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Edo 2024: Can Tinubu bell the ‘cats’ in APC’s primary fiasco?

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Gov Hope Uzodinma
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By Ehichioya Ezomon

“Even among thieves there’s honour,”is the sentiment that “criminals have a code of conduct among themselves.” According to grammarist.com, “some aspects of this code of conduct may be to not steal from each other, or to not testify against a fellow criminal to the police.”
Is there such a “code of conduct” among politicians? It’s doubtful, as among politicians – like among dogs – the first to die becomes the meat for the rest of the pack. If there’s really honour among politicians, heads would’ve rolled since the evening of Saturday, February 17 over the botched governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, to choose a candidate for the September 21 governorship poll.
It’s such a messy affair that President Bola Tinubu’s invited to step in. So, will Tinubu prove the doubting Thomas wrong – coupled with his preachment of equity, fairplay and rule of law – by summoning the political will and courage, cancel the charade of a primary election, and save the APC from a second defeat in four years in Edo State?
Perhaps, the President has shown some spine, as the APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) has declared the primaries “inconclusive” after meeting and briefing Tinubu about the chaotic outcome of the exercise, and “the President expressed concerns at the turn of events, and directed the NWC to ensure that the exercise was concluded,” as first reported by The Nation on February 21.
Hence their tails tucked in-between their legs, the Abdullahi Ganduje-led NWC, after an emergency meeting on February 20, scheduled the completion of the primaries for Thursday, February 22, going by a statement by the national publicity secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, fielding questions from reporters after the NWC meeting.
Morka said: “At its emergency meeting held today, Tuesday, February 20, 2024, to consider the report on the Edo State Governorship Primary Election, the National Working Committee (NWC) deliberated on the report and resolved that the Edo State Governorship Primary Election has not been completed, and has now fixed Thursday, February 22, 2024, for the completion of the Primary Election Process.”
Dr Ganduje and his team didn’t have to await Tinubu’s directive on what to do to rectify the controversial primaries. In a best case scenario, the APC leadership would’ve acted swiftly, called for calm, and given the assurance to members, particularly in Edo State, that it’d look into the primary misadventure through the primary election appeals committee instituted ahead of the exercise by the NWC. 
And in a worst case scenario, the party would’ve dismissed the conflicting declarations made – with four aspirants laying claim to winning the primaries – dissolved the Governor Hope Uzodimma-led primary election committee, and fixed a new date for a re-run or fresh primary poll within days, to meet the February 24 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
But what did Nigerians – particularly the shocked and distrust members of the APC in Edo State – see and hear from the leadership of the party? A congratulatory message in the night of February 17 from the national chairman, Ganduje, “to the winner of the primaries,” and solicitation for the “defeated aspirants” to “bury the hatchet” and work for party unity to win the Edo governorship.
As of Sunday, February 18, four aspirants claimed that they won the primaries – supervised by Governor Uzodimma, Cross River State Governor Bassey Otu, and five other members of the APC Edo Governorship Primary Election – to choose a candidate for the September 21 election. 
The primary election claimants include Hon. Dennis Idahosa, a member representing Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, who’s declared as the winner by the Uzodimma committee; and Senator Monday Okpebholo (APC, Edo Central), who’s declared the winner by the NWC-appointed state chief collation and returning officer, Dr Stanley Ugboajah.
The others are Hon. Anamero Dekeri, member representing Etsako Federal Constituency, pronounced the winner by local government returning officers; and Mr Clem Agba, former minister of state for Budget and National Planning, who claims that going by the turnout of voters, he won the majority of lawful votes of APC members, and has threatened legal action to affirm his “victory.”
Tension had enveloped the Edo political landscape when – on the eve of the primaries, two of the leading aspirants – former Secretary to the State Government and twice governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and former Deputy Governor Lucky Imasuen withdrew from the race, citing the APC leadership’s zoning of the governorship to Edo Central that’s been marginalised in the governance of the state since civilian democracy returned in Nigeria in 1999.
Amid reports that the primaries didn’t hold in virtually all 192 wards of the 18 local government areas of Edo State, results started flying on social media, and coming in droves from the local government collation agents and returning officers into the designated state collation centre in Benin City, capital city of Edo State.
But midway into the televised collation of the primary results, scores of armed political thugs invaded the centre – and in the presence of security operatives, and INEC officials – disrupted the proceedings, and beat up journalists, electoral officials and destroyed laptops and television cameras. 
Until that moment, it’s assumed that the primary election was one for all the aspirants. But the Uzodimma-headed committee, perhaps apprised in advance about the hoodlums’ attack, relocated to another venue, where it declared Hon. Idahosa as winner of the primaries, even as only eight of the 18 local government areas’ results had been collated.
Recall that stakeholders in Edo APC had protested Uzodimma’s appointment to head the primary election committee, alleging that he’d do a hatchet job for Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who’d openly canvassed – even in a viral video on social media on the eve of the primaries – for Idahosa’s candidacy.
So, Uzodimma, willy-nilly, proved the Edo APC stakeholders right by taking advantage of the mileu caused by the political thugs at the collation centre to announce Idahosa as “winner” of the primaries, despite Senator Okpebholo leading in the results of eight councils declared before the thugs struck.
Still, amid the uproar that greeted Uzodimma’s declaration of Idahosa as the “duly nominated candidate,” Mr Ganduje, in a rather fait accompli statement by his chief press secretary, Mr Edwin Olofu, congratulated the “winner,” and called on the “defeated aspirants” to support him for the unity of the APC.
“I want to congratulate the winner of the Edo State governorship election, I want to equally commend and appreciate Governor Hope Uzodimma’s election committee for their hard work and the transparent manner in which the primary election was conducted,” Ganduje said.
“At this point, I want to call on all the aspirants to bury the hatchet and work for the interest of the party so that our party will emerge victorious (on September 21),” Ganduje added.
Was Ganduje’s congratulatory message to Hon. Idahosa hasty, as alleged by aggrieved  supporters of the “defeated aspirants,” or played into a script written by Comrade Oshiomhole to smoothen the primary path for his “anointed candidate,” Idahosa?
As seen in a trending video 24 hours to the election, as first reported by THISDAY, Oshiomhole claimed that President Tinubu had adopted Idahosa as the APC governorship candidate, a claim debunked by the deputy chairman of the Edo State APC gubernatorial primaries committee and Cross River Governor Otu.
Sen. Otu “categorically dismissed the rumour that President Tinubu has anointed a particular aspirant for the Edo APC gubernatorial primaries,” and “urged party faithful to disregard the lie and vote for their choice candidate.” 
“This perhaps fuelled counter-narrative on the eve of the primaries, that the Presidency had settled for an aspirant from Edo Central, to be anointed for equity, justice and fairplay, and that Senator Monday Okpebholo is the anointed candidate,” THISDAY reports.
.The same narrative of endorsement led to the withdrawal of Pastor Ize-Iyamu from the race, “with a directive to his supporters to cast their votes for Okpebholo,” and the subsequent withdrawal by former Mr Imasuen, citing the reported APC zoning of the governorship to Edo Central.
In the interim, the national publicity secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, defended Uzodimma’s declaration, and dismissed the affirmation by the chief returning officer, saying the NWC had empowered Uzodimma to make the final return on the primaries. 
Morka said: “We wish to state categorically that only the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee is duly authorized to undertake final collation and announcement of results of the Primary Election in the state. We urge all party members, officials in the state, and the general public to disregard the said announcement of results by these unauthorized persons.”
But a letter signed by the APC National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Mohammad Argungu, appointed Ugboajah as the State Chief Returning Officer, with 18 others as Local Government Area Returning Officers for each of the 18 local government areas of Edo State.
So, who had the authority, between Uzodimma and Ugboajah, to make pronouncement on the outcome of the primaries, as the two were on legitimate duty?
Nonetheless, the Edo chapter of the APC, via its publicity secretary, Prince Igbinigie, describing the conduct of Uzodimma as “most embarrassing, unfortunate and bizarre,” faulted the governor’s “usurpation” of the duties of the local government collation agents and the returning officers for the primaries.
Mr Igbinigie alleged that “upon learning that his preferred aspirant wasn’t winning, Uzodimma singlehandedly relocated the collation centre, and then unilaterally assumed the role of the state’s returning officers without recourse to inputs from the local government collation agents as well as the chief returning officer of the exercise.”
However, Igbinigie said after normalcy was restored at the “recognised collation centre,” with the local government area returning officers and representatives from INEC, the results were declared by Dr Ugboajah, “whose responsibility it is to carry out this function.” 
Reeling out the scores by 11 of the original 12 cleared aspirants for the primaries, with Sen. Okpebholo having 12,145 votes, and Hon. Idahosa getting 5,536 votes for the first and second positions, respectively, Igbinigie said: “Therefore, it is the desire of the state working committee to reiterate that Sen. Monday Okpebholo is the duly elected gubernatorial candidate of our great party for the September 2024 governorship election.” 
Meanwhile, one of the leading aspirants and court-removed former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor has appealed to President Tinubu to step in and arrest the primary crises allegedly instigated to divide the APC for the PDP to retain power in September. Prof. Osunbor asked Tinubu to:
(1) Cause an investigation to be instituted into the allegation that this sham of a primary election, and the crises it has generated, have been induced by gratification given and received by the principal actors to damage APC and pave the way for the emergence of the PDP candidate in the election.
(2) Order the cancellation of the primary election, which has produced two or four candidates, as it can’t stand the test of legal scrutiny but rather will jeopardize the chances of APC, as there’s been “a brazen disregard of the Party Guidelines, Party Constitution and the Electoral Act, which may prove fatal in the event of litigation.”
(3) Order another primary election to be conducted ahead of the 24th February deadline set by INEC. Different officers should be assigned to conduct the fresh primaries.
Declaring that, “I make this appeal as the most popular aspirant with name recognition and acceptability throughout the length and breadth of Edo State,” Osunbor, at a press conference on February 18 in Ekpoma, Esan West of Edo State, said registered members of the APC across the state came out to vote for their preferred candidate, but “to their disappointment, the election did not take place anywhere that I know of across the 18 local government areas of Edo State.”
“The party officials deployed from the Abuja office of the National Organising Secretary to conduct the elections at the various wards and local government areas of Edo State were kept in hotels in Benin,” Osunbor said, adding, “There is no record or video of any of them preforming their assigned roles in the election at their respective designated points.”
“What we saw on television was not result of election but allocation of votes by some persons in Benin to each of the aspirants. In the end, two candidates have been announced as winners, Sen. Monday Okpebholo and Hon. Denis Idahosa in a primary election that was never held or was not conducted in accordance with the law and guidelines. 
“This charade confirms the widespread suspicion that they are labouring to present a weak APC candidate that will be easily over-run and defeated by the presumed PDP candidate during the election. They are not working in the interest of APC but of PDP. We must avoid a repeat of the scenario which led to the defeat of APC in 2020.”
Also on February 18 in Abuja, after an emergency meeting, APC stakeholders rooting for Hon. Dekeri, called on Ganduje and President Tinubu to, “as a matter of honour, discard Governor Uzodimma’s infamous declaration of one Mr. Denis Idahosa, who didn’t win the primaries.” 
Spokesman of the forum, Mr Emmanuel Godwin, said Uzodimma wasn’t the chief returning officer for the election, and accused the primary committee of “usurping the duties and responsibilities of local government returning officers in the Edo State primaries.”
Godwin said: “It is unfortunate that Hope Uzodimma, who is not the returning officer in whatever capacity, assumed the position and went ahead to announce Dennis Idahosa when the returning officers were still collating the results.
“We wish to therefore state categorically that the purported announcement is null and void and it should be disregarded in its entirety. Governor Uzodimma lacks the power to usurp duties and responsibilities of local government returning officers in the Edo State primaries.”
In the lead-up to the February 17 primary election Ganduje, and Uzodimma presented themselves as democrats, who wanted things done as laid out in the rulebook of the party. On February 15, at the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja, the former governor of Kano State, inaugurated the APC Edo Governorship Primary Election and Appeals Committees for the direct primary poll.
Specifically on the appeals committee, Ganduje, who vows to reclaim Edo State from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to expand the coast of the ruling APC in Nigeria, said: “It is a tradition for us to always constitute a body that will undertake an assignment so that at the end of it, we get good results.
“I will like to inform you that the composition of the two committees is a product of the National Working Committee (NWC) in accordance with the constitution of our party. Whatever you do, the contestants are free to appeal. That is why we have an appeals committee, which is like the Supreme Court.”
From hindsight, the Ganduje message was a double-edged sword: Members of the primary election committee should conduct a credible and transparent election acceptable to the aspirants, their supporters, and members of the APC; and whatever the outcome of the poll, the aspirants shouldn’t rock the boat, but appeal for a possible remedy.
Responding, Uzodimma thanked Ganduje and the NWC for the confidence reposed in the members, promised to discharge their assignment with utmost diligence, and stressed that, “Our prayers is that we work hard to justify this confidence reposed in us,” as “our party is a fantastic brand, very popular, and a good product.”
“It behooves on members of our committee to work in harmony with the party’s local leadership in Edo, to bring up a product that will look like our party and is easily marketable in Edo,” Uzodimma said, and urged the APC leadership to pray to God Almighty “to give us the wherewithal to carry out our assignment.”
In the end, did Ganduje and Uzodimma carry out the duty of producing a sellable, marketable and acceptable candidate in accordance with the dictates of the constitution of the APC? No, they did the opposite, in connivance with the local potentate, Comrade Oshiomhole who, from the get go, had primed Hon. Idahosa as his “anointed candidate” for the governorship. 
Pre-the primary election, the APC NWC sent officials to the wards and local government areas of Edo State, to authentic the number of actual and financial members of the party – a finding that revealed that only about 42,000 members were qualified to participate in the primaries.
Surprisingly, announcing the results several hours before the completion of collation, Governor Uzodimma ascribed 40,453 votes cast by the verified 42,000 members to Hon. Idahosa alone. Other aspirants’ scores were: Anamero Dekeri, 2,030 votes; Monday Okpebholo, 100; Clem Agba, 100; Osagie Ize-Iyamu, 2; Gideon Ikhine, 700; David Imuse, 400; Charles Airhiavbere, 162; Oserheimen Osunbor, 180; Blessing Agbomhere, 50; Ernest Umakhihe, 2; and Lucky Imasuen, 2 votes.
“This is to certify that Dennis Idahosa, having scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared winner of the primary election,” Uzodimma said.
In the results declared by Ugboajah, Sen. Okpebholo received 12,145 votes; Dennis Idahosa, 5,536; Afolabi Umakhihe, 2,090; Anamero Dekeri, 1,625; Charles Arhiavbere, 919; Gideon Ikhine, 902; Oserheimen Osunbor, 688; David Imuse, 507; Lucky Imasuen, 503; and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, 383 votes. Clem Agba’s name and score weren’t included.
“This is to certify that Monday Okpebholo has scored the highest votes, and declared winner of the APC governorship primary and thereby declared the candidate of the party,” Dr Ugboajah said.
And in the results announced on Saturday night by Mr Ojo Babatunde for the local government returning officers, Hon. Dekeri got 25,384 votes, while Idahosa received 14,127 votes. No votes were recorded for Okpebholo and nine other aspirants.
 
If any of the three results declared by the different authorities of the APC Primary Election Committee for Edo 2024 governorship election are considered, only Dr Ugboajah’s declaration merits giving any probative value, having followed the prescribed process of collation and declaration of results.
Besides, no matter their level of popularity and reach in Edo State, no single aspirant among the 10 that made it to the fiercely-contested primary, could secure even 15,000 votes, talkless of outlandish votes in excess of 40,000 from less than 42,000 members that voted. It’s daylight robbery to claim as such!
As the National Leader of the APC – an appellation he’d styled himself for eight years under the Muhammadu Buhari administration (2015-2023) – President Tinubu should show true leadership and cancel the bogus primary election in Edo State, and call for re-run or fresh primaries before the INEC deadline of February 24. Nothing else will assuage the electoral heist perpetrated on February 17! Edo people are watching and waiting, and may not forget their deliberate disenfranchishment on September 21!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Opinion

White Lion is everywhere, but blind, frustrated critics won’t find him

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Yahaya Bello
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As an indigene of Kogi State from Ijumu Local Government, I am always concerned about any issue that has to do with Kogi State’s affairs and I do my best to be involved, even if modestly, in her development. I love my state and I love my people, without necessarily compromising my patriotism to Nigeria, my country.

For some time now, I have come to notice that certain dark interests, often political, like to project all that is negative about Kogi State with a glee that is symptomatic of zonked-out analysts.

The latest half-witted article by Tunde Olusunle on Kogi State and its immediate past Governor, Yahaya Bello, portrays the journalist as seemingly away with the fairies. I will hold forth about it in a bit.

I am not a member of the APC nor a beneficiary of Yahaya Bello’s political largesse while in office. In fact, I’m not a politician in the real sense of the word. I’m an entrepreneur.

The best selling comic play titled ‘Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’ authored by Professor Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi and published in 1977 best captures how to describe Tunde Olusunle as related to his recent article titled ‘Abeg, Where Is “White Lion?”‘

One would have assumed that at his age with decades of professional experience, he would have been circumspect about certain issues. Even if he wished to satisfy his paymasters who must have contracted him to pen trash about his state or an individual, he would have made an attempt not to fritter away whatever little honour he had left.

I know that the country is hard and some individuals whose best lives are behind them would crunch even on faeces just to survive another day, especially those in the category of pretending that all is still well with them when they are actually floundering financially – a typical tragedy of living in the illusion of past glory. That’s quite understandable.

The precis of Olusunle’s uninformed article is that it is a worthless vituperation of a frustrated and failed political wannabe whose attempts at political relevance in Kogi State have met with catastrophic denouement. I don’t want to bore the reader with bouquets of unsupported asseverations imputed by Olusunle against Yahaya Bello. Investing valuable time in such would be counter-productive. I just want to address the obvious elements of insanity in the article.

During the 2023 presidential election, a lot of the people who unleashed negative propaganda against candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu did so out of implacable personal hatred for the man.

The hatred in their speeches and writings was so clear. It was aggressive hatred without substance. It was so bad that some people were praying for him to die! Many fake prophecies from agitated prophets saturated traditional and social media on a daily basis. But the man weathered all the storms, beat them silly and eventually emerged as Nigeria’s President.

Not that his detractors have stopped, but they have been decimated significantly by the shame they bear consequent upon his victory. Former President Muhammadu Buhari also suffered the same fate.

Buhari would be the first presidential candidate in Nigeria to read his own obituary while still alive. A sitting Governor then, Ayodele Fayose, took front-page advertorials in major newspapers in the country and added Buhari’s picture to the list of Nigeria’s dead presidents and heads of state.

He claimed that Buhari might not last even one year in office. Therefore, why burden the country with such a walking vegetable? The hatred was that bad! Buhari went ahead to complete eight years in office and departed healthier and younger than he came in.

Yahaya Bello is the latest victim of deliberate personal hatred and relentless blackmail by his detractors and those he has trumped in the slick, yet complex terrains of Kogi State politics. A lot of political cavilers in Kogi State have yet to come to terms with the divine intervention that produced Yahaya Bello in 2016.

Kogi’s ethnopolitical warlords who have arrogated to themselves the permanent mandate to govern the confluence state found themselves suddenly vanquished by higher terrestrial forces beyond human comprehension. They could not believe that Yahaya Bello, from where he came, could be such a candidate for divine benevolence.

They rebelled and kicked. From day one, they chose blackmail and crude propaganda as weapons of foul warfare. For these ignoble characters and their ubiquitous social media goons, every woman who suffered a miscarriage did so because of Yahaya Bello. If their dogs died, it was Yahaya Bello. If they failed to prepare well for an election and lost, Yahaya Bello was their ready scapegoat. It was a loathsome circle of certainty.

The hatred in Olusunle’s baseless article is poorly disguised, if at all. Authentic professional journalists base their submissions on hard, indubitable facts. They do not orchestrate a bum steer, as the Americans would say. But this is what someone who, to all intents and purposes, should be a respected veteran in the field of journalism has chosen to do for survival stipends.

His claims that Yahaya Bello is in hiding are particularly spurious and nauseating. I live in Abuja and I can confirm that Yahaya Bello has been in his Zone 4 residence for a long time. He has been seen observing Taraweeh and receiving guests for Iftar throughout the Ramadan period. He goes to the Mosque for Jumat prayers every Friday.

For goodness sake, the man left Abuja for Okene to celebrate Eid in the full glare of thousands of Kogites, and entertained hundreds of Muslim faithful and his political associates for Sallah before returning to Abuja two days later. He even travelled to Lagos to pay homage to President Bola Tinubu for the Eid-el Fitr celebrations. What a way to hide!

Olusunle claims that Yahaya Bello is on the run and hiding under a bed. My question is “For what in particular?” Security agencies are not the types to base their investigations and arrests on phoney allegations as all those raised in Olusunle’s mucky script are.

They don’t pay attention to hideous misinformation being peddled by discombobulated political midgets in desperate search for long-lost relevance.

Olusunle seems to be suffering from nomenclature attachment syndrome. Psychologists have impressed on us from time immemorial that a person’s name is more than just identification.

They have educated us that when we hear our names, it triggers a unique psychological response. In this case, we may be dealing with a syndrome called pervasive egosyntonic sadistic behaviour.

In Yoruba language, Olusunle means “Olu has burnt the house”. And the Yoruba say “orukọ ọmọ lo n ro ọmọ”, meaning a child’s name influences his/her behaviour.

But if Olu must burn anybody’s house, he should choose his father’s house to burn, not another person’s house of honour. Meanwhile, Kogi State is a house that no jackass can burn down.

Exacerbated insanity defines the character of purveyors of allegations that cannot be substantiated. To answer your question, writer Olusunle, White Lion is everywhere, going about his normal activities, and discerning Nigerians are aware. But blind, frustrated critics won’t find him.

– Olorunfemi Obadofin Braimoh, a security consultant and public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

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Opinion

Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (2)

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Map of Abia State
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By Ehichioya Ezomon

While most Nigerians still clink wine glasses in toast to Abia State Governor Alex Otti for belling the monstrous cat of life pensions for former governors and deputy governors, three Abia ex-governors have punctuated Dr Otti’s enviable limelight, by denying drawing pensions, and the accompanying perquisites of office.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were to be paid lifetime salaries; get houses in Abia and Abuja; receive 100 per cent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy; get two brand-new vehicles worth N20 million every four years; and have three police officers and two operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), and cooks, stewards, drivers, and gardeners.
The denial by immediate past Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (2015-2023) came on March 20 – a day before Otti signed into law the bill repealing the pensions. A statement by Dr Ikpeazu’s chief press secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka, refuted reports “mischievously couched to give the false impression” that Ikpeazu’s among former governors receiving pensions from Abia State.
Ememanka stated: “Dr Okezie Ikpeazu wishes to make it abundantly clear that since after handing over the reins of power as Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2023, he has neither requested for, nor received from the Abia State Government, any dime under any guise whatsoever, and has no intentions of doing so.
“Former Governor Ikpeazu has since moved on with his life and is currently engaged in other areas of interest to him and advises the Abia State Government and her various organs to face the business of governance and desist from engaging in needless media sensationalism. The general public should be properly guided, please.”
Former Senator and ex-Governor Theodore Orji (2007-2015) also debunked claims of benefiting from the pension largesse, saying on March 21 that, “he hasn’t received any pension, he hasn’t asked for it, and he’s not interested in it.” Orji spoke via his former chief liaison officer, Hon. Ifeanyi Umere.
Umere said: “Nobody should link Senator Orji with the said pension law because nobody has paid him any pension after leaving office as Governor. He transited from Governor to Senate and he made it a point of morality that he will not, and he didn’t ask for any pension or question anybody about it because he is not interested in it. He didn’t receive any pension from Okezie Ikpeazu and he didn’t pay anybody, too.”
And Sen. and former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (1999-2007) – whose government established the pension law in 2001 – said he didn’t receive any pensions since 2007. One of Kalu’s aides was quoted: “As a former governor of the state, T. A. Orji did not pay him (Kalu) a dime as pension, and Okezie Ikpeazu continued in the same manner.”
Recall that Dr Kalu, fielding questions from journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja on February 20, 2017, distanced himself from the 108 ex-governors that a national daily claimed were “living off their states through pensions and other entitlements.”
As reported by Vanguard on February 21, 2017, Kalu said he hadn’t received “any payment, entitlements or privileges of any sort from his successors (Sen. Orji and Dr. Ikpeazu), adding that the Abia State government had “withheld and refused to pay his pensions and entitlements, making him the only ex-governor in the 36 states that does not receive pension.”
Kalu said on leaving government on May 29, 2007, he left behind “all the government vehicles and every other thing that belonged to the government,” and that, “none of the privileges, like security details or vehicles that accrue to former governors has been extended to him.”
Asked if he’s broke because of non-payment, and his next line of action, Kalu said: “It is not about being broke or not. The pension law of the state did not exclude me from being paid as expected. In fact, it is illegal, according to the law, to deny one his rights and privileges.”
Also reacting to the abolished pension benefits, former Deputy Governor Ude Chukwu, under the Ikpeazu regime, said: “Nobody has given me a dime. I am aware of the law. For me, it (the law) is as good as not being there. If all past governors said they have not been paid anything, what is the essence of the existence of the law?”
Relatedly, former Lagos State Governor and ex-minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has revealed that his monthly pension is N577,000, after eight years in office (2007-2015). Mr Fashola, appearing on ARISE TV programme, ‘Perspectives,’ on January 20, said:
“The benefit I get, I think, is a N577,000 monthly pension from Lagos State. So, in spite of all the stories that we got several billions of money (after leaving office), I’ve come out to deny that repeatedly. Well, I don’t know how long it lasts, but all I know is that I get N577,000 per month consistently,” without stating if he’d enjoyed the “full package” pre and post-effort by the Lagos State House of Assembly (LGHA) to halve the pensions in 2021.
The poser: If Otti’s predecessors in office denied receiving any pensions, why the Labour Party (LP) governor’s bravado to sign into law the pensions repeal bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA)? Was it to score political points by painting black Dr Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Orji (PDP), and Sen. Kalu of All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Perhaps, Otti wanted to fulfil a campaign promise, and guard against any governor resurrecting the dead law in future. Signing the law on March 21, Otti stated: “Even before this new law came into place, a lot of people, who have followed our views in the national discuss (discourse), understand that we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.”
That said, pensions for former governors and deputy governors aren’t “illegal,” as the issue is perceived in the public. What Nigerians detest and question is the morality of and insensitivity in awarding huge severance pay, lifetime pensions, allowances and material benefits to former governors and deputies.
Some former governors-turned senators or ministers also receive emoluments in a couple of places: pensions from their states, and salaries and allowances from the National Assembly (NASS) or the Executive, against the rules that exempt farming as the only avenue to possibly earn extra pay, while boosting the country’s food production and security.
In 2023, some members of NASS were enticed by the mouth-watering pension packages for federal and state executives, and proposed same for the President and Deputy President of the Senate, and Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives – an incentive for State Houses of Assembly to follow suit. But the bill was shot down due to public outcry.
In the oft-quoted Lagos High Court judgment of November 26, 2019, in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo queried the legality or validity of pensions for former governors and deputy governors, but pushed the burden of discovery to the Attorney General of the Federation.
Justice Oguntoyinbo had differed from the position of then Attorney General Abubakar Malami (SAN) that, “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged,” and said, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, and then gave the following commands:
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.”
Based on the orders, SERAP asked President Bola Tinubu, in a letter on March 23, “to immediately obey,” to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Equally instructive is an Appeal Court ruling, in suit no. CA/A/810/2017, against the Kogi State Government seeking pensions and severance packages in the state, which’s referenced by Alex Enumah in an opinion piece, “Pension Laws for Ex-Govs: The Abia Example,” published by THISDAY on March 31, as follows:
“The court held that the fact that elected public office holders and political appointees were paid huge amounts of money as monthly salaries and other forms of allowances while in office makes it morally wrong for them to demand pensions, gratuities or severance allowances for holding such an office for four to eight years as the case may be.
“The three-man panel of the appellate court, which had Justice Emmanuel Agim, Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya and Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, submitted that it amounted to gross social injustice, and unjustified in the context of the nation’s present social realities.
“The lead judgment, which was delivered by Justice Agim (now JSC), said it was wicked and morally wrong for political office holders and political appointees, who helped themselves to public funds while in office, to claim entitlement to pension and severance allowances.
“He submitted that it was wrong for political appointees and elected public office holders, who do not work as long and as hard as career civil servants to quickly get paid huge severance allowances upon leaving office, in addition to the huge wealth they acquired while holding such offices and without having been subjected to any contributory pension schemes.”
So, controversies trail pensions for former governors and deputies not for being “illegal” but because they’re overbloated, and a huge drain on the lean resources of many states, which owe months and even years of backlogs to retirees, some of who spent over 35 years in service and retired into penury, as their pensions are withheld by governors, who are “qualified” for hefty pensions and adds-on for life, and even pay themselves upfront part of the packages before they leave office.
It’s reassuring though that former Governors Ikpeazu, Orji and Kalu have denied receiving pensions, and challenged Otti’s sweeping statement that, “we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.” But can hundreds of other former governors – accused of drawing huge pensions and entitlements from their states – emulate the Abia trio by disavowing the allegations against them? The ball, as they say, is in their court!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (1)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Abia State Governor Alex Otti’s the rave of the moment among his peer governors, and most Nigerians, for “infrastructural development,” and particularly for signing into law a Bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA) to repeal life pensions for former governors and deputy governors of the state.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were paid lifetime salaries, and got houses in Abia and Abuja, prompting ex-Head of State and former President Olusegun Obasanjo – on a visit to Dr Otti to commend his novel move – to describe the life pension laws by state governors as “rascality” and “acts of daylight robbery,” and urged other governors to emulate the Otti example.
But did retired Gen. Obasanjo, Ph.D, also send similar entreaty to President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly (NASS), to repeal pensions and entitlements for former presidents, vice presidents and heads of state? Or only former governors and deputies should curb their appetite for free money and materials after “retirement” from government?
Obasanjo’s advocacy should touch all former elected or appointed executive officeholders, as we shouldn’t have a “special breed” of Nigerians: former military heads of state, presidents, vice presidents, governors and deputy governors, who enjoy government’s freebies, and live in luxuries at the expense of toiling Nigerians in need of the bare essentials of life.
It’s as well to recall that in a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council at the State House, Abuja, on May 24, 2023, then Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called for an upward review of pensions for former presidents and vice presidents.
Osinbajo, referencing President Muhammadu Buhari’s “personal integrity,” said: “Part of the problem with that is that sometimes, you and I end up getting the very short end of the stick. If you look at the laws today, our retirement benefits, yours (Buhari) will be N350,000 a month by law and mine will be N250,000 per month.
“Those, of course, as you can imagine, are very tiny amounts of money. And I think that one of the things that we must do is to, perhaps, see how we can amend that law so that I will not come to you in Daura (Buhari’s hometown in Katsina State) and ask for some of your bulls to sell in order to survive.”
As Sunday PUNCH findings, first reported on May 28, 2023, indicate, “severance packages for Buhari and Osinbajo, state governors and other political appointees leaving office in 2023 might cost the country about N63.45bn,” adding that, as stipulated by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC), “President Buhari will get a severance pay of N10.54m, which is 300 per cent of his annual basic salary, while Vice-President Osinbajo will receive N9.09m.”
In a manner of, “What a man can do, a woman can do it, and even better,” then First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, also solicited increased out-of-office benefits for ex-presidents and vice presidents, and for the incorporation of former first ladies “among the beneficiaries.” She spoke on May 25, 2023, in Abuja, at the launch of a book, ‘The Journey of a Military Wife,’ written by Mrs Vickie Irabor, wife of then Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor (retd).
Mrs Buhari’s plea: “The Federal Government should consider us as people that need help not as magic makers. And on the privileges given to the former presidents of Nigeria, they should do more. It is still not enough considering what people go through in that house (Presidential Villa). And at the same time, I want them to incorporate women, the former first ladies, among the beneficiaries.”
Many Nigerians have lent voices to the Otti gesture, especially coming at an time of economic strangulation of the average and below-average citizens since the advent of the Tinubu administration, following the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol, and floating the Naira, which’s crashed against major foreign currencies, and sent inflation and the cost of living sky-high.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Tinubu to swiftly obey a court judgment, which orders the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Following a SERAP suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in a 20-page judgment on November 26, 2019, granted “AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.”
“Justice Oguntoyinbo also granted ‘AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.'”
Then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had argued that “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged.” But Justice Oguntoyinbo differed, saying, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, adding, “I have considered SERAP’s arguments that it is concerned about the attendant consequences that are manifesting on the public workers and pensioners of the states who have been refused salaries and pensions running into several months on the excuse of non-availability of state resources to pay them.”
Justice Oguntoyinbo didn’t expressly pronounce on the legality of awarding life pensions to former governors and deputy governors. Perhaps, the plaintiff, SERAP, didn’t include that in its averments and prayers. Which somehow left the judge to push the responsibility to the Attorney General – “being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation” – of finding out the “legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians.”
But the National Industrial Court – as posted on the African Law eJournal on March 25, 2020 – had ruled that pensions for former governors and deputy governors are legal, as nothing in the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria precludes or prevents state houses of assembly from enacting laws to give such benefits to former state chief executives.
Michael Dugeri of University of Ottawa, Canada, posted the court’s ruling in the case of Incorporated Trustees of Human Development Initiatives & 39 Others v. Governor of Abia State & 73 Others, which borders on “legal validity of state pensions laws for political office holders in Nigeria.”
“The National Industrial Court, in this case, was invited to determine the question of whether any law, especially by the State Houses of Assembly, that stipulates pension of such public officials already covered by the constitutional mandate of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation & Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), is ultra vires, null and void. The Court answered in the negative,” the report said.
Yet, as first reported by Vanguard on March 24, SERAP, while noting inaction by the Buhari administration on the Justice Oguntoyinbo judgment, urges President Tinubu, in a March 23 letter by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, “to emulate the good example of Governor Otti by urgently obeying the judgment.”
“Unless the judgment is immediately obeyed, former governors and their deputies, including those now serving as ministers in your administration and members of the National Assembly who receive pensions, would continue to evade justice for their actions,” SERAP says.
“Immediately obeying the judgment would show the sovereignty of the rule of law in Nigeria and go a long way in protecting the integrity of the country’s legal system. Obeying the judgment would also show you (Tinubu) as a defender of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the rule of law, and public interest within government,” SERAP adds.
SERAP lists former governors, “who continue to collect double emoluments and large severance benefits” from 22 states, including Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Ekiti, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi, and Katsina.
As reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on March 20, the Abia pensions repeal law isn’t the first, as a few states had moved to abolish the law, but “many states showed nonchalant attitude toward doing so.” Still, the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors’ (Repeal) Law 2024,” which took effect immediately on Thursday, March 21, 2024, after Governor Otti signed it, forecloses former governors and deputy governors earning pensions.
But did the Abia repealed pensions law include other perquisites of office, which make the pensions per se to look like pocket money for a boarding-house student, who doesn’t really need extra money, as their parents or guardians have settled accommodation, feeding and provisions for them?
This and more will be explored in part 2 of the series, amid denial by two former governors of Abia State, Sen. Theodore Orji and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, of receiving pensions since they left office, even as Governor Otti continues to enjoy the limelight of abolishing pensions for former governors and deputy governors of Abia State!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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