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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Nigerian electorate and credible elections

There are various actors and stakeholders in the electoral process. They are the Election Management Bodies (in Nigeria, we have two of them; namely, the Independent National Electoral Commission and State Independent Electoral Commissions), political parties and contestants, the media, the judiciary, the security agencies, the legislative assemblies, the accredited observers and the electorate. The EMBs are the umpires who are saddled with the responsibilities of orgnising, conducting and supervising the electoral process; the political parties field the players for the umpire. They produce and sponsor the contestants better known as candidates. The media educates the public on the activities of all the actors and stakeholders.
The legislative assemblies produce the legal framework for the conduct of the elections, the judiciary adjudicates on election disputes, and the security agencies help to secure the electoral environment for the smooth conduct of the polls while the accredited observers just like accredited party agents ensures that the umpire and the contestants follow strictly the rules of engagement. However, the chief of them all is the electorate. They are all the people in a country or area who are entitled to vote in an election. Best of preparations by every other stakeholders devoid of the electorate otherwise known as voters makes the entire exercise a nullity. Without the electorate there will be no voting, sorting, counting, collation, announcement of results and the declaration of winners.
The electorate are the real ‘kingmakers’. They choose who will govern them at different levels. They enthrone the presidents and the governors, the Local Government Chairmen and councilors, the Senators, House of Representative members and members of the State Houses of Assembly. The Universal Adult Suffrage states that citizens of a country have a right to vote for their leaders. In Nigeria, for you to be among the elite guard called electorate, you must satisfy five conditions.
According to section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) “A person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person – (a) is a citizen of Nigeria; (b) has attained the age of 18 years; (c) is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the Local Government Area Council, or Ward, covered by the registration centre; (d) presents himself to the Registration Officer of the Commission  for registration as a voter; and (e) is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.”
There is a reason as to why not everybody is qualified to be part of the electorate. The age limit of 18 years and above is to ensure that only people who are mature enough to make informed choices at elections are entrusted with that vital responsibility. This is because wrong choice of leaders at elections will impact negatively on quality of governance. That is why underage registration and voting is not allowed.
How has Nigerians fared in the performance of this sacred responsibility of electing good leaders? Not very well, I must say. Many compatriots have been apathetic to elections. Many do not bother to register as a voter. No matter the level of awareness campaign, they are simply indifferent. There is another category of people who took time off to register but never bother to go and collect their voters’ cards. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, as of March 2018, there are approximately eight million uncollected Permanent Voters Cards nationwide. Just last Monday, May 21, 2018, INEC commenced distribution of additional four million PVCs of those who had registered in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration Exercise between April and December 2017. That makes it a whopping 12 million PVCs awaiting collection by Nigerians. This is worrisome. It is, because registration and collection of PVC are free unlike when one applies for Banks Debit Cards or Driving License which attract fees.
Another group of electorate are those who collect their voters cards but do not show up to cast their ballot at elections. They often claim that their reason for collecting their Voters Cards is to enable them use it as means of identification at banks, at airports when flying domestic routes, and generally when transacting business that necessitates personal identification.  This set of people care less about who wins or lose at elections. As far as they are concerned with or without their vote, winners will emerge.
Another category of electorate are those who register, collect their voters cards and troop out to vote at elections. This class can be bifurcated into two. There are those who vote because they have been induced with money or gifts and there are those who vote as a patriotic duty and civic responsibility. Quite unfortunately, people in this category are in the minority. Elections in Nigeria are witnessing less and less voters turnout. In some grave cases there are less than 10 per cent voters’ participation. There are several reasons adduced for this poor voters response at elections. Some of them include perceived poor performance by political office holders in terms of non-delivery on their previous campaign promises, fear of violence, late commencement of voting by the Election Management Body, and previous incidences of electoral fraud when votes do not count.
Ahead of the July 14 and September 22, 2018 Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections as well as the February/March 2019 general election, all hands must be on deck to boost voters confidence in the electoral process, encourage them to turn up to register during the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration Exercise and then vote when time comes. Election without voters can never be ascribed as successful and credible. Election in Nigeria should cease to be mere hollow ritual. The electorate need to understand the import of their participation in the process.
Yes, it is the right of every 18 years and above who meet the prescribed criteria to register to vote; it is also the responsibilities of those who have been registered to go and collect their voters cards and make sure they vote responsibly at upcoming elections. Lamentations and agonising about the state of the nation is unhelpful and serve no useful purpose. Electorate must put their money where their mouth is by joining the forces of change. They must show interest in the electoral process by following through from party primaries, through campaigns and ultimately at the elections. Nigerian electorate, change begins with you!
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Should Nigerian presidential candidates undergo compulsory medical fitness test?

This is a million dollar question. On the face of it I will say YES, it is desirable.  However, how feasible is it? Recently, on May 13, 2018 Sunday PUNCH published the report of a survey it conducted on whether there should be a law that will require presidential candidates to submit medical test reports before contesting the 2019 election. The poll went live at midnight on Friday, May 11. As of 5pm on Saturday, May 12, out of the 2,288 participants who took part in the poll, 89 per cent (2,037 respondents) indicated that they were in favour of a law demanding the medical status of candidates for the 2019 election. Conversely, up to 250 people, amounting to 11 per cent, said NO to the idea of such a law.
According to The PUNCH, it ran the survey based on the frequent travel of President Muhammadu Buhari for medical treatment in the United Kingdom. The newspaper chronicled the president’s medical tourism since assuming office as follows: “Since assuming office on May 29, 2015, Buhari had on several occasions, travelled abroad for medical reasons. He embarked on a six-day vacation in the UK between February 5 and 10, 2016. On June 6, 2016, he departed for another 10-day vacation to attend to what the Presidency described as “a persistent ear infection.” Buhari returned to Nigeria on June 19, 2016. The 75-year-old leader again left the country on January 19, 2017, for a medical vacation. He returned to the country on March 10, 2017, after a 49-day medical sojourn, admitting that he had never been that sick in his life. The President, on May 7, 2017, travelled back to London for medical consultation only to return to the country on August 19, 2017.”  The president just came back from a three day medical trip to UK from May 8 – 11, 2018. Amid the numerous medical trips, controversy continues to trail the refusal of the Presidency to reveal Buhari’s physical status, as well as the nature of and payment for his extensive medical treatments. So with five medical trips spanning over 170 days in three years of being president, there is indeed cause to be worried about the president’s health.
Litany of deaths of Nigerian Governors and Presidents while in office
On January 15, 1966, a number of Nigerian political leaders were murdered by coupists. These include Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and a host of others. In 1966 also Nigeria’s Head of State, General JTU AguiyI- Ironsi was murdered in a counter coup on July 29, 1966 alongside with Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Administrator of Western Region. On February 13, 1978, Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed was murdered. 
Alhaji Muhammadu Shehu Kangiwa was a Second Republic governor of Sokoto State. He died on November 17, 1981.  He died as a result of injuries he sustained on his head after he fell down from his horse at a polo tournament in Kaduna. General Sani Abacha was a former Nigerian Head of State from November 17, 1993 – June 8, 1998. He died of an undisclosed ailment while in office. Former Governor of Yobe state, Senator Mamman Bello Ali, died on January 26, 2009 while in office. He was a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and was allegedly receiving medical treatment for leukemia in a Florida hospital when he died. Former Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai was a Nigerian pharmacist and politician. He was governor of of Taraba State. Governor Suntai was involved in a ghastly plane crash which he personally piloted on October 25, 2012. Though he survived the crash, he never fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in the ill-fated accident. He eventually died on June 28, 2017. 
There was also former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who died on May 5, 2010 while in office. President Yar’Adua’s death after a protracted illness that saw him being in and out of hospital abroad nearly destabilised the country  owing to the fact that he did not hand over power to his then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan while on medical tourism abroad. More recently, former Kogi State Governor, Prince Abubakar Audu died of an undisclosed illness while recontesting for governorship election on November 22, 2016.  Therefore given the scenarios painted above, it clearly shows that more of our leaders have died of unnatural deaths than via sickness. Nonetheless, it is highly desirable to elect people who are physically and mentally fit into political offices. In fact, there have been suggestions in the past that our elective officials should be subjected to psychiatrist test in order to ascertain their mental balance and fitness.
Operationalising the demand for medical fitness for presidential candidates
Legal Hurdles
There is a legal challenge to realising this desire for medical report. Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, (as amended) did not list medical fitness as part of the four requirements for running for the office of the president. The four requirements are: (a.) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b.) he has attained the age of 40 years; (c.) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by the political party; and (d.) he has been educated up to at least the School Certificate level or its equivalent. Be that as it may, there is something that is health-related that forms part of the grounds for disqualification of a presidential candidate as enunciated in section 137 of the Nigerian Constitution. The grundnorm in s. 137(1)(c ) says : “under the law in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind”. In my own estimation, since this is a ground for disqualification of a candidate, if this can be operationalised by having a section in the Constitution or at least Electoral Act demanding for certificate of mental fitness to establish that the candidate is not a lunatic or of unsound mind, this will serve the course of election and indeed governance well.   
There are also those who are of the opinion that even if the law permits submission of certificate of medical fitness as part of requirements for contesting presidential election, such medical certificate can be forged. They point to such practice as being rife in some corporate organisations where such is made mandatory. On the other hand if the test will be done by government, let’s say by Independent National Electoral Commission, the presidency or Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the outcome of such test can be manipulated to screen out unwanted presidential candidates, especially those in opposition parties. Thus, controversies that will trail the adoption of this requirement may end up distracting the conduct of elections due to likelihood of litigations.  There are also those who argue that the demand for medical fitness is needless in as much as section 144 of the Constitution has comprehensively stipulated how a president and vice president who are permanently incapacitated can be removed from office.
A school of thought also believed that demanding such report will be an infringement on the right to privacy of such candidates especially if the report of such medical fitness test is to be made public. Furthermore, some people are of the opinion that being medically fit at the point of running for an office does not mean such a person cannot be terminally ill while in office and that the best safeguard is already to be found in section 144 of the Constitution earlier referenced.

Mere academic exercise; what can be done in the absence of legal reform?
While the debate on the propriety or otherwise of medical fitness report for presidential candidates rages, I think it’s merely an academic exercise now as the legal framework for our election does not currently make it a requirement and if such will be made mandatory ahead of the looming 2019 elections, then amendment to the Constitution and Electoral Act have to be sponsored either as executive bill or private member bill. The feasibility of this happening in the immediate period seems unlikely.
If any presidential candidate or any candidates for that matter want to demonstrate their faith in accountability and transparency by fully disclosing their medical records, it is left for them to decide. After all, though section 140 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for elected president to declare their assets and liabilities before assumption of office, such declarations are made secretly. However, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and their vice presidents as well as few governors have of their own volition decided to make their asset declaration form public.
To my own mind, it boils down to individual contestants for political office to be truthful to themselves by not contesting elections if they are unwell, especially, if they are terminally sick. If any contestant does not want to toe that honourable path, it behoves electorate to keenly follow the campaigns, properly screen the candidates on the ballot and refuse to vote for anyone who they perceive is not physically and mentally fit to govern. Governance at all level is a serious business that should not be entrusted to misfits and invalids.
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Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Three major impediments to Nigeria’s 2019 elections

Periodic elections are one of the pillars of every democracy. Elections give the electorate, otherwise known as voters, the opportunity to either renew the mandate of the incumbent or replace them with a new set of leaders. The carrot and stick nature of election is perhaps the most glamorous thing about democracy. It is important to stress here that unlike the notion held by many people, including our political leaders, elections are not a day event but a process. Elections can be likened to a social activity like wedding which takes months or years to plan for but takes place over a day or two.
The Independent National Electoral Commission served a two-year advance notice of 2019 general elections. The commission on March 9, 2017 informed Nigerians that the elections would hold on February 16 and March 2. It has even gone ahead to give dates of general elections for the next 55 years. It’s exactly 276 days to February 16, 2019 when the first set of elections are expected to be held. However, I am disturbed about three things which I think can impact negatively on the preparations and indeed, holding of the elections. They are the legal framework, funding and insecurity.
The first hurdle is that of the legal framework for the 2019 elections. INEC has planned for next year’s polls using the 2010 Electoral Act as amended as well as the 1999 Constitution, as amended in 2010. Since 2015, the National Assembly has embarked on constitution and Electoral Act amendments. The National Assembly and indeed all the 36 state Houses of Assembly have voted on the constitution amendments. I was hoping that the National Assembly would have by now collated those amendments that met the two-thirds majority cut-off from the states, passed them and sent the same to the President for assent.  As a corollary to that, the National Assembly has passed the Electoral Act 2010 amendments and sent to the President for assent which he has withheld based on objections to three of the clauses. The objections majorly have to do with Section 25 which not only seeks to reorder the sequence of election but adds an additional day to the two days earlier proposed by INEC.  Justice Ahmed Mohammed of Abuja Federal High Court had on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 told the National Assembly that it lacks power to dictate to the INEC the sequence of elections.  The Senate had earlier on April 12 resolved to remove the three offensive clauses and passed the bill to the President for assent. However, on the aftermath of the April 25 judgment of the Federal High Court, there was a report to the effect that the National Assembly was contemplating appealing the court judgment.
I wish the Senate and indeed the House of Representatives too will remove those offensive portions of the bill rather than appeal the court judgment. INEC needs to be certain about which legal framework it will be using to conduct the 2019 elections. Some of the noble provisions of this Electoral Amendment Bill include legalising the Smartcard Reader, lifting of ban on the use of Electronic Voting, pegging the amount political parties can charge on nomination forms, how political parties can replace candidates who die in the course of election, etc.
There is a cost implication to implementing some of the new laws and as such INEC needs to factor those cost into its election budget. Aside from that, there is a need for sufficient time for public sensitisation on these new laws. I am hoping that the current brouhaha over a new legal framework for elections will not end up like that of 2014 when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to assent to the constitution amendment thwarted the effort to strengthen our legal regime.
Did you know that the delay in the passage of the 2018 Federal Government budget is hindering preparations for the 2019 general elections? The Commissioner for Voter Education at INEC, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, said this on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 on Sunrise Daily, a programme on Channels Television. Soyebi said the conventional budget for the running of the commission had been approved, but the budget for the 2019 elections, which was submitted separately, had not been approved, adding that it was worrisome given the fact that the 2019 elections were less than a year away.
Yes, by the time you’re reading this, the National Assembly might have passed the budget as the leaderships of the Senate and House of Representatives promised last week. However, the buck does not stop with the National Assembly. We have to hope and pray that the budget will be transmitted to the President on time for his assent and that there will be no controversies such as witnessed last year over budget padding and that the President will find it implementable and assent to it expeditiously. Even at that, we also have to hope that after the President’s assent, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria will promptly release INEC’s funds to it. Thankfully, the commission is now on a first line change on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
For many who do not know, many of the sensitive and non-sensitive materials that INEC will use for the elections are not found on the shelves of any company. They are customised materials and are also procured from overseas. We should also not forget that it is criminal for any institution to award contracts without cash backing and the Bureau of Public Procurement certification. INEC will have to wade through this bureaucratic bottleneck. Thus, timely funding is highly desirable and non-negotiable.  It is also estimated that the next general elections may gulp between N250bn and N300bn. I do hope sufficient provisions will be made for the commission to enable it deliver on credible and successful elections next year.
Lastly, the growing insecurity is a potent threat to the conduct of 2019 elections. Aside from insurgency and herdsmen attacks in Northern Nigeria, politicians have started to also heat up the polity. The ruling All Progressives Congress which is currently conducting its congresses and convention has not helped matters. In the May 5 and 12, 2018 Ward and Local Government congresses, a lot of violent incidents were unleashed leading to loss of lives in Delta and Lagos states. Party secretariats were also torched or vandalised in Imo and Rivers states. Even our courts were not spared. Last Friday, May 11, some APC members allegedly invaded Port Harcourt High Court beating up everyone in sight and locking up the gates to the court. This was reminiscent of what happened in Ekiti State in September 2014. This ugly development has put democracy under threat in Nigeria and is quite ominous. In case you didn’t know, it was reported in The Guardian of Monday, May 14, 2018 that political intrigues ahead of the 2019 general elections have made stock market investors lose N729bn in three months of decline. There are even fears being expressed that 2019 elections may not hold as scheduled if the security situation in the country does not improve significantly.
I challenge all concerned authorities to work hard to ensure that the elections hold as scheduled. Meanwhile, in case you registered during the INEC Continuous Voters Registrations between April and December 2017, I have good news for you. Your Permanent Voters Card is ready and you can go to INEC Local Government  office where you registered to collect it from next Monday,  May 21, 2018.
As someone aptly said, INEC will not count your prayer points but your votes. So, get involved in the electoral process, go collect your PVC and make sure you vote at upcoming elections.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is this the beginning of the end of APC?

The All Progressives Congress commenced election of new party executive members with the Ward Congress held last Saturday, May 5, 2018 across the country. Unfortunately, the party whose motto is Justice, Peace and Unity ended up with an exercise that was marred by widespread violence, alleged imposition of candidates, holding of parallel congresses, confusion and controversies. What happened last Saturday gave credence to the initial resolution of the party on February 27, 2018 when the National Executive Committee of the APC decided to extend the tenure of the current executives by a year, beginning from June 2018.

It took the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari who asked the party to rescind that decision because it was illegal and unconstitutional before the party agreed to have elective congresses and convention. Initially, the party had scheduled the Ward Congresses for Wednesday, May 2, 2018; Local Government Congresses for Saturday, May 5, 2018; State Congresses for Wednesday, May 9, 2018 and National Convention, for Monday, May 14, 2018. However, it later postponed the convention till June while rescheduling the congresses to May 5, 12 and 19 for Ward, Local Government and State elective congresses respectively.

The whole essence of the party congresses was to elect new party executives that will pilot the affairs of the party for the next four years as well as elect delegates for the national convention. Unfortunately, power tussles among the different interest groups in the party robbed the Ward Congress held last Saturday of any legitimacy. There were reported cases of violence. For instance, in Delta State, a chairmanship aspirant for the APC in Jeremi Ward 10 (III), Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr. Jeremiah Oghoveta, was reportedly stabbed to death. There were also reported cases of violence in Oyo, Rivers, Taraba, Anambra, Ondo, and Imo states. In some others like Adamawa, Imo and Ebonyi, parallel Ward Congresses were allegedly held. Among the issues raised Saturday’s APC Ward Congress include hoarding of nomination forms, election by affirmation or consensus rather than by election, diversion of voting materials, imposition of candidates, late commencement of voting and vote buying.

The APC spokesperson, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement issued on Sunday, May 6, 2018, described the Ward Congress as “generally peaceful” even as he acknowledged that there were some issues arising from the conduct of the election in some states.  According to him, “With this in view, the party had set up various appeal committees which will begin sitting from Monday, May 7, 2018. We therefore call on all party members to remain law abiding and where there are issues, they should seek redress through the appeal committees in their respective states.”

While the Ward Congress was underway last Saturday, another epochal event was taking place in Ekiti State. It was the APC primary to elect the party torch bearer in the state’s July 14, 2018 governorship election. Unfortunately, that exercise too was enmeshed in a swirling controversy that led to its indefinite suspension. Reports had it that some hoodlums with sympathy for some of the 33 aspirants disrupted the voting when they perceived that some of the delegates, especially the uneducated ones among them, were receiving instructions from an agent of one of the aspirants on whom to vote for. It was alleged that the agent was taking down the serial numbers of the ballot papers of the delegates with a view to purportedly pay them later for their votes.

It was also alleged that the secretary of the election committee was a business partner and a friend of the same aspirant whose agent was allegedly influencing the delegates’ choice. Here is what Segun Oni, one of the aspirants said to the press on the unfortunate incident:  “How would one feel to get to the field of play and find out that the referee was nominated by one of the teams? We found out that the secretary of the committee, Aliyu Mogaji, was nominated by an aspirant and Governor Tanko Al-Makura later got to know about this and dropped him from functioning as the returning officer. Even the fraud festered to the ranks of the security agencies. I quite appreciate the fact that violence was not the right way, but it was caused by anger.”

Many a time when the APC gloat over the People’s Democratic Party and blame the party for all of the woes in our body polity, one is quick to say that it has no moral justification to pontificate and call the PDP names. Both parties are copying from the same textbook. In 2014, ahead of the party congresses and convention, the APC governors and a prominent leader of the party allegedly colluded to give the exercises a predetermined outcome. As it was in 2014, so it is now in the APC.

President Buhari was quite concerned with the growing disaffection within the party that he set up the Bola Tinubu-led national reconciliation committee on February 6, 2018. The committee obviously has achieved limited success since it was initiated. This may not be unconnected with the fact that Tinubu himself is among the aggrieved party members having openly called for the resignation or removal of the incumbent party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. In a February 21, 2018, letter to the APC chairman which was copied to the President, Tinubu accused Odigie-Oyegun of seeking to undermine the mandate given to him by the President to reconcile aggrieved members and ensure party cohesion by engaging in some “dilatory tactics.” His words: “Drawing from your behaviour in Kogi, Kaduna and with regard to the state chapter assessment requested, I am led to the inference that you have no intention of actually supporting my assignment. Instead, you apparently seek to undermine my mandate by engaging in dilatory tactics for the most part.”

With what happened during the Ward Congress and party primary in Ekiti, are we seeing the beginning of the end of the APC? Time will tell. However, it is in the best interest of the ruling party to correct its past mistakes rather than continue to live in denial. It is on the brink of collapse because of too much vested interests among its many power brokers especially the governors, ministers, senators, House of Representatives members and the major party financiers.  It is a legitimate ambition to contest and win elections but such should not be earned through underhand tactics and sharp practices. Internal party democracy should not be sacrificed at the altar of political interest. If the APC will survive the brewing crisis, it must embrace equity, justice and fair play in its party affairs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dangers of using state funds for APC congresses

It is no longer news that the ruling All Progressives Congress has chosen the path of honour, constitutionalism and legality by publishing the timetable for its congresses. It will be recalled that in February, the National Executive Committee of the party resolved to extend the tenure of the National Working Committee members for a year starting from June 2018. However, President Muhammadu Buhari saved the day when he declared the controversial move as illegal and unconstitutional during the March 27, 2018 NEC meeting.
Now, the party announced that the Ward Congresses will hold on May 5; Local Government Congresses on May 12, while the State Congresses will hold on May 19, 2018. However, there is a raging controversy on how the forthcoming party elections will be funded.
Last Friday, online news portal, Premium Times, broke the news that the APC had asked each of its 24 state governors to donate N250m each for the purpose of funding the party’s congresses and convention. This will amount to a whopping N6bn! It is unclear as of now if the Federal Government and local governments under the party are also being taxed for the same purpose.
After an initial dismissal of the story as illogical, the national spokesperson for the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, on Saturday, April 28, 2018 issued a press statement as follows:
“At the meeting of the National Working Committee and the governors of the party held at the party secretariat on Thursday, 26 April, it was pointed out that many of the governors had fallen behind in the payment of their party dues. While some of the governors have been up-to-date with the payments, a few others have not paid at all. The governors were therefore requested to pay up, especially in view of upcoming party activities. It is therefore possible that a governor that falls in the category of those that have not paid since inception could be owing up to N250 million. For the avoidance of doubt, party dues are paid by all members of the party holding positions, either by election or appointment. Therefore, members of the National Assembly as well as cabinet ministers also remit a percentage of their earnings to the party.”
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in a statement on Sunday, April 29, accused the APC of diverting N6bn meant for the development of states under its control to finance the ruling party’s forthcoming national convention. The PDP was quoted as saying, “The APC is corrupt. Our investigation reveals that many of the APC governors are being coerced under the orders of the Presidency and the leadership of the party to move in huge sums of money in cash into the APC coffers, the bulk of which has already been frittered away by corrupt leaders in the party and agents of the Presidency”. Could this be true?
Sticking to the official response of the APC, how much is the percentage of the salaries of elected government officials and political appointees due to the party on a monthly basis? For instance, in April 2017, when Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State published his net monthly salary (after tax and other deductions), it was N470,521.74. Even if we go by the Gross monthly pay which is N555,926.25, there is no way any defaulting governor would have accumulated a debt of  N250m in party dues. Again, how come all governors are to pay the same sum of N250m? Truth be told, the APC is being clever by half.  Though the governors are supposed to pay personal membership dues and donate a percentage of their earnings for the running of the party, in practice, what they simply do is to use the state funds to make the payment. I recall that 21 PDP governors made a donation of N50m each amounting to N1.05bn on December 20, 2014 when the party organised a fundraiser in support of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid. Thus, the PDP accusing the APC of being corrupt is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Truth be told, using state funds to support political party activities is illegal, unconstitutional and an abuse of state and administrative resources. It is also unethical. According to the Premium Times, as of February, 23 out of the 24 governors were enmeshed in one salary row or the other, according to the Trade Union Congress. Only Lagos State has continued to meet its obligations to workers and pensioners. Many of the governors owe salaries or pensions or both for extended periods that range between four months and above. It therefore constitutes a moral burden to be owing workers’ salaries and find it convenient to give a princely sum of N250m to your party from the state purse.  The only reason the APC governors will not run foul of law is if the monies are paid from their personal account and not the state coffers.
Another serious issue this donation to the party raises is the potential unsparing influence the governors will wield on the process and outcome of the planned congresses and convention. If they are expected to donate such huge sums of money for party activities, you can rest assured that they will do everything humanly possible to ensure that their preferred candidates for the various elective positions emerged victorious at the forthcoming party elections. They will spare no expenses to bankroll their choice candidates to be elected into the new party executives at the various levels. This is how party structures are hijacked by the governors ahead of the general elections. It is simply antithetical to the promotion of internal party democracy.
If the governors are not paying their membership dues and had to be asked to pay lump sum ahead of major party activities, it shows that they are not loyal and faithful party men. This indicates that they are not good leaders. I know for a fact that the major challenge of political party administration in Nigeria is lack of financial commitments by members to their parties. This is what usually paves way for party hijack by few moneybags who make huge financial donations to the party in order to curry favours.
This N250m levy on the APC governors does not look good on a party whose mantra is change!  It is a negative trend that should not be encouraged because of the dangerous implications it has on democratic consolidation.  Political parties have a wide range of legal and legitimate ways to raise fund. Apart from membership dues, there are also opportunities for political parties to charge Expression of Interest and nomination fees, receive donations from wholesome sources, profits on investment as well as take loans to fund their activities. A level-playing field is needful in the conduct of party elections be it congresses, conventions or primaries. Encouraging big donations from a few individuals is an indirect way of promoting godfather politics and party capture. This is a negation of sound democratic practices.