and $70 per barrel.

“Oil price was at an average of $100 to $120 per barrel between 2012 when FIRS collected N5.07 trillion.

“Oil component of the N5.320 trillion is N2.467 trillion, which represents 46.38 per cent, while non-oil element of the collection is N2.852 trillion, which is equal to 53.62 per cent,” he explained.

The acting IGP assured FIRS that the Police would continue to support  the service because the job of revenue generation was critical to the survival of the nation.

Adamu said that the service rendered by FIRS was important for the survival of the country.

He emphasised the need for the service to be supported by all stakeholders so that it could achieve its goals.

UI announces resumption date

The University of Ibadan has announced February 14, 2019 as resumption date for its students following the decision of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to call off its three-month-old strike.

The University announced the resumption date in a statement by the Management on Friday morning.

It said: Following the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), we wish to advise our students to plan to return to the University as from Thursday, 14th February 2019.

“This would enable those whose voting centers are located within the University to exercise their civic responsibilities on election days.

“Academic activities have been scheduled to re-commence on Monday, February 18, 2019.

“A revised Academic Calendar for the rest of the 2017/2018 session is being drawn up and will be circulated shortly.
“We wish all those that will be travelling from far and near to Ibadan safe trips.”

US ambassador warns public officials against illegal directives issued in Buhari’s name

Stuart Symington, US ambassador to Nigeria, has warned public officials not to obey illegal directives issued in the name of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking with journalists on Thursday in Makurdi, Benue state capital, after a meeting with Samuel Ortom, the state governor, the ambassador said any politician whose utterances incite people to violence would be held to account for the crime.

He urged political leaders to ensure free and fair election as the polls draw closer.

Although the ambassador did not mention Buhari’s name, all indications point to the president who has on different occasions reiterated his commitment to free and fair elections.

“If anybody asks you to do something that is not right and says the boss wants you to do it, or the person at the top wants you to do it, don’t believe him; because the person at the top is honestly saying they want to win a fair election. There is a reason not to believe them,” the ambassador said.

“The citizens are responsible to their God, second to their conscience and third to the laws of Nigeria, fourth to the court of public opinion in Nigeria and finally international law and the rest of us.”

Supreme court affirms annulment of Rivers APC primaries

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the annulment of primaries and congresses conducted by a faction of the Rivers state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

A high court in Port Harcourt, the state capital, had nullified the primaries and congresses which were fraught with crisis.

A five-man panel of justices led by Mohammed Dattijo dismissed the objection filed by the faction.


APC rally: No road closure for Buhari’s visit, Lagos assures residents

Following the apprehension that has greeted the scheduled visit of President Muhammadu Buhari for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential rally on Saturday, the Lagos State Government on Friday allayed fears of residents assuring that there would be no road closures as earlier announced.

Briefing journalists at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa, the State’s Commissioner for Transportation, Ladi Lawanson said the earlier statement announcing diversion and road closure had been reviewed, adding that residents were free to go about their businesses.

Lawanson, who is also a member of the transport sub-committee for the Presidential visit and the APC rally, said Lagosians should jettison an earlier announcement by the committee to the effect that there would be road closures.

He said: “Lagosians have been very apprehensive that there will be traffic gridlock and we got a lot of feedbacks that we intend to grind Lagos to a halt. People are apprehensive; they think we are going to shut down Lagos; they think movement would be restricted and they are bracing themselves for what they anticipate would be the hardship that would be visited on them by the president’s visit and our own activities.

“The purpose of this press conference is to clarify that and to state emphatically that there will be from zero to minimal adverse effect of the President’s visit tomorrow. I repeat, there will be between zero to the barest minimum amount of disruptions to the normal movement that Lagosians undertake on a Saturday like tomorrow.

“So, there will not be any road closures in Lagos tomorrow and Lagosians are free to go about their normal businesses tomorrow, Saturday,” Lawanson said.

He said adequate arrangement had been firmed up to ensure free flow of traffic, but that residents should expect tight security around the routes which the President is expected to pass through in the course of his visit and the venue of the rally.

“We would just like to communicate that because we are expecting a high caliber personality no less a person than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the normal security precautions that attend a visit of this nature should be expected.

“The President would visit Lagos tomorrow with the full retinue of security aides that protect him and his entourage but there will not be any road closures and there will be zero to minimal disruptions of normal activities,” the Commissioner said.

Lawanson, who addressed the briefing alongside the General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Wale Musa and the Lagos State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Hyginus Omeje, said there would be huge presence of officials of the police, LASTMA, FRSC and other agencies to ensure free flow of traffic around the Surulere axis.

“Around the venue of the rally which is the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere and the adjourning streets are traffic management agencies such as LASTMA, FRSC, Police and other agencies that would support them tomorrow.

“They will handle the traffic management around the venue tomorrow and so people can expect to see a huge presence of our traffic management officers fully on ground to ensure that there is free flow of traffic. We consider it important to clarify this so that we can communicate to Lagosians and give them the assurance that Lagos and especially Surulere would not be on lockdown,” the Commissioner said.

Also speaking, Musa said LASTMA would be deploying tow trucks to promptly evacuate any broken down vehicle and adequate personnel to tackle any gridlock that may arise from the President’s visit and the activities around the Surulere.

BREAKING: INEC extends deadline for PVC collection

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the deadline for the collection of permanent voter cards (PVC) by three days.

Prof Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, announced this during a meeting with resident electoral commissioners (RECs) in Abuja on Friday.

The initial deadline for the collection was on Friday.

But Yakubu said it is being extended till February 11 to ensure that no registered voter is disenfranchised.

He said the collection will now be done from 9am to 6pm daily.

“The collection of PVCs scheduled to end today Friday, February 8, is hereby extended nationwide to Monday, February 11. This will include Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

“All state offices are hereby directed to review the procedure for the collection of PVCs and dedicate all the staff of the local government offices to the collection process.”

“The commission wishes to reassure Nigerians that we will continue to take every necessary step to ensure that no registered voter is disenfranchised on account of non-eollection of PVCs.”

He added that the commission is also taking urgent steps to address complaints of unavailability of the PVCs of some registered voters before the end the deadline for the collection.

“We wish to reiterate that after the deadline of Monday, all uncollected PVCs will be recalled and deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for safe-keeping until after the general elections when the collection of cards and the continuous registration of voters will resume,” Yakubu said.

This means registered voters will be able to collect their PVCs till four days to the presidential election scheduled for February 16.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had earlier asked the commission to extend the deadline.

FG plotting to arrest Atiku’s associates, aide alleges

Phrank Shaibu, an aide of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says the party has uncovered a plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to frame and arrest associates of Atiku.

In a statement on Thursday in Abuja, Shaibu said the ruling party wants to use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to frame his associates for money laundering.

He alleged that the plot is being led by an APC governor in the north west working in tandem with a prominent minister in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.

He urged the EFCC and the plotters to “desist from any act that could create chaos and anarchy” in the electoral process, adding that Nigerians were already fed up.

“The architects of this plot believe that unless the APC destabilises the main opposition party and gets rid of the key associates of the PDP Presidential Candidate, President Buhari’s plan to clinch a second term in office will be in jeopardy, especially as they are afraid – for obvious reasons that the President has become unpopular and won’t be re-elected at the poll,” the statement read.

“The first step in this desperate plot is to arrest some of our associates using the EFCC with others soon to follow, based on a list that has been drawn up by the cabal.

“The cooked intelligence report concluded that all means must be used to stop Atiku. Reading between lines, the measures being advocated in the report could only be to frame his associates for money laundering, creation of chaos and anarchy to pave the way for the derailing of the electoral process, which will ultimately lead to the emergence of an interim national government.

“We also warn the security and anti-graft agencies to be independent and not to allow themselves to be used for political gains. They should put national interest above partisan interest, and remember that the President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC gang are not synonymous with the Nigerian nation. Buhari is just a bull in china shop that will soon be ejected by the peoples’ votes on February 16.”

EFCC quizzes senior lawyer, Joe Agi over $30,000 deposit in Justice Onnoghen’s account

Detectives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are investigating a senior lawyer, Joe Agi SAN over three payments of $10,000 each into one of the domiciliary accounts of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Already the detectives have quizzed Agi who is said to be one of the referees to the CJN when the domiciliary accounts was opened. EFCC have searched his Abuja home early yesterday after obtaining a court order.

It was also learnt that more suspects might be arrested in connection with the ongoing screening of Justice Onnoghen’s accounts.

About $3 million, allegedly undeclared by the CJN, was rated  as “suspicious” by detectives.

EFCC detectives traced about $30,000 deposit into the CJN’s account by Ago. The purpose of the payment  is being probed, even though Justice Onnoghen  had hinted that the huge cash in his domiciliary accounts was from farming.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “In continuation of the ongoing probe of the CJN’s accounts, we have made more discoveries, including payment of $30,000 into Onnoghen’s account by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Mr. Joe Agi.

“The Senior Advocate actually paid the $30,000 in three tranches of $10,000 each into one of the domiciliary accounts of Onnoghen. It was in the process of scanning through the payment teller that we saw one J. Agi as the depositor.”
Initially, it did not occur to detectives that the same Agi on the teller could be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. But a senior hand was able to recall that a SAN bears Agi, the source said, adding that detectives found that  the SAN’s number correlated with the GSM number on the teller. “A call was made to the number on the teller and  the True Caller device revealed the full identity of Joe Agi,” he said, pleading not to be named so as not to jeopardise the investigation.

The source went on: “We invited Agi for interaction  on why he paid the $30,000 into the CJN’s account. So far,  he has made useful statement to our team. We also applied to a court for a valid warrant to search his house in Abuja.

“When we got the order, our detectives went to the house of the SAN to execute the warrant.”

Asked why detectives believed they need to quiz Agi, the source added: “Detectives also discovered that Agi served as a referee to the CJN when he opened one of the domiciliary accounts under probe. We have retrieved the referee form the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).“We have asked Agi to explain the relationship between him and the CJN to have served as Onnoghen’s referee in opening a domiciliary account.

“A referee is like a guarantor and the SAN needs to explain more to our detectives. We might invite more suspects because there are a lot of issues surrounding the analysis of the CJN’s accounts. By the time we release latest details of our findings in the CJN’s accounts, Nigerians will be able to appreciate the extent of work done.”

Most of the lodgments in the CJN’s accounts , which were effected between 2012 and 2016 respectively, were undeclared in his Assets Declaration Form.

The NFIU was mandated to restrict  the operation of five accounts of the CJN with a balance of about $3million.
The accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank are coded as USD No. 870001062650; Euro account No. 93001062686; Pound Sterling A/CNo. 285001062679; e-Saver Savings (Naira) account No. 5001062693; and a  Naira A/C No. 0001062667.

An intelligence report on the CJN’s accounts reads in part: “Pattern  of structured  payments of $10,000.00 each in 2012. For example, a total of $630,000.00 was credited to the accounts using this pattern. ”Similarly structured payments of $10,000.00 amounting to $297,800.00, $50,000.00 and $36,000.00 were deposited in the account in 2013, 2015 and 2016 respectively.

“There was also a credit of $121,116.00 into the account from  2014 to 2016 from Life Friend Plc. The payments were in four installments, of $30,279.00 each. These payments suggest the suspect has investments
“ A payment at $482,966.00 from Alicia Redemption Pro and shortly after, $800,000.00 was invested in SCB Investment subscription. We are in the process of verifying these transactions;

“Other suspicious transactions in the account are credit of $19,764.00 from Pur of Noble and seven (7) payments of $3,250.00 each amounting to $22,750.00 from Lloyds TSB.

On the pound sterling (GBP), the investigative team discovered “a self- transfer of £40,268.40 into the account on May 31 2016.”
“There were also self-deposits by the suspect of £49,760.00 from July 2015 to September, 2016  but  the balance as at September 30, 2016 was £108,348.00,” the report added.

Regarding the Naira account, the report said: “The following highlights some of the suspicious activities in the account: ”A transfer of N41,262.000.00 ($260,000) was made from the Dollar account. The money was used to make payment of N41million to Ad hoc Committee on the Sale of Federal Government Houses, suggesting that he bought a property with proceeds of the transfer;
“The only other significant transactions in the accounts are six (6) structured cash payments of N500,000.00 each and one payment of N700,000.00 amounting to N3.7mlllion from November, 2013 to August, 2016.”

INEC chairman: I won’t share my returning officer role with anyone

Prof Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has vowed not to share his role as returning officer of the presidential elections with anyone.

Yakubu said this on Thursday during an interactive meeting with Catholic Bishops in Abuja.

He was speaking in reaction to comments still trailing the appointment of Amina Zakari who is reportedly related to President Muhammadu Buhari as the head of the committee on collation centre.

Zakari’s appointment was misconstrued in some quarters to mean she would be involved in the collation process.

Yakubu, however, said he remains the only returning officer who would announce results for the presidential election.

“The chairman of INEC is the chief returning officer for the presidential election and I am not going to share that responsibility with anyone,” he said.

He also urged Nigerians to always draw the attention of the commission to any infraction in the national voter register for rectification

Yakubu said: “We have been doing so consistently. After the last one, we received only a few comments from the states, I think 48,000 out of 84 million registered voters.

“Part of the difficulty is that we are very careful if someone says that one person is dead, because of the experience the commission had in 2015.

“We received a letter from one particular political party that a candidate was dead and they submitted a death certificate obtained from a government hospital. They also went to court, swore to an affidavit and his family also attested to the fact that the candidate was dead. They filed all these documents at the commission. A week later, the supposedly dead candidate turned up and said he was alive.”

Buhari’s security aides shield Marwa from angry mob at APC rally

Security operatives attached to President Muhammadu Buhari prevented some aggrieved youth from attacking Buba Marwa, former military administrator of Lagos state, at the presidential rally of the All progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa state on Thursday.

Trouble started after Marwa, who addressed the rally in Hausa, was accused of saying some uncomplimentary things about Mohammed Bindow, governor of the state.

Marwa and the governor belong to different factions of the APC in the state. The ex-military administrator is of the Mahmood Halilu faction which lost the battle to secure the governorship ticket to Bindow’s group.

Despite the backing of Aisha Buhari, wife of the president, Haliliu who is Buhari’s in-law failed to secure the governorship ticket.

Buhari had pacified the angry youth and directed security operatives to whisk Marwa from Ribadu Square, Yola, venue of the exercise.

Marwa is an ally of the president. On Monday, he led former military generals to Aso Rock to endorse Buhari for another four years.

He currently heads the presidential advisory committee on the elimination of drug abuse in the country.

Marwa had said if Buhari had failed in his duties, they would not have endorsed him.

“As an officer and a gentleman, his word is his bond. After winning the elections, he brought out simple three-points programme – security, economy and fighting corruption. He led the fight and is leading the fight by personal example. That is the height of leadership. Do as as I do not as I say. He has demonstrated that,” he had said.

Asked if the endorsement was out of fear, Marwa said: “Absolutely not.”

At the rally, Buhari pledged to complete the abandoned federal government projects in Adamawa, especially those started under the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), if re-elected.

Buhari told the crowd that his administration had fulfilled the promises made in the 2015.

Soyinka’s Citizen Forum endorses Moghalu

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said in a statement on Friday that the Citizen Forum, which he serves as its convener, has endorsed a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, as its presidential candidate.

Moghalu is the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party.

Soyinka last Thursday in Lagos during an interactive session organised by the Citizen Forum rejected the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, describing them as worthy of absolute rejection.

The playwright in the statement titled, ‘New directions in a time of decision,’ said the nation had been brought to her knees, noting that the blaring media testimony needed no augmentation.

He said, “Beyond her borders, Nigeria is the tale of citizens designated pariahs of the global community for whom special dossiers are opened, and units of security agencies are specifically assigned. Online transactions are programmed to reject basic usage once the word ‘Nigeria’ is inserted in the data profile. There are few nations left, within or outside the continental borders where – no matter the codeword – a Nigerian ‘room’ has not been designated. Her humanity litters the sand trails of the Sahara, it lines the Mediterranean sea-bed with the bones of a desperate generation, seeking ‘green pastures’.”

Saying it was not always this way and numerous Nigerians believed that it needed not remain so, he added that there was always a choice to be made outside any presumptuous orders – in reality associations guaranteed to perpetuate social disorders and the politics of inequality.

“This is not the thinking of any one individual but of a large section of this populace. If it were not, there would not have been a record number of nearly a hundred political groups aspiring to take over the reins of governance. We do not need any instruction however to estimate that several of the aspiring groups are mere plants, raised to sow confusion. It redounds to the credit of a few individuals, including some of the candidates themselves, who embarked on efforts to winnow down their own ranks, then seek a consensus candidate as standard bearer for the battle against the two political behemoths, ” he stated.

The Nobel laureate also said the forum worked with those concerned and made no attempt to impose its own preferences, but utilised material from the deliberations of at least four such selection groups.

According to Soyinka, the result of that effort by Citizen Forum, coincides with his personal preference.

He, however, stated that the forum’s conclusion was not binding on other groups or individuals involved in the exercise.

Soyinka said, “May I take this opportunity to advise the public that neither Citizen Forum nor myself, belongs to any Third Force or other consensus-seeking councils by any other name. Please ignore any such attributions.

“Over the past few months, we studied the careers, experiences and track records of most of the presidential aspirants, and most intensely those actually shortlisted by the opposition parties themselves. Like millions of Nigerians, we watched the debates. I physically interacted with some of the acknowledged top contenders, in some cases several times. We participated in Handshake Across Nigeria, where some candidates presented their briefs. Among others, I delivered a keynote address. We watched television interviews. We have exchanged notes with highly respected international civil servants. The drive towards consensus among these dedicated groups sometimes took the form of test questionnaires to the aspirants, including items such as: ‘Who among the contestants would you choose, if you did not emerge as the ultimate preference?’”

He noted that there was nothing complicated about assessment parameters: mental preparedness, analytical aptitude, response to the nation’s security challenges, economic grounding, grasp of socio-political actualities, including a remedial concern with the Nigerian image in foreign perception etc.

“Not forgetting a convincing commitment to governance and resource decentralisation – commonly referred to as restructuring,” he added.

Besides, Soyinka noted that there was over-abundant, but stifled leadership material and there could be no excuse, now that that potential of high quality was being manifested, for constricting the political space in a population nudging two hundred million.

The playwright added, “And that statement is of course specially addressed to those who took part in this exercise, those who deliberated opted out of it, some of whom were assessed anyway. Such potential compelled us to exercise utmost rigour in what proved to be a most daunting exercise.”

N4.7bn fraud trial: Court frees Ladoja

The Federal High Court in Lagos has discharged and acquitted a former Governor of Oyo State, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, who the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission charged with an alleged fraud of N4.7.

In freeing Ladoja and Mr Waheed Akanbi, who was Oyo State Commissioner for Finance during his administration, Justice Mohammed Idris said the evidence brought before the court by the EFCC was “too low on credible evidence.”