Monthly Archives: July 2013

BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS.

The PDP reconciliation committee headed by Governor Seriake Dickson successfully brought aggrieved parties together and set the tone for a positive outlook to further Party activities.ReconciliationReconciliation2

B*R*E*A*K*I*N*G !!!!!! PDP SCORES BIG TIME-RECONCILIATION COMMITTEE SPOT ON.

                                    DICKSON`s COMMITTEE RECORDS QUICK WIN.
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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Reconciliation Committee chaired by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has recorded a quick win yesterday following the application filed by the plaintiffs to discontinue the suit seeking to stop the forthcoming PDP national convention. The case with Suit No. CV/2418/13 was brought before a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Apo, Abuja chaired by Justice Suleiman Belgore by three aggrieved PDP members- Abba K . Yale, Yahaya A. Sule  and Bashir Maidugu.
Lawyer to the plaintiffs, FN Nwosu filed papers yesterday withdrawing the matter for the Dickson’s committee to amicably address their grievance.
Since his clients had applied for the discountinuance of the matter, Barr. Nwosu told the court that the most logical thing to do was to strike out the suit to save the PDP from unnecessary delay in the conduct of its primary. But justice Belgore adjourned it to September.
In a press statement jointly signed by the plaintiffs, they pledged to support and cooperate with the committee and all other agencies of the PDP in order to have a hitch-free national convention of the party. They also praised Governor Dickson for brokering peace between and the party and urged all aggrieved party members that ditched the party to take advantage of the window provided by the Dickson’s committee with the view to addressing their grievances.
Although the case has been adjourned to September 23 political analysts reckon that for persuading the aggrieved party men to drop the case, the Dickson’s committee has achieved a major feat.
Following the intervention of the Governor Dickson’s committee, the politicians withdrew the suit in the interest of the party.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE ON DICK TIGER VERSUS GENE FULLMER III: 50 Years On

Citizens Network

Adeyinka Makinde, Writer

 SUNDAY, 28 JULY 2013

DICK TIGER VERSUS GENE FULLMER III: 50 Years On

Africa 1963.
It was a time of hope and a time of promise. Two years after British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s famous speech before a seemingly befuddled and certainly resistant South African Parliament proclaiming an irresistible “Wind of Change” sweeping across the African continent, a significant amount of African countries could lay claim to the status of being independent nation states. Indeed in May of that year, a total of 32 of them would meet in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia to set up the Organisation of African Unity.
The path to full emancipation was still laden with obstacles: the Portuguese regime of the fascist dictator Alberto Salazar remained steadfast in its desire to hold on to its African dominions, the unilateral –and illegal declaration of independence by a white minority government…

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ADEYINKA MAKINDE ON DICK TIGER VERSUS GENE FULLMER III: 50 Years On

Adeyinka Makinde, Writer

Dick Tiger

Dick Tiger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 SUNDAY, 28 JULY 2013

DICK TIGER VERSUS GENE FULLMER III: 50 Years On

Africa 1963.
It was a time of hope and a time of promise. Two years after British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s famous speech before a seemingly befuddled and certainly resistant South African Parliament proclaiming an irresistible “Wind of Change” sweeping across the African continent, a significant amount of African countries could lay claim to the status of being independent nation states. Indeed in May of that year, a total of 32 of them would meet in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia to set up the Organisation of African Unity.
The path to full emancipation was still laden with obstacles: the Portuguese regime of the fascist dictator Alberto Salazar remained steadfast in its desire to hold on to its African dominions, the unilateral –and illegal declaration of independence by a white minority government in Rhodesia was a couple of years away and the racial supremacist construct of the National Party-led Apartheid state of South Africa as indicated by the issuing of a series of draconian laws and severe reactions to dissent such as the Sharpeville Massacre, was unyielding in giving any serious thought to black majority rule.
Nonetheless, seized by a pioneering spirit and by a sense of the dawning of a glorious new age, the African nations set about the task of nation-building. But within the serious endeavour of calibrating the distribution of national expenditure in areas such as housing, health care, education and defence where did the development of sports feature?
Not by any significant measure it appears. For sure, no government could come close to treating this area on parity with any of the aforementioned sectors, yet the significance of sport as a device through which a sense of national identity may be fostered and social cohesion promoted cannot be denied.
Indeed, the more pragmatic and cynical steers of state have for millennia milked off the benefits of using sports and games as an avenue through which the attentions of the dissatisfied masses can be conveniently diverted by the associated spectacle and fanfare.
Though it was the era of the barefoot running colossus that was Abebe Bikila, who had won gold for Ethiopia in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics; a title which he would retain four years later at the Tokyo games, and also the one in which football, the most popular sport on the continent, was dominated by the ‘Black Stars’ of Ghana, the path of many of Africa’s budding sportsman and women was not an easy one.
No sport, perhaps, was littered with more obstacles than was boxing. Described in the most favourable light as the ‘noble sport’ but gruesomely depicted by some self-appointed custodians of social morality as being a remnant of less civilised times, boxing had been introduced into much of Africa by the institutions of colonialism.
A rudimentary infrastructure of professional boxing spouted around many urban areas of the continent forming the basis for a segment of a market for entertainment as well as the manufacture of minor celebrities. But the reality was that most fighters could barely eke out a living in their local environment.
They needed to move to cities in the colonial ‘mother nations’ that governed them if they were to earn more money, develop their talent and also, if they were to stand a chance of achieving the highest laurels in the sport.
It was through such migration that Richard Ihetu, better known by his ring nom de guerre Dick Tiger, would start the process which would ultimately lead him to the pinnacle of his sport. The prevalent post-war conditions in Britain had permitted this.
The British Nationality Act of 1948, which relaxed previously existing immigration and travel restrictions provided a key plank through which many West African fighters, particularly emanating from Nigeria and the Gold Coast (later Ghana), could fill the rapidly depleting ranks of pugilists created by a depression in the British boxing industry.
Their usual entrance point was the north-western city of Liverpool, but they plied their trade in the municipal halls and stadium venues around the country as cheap labour for managers and promoters who in the 1950s struggled to survive amid the effects of the Entertainment Tax legislation which doubled the levy affixed to the receipts of most sporting events.
The circumstances for professional advancement were none too promising but in 1957, Nigeria’s Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey would accomplish the feat of becoming that nation’s first world champion by defeating Cherif Hamia in Paris.
Dick Tiger, a middleweight, who followed Bassey’s footsteps to England and then America by securing respectively the British Empire title in 1958 and then a world title in 1962, had been on the verge of giving up his adventure as a prize-fighter when he lost his first four bouts when relocated to England.
Tiger had dethroned the American Gene Fullmer in October of 1962 and in the contractually obligated return bout held four months later in Las Vegas, both men had fought to a draw.
It was at this moment that the idea of staging a third match on African soil was touted; tentative at first but gradually getting louder until it reached a fevered crescendo.
The sense of an opportunity in the making pervaded the discourse in the Nigerian press, as well as the boxing press in the United States and Britain. Nigeria, a large entity but a foundling nation nonetheless, could seize the moment to use its sole world boxing champion as the symbol of a progressive, vital nation possessed with the capacity of staging events of impressive magnitude.
At the heart of such a project would be its own citizen Dick Tiger, a young man who by virtue of his status and genial personality was custom made to fulfil the role of standard bearer of a new nation on the cusp of greatness.
And the significance of boxing as a combat sport which was apt at carrying great symbolism would not have been lost on them, for boxing, particularly in the heavyweight division, has through the ages lent itself as a metaphor reflecting social and political currents and events.
The 1908 bout between Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, and Tommy Burns as well as Johnson’s match with the former undefeated champion, Jim Jeffries in 1910 projected a battle for supremacy between the black and white races, while in 1938, Joe Louis’s defence against the German Max Schmeling provided a veritable symbol of ideological warfare and a precursor to an imminent worldwide conflagration between the nations of the ‘free world’ and those which had embraced fascism.
A Tiger-Fullmer bout staged on Nigerian soil would in one sense provide the perfect forum for announcing Nigeria’s arrival onto the world stage, at least as far as sporting events were concerned.
And Dick Tiger, a 33-year-old who projected an image of a gentleman and a warrior of honour, would be the perfect representative in such an endeavour. It was Tiger after all, whom one American sports journalist referred to as a “pugilistic plenipotentiary”; promoting his country and educating those who he met in New York and his travels elsewhere about the misconceptions they held about what Africa was like. The “chamber of commerce” pitch which he had consistently employed during his sojourns in the United States would be an asset in selling the bout.
Four days after the drawn bout with Fullmer, Basio Osagie a prominent journalist with the Daily Times newspaper called a press conference in Lagos to announce the formation of the ‘Dick Tiger-Gene Fullmer Fight Campaign Committee’ which set as its objective the task of bringing the third Tiger-Fullmer clash to Nigeria.
There was only one organisation in Nigeria with the resources to sponsor a bout of such magnitude, and Osagie called on the federal government to underwrite the costs.
The next month in New York City, Simeon Adebo, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, made the following plea to the audience watching Dick Tiger receive the Edward J. Neil Award for 1963’s ‘Fighter of the Year’:
“We have had two world champions, but neither has boxed as champion in his homeland. You have championship fights all the time in the United States. Don’t you think we’re entitled to one? We want Dick Tiger to fight for us while he is still champion.”
There were of course a number of stumbling blocks that needed to be overcome. How much money would the government prepared to raise and who would promote it?
There were detractors. Not without a semblance of justification, there were those who argued that such an undertaking would amount to a something of a ‘prestige project’ with all the negative connotations that this implied.
“A grand idea” opined the Nigerian Daily Telegraph, but “poor economics.” One member of the Nigerian Parliament even took to the floor to announce that such an endeavour would quite frankly be a “waste of money”.
But Chief Modupe Johnson, the flamboyant Minister for Labour and Sports reckoned that would not be the case. He pledged £20,000 on behalf of the federal government and within a few weeks would solicit £15,000 each from Nigeria’s regional governments.
The total of £65,000 to underwrite a proposed Tiger-Fullmer bout compared favourably to the $100,000 being offered by the Gillette Company in America which was proposing to fit the match into the extensive annual advertising campaigns which it held around Father’s Day weekend.
Tiger’s manager, Wilfred ‘Jersey’ Jones had been gravitating towards the offer by Gillette, but taken by the sense of history in the making as well as the representations of Tiger, opted to pursue the Nigerian option.
He spoke with Chief Johnson and requested that Johnson draft in an established promoter who would oversee the organising and marketing of the fight. The man who was selected was English promoter, Jack Solomons.
At 62-years of age, Solomons could lay claim to being Britain’s greatest ever promoter of boxing. He had been born into a family of Jewish fishmongers in London’s East End and gravitated to promoting boxing matches; in the 1930s humble, small scale affairs at the Devonshire Club but by the post-war period, selling the British fight public hugely successful bouts involving the likes of Freddie Mills and Bruce Woodcock.
He was not averse to applying himself in uncharted waters. He scoured war-ravaged Europe for boxers who could provide opposition to his stable of fighters and regularised the one time novel venture of bringing over American fighters to the United Kingdom. His crowning glory came in 1951, when he invited the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson to England to defend his world middleweight title against Randolph Turpin.
In May, with the contractual details settled for an open air bout in July at the newly built Liberty Stadium in the city of Ibadan, Dick Tiger began a six-week training programme at New York City’s Catholic Youth Association Gymnasium.
But his trainer, Jimmy August, was full of apprehension about making the trip. “He thinks everyone over there is a cannibal,” Tiger mischievously confided to reporters.
This lack of enthusiasm in journeying to Africa appeared to have taken hold of his opponent Fullmer, whose date of arrival was delayed owing to a foot ligament injury sustained in training and which appeared not to be healing “as fast as expected.”
The Nigerian press who suspected otherwise began running a series of stories on Fullmer’s apparent reservations about the quality of food, water and sanitary conditions he and his entourage would be expected to face in an African environment.
Fullmer denied having made such comments, claiming that he was misquoted but the reason for his delayed arrival as would be revealed later on, had been contrived due to an illness suffered by the wife of his manager, Marv Jensen. The bout was rescheduled for August the 10th and Fullmer arrived on July the 19th.
About his stay in Nigeria, he told this writer that “they gave us a welcome like I’ve never been welcomed in any place.”
A huge crowd gathered to watch him make the obligatory courtesy call of a visiting celebrity to the palace of the Oba of Lagos. Then a few hours later, an even larger one of 150,000 lined the streets of Ibadan to serenade his name as he made his way to an official reception organised by the government of the Western Region at the Liberty Stadium.
Crowds milled around his training camp which he set up at the gymnasium of the University of Ibadan and many willingly paid the shilling (14 cents) entrance fee to watch him go through his paces.
Within the week, he was happy enough to write home to Utah confirming that the “food is good, the weather is kind and the people are very friendly.”
But the star was Dick Tiger, who in July was announced as being the recipient of the M.B.E. medal awarded in the name of the Queen. Basing his training camp at the Abalti Army Barracks in Lagos, his image adorned countless billboards and numerous newspaper advertisements in which he endorsed products ranging from Quaker Oats to Dunlop tyres. The press was saturated with columns on the mundane happenings in his training camp and tales of how he had risen out of grinding poverty.
His public appearances were characterised by cheering crowds and his training camp, deluged with many onlookers, was often pandemonium. This caused much consternation with August who could barely tolerate the habit of the audience who yelled at almost every punch Tiger threw at the punching bag or at his sparring partners.
His ire was raised when one morning he was unable to negotiate a path through the mass of human bodies thronging around the training camp. A police guard was placed around the ring for all sessions held after this incident.
Fight fever gripped the country. A political truce was declared by opposing parties in the Parliament of the Eastern region whose members also passed a resolution granting civil servants a two-day holiday. The Northern Parliament out-did them by affording their staff a four-day holiday. All regions negotiated cheaper fare rates with public and private transport services for those travelling to watch the fight in Ibadan.
On fight night the Liberty Stadium throbbed with excitement as thirty thousand spectators geared up for the bout. At ringside along with Governor-General Nnamdi Azikiwe sat the ambassador of the United States and other political dignitaries.  Encircling the ringside area and the vantage points leading to the ring were 250 members of the elite Queen’s regiment; each resplendent in a scarlet and yellow jacket which was topped by a red fez.
At 8.30 PM the moment finally arrived. The lights went out as a fanfare of trumpets blasted around the stadium. Then two spotlights returned to reveal Fullmer who had emerged from the stadium’s underground dressing room walking towards the ring while attired in a kente cloth robe. The crowd roared its approval. Then another blackout and resumption of light was met by the deafening approval of the audience cheering for Tiger who wore a blue and silver kente robe.
The champion was a picture of calm. His team of Jones and August had kept their advice simple: “don’t get overly anxious because you are fighting before your countrymen.”
In truth, the first round was the only round of the fight in which both men would compete in a manner approaching parity. From the second, Tiger had settled to a steady rhythm by which he bored towards Fullmer with a jab and followed up with punch combinations to the head and body.
Fullmer gradually but inexorably wilted as Tiger pressed at him with an array of jarring blows. Stunned by the sight of Tiger’s punches rocking the American’s head backwards and sideways as flecks of blood began marking a trail around the ring canvas, one Nigerian official seated a few feet from the ring asked incredulously: “Is this Fullmer human?”
By the end of the third, the 32-year-old Fullmer seemed a spent force. Back at his corner during the minute’s rest, his father and his manager Jensen both pleaded with him to quit, but his response was to vigorously shake his head from side-to-side.
He fought with raw courage but this was not enough against power and sublime skill of Dick Tiger. The damage being wrought by Tiger’s fists was all too apparent as the din of the bell ended round seven.
“Fullmer’s face,” wrote London Daily Mirror correspondent Peter Wilson, “was a rubbery caricature of a human countenance; a contour map of disaster with bumps and lumps for mountains, ridges and meandering red streaks for the rivers.”
Jensen had seen enough, and as chief second, he notified referee Joe Hart that the fight should be ended. Fullmer, who could not see out of his right eye, provided no objection. Hart proceeded to Tiger’s corner to raise his hands to the acclaim of the spectators in the stadium. It was to be the beginning of a night of widespread celebration, although some remained aloof from the festive mode.
Tai Solarin for instance, the educator and journalist who revelled in his role as the conscience of the nation railed against the “profligacy” of the fight. The estimated cost of £120,000, he felt, would have been better spent on educating forty thousand young Nigerians to degree level.
But he was decidedly in the minority. The Nigerian Outlookeditorialised about the “spirit of unity and national brotherhood” which the fight had helped develop while Dick Tiger himself wrote for the Ring magazine claiming that the “worldwide publicity and prestige” the fight had brought to Nigeria was of the sort which could not be measured in purely financial terms.
On this point there was much concurrence. Thirteen days later his name cropped up in a conversation between John F. Kennedy, the American president and Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa with JFK informing Balewa that “we look forward to having Dick Tiger come over here (again)”.
Cabling Tiger soon after the bout, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s president and embodiment of pan-African sentiment lauded Tiger’s achievement as testimony “of the ability of the African to scale the highest ladder of human achievement.”
Fifty years have passed since Dick Tiger’s duel with Gene Fullmer; the first world title bout staged in ‘black Africa’ occurring over a decade before the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. What has been its legacy? The answer must surely be a mixed one.
Although the actual financial returns of the fight were not officially released, the fact that the expected attendance of 45,000 spectators fell short by 15,000 was one indication that the fight had operated at a net loss.
Yet looking back, it was an event which needed to be staged. The rationale for this may be ascribed to what in modern parlance is termed as ‘nation branding’. As an emerging nation, the country had to use all devises at its disposal to bring the world’s attention to it. And the seriousness attached by the country’s leaders to the event cannot be underestimated.
On the morning of the fight, a full-spread advertisement placed by the Western region government had portrayed the image of a gloved Tiger astride the African continent with the caption: ‘Toward That Noble and Rewarding Venture of Nation Building’.
That of course went contrary to events which were brewing. The Western region had itself been in great political turmoil and the nation would be wracked by a series of general strikes. Then the army mutinies and anti-Igbo pogroms of 1966 would provide a baleful prelude to the civil war which would be fought with the secessionist state of Biafra.
While the Tiger-Fullmer bout did provide the template for Ghana’s staging of a world title match between Floyd Robertson and Sugar Ramos in the year that followed, the notion that the holding of world title bouts in Africa would become something of a common occurrence would in due course be put to rest.
The defence by Saoul Mamby against Obisia Nwankpa in 1981 is the only other world title fight to be held in Nigeria and between that and the Dick Tiger-Gene Fullmer bout, the biggest boxing event held on Nigerian soil was the 1976 Commonwealth lightweight title bout between Dele Jonathan and Scotland’s Jim Watt.
No other world title bouts have been held there although there were strenuous but ultimately abortive efforts made to have the short-lived, heavyweight champion Samuel Peter defend his title in Abuja. A similar picture exists in Ghana whose long-reigning world champion Azumah Nelson never put his title on the line on home territory.
The reasons are not too hard to discern. The nations of Africa, with the exception of South Africa through its ‘Sun City’ entertainment complex, are unable to muster the financial resources required to stage major world title contests.
The level of infrastructure required to sustain a credible industry catering to professional boxing in Nigeria is for the most part non-existent. Dating back to a period that began a few years after the Tiger-Fullmer bout, the Nigerian government adopted a policy of discouraging the leading lights of the nation’s amateur boxing program from turning professional.
Furthermore, no viable home-grown economic model for organising the professional game has been developed among a class of sporting entrepreneurs; a not too surprising difficulty given that TV channels expect fight promoters to pay them for the privilege to covering their fights.
Talent as in the past has only stood a chance of being nurtured by boxers journeying to the United States or Europe. Thus over the years, promising amateur fighters who do well in international competitions such as Samuel Peter and Ike Ibeabuchi are snapped up by foreign scouts.
And what of the protagonists in the remarkable bout held fifty years ago? Gene Fullmer, now an octogenarian, retired from the sport after his loss to Tiger and settled down to the life of a mink farmer in his native state of Utah.
For Dick Tiger, at the time of the bout, at the apex of his fame as well as a standard bearer for the newly independent nation, what remained of his short life was to be a tumultuous ride through the Igbo-dominated Biafran enterprise in which he participated as a propagandist having renounced his associations with Nigeria; the gain and loss of two further world championships, and, after the capitulation of Biafra, a futile battle against the incurable cancer to which he succumbed in December of 1971.
The disapprobation toward Tiger by the then ruling military elite over his war time activities served over the long term to plunge his achievements down an Orwellian-type memory hole from which he has seemingly never recovered.
But memories of that night in Ibadan and of how he brought a nation together in an event which underscored the communal sense of the promise of great things to come which permeated the atmosphere in the first few years that followed independence are surely too precious to remain suspended indefinitely.
That would be an injustice to the man as well as a self-inflicted wound on the nation which once so dearly embraced him.
(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2013)
Adeyinka Makinde is a writer and law lecturer who is based in London. He is the author of the biography DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal. His latest book is JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula.

Citizen Onwordi Samuel on Rivers State

Yes, politics is a game, but if you play it by wearing a mask on your face, you will stumble and fall. This is the condition in which Gov Amaechi finds himself. The opposition APC Governors want Amaechi to decamp away from PDP thus paving a way for APC to capture Rivers State. Gov Amaechi who for now is unable to see beyond his horizon is perhaps unaware that a sword of Damocles is hanging on his head if he takes this decision as being packaged to him here. It is better for him to bow down to President Jonathan and still be relevant.

Onwordi Samuel contributes from Lagos

INEC may suspend registration of APC

acnThere are indications that the INEC may suspend the registration of the proposed mega opposition party, All Progressive Congress, APC. Elombah.com learnt on Friday that the decision to halt the registration was reached at a meeting involving the National Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and other top officials of the commission last, Tuesday. It was gathered that besides putting the APC’s registration in abeyance, INEC might write the merging parties on Tuesday, to choose another name.

This, THISDAY gathered, has created a new wave of apprehension within the ranks of the merging parties and they see it as yet another plot to scuttle the registration of the APC.

A reliable source within the opposition coalition parties who confirmed the twist in the APC registration application, alleged that INEC based its decision on the pending court case by one of the rival political associations, African People’s Congress challenging the registration of the coalition’s APC.

However, leaders of the Congress for Progressive Change has said the APC will not change its name. The National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told Sunday Punch in a telephone interview that no court can stop the Independent National Electoral Commission from registering the APC.

He said “It’s too late in the day for anybody to try anything funny with our registration. No court can stop INEC from registering APC.

“We have followed the proper procedure what is left is purely administrative.

“The African Peoples Congress which was set up in a hurry by the PDP was disqualified by INEC.

“We are not losing sleep because at this point, we cannot be compelled to change name when it is clear that the APC acronym is free for our use. When we get registered, anybody who has issues with, it can go to court.

According to him, the law was clear about the procedure for the registration of political parties.

This, he said, had made the registration imminent because, “the law says if after 30 days we don’t hear from INEC, we are deemed to have been registered.

“We had our various conventions and submitted our documents 27 days ago. All I can tell you now is, no shaking.”

Another APC member said: “This is a plot not to register us and it is an afterthought. Part of the plot is to ensure that nothing happens until September because the courts are going on vacation”.

When contacted, National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Lai Mohammed said, “We will issue a robust statement tomorrow (Sunday).

Meanwhile, two senior lawyers, who spoke with PUNCH said INEC can advise the party to change its name.

Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) noted that since confusion over the identity of parties contesting an election was one of the factors that could lead to the nullification of the results of an election, the electoral commission would be in order if it advised a prospective party to change its name.

He said, “Two parties cannot bear the same name, just like when you are incorporating a company. INEC cannot register two names that look alike, that will confuse the electorate. INEC will be justified to ask a party to change its name if there are two parties with the same name.

“This is because one of the issues that can lead to the nullification of an election is when parties have the same name leading to confusion among the electorate.”

Also, Mr, Mike Ahamba (SAN) said INEC can ask the APC to change its name.

“They (INEC) can advise the party (APC) to change name in order to avoid a conflict.

“If I am a member of the APC and if they ask me, I would have advised them to get another name a long time ago,” Ahamba said.

http://www.elombah.com

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PDP NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMITTEE

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The Ad Hoc Committee on Reconciliation established by the National Working Committee of the PDP under the able leadership of His Excellency, Governor    Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, after its inaugural meeting on Thursday July 25th 2013, held its first business session on Friday July 26th 2013.

 

 

2. The Committee deliberated on, and appraised its terms of reference and identified strategies for handling this very important assignment of reconciling members and leaders of the party with particular focus on the Party’s chapters in States not presently controlled by the PDP. The Committee appreciates the enormous confidence reposed on its leadership and members. To this end, the Committee shall consult widely especially among the founding fathers of the party as well as leading stakeholders at all levels and across the country.

 

3. In executing its mandate the Reconciliation Committee therefore, resolved to conduct the exercise with the highest sense of responsibility, commitment to the core values of national unity and party cohesion while upholding individual and collective integrity of the Committee and the members. In order to ensure a smooth and credible reconciliation exercise, the Committee resolved that, its leadership and members shall be guided in the course of executing its mandate by the following, which shall collectively be regarded as the Committee’s Code of Conduct.

 

3.1.     Confidentiality: The Reconciliation Committee’s work shall place

emphasis on utmost confidentiality of all matters brought to it. Members shall, ensure strict confidentiality of all information received by them or such information that may be processed by the Committee, its leadership or any of its organs (as may be established from time to time).

 

3.2.     Strategic Communication: In order to boost the level of confidence among our members nationwide while this Committee undertakes its

assignment, no member shall interact with the media on any matter under consideration by the Committee, except with due approval by the

Committee or its leadership.

 

3.3      Neutrality: The Reconciliation Committee shall be committed to the

principles of neutrality. To this end, no member of the Committee shall serve in any Congress Committee in a State where such a member is an interested party. Similarly no member of the Committee shall hold any inappropriate meetings or contacts with any party member whose matter is under consideration of the Committee especially as regards to the subject- matter under discussion at the Committee.

 

3.4      Commitment to the Principles of Fairness: The Committee as a whole and its individual members shall be committed to the principles of

fairness to all parties. All party members to be reconciled shall be guaranteed the right to fair hearing.

 

4.0      In view of the INEC time-table for the imminent Governorship election in Anambra State, the Committee is conscious of the urgency to reconcile the various factions in the State chapter of the party. Similarly the Committee is concerned about the on-going challenges in the Ekiti State chapter of the party. We therefore accord reconciling party members in these States our top priority for now. Accordingly, we urge all PDP leaders and members in these States in particular, and the country in general, to refrain from all forms of hostilities in order to give the Committee the opportunity to do its work successfully.

 

5.0.     The Committee also seizes this opportunity to call on all patty members at all levels, and irrespective of status, to refrain from comments, remarks, utterances or actions that may inflame tension among party members, and/or overheat the polity. This is important in order to create the needed atmosphere for genuine reconciliation.

 

Signed

Ambassador Umar Damagum

(Secretary of the Committee)

Dr Young Fiabema on Democracy and Rivers State

English: Map showing location of Rivers state ...

English: Map showing location of Rivers state in Nigeria Français : Carte montrant la position de l’état de Rivers au Nigeria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who is Hijacking Democratic Principles in Rivers State? Let’s fix what is broken

 It is interesting to note that a protest, tagged, ‘One-day Global Action in Defense of Democracy in Rivers State,’ is scheduled for Tuesday, July 30, 2013. According to “THISDAYLIVE” publication of Sunday 28 July, 2013 (http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/senate-approves-takeover-of-rivers-assembly-s-functions/154497/ ), this protest will address politically motivated violence and other anti-democratic norms in the state.
A lot of never-ending articles, stories, editorial comments and blogs have been written on how the crisis in Rivers State is hijacking democratic principles in Nigeria. In spite of the wealth of information available on democracy, most analysis I have read miss the central point of democratic principles.
There should be no disagreement about protecting democratic principles in Nigeria. It is an issue that affects all of us and future generation. Indeed democracy is an economic imperative as it is believed to be a foundation stone of how we install the doctrines of responsible government. I will therefore like us to understand basic democratic principles because it’s important that we get this right in other to fix what is broken.   We have been hearing ugly rhetoric statements from politicians in Nigeria on how democracy is being constrained by Abuja based politicians.  The Rivers State crisis is a complex issue that raises strong feelings in the nation. In the Rivers State case, it is very easy to overlook the underlying issues, because on the surface, everything seems to be about presidential politics.   The question begging for answer is: Who is barricading or exploiting democratic principles or should I say dodging the main issues of the people? In Nigeria it seems the answer depends on the fitting political agenda of who you ask.
We cannot be self-absorbed when we are discussing democratic principles. It is therefore crucial to answer this question objectively. First, let us fully understand what democracy means. Democracy comes from the Greek word, “demos,” meaning people.   Therefore the driving force of this system of government is “the people”. Understandably, in a true democratic system, people hold superior power over parliament and the government. It is a system where rule of law is zealously protected. In this notion, even the chief executive is under the law and is expected to utilize every legal means to govern.
It equally forces governments to the rule of law and respect for the decision of other arms of Government (e.g. court ruling). This serves as a foundation to epitomize the fact that all citizens receive equal protection under the law. Accepting the power of the judiciary and respecting the rights of those with differing points of view are paramount under a democratic system that is designed for the people.   While I have not observed the Federal Government’s involvement in the suspension of any duly elected official, it is sad to see the numerous instances where local government chairmen and councilors were suspended in Rivers State under the current administration due to ideological differences.
Undeniably, democratic principles were observed in the nation when judicial rulings were upheld and respected without crisis as in the case of: His Excellency Celestine Omehia (former governor of Rivers State) vs. His Excellency Chibuike Amaechi (governor of Rivers State) and the recent case of Mrs. Turai Yar’adua (former First Lady of Nigeria) vs. Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan (First Lady of Nigeria) over Abuja land dispute is another reminder. These exemplify the importance of accepting the power of the judiciary by the politically influential in a democracy.
However, it is not comforting also to observe that judicial weight of a competent Nigerian High Court, which dissolved the Rivers State PDP executive, was utterly rejected by Rivers State government in an unlawful manner. In retaliation, the Rivers State Governor collaborated with the House of Assembly to suspend the entire Obio/Akpor Local Government Council on April 22, 2013. This is an impediment to a dependable democratic system.
Press freedom is another major tenet of a true democracy. The press should operate free from governmental control. Governments that have ministries of information to control content of state owned newspapers, radio and television stations ultimately scrutinize the activities of state owned journalists. Interestingly, while the federal government is restricted in this aspect, it is a commonly observed practice in most States. This practice breeds false reporting that is not only counterproductive to a free press but also disruptive to democratic system as the populace is quite often fed with government propaganda.
Another major goal of democracy is to make the best possible decision for all citizens with available scarce resources. This can only be actualized when elected officials enforce transparency, accountability and effectively exchange ideas with citizens and stakeholders. It’s not reassuring in a democratic system when governors create policies and programs that are not well debated by the people and shove such policies down the throats of the House of Assembly as well as their citizens.
Ironically, there is still this general view that if a member of the House of Assembly or a citizen has ideological differences with their State governor, he or she is an “Abuja Rebel” without a cause.  Your intentions are questioned and most times branded corrupt. Generally speaking, society is composed of people with divergent viewpoints and enriched diversity. Therefore this autocratic approach to governance which tends to silence the views of citizens is purely against the tenets of democracy, so it must be rejected.
Limiting abuse of power is another core principle of any democracy. In a democracy, government is structured to limit the powers of the three branches of government. This includes creation of independent courts, parliament and executive that can provide checks and balances to the abuse of power. While the Federal government does not seem to have control over the two other branches of government, the Rivers State government seems to be very much dominant in all branches of government. This is evident during the recent crisis in Rivers State House of Assembly where the Governor, notarized the gruesome violence we observed on “YouTube”. Such actions promote abuse of power in any democracy.
 Free and fair election is another indispensable road sign to democratic principles. This entails impartial and balanced system of conducting elections where election results are verified to the satisfaction of the body of voters. In this regard, the last election under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan undoubtedly fulfilled the best democratic ideology Nigeria ever enjoyed. We witnessed trained election officials that were politically independent. It is public knowledge that election supervisors freely permitted representative of the various political parties in the vote counting process.
Therefore, it is imperative to imbibe this democratic principle that empowers the electorate to freely vote for whom they want to lead them. The culture and practice of “godfatherism” and imposition of leaders on the people at various levels of government is not only dictatorial, it disenfranchises the people. End result is apathy, endless acrimony and litigations amongst party members which often results in what we are all witnessing in Rivers State
Kudos must be given to the Federal Government for showing restraint in the following democratic principles: Rule of law; its control on parliament as well as the judiciary. Clearly its neutrality on press freedom and its efforts on conducting free and fair elections equally deserve admiration.
 For us to find a lasting solution to the political crisis in Nigeria, the democratic fundamental principles that contribute to making a government work effectively must be enshrined as part of our constitution and rigorously enforced.  These include the following: POLITICAL TOLERANCE; REGULAR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS; CONTROL OF THE ABUSE OF POWER; ACCEPTING JUDICIAL RULINGS; RESPECT FOR RULE OF LAW; ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY.
I remain optimistic that rational Nigerians will muster the courage to fix what is broken in our system with particular emphasis on the autocratic tendencies of some Governors as we have seen in the Rivers State example.
Dr. Young Fiabema Writes from Raleigh, North Caroline, USA
yfiabema@yahoo.com

http://transformationwatch.com/2013/07/28/who-is-hijacking-democratic-principles-in-rivers-state-lets-fix-what-is-broken/

JOHN IGOCHE ON BAYELSA STATE`S ECONOMIC ROADMAP

dicksoTREADING THE ECONOMIC ROAD MAP OF GOVERNOR SERIAKE DICKSON IN BAYELSA STATE.

by John George Igoche

One thing is getting clearer by the day about Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, which is that he is becoming a very prominent proponent of economic development activities in the South South and South East zones of the country within just over a year in Government House,Yenagoa.

With the recent formal constitution of the Board of Directors for the newly inaugurated Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation, BDIC, the stage is set for this Governor to stamp his vision of restoration and ultimate transformation dynamics on the economic development architecture of the Niger Delta Region and that of the South East too!

Always one for innovation, even as a new comer on the scene, Governor Dickson has installed a BDIC branch in South Africa to generate and draw investment initiatives into Bayelsa State and informed findings indicate that he will soon be opening another branch in the United Kingdom for the same purpose.

The aggressive investment drive embarked upon by the governor is awakening the business community in the state to the limitless opportunities that abound in the various economic sectors with which local and foreign investors can develop the business potentials of the state economy.

The major international and local entertainment events like the AMAA Awards, the Most Beautiful Girl pageants that have been hosted in Bayelsa State since the governor resumed in Yenagoa, have created a viable platform for the development of the tourism infrastructure in his state.

Any dispassionate observer can agree that the restless foray of the Governor into the various alternatives of income generation well away from the oil economy of Bayelsa State has also occasioned his interstate and international trips which have been bearing fruit for all to see: Bayelsa State is these days becoming a visible economic hub in the region, with so much viable initiatives directed at opening the economic space for enterprise especially beyond the oil industry.

 

I am of the strong view that the restoration agenda of the governor has more than generated a passing interest to observers, as he has indeed so far also established with conviction the possibility of growing even further the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan right through from the Zuma and Aso rocks of Abuja into the creeks of the Bayelsa State aquatic culture and ecosystem!

There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that Governor Seriake Dickson represents the new face of youth in leadership in the politics of Nigeria today lacking so much in this aspect, considering that a lot of young leaders in the political scene before him have invariably failed to deliver in terms of innovation and viability in handling the onerous responsibility of leadership and governance.

While examining the style of His Excellency Governor Dickson in the running of the affairs of state it was easy to identify his mode of delegation and tasking with the ultimate intention of keeping the machinery of state well-oiled and in its continuity, giving a sense of belonging and participation to all officers of his administration to play their roles with confidence towards established rules and set out regulations. It was evident during the visit of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to Yenagoa when the Deputy Governor, Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, on behalf of the Governor, managed the interactive session with the members and staff at the Executive Council Chambers of Government House Yenagoa.

On the overall assessment of the economic roadmap of Bayelsa State which the Governor Seriake Dickson is treading, one can safely conclude in conjecture that the economy of Bayelsa State is undergoing a revolution towards appropriate restoration and it is set to experience a boom in the coming years when these initiatives begin to blossom into fruition to the benefit of the people of the state in all ramifications of economic activity.

First four years, Governor Dickson hit the ground running after taking his oath of office; he is yet to take a deserved rest as he said himself recently that there was too much to do and little time within which to achieve his vision for his people, even into a second term, which if his people demanded, he will gladly oblige them to put the state on the map as a viable economic entity.(

(John George Igoche (Public Affairs Commentator)

 

 

 

CHARLES OZOEMENA ON GOVERNOR DICKSON`S TRANSFORMATION OF BAYELSA STATE THROUGH TOURISM

Governor  Seriake Dickson

Governor Seriake Dickson

 

Governor Dickson’s redefinition of Bayelsa through Tourism

 

By Charles Ozoemena

July, 18, 2013

 

 

Leaders that earn commanding places in history are not only visionary but are like marksmen who shoot on target. They provide roadmaps for achieving rapid advance in economic development of their people. Such leaders define the very essence of good governance.  Good governance, by the way, manifests through improvement in the standard of living and general wellbeing of a people or in the coinage of English Philosopher, John Stuart Mills, through actions that   “maximises pleasure and minimises pain”.  According to him government actions should be judged morally right or wrong according to whether or not they tend to maximize pleasure and minimize pain among those affected by them.

As a matter of fact advocates of good governance believe that governments that succeed are largely built on the nucleus of a well-defined direction, a somewhat take-off point for building up the economy and developing both the human and material resources.

For Bayelsa State Governor, Seriaka Dickson , his passion for good governance is embedded in his vision for the people of the state. Dickson’s dream is to build an astounding Bayelsa that attracts the world through what I chose to call “economic and social tourisms”

Recently the Governor told his audience: “I am in a hurry to see this place become the Dubai of Africa and that is why we are working so hard. Very soon, you will see us unfold our tourism city master plan and very soon you too will see tourists and investors rushing into Bayelsa as they are already doing now. You will agree with me that we need companies and industries to come in and employ our numerous graduates. That also we are making the kind of investment to build the needed capacity in our youths”

Reiterating his commitment in this direction, the Governor on July 17, 2013, described Bayelsa as one of the most peaceful states in the country, noting that the state has a lot to offer beyond oil and gas. He reconfirmed his administration’s intention to transform Bayelsa into a tourism and entertainment hub in the near future. He spoke while hosting the 32 contestants of the 2013 Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria beauty pageant, organised by the Silverbird Group. Commending the organizers for promoting the MBGN event, Governor Dickson noted that the presence of the most beautiful girls in the state gives credence to the positive result of the investment being made in the area of security and tourism.

 

Dickson’s preference for tourism is driven by his craze to appropriately position Bayelsa given its varied natural attractions, create millions of jobs, diversify the economy of the state and like he said create alternative source of revenue generation. Bayelsa state sits at the foot of Atlantic Ocean and its tributaries which are fed by the waters of rivers that meander their way from other parts of the country. Its land and water belies billions of barrels of crude oil. Bayelsa is the source of 30-40% of Nigeria’s oil and gas production – in fact, the first oil struck in quantities sufficient for commercial production in Nigeria was found in 1956 in Oloibiri, now part of Bayelsa State.

Situated in the heart of the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State was created in 1996 after the split of old Rivers State. Bayelsa is home to a population of around 2 million people. Its capital is at Yenagoa, also known as the capital of the Ijaw nation. The state has an area of around 21’000 square km, and about three-quarters of its total area lies under water. In addition, its vegetation and coastal configuration provides major attractions that support tourism. The mangrove forests and swamps in the south of the country are home to rich vegetation and spectacular scenery, while the thick forest in the north has arable lands used for agriculture.

 

Bayelsa, the glory of all  land, is richly endowed with beaches and can provide spaces for yachting, sport fishing, boating, and conferencing; just to mention a few, if the tourism roadmap is fully developed. Bayelsa has a variety of festivals ,music, arts, folklore, artefacts, museums and monuments. Some of her attractions include the White graveyard at Twon Brass LGA, the Efi Lake, the Slave tunnel at Akassa in Brass LGA, Olodi Museum at Ogbolomabiri, Mangrove Museum at Nembe, Ogidigan Deity of Bassambiri and King Ockiya’s Mausoleum at Ogbolomabiri all in Nembe LGA. Late Christopher Iwowaris’s monument, Isaac Boro’s memorial monument at Kaiama in Kolokuma/Opukuma LGA. Others are the Akassa Wildlife forest reserves for bird watching, Akassa slave transit camp at Ogbokiri, near Brass. The camp was the gateway for transporting slaves to the America and the Caribbean through the ocean. There is the Mongo Park residence that served as the divisional headquarters of the colonial rulers of brass division.

His (Dickson’s) idea of building Bayelsa as a world-class destination is realistic and deserves commendation. Full support of the entire people of Bayelsa is demanded considering that tourism is fast becoming a major source of income for several cities of the world. For instance, tourism is a significant source of income in Washington. The variety of her scenic areas, including parks, attracts increasing numbers of visitors to the state. Boating, hiking, skiing, sports events, and local festivals are other major tourist attractions.

In Amsterdam many visitors to the city come for business purposes or to attend conferences, particularly at the large RAI Exhibition and Congress Centre. In Grenadines, tourism is a major financial booster of the Island especially since it became accessible through the airports and the use of modern boats. Noted for their coral reefs and fine beaches, the Grenadines favours those interested in yachting and sport fishing and lend themselves to Caribbean tourism’s traditional emphasis on sun, sea, and sand.

Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Research and Social Media, Comrade John Idumange, told reporters in Portharcourt recently that Dickson places high premium on tourism development hence the establishment of a separate Ministry for tourism development. “Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries. In Bayelsa State, ecotourism, marine tourism and heritage tourism will flourish. One of the most common types of tourism we can easily promote is coastal/marine tourism. This is based on a unique resource combination at the interface of land and sea offering amenities such as water, beaches, scenic beauty, rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity, diversified cultural and historic heritage, healthy food and, usually, good infrastructure. This is why Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has taken infrastructure as a priority of the Restoration Government”, he said.

Idumange who expressed optimism that with the Bayelsa State Museums and Monuments Board in place, heritage and cultural tourism will thrive, confirmed  that Bayelsa State has many historical events: festivals, dances and cultural displays, sites and locations to package to attract tourists. By the grace of God, the prevailing peace and the legal regime the Restoration Administration has put in place will naturally attract tourists”, Idumange added.

Contained in the Tourism master plan are not only provisions for employment generation, training of locals in the hospitality business, boosting the local economy and the IGR profile of the State; but also developing small-and medium-scale ethno-tourism products; potential for smart partnerships with established entrepreneurs around the world.

Within Bayelsa’s tourism road map is to make Agge Community, off the Atlantic coast in Ekeremor Local Government Council, the tourism base of the state. Governor, Seriake Dickson disclosed this plan at a reception ceremony held in Aghoro Community for the Special Adviser to the Bayelsa Governor on Political Affairs, Fred Agbedi. Represented by the Deputy Governor, John Jonah, he said that Agge had been scheduled to be the tourism base of Bayelsa, adding that in its efforts at opening up the area for development, the state government had started a deep sea water port in the community.

“Above all, the Bayelsa West Senatorial District road will end up at Agge. We are hopeful that we will get the road there before the end of our four years. These are all that have been projected by this government for the area. It may not happen overnight, but there are definite plans that the government has drawn up for Bayelsa West Senatorial district,” he said, adding “We have already commissioned agents to carry out survey of the area and map out strategic points.”

The dream of the present administration is to create a Bayelsa state that is an ideal choice for a holiday both for local and international tourists. The creation of the Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency by Governor Henry Seriaka Dickson on October 9, 2012 was in tandem with this dream. At the commanding seat of the Agency is Mrs Ebizi Brown, an expert and strategist in Tourism.

As a preliminary move to advertising the potentials of its tourism, the state government has been engaging in the sponsorship and promotions of the movie and beauty pageants. For nine years running Bayelsa has been home to the staging of the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA). Through this programme, movie stars from across Africa and beyond pour into the state capital, Yenagoa, annually to attend the ceremony. Only recently, the state Governor mobilised support, raising over N800, Million for AMAA through a fund raising dinner sponsored by the state government in Abuja.

In furtherance of his support for the movie industry, the state government is building a Film City. Governor Dickson has already performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the Film City at Igbogene, in Yenagoa, in fulfillment on an earlier pledge for the construction of the project. The proposed multifaceted Film City project, according to the Architect in charge of the project, Mr. Edogu Victor, is expected to accommodate facilities such as business district, relaxation centre, helipad, collapsible sets, Police and Fire Service stations, Inauguration Centre, night club, film village setting among others.

 

Similarly, the State Government has commenced the process of building a world-class Polo Club as part of its efforts to promote tourism and leisure in the State.  Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony near the Gloryland Castle in Government House, Yenagoa Governor Dickson noted that the project when completed will not only serve as a sporting facility but also help to drive the development of the tourism sub-sector. Governor Dickson reiterated that the present administration is among other means, poised to build a new Bayelsa through sports, tourism, peace, wealth and job creation. According to the Governor, his administration attaches great importance to sports and tourism because they have the capacity to create wealth, employ labour and strengthen bonds of friendship among individuals and groups from different parts of the world. Hon. Dickson, who disclosed government’s desire to convert the Gloryland Castle to a 6-star hotel, explained that the decision was borne out of the need to create a conducive environment for investors that will soon be trooping into the state for business as well as generate more revenue.

A fair dissection of the lofty dreams of the governor places him as a focused leader who is at home with his vision for the state. Creation of policies backed up with actions achieves results. For Bayelsa, the choice to redefine its glory by Dickson’s administration is one stretch of a mission to be accomplished. Gradually as the content of the Bayelsa Tourism master plan is being implemented Bayelsa would surely be transformed into a state of the rising sun, a visitors’ paradise and a destination for maximizing pleasure and minimising pain.

Charles Ozoemena

Writes from Abuja

 

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