Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why 2015 elections may be a mirage

“I know that one thing that is dear to your hearts is what the elections in this country will look like next year. But let me use this unique opportunity to reassure you and I am conveying this to my brothers, your heads of government, that our elections next year will be free and fair. It will be peaceful in nature that will even surprise the whole world”
-President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday, July 24, 2014.
Last Wednesday, July 23, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, addressed a press conference in Abuja. At the interactive session, Jega listed seven hurdles before the commission for it to have a credible, peaceful and acceptable elections in 2015. The challenges listed by the INEC chairman are: “Insecurity, funding, attitudes of the political class, apathetic and inactive citizenry, delay in amendment to the legal framework, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units and prosecution of election offenders.”
As a psephologist, I am very familiar with INEC’s preparations for the forthcoming elections. Among the commission’s arrangements, some of which were mentioned by Jega, are: Inauguration of the Prof. Adele Jinadu-led Registration and Election Review Committee; reorganisation of the Commission; unfolding of a Strategic Plan (2012 – 2016); Continuous voter registration, distribution of Permanent Voter Card, procurement of card readers for voters authentication, training and retraining of staff, delineation of electoral boundaries and creation of additional 30,000 Polling Units, launch of National Inter-agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity and the improved feature of sensitive electoral materials through serial numbering and colour-coding of ballot papers and result sheets as well as security coding of ballot boxes.The commission has also recruited thousands of Registration Area Officers, established a Graphic Design Centre, established an online Voter Verification Platform, and plans to use Election Management System to aid smooth conduct of the polls.
In spite of these grand plans for the forthcoming polls, INEC is still faced with the aforementioned challenges some of which it has no control over. Take, for instance, the issue of security. The nation is facing a daunting security challenge. On its own, INEC has established an Inter-Agency Consultative Committee of Election Security, members of which were drawn from military, paramilitary and other security agencies. It is noteworthy that the ICCES was inaugurated ahead of the 2011 elections and in spite of the great efforts made by the committee to secure the electoral environment, the country still witnessed one of the most violent post-election crises in 2011. An estimated 800 persons were allegedly murdered in the post-presidential election violence of April 16 – 18, 2011. Now, with escalated insurgency, not many people share the optimism of the President as expressed in this article’s opening quote. If truth must be told, all tiers of government and all men and women of goodwill must work together to tame the monster of terrorism in Nigeria, that is if we hope to have a peaceful 2015 elections.
I sympathise with INEC on its parlous state of funding. Not a few people were excited when the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria was amended in 2010 and INEC was listed among the federal executive bodies to be on first line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This means INEC will no longer go cap in hand to have its budgetary allocation released to it. What many of us did not factor in is that the electoral management body will only receive the amount earmarked for it by the Budget Office of the Federal Ministry of Finance and appropriated by the National Assembly. To the best of my knowledge, INEC had requested N93bn to prosecute the 2015 elections. However, by the time the budget was passed some two months ago, only N45bn was appropriated for the Commission leaving a balance of N48bn. Quite unfortunately, it is out of this amount that INEC has been conducting by-elections and governorship elections (June 21 Ekiti poll and the forthcoming August 9 Osun governorship election). The July 15 impeachment and removal of Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State was not envisaged by INEC neither is the impending one in Nasarawa State. Now, Section 191(2) of the CFRN makes it mandatory for INEC to organise another governorship election within three months of the impeachment. It is possibly from the little resources at the disposal of INEC that it will conduct these polls.
Election, for those who do not know, is not an event but a process. It is a system and improper or inadequate funding of the commission will surely cause a dislocation. As it is, INEC has had to review its strategic plan. If the Federal Government is serious about credible elections in February 2015, it will have to demonstrate that by ensuring that INEC is not starved of funds. A supplementary budget seems the best option available as waiting till 2015 to give INEC the balance of the financial resources it needs to prosecute the forthcoming elections will be too risky. The reason is simple. The 2014 appropriation bill was not passed and signed until May this year. Should that scenario play itself out again in 2015, how will INEC meet its financial obligations to its contractors when it plans to hold elections on February 14 and 28 next year?
Some ugly situations cannot be salvaged with all the money in the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is even criminal to award contracts without cash-backing according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Public Procurement Act. Election is time-bound. Should INEC be forced to postpone the elections either by the state of insecurity or inadequate funding, there is a constitutional caveat that must be addressed. Sections 132(2), 178(2), 76(2) and 116 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, have made it clear that all federal and state elections are to be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the expiration of the term of the incumbents which is May 29. Thus, all polls are to be concluded not later than April 29, 2015.
The non-passage of the amended legal framework for the next general elections is unfortunate and can negatively impact on the elections. This is my grouse with the setting up of the National Conference which will wind down on August 4. I have asked several times, will the implementation of the conference report be before or after the next general elections? There is no doubt that the National Assembly has had to filibustre in order to await the outcome of the conference. If the legal framework for the next polls is not in place barely seven months to the next elections, how effectively can the electoral umpire plan for the polls? The lacklustre and unpatriotic attitude of the political class nonetheless is a cause for concern. Their stock in trade which includes character assassination, propaganda, inflammatory comments and thuggery is a serious debacle on credible elections.
If these issues are not seriously addressed and redressed, a peaceful and credible polls come 2015 will be a pipe dream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nigeria’s self-inflicted poverty

Nigeria has been aptly described as a rich-poor country. That is a country that is well-endowed, well-resourced and blessed but grossly underutilises or wrongly utilises her potential. Indeed, had the country got her acts together, she would not have had any pact with poverty. Nigeria’s successive leadership has failed to harness her potentials for national development. What has been happening is that personal aggrandisement, ethnic consideration, religious affiliation, political leaning, and other primordial sentiments have been allowed to becloud our sense of nationhood. Self-interest or at best class interest rather than national interest has been the basis of governance. When I consider how blessed Nigeria is in terms of human and material resources, I shed tears for the underdevelopment in which we have had to wallow. All the indices of a failed state are present in Nigeria. Decaying infrastructure, insecurity, corruption, high mortality rate, soaring unemployment and grinding poverty.
God in His infinite mercy gives us a good tropical climate, benign weather condition, arable land, oil and gas, solid mineral resources as well as intelligent and brilliant people, yet, what do we see? Maladministration and bad governance. This newspaper’s editorial of March 27, 2014, titled, “Irresponsible neglect of solid minerals”, is very didactic and a pointer to our self-inflicted poverty. I crave your indulgence to quote copiously from the editorial:
“It is one of the sad paradoxes of the Nigerian story that the country is so richly blessed with minerals, but has, for four decades, neglected them all to rely almost exclusively on oil and gas for external revenues. Several years ago, research had shown that scores of mineral types were available across the country and that all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory hosted at least one or more mineral types. Indeed, the then Ministry of Solid Minerals and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council did extensive work to prepare 34 mineral types ready for immediate exploitation. And under Oby Ezekwesili as minister, a globally acclaimed Mining Cadastre Office was set up and investors from around the world were preparing to move in, only for the minister to be redeployed. The “Nigerian factor” ensured that the efforts went down the drain as her successors were totally uninterested in taking the programme to the next level.”
The editorial stated further: “Today, mining contributes 0.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, much lower than the 3-5 per cent the International Monetary Fund says Nigeria can achieve with the right policies….At independence in 1960, it contributed one per cent to the GDP. Solid minerals exploitation had started in 1903 even before amalgamation and tin, coal, columbite, bauxite and lead were exported. The cities of Jos and Enugu sprang up as the nexus of tin and coal mining respectively. Coal production reached 574,758 tons by 1960. The Bureau of Public Enterprises, the privatisation agency, projected that mining could create about one million new jobs, earn foreign exchange for the country, provide extra tax revenues, stimulate manufacturing and wean the country off its dependence on oil and gas.”
The editorial asserted that, “…34 mineral types are sitting under the ground, spread across 450 locations nationwide, with no state left out. A National Bureau of Statistics survey found that only 13 of the identified minerals were already being mined. It identified five opportunities derivable from mining, namely exports and use in local industries; new industrial and downstream products; massive job creation; technology and skills transfer, and development of infrastructure.”
According to a February 2012 KPMG report on Nigeria’s mining sector, “There are over 40 different types of minerals spread across the country, including gold, barite, bentonite, limestone, coal, bitumen, iron ore, tantalite / columbite, lead/zinc, barites, gemstones, granite, marble, gypsum, talc, iron ore, lead, lithium, silver, etc.” The report stated ipso facto that Nigerian coal has been found suitable for boiler fuel, production of high caloric gas, domestic heating, briquettes, formed coke and the manufacture of a wide range of chemicals including waxes, resins, adhesives and dyes. The largest and purest deposits of limestone are found in the South-West and Middle Belt regions of the country. Limestone in the South-West region of Nigeria has been estimated at 31 million tones. Most limestone mining activities are mainly for cement production.The preliminary exploration and identification of deposits which are still ongoing have confirmed 10 sites to be holding reserves of over 50,000 ounces of high quality gold.”
The aforementioned KPMG report identified four key challenges plaguing the Nigerian mining sector. These are poor project funding, infrastructural deficit, insecurity, as well as illegal mining and community challenges. The report observed that, “Due to the long period of inactivity and the slow implementation of the Federal Government’s reform agenda in the sector, multinational corporations have been reluctant to fund major mining projects in the country.” It further opined that the infrastructural imbalance within Nigeria, particularly, inadequate electricity supply, and lack of access roads to sites of mineral deposits present serious challenges. The issue of insecurity needs no long elucidation. Who will want to invest in a country under serious siege of terrorism and insurgency? KPMG further notes that, “There are pockets of Illegal mining activities in some of the regions, with the attendant risks and community challenges.” Successive governments have been losing huge revenue to these unscrupulous miners, the same way the activities of illegal oil bunkerers have been denying government sizeable revenue.   In addition to the above, the fact that mining is on the Exclusive Legislative List, which makes it a federal concern, is also unhelpful.
I couldn’t agree more with the laudable recommendations of The PUNCH in the aforementioned editorial. The newspaper listed among others the need for the government to come up with “a comprehensive policy framework that will facilitate massive private domestic and foreign investment.” It advised further that efforts should be made to woo the American, Australian, Canadian, South African and Korean investors and proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution to allow states to control their own minerals and reduce the destructive dependence on oil. Beyond these, government needs to wage a serious war against the illegal miners, reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria by providing the social infrastructure such as electricity and good transport networks (e.g. roads and rail services) to link these mineral sites, simplify licensing procedures and improve on the poor security situation in the country.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Striking doctors and irresponsible government

It is 16 days since the Nigerian Medical Association called out its members on a total and indefinite strike. In the course of that period, the death toll at most of the government-owned hospitals has risen. Families of patients who could afford treatment at private hospitals within and outside of the country have had to take the painful option of seeking help there. Those who have no money resorted to faith clinics, herbal homes or simply entrusted their fate in the hands of ‘chemists’ and ‘pharmacists’, some of whom are charlatans.
Many commentators have poured invective on Nigerian doctors for their decision to embark on the strike. I actually hold an opposing view to this. I blame the government. The question we need to ask our imperial government is why it fails to implement agreement reached previously with the doctors? Why the perpetual poor funding of the social sector like education and health? Why has the National Assembly failed to pass the National Health Bill?
The health statistics in Nigeria are saddening. The prospect of the country meeting any of the health-related Millennium Development Goals in 2015, which is only a few months from now, is dim. What with the high incidence of maternal and child mortality, the inability to roll back malaria after many years of the campaign, the needless deaths from preventable diseases like cholera and dysentery as well as the inability to eradicate polio. According to Angela Adeboye in a July 6, 2014 ThisDay article, titled, The Paradox of Nigerian Health care, “The World Health Organisation ranks the Nigerian health care system amongst the worst in the world. Specifically, its most recent report places Nigeria at the 187th position of 190 countries. This is only ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central Africa Republic and Myanmar. Even Zimbabwe and Burundi, which are amongst the poorest countries of the world, rank at least 30 places ahead of Nigeria. Yet, Nigeria has the largest Gross Domestic Product on the continent and many significant mineral resources.”
Instructively, the Nigerian government has refused to fix the rot in the country’s health sector because its officials are able to access the best medicare abroad at the country’s expense. Even their medical check-ups are done overseas which says a lot about their disdain and distrust for the country’s medical services.
Many private citizens have had to seek medical assistance in India, Egypt, Europe and America all because our government failed woefully to put the needed infrastructure in place to provide word class health care services for its citizens. This is not a rocket science; but corruption and selfishness will not allow our own government to do it. South Africa offered the best medical facilities to Nelson Mandela at home all the period he was sick till his death. Fidel Castro of Cuba is being treated in-country while he battles his debilitating terminal sickness. In Nigeria, even local government chairmen and councillors use public funds to access health care services abroad let alone the big ‘ogas’ at the state and federal levels.
The malaise plaguing our health sectors are numerous and well-documented. Top of which is the lack of adequate funding. Others include defective policy guidelines and legislation; insufficient infrastructure and equipment; a dearth of manpower; corruption and insecurity, among others. It is long overdue for the National Assembly to pass the National Health Bill pending before it since the inauguration of the current legislature in June 2011. Three years down the line, the bill has yet to be passed. The passage of this all-important regulatory framework is among the 24 points demand currently being made by the NMA on government.
Other requests include the Universal Health Coverage to cover 100 per cent of Nigerians and not 30 per cent as currently prescribed by the National Health Insurance Scheme; appointment of Surgeon General of the Federation; the need for government to set up a health trust fund that will enhance the upgrading of all hospitals in Nigeria and that the position of Chief Medical Director/Medical Director must continue to be occupied by a Medical Doctor as contained in the Act establishing the tertiary hospitals. The doctors are also demanding an upward review of some allowances and payment of certain benefits. These are normal demands which if addressed will make our health providers to give their best. If truth must be told, doctors in government hospitals are overworked and face a lot of risks including physical assault by relatives of patients.
We must be mindful of the fact that failure on the part of government to frontally tackle the challenges of the health sector has led to brain drain as many of these health professionals have either left the country for greener pastures abroad while others have left medical practice entirely for more rewarding vocations like politics and working for local and international non-governmental organisations. There is no gainsaying that there currently exists a frosty relationship between medical and non-medical staff in public owned hospitals. This rivalry is unhealthy. Nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and other ancillary staff in the health sector should recognise the primacy of the doctor as the head of medical institutions. This however does not diminish the importance of the roles played by non-medical staff, because the neck and other parts of the body are as vital as the head.
As reported by this newspaper on Tuesday, though government is owing doctors about N6.7bn in accumulated entitlements, the striking doctors through their president, Dr. Kayode Obembe, said the real bone of contention was not money but the decision of the Federal Government to throw open the headship of hospitals to those it described as non-medical doctors. Obembe was quoted as saying that, “Relativity and skipping are not negotiable; these must be resolved or doctors will not return to work. The tradition of medicine is being challenged dangerously in this country. That is the major issue and not money.” My appeal is that the Federal Government through the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, needs to bring all the feuding parties to a roundtable, if possible with the leadership of the National Assembly, so that the leadership tussle is resolved once and for all. The arrears of all benefits being owed the doctors should also be paid without further delay while the doctors themselves should show sympathy for the suffering masses who are at the receiving end of this industrial action and return to work while these issues are being resolved.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Unveiling Nigeria’s merchants of death

“No evil deed can go unpunished. Any evil done by man to man will be redressed, if not now, then certainly later; if not by man, then certainly by God, for the victory of evil over good can only be temporary”
- Dele Giwa (March 16, 1947 – October 19,1986)
 Merchants of deaths, who are they? Are they only in Nigeria? What is their modus operandi? How do we check them? In truth, merchants of deaths are ubiquitous. They are found in every clime, creed and cranny. Africans believe in witchcraft, sorcery and forces of darkness that are capable of using some metaphysical powers to destroy lives, property and destinies. They form a part of the merchants under discourse. What about the terrorists and insurgents? I mean the Boko Harams of this world, the campus cultists, the armed robbers, the kidnappers, the ritual murderers, the hired assassins who kill, maim and destroy not with any supernatural powers like witches and wizards but with rifles, bayonets, grenades, Improvised Explosives Devices, rocket propelled launchers, among others. They are also merchants of death.
Away from the terrorists and insurgents, we also have another category of death traders. These are the quacks, counterfeiters and adulterators. On Friday, June 27, 2014, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control at a news conference in Lagos paraded some suspected fake drug peddlers. The Director-General, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, while addressing newsmen, said that a joint operation tagged ‘Operation Porcupine’ in conjunction with the Lagos and Federal Task Force on Fake Drugs between June 24 and 26 swooped on some illegal drug shops in the Sabon Gari area of Kano State as well as Idumota and Mushin drug markets in Lagos State. The operation resulted in the arrest of many fake drugs peddlers. According to Orhii, 400 shops were sealed off while counterfeit drugs worth over N700m were seized. Orhii stated that 350 shops were sealed off in Kano and another 50 in Lagos. While watching this on television, the NAFDAC DG said a drug faker stockpiled a twin two-storey building with counterfeit drugs in Kano.
This is not the first time the agency will smash fake drug syndicates in Nigeria. It has become a routine exercise. What other name can one give to these counterfeiters and adulterators who for a mere pecuniary gain do not care a hoot about human lives? They are simply merchants of deaths.
Those marketers who sell adulterated kerosene to unsuspecting domestic users are also nothing but merchants of death. Their greed has sent hundreds of innocent people to their untimely death due to explosions caused by their adulterated products. Likewise, those spare parts dealers and auto mechanics who sell or use counterfeit parts (popularly called Taiwan) as original for unwary customers thereby causing preventable accidents on the highway are also merchants of deaths.
Those quack doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists and pharmacists who attend to patients without requisite skills; carry out damaging surgeries on the sick; conduct bogus laboratory tests on patients; administer fake and expired drugs on those who are unwell, are all merchants of death. Those building contractors who construct houses, roads, bridges and public buildings with fake and substandard materials are part of the ring of merchants of deaths as their activities have led to thousands of untimely deaths across the country.
Those commercial drivers who are reckless behind the wheels, and have no respect for both traffic light and road safety measures and regulations are all part of the circle. It is an irrefutable fact that their indiscretions have caused so many avoidable accidents and taking in their tow innocent lives. Those operating cholera joints in the name of restaurants or cafeteria, who prepare unhygienic food and drinks for human consumption, are also merchants of deaths for obvious reasons. The security agents who hire or sell arms and ammunition to night marauders and insurgents are part of those trading in deaths.
It is a long list and I will just name one more category. These are corrupt officials, be they in government or the private sector. I am referring to those who embezzle funds meant for development, who privatise our common wealth and use it for personal aggrandisement. They are original merchants of deaths because the stolen resources were meant to serve wider interests and needs and not meant to serve selfish, narrow or parochial interests.
We all need to have an introspection and retrospection on where we are culpable and desist from such ignoble paths. National development, law and order, peace and progress will continue to elude us in as much as the rank of the merchants of death continues to soar. Law enforcement agents need to do more to investigate, arrest and prosecute these scoundrels and fiends. They need to pay dearly for their sins against humanity. That is one sure way to check them. Our religious institutions also have roles to play, particularly in handling the metaphysical forces of darkness. Even in dealing with the various criminal gangs, faith-based organisations have a role to play in praying against these evil doers as well as counseling them to do away with their crimes and allow God to reform them for good. Both the mainstream and social media are also not left out in the campaign against these merchants of death. There is the need to educate and enlighten the public on these evil deeds and their repercussions.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Booming sale of the ‘fruits of the womb’

God has blessed mankind with various agricultural produce. Among them are fruits. There are so many of them such as paw-paw, orange, pineapple, cashew, sugar cane, apple, garden egg, water-melon, mango, pear, guava and others. Doctors and nutritionists advise that we should take a lot of fruits because they are beneficial to the body. They contain vitamins and a lot of other nutrients needed by humans. There is another fruit that is however not edible, yet very valuable. This fruit takes about nine months from the seed planting to harvest-time. The produce is called a child. The Bible in Psalm 127 verse 3 referred to a child as the ‘fruit of the womb’. There, the holy book also called children the “Lord’s heritage”.
Initially, we hear of people selling their sperm, blood, kidney and other body parts for money. Nowadays, the notorious trade has graduated to include sale of children. The ‘modus operandi’ is broadly threefold: There are those who voluntarily offer their biological children for sale; there are those who abduct children to sell; and there are those who cultivate them as you would any other farm produce. This latter category illegally warehouses teenage girls and gets young men to impregnate them after which offspring from such pregnancies are sold off like chattels. Why do people indulge in the sale of these ‘fruits of the womb’? What is the motivation? Are people trading in these fruits ignorantly or deliberately? What benefits accrue to the buyers and the sellers? Is this a legitimate business or illegal trade?
There are no mincing words that the sale of children is illegal, criminal and ungodly. Nigerian law too has criminalised the sales of children. If it were to be a legitimate business, many of the baby factories that have been raided by police in the last few years would have been left to carry on with their trade unmolested. Abduction, stealing, human trafficking and rape which are some of the features of this trade are all criminal activities.
It is most heart-rending that this crime is thriving in our country. There is hardly any month that police have not busted one baby farm or the other. It is true that the ugly phenomenon is more pronounced in the South-East particularly Abia and Imo states, however, similar discoveries have been made in Lagos, Ogun, Nasarawa and other parts of Nigeria. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, human trafficking, including the selling of children, is the third most common crime in Nigeria after financial fraud and drug trafficking. It is that bad!
The truth is that this illegal criminal business is booming due to the heavy demand by people. There can be no seller if there is no buyer. Investigations have revealed that many couples or better still women who are trusting God for the ‘fruits of the womb’, after a long wait, resort to child-buying in order to save their marriage from collapse. There are several accounts of women who having been married for long without a child or without a male child going to some baby factories that masquerade as orphanages or maternity centres to purchase children. Apart from buying children to avert divorce, desperate women also do in order to prevent their husbands from going into polygamy as well as to remove society stigma. Others buy children for ritual purposes or for child-labour.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerian and indeed African culture place premium on child-bearing. The Yoruba even have a special saying that “omo boriowo” that is ‘a child is greater than riches’. Any woman who fails to give birth to children risks domestic violence, divorce, stigma and disinheritance. In some African cultures, particularly among the Igbo and Yoruba, it is not even good enough to bear children but a woman is expected to bear male children or at worst a male child. The joy doubles when a woman bears a male child. That was what one of the old MTN adverts titled, ‘Mama na boy’ depicted. The advert was widely condemned for reinforcing negative stereotypes. Male children are relished as the pillar of the family. Yoruba call male child ‘opomulero’. It is believed that male children perpetuate the family values and legacies including the ancestral names, while women change their surname at marriage. Little wonder some enlightened women in contemporary times now bear compound names that incorporate both their own family names with that of their husbands. Male children are also believed to be stronger and more successful in life.
Having examined the motivation for the buyers, what about the sellers? It is basically economic. It is a means of poverty alleviation. A child is sold between N300,000 and N500,000 depending on the sex of the baby. That is a lot of money to poor people looking for short cut to wealth. According to a story in The PUNCH of May 24, 2013, a couple, Chibueze and Adaeze Mba, confessed that they engaged in child theft because of poverty. Not only did the couple steal other people’s children to sell, they even sold their unborn baby for N200,000.
Another question on my mind is, why are people not taking advantage of child adoption? Are they unaware of this alternative to child-bearing or is the process too cumbersome and bureaucratic that desperate couples or women will prefer outright purchase to adoption? Can government, marriage counsellors and faith based organisations start pointing couples in need of children in this direction? Again, how come neighbours and extended family members of those who buy children are not raising any eyebrow on how they suddenly come about a child without getting pregnant? Perhaps, the women buyers are Smart Alecs who are able to feign pregnancies for nine months and deliveries. I appeal to those involved in this illegal acts of selling and buying of ‘fruits of the womb’ to desist and find better solutions to their poverty and barrenness issues. If couples are having concerns about their fertility and would not want to adopt children, then they can take advantage of in vitro fertilisation or artificial insemination. Better still, they can wait patiently on God who has promised in Exodus 23 verse 26 that ‘none shall miscarry or be barren…’
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ekiti election: the best rice sharer won!

The June 21 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State is adjudged by accredited observers and political watchers as being very successful, peaceful, credible and reflective of the wishes of the electorates. The election created an upset as the incumbent governor, John Kayode Fayemi lost totally in all of the 16 local government areas of the state despite his acclaimed splendid performance in government.  Many tongues have been wagging on why he lost. One of the allegations leveled against the outgoing governor is his failure to provide ‘stomach infrastructure’ for the citizens of the state. By this, they mean he did not provide welfare packages, or to put it more crudely, he was not sharing money to the people. But is that true?

It is on record that the Fayemi government in Ekiti State embarked on social security scheme for the elderly people in Ekiti State. Under the system about 25,000 senior citizens who are 60 years and above were being paid a stipend of N5,000 monthly allowance.  Another prognosis of why the incumbent governor lost may be found in the quantum of largesse dished out to the people. A week to the poll, the governor’s main challenger, Ayodele Fayose of the People’s Democratic Party who is now the governor-elect shared 30,000 bags of 5kg of rice to electorates in the state. According to a report by Thisday newspaper of June 14, 2014 written by Toba Suleiman, “The governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, ..distributed over 30, 000 bags of rice to students, market women and workers in the 16 council areas of the state.  Over 6,000 students of the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti (EKSU) … scrambled to benefit from free food items and N2, 000 cash, distributed to them by Fayose.”

While the governor-elect was busy sharing bags of rice and topping it with some cash, the incumbent governor decided to cook jollof rice which is then parceled to his supporters. As it turned out, the better of the two rice sharer won. On Election Day, the PDP candidate, Ayo Fayose in a press interview accused opposing parties at the poll of sharing money to voters to induce them. He added that voters are using their camera phones to snap picture of their ballot papers in order to convince those distributing money that they voted for their party. Funny enough, the candidates who were sharing rice and money to induce voters did not believe it is tantamount to vote buying. According to a report done on the incidence by The Punch newspaper titled “Ekiti and the politics of food sharing” published on June 19, 2014 “None of the three leading political parties in the state saw anything bad in the trend. The parties included the All Progressives Congress, the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party.” 

Section 124 of the Nigeria’s Electoral Act 2010, as amended expressly classified such act as vote buying with a punishment of fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment for both giver and taker. However, as rightly observed by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun,  a columnist with The Punch newspaper in her piece titled “Ekiti: May the best rice-sharer win!” (June 19, 2014) “There is zero use invoking the law on rice-sharers since there is a slim probability any action will be taken against them or their campaign team for the illegality of inducing voters. The culture of inducing voters’ favour by distributing various items is by no means new and no major party in Nigeria can feign sainthood when it comes to that route to voter inducement.”

She stated further: “In the 2011 elections, all manner of materials branded with the names of candidates contesting elections –from noodles to recharge cards – were freely and openly shared. Some of those items were of course, given out as campaign materials, meant to promote a party or candidate whose face and party logo were embossed on the items…. No one could have been left in doubt the true intent of the distributors of these items: they are desperate for the votes of the poverty-stricken masses.”

In an article titled “Lessons from APC’s defeat in Ekiti” written by Uche Igwe and published in June 25, 2014 edition of The Punch, “Successful politicians in Nigeria have learnt how to give handouts to the people. These people do not care whether the handouts are procured at the expense of public resources, what they want is to get a share. That is why Nigerian politics has become transactional.” Ekiti gubernatorial election is indeed the triumph of pork-barrel politics. The best rice-sharer won!