Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reward as incentive for electoral violence

April 2011 polls in Nigeria looms. Preparations are at fever pitch by the various actors and stakeholders in the electoral process. Independent National Electoral Commission had blown the whistle for the official commencement of preparations for the general elections with the release of timetable for the polls on 23 November 2010. One of the key institutions in the electoral process is the political party who fields candidates to contest the elections.

Up from three in 1999, 30 in 2003, 50 in 2007, now 63 political parties have been registered to participate in the 2011 polls. In accordance with INEC’s timetable, and also in consonance with section 87 of Electoral Act 2010 which stipulates the candidates’ nomination process, political parties have between 26 November 2010 and 15 January 2011 for the conduct of their primaries.

With the commencement of active politicking, incidences of electoral violence have soared. It is noteworthy that electoral violence refers to all forms of organised acts or threats be it physical, psychological or structural aimed at intimidating, harming, blackmailing political stakeholders before, during and after an election with a view to determining, delaying or otherwise influencing the electoral process. Physical violence is the most recognisable form of electoral violence.

The manifestation of these are in assassinations and attempted assassinations, attacks on party offices and contestants’ homes, fights between supporters of rival parties, factions and candidates, riots and rampages, etc. Psychological violence involves the use of intimidation and harassment by politicians and their supporters, while structural violence occurs when exclusionary or discriminatory policies are taken against certain groups. Part of the manifestation of structural violence is the setting of stringent condition for party nomination and constant shift in date and time for party primaries or convention.

All the aforementioned forms of violence have been on the increase in Nigeria in the last couple of months. Some of the incidences of kidnapping are politically motivated. One of such is the abduction in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in October 2010 of the wife of former Military Administrator of Ogun State, Sam Ewang by unknown gunmen who apart from demanding for huge ransom also asked the former MILAD to drop his gubernatorial ambition before his wife could be released. The twin bombing in Abuja on 1 October 2010, the 2010 Christmas Eve bombings in Jos and the New Year eve bombing in Mogadishu barracks in Abuja have all been said to be politically motivated.

Furthermore, the murder of Oyo State factional leader of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Lateef Salako (alias Eleweomo) at the venue of Oyo State Peoples Democratic Party congress in Ona Ara Local Government Area on Thursday, 30 December 2010 as well as the murder on Saturday, 1 January 2011 of Dr. Akpan Akpudo, a PDP Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly aspirant in Uyo, were other cases in point.

The question is, why do the political elites take pleasure in maiming and killing people if their motive, as they often claim, is to serve the people? My hypothesis is that most of the members of Nigeria’s political class are actually in politics for personal aggrandisement and not for altruistic reasons. Moreover, there is a correlation between the humongous emoluments members of the Nigerian ruling class receive for doing little or nothing and the lure of various contestants to adopt Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’ in the pursuit of their political ambition. Nigeria currently operates the principle of ‘winners-take-all’ under the first-past-the-post electoral system otherwise known as ‘majoritarian’ system where by virtue of as small as one vote, one contestant wins everything while the defeated candidates lose everything and are left to lick their wounds or electoral misfortunes. This iniquitous system is what the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee wants to change by proposing the adoption of the Proportional Representation (PR) system which would have spread the benefit of elections. Unfortunately, the Executive Council of the Federation, the Council of State and the National Assembly rejected this laudable idea.

Another contributory factor to the increased incidences of electoral violence is the culture of impunity which has by error of omission or commission been instituted in Nigeria so much so that culprits or perpetrators of electoral violence escaped justice. High rate of unemployment and poverty have equally provided a fertile ground for recruitment of miscreants to be used as foot soldiers for perpetration of electoral violence.

In order to mitigate these pervasive incidences of electoral violence, efforts must be made to considerably reduce the perks of office for political office holders. The current situation where the political elites, some of whom are of blinking intelligence, use all manner of foul means to access political office only to amass unconscionable wealth does not augur well for Nigeria’s electoral democracy and national development. In some developed democracies, persons in government are there to serve the interest of the public. Not so in Nigeria! A pauper of today, once he or she is able to scheme his or her way into political office within few months becomes ‘stinking’ rich, all because of the perverted reward system of the office. True, politics is about authoritative allocation of values, however, such values being dispensed must not have deleterious effect on the society.

As preparations are in top gear for the 2011 general elections, our armed forces must be overhauled to engage in pro-active and preventive security. The intelligence gathering departments of all the security agencies must be properly staffed and equipped to forestall crimes and criminality as well as respond rapidly when they occur. Arrowheads and masterminds of electoral violence must be fished out alongside their foot-soldiers and prosecuted in the law court. The credibility of 2011 elections is not only hinged on making votes count, but also on having a free poll devoid of bloodshed, intimidation and destruction.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My wishes for Nigeria in 2011

It is the dawn of a new year and a new decade. 2011 was ushered in with a bang in Abuja, nay Nigeria as terrorists blew up the mammy market inside Mogadishu Barrack. It is commonplace for individuals, corporate organisations and indeed a country to observe a ritual called New Year resolutions. Nigeria‘s budget, presented by President Goodluck Jonathan on December15, 2010 to the joint sitting of the National Assembly could be taken to be our dear country‘s New Year resolutions, our economic wish list. What I have set out to do in this piece is to add my own personal wishes for Nigeria in 2011.

Why, in spite of the billions of Naira budgeted annually for the construction and repairs of Nigerian roads, do many of these roads be it Trunk A, B or C still remain death-traps? Are we not deserving of good roads or is it because our leaders fly around the country and hardly ever drive on the same road as the populace?

This last Christmas, I travelled with my family from Abuja to Ibadan and I could not contain my anger as the vehicles we travelled in meandered to avoid the many failed portions on the road. Abuja to Okene axis was terrible. My heart was in my mouth as we journeyed past this section of the expressway.

I learnt from news reports that some commuters were held up in the gridlock at Gwagwalada for several hours as they travelled to meet their loved ones during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The irony of this annual traffic jam on this flank of Abuja – Lokoja Road is that the contract for the expansion of the road was awarded in 2006 or thereabout to three construction companies. Work on this road had been progressing at a snail-pace with the project being less that 50 per cent completed four years after the award of the contract.

The Niger Bridge before Lokoja is nearly severed into two and any reckless drive on that bridge can lead to a fatal accident. My wish for Nigeria on the state of our roads is that government at all levels will take pity on the suffering commuters and get this vital infrastructure fixed so that many Nigerians who cannot afford air fare will have good roads to use.

Aside roads, I am equally worried about the dilapidating and deplorable state of our other social infrastructures. The mantra under the late Umaru Yar’Adua was Seven Point Agenda with a promise of 6,000 megawatts of electricity before the end of 2010. Since, President Jonathan got to power on May 6, 2010; he has ceased to either mouth any agenda or promise any megawatts of electricity.

Indeed, Nigeria celebrated its Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary in October 2010 in pitch darkness. In fairness to government, we continue to hear of power sector reform and a presidential committee meeting regularly to earmark billions of naira to Nigeria Integrated Power Projects.

The question is, when shall we start to experience significant increase in power generation, distribution and consumption in this country? I have said severally and still maintain that there is no poverty reduction strategy that is as effective as having electricity available to the productive sectors of this country to work. Cottage industries, small and medium scale enterprises and indeed manufacturing concerns will only perform optimally when they can access affordable and uninterrupted power supply.

My wish for Nigeria in 2011 is that there will be significant improvement in the provision of social amenities such as electricity, health care delivery, qualitative education, mass and affordable housing projects as well as potable water.

Another of my hearty wish for Nigeria is that this country shall experience peace. The escalating incidences of crime and criminality should be arrested. All acts of terrorism such as kidnappings, arson, banditry, bombings must be halted. The general elections comes up in few months’ time, the rampant disorderly behaviour, maiming and killings being reported at party congresses, conventions, primaries and campaigns make peace loving Nigerians jittery and concerned. The political elites must be reminded that the credibility of the elections is not only measured by whether electorate votes count but also whether the election was peaceful. I hereby enjoin all the 63 registered political parties and their candidates to shun all acts of violence; obey their code of conduct as well as the Electoral Act 2010.
All security agencies also need to be properly equipped not only to secure the environment for the forthcoming elections but also to protect the country from external aggression and internal insurrection.

My last wish for Nigeria in 2011 is to witness a significant reduction in the unemployment rate and poverty level. I hope to see higher standard of living and not a soaring cost of living; real development and not statistical growth. Truth be told, the current poverty and unemployment situation in Nigeria is not sustainable. Good enough, the federal government in the 2011 budget has earmarked N50bn for the provision of jobs, under the National Job Creation Scheme.

However, considering that the budget having been submitted to the National Assembly late may not be passed on time, coupled with the fact that in times past, beneficial programmes like this had been used as compensation for party members and loyalists. The current proposal should not be allowed to go the same way. Politicians must be told that they form less than 10 per cent of the population as the majority of Nigerians are apolitical. Thus, the job creation scheme must be implemented to the benefit of all interested Nigerians.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflections on 2010

I return all glory to God Almighty for giving me and my family the grace to witness this year of unlimited breakthrough, 2011. The out gone year 2010 was a very productive year for me. I changed jobs, went on a very important foreign trip and was able to maintain my vigorous media advocacy for better Nigeria. To crown the year and as a fitting tribute to celebrate my 20 years of media advocacy, I was able to publish a book titled: Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010. The book with about 85 commentaries earlier published in 18 national newspapers was launched in Abuja on 25 November 2010. The feedback from those who have purchased and read the book showed that its publication on the heel of Nigeria’s golden jubilee celebration was quite instructive and helpful to enable compatriots and foreigners alike understand this great nation of good people.

In terms of media profiling, my tentacles spread to other national newspapers like Daily Trust and the National Compass while consolidating my engagement with the old partners. In the whole, my media tracking shows that 27 of my articles were published 35 times by 9 national and international media. I also featured on 13 radio and television programmes while contributing 5 articles to various newsletters and magazines. 2010 was a great year for me and I look forward to a greater 2011. Below are some of my published works.

1 The Guardian Wednesday, January 6, 2010 Cost of Eco. Reforms Agenda, Expectations in 2010 (Interview)
2 Thisday Thursday, January 14, 2010 Let's not take Constitutional Provisions for Granted (Article)
3 Daily Sun Friday, January 15, 2010 Playing the Ostrich with Terrorism (Article)
4 Nigerian Tribune Monday, January 25, 2010 Questionable Fundraiser for Soludo (Article)
5 The Guardian Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Banks'CEOs Tenure: Heart of the matter (Interview)
6 The Punch Thursday, January 28, 2010 Governance by Deceit (Article)
7 The Guardian Wednesday, February 10, 2010 Credit Squeeze: The Fire Next Door? (Interview)
8 Thisday Tuesday, February 16, 2010 Anambra Guber Poll: The Fortes and the Foibles (Article)
9 Daily Sun Wednesday, February 17, 2010 Anambra Guber Poll: The Fortes and Foibles (Article)
10 Nigerian Tribune Thursday, February 18, 2010 Imperative of Constitutional and Electoral Reforms (Article)
11 The Guardian Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Views on Vision 20: 2020 (Interview)
12 Daily Sun Monday, May 17, 2010 Jonathan, Please Don't Run in 2011 (Article)
13 Saturday Independent Saturday, May 29, 2010 Positive Lessons From UK 2010 Elections (Article)
14 Daily Sun Monday, June 21, 2010 Deji of Akure's Sacrilege (Article)
15 Daily Independent Wednesday, June 30, 2010 Dishonourable Tenants of the House (Article)
16 Nigerian Tribune Wednesday, July 21, 2010 INEC Board and Electoral Reform (Article)
17 Peoples Daily Tuesday, July 27, 2010 INEC Board and Electoral Reform (Article)
18 The Guardian Wednesday, July 28, 2010 AMCON: The Answer to Credit Squeeze? (Interview)
19 Daily Sun Monday, August 30, 2010 SEC and Impunity in the Stock Market (Article)
20 Daily Sun Monday, September 27, 2010 Nigeria Beyond the Golden Jubilee (Article)
21 The Guardian Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Creating Level Playing Field for 2011 Elections (Article)
22 The Punch Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Creating Level Playing Field for 2011 Elections (Article)
23 The Chronicle, (Ghana) Tuesday, October 5, 2010 Creating Level Playing Field for 2011 Elections (Article)
24 Daily Independent Thursday, October 21, 2010 Creating Level Playing Field for 2011 Elections (Article)
25 Daily Independent Thursday, October 28, 2010 Level Playing Field Crucial (Article)
26 Nigerian Compass Monday, October 18, 2010 National Assembly Challenged on Anti-Graft Bill (Interview)
27 Thisday Sunday, October 24, 2010 Issues in Election Petitions in Nigeria Article
28 Daily Sun Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Issues in Election Petitions in Nigeria (Article)
29 Thisday Monday, November 1, 2010 C'River: Maximising Tinapa's Potentials (Article)
30 The Punch Thursday, November 11, 2010 Lessons from US Mid-Term Elections (Article)
31 Daily Trust Wednesday, November 23, 2010 Nigerian Women are coming of age (Article)
32 Daily Independent Wednesday, November 23, 2010 Celebrating Women (Article)
33 Daily Sun Wednesday, November 30, 2010 Celebrating Our Women (Article)
34 Daily Independent Monday, December 13, 2010 Playing Politics with Nigerian Economy (Article)
35 The Guardian Wednesday, December 29, 2010 X-Raying the Economy in 2010: Experts Score Govt Low (Interview)