Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ekiti ‘see and buy’ election bazaar

“What we are doing is not election. It is money competition. The PDP started it by paying N3,000 into the accounts of civil servants and pensioners. I am a pensioner and I received an alert of N3,000 to vote for the PDP. I called the pension office to ask if my pension was now N3,000. They told me that it was meant for logistics to and fro, that we would meet on the field for the balance.”
-          Abiodun Aluko, Accord Party governorship candidate in the July 14, 2018 Ekiti poll.
The July 14, 2018 Ekiti governorship election has come and gone with Dr. John Kayode Fayemi emerging victorious at the poll. Hearty congratulations to him.  There was a lot of tension ahead of the election given the fact that the state nicknamed ‘Fountain of Knowledge’ and ‘Land of Honour’ is notorious for election-related violence.  I was privileged to be one of the thousands of accredited observers of the gubernatorial election. My team arrived Ado Ekiti, the capital of the South West State on Thursday, July 12, 2018. In order to give us better understanding of the situation on ground, we had meetings with relevant stakeholders ahead of the election.
Although there were 35 candidates in the election, we could only meet with the candidates of PDP and APC.   Other stakeholders we met include the top echelon of the Independent National Electoral Commission, top hierarchy of the security agencies led by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Joshak Habila as well as some civil society organisations. These meetings afforded me rare opportunity to have firsthand information on the preparations and conduct of the election.
On the Election Day my team observed elections in several Polling Units in six out of the 16 Local Government Areas of the State. These are Ado Ekiti, Irepodun / Ifelodun, Ido-Osi, Oye, Ikere and Ekiti South-West. There were a lot of positives from the Ekiti gubernatorial election. These include the fact that the election started on time in most of the Polling Units, there was massive turnout of voters, it was largely peaceful, election materials were adequate, the process was inclusive as special interest groups like youths, women and Persons with Disabilities were taken into consideration in the electoral planning. For instance, the bulk of the Poll Officials as well as accredited observers, journalists and Party Agents were youths and women age between 18 and 35 years. Persons with Disabilities were also specifically accredited to observe the election while PWD Official Voting Day Instructions was printed and made available to the Poll Officials.
Unlike in the past where some Corps members on election duty hold the commission hostage by refusing to go to their deployed Polling Units due to allegation of non-payment of their allowances; in Ekiti, INEC ensured that the Corps members training and transport allowances were paid ahead of the polling day while they were assured of prompt payment of their election duty allowance immediately after the poll. Thus, there was no single incidence of protest or refusal to go to work. It was also commendable that INEC ensured that members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers who provided the transportation for election materials and personnel did not disappoint as was the practice in the past. The transporters were prompt at their duty posts and efficient. This made it possible for the election to commence as scheduled. The poll was also well policed with over 30,000 security agencies made up of Police, Directorate of State Security, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Road Safety Corps and Nigerian Army deployed to provide pre-election, Election Day and Post-election security.
Also heart-warming is the fact that INEC officials were able to electronically transmit the result from the Polling Unit to a central server using the Smart Card Reader. Laudable is the conclusion of the election on the first ballot. It would be recalled that INEC between 2015 and 2017 was rechristened Inconclusive National Electoral Commission by some mischief makers due to the need for the commission to conduct supplementary elections in some Polling Units where violence had caused the nullification of results before a winner eventually emerged.  This played out in the last governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
On the flip side, there were pockets of violence. I witnessed a fight among party loyalists at Unit 011, Ward 07, St. Peter’s Primary School, Ilawe Ekiti. There was poor crowd control in many of the Polling Units that witnessed large voters turnout. I also observed that the Party Agents Identification Tag was not customised to contain pictures and names of the Party Agents as was done for those of us who are observers whose affiliated group, name and passport photograph were embossed on our accreditation badges. The horizontal folding technique of ballot papers by voters instead of the vertical folding style was responsible for the bulk of the 18,857 Rejected Votes. I also observed that Persons with Disabilities who are on wheelchair or crutches had difficulty accessing many of the Polling Units as their locations are not disability friendly. There were also isolated glitches with Smart Card Reader as the device could not authenticate some voters. It is also disheartening that the outgoing governor of the state had to resort to self-help by going on the state broadcast media to unlawfully announce the election results.
By far the biggest dent or minus that blighted the many success stories of last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Ekiti was  the prevalence of vote buying which was ingeniously nicknamed ‘see and buy’. This newspaper in its Sunday, July 15 edition reported a voter who alleged that the All Progressives Congress agent offered him a bribe of N5,000 to vote for the party. The man who spoke on condition of anonymity was quoted as saying:  “I was offered N5,000 to vote for the party but I rejected it. I am 73 years old retired teacher. I cannot allow the future of my children to be bought by moneybags.  I don’t know how we descended to this level when people brazenly offer money to people to secure their votes. It was not like this in the past. Will our votes count with this problem?”
Apart from many other observer teams confirming widespread incidences of vote buying during our meeting at the CSO Situation Room meeting held on Saturday night, I personally witnessed the ugly phenomenon at Polling Unit 008A Sawmill, Ifaki Ekiti in Ido-Osi Local Government Area.  This heart-rending phenomenon has become a recurring decimal in our polity with allegation of widespread vote buying reported in all the elections held in this Fourth Republic, since 1999. It would be recalled that there were similar report of vote-buying under the euphemism of ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ in the same Ekiti state in 2014 as well as the more recent Ondo and Anambra gubernatorial elections.
Unfortunately, while sections 124 and 130 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended criminalise voters inducement, bribery or vote buying  with penalty ranging from N100,000 and N500,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment; no one, to the best of my knowledge, has been prosecuted for this crime. While the police claimed to have effected some arrests in Ekiti, it remains to be seen if these new catch will have their days in court and get the maximum punishment. Many analysts have wrongfully accused INEC of failure to act on this issue but beyond the power to monitor party finances and campaign funds, the Commission lacks power to arrest and investigate; it only have power to prosecute. For me, the way out of this menace is voter education and enforcement of the extant legal provisions against vote buying. This is the more reason the National Assembly need to expedite action on the Electoral Offences Commission bill before it so that it can come into force before the 2019 general elections.  This election bazaar must stop!
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dearth of political empowerment for Nigerian youths

“I am very happy to be here. Let me remind you that this place – Shrine is a music place as well as politics, which is needed to change the society. So, I will say to the youths, politics is important, be involved”
 – French President, Emmanuel Macron, at Afrika Shrine, Lagos on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

It is 220 days to the next general elections taking place in 2019. Preparations are on by different stakeholders to make the exercise credible, peaceful and successful. As happened on Monday, July 9, political parties are already forming working alliances with the Peoples Democratic Party leading the pack by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with 38 other political parties and associations. The Independent National Electoral Commission is not left out. As the umpire, INEC has been organising training workshops for many of its staff; Election Management System, Election Project Plan, Election Operations Support Centre are being activated while a series of meetings are also being held with election stakeholders. I was privileged to attend one of such held with the civil society last Thursday, July 5, 2018.

It is no longer news that the 2018 budget has been signed, albeit late, and as such funding due to INEC for the preparations for the election should be getting to it soon while on the legal framework flank, we are almost there with the President already signing five constitution amendment bills with three of them having direct bearing on the forthcoming elections. Furthermore, the National Assembly had graciously passed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 for the second time after the initial presidential veto in March and has sent it to the president for assent on June 25, 2018. It is hoped that in the course of this month of July, the President will sign that bill into law, thereby giving certainty to the legal framework that will be used for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. The only major challenge to the 2019 polls is insecurity which I hope will be drastically contained before the election period.

According to Worldometers, “the current population of Nigeria is 195,919,277 as of Monday, July 9, 2018, based on the latest United Nations estimates.” An estimated 60 per cent of the country’s population are youths within the age bracket of 18 – 35 years old. Now, what are we doing with this youth bulge? How does government view this population; as asset or as liability? How are we harnessing this teeming population for national development? How are we mobilising them to participate in politics and decision-making process?

I am involved in a research entitled “Youth empowerment and Political voice” supported by Baywood Foundation, an indigenous non-governmental organisation and spearheaded by the trio of Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert, Prof. Martin Ike-Muonso and Dr. Ozonnia Ojielo. The aim of the project is to publish a book on the research title for a possible continent-wide advocacy for youth political empowerment. Last weekend, at the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, a peer review workshop was held with each of the researchers having an opportunity to present their findings for value addition.

It is interesting that our collective research on the subject matter reveal that there is no conscious effort on the part of the Nigerian government to politically empower the youths of the country. Many of the youth empowerment schemes are clever ruse to gag youth voice and politically disempower them. The tokenistic approach of supporting a handful of youths in petty trading, farming and vocational skill acquisition will not give them the political voice to engage actively in politics and occupy decision-making positions either in politics or governance.

Our audit of the newly signed Not-too-young-to-run bill shows that the lowering of qualification age to contest the position of President, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly membership from 40 to 35 and from 30 to 25 years respectively as well as registration of 68 political parties is laudable. However, these steps are not adequate and may not make much impact on youth participation in politics.

As I observed in my presentation at the aforementioned peer review workshop, while the opening up of the political space is heart-warming, it is not far-reaching enough to engender robust youth participation. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria needs to be further altered to provide for Affirmative Action for marginalised groups such as youths, women and Persons with Disabilities. For instance, the Ugandan Constitution makes provision for special interest groups such as women, youth, workers, persons with disabilities and even the military. They all have seats reserved for them in the Ugandan 418 member parliament.  Article 78 of the Ugandan Constitution requires parliament to have one woman representative for every district.  There are 112 Districts in the country.  Other interest groups are the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (the military) which has 10 reserved seats in parliament; the Youth, Workers, and Persons with Disabilities who have five reserved seats each. Of these seats, one of them is reserved for women and in the case of the UPDF which has 10, two are reserved for women.

Other militating factors against meaningful youth participation in politics is the high cost of politics as well as the prevalence of electoral violence which ironically is largely perpetrated by delinquent youths. It is important to state that the kind of youths being encouraged to actively participate in politics are not the deviants involved in drug abuse, illiterate and purposeless. Should the future of the country be handed to this brand of youths, it becomes a fait accompli that the nation will be run aground.

I must also hasten to say that it is not only by contesting elections and winning that youths can participate in politics. There are several other avenues. These include registering to be active members of political parties, contesting intra-party leadership positions, volunteering to serve as party agents, organising political debates, registering to vote, voting at elections and engaging in mandate protection. Other avenues include election observation, voter education as well as monitoring of campaign promises with the aim of holding government to account.

For the youths wanting to contest elections, it is imperative they learn to network and synergise. They should leverage the Information Communication Technology, particularly the social media to galvanise the political movement that can earn them victory akin to the phenomenal achievement of a 39- year-old Emmanuel Macron being elected as France president. And for those who complain of the high cost of politics, my advice is that they should start their political career at the low level and move gradually up the ladder. My research shows that the following Nigerian political juggernauts – incumbent Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Authur Okowa; a former Edo State governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedon; a former Oyo State governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala; Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, Senator Ita Enang, a former Plateau State Deputy Governor, Dame Pauline Tallen, among others all cut their political teeth at the local government level either as councillors or Local Government chairmen. Today’s youths should know that a tree is not climbed from the top but from the bottom.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Gains of Macron’s historic state visit to Nigeria

All our visitors make us happy. Some, when they come, others when they go.
-          Author unknown
French President, Emmanuel Macron, is here with us on a two-day state visit. In his itinerary is a bilateral meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on issues bordering on insecurity, terrorism, commissioning of Alliance Francaise office in Ikoyi and visit to Afrika Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos. I was on Radio Nigeria 7am news yesterday to analyse the importance and gains of the French President’s visit, beginning with his intention to discuss insurgency and insecurity with Buhari.
In my opinion, this is a welcome development. Terrorism has become a global phenomenon, which France had also tasted bitterly. It would be recalled that between January 7 and 9, 2015 a total of 17 people were killed in terror attacks ignited by a publication in the French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo; a kosher grocery store and the Paris suburb of Montrouge. Three suspects in the attacks were killed by police in separate standoffs, according to Cable News Network.  Nigeria has also been having a running battle with insurgents, killer herders and other bandits. Therefore, it is going to be mutually beneficial to share intelligence and work collaboratively to tackle this hydra-headed monster, which was part of the issues discussed at the just concluded 31 Ordinary Summit of the Africa Union held at Nouakchott, Mauritania over the weekend. Nigeria also stands to gain military assistance in the form of capacity building for our security agencies, as well as military hardware support from the French Government.
The commissioning of a new complex of the French cultural organisation, Alliance Francaise, today in Lagos is also very significant. According to news reports, Alliance Fran├žaise is a non-profit making association devoted to promoting French language and culture. It has 10 active representations in Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Maiduguri, Owerri and Port Harcourt. The organisation has three broad objectives; namely, teaching of French worldwide with classes for all types of audiences, making French culture and the culture of French speaking countries better known, as well as fostering cultural diversity through the promotion of all cultures. The French language is very popular in Nigeria, although we are an Anglophone country. The language is being taught in the country from primary school to tertiary level. In fact, Nigeria has a French Language Village in Badagry, Lagos, which was established in 1991 when Prof. Babatunde Fafunwa was minister of education. It was meant to promote the study of the French Language in Nigeria.
Out of the three reasons made available to the public for Macron’s visit, the most significant one to me is his historic visit to Afrika Shrine yesterday, July 3, 2018. The incumbent French President, who trained in Nigeria as a Senior Civil Servant in 2004, must has been so enamoured of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Afrobeat music that he has ordered a visit to his nightclub as part of his itinerary. This visit is historic in many respects. First, Macron is the first foreign President to officially visit the Afrika Shrine. This is a huge endorsement for the club-house founded by Fela. The norm used to be that when special guests visit Nigeria, a gala night is often organised in their honour. Such a treat usually takes place inside the fortified Aso Villa Banquet Hall where selected cultural troupes in the country are engaged to entertain the guests. In a rare twist of fortune, Macron has opted to go see the unique cultural institution called Afrika Shrine himself.
Macron’s visit has placed the Shrine on the global map, considering the number of international media and dignitaries who accompanied the French President to the place. That visit has also boosted the tourism potential of Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole. It shows that this country has something to offer the world, in terms of entertainment, culture, music, dance and art.
I am using this medium to appreciate and seek a posthumous national award for Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), Nigeria’s maverick music icon. In his lifetime Fela, was reportedly more popular than the Nigerian President, especially in France. He was to Nigeria what Bob Marley was to Jamaica. While Marley promoted reggae music, Fela created afro beat, his own unique selling point. The ‘Abami Eda’ used his talent to fight oppression, human right abuses and injustices. Fela was fearless. He was a thorn in the flesh of the misgoverning ruling elite, who took turns to incarcerate him on many occasions. I was surprised to hear Fela’s music being played at a big music shop in Geneva, Switzerland during my visit there in 2005. In my undergraduate days at the University of Lagos, Fela’s music was always used to kick start any major event organised by the Student Union of the institution, especially protest marches. The celebrated musician released about 50 albums in his illustrious music career that spanned decades. While many of his songs can be tagged protest songs, he also sang about love, social ills and the likes. Songs like Lady, Shakara, Yellow Fever, Open and Close, Na Poi and Water no get enemy are in this category.
Fela’s music has continued to be relevant because, like a prophet, the social ills he saw and sang about decades ago are still with us today and things seems to be getting worse. I appreciate the fact that this music legend is being annually celebrated in music concert known as Felabration. It is also heartwarming that the Lagos State government has turned his house in Lagos to a museum. Two of his children, Femi and Seun, have also carried on their dad’s legacy and making waves with Afro Beat music. Femi in particular has had four Grammy award nominations and I pray he will win it one day soon.
Now, the challenge for Nigeria is to build on the positive fallout of Macron’s visit. I propose that the place should be turned into a national monument, a UNESCO heritage site. This is because of its symbolism and identity as the root of afro beat music. I commend the yeo-man efforts of the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe and his counterpart at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mr. Folorunsho Coker, to market Nigeria’s tourism potentials. However, there is a snag.
Until we contain the raging insecurity in the country, all efforts to attract inbound tourists to Nigeria will yield very little results. Foreigners will not risk their lives coming into an unsecure environment. That is why what is going on in Plateau State calls for concern. The tourism and hospitality business in that state has been badly affected by the lingering conflict in that ‘State of Tourism’ the same way as food insecurity looms in the country as a result of the protracted Boko Haram insurgency and the attacks by killer herdsmen ravaging the country’s major food producing states. A stich in time saves nine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Unfolding electoral reforms and 2019 general elections

I am excited and very pleased with the success that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has recorded so far on electoral reform, ahead of the 2019 general elections. The journey has been very rough and tortuous. In my opinion piece of May 16, 2018, I expressed worry about three major impediments to a credible 2019 elections. They are the weak legal framework, late funding of the electoral management body and insecurity.
It would be recalled that, unlike the last constitutional alteration attempt made in 2015 and thwarted due to the then President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto of  the amendments, the one embarked on by the eight National Assembly has succeeded as President Buhari has signed five out of the 12 constitutional amendment bills passed on to him for assent.
The 12 bills were sent to the President by the Senate on April 17, 2018, according to Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan.  The first bill was the Not Too Young To Run Bill signed on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Also, on Friday, June 8, 2018, President Buhari signed four other bills. The two bills that have direct impact on the forthcoming 2019 elections are Constitution Amendment No. 21, which relates to determination of pre-election matters. The new bill has reduced the days and time of determining pre-election matter to ensure that disputes in courts do not get into the time of election.
The President also signed Bill No. 9, which gives the Independent National Electoral Commission sufficient time to conduct run-off elections. The number of days set aside for the conduct of such polls have been increased from seven to 21.
It would be recalled that 33 bills seeking to alter constitutional provisions were voted on in the two chambers of the National Assembly on July 26 and 27, 2017, respectively. Both chambers approved 17 of the bills without any difference and they were transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly for their concurrence in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Only 12 of the 17 have so far gotten the required two-third majority support of the SHA. I do hope the President will assent to the remaining seven bills that have the required support.
Unlike the last aborted exercise, when all the constitutional amendments were in one bill, the National Assembly was very smart this time around by having all the issues identified for alterations as separate bills. By this move, if Mr.President decides to veto a bill, it will not negatively affect the fate of others.
Just like the 2010 successful constitutional amendments exercise, which has assisted in deepening our democratic culture, the current amendments will do same. Let me refresh our memory about the far reaching impact of the last successful amendment of the Constitution in Nigeria.
It was the 2010 constitutional alterations that granted the Independent National Electoral Commission financial and administrative autonomy. The alterations also reduced the qualification age for the position of INEC chairman from 50 to 40 years and that of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners from 40 to 35 years.
The 2010 exercise also made it mandatory for Resident Electoral Commissioners to be screened by the Senate. Before then, RECs were directly appointed by the President without the Senate’s approval. Only National Commissioners and INEC Chairman go through the screening exercise.
During the 2010 amendments, the number of judges appointed to Election Petition Tribunals was reduced from five to three, the time limit for post-election dispute resolution was fixed with a maximum of 180 days placed on the tribunals and a 60-day limit placed on appeals to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Before 2010, all governorship election petitions ended at the Court of Appeal, but the amendments made it possible for disputes arising from the governorship election to terminate at the Supreme Court.
It was also the 2010 constitutional alteration of  section 145 that made it mandatory for Presidents going on vacation or medical trips abroad to hand over to the Vice President. Otherwise, after a timeline the Vice President takes over the mantle of leadership of the country in acting capacity. This is to lay to rest the confusion and controversies often generated by failure on the part of an incumbent President to hand over power to the Vice President, as witnessed when former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua travelled abroad for medical treatment in November 2009.
The 2010 amendment also clearly stated that any incumbent President or governor, whose election was annulled and subsequently won a re-run election, will have his tenure counting from the date of the first inauguration and not when he wins a re-run. These provisions helped in no small measure to turn the tide of our election positively as attested to by local and international election observer groups in 2011 and 2015.
As mentioned earlier, I am very confident that the five newly signed constitutional amendment bills will help to deepen our democracy. Four out of the five bills are election related. They include the Not Too Young to Run bill, the bill increasing the number of days for INEC to conduct a run-off election in the event that the first ballot fails to produce a clear winner between seven and 21 days, the bill putting a time limit on the resolution of pre-election disputes and the bill banning any Vice President or deputy governor, who serve out the time left from their principal’s tenure, from contesting more than once. The only bill that is not directly related to elections is the one granting financial autonomy to State Judiciary and the State Houses of Assembly.
The Not Too Young To Run bill, which has reduced the age qualification for president from 40 to 35 years, as well as reduced the age qualification for House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25 years, has effectively ensured that any youth who desires to contest for those positions can step forward. This is about inclusivity in the electoral process. A time limit for pre-election matters will put an end to the current scenario where courts are nullifying the election of some political office holders on the ground that they were not the aspirants that won at the party primaries.
The most recent of such cases was the Wednesday, June 13, 2018 nullification of the election of the Senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Attai Aidoko, of the Peoples Democratic Party on the basis that the December 7, 2014 primary election of the party was actually won by Air Marshal Isaac Alfa (Retd.). This is a judgment coming three years into the current administration.  Of course, it is heartwarming that INEC now has more time to prepare for run-off elections, while the judiciary and legislature now have financial autonomy.
I am also thrilled that the Senate on Thursday, June 7, 2018 passed the Independent National Electoral Commission Act Amendment Bill without the clause that seeks to reshuffle the order of polls in a general election. Its passage by the Senate was in concurrence with the House of Representatives, which had earlier passed an edited version of the bill. Clauses on which President Buhari based the withdrawal of his assent to the bill, including that of polls reordering, were removed from the second version.
I am optimistic that all electoral reform issues can be laid to rest this month with the President’s assent on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. The import of this is that INEC will be able to plan better for the next general elections. In addition, public education and capacity building on the provisions of the new electoral reforms can kick off in earnest well ahead of 2019 polls. I enjoin all relevant stakeholders to do the needful by faithfully implementing these new legal provisions that is set to strengthen our democratic norms and values.

Tasks before Oshiomhole and APC’s new executives

“I want to assure everyone here that despite a few lingering issues with the congresses in some states, our great party will emerge stronger after this convention. The unresolved cases we have is the price we have to pay for success, as everyone wants to be associated with a winning team. I am imploring all those with grievances to keep faith with the party until we put things right.”
 President Muhammadu Buhari at the All Progressives Congress convention held on June 23, 2018
Hearty congratulations to all the newly elected National Working Committee members of the All Progressives Congress under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.  I also felicitate with all the newly elected State, Local Government and Ward Executive Committee members of the party. Indeed, the  Governor Badaru Abubakar-led Convention Committee did a good job by ensuring a hitch free exercise. It is also heartwarming that the 7,200 delegates that elected the 65 member new NWC largely behaved themselves with the exception of the delegates from Delta State, who engaged in free-for-all while President Buhari  addressed the convention.
I was privileged to be among the three distinguished panelists that analysed the 2018 APC convention live from the studio of the Nigerian Television Authority Headquarters in Abuja last Saturday. Co-panelists were Hon. Emmanuel Okeme from Kogi State and Prof. Oka Martin Obono from Cross Rivers State. The moderator was Omini Odein, an ace broadcaster with the NTA. As we sat in the studio receiving live feeds from the Eagles Square venue of the convention and watching the interviews of NTA reporters with some APC chieftains, I was deep in thought about the future of Nigeria’s democracy.
The APC convention was historic in many senses. Beyond the razzmatazz of the music, cultural display, colourful attires of the delegates and the speeches, that convention was the first since the party won the 2015 elections to become the governing party and the second since it was formed in February 2013. If the decision of the National Executive Committee of the party on February 27, 2018 had not been rescinded on the advice of the President on March 27, 2018, the congresses and the convention would not have been.
Recall that on that day in February, the APC NEC voted to extend the tenure of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led NWC and other executive positions for one year, beginning from this month of June. What led to that controversial decision was the cracks within the party, which had necessitated Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s reconciliation committee set up by President Buhari on February 6, 2018. The extension of the tenure was allegedly to give Tinubu’s committee sufficient time to do its job. Better reason, however, prevailed a month after President Buhari rightly observed and appealed to NEC to rescind that decision because it is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
It would be recalled that the APC Ward, Local Government and State Congresses were held on May 5, 12 and 19, respectively. The exercise, although largely successful, witnessed widespread allegations of imposition of candidates, lack of level playing field, violence and parallel congresses. Party office was vandalised in Imo State, court was attacked in Rivers State and deaths were recorded in Delta and Lagos States. Even, raising fund for the congresses and convention was embroiled in controversy as each of the 24 APC state governors were taxed N250m each, which was ingeniously labeled as the backlog of their membership fees. It is noteworthy that some of the aggrieved candidates that felt short-changed during the congresses have approached courts to seek redress. On a lighter note, the APC has reportedly adopted the tag of being a “governing party” rather than being referred to as the “ruling party”. It has also allegedly changed its slogan from “Change” to “Progress”.
Last Saturday’s APC Convention was serially postponed until it eventually held last Saturday, June 23, 2018. Luckily, there was no paralleled convention, no walk-out by any aggrieved party chieftain and no ugly security breaches in the mode of terrorist attack.  There was also no loss of life. Now, all the ward, local government and state party executives have been inaugurated. Likewise, the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee has also been sworn-in.  With all the party structures in place, it’s now time for the new executives to swing into action.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, incumbent Minster of Agriculture and former chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party said something very instructive at the APC convention ground. He opined that while the physics of the party has been achieved, the chemistry of the party is yet to jell. By this, he meant that while the three legacy parties – Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change and All Nigerian Peoples Party – have been able to merge to form APC, the party is yet to become organic. It is yet to be cohesive. Members are still viewing themselves as though still in their former parties. Thus, one of the major tasks before Oshiomhole and his lieutenants in the NWC is to unite the party and make members internalise its philosophy.
Many have said the former governor of Edo State and Nigerian Labour Congress President should embark on the reconciliation move with aggrieved party members. I don’t think that is Oshiomhole’s beat. He should rather ensure that the Tinubu committee is well resourced to achieve the task set for it by President Buhari since February. Aside that, Oshiomhole also needs to liaise with the presidential committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to meet with aggrieved new PDP members in the APC to ensure that the grouse and grievances of the nPDP led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje are resolved.  The APC should not be under the delusion that it cannot hemorrhage like the PDP did in 2014 going into 2015 elections. It should rather preempt and prevent such from happening.
Oshiomhole led NWC also have to give APC credible membership register. Nigerians will like to know the true membership strength of the ruling party. What is the number of APC members in each ward, LGA, state and nationwide? What is the gender configuration? How many members of the party are youths between the ages of 18 and 35? How many Persons with Disabilities are in the party?
I appreciate the fact that three PWDs, including Hon. James Lalu, who is the chairman of Plateau State Disability Commission were members of the Convention Planning Committee. I will also like to know how many PWDs are among the newly elected party executives across the country. How many women and youths are among the new party executives? I suggest that the APC should embark on biometric registration of its members and ensure that all of them have their Permanent Membership Cards.
Oshiomhole and his NWC must find a creative way of ensuring that party members pay their dues and other legitimate fees as at when due.  The party under him must respect political finance regulations and ensure the submission of all party finance reports to the Independent National Electoral Commission. The APC Constitution and Manifesto must be made available to party members to ensure their proper understanding of the ideals of the party.
The APC, like other 67 political parties, will be conducting party primaries later this year. The governing party must ensure a credible and exemplary candidate nomination process. The party’s campaigns under the new leadership must be devoid of hate speeches, character assassination and inflammatory comments. It must be strictly issue based. The party under Oshiomhole must be a pace setter. It must constantly liaise with the executive and legislative arm and mediate promptly on any brewing crises. Delivery of dividends of democracy must be paramount under the new APC leadership.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The burden of June 12, 1993 poll on Nigeria’s future elections

“We recognise that an error has been committed. We will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. This honour is for the grievous injustice done to the country. It is meant to assist at healing the wounds and building national reconciliation of the 25 years of wounds caused by the annulment. I earnestly urge Nigerians to accept it in good faith and bury the past of June 12.”
-  President Muhammadu Buhari while honouring Chief MKO Abiola with posthumous national honour of GCFR on June 12, 2018.
Like a bolt from the blue, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 pleasantly surprised the pro-democracy movement when he issued a press statement changing Nigeria’s Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12 starting from 2019. He did not stop at that, he also tacitly recognised the un-inaugurated Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola’s presidency by conferring the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic on the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll which was annulled by the military junta led by Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on June 23, 1993. Also honoured with second highest national award of Grand Commander of the Order of Nigeria is Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as well as the fiery human rights legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory.
The award ceremony was held on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. At the colourful event which has in attendance political office holders from the aborted Third Republic, pro-democracy activists such as Nobel Laureate. Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, SAN, Ms. Ayo Obe, family members of late MKO Abiola, those of late Gani Fawehinmi as well as serving political officers in  this Fourth Republic, the president tendered apologies to the family of late Abiola as well as victims of the June 12 struggle. A minute silence was also observed in honour of Abiola, Gani and other martyrs of June 12 struggle.
Since that news broke, I have had the privilege of discussing it on several news channels. These are Arise TV, Kiss 99.9 FM, Nigerian Television Authority, Radio Nigeria, Independent Television, Invicta 98.9 FM, Silverbird Television, The Sun newspaper and Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State. I have not only discussed it in English language but also in Pidgin and Yoruba languages. The questions I was repeatedly asked were the implication of this decision on Nigeria’s democracy, whether it was politically motivated, and how that decision will rub off on future elections in Nigeria.
I was an undergraduate student of University of Lagos in 1993 and though I could not remember voting in that election, I was deeply involved in the struggle to validate the election as University students particularly in South West Nigeria joined the Labour Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations to demonstrate for the reversal of the annulment of the election.
I am not unaware of the controversies that have greeted the PMB recognition of June 12 as our deserved Democracy Day as well as the posthumous recognition of Abiola and Gani, more so as legal opinion has earlier been offered that only the living can be bestowed with those national honours when similar advocacy was made for late Dr Stella Adadevoh who sacrificed her life for Nigeria in the fight against Ebola Virus some years ago. There was also the issue of legality of change in date for Democracy Day which had for 19 years been held on May 29.
Legal opinions differ on this matter and I’ve read and listened to many of them. However, news report on June 13, 2018 said the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has clarified that the Public Holidays Act will soon be amended to accommodate the declaration of June 12 as public holiday. He was quoted as saying: “So, when the Act has been fully amended, the declaration of the President will come into effect. It is a declaration of intention, a declaration of desire and that will eventually be given effect with the act of amendment of the existing law.” This ordinarily should lay to rest the lingering controversies about propriety or otherwise of the president’s action of moving Nigeria’s Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12. However, I have a feeling that someone somewhere will go to court to seek interpretations of the National Honours Act as well as Public Holidays Act as it affects this step taken by PMB. As far as am concerned, that will be salutary to our jurisprudence and help deepen our democracy.
As some analysts have rightly observed, May 29 may remain hand over date until a possible constitutional amendment is done to move it to June 12. As to whether the move by the president to validate and venerate June 12, 1993 presidential election is politically motivated, it will seem so. Given that 2019 General Election is due in about nine months’ time, it is a masterstroke by President Buhari do something heartwarming for South West Nigeria. There is no crime to this. Politicians are known to explore and exploit opportunities to give them edge at the polls.
It would be recalled that ex-Preisdnet Goodluck Jonathan had in 2012 attempted to honour Aare MKO Abiola by renaming University of Lagos after the astute politician and business mogul. This was resisted for two major reasons. First, the Yoruba race preferred a national monument outside of the South West geo-political zone be named after Abiola. This was deserving considering his immense contribution to sports, commerce and industry as well as philanthropy. Secondly, neither the Council nor Senate of University of Lagos was consulted before that decision was made.  
Let me recap few things about June 12, 1993 presidential election. That was a poll like no other. It was an election contested only by two political parties. That was an era when military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida proclaimed two political parties into existence. They were National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party. These two parties were fully funded by the then military regime because they don’t want them to be hijacked by moneybags. In fact, government built all their party offices in all the Local Government Areas, States and the Federal Capital Territory.
That election was also conducted using a unique voting system named Option A4. This is an open balloting system where electorate queue behind the candidates or their posters at the Polling Units. Some people are calling for the reintroduction of this voting system which as an election expert I will not subscribe to. This is because it makes the voters to be prone to molestation, harassment and violence as there is no secrecy of ballot. On that day, SDP, the party under which MKO Abiola contested the presidential election took a big gamble by fielding a Muslim presidential candidate and a Muslim Vice Presidential candidate. Surprisingly, it paid off for the party as the voters shunned primordial ethno-religious sentiments and voted across Nigeria for the SDP candidate. According to the Polling Unit collated results by the Polling Officials and SDP party agents, MKO won a pan-Nigeria mandate even defeating the NRC candidate, Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano. The election was adjudged as the freest, fairest and most peaceful election in Nigeria’s democratic history.
Two institutions played ignominious role in the truncation of the June 12 election. They are the judiciary and the military. While some judges gave dubious court injunctions stopping the conduct of the election, the military junta headed by Babangida annulled the election. This led to nationwide protests which eventually forced the military to leave governance six years after – in 1999. Hundreds of lives including that of Abiola and his wife, Kudirat were lost in the sustained protests against the military over the annulment.
Though the military eventually returned power to civilian on May 29, 1999, part of the positive fall out of the struggle for the validation of June 12 was the growth in the number of non-governmental organisations working in the area of Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance.
I joined all well-meaning Nigerians to task the federal government to officially release the results of the June 12, 1999 presidential election, officially recognise  MKO Abiola as the winner, pay all his entitlements and name a national monument in his honour. I suggest the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. I also recommend that the Three Arm Zone in Abuja should be renamed June 12 Zone. In addition, I will want all the leaders of the struggle for the validation of the June 12 election, living or dead, including Prof. Humphrey Nwosu who was the chairman of National Electoral Commission be given national honours. In truth, without June 12 struggle we may not have had this Fourth Republic.Also, it will be most appropriate to have a curriculum developed on the June 12, 1993 elections and its values of tolerance, electoral integrity and unity in diversity. This should be thought in our Primary and Secondary Schools as part of Civics, History or Government.
The greatest burden June 12, 1993 election has placed on Nigeria’s future elections is the need to have better polls  than that. At present, Nigeria’s elections face challenges of lack of internal party democracy, electoral violence, vote trading, hate speech, and logistical nightmare. At the Media and Civil Society Organisation roundtable organised by the Transition Monitoring Group in Lagos on Monday, June 11, 2018, these were some of the things we tried to find lasting solutions to. The keynote Speaker was the legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.
As I noted in my published interview with The Sun newspaper on Sunday, June 10, 2018; beyond the recognition and national honour, the spirit of June 12 demands that we do everything to ensure that going forward, our elections are of international standards - free, fair and credible. That should start from forthcoming July 14 governorship poll in Ekiti State and September 22 governorship election in Osun State before we talk of 2019 general elections. That is when we will know that the All Progressives Congress and indeed President Buhari did not do this out of hypocrisy or mischief, but actually believe in the spirit of June 12.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A clarion call for improved savings culture for Nigeria

Research has shown that many Nigerians have poor savings culture. Under the guise that we do not earn enough to meet our immediate needs, we always end up consuming all that we earn. We rarely leave anything for the proverbial rainy day when we will not be able to go out to work. It turns out that as it is for individual Nigerians, so it is for our country. For decades after independence, we have no savings and stabilisation fund. We have been a mono-cultural economy, depending largely on oil and gas revenue while failing signally to use the proceeds therefrom to develop other sectors of the economy. When the price of crude oil falls in international market, our economy is negatively affected as there are no savings from which to draw to cushion the effects.
On  Thursday, May 24, 2018, I was one of the participants at a roundtable on “The Savings and Stabilisation Mechanism for Nigeria”, organised by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation and the Nigerian Natural Resource Charter.  The meeting had in attendance dignitaries such as Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Vice President (Africa Region) of the World Bank; Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), a  former Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the NNRC Expert Advisory Panel; Osten Oluyemisi Olorunsola, a former Executive Director of the Department for Petroleum Resources; and Prof Adeola Adenikinju, member of the Central Bank Monetary Policy Board. Also in attendance were other representatives from Ministries, Departments and Agencies, civil society, National Assembly and the media.
Findings of commissioned researches on Nigeria’s Savings and Stabilisation Fund Mechanisms made public at the event, included: “Improving Public Awareness and Advocacy on a Stabilisation Mechanism for Nigeria”; “Safeguarding and Smoothening Fiscal Adjustments in Nigeria – Policy Options”; “Nigerian Excess Crude Account Financial Analysis Report” and “Media Analysis of ECA and Emerging Issues”.
Did you know that Nigeria has three savings and stabilisation funds namely 0.5 per cent Stabilisation Fund set up   in 1989; the Excess Crude Account created in 2004, and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority established in 2011? Did you know that Nigeria has gone through five cycles of oil booms and that during these periods, the country earned a conservative estimate of over $1tn in oil revenue but made no significant savings, nor have these earnings translated into lasting and productive capital through human development, physical infrastructure and institution building? Did you know that Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account was ranked the most poorly governed sovereign wealth fund among 33 resource-rich countries in a 2017 report by the Natural Resource Governance Institute?
There are four key indicators for a successful stabilization programme. They are the savings rule which this deals with determining how assets are transferred to the fund; the spending rule, dealing with how assets are withdrawn from the fund; the investment strategy which has to do with how assets should be invested; and the governance and implementation mechanisms which define roles and responsibilities for effective management. On these four counts, Nigeria ranks low when compared to many other countries.
A four-country comparative analysis of the level of compliance to the indicators of a successful stabilisation programme reveals that while Norway which established its Stabilisation Fund in 1990 has $1,032.69bn in savings, Saudi Arabia which set up its fund in 1971 has $514bn in savings and Algeria which created its stabilisation fund in 2000 has $7.6bn in savings, Nigeria which established hers in 2011 has a paltry $1.5bn in its Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Other observations made at the roundtable include the fact that the Excess Crude Account lacks transparency and has an unclear methodology for withdrawals and distributions. This has been manifested in unilateral withdrawals by successive governments. Stabilisation mechanisms have been ineffective in Nigeria due to mismanagement and the prevalence of corruption. Furthermore, lack of political will has prevented proper implementation of the stabilisation mechanisms over successive administrations.
The meeting was not just a finger-pointing, government-bashing exercise. It proffers some solutions to the country’s lack of proper savings culture. Remedies put forward include an urgent need for a  constitution amendment of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) with provisions that guarantee automatic savings of surplus revenues from oil, gas and minerals with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority; a need to politically negotiate and agree on binding rules for ECA revenue inflows and outflows until such a time as the constitutional amendment is effected to either entrench or liquidate the account. There was also a demand for  transparency and accountability with disclosure and reporting requirements  on deposits and withdrawals from the ECA; and that the federal and state governments should seek speedy resolution of pending Supreme Court cases on the constitutionality of remittances to the Excess Crude Account and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority.
It was further suggested that  the Excess Crude Account and 0.5 per cent  Stabilisation account should be collapsed into the Sovereign Wealth Fund since the latter is the best managed among the three; Need to strengthen Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority with appropriate guarantees on transparent and accountable governance to re-assure stakeholders;  as well as the need for a critical mass of people to demand change in the institutional framework guiding Nigeria’s Savings and Stabilisation Funds.  It was also demanded that oil, gas and mineral revenues shouldbe effectively and efficiently utilised for capital investment rather than consumption.
Bouquet of other recommendations are that there is need to strictly monitor implementation of yearly budgets; need to diversify the economy through investment in non-oil sectors; need to  increase contributions of the oil industry to Gross Domestic Product; and the need for a civil society led  National Economic Governance Debates .  There was also call for the revision of and full implementation of the Niger Delta Master plan.
It is noteworthy that President Muhammadu Buhari has started to implement some of the aforementioned recommendations. For instance, under this administration, there is a conscious effort to diversify the economy. Also, during his 2018 Democracy Day speech last week, Buhari said “The Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio has been expanded with an injection of $650m so as to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, re-construction of Abuja-Kano road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East West Road (Section V) and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Power project as well as the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge.”  This is commendable.
It was also widely reported that the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee had on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 informed the public that members had resolved to transfer about N24.5bn from the revenue for the month in the ECA, the first since the country’s economy went into recession two years ago. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, said the decision to begin saving in the ECA again followed improved accruals from all revenue streams in recent time. This is another laudable step in the right direction.

Nevertheless, it is important for this administration to take some of the recommendations from the Lagos roundtable seriously. There is the need for constitution amendment, consolidation of the three savings accounts into one, improved savings culture and due process in the withdrawal from the stabilisation fund. More importantly, it will be heartwarming to see our money work for us in terms of bridging the country’s infrastructure gap.