Published On: Sun, Nov 20th, 2016

RE: IGNORE REQUEST FOR NOMINATION OF ELECO MEMBERS

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November 18, 2016

The Speaker,

Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Mobile Parliament,

Ijaw House, Sanni Abacha Road,

Yenagoa,

Bayelsa State.

 

Mr. Speaker Sir,

 

I have just read a notice by the Deputy President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Rasaq Amatoru wherein he advised Clan, Zonal and Chapter structures of the Ijaw Youth Council (hereinafter IYC) to ignore the directive by the President of IYC, Udengs Eradiri to kick start the process of electing new national officers in line with the IYC constitution. Though the notice by the Deputy President was not addressed to any particular head of structure of Council; however I have taken the liberty of addressing this letter to you because as Speaker of the IYC parliament, you preside over representatives of all Clans of the Ijaw Nation. Therefore, information communicated to your office by implication is deemed to have been communicated to the entire Ijaw Nation. I have decided to do this response as a critical player in the affairs of IYC in the past two years and eight months; hence I would not sit back and allow people driven by personal interest to derail the IYC and the Ijaw nation. I will take the issues raised by the Deputy President one after the order.

  1. CALL ON STRUCTURES OF COUNCIL TO DISREGARD THE IYC PRESIDENT’S DIRECTIVE.

The Deputy President in his notice called on structures of the IYC to disregard the directive by the President of Council to start the electoral process on the basis that national exco is yet to meet to agree on the start of the electoral process. This act clearly demonstrates insubordination and lack of respect for rules and regulations. The functions and powers of a Deputy President of IYC are clearly stated in the IYC constitution. There is no section of the IYC constitution which empowers a Deputy President or a Vice Chairman in the case of Zones and Chapters to issue a directive to counter that of the President or a Zonal Chairman. The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the Council by the IYC Constitution and has the constitutional power to give such directives to Zones and Chapters. In short, where the President is active, the Deputy President has no say.

In any case the notice by the Deputy President has exposed what some of us knew long ago. The Deputy President like a chameleon is with the President of Council, Udengs Eradiri during the day and at night he would be on the side of those who have decided to drag the IYC and Ijaw nation to the mud. He has shown his true colour by this notice.

Another reason given by the Deputy President for calling on structures of Council not to support the transition process is a purported crisis which in his view prevents the IYC from starting the transition process. Firstly I wish to state clearly that this is a subtle call for ‘extension of tenure’ and I am vehemently opposed to such a wicked and unconstitutional idea. This is so because the reason behind this call is that if the so called crisis in the National Exco is not resolved, then there would be no transition and handover of power to a new national executive council. This call by the Deputy President lacks any constitutional backing. The IYC practice and constitution do not provide for extension of tenure because of disagreement within National leadership, hence I call on distinguished parliamentarians to reject in totality this illegal suggestion. By the established practice and constitution of the IYC, it is the constituents units which are the zones and now including chapters which makes up the membership of IYC that nominates members into ELECO. The National Executive Council (NEC) of the IYC has no constitutional power to nominate and constitute the ELECO for the purpose of conducting National Elections. Therefore, the imaginary crisis orchestrated by the Deputy President and some others for selfish reasons is not a barrier to the commencement of the electoral process. The role of NEC in the electoral process is only to fund the electoral process and in the wisdom of Ijaw Youths at Ofunama there is already a constitutional funding mechanism for ELECO which is the dues paid by members. At the Ofunama Constitutional Convention, part of the amendment was that money generated from the payment of membership dues would be used for conduct of elections. Therefore, the NEC has no role to play in the elections and the IYC and Ijaw nation cannot be held back because of one ‘imaginary crises’ orchestrated by ‘IYC crisis merchants’.

Mr. Speaker I wish to also state that there is no constitutional or practice requirement that NEC must meet to approve before the transition would commenced. The commencement of the electoral process at least three months to the end of the tenure is a mandatory requirement of the IYC constitution and practice, hence with or without the directive from the President, the Zones and Chapters are under obligation to call for Congresses to nominate their representatives into the Electoral Committee. In any case, there was an expanded executive council meeting on the 5th of November, 2016 in Warri, Delta State and the only issue discussed was transition and the reason why dates for congresses could not be taken was because of the appeal by Zonal and Chapters leaders to first meet with the Secretary General of Council, Bristol Emmanuel and others. The meeting with the Secretary of IYC has since taken place hence there is no basis for the Deputy President to raise any objection as to lack of exco meeting.

It is also important to clarify the misconception by some persons as to the role of the National Secretary in receiving the names of nominees into Eleco on behalf of NEC. There is nothing special about this provision. The Secretary’s role in the electoral process under the IYC Constitution as amended is to merely receive the nominees selected at the different congresses which in any case would be known to the entire world and hand the list over to the President in council for onward transmission to parliament for ratification. The parliamentarians that have the constitutional power to screen Eleco nominees are from the different zones and would be part of the Congresses. Therefore, the presence, absence or refusal of the National Secretary to do his job or not is of no consequence to the start of the electoral process.

  1. PURPORTED FLAWED PROCESS IN THE AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION.

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy President also alleged that the Constitution of the IYC as amended at Ofunama lacks legitimacy because majority of council members do not support it. I do not know how the Deputy President came about his conclusion as to whether majority of council members are in support of the amended constitution or not. However, the facts in my disposal points to the fact that council members endorsed the amended constitution at Ofunama and has actually been utilizing it as shown by the following facts:

  1. The amended constitution was used to set up all the Clans and Zonal Elecos without objection.
  2. The amended constitution was used to select delegates and conduct all the Zonal and Chapter elections without any objection.
  • The amended constitution was used to conduct all the clan elections without any objection.
  1. The amended constitution was used to conduct the election of parliamentarians without any objection.
  2. All clan, zonal, chapter leaders and parliamentarians were all sworn-in with the amended constitution without any objection.
  3. The Deputy President, Chief objector, participated in all these activities without objection.

My speaker, I have just given a few of the instances of the acceptance of the amended constitution of the IYC by members to demonstrate to distinguished parliamentarians that the assertion of the Deputy President lacks substance and empirical facts. We have passed the era in IYC where people tell bare face lies without been challenged.

The Deputy President also talks about padding of the amended constitution. I do not know what he meant by padding as he did not define the term.  It is common knowledge that he who asserts has the duty to prove his assertion. At Ofunama, a document was printed and distributed to all Ijaw youths numbering more than two thousand and everything that transpired at Ofunama was recorded. Those who are alleging padding such as the Deputy President should provide the evidence of the padding. Everything that is contained in the IYC Constitution was discussed and adopted at Ofunama except the issue of National office for Abuja Chapter. However, the Organizing Secretary contained in the constitution as position for Abuja was one of the positions suggested at Exco meetings to discuss the issue based on convention directive. Therefore, the allegation of padding is spurious and without basis. I repeat that the video recording of the Ofunama is available at the IYC secretariat, Ijaw House for viewing. Those with contrary view have the duty to provide the contrary evidence.

The process leading to the amendment of the Constitution was one of the most transparent and rigorous. A Constitution Review Committee was set up by the exco and headed by the National Legal Adviser. The Committee submitted its report to a Pre-Convention Constitutional Congress at Agudama, Ekpetiama in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and it was extensively debated. Thereafter, there was a Constitutional Convention at Ofunama, Edo State wherein a clause by clause consideration of the proposed amendments were done and zones and chapters also presented their demands. At the end of the deliberations, Jeremiah Perekeme Owoupele, my predecessor in office as IYC Spokesman moved the historic motion for the adoption of the amended Constitution and it was seconded by Arc. Deme Yinkore, then Speaker of the IYC parliament. In the light of this rigorous process, one begins to wonder what the Deputy President meant by flawed process which has eroded the confidence of members in the amended Constitution. I think the idea of a flawed process only exists in his imagination.

Mr. Speaker, I am not oblivious of some of the concerns that have been raised by members of Council including zonal officers. Some of the concerns are in my opinion genuine. However, they are also those pushing same positions for selfish reasons. The most prominent of these concerns relates to the amendment which states that voting in National Elections should be on zonal basis instead of general election as it used to be. Some have argued that this would cause polarization of the Ijaw nation and not promote the unity which forms one of the reasons for the formation of the IYC. As a person, I share the sentiments expressed by the proponents of this point of view. However, it is not new. Same position was eloquently articulated by Jonathan Lokpobiri at Ofunama and Ijaw Youths rejected it. However, my position is that because human beings by nature are dynamic, so if it is now the wish of the generality of Ijaw Youths to take a second look at this issue, so be it. I have no opposition to it. But this must be done in line with established procedure as a respected organization and not the unconstitutional, illegal and motor-park approach that is been recommended by some people.

On some other issues like zonal officers being automatic delegates. Let me start by saying that I am not against zonal officers voting in National elections. However, we must at all times strive to say the truth. To allege that it was some persons who remove any purported clause which recognized zonal officers as automatic delegate smacks of dishonesty and is uncharitable. As I stated earlier, the Constitution amendment process was done transparently and some of the Zonal and Chapter officers participated actively in the process from Agudama to Ofunama. At no point did they mention issue of Zonal officers been automatic delegates. And in any case, those arguing for automatic delegates for Zonal officers failed to realize that the amended Constitution did not also make provision for National officers, Principal Officers of Parliament as automatic delegates. What that simply means is that even the National President of IYC is not an automatic delegate to vote in the IYC National Elections. The philosophy behind the treatment of the delegate issue was to make the clan which every member of IYC belongs to as the basis. In actually fact this has already been put to use. In the Zonal elections which all the present Zonal and Chapter officers contested, outgoing Zonal officers at that time and incumbent National officers were not delegate hence did not vote. As Spokesman of IYC, I did not vote in the Western Zone election because I was not a delegate. I also recall that other National and Zonal officers including Mr. Preye Okaba, the then Western zone Chairman did not vote.  All these were done in line with the amended Constitution.

Mr. Speaker, I have taken this pain to demonstrate to you and distinguished Parliamentarians who are the custodians of the IYC Constitution that the claims by the Deputy President are bereft of any Constitutional backing and substance. The said notice was not borne out of any patriotic and altruistic reasons. The Deputy President is one of the instigators of the imaginary crisis in the National exco and this is not new. They did same thing throughout the three years of the Abiye leadership and they are doing same now. Did he not remember at the time he was instigating crisis that the Ijaw nation was passing through trying times? He instigated crisis in the IYC when Ijaw Communities were been attacked and our women been raped but he did not remember that we were passing through trying times then.

The point must be made clearly that the opposition of a few to the amended Constitution is not because of the Zonal or General elections issue. It is also not because of the right of Zonal officers to vote in the National elections or the new Clans recognized in the East and Central Zones by the amended Constitution. These are minor matters of general interest that can and would be addressed without problem before the elections. Once the issue of General or Zonal election is resolved, the question of who would be delegates would automatically be taken care of, as it was in the past as obviously Zones and Chapters would have equal number of delegates and is up to the different Zones and Chapters to decide their delegates within the existing structures.  The opposition to the amended Constitution is anchored on personal reasons and I would reveal that now.

  1. THE REAL REASON FOR THE MINORITY OPPOSITION TO THE AMENDED CONSTITUTION.

Mr. Speaker, one of the innovations introduced by the Ofunama Constitution was the raising of the bar with respect to the National leadership of the IYC. This idea predates the Udengs Eradiri led Exco. It all started during the tenure of Mr. Kuromiema Miabiye where the Constitution Review Committee recommended that Contestants for the offices of President, Secretary General and Spokesman must be graduates or its equivalent because of the emerging contemporary challenges.  This recommendation of the Preye Nduku Constitution Review Committee under Miabiye was taken up by the Ekene Egbelekro led Constitution Review Committee under Udengs Eradiri and it was presented to Pre-Convention Congress at Agudama and unanimously adopted without any objection at Ofunama. This position is captioned in section 9(7) of the IYC Constitution (as amended) thus:

“Contestants for the positions of President, National Secretary and Spokesman must at least be graduates or its equivalent”.

Mr. Speaker this eighteen (18) words subsection is the underlying reason for the opposition to the IYC Constitution by the very small vocal minority. This opposition is obviously not in the interest of the Ijaw people. It is an insult for anybody to oppose such an idea that ought to be applauded by all well-meaning Ijaw people. The rules governing the IYC are made for all Ijaw Youths and not to satisfy the personal interest of a few people. If all of us have decided to be bound by some rules, we must all collectively defend them and not to set them aside to satisfy the personal interest of a few. All of us are Ijaw people and no one is more Ijaw that the other for the goal post to be changed in the middle of the game.

CONCLUSION:

Mr. Speaker and Distinguished IYC parliamentarians, in conclusion I wish to state as follows THAT:

  1. The public notice by the Deputy President of IYC is a violent attack on the IYC Constitution as he completely lacks the powers to issue such a notice.
  2. The call to suspend the transition process is a subtle attempt to ‘extend the tenure’ of the present National leadership of the IYC which I am vehemently opposed to. Anybody planning to derail the transition process till the end of the Udengs Eradiri tenure as IYC President including one or two parliamentarians are enemies of the Ijaw nation because such idea would only give birth to uncontrollable crisis in IYC.
  3. The President of the IYC, Udengs Eradiri should be commended for initiating steps towards the commencement of the electoral process. Recall that at the meeting of the leadership of the IYC Parliament in Port Harcourt, similar resolution was reached calling for the commencement of the electoral process, hence Mr. President is only implementing the resolution of Parliament in compliance with the IYC Constitution.
  4. The process for the amendment of the IYC Constitution was transparently done and thereby was not flawed. It is also generally acceptable to Ijaw Youths.
  5. The question of whether the election should be National or on Zonal basis and voting right of Zonal, Chapter and National officers is left for members of the IYC to resolve. The resolution of these issues has no bearing on other amendments to the Constitution and the commencement of the electoral process. These issues are the last part of the transition process and therefore have no effect on the commencement of the transition process.
  6. There is no opposition to other amendments to the Constitution and it cannot be changed to satisfy the personal interest of few individuals. Achievements such as Abuja chapter, Diaspora chapters, Eleco members for Abuja and Lagos chapters, newly recognized Clans in Eastern and Central zones, Clan Eleco, Zonal Eleco, streamlined Clan and Zonal elections and several other laudable amendments cannot be sacrifice to satisfy the personal interest of a few IYC members.
  7. What Ijaw Youths want now is for the transition process to elect new leadership to start and should not be allowed to be derailed by ‘IYC crisis merchants’. The IYC Parliament under your leadership has the last opportunity to redeem your reputation in the light of the slap on your face by some National officers who have claimed to now possess the power to impeach fellow National officers without the Parliament commencing disciplinary procedure against them. The power to impeach Officers of Council is the exclusive power of Parliament but now taken away by some Exco members from Parliament. If the Parliament cannot also act in the instant case by insisting on the commencement of the transition process, then Ijaw Youths would have to reconsider the essence of Parliament.

I hope that Mr. Speaker and Parliamentarians of the IYC would find time to read this letter.

Thank you!

Yours faithfully,

Eric K. Omare, Esq.,

IYC Spokesman

 

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