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Weaponization of cyberspace makes ‘Office of ICT General’ inevitable

ITREALMS : The weaponization of cyberspace has made the enthronement of the Office of the Information and Communication Technology (I...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Saraki, Dogara emergence & role of ICT



THE intrigue, brouhaha, altercations and near free-for-all fight witnessed in the two legislative chambers following the elections of the Senator Bukola Saraki (APC Kwara State) as Senate President and Hon. Yakubu Dogara (Yobe) as Speaker, House of Representatives, which took place on June 9, 2015, cannot go without mentioning of the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

ITRealms reports that their emergence took the nation by storm as nobody was expecting the kind of politics which some industry observers tagged as ‘politrick’ based on the reported plans by the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) purported endorsement of some candidates for both positions, who eventually lost in all ramifications.

As if the aforementioned was not enough, both houses of the National Assembly also elected Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu State) as deputy senate president while Hon. Yusuf Lasun (Osun State) was elected deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. 

So far, the magnitude of rancor in the elections of the leadership of the two Houses of the National Assembly going by the fact that the All Progressives Congress is in the majority and as such should, ordinarily be in the driving seat to call the tunes, thus the change in game plan was least expected. 

Although days before this scene, there was some advertorials on national dailies and the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) inviting the then elected NASS members both at the Senate and House for inauguration ceremony with outlined programmes, which commenced on Monday, June 8 and expected to conclude by Tuesday, June 9, 2015, with election of presiding officers.

Of course, NASS members held their various day-1 part-inauguration session with the Clerks of their respective houses led by Clerk of the Senate, Alhaji Salisu Maikasua, before the adjournment till next day for the proper election of the NASS leadership by members.

This came after it was reported that the ruling party, APC members at both houses held mock elections to pave way for a smooth election eventually, of course with some party rebels who insisted that they as members be allowed to elect their leaders without any interference from the party.

However, little did Nigerians realize the key role played by technologies in the emergence of the two House leaders in the National Assembly, but as announced at the floor of the Senate by Senator Barnabas Gemade-lead Unity group, following the arrival of President Mohammadu Buhari from the G7 Meeting in Germany it became imperative for him as the new party ‘leader’ to meet with the elected members of APC in the national assembly to ensure peaceful conduct of their elections.

But following a Short Message Service (SMS) received purportedly from the party leadership inviting elected members to a meeting at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja by 9am for a meeting with Mr. President, the incident may not have happened or Saraki becoming the Senate President.

Experts at an open source encyclopedia, Wikipedia, explained that SMS is a text messaging service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems; which uses standardized communications protocols developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to facilitate phone devices to exchange short text messages across both fixed lines and mobiles.

Also, experts at the GSM Association (GSMA) disclosed that SMS has remained the most widely used data application, with an estimated 7.5 trillion SMS exchanged across all mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2012. It has since 1985 assumed its latest dimension as part of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) series of standards as a means of sending messages of up to 160 characters to and from GSM mobile handsets.

For Senator Gemade, as loyal party members, they adhered to the SMS, not minding that NASS has scheduled its elections by 10am, which in fact commenced the previous day by 10:03am, claiming that the Clerk of NASS was duly informed to have ‘slight delay’ to enable them, as majority to attend this Presidential call and then join.

And while they were at ICC, he said, news flittered in obviously through their Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication and through the live broadcast of the NASS elections by some TV stations that an election has been held with Senator Saraki emerging as sole candidate for the Senate President, hence they rushed back in a coaster bus, abandoning their respective Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) that brought them to the venue in order to beat the traffic.

The rush back, afforded the APC NASS members to meet up with the election of the deputy Senate President which was contested on their behalf by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, but he lost to PDP Senator, Ike Ekweremadu.

Though, it was alleged in some quarters that some members of new-Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) that joined APC coalition hatched this since none of them under the auspices of Like Mind Senators attempted to attend the Presidential meeting at ICC.

Yet, another school of thought argued that the outcome of the NASS leadership was a simple politrick and marriage of convenience, which depend largely on who is smart enough to outdo the other in this era of technology prowess. Even as the supposed ‘slight delay’ could have become a full day affair, which in other words amounts to a scheme by APC Senators to gang-up against Nigeria and indeed the PDP in the choice of Senate presidency, which many members actually kicked against. Not without mentioning the incidence and emergence of former House Speaker and now Governor Amin Tambuwal in year 2011 against the wishes of PDP leadership then, but was supported by APC members.

The LikeMind Senators while adducing reasons they did not turn up at ICC in a press statement sighted by ITRealms, said “We went to that venue on the 8th, we waited for the VP for hours; there was no VP. And the VP was not even available. So, having seen that on the 8th, then around 7am to 8am on 9th June, we got another text which said we should report. It’s no longer the Vice President; it’s now the President, having being deceived on Monday. Do you think anybody who is rational will now also go for another meeting?

“After all the President did not appear at the ICC. The Buhari that we know cannot and will not give two contrary opinions, especially one that is against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” they said, insisting that “The Letter of Proclamation was written, duly signed, the time stated, date stated; he will not do otherwise. It is not true that we disrespected the President and if the President wants to do that, he would have called.”

A source close to Saraki attributed the loss of the office of Deputy Senate President to the PDP to absence of APC senators who were at the ICC. The source disclosed that Senator Saraki did not encourage Ekweremadu to run to be his deputy, saying that Ekweremadu’s emergence was forced on the few APC senators present by the PDP senators who at that time were in the majority.

Reacting, the National Secretary, Labour Party, Barr. Olukayode Ajulo warned that the ongoing leadership tussle within the ranks of APC, may derail and distract the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration from delivering on its many promises to Nigerians. Describing the in-fighting between power blocs of APC as borne of selfish interests, pointing out that the ominous signs being given by the leadership of the APC appears to be a confirmation of the popularly held opinion that the APC was a party of “strange bed-fellows” which was not built to last and would not stand the test of time.

Goje, those who went to ICC, were on their own:
Meanwhile, the absentee APC Senators adhered to their party directive to appear before the Senate the following morning of June 10, to be sworn-in by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki so as to enable discharge their constitutional duties.

But the oath-taking and allegiance witnessed a mild drama as Senator Oluremi Tinubu, APC Lagos Central, held back her hands when the Senate President, in line with the tradition after administering the oath stretched out his hands to shake her.

Efforts to take the Senate back through Point of Order 15 and 43 between SenatorsSenator Kabir Garba Marafa and Gemade could not stand as Senate President in performance of his duties ruled them out of order. This much was supported by Senator Mohammed Goje (APC, Gombe Central) while standing on the constitutional provision of Section 64 and sub-section three of the Constitution, said that the President was empowered to order proclamation of this Senate as he did and “For anybody to now say this hallowed chamber should ignore that constitutional provision which is the letter from Mr President, I think that person is saying that we should disobey the Constitution of the country and disobey Mr. President. And I want to say, let it be on record, that whoever decided to go for a meeting there, is on his own.”

16 Leadership positions still in contention:
As at the time of filing this report, APC has not come out to deny its party leadership sent the trouble SMS or not, instead positioned itself for ‘war’ of which they are still at the battle ground because other 16 NASS leadership positions yet to be filled at time of this report; that is eight positions for the Senate and House of Representatives, including Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Chief Whip, Minority Whip, Deputy Majority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Deputy Chief Whip and Deputy Minority Whip apiece, has generated raising of voices at NASS.

The fact remains that a house divided by itself will definitely fall and by extension, if APC allows the ongoing rancor to linger, it means the prophecy of some analysts that the party was made up of strange bed fellows will not only come to bear as truth but indeed.

The earlier the party and its NASS members begin to retrace their steps, the better for the country as one hopes that the live broadcast of NASS business will not stop, because Nigerians are watching and following their moves, for democratic dividends and grow democracy in Nigeria.

Though, industry observers expect that as the 8th Senate settles down for business after a two-week break on June 23, more use of ICT is expected, because that will add a lot more advantage to the recently signed into law the Cyber Security Act alongside other related Acts like National Communication Act and National Information Technology Development Act, therefore gathering the supposed political support whenever issues in these areas of ICT sector is brought before then as to the importance.

Invariably SMS was deployed to create the scene 1 which played out at NASS whilst the scene 2 unfold, no one knows which aspect of the ICT tools will be used to deliver it. So, keep watching.

*Remmy Nweke with additional reports by Cyriacus Nnaji
 

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