Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons for Nigeria from 2017 International Day of Democracy

Since 2007, United Nations has set aside September 15 of every year as International Day of Democracy. This year’s IDD was celebrated globally last Friday. In Nigeria, save for some media houses which hosted discussions around the issues raised in this year’s theme which is “Democracy and Conflict Prevention” nothing much was heard from government quarters. This may not be unconnected with the fact that Nigeria, since 1999, has chosen May 29 as her own Democracy Day. That choice has not been without contention as many Nigerians, especially those from South West geo-political zone are of the opinion that June 12 should have been chosen as Democracy Day in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida (Retd.). Many political observers felt that on that day, Nigerians set aside primordial sentiments such as ethnicity and religion and voted for a pan-Nigeria  Muslim-Muslim ticket of Bashorun MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe in a widely acclaimed freest, fairest and most credible election in Nigeria.
According to the United Nations, “This year's theme of democracy and conflict prevention focuses on the critical need to strengthen democratic institutions to promote peace and stability. A more integrated approach to foster resilient societies calls for effective and inclusive democratic governance with respect for human rights and the rule of law.“ The world body observed further that: “Resilient societies are able to mitigate disputes through mediation, dialogue and a reasonable degree of legitimacy of their institutions. Developing effective conflict prevention mechanisms and infrastructures provides a foundation to resolve grievances and sustain peace. Processes, such as peace agreements, elections and constitutional reforms, can help maintain equilibrium between competing interests and reduce fragility and the likelihood of organised violence.”
It cannot be better said! Nigeria, it is very instructive, needs to strengthen her democratic institutions in order to promote rule of law. Which institutions are we talking about? Political parties, election management bodies, the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, the media and the civil societies, among others. There is no gainsaying that though these institutions are working in Nigeria, they need to be more efficient and effective. Take for instance the political parties; this is a critical institution of democracy that is responsible for leadership recruitment, interest articulation and political socialisation. Political parties sponsor candidates for election and they are the sole platform for electoral contest for now, until perhaps the proposed amendment for introduction of independent candidacy sails through the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise.
Unfortunately, our political parties in this country leave much to be desired. Many of them lack internal democracy. They also lack cohesion and are known to observe most electoral laws in breach. Topmost among them are the laws against money politics and electoral violence. The kind of leaders being recruited for Nigeria by the country’s political parties are more of treasury looters, self-centred and integrity-deficient. Any wonder that 18 years into this Fourth Republic, the country hasn’t got much to show in terms of democracy dividends to the suffering masses. It is instructive to note that political parties give birth to at least two out of the three arms of government. They are the executive and legislature. The products of these two vital organs of government have not justified the implicit trust and confidence that make people to vote for them at election. It has been more of personal aggrandisement for them and nonchalance towards the plight of the poverty-stricken populace.
What is the nexus between democracy and conflict prevention? In a democracy, institutions of government are supposed to work harmoniously to guarantee peace and stability without which there can be no development. The Nigerian Constitution put it succinctly when it says in section 14 (2) (b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The fragility of Nigerian state is not in doubt given the various agitations for self-determinations by different interest groups top of which is the clamour for secession by the Indigenous People of Biafra. The country has also been on tenterhook since the Niger Delta militancy began with emergence of groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Avengers and the likes.  In the North East, since the 2009 emergence of Boko Haram insurgency, there has been no lasting peace nationwide.
The UN in the 2017 International Day of Democracy is pointing us in the direction of what we need to do not only to prevent conflict but to also bring about peace and stability. These include inclusive governance. In truth, marginalisation, discrimination, injustices and inequalities help to fuel discontent and rebellion. As rightly observed by Albert Camus, “Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that somewhere, in some way, you are justified.”   It is very important that Nigerian government explore the options of dialogue, mediation, peace agreements, credible elections, constitutional reforms among others to redress these perceived injustices. Military option alone will not work. We have seen what dialogue did in the Niger Delta. By giving the people of that region Niger Delta Ministry, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty Programme, 13 per cent derivation, proposed regularisation of illegal refinery into modular refinery scheme,  emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan first as Vice President in 2007, Acting President in 2010, and president in 2011, the restiveness in the Niger Delta region has reduced considerably.

I am of the opinion that similar measures need to be taken to allay the cry of marginalisation by the Igbo. Appointment into key government positions under this administration, fixing of infrastructural challenge of the geo-political zone and at least a Vice-Presidential slot in 2019 and presidency in 2023 will go a long way to douse the current political tension being generated by the IPOB strident call for self-determination. Heeding the call for economic and political restructuring of this country will also help the Buhari administration to stabilise the polity. Above all, rule of law in terms of supremacy of the law, equality before the law and fundamental human rights are very crucial to peace and stability of any democratic country; and for Nigeria, it is imperative. Whether we like it or not, there can never be peace without justice just as there can never be genuine development without peace.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leadership lessons I learnt from King Sunny Ade

Over time, as a media personality featuring on various radio and television programmes and writing for newspapers, I have often advocated for diversification of Nigerian economy as a panacea to our pulling out of economic doldrums. However, I failed to appropriate and adapt the same message for myself, until recently. I pride myself as a psephologist, an expert on election matters.  I have, prior to my setting up my consultancy outfit, worked for both national and international organisations working on delivery of credible and peaceful elections. Meanwhile, in the ancient town of Ibadan, among my friends and colleagues, I have on many occasions demonstrated my dexterity as a compere at social events. I have served as Master of Ceremony at several of my friends’ wedding receptions and other parties.
I have been rendering this service, pro bono, free of charge as lawyers are wont to saying.  However, recently at the launch of   Westminster Foundation for Democracy‘s Youth Empowerment Programme held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja, I was engaged as the Master of Ceremony. Earning my first pay as an MC opened my eye to the opportunity to diversify my revenue base. I therefore informed friends, colleagues and acquaintances about my skill as a good compere. One of those I told was Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, a friend and former schoolmate at postgraduate level at University of Ibadan who was a former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan and is currently the Director General of Technical Aid Corps in Abuja. Pius boosted my image as an MC last Friday, September 8, 2017 when he asked me to anchor at the guest reception after the burial ceremony of his father-in-law, Pa. Oluyemi Akinfolademi Adesuyi at Ile-Oluji, Ondo State.
In attendance at the august event in September was the Ondo State governor, His Excellency Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, his deputy HE Agboola Ajayi as well as commissioners. Others include the All Progressives Congress party executive in Ondo State, Senators, House of Representatives members, honourable members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, business moguls, academic juggernauts and several other dignitaries. On the band stand was the King of juju music, the inimitable and indefatigable King Sunny Ade, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and winners of many national and international music awards. KSA was also a former president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria better known as PMAN.  
Being his ardent fan, it was a humbling experience sharing the same stage with a living legend and music icon like KSA. Though I have met him informally once at a hotel in Ibadan many years ago, last Friday was my first contact with him at business level. I watched, rather, studied him closely as he plied his trade on stage. I noticed how he applied his voice, eyes, legs and body to deliver quintessential performance on stage. I have never danced like I did to the timeless music of the legendary entertainer last week. For those who knew me closely, much as I liked music, particularly old school, evergreen music, I am not a good dancer. Am just too self-conscious. However, I threw caution to the wind last Friday as I danced to the enthralling melodious music of KSA. My wife, who was at the party with me, was very surprised to see me dance.
You may want to ask whether I was engaged to dance or to anchor the dance session. Well, my job was at interludes. To recognise dignitaries and organise the dance sessions of the deceased children and family members as well as other dignitaries with the musician. Thus, while not holding the microphone to perform my appointed duty, I decided to also relax with the king’s music.
What did I learn from the king of juju music? A lot! I learnt his attention to details. KSA knows immediately when his band member errs. He knows when his drummer, pianist or guitarist is not giving him the right musical key or off tune. He uses his eyes to reprimand the band member who is out of line. I also saw him walk to the sound engineer several times to get him to adjust some things be it to increase the volume of a particular microphone or reduce the volume. While he disciplines his band members on stage, he equally rewards good performances on the spot. When any of his band members did well, he doles out money from his pocket to give the exemplary staff, even while on stage. In my presence he gave money to his drummers, his Hawaiian guitarist and his sound engineer.  That is carrot and stick principle.
KSA is an astute businessman. Part of my job as the event anchor was also to time each dance session with him. The instruction handed to me was to give each of the family members 10 minutes each. With King Sunny Ade, once the money is flowing, there is no relinquishing the microphone. On several occasions, I gave the sign for him to stop to enable me call the next group to come on stage, the King held on with his musical performance until there was no more doling out of currency notes to him in appreciation of his musical dexterity. That somewhat made my job as a compere  a bit challenging. One thing I also admire about him is his organisational skill. Apart from band-boys which include his instrumentalists, vocal back-ups and sound engineer; KSA has three people collecting names of dignitaries that he will need to adulate. They are like his marketers who go round to compile names of very important personalities whom he need to praise-sing. Aside these men, there are two bouncers stationed in front of the stage to keep unwanted guests and miscreants in check.

KSA as a master of his musical trade knows his onions well. He knows when to slow down the pace of the song and when to fasten it, when to change the tune, when to dance, when to sit, when to dramatise, when to relax and when to be serious. He demonstrated all these skills as I watched on in amazement. The only thing I didn’t see Sunny do last Friday was to play his trademark guitar. For those familiar with the legend, he’s regarded as a guitar wizard. Could it be age that made the king not to play his guitar at Ile-Oluji? I doubt it. Even at over 70 years of age, the music icon is still nimble on his feet as he danced skillfully with his vocalists. My chance encounter with him last week has left an indelible memory on my mind. Thanks KSA for making my day. Kudos for the soul-lifting performance and leadership qualities. Happy birthday to you sir as you clock 71 on the 22nd of this month. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Election dispute resolutions in Nigeria and Kenya

Last Friday, September 1, 2017 the unprecedented happened in the East African country of Kenya.  The Supreme Court of the country, led by Chief Justice David Maraga upturned the electoral victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The apex court said the August 8 election was fraught with irregularities and deeply flawed. According to their lordship, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was in charge of the vote, “failed, neglected, or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution” .The court in a majority decision of four against two justices therefore asked the IEBC to hold a re-run election within 60 days.  Since that news broke, I have been privileged to analyse the import and implications of the judgment on different media platforms. I have featured on programmes on Nigerian Television Authority, Radio Nigeria, Arise Television, Raypower 100.5 FM and   African Independent Television.
Since that epochal judgment was delivered last Friday, a lot of commentators and analysts have been pouring encomiums on the Kenyan judiciary while castigating the IEBC and the election observers who said the election was credible and conducted according to international best practices. Many have even said that Nigerian judiciary should learn from their counterpart in Kenya. Not so fast! I dare say that while the action of the Kenyan Supreme Court is noble and commendable, I will rather prefer us sticking with our own election dispute resolution mechanism than copying that of Kenya. It is important to note that each country has its own peculiar history shaping its laws.
There is need for Nigerians to know that the entire court process from filing to delivery of judgment took two weeks. That was possible because the Constitution of Kenya in Article 163 (3)(a) says “The Supreme Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes relating to the elections to the office of President arising under Article 140.” According to Article 140 (1) of Kenyan Constitution:  “A person may file a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the election of the President-elect within seven days after the date of the declaration of the results of the presidential election. (2) Within fourteen days after the filing of a petition under clause (1), the Supreme Court shall hear and determine the petition and its decision shall be final. (3) If the Supreme Court determines the election of the President-elect to be invalid, a fresh election shall be held within sixty days after the determination.”  This is a supersonic election dispute resolution mechanism!  
Little wonder that Engr Raila Odinga never got justice in the three previous times he has filed petitions at the country’s Supreme Court. How much evidence can a serious petitioner garner within one week of conduct of election? Kenya has 40,883 Polling Stations and if a petitioner had to prove fraud in all or majority of those units as our own system here requires, not only will it be practically impossible to collect credible evidences and assemble witnesses within that timeframe. It will also be impracticable to prove electoral heist beyond reasonable doubt in 14 days specified by the Kenyan law. It would be recalled that Odinga has so much lost faith in the Kenya judiciary that he said initially after the August 8 election that he will not go to court but was hoping for United Nations intervention. Thankfully, he later reconsidered and subsequently went to court. Even at that, he was not confident of victory as he was as shocked and pleasantly surprised as many Kenyans by last Friday’s judicial victory.
It is important to understand Nigeria’s election dispute resolution processes. Unlike in Kenya, Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010) in section 239 (1) says that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Court of Appeal shall, to the exclusion of any other court of Law in Nigeria, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to whether - (a) any person has been validity elected to the office of President or Vice-President under this Constitution. An aggrieved candidate has a right of appeal to Supreme Court if dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal in presidential matters.
Also, the Court of Appeal has the constitutional right to set up election petition tribunals which according to the Electoral Act 2010 in section 133 (3)(a) says shall be constituted not later than 14 days before election. Section 134 of the Act is very important to this discourse. Unlike the supersonic process in Kenya, that section of our law in subsection (1) says “An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of results of the elections.” (2)”An election tribunal shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.” (3) “An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed of within 90 days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal.”
It is important to note that what happened in Kenya last Friday was a fluke; a flash in the pan. While I concede that it is a ‘locus classicus’ as it is said in law and an unprecedented happenstance in Africa, it is most likely not sustainable. The luck Odinga and his party, National Super Alliance had was the ability to prove in a very short time that there was electoral fraud only at the level of result collation and electronic transmission of result. According to a report in New York Times of September 1, 2017 (online edition), “Walter Mebane, a professor of statistics and political science at the University of Michigan who studies elections worldwide, volunteered to run the voting results through a computer model he developed to detect electoral fraud….he and his team found patterns that showed widespread manipulation.” Will Odinga and his party have been able to prove election manipulation in the country’s 40,883 polling stations, 290 constituencies and 47 counties in two weeks?
Lest we forget, Nigeria’s judiciary especially the top echelon (justices of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) has been demonstrating a lot of courage and judicial activism in election matters. What happened in Kenya last Friday nearly happened in Nigeria in 2008 when the Supreme Court in a split decision of 4 – 3 upheld the flawed presidential election of April 21, 2007. While Justices George Oguntade, Maryam Mukthar and Samuel Onnoghen held that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2007, however the remaining four members of the panel, namely, the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi, Justice Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu, Justice Niki Tobi and Dahiru Musdapher upheld the election. Since 2007, Nigeria’s judiciary had annulled several governorship, senate, House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly elections. That arm of government is responsible for the staggered gubernatorial election we now have in Nigeria and has assisted immensely to reduce incidences of electoral violence and deepen Nigeria’s democracy.

In conclusion, people should stop blaming election observer missions as if they are the one that conducted the election. They only reported what they saw in the areas where they deployed during the pre-election and Election Day. At the collation point they are hardly present. Now that the IEBC has fixed October 17 as the new date for the presidential rerun election in Kenya, I do hope the electoral commission will do a better job than it did on August 8. It should overhaul its system especially by taking into account factors enumerated by the Supreme Court in nullifying the earlier poll. May the best candidate win!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nigeria’s legendary lip-service to quality education

Nigeria’s education system is in dire need of overhaul. Things are not just right in that sector. Unless something urgent is done to arrest and redress the rot in the system, the country’s future seems bleak. The leaders of tomorrow being prepared by today’s education authorities cannot sadly deliver global competitiveness. From the primary to tertiary level, the entire gamut stinks to high heavens.  Am not being uncharitable with my assessment, the deplorable situation is glaring for all to see. Strip of all pretensions and lip-service, the country’s education sector is in need of redemption.
From where do I start to analyse the rot? Have you noticed the avalanche of private schools currently operating in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria? Many of these schools operate in very unsafe, unhygienic, dilapidated structures. Many are also unlicensed and are populated by unqualified teachers who are paid pittance at every month end. In many private schools, both legal and illegal ones, there is often high turnover of staff because of the absence of good working conditions by many of the Shylock proprietors. The sad thing is that most of these schools were established primarily for pecuniary purpose.  In these schools, no teacher dare fail students. The creed is to help children to pass irrespective of whether they deserve to fail.  Where are the education inspectors who are supposed to monitor and ensure standard? In many instances, once their palms are greased, the assessment exercise is going to be predictably favourable.
There are public schools. I mean government owned educational institutions. However, the deplorable situation of most of them made parents to prefer sending their children and wards to private schools both within and outside the shores of the country. In public schools, the facilities are overstretched with more students enrolled than the carrying capacities of these institutions. Thus, it’s now common to see pupils and students learning under trees or dilapidated classrooms and lecture theatres. The teachers and lecturers are more on strike than at work. At present, the academic staff union of universities is in their third week of strike over government’s non-implementation of 2009 agreement entered into with the union as well as several other memoranda of understanding signed in-between.  
Let me cite some examples to buttress my point so that I don’t sound hyperbolic. In October 2016, a former vice chancellor of Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, Professor Riskuwa Shehu disclosed that over 60 per cent of teachers in public primary and secondary schools in the state are unqualified. Shehu made the disclosure in Sokoto  at a one-day training exercise for field officers for a pilot survey on schools’ needs assessment under the State of Emergency on Education initiative. He added that more than half of the structures in the over two thousand schools across the state are also dilapidated. The good thing about the Sokoto episode is that Governor Aminu Tambuwal has declared state of emergency in the state’s education sector and  is trying frantically to clear the mess.
In February 2016, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i said that over 42 per cent of teachers in the State were unqualified. He stated this at the commissioning ceremony of a 1,500-seater capacity hall named after him at the Federal College of Education, Zaria, Kaduna State. The governor however said that despite the large number of unqualified teachers, he will not sack anybody, but will want them to upgrade their knowledge. Lest you think it’s all northern affair, in April 2017, Cross Rivers State detected 758 teachers with fake National Certificate for Education on its payroll. The revelation was made by the Chairman of the Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Stephen Odey.   He added that: “One of the shocking revelations was the case of a head teacher who transferred his late wife’s certificates to his new wife and made her a classroom teacher, while some security men and nannies who had acquired the basic teaching qualifications were promoted to classroom teachers.” Rather than punishing these culprits, the state government granted them amnesty by asking them to go back to school and get their genuine certificates.
Nemo dat quod non habet is the Latin word which means “you cannot give what you don’t have.”  There is no way unqualified tutors can impart knowledge into their students. Any wonder there is now mass failure of students especially in external examinations? Could the students’ general poor performance be the rationale behind the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board’s low cut-off mark announced last week for the 2017/ 2018 admission into Nigerian’s tertiary institutions?  I thought I was suffering from auditory hallucination when JAMB announced that education stakeholders including university vice-chancellors, polytechnic rectors and provosts of colleges of education in Nigeria had agreed to a cut off mark of minimum of 120/400 for university admission and 100/300 for admission into polytechnics and colleges of education. I read the defence of JAMB’s Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede in last Friday’s edition of this newspaper wherein he said that Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination “is not an achievement test. It is not a qualifying examination; rather, it is a ranking examination.”
With due respect to the stakeholders who endorsed these retrogressive cut-off marks, they are not helping Nigeria’s education sector. It is better for Nigeria to revert to the pre-JAMB era when each universities set guidelines and conducts its qualifying examinations. What is the whole essence of the purported ranking examination when these tertiary institutions are still going to conduct post-JAMB examinations at a fee?  If as Oloyede said, that with 200 marks as the lowest cut-off the admission quota are not being filled, so be it. We already have too many unemployed graduates such that if we don’t produce for the next decade we would not have any shortage.
There are estimated 10.5m out-of-school children in Nigeria and in order to incentivize them to get enrolled in school, the Buhari administration last year introduced the ‘homegrown school feeding programme’. Only about 17 states had commenced the scheme. Where this has commenced there has been exponential growth in school enrolment. However, there is no corresponding expansion of school facilities including classrooms, teaching and learning aids, and teachers. If the programme were well thought through, these should have been taken care off.

A recent discovery shocked me. While many states are complaining of lack of fund for education, many of them have failed woefully to provide the matching grant to enable them access the funds earmarked for them by the Universal Basic Education Commission. The fund totaling an approximately N60bn is idling away in the Commission’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Ebonyi State has an unclaimed over N4bn followed by Enugu and Ondo with over N3bn each. As at March 31, 2017, only Borno and Rivers States have totally claimed their dues. What tenable excuse has the other 34 state governments and FCT have for not coming forward to collect this grant? If we’re going to get out of this morass, we need to do things differently from the way it is being done now by stop paying lip service to this all important sector. Government needs to properly fund education, curb examination malpractices and other sharp practices in the sector including admission racketeering, sex-for-marks phenomenon, fake teacher syndrome, and inconsistent policy framework.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Follow your passion

I got involved in media advocacy for development 27 years ago. Precisely in October 1990 when due to the pervasive misery in the land I took up the challenge posed by my lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Prof. OBC Nwolise to get involved in speaking out against the injustices, poverty, bad governance and underdevelopment in the country. He had challenged us in Advanced Level Extra Mural  class in 1988 that beyond the street protests, we can actually write opinions for publications in newspapers in order to ventilate our grievances. So to speak, Prof. Osisioma Nwolise nudged me into what has now given me identity; name and face recognition. My gratitude to the erudite scholar.
Twenty-seven years ago, I didn’t know I will earn my living in the development sector better known as Non-Governmental Organisation.  I didn’t even know I will one day become a development consultant. To God alone be all the glory for ordering my steps along the path that am now treading. My media advocacy and work as a consultant are mutually reinforcing. Yes, I may not have made money, stricto sensu  (a la late Professor Adekunle Amuwo)  from my media advocacy but I have gained a lot. My friend of life, Sheriff  Folarin, an Associate Professor at the  Covenant University is one of the many beautiful gifts media have given me. Our path crossed at the defunct Sketch Press in Ibadan in 1993. I have equally shared same platform with movers and shakers of Nigeria: Senators, House of Representatives members, University dons, media icons,  top security operatives including the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim  K Idris,  and many more.

My voyage through the Nigerian media has enabled me to become an author with two books – “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” and “A Nation in Tow: Essays on Governance and Leadership in Nigeria”.  At present, I have over 700 published articles in about 25 print media and have made about 400 appearances in over twenty broadcast media.  What’s more, it has saved me from depression, boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem as well as my world view. My eternal gratitude to all media houses and personalities who have granted me opportunity to air my views on their programmes. Don’t get it twisted; it’s not the media that I am passionate about but knowledge impartation. Those who have been privileged to attend my numerous trainings will attest to this. Dear readers, what are you passionate about? Follow your passion; it may one day be your gateway out of unemployment and poverty and guarantee access to wealth. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Attention please, President Buhari!

Welcome back from your medical vacation dear President Muhamadu Buhari. Hearty congratulations on your miraculous recovery from your undisclosed ailment which has seen you out of the country for the better part of this year 2017. I pray that Almighty Allah will perfect your healing. Mr. President, it is heartwarming to listen to you last Monday during your official broadcast to the nation. Though am disappointed that  the much anticipated critical decisions that will energise governance  was not contained in your speech, yet it was not a vacuous statement. You did show grasp of the need to unite to solve our nagging problems inclusive of insecurity.
Since Monday, I have been guest of several media houses viz, Vision 92.1 FM, Nigerian Television Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of  Nigeria and Arise TV to mention but a few,  where on invitation, I have been analysing the importance of your homecoming, the gist of your national broadcast and agenda setting for you. Mr. President, it is just fit and proper for me to condense my thoughts into writing for posterity. First and foremost, I commend Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who as Acting President for the over hundred days of your absence held fort as a loyal, humble, conscientious and disciplined second-in-command. Prof. Osinbajo, among several other things signed the 2017 budget into law and dialogued with all major leaders of ethnic nationalities in a bid to quell the groundswell of agitation and threat to national security by some misguided elements among us. He also swore in the two newly appointed minsters and assigned them portfolios just as he appointed about 21 new permanent secretaries and assigned them to their new duty posts.
The Acting President also issued four Executive Orders aimed at facilitating ease of doing business as well as launching the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme on June 29.  At the rebound of Boko Haram insurgency, Prof. Osinbajo ordered the military high command to Borno State to take charge and contain the resurgence of the extremist group. These he did while ensuring that there is regular meetings of the Federal Executive Council and National Economic Council. Mr. President, I sincerely thank you for the trust and confidence you had in the Vice President which has ensured that there is no power vacuum while you’re away.
Now that you are back, I do hope you have convalesce well enough to fully resume duties and not getting back to work out of pressure from certain interest groups. I do know that that you have officially communicated the National Assembly about your resumption of duty in accordance with constitutional requirement. That makes me glad.    Let me now lay bare some issues that I consider need your urgent attention. As you have rightly pointed out in your national broadcast of last Monday, security remains a top priority. Aside from the rebound of Boko Haram, incidences of crime and criminality have been increasing at exponential rate. Kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking, ritual killings, fraud and many more have been on the rise with law enforcement agencies appearing overwhelmed. 
The other issue is the economy that is still in the doldrums. There is intolerable level of unemployment and poverty in this country. As the economy is in recess, many compatriots are slipping into depression. Suicide rate is increasing while psychiatrist hospitals are getting fuller by the day due to high incidences of mental illness plaguing the people. I stand to be corrected but the bulk of the promised social intervention programmes are yet to be implemented. Only about half of all the states in the country are currently enjoying ‘Home-grown school feeding programme’ of your government while the outstanding 300,000 graduates to be employed under the N-Power scheme are yet to be recruited two years into the noble scheme. Due to high cost of doing business arising from epileptic power supply, access to land and high interest rate on loan, not many new businesses are coming on board while many of the existing ones are folding up.  
Giving the fact that government at all level cannot absorb the teeming unemployed Nigerians, it’s important to incentivize the organised private sector through tax holidays, low interest rate on loan and provisioning of social infrastructure such as good roads, electricity, pipe-borne water, railway, etc. It is heartrending that your government celebrated two years in office without commissioning any tangible infrastructure. This should not be the case in 2018; otherwise, you and your political party may as well not bother to field a presidential candidate in 2019.
Sir, you set up the Senator Ken Nnamani Presidential Committee on Electoral Reform in October 2016. The Committee has since submitted its report to the Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN for onward transmission to you. I doubt if he was able to present it to you before your departure to UK on medical leave. For whatever it is worth, please call for the report and do the needful on it even though the National Assembly is far gone in its constitutional and electoral act amendment effort.
It may interest you to know sir that despite several measures taken by your administration to combat bribery and corruption such as the whistleblower policy, Treasury Single Account, setting up of efficiency unit in the federal civil service and arrest and prosecution of some key government officials, the hydra-headed monster is still alive and well.  According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Nigeria is ranked 136 out of 176 profiled countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is ranked 28 out of about 50 countries. This is still unenviable for the giant of Africa. Just last week, a joint report by the National Bureau of Statistics and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes revealed that a total of N400bn was received in bribes by public officials within a period of one year. The NBS National Corruption Report stated that 32.3 per cent of Nigerian adults who had contact with public officials between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay bribes to the government workers. This is very shameful and a pointer to the fact that many Nigerians are yet to imbibe the ‘Change Begins With Me’ philosophy of this administration.

Sir, I look forward to your receiving official report of the findings of the Vice President Osinbajo headed three man fact-finding committee set up to investigate the suspended Secretary to the Federal Government, Engr. David Bachair Lawal and Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke. It is important for the report of the committee to be made public as it borders on anti-corruption. In closing, the on-going strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities should not be allowed to linger. Everything humanly possible should be done to address and redress the university dons grievances.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kenya 2017 election: Lessons for Nigeria

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Kenya held its sixth general elections since return to multi-party democracy in 1991. Declaring the result of the presidential election last Friday in its Nairobi headquarters, the chairman of the country’s electoral management body known as Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission of Kenya, Barrister Wafula W. Chebukati said the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party had a total of 8,215,963 votes representing 54.2 per cent to defeat his arch-rival Raila Odinga of National Super Alliance/ODM   who polled 6,815,971 votes representing 44.9 per cent.  Total voters turnout was 79.4 per cent. The controversies surrounding the elections are still unfolding with the claim by Odinga that the IEBC rigged the election in support of the incumbent, President Kenyatta. Some lives have reportedly been lost to post-election conflict with international community appealing for calm and calling for caution.
I have been privileged to discuss the recent political events in Kenya on different media platforms in the last one week or so. I have featured on Global Update and news analysis on three different Nigerian Television Authority stations, African Independent Television and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. The more I read about the elections in the East African country, the more I understand certain similarities and marked differences between Nigeria and Kenya. 
Like Nigeria, Kenya is a multi-ethnic, plural society. Another similarity with Nigeria is that it is a British colonised territory. It gained independence from Britain in 1963 while we got ours three years earlier. Kenya was a one party state from 1982 to 1991 but has since become a multi-party state. The country is not new to electoral conflict. Since 1992, all elections held in Kenya had led to bloodletting with the exception of those conducted in 2002 and 2013. In fact, the worst electoral violence took place in Kenya in 2007 when an estimated 1,300 lives were lost and over 600,000 persons internally displaced. In the lead up to the 2017 general election, on July 27, Christopher Msando, the head of ICT Unit of IEBC of Kenya was tortured and murdered by unknown assailants.  In Nigeria, electoral violence is a common phenomenon with several hundreds of lives lost.  It would be recalled that in 2011, close to a thousand lives were lost to pre and post-election crisis. 
Kenya, like Nigeria has bicameral legislature at the centre and unicameral legislature at the state / county level. Both countries have also been adapting electoral technology to enhance credibility of their elections. In Kenya, technology is deployed in the areas of voter identification, candidate registration, result transmission and presentation as well as biometric voter registration.
Similar to what obtains in Nigeria, Kenya is plagued by endemic corruption, high unemployment and poverty rate. According to Washington Post of Friday, August 11, 2017, “One of the reasons, analysts say that Kenya’s elections are so hotly contested is that the central government has been an enormously profitable political machine, awarding contracts across a large patronage network. A report from Kenya’s auditor-general last year said that about $200 million meant for the National Youth Service had been paid to fraudulent companies, including some with connections to politicians. The United States earlier this year suspended $21 million in health funding due to corruption allegations.”  According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Kenya is ranked 145 out of a total of 176 nations profiled while Nigeria is ranked 136. In sub-Saharan Africa, while Kenya is ranked 26, Nigeria is ranked 28. Unemployment rate in Kenya is officially put at 22.2 per cent.
Politically, out of the four past presidents of Kenya, three of them had been from Kikuyu tribe while one is Kalanjin. No Luo has ever been president in the over 50 years of the country’s nationhood. This is similar to the situation in Nigeria where out of the three major ethnic groups the Igbos are yet to be president of Nigeria. This has continually generated political tensions and is one of the bases for the strident call for restructuring of Nigeria at present.
As there are several similarities between Nigeria’s and Kenya’s political systems, so are there legion of differences.  For instance, the Kenyan Constitution requires there to be a general election on the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year. That is why the elections were held last Tuesday. In Nigeria, we not only have our general election every four years, there is latitude of five months within which our election management body i.e. Independent National Electoral Commission could fix election.  The constitution says elections into the office of the president, governors, National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and State Houses of Assembly are to be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent. 
In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, all elections are held in one day. Thus, on the eight of this month, six separate elections - president, national assembly, female representatives, governors, senate and county assemblies – were held simultaneously. No wonder there was huge voter turnout. In Kenya, there is provision for independent candidacy. Indeed, out of the eight presidential candidates that participated in the country’s 2017 election, three of them ran as independents.  In Nigeria, for executive positions such as President, Governor and Chairman of Local Government and Area Council, a candidate has to score 25 percent of votes cast in  two-third of his or her constituency as well as majority of valid votes cast while for legislative positions, a winner emerge by simple majority. However, in Kenya, a presidential candidate need 50 per cent plus one vote as well as 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 out of the 47 counties for first-round victory. Otherwise, there will be a run-off.
In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, there is affirmative action for the marginalised groups.  Out of the 349 Members of Parliament, 290 of them are directly elected while 47 seats are reserved for women to be contested for while six Youths and six Persons with Disabilities are nominated into the parliament. In the country’s 67 member Senate, 47 of them are directly elected while 20 are nominated. Out of the 20 nominees, 16 are women, two are Youths and two are PwD.  History was made last week during the country’s general election. Three Kenyan women were elected governors after beating some of the seasoned male politicians. Joyce Laboso, Anne Waiguru and Charity Ngilu made political history by becoming the first women to be elected as governors in Kenya. Previously, all 47 counties were governed by males.
IEBC of Kenya has chairman and vice chairman. While the chairman, Mr. Wafula W. Chebukati is a man, the vice, Ms. Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina is a lady. This is called twining in political circles. Out of the eight members of the Commission, three of them are women. Also, Kipng’etich Kones, the son of a late Cabinet Minister Kipkalya Kones, who ran in the Kenyan parliamentary election lost to his mother, Beatrice Kones.  Unlike Nigeria that has 36 states, Kenya has 47 counties which is their equivalent of our state.
While Nigeria’s polling hours is between 8am – 3pm, in Kenya, it is between 6am – 5pm.  No sitting president has ever lost an election in the East African country of 48 million people. This jinx has been broken in Nigeria in 2015. In Kenya, prisoners who are not on death row or serving life sentence are allowed to vote in the presidential election. There is also provision for out-of-country or diaspora voting. In the August 8 general election, Kenyans in five African countries viz. South Africa, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda were registered to vote and approximately 7,000 of them voted in the presidential election. There is also public funding for political parties in the country. In August 2010, Kenya’s new constitution designed to limit the powers of the president and devolve power to the regions was approved in referendum.

Where lies the political lessons for Nigeria? In the noble provisions highlighted above which guarantee inclusive electoral process.