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Military shouldn’t convert Okuama community to barracks – Senator Dafinone

How did you feel about receiving reports about the killings of 17 officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army on a peace mission to the Okuama community under your senatorial district? At first, I couldn’t even process my emotions because it’s inconceivable that such high-ranking military officers could be rounded up and massacred in one fell swoop by some rag-tag militants or hoodlums, if you may so call them. Like most Nigerians, my initial reaction was that of shock and bewilderment, which later morphed into total indignation. It was a truly ugly and unfortunate incident. Whether it was a rescue mission or a peace mission, no one would have imagined such a gory ending. I want to seize this opportunity to once again commiserate with the families of the fallen Army officers who lost their lives in the line of duty at Okuama community. Our heartfelt condolences also go to the families of those innocent indigenes of Okuama community who lost their lives in this unfortunate incident. It has been widely claimed that there had been early warnings of the lingering land dispute between the Okuama community and the Okoloba community of the Bomadi Local Government Area of the state. What preventive measures did you take in your capacity as the senator representing the senatorial district to de-escalate the crisis? Although we came into office barely eight months ago, I learned that the hostilities between the Okuama and Okoloba communities have persisted for some years now. I got my first official briefing on the crisis this month when a group of my constituents from that area wrote to inform me about the brewing hostilities between them and their neighbours from Okoloba. As their newly-elected senator, I was already planning to put a team together to visit the place on a fact-finding mission when suddenly we were greeted with the news of the killings of those soldiers. The killings made me realise the enormity of the situation on the ground. I never envisaged that the matter was that bad. I was told that the Delta State Government had already intervened and indeed brokered a truce between the warring parties. I was told that the governor invited them to Asaba to sign a peace accord in January this year. So, you can imagine the shock when we got the news that matters had got to a head with the killings of very senior military officers. After the killings of the soldiers and civilians as well as the razing of the Okuama community, what in your opinion is the way forward to get out of the attendant problem? Certainly, the way out is not by razing down the concerned community and neighbouring ones along the coastline. We appeal to the military to cool down tempers. As I have noted in my motion on the floor of the Senate, the first thing is for the Federal Government to set up a high-powered investigation panel to ascertain both the immediate and remote causes of the fracas to bring the agents provocateur to justice. Thereafter, the Federal Government, in conjunction with the state government, should commence a remediation plan to rehabilitate not only the Okuama community but all the neighbouring communities razed down by the military in the aftermath of the killings. What lessons do you think stakeholders, notably the local communities, the military, and the government have learned from the Okuama incident? There are a whole lot of lessons that I think our people have learned from this very reprehensible outcome from Okuama. First is that violence can never be a solution to any problem, more so communal. Violence will probably only escalate a problem instead of solving it. Peace is non-negotiable. Two, it is one of the accounts of the incident that the shooting spree was as a result of mistaken identity. In other words, the Okuama boys mistook the military officers for Ijaw militants because the militants most times also wear military uniforms. It is now obvious that some of these militants do adorn military fatigue to carry out their activities so it is a challenge to differentiate real military officers from impersonators. We must find a way to end this ugly practice. There is also the issue of community warlords who leverage their political influences to foment trouble now and then. Some of them, because they have deep pockets, can afford to procure the services of some of these security personnel to do their bidding in the oppression of perceived opponents. It is being rumoured that the military is making moves to convert Okuama to a military barracks, what is your reaction to this? I don’t think that will be a good decision. Don’t forget that that community has been the ancestral home of a people for hundreds of years now. When you convert a people’s ancestral land to a military barracks overnight, you have in one fell swoop eclipsed the ancestry of those people; it is tantamount to ethnic cleansing. The military authority should rethink if truly they have muted the idea. What is your message to the aggrieved military? My message to them is first that we sympathise and truly commiserate with them and the families of the slain officers. They remain our heroes. We plead with them to temper justice with mercy, and not allow emotions to take the better part of their judgment for now. I am aware that the Presidency and the Senate have put in place recompense measures to bring some succour to the bereaved families. What is your message to the embattled people of Okuama community? They should always imbibe the culture of dialogue and peaceful resolution when faced with this kind of challenge in the future. They should always caution and call out their troublesome children as early as possible before they get out of control. What is your recommendation to the Delta State Government and the Federal Government on the incident? One thing that astounds me is the quantum and proliferation of light and heavy weapons in the hands of youths and non-state actors all over the country like we are in some kind of civil war situation. The government must find a way to mop up illegal weapons from the streets and the backwaters of our communities. Secondly, the government shouldn’t allow matters to get to a head before taking proactive steps to settle communal disputes. Early warning signs must be taken seriously and dealt with. What are your last words on the incident? I think our military is overstretched. Over time, our soldiers have gone beyond their primary function of defending the territorial integrity of the nation, and have now taken most functions ordinarily reserved for the police. Owing to the severe internal security situation in the country, soldiers now double somewhat as policemen. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that allows the military to guard private persons and residences. This is what has led to a whole commander of a battalion going into the trenches to settle a communal squabble, a role ordinarily left for the police, or worst case scenario, the rank and file of the Army. This speaks to two things: the government must seriously equip our police with modern and more sophisticated weapons to match or outrun the firepower of non-state actors, and the government should take measures to restore the dignity of our soldiers and deploy them for only very serious situations like combating insurgency and terrorism.

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Ex-Bafana captain wants Okon to choose S’Africa

Ex-Bafana Bafana captain, Thulani Hlatshwayo, has urged SuperSport United wonderkid, Ime Okon, to choose South Africa, his country of birth over Nigeria, PUNCH Sports Extra reports. Okon was born in South Africa to a Nigerian father, making him eligible to represent the Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana. Though the Johannesburg-born central defender is in his debut Premier Soccer League season, the 20-year-old has become a figure in the SuperSport United defence alongside Siyanda Xulu and Thulani Hlatshwayo with 18 league appearances this season, helping the team to third place on the PSL table. Okon has yet to publicly declare his international allegiance although Bafana coach Hugo Broos has twice before included him in his preliminary squads. The young defender recently revealed his openness to represent either nation but the former Bafana captain has explained why he thinks the youngster should pick his country of birth over the three-time African champion. “I have told him he needs to stay in South Africa because it will be difficult for him to crack the Nigeria national team,” Hlatshwayo was quoted as saying by Goal. “To be able to crack the Nigerian national team, he needs to play in Europe — but we need him in Bafana Bafana. “When you look at our centre backs, Mothobi Mvala has injuries, there is also Grant Kekana and Siyanda Xulu — and I read Siyabonga Ngezana had an issue with his travel documents, but I don’t know what is happening there. His father is from Nigeria and mother from South Africa. “He grew up here, he studied here and coach Gavin Hunt took him from Randburg Football Club. He is South African and he speaks Afrikaans.” The former Orlando Pirate defender added, “He is a rebel, every time there is AFCON, when Nigeria is playing he is with Nigeria and when South Africa is playing against Nigeria we have a lot of banter in the team,” he continued.

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Finidi’s tactics excites Iheanacho, Dessers

Kelechi Iheanacho and Cyriel Dessers have expressed delight with the tactics employed by interim coach Finidi George in their win over rivals Ghana on Friday, PUNCH Sports Extra reports. Finidi led the Eagles to a 2-1 win over the Black Stars at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco to ensure Nigeria’s first win over Ghana at senior level in 18 years. Returning forward Dessers sent Lawrence Ati-Zigi the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, after Ghanaian defender Jerome Opoku handled a shot by Iheanacho. Opoku would pick up a red card in the 57th minute for dissent, leaving the Black Stars with 10 men. The Eagles extended their lead with six minutes left when substitute Ademola Lookman calmly slotted past goalkeeper Ati-Zigi and an onrushing defender after a good team move that involved fellow substitute Moses Simon and midfielder Alex Iwobi. In four minutes of added time, right-back Bright Osayi-Samuel brought down forward Semenyo in the Nigeria box to gift the Ghanaians a penalty, and captain Jordan Ayew made no mistake from the spot sending Stanley Nwabali the wrong way. On the back of the win, Finidi’s tactics have earned him praises from some Nigerian players as the Super Eagles under Finidi delivered a direct, attacking style of football which was a sharp departure from the defensive football that got Nigeria to the final of the 2023 AFCON where they finished second. “He has done a fantastic job within such a short space of time, hopefully he will get more chances to prove himself,” Iheanacho said. Dessers, who scored the first goal of Finidi’s bow as Eagles boss believes the Enyimba’s style helps them create more chances saying, “He had a clear approach to this game – press aggressive and create more chances in this manner and I think we did that.” Nigeria will next battle Mali in Morocco on Tuesday, handing Finidi another chance to convince many about his readiness for the Super Eagles job.

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West Ham to reignite Awoniyi interest

Football365.com, a UK publication, says English Premier League side, West Ham, are interested in signing Nigeria international, Taiwo Awoniyi, amidst speculations that Nottingham Forest are open to selling their star players in their bid to avoid another breach of the Premier League’s financial rules. Forests were handed a four-point deduction on Tuesday for breaching the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules. According to the Premier League, the City Ground landlords admitted breaching PSR by £34.5m above their permitted threshold of £61m. The club are however are at risk of breaching financial rules again next season if they don’t sell one of their top stars in the summer. Football365 on Saturday wrote that the Hammers are set to reignite their interest in Awoniyi ater failing to sign the Nigerian last summer. “David Moyes chose Gianluca Scamacca over Awoniyi, and probably wishes he hadn’t,” the publication wrote. “The Hammers will definitely be in the market for a new No.9 whether Moyes stays or goes, and they’ve experienced the Nigerian’s quality first hand. “The 26-year-old has scored home and away against the Hammers this season, with his goal at The City Ground a particularly impressive show of the sort of strength, touch and composure in front of goal that Moyes’ side have been crying out for.” Awoniyi joined the Tricky Trees from Union Berlin for a club-record fee in region of £17.5m June 2022. Since joining the Premier League club, he has become an important player for the club and one of the fans favourites. Despite having his two seasons blighted by injury, the Nigerian forward remains Forest top scorer since joining the club, with 16 goals across the two campaigns. So far this season, the 26-year-old has scored six goals, three short of Chris Wood, who is currently the club top scorer. Premier League duo Newcastle and Southampton have also been linked with a move for the former Liverpool striker while FC Schalke 04 are also interested in the Super Eagles striker. The four-point deduction has seen Forest dropped into the relegation zone to 18th position, one point behind Luton Town, who moved up to 17th, with nine games to play.

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Warren: Joshua vs Fury set for 2025

According to Tyson Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, the Gypsy King and Anthony Joshua will likely meet in Saudi Arabia next year, PUNCH Sports Extra reports. Warren believes Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight twice this year, leaving Joshua waiting until 2025 as he thinks the finances involved in the undisputed title bout, a reported £100m for the victor, means the loser will trigger a rematch. “Next March, if Tyson does what I believe he’ll do and AJ continues to win, I’m sure that’ll set up a big fight,” Warren told Sky Sports. “It’s like going back to the late 60s, 70s, that’s what’s happening now. These guys are all fighting each other.” Fury and Joshua could well meet twice. Eddie Hearn revealed earlier this week that they could sign a two-fight deal, with one of the bouts taking place at Wembley Stadium. Warren believes they will have to clash at least once in the Middle East for pure financial reasons saying, “I’ve got to be honest, I think that is where it will go. Of course, I’d like them in the UK. “I look back when I was younger – all those many, many, many years ago – I look at all those really great fighters like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, where did they put their big fight on? The Rumble in the Jungle [in what was then Zaire]. Where did George Foreman fight Frazier? In Jamaica. The Thriller in Manila. That’s what happens. Because they went where the money is. “Those fights I mentioned took place in places you’d never dream of boxing taking place. Traditionally it would have either gone to New York, then it became Vegas with the casinos. “They’re professional sportsmen. And boxers, unlike most sportsmen their career is very limited. One on your block and it can be all over. So you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.’ Joshua needs to fill his time and find somebody to fight before Fury. After beating Francis Ngannou, some possible options are Filip Hrgovic, Deontay Wilder, and Joseph Parker.

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PDP fixed March 27 for Ondo gov aspirants’ screening

The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has fixed March 27 for the screening of its Ondo State governorship aspirants. Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission set November 16, 2024, as the date for the Ondo State governorship election. According to the party’s timetable, the congress where its governorship candidate will emerge will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2024. Also, the sale of expression of interest, nomination forms, and ad-hoc forms commenced on March 7 and concluded March 21. The deadline for submitting completed expression of interest and ad-hoc forms is March 25. The aspirants, who purchased the forms, are the former state deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, Engineer Akinwumi Adeolu, Otunba Bamidele Akingboye, Hon. Olusola Ebiseni, Kolade Akinjo, Bosun Arebuwa and Barr. John Mafo The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Saturday, also disclosed that the party appointed former governor of Ebonyi, Senator Sam Egwu, and Chief Rahman Owokoniran as the Chairman and Secretary of the Ondo State Screening Committee respectively.

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Ekiti plans 60,000 tree seedlings to fight deforestation

The Executive Secretary, Ekiti State Forestry Commission, Sunday Adekunle, has said that the commission is raising 60,000 tree seedlings to fight deforestation as part of efforts to boost plantation farming and fight deforestation in the state. Adekunle said that the seedlings of various species “will be sold to interested members of the public at subsidised rates and also planted at the degraded parts of the forest reserves in the state”. He lamented that the rate of deforestation and climate change-driven wildfires resulting in loss of about 10 million hectares of forests yearly globally was worrisome and unacceptable. Adekunle, who spoke in Ado Ekiti on Friday at an event with the theme, ‘Forests and innovation: New solution for a better world’, to mark the 2024 International Day of Forests, said no stone would be left unturned in the bid to end deforestation and illegal activities in Ekiti forests. At the event which witnessed official passing out of the newly recruited forestry officials, the Executive Secretary praised Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, for having “taken some bold steps to address the ugly trend in deforestation and illegal activities of some unscrupulous loggers by employing 22 foresters, 18 boundary men, and 10 technicians to boost the workforce of the commission”.

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APGA flays Ganduje over comment against party

The All Progressives Grand Alliance said that the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Ganduje, is living behind the times and disconnected from the political realities of this era. Recall that at the APC South East colloquium centered on the ‘De-marginalisation of South-East zone and integration into national politics’, hosted by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah representing Anambra South, Ganduje remarked that Anambra State’s failure to connect with the central government was hindering its expected progress. The APC National Chairman said, “Anambra is a strategic state in the South-East, but it is not making the progress that a state is expected to make because it is not connected to the central government and that is the missing link and it is not benefiting the state.” Reacting, APGA National Publicity Secretary, Ejimofor Opara, expressed in a statement on Saturday his curiosity about the level of progress achieved by Kano State under Ganduje’s APC administration, which led to the people rejecting the party in 2023 in favour of the NNPP.

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LP, NLC’s battle of wits over party ownership, convention

When the Nigeria Labour Congress signified that they were out to remove the Labour Party National Chairman, Julius Abure, from office penultimate Friday, not many took it seriously. It took a nationwide siege on all the party secretariats four days later for the message to sink home. In an open letter signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress Political Commission, Titus Amba and Chris Uyot respectively, Abure and the NWC were accused of proposing a “secret” national convention in Umuahia, the Abia State capital on March 27 that will re-elect the embattled chairman to continue running the LP as ‘sole administrator’. Describing the planned convention as illegal, the political wing of the NLC called for Abure’s resignation as party chairman and the immediate constitution of a caretaker transition committee to organise a legitimate and all-inclusive national convention for the party. Among other things, the unionists also alleged that Abure had in April 2023 tried to extend his tenure in office unilaterally by two years but was stopped at the instance of the LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi, who insisted that the right thing be done. The drama came at the height of the leadership crisis that had seen the Abure’s camp battle for legitimacy against the Lamidi Apapa faction of the party. Expectedly, the leadership of the LP fought back to dismiss the allegations of the NLC in a statement on Saturday. The National Publicity Secretary of LP, Obiora Ifoh, had sounded it as a note of warning in a statement titled ‘Resign as NLC President to contest LP chairmanship,’ that the party’s leadership does not feel obligated to follow the directives of the unionists. LP secretariats’ invasion The bravado only lasted four days as the congress called the bluff of the LP and mobilised its members to picket the national headquarters in Abuja last Wednesday. Brandishing different banners and chanting solidarity songs, the protesters insisted that Abure must be kicked out over his alleged financial rascality and contempt of their president, Joe Ajaero. They were however prevented from gaining access to the party secretariat by security operatives posted to the area to maintain order. In the wake of the disruption of activities, the National Working Committee of the Labour Party faulted the action of the NLC, describing it as an abuse of power. A disappointed National Youth Leader, Prince Kennedy Ahanotu, had expressed disappointment in the manner the union handled the situation. According to him, it is wrong for a movement that symbolises the struggle of the masses to picket secretariats of a political party. The NWC member accuses Ajaero of being openly partisan in his approach to allegedly hijacking the party to further his “political ambition”. But this was not the first time Ajaero would be accused of being partisan and abusing his office by using the machinery of the congress to fight perceived political enemies. Ajaero’s Imo misadventure On November 1, 2023, the NLC president survived a mob attack in faraway Imo State where he was eventually whisked to an unknown destination by some policemen. His crime was not immediately known as his loyalists and other members of organised labour threatened mayhem if the police and Governor Hope Uzodimma failed to produce him. Addressing a world press conference in Abuja, the labour leader gave an account of how he was brutalised in the state, saying police operatives handed him over to some suspected thugs for beating. Ajaero told journalists that the kind of beating he received after security agents handed him over to the thugs was better imagined than explained. While denying that he travelled to Imo with an ulterior motive to mobilise the people against Uzodimma as being speculated, the NLC boss claimed that they wrote to intimate security agencies about workers’ protest before the fateful day. “I went to the (NLC) secretariat around 9am after receiving reports that some workers were beaten up and their phones seized. I went there with about 20 security personnel. I called for some journalists and other workers to address the press on the situation in Imo State. It was then that some police officers in uniform and mufti came and withdrew my 20 security personnel. A policeman also arrested me and handed me over to the thugs. “When a sergeant wanted to know why I was being handed over, they shouted at him to keep quiet. They were asking me why I was challenging a governor and that I should say my last prayer. I can’t explain the beating I received. They tied my hands and dragged me on the floor like a common criminal. I am not even a card-carrying member of any political party as alleged,” he cried. His account, however, contradicted an earlier statement by the Imo State Police Command, which said the NLC President was taken into protective custody to save him from a mob attack. The statement was issued on the official X handle of the Nigerian Police by Imo Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Okoye Henry. Party chieftains seek ceasefire Reacting to Wednesday’s picketing of their party secretariats, the chief spokesman for the LP Campaign Organisation, Yunusa Tanko, called for caution, saying the baby should not be thrown away with the bath water. According to him, there was an ongoing effort at a stakeholders’ meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, to resolve the cold war between the NLC and the party leadership. In a related development, the leader of the National Consultative Front, Pat Utomi, a frontline stakeholder caucus in the LP, also called for an end to the hostility. Utomi, who said he had been following the drama surrounding the projected LP convention, sought contributions from labour stakeholders. The professor of Political Economy and management expert made the call in a statement on Wednesday, warning that such a crisis could not be ruled out at a period when the party emerged as the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics. According to him, the only way to shame the critics who wanted to see the LP crumble was for all contending forces, including factions, to sheathe their swords and allow peace to prevail in the party. He also demanded that the proposed national convention be halted to give room for due consultations to ensure inclusivity in the affairs of the party for future strength and triumph. Apapa faction backs Abure The drama, however, took a different dimension when a dissident group, the Lamidi Apapa faction threw its weight behind the embattled Abure of the party. While condemning the invasion of their party secretariat, spokesman for the faction, Abayomi Arabambi, called for the immediate arrest of Ajaero for allegedly planning a “political insurrection against the Federal Government through a conduct that is likely to cause a breach of peace with his call on students, market women and leaders, thugs, and other miscreants to invade the 36 states chapter of Labour Party offices.” Arabambi made the call at a press conference on Wednesday in Abeokuta, Ogun State. According to him, the call for picketing, subsequent invasion, and destruction of the LP national office by the NLC was illegal, archaic, and not in tandem with modern democracy. ‘No retreat, no surrender’ In an exclusive interview, the NLC spokesman, Benson Upah, told our Saturday PUNCH that the Edo politician was a product of a coup and had breached many protocols over the years. He said, “Abure ceased to be the LP national chairman a long time ago. We repeatedly invited him to no avail. We heard he was planning a convention, and he didn’t even mention to the leadership of the congress that he was planning any convention. That’s to tell you the kind of person he is. “The NLC wants its party back and Abure has ceased to be the national chairman. The owners want their property back. Where was Abure when they were registering the party? When the then national chairman, (Abdulkadir) Abdulsalam, died, the next person in succession by the provision of the party constitution was Maria Lebake or any of his deputies, what was Abure’s position in the party then? He was just the national secretary.” Upah’s position was shared by the Edo chapter of NLC, which equally accused the LP national chairman of running the LP as a personal business. The Edo team led by its vice chairman, Suleiman Abubakar, made the claim while picketing the party’s annex in Benin in compliance with the national directive from the congress. Abubakar reiterated that Abure was out of order for not carrying the NLC along in decision-making despite knowing that the party belongs to the union. Experts react Meanwhile, the show of force between the NLC and the beleaguered political party has started eliciting mixed feelings from political observers. Human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, blamed the LP for not carrying what he called its parent body along in crucial matters. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also faulted the NLC for resorting to picketing instead of finding the right channel to deal with the issue. He said, “I think the Labour Party which is existent to Labour and Civil Societies Organisations has been a product of a long campaign for workers to be involved in the exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of association. It is rightly believed that any politician who wants to play on the platform of such an organisation must have at the back of his mind the genesis and philosophy of such an entity. To that extent, it cannot be said that the NLC is trying to hijack the Labour Party, the latter being its baby and the outcome of its agitation. “It is the party that should find a way towards reconciling with its parent body, being that a baby can be greater than its parent. In that regard, I believe that the current leaders of the LP are in error to the extent that they do not wish to countenance the involvement of the parent body. That is on one side. The other part is that the parent body, having given birth to the baby, must allow it to exist. The structure that has been laid for the party for the emergence of national officers and candidates must be respected. “But if the parent body has an issue, it must follow its procedure to take over the organisation, not through picketing. Some laws guard the LP. It has its constitution, and that document must be followed if there is a need to change the executives to bring it in conformity with the original ideal and philosophy of its parent body. However, the NLC cannot take laws into its own hands by hijacking the structure of the party. It has to go through the procedure set up by the constitution.” A political analyst at the University of Ilorin, Dr Alada Mohammed, expressed sympathy for the LP, saying it perhaps believes every member of the NLC shares the same ideology with their party. While stressing that an internal crisis is expected in any party, the expert noted that Abure and his NWC forgot that they would be a target of opposing parties following its giant strides at the 2023 general elections. “It should be expected that in a democracy, people tend to use what they have to get what they need. The NLC, in my view, is being coerced to serve the interest of a political party. The fact that they are bearing one name does not mean they are one body. But at times when you are blinded by power, you tend to misconstrue the meaning and may want to use the machinery of a non-political association, so to say, to pursue a political ambition. Of course, when you try to do that, you may likely run into trouble. “Again, if you are trying to constitute a political platform, it is expected that the party you are opposing will not go to sleep. It will want to use every means to destabilise you, even if it means penetrating your wing and using people or machinery from within. I think that is exactly what is playing out here. I hope you know that even NLC members belong to different parties. “So, you just find yourself floating at the end of the day because the members you have don’t share the same political ideology. It is a wrong assumption to believe that because you have a body, therefore, it must share the same ideology with you. No, it doesn’t work that way. We all have different interests and ideologies,” he stated. Another political scientist from Lagos State University, Prof Sylvester Akhaine, also shared his sentiment when he stated that ‘the tussle is essentially about control.’ He said, “The labour party is a product of NLC and TUC. But the control is in the hands of those who are ideologically at variance with labour values. Elements who want to constrict the political space can hijack the dissension to undermine the party that has recently emerged as a third force.” It is hard to tell if the NLC may be willing to go as far as throwing the bath water away with its supposed ‘baby’ or allow its anger to subside while stakeholders create an enabling environment for a thorough negotiation. But while the drama lasts, it is uncertain whether the presidential candidate of the LP, Peter Obi, whose deafening silence has got many of his ‘Obidient’ supporters worried, would be willing to mediate between the two warring camps.

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Biden Signs Funding Bill, Averting Government Shutdown

US President Joe Biden on Saturday signed into law a long-awaited funding bill passed by Congress, keeping federal agencies running through September and averting a damaging partial government shutdown. “The bipartisan funding bill I just signed keeps the government open, invests in the American people, and strengthens our economy and national security,” Biden said in a statement. Senators missed a midnight deadline to pass the $1.2 trillion package to keep the lights on in several key government agencies but voted in the early hours to pass a resolution that had already advanced from the House. At the same time, Biden called on lawmakers to approve additional national and border security funding. “Congress’s work isn’t finished. The House must pass the bipartisan national security supplemental to advance our national security interests,” Biden’s statement said. “And Congress must pass the bipartisan border security agreement — the toughest and fairest reforms in decades.” “It’s time to get this done.” ‘Our persistence has been worth it’ A day of high-stakes Capitol Hill drama began at midday Friday, when the House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion, six-bill package representing the largest and most contentious section of federal funding. With cash running out at midnight for three-quarters of the government, including defense and homeland security, the Senate was thrust into a race against the clock to advance the legislation to Biden’s desk. Budget negotiations looked close to breaking down, with both sides pushing to tweak the legislation to reflect their campaign messaging and priorities ahead of November’s presidential election, when Biden faces former president Donald Trump. Senators were preparing to adjourn with no deal on holding a vote, which would have prompted the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to begin scaling back operations in key federal agencies on Saturday morning. But a deal came together just as the midnight deadline arrived, and the Senate voted to pass the resolution after 2:00 am local time (0600 GMT) in Washington. “It wasn’t easy, but tonight our persistence has been worth it,” Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor after hours of tense negotiation. “It is good for the American people that we have reached a bipartisan agreement to finish the job,” he added before the bill received final approval. Republican Senator Mitt Romney said while the bill was “far from perfect, I voted for this appropriations bill because it provides critical funding for our military and for border security.” Speaker under pressure Hours earlier, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had angered his own right flank by relying on Democratic votes to advance the package to the Senate. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a close ally of Trump, told reporters she had filed a “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair over Johnson’s endorsement of the funding package, thrashed out over weeks of tense negotiations between the parties. The resolution, a rare maneuver that requires a simple majority to pass, comes after the same maneuver led to the removal of previous speaker Kevin McCarthy last fall — and weeks of infighting as Republicans rejected several potential replacements before settling on Johnson. The timeline for next steps on Greene’s resolution was not immediately clear, although a vote to remove Johnson cannot take place until April at the earliest, with the House now on a two-week recess. Greene told CNN that “quite a few” Republicans were supporting her effort. The shutdown would have affected about 70 percent of government agencies and departments, as funding for the first 30 percent — covering agriculture, science, veterans programs, transport and housing — passed without major drama last month. Five of the six bills covering the rest of federal spending were also straightforward, but disputes over the funding of homeland security delayed the release of the deal, originally expected last weekend. Republican hard-liners were angered by a lack of stricter border security provisions in the package, as well as the overall price tag and the elevated speed with which the deal has been negotiated.

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