By SIMON EBEGBULEM
Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) stormed Benin City on Thursday, April 4, 2013, to celebrate the 60th birthday of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. No fewer than 16 state governors, led by the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, graced the ceremony.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that Oshiomhole never planned for an elaborate birthday ceremony, but his friends insisted that they were going to organize at least a lecture on the day. As a result, invitation was sent to guests only 48 hours to the ceremony.
The guests, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, stormed Benin despite the late invitation. Senator Ben Obi, the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, represented his principal at the occasion.
Also in attendance were Govs Godswill Akwabio (Akwa Ibom), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Abdulazeez Abubakar (Zamfara), Ami
nu Dankwabo (Gombe), Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe), and Kasseem Shetima (Borno).
Others were Govs Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa), Issa Yuguda (Bauchi), Abiola Ajimobi(Oyo), Rauf Arigbesola(Osun) and ex governors of Ekiti, Anambra, Ogun , Edo states: Niyi Adebayo, Chris Ngige Segun Osoba and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun respectively. The National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande, Aliko Dangote, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Alhaji Aliko Muhammed , Chief Tom Ikimi, Isa Aremu and Alhaji Kaseem Iman, member PDP Board of Trustees were also there.
The lecture entitled, “Deepening Democracy and Enhancing Welfare of the people”, elicited reactions from the speakers and the audience. It was chaired by Aliko Muhammed, a business mogul. Tambuwal, who was on first to speak at the occasion, said any government that does not care about the security of lives and welfare of its people is not a government, just as he described the celebrant as a good example of a democrat.
According to him, “talking about deepening democracy in Nigeria, we must talk about the political parties that sponsor candidates for election. There is always a need a political party to be built around not only ideology but also positive objectives, not personal objectives of individuals that are aimed at promoting democracy itself and enhancing the welfare and well being of the citizens”.
He spoke about checks and balances among the three arms of government to engender dividends for the people.
On his part, Governor Babangida of Niger State, who hailed the presence of Amaechi at the occasion, reminded that the Rivers governor is the “substantive Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum” and commended his exemplary leadership, apparently referring to the plot by the leadership of the PDP to weaken the Forum through the formation of the PDP Governors Forum. He said democracy must start from our homes and stressed the need for government at all levels to be sincere to the people.
He condemned the earlier resolve by the Federal Government not to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members. Tinubu, the national leader of the ANC, also hammered on the earlier refusal to grant amnesty to Boko Haram. “No religion should be pre-eminent over the other. Let’s stop the lamentation.
Let’s put the fault where it is. Some of these governors have clamoured for state police. If we have state police, people will know where the criminals or the militants or saboteurs are. I disagree with the question of a ghost. In history, from creation, ghosts never throw bombs, they remain quiet in the cemetery. You cannot arrest a ghost, those people in detention, we need solution. And for Nigerians we have lamented for too long.
Muslims, Christians should be united to build this nation so that our tomorrow will not be destroyed.”
But the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. (Dr) Mathew Kukah, reasoned that the nation was not practising democracy. Kukah said: “This is not the democracy we all fought for. Since Tafawa Balawe till now, none of our presidents planned for leadership.
The insurgency in the North is a critical issue in our country. I am talking about amnesty as a Christian not as politicians sees it. As a Christian, I know that Jesus Christ never foreclosed the doctrine of confession and forgiveness. It is not by offering amnesty but who are you offering amnesty to? Amnesty is a very serious thing. If our politicians are Christians, they should imbibe the principles of Christianity in leadership.
As a Christian, you don’t let the members foreclose the door of reconciliation of the prodigal son. So I want to say that this country is ours and we must all find a way to save the situation”. On her part, former Minister for Education, Oby Ezekwesili (Madam Due Process), argued that government is about result.
“If governance cannot lead to result it is not worth being called governance. Democracy is in recession to the extent that the electorate treats democracy with cynism because they are disconnected from participating in the process.
Nigeria’s democracy exists for those in government and the business class excluding the vast majority of Nigerians who see themselves in pernicious inter-generation poverty. Because Nigerians have been pauperized and devalued by the political class and system, they cannot therefore be agents to deepen democracy”, she said.
A joyous Oshiomhole, who expressed his appreciation to all guests, including his deputy, whom he described as the “most loyal deputy governor in the country”, said he remained committed to the unity of the nation, adding that whatever problems we are encountering today, we will overcome. “ No matter what anybody wants to say about Nigeria, I am convinced that Nigeria is more than the sub-total of all of such problems that we talk about. Nigeria is like a sleeping elephant, it may be difficult to get up, but, when it does, you will know something positive has happened”.
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