Friday, October 31, 2014

The controversy over the party nomination fees in Nigeria

It’s once again harvest time for political parties in Nigeria. With the October 1 publication of Notice of Election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the commencement of party primaries from October 2 to December 11, 2014, it is that season again when registered political parties sell nomination forms to aspirants willing to contest on their respective platforms. Though there are 26 or thereabout of them officially recognised by the INEC, with the current realignment of forces through decampment, mergers and alliance formations, it would not be out of place to say that though we have a de jure multiparty system in Nigeria, however, we have a de facto two party state.  The two dominant parties at this time is the old war-horse, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the new bride All Progressives Party (APC) .

A lot of furore has been generated by the recent publications of nomination fees by the PDP and APC. A lot of persons including some aspirants have complained about the high nomination fees of their political parties. Before I go on to analyse the complaints, here is what the political parties have resolved to charge aspirants. Starting with PDP, the party fixed the presidential nomination fee at N20 million with a N2 million fee for Expression of Interest; the governorship nomination form is fixed at N10 million with the Expression of Interest Form to be obtained at N1 million. The nomination fee for the Senate is fixed at N4million and N2 million for the House of Representatives. The Expression of Interest Form is fixed at N400,000 for Senate and House of Representatives aspirants.  The nomination fee for the state House of Assembly members is N1 million, while the Expression of Interest Form is fixed at N200,000. Though female nomination fee is free, but they are to pay for the Expression of Interest form.

For the APC, those aspiring for the presidential ticket of the party are expected to pay N27.5 million for both forms (expression and nomination).  Incumbent governors, who wish to run for a second term will pay N10.5 million, while fresh aspirants will pay N5.5 million.  For the upper chamber of the National Assembly, sitting senators will pay N5.3 million; fresh aspirants will cough out N3.3 million. Members of the House of Representatives, who intend to return, will pay N3.2 million, while fresh aspirants will pay N2.2 million.  In the 36 States, sitting lawmakers of Houses of Assembly are expected to pay N800, 000, while fresh aspirants will pay N550, 000.

The curious thing is that apart from this sum paid to the parties’ headquarters, the secretariats of the parties at the state also charge another nomination fees for aspirants. For instance, in the Ogun State PDP, governorship aspirants pay additional N2.5 million Expression of Interest form, N200,000 Senatorial fee and N100,000 administrative charge making a total of N2.8 million. In Oyo State, the sum of N5 million is paid into the party coffers by PDP governorship aspirants. This has made Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, a governorship aspirant in the state, to cry out that the sum is capable of scaring away people with great developmental ideas but with limited resources from contesting elections. Similarly, General Muhammadu Buhari  (Retd.) who was a former Head of State and a presidential aspirant under the All Progressives Congress also expressed his displeasure with the nomination fee of APC when he went to pick his nomination form on Thursday, October 16, 2014. He was quoted as saying that “It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be reviewed downward.” In reaction to Buhari’s concern, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said, “The N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys.” (See The PUNCH, Friday, October 17, 2014).

Indeed, in an election, there are two broad categories of contestants; they are the contenders and the pretenders. The contenders are the real contestants who have all it takes to vie for elective positions. They have the financial muscle, the requisite academic qualifications, the experience, the networks, the charisma, the oratorical prowess, and the goodwill. The pretenders however are just ‘also-ran’, bench-warmers, light-weight politicians who are mostly contesting for the purpose of name recognition, ego, and financial inducement during political negotiations. These set of pretenders are always in the majority. They are sometimes surrogates of contestants from the big parties who are funded by proxy to forestall election boycott or play sinister role in the event of the need for election petition. Whether lightweight or heavyweight, pretenders or contenders, both camps have equal basis in law and are treated equally by the electoral management bodies.

Failure to accord equal respect and treatment to the so-called pretenders has been costly to INEC in the past. For instance, elections have been nullified by simple reason of political party legally nominating candidates and such unlawfully excluded by INEC either by error of omission or commission e.g. non-inclusion of the logo and name of the political parties on the ballot.

As earlier mentioned the political parties charge huge nomination fees to prevent the electoral contest from being crowded by pretenders. Secondly, the fees also provide resources for the political parties to organise party primaries and other running cost for the parties. My only passionate appeal is that as political parties commence their party nomination process, the procedures will be free, fair, and transparent and follow high ethical standard such that even the losers will commend the process and the outcome.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult Ltd, Abuja

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Before FG bans okada in Nigeria

The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it has any evil in it; but whether it has more of evil, than of good”.
–Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of USA, in a speech to the American House of Representatives on June 20, 1848.
The use of motorcycles as commercial means of transport in Nigeria, popularly known as ‘Okada’ or ‘Achaba’ may soon be banned throughout the country”, so reported Sunday PUNCH of October 26, 2014. The news story which was one of the most read went on to say that, “The proposal for the ban was made by the National Council on Transport after its annual conference in Enugu State and endorsed by the Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar”. Quoting a statement from the Federal Ministry of Transport purportedly issued last Saturday, the newspaper said that, “the ban of commercial motorcycles was one of the measures proposed towards adequate provision of safety and secure transport in Nigeria”. This decision was allegedly taken by all the state commissioners of transport, permanent secretaries, directors and officials in the federal and state ministries of transport across the country.
There is no gainsaying that the ban on commercial motorcycling is desirable, but is it practicable? How do I mean? The menace of “okada” riders in Nigeria is well known and documented. The operators are mostly ill-trained, reckless, uncouth and dangerous. Some of the states have had cause to ban their operations either totally or partially. They include Lagos, Edo, Abia, Kaduna, Kano, the FCT and Rivers. In 2005, the administration of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai banned commercial motorcycling on major city roads in Abuja restricting their operations to satellite towns. The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on August 2, 2012 signed the Lagos Road Traffic Bill into law. The law prohibits the operations of commercial motorcyclists below 200cc on 475 out of the 9,100 roads in the state.
According to Fashola, “the result and impact of this decision have been tremendous. Prior to the enactment of the law, we were recording an average of 16 motorcycle-related deaths across the state every month and an average of 646 injured patients from motorcycle-related serious accidents at state secondary and tertiary hospitals”. In comparison, “As of March this year, our statistics show only one to two motorcycle-related deaths and less than 100 motorcycle accident-related injuries occur in a month”, said the governor.
Apart from poor safety consciousness and disregard for highway codes arising from low level of education, many of the commercial motorcyclists have been fingered in acts of crimes and criminality such as robbery, kidnapping, spying, raping and many others. These are the reasons many public institutions and residential estates have proscribed them within their environs while others placed time restriction on their operations in their vicinities. Many of these cyclists are unlicensed and do not have necessary official papers including insurance coverage for their motorbikes. Their poorly serviced and maintained contraption also constitute environmental hazard.
However, say what you may, commercial motorcycling as a means of transport has come to stay. It is indeed a necessary evil. It was not like this before in Nigeria. Up until about early 90s, motorcycles, like bicycles, were private means of transportation. Proud owners used them as status symbols especially in the rural areas. They were mostly used as beasts of burden in place of horses, asses, camels and donkeys which our forefathers used as their means of transport. Many who have bicycles and motorcycles in those days were using them to ferry their wares and family members. However, poor road networks, limited employment opportunities, traffic congestion, comatose mass transit and poverty combined to make commercial motorcycling an appealing and booming business.
For instance, poor road networks have made many commercial buses and private cars to abandon some roads in Nigeria. It is these okada riders that come to the rescue of people in such communities by providing them a means of transport. Many workers have also found motorbikes a better means of transport than buses particularly on roads prone to traffic congestion. Interestingly, among the okada riders are some well-educated persons, including university graduates, who only took to it as a last resort after years of fruitless search for jobs.
Many others who are not literate are into commercial biking due to the high cost of doing other businesses necessitated by astronomic rents, epileptic power supply, heavy taxation and low patronage. Thus, as a means of combating unemployment and poverty, many humbled themselves to go into commercial cycling. Numerous politicians particularly those eying elective offices as well as those already occupying high public offices have been making an annual ritual of empowering their constituents with motorcycles as a means of income generation and poverty reduction.   In short, commercial cyclists provide a cheap and quick means of transport for the masses.
Let’s take a look at the value chain in this business of commercial cycling. Nigeria has been a fertile ground for the sale of motorcycles since its unofficial adoption in the country as a means of commercial transport. There are hundreds of importers of these contraptions from Asian countries such as Japan and China where they are manufactured. Several assembling plants are operational within the country as well. Thousands of dealers have also cropped up while spare parts sellers and repairers have also emerged. All of these people including those using it for commercial transport are family heads who from the proceeds of this business fend for their families. This is the major reason I think the purposed total ban is impracticable and will be counter-productive.
Instead of a blanket ban, I think the operations of these commercial cyclists should be restricted and limited to Trunk ‘C’ roads, that is, community roads or feeder roads. Their operations are inappropriate on major highways and expressways. Wherever will be the sphere of operations of commercial motorcyclists, the Federal Road Safety Corps and Department of Vehicle Inspection in the Federal and State Ministries of Transport must ensure due diligence is carried out on these riders and their cycles.
They must obtain the necessary certification – licences, road worthiness, insurance. They and their passengers must also use crash helmets; should not carry more than a passenger at a time; perhaps, if possible, speed limit devices should be installed on their machines. The FRSC and Vehicle Inspection officials must hold regular counselling and sensitisation sessions with these riders in order to ensure that they are of good behaviour and are safety conscious while carrying out their business. Government will also do well to effect prompt repair of bad roads while also providing safer and pocket-friendly alternatives in areas they plan to ban the operations of commercial cycling.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nigerian media and 2015 elections

It is no doubt an election season and all actors and stakeholders are gearing up for the battle ahead given that election is war in Nigeria. Sometimes, it is civil combat; other times, it is uncivil war. As part of preparations for the 2015 elections, the intellectual arm or the “ivory tower” of the Independent National Electoral Commission known as The Electoral Institute on Monday, October 20, organised a one-day roundtable at its Abuja headquarters to discuss some salient issues that can define the oncoming polls. The forum deliberated on issues of voter education, election violence and the role of the media in the 2015 elections. It was the maiden edition and yours truly was privileged to be among the eminent resource persons carefully selected to do justice to the topics under discussion.
Prof. Chike Okolocha, a sociologist from the University of Benin, made a presentation on “Strategies and Methods towards Improving Voter Education in 2015 General Elections,” while Dr. Adelaja Odukoya, a political scientist from my alma mater, University of Lagos, presented a paper on “Elections and Violence in Nigeria: Key Issues and Challenges towards 2015 General Elections.” It was my lot to present on the “Media and the Electoral Process: Developing Strategic Partnership with Stakeholders.” There were three discussants as well: Comrade John Odah, a former Secretary General of the Nigerian Labour Congress, discussed Okolocha’s paper, while Dr. John Abhuere, a former director in the National Youth Service Corps discussed Odukoya’s. Hajia Saudatu Mahdi, MFR, a women’s rights activist, whom I fondly call “my mother in the development work”, discussed mine. Prof. Okelo Occuli chaired the roundtable while there were remarks from Prof. Abubakar Momoh, the Director General of TEI and Mrs. Seija Sturies, Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Resident Representative.
In my presentation, I traced the origin of the Nigerian media to 155 years ago when Rev. Henry Townsend established, in Abeokuta, Iwe Iroyin fun awonara Egbaati Yoruba, a Yoruba vernacular newspaper. It debuted in 1859. I observed that the Nigerian media is one of the freest in Africa, in spite of its numerous challenges. The Nigerian media, I opined, is very vibrant and acknowledged as one of those who successfully fought for the return of democracy in the country in 1999. Equally, I articulated all the legal provisions backing and regulating media practice in Nigeria such as sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended in 2010, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Nigerian Broadcasting Act, the Nigerian Press Council Act, the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists, etc.
While drawing a lot of inspiration from the Election Reporting Handbook developed and published by IMAPCS Associate, Ross Howard, I noted there was no gainsaying that the media, generally referred to as the Fourth Estate of the Realm is one of the most powerful influences on how an election runs inside the country, and how it is perceived from outside. Undoubtedly, there must be free speech so all citizens and all political candidates can speak without fear. The media, I further observed, must be free to tell everyone what was said without pressure to twist the truth. As recommended in the aforementioned Handbook, media focus during this season should primarily be on three things: Political parties and contestants, the issues and the voting process. Good journalistic practice in election reporting must take cognisance of: Accuracy; Impartiality; and Responsibility. I did enjoin my media colleagues that their reports on elections should not be malicious, libelous, seditious, defamatory, sensational; and corruptive.
In an answer to my poser about who needs the media in the electoral process, I listed all the stakeholders including the election management bodies i.e. INEC and State Independent Electoral Commissions, political parties and contestants, the non-governmental organisations working in the field of election, the security agents, the judiciary and the electorates. For example, the EMBs need the media in order to propagate their actions and decisions to the public as it is part of electoral accountability and transparency principles. Also, any political party or aspirant to political office who wishes to be taken seriously has to embark on self-marketing via the media. Thus, newspaper advertorials, jingles, billboards, flyers, websites, commissioned interviews in print and electronic media, press releases and press conferences are all part of the political game. Little wonder, media houses upwardly review their political advert rates during elections.
In analysing the role of the media itself in election, I did mention that the Nigerian media as part of its corporate social responsibilities during electioneering embark on the following activities: organising political debates among candidates; conducting of opinion polling; endorsement of candidates; agenda setting through editorials as well as staff training on political and election reporting.
I submitted that as a way of building strategic partnership among the stakeholders, all the election stakeholders must recognise the primacy importance of the media in the electoral process. Therefore, deliberate attempts must be made to build the capacity of the media practitioners by INEC on how to report responsibly on the electoral process. This could be done by training political correspondents of media houses, seminar and conferences for media gatekeepers such as editors, managing directors and publishers/ proprietors. There is also the avenue of sponsorship of programmes on different media platforms.
I did enjoin political parties and their contestants to deliberately cultivate the media in a responsible way by ensuring that factual and unbiased information are passed on to the media for dissemination to the public. Not only that, they should refrain from unduly inducing the media from performing their duties in a professional manner. Hate speeches, inflammatory statements, inciting comments and things that can heat up the polity should be avoided during campaigns. Political campaigns should be issue based!
I did not fail to share some words of advice to media practitioners in Nigeria. Without mincing words, media reportage of electoral events must uphold the code of ethics for journalists. Media practitioners should understand that their reports attracts global consumption, hence, national interest must guide their actions and decisions. Yellow journalism should not have a place in the reportage of electoral process in Nigeria while journalists should ensure fair, balance, accurate and responsible reportage of electoral events.This is a tall order considering the numerous challenges faced by the Nigerian media which range from the ownership structure (most media outfits are owned by government or private individuals who are politically exposed persons and tend to undermine the independence of their media organisations); inclement business environment leading to high cost of production and low sales; under resourced media organisations (many media outfits owe their staff salaries and allowances, equipment are old and not regularly maintained, little or no budget for investigations) as well as government and terrorist harassments. There are also the problems of untrained citizens’ journalists operating via social media (e.g. bloggers); weak regulatory agencies and high mortality of media houses.
INEC, I opined, has a pivotal role to play in coordinating this strategic partnership with the Nigerian media. The commission must not only sustain its current robust engagements with the media but must also improve on it as part of its voter education strategy towards the 2015 polls.   The election stakeholders must work together as a team to ensure the delivery of free, fair, credible and violence free 2015 elections.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nigeria should abolish death penalty, really?

What wouldn’t these oyibo people force down our throat? They keep asking us to do the absurd. They brought all manner of ideas alien to our culture and tradition to us. They form pressure groups in the name of non-governmental organisations to advocate for the good, the bad and the ugly. The white men brought Christianity to us. We largely accepted. Then, some of their folk told us to legalise abortion, legalise gay marriage, devalue our currency, sack our workers in the name of right-sizing, use condom, space child-bearing, embrace family planning, immunise our children against polio and other major killer diseases, hold elections according to their supposed “international best practices”, and so on and so forth. Their latest campaign is that we should abolish death penalty. Abomination!
Aren’t they familiar with our history, culture and tradition? From the time of our forebears, it is an established norm that whosoever kills another human being unjustly must lose his or her life in return. Remember, we have our own judicial system that predates the British legal and judicial system currently in use. Our monarchs and their council of chiefs and elders have been dispensing justice from the days of yore. It is a simple law of retributive justice that if you kill recklessly you too must die. How many times have we heard or seen armed robbers kill innocent commuters or residents during their nefarious operations? How many times have kidnappers killed their hostages after collecting ransom? What about the growing list of persons cut down in their prime by the assassins’ bullets?
Now, should any of these murderers be caught, why shouldn’t they be killed according to law? If we shouldn’t engage in jungle justice, then shouldn’t our judges sentence such killers to death by whatever means? What are our governors waiting for by not signing the death warrant of people on death rows? Should anyone have sympathy or mercy for 21-year-old Tolani Ajayi, for instance, who on July 3 this year murdered his father, Charles Ajayi, at their house at the Redemption Camp? Even the bible the white men brought to us via Christianity is very clear in Ezekiel 18 verse 20 that, “The soul who sins shall die.” Jesus Christ himself admonished in Matthew 26 verse 52 that, “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Period! These used to be my thoughts, until recently when I started reading and listening to the advocacy of those who are against death penalty.
Last Friday, October 10 was the World Day against the Death Penalty. The brains behind the UN recognition of that day as such are a group known as the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, an alliance of NGOs, bar associations, local bodies and unions whose aim is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. It was established in Rome on May 13, 2002 and has 158 member organisations as of August 2014.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon was at his persuasive best last Friday in a video message he issued from the UN Office in Geneva in commemoration of the International Day against Death Penalty. The UN scribe said the continuing application of the death penalty is a “cruel practice” that undermines human dignity. He urged member states to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and impose moratoriums on executions. The death penalty, Ki-Moon said, does not deter crimes more than any other punishment and its abolition or moratorium can contribute “to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights. The taking of life is too irreversible for one human being to inflict it on another. We must continue to argue strongly that the death penalty is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights.”
The same day, the Swiss President, Didier Burhalter, together with 11 foreign ministers from around the world called on Nigeria and other countries to remove death penalty from their statute books. According to the release published in Thisday of Saturday, October 11, “Forty years ago, only 14 countries had fully abolished capital punishment. That number now stands at about 100 and is set to increase further. If the number of countries that haven’t carried out executions for at least 10 years is added, there are now nearly 160 death penalty-free countries.”
There are several reasons that have been advanced by those canvassing against death penalty. According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty legitimises an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty said, “Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976, 138 innocent men and women have been released from death row, including some who came within minutes of execution.” Such is the story of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, published in The PUNCH of September 3, 2014. The half-brothers were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina, USA. However, recently analysed DNA evidence from the crime scene implicated another man, who is in prison for a similar crime. A county judge had ordered their immediate release. Shocking, isn’t it!
According to America magazine: The National Catholic Review, there are 10 reasons to oppose the death penalty. These include: No way to remedy the occasional mistakes; racial and economic discrimination in application of the death penalty; application of the death penalty tends to be arbitrary and capricious; for similar crimes, some are sentenced to death while others are not; the death penalty gives some of the worst offenders publicity that they do not deserve; the death penalty involves medical doctors, who are sworn to preserve life, in the act of killing; executions have a corrupting effect on the public; there are strong religious reasons for many to oppose the death penalty; and, even the guilty have a right to life.
In explaining the opposition to death penalty on religious ground, The Catholic Review said some find compelling the thought that Cain, the first murderer in the Bible, was not executed but was marked with a special sign and made a wanderer upon the face of the earth. (Genesis 4 verse 15). God was also quoted to have said in Ezekiel 18 verse 32 that, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” There was also the New Testament story about the adulterous woman who faced execution by stoning in John 8 verses 3 – 11 wherein Jesus said in verse 7 that: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Also, God was said to have handed down as one of the 10 commandments that, “‘Thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20 verse 13). Interesting debate, isn’t it? But, what’s your take? Should Nigeria join over 100 other countries of the world to abolish death penalty?
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My delights and worries about 2015 polls

Following the release of timetable for the 2015 elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission on Friday, January 24, 2014, the commission last Wednesday, October 1 published Notice of Election in accordance with the provision of section 30 (1) of Electoral Act 2010, as amended. That is more like blowing the whistle for the electioneering race for different elective offices in 2015 to commence. Political parties are to conduct their party primaries from October 2 to December 11, 2014. I am very delighted that the preparation for the fifth general election in this Fourth Republic has commenced in earnest. It is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria to have uninterrupted civilian regimes for 15 years. (Four general elections have already been conducted in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.) Yes, the quality of our elections is debatable.
However, the fact that we have been having successful transitions from one civilian administration to another is commendable. It will be recalled that the First Republic lasted barely six years before the military putsch of January 15, 1966. The Second Republic lasted four years, 1979 to 1983 before the Khaki boys took over the reign of power again. The Third Republic orchestrated by the Ibrahim Babangida regime was inconclusive as it was truncated in June 1993. Since the May 29, 1999 return to civil rule, the military boys have kept a respectable distance from usurpation of political powers.
The second thing that excites me is the enjoyment of civil liberties under this current republic. It is a truism that there is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world. However, what we have now is far better than what the military regimes offer. There is practically no more detention without trials, press freedom is greatly enhanced without proscription of media houses as was the case under the military junta, no ouster clauses in our nation’s constitution again, the many other fundamental human rights being enjoyed including freedom of association and speech, the much touted dividends of democracy and the likes all combine to make democracy a preferred choice to military autocracy.
Also talking of rights and privileges; the right to vote and be voted for as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended has brought about social inclusion in the society as all strata of the society from the haves to the have-nots, the educated and the illiterates, the religious and the atheists, the male and the female sexes, the young and the old are all at liberty to stand for election or exercise their voting franchise during elections provided they meet the basic requirements as set out in laws and procedures.
That brings me to the current heated debates about Nigerian artistes vying for elective political offices in 2015. Though the number is growing by the day; however those who have already made their intention public include: ace musician, Abolore Akande better known as 9ice, popular actress, Kate Henshaw, start actor, Desmond Elliot, gospel music songstress, Kenny St. Best, ace comedian, Julius Agwu, veteran actor, Jibola Dabo, ‘You don hit my car’ crooner, Anthony Olanrewaju aka Tony Tetuila, actress Funke Adesiyan, ace thespian Bob Manuel Udokwu, and Fuji artiste, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. The argument has been whether these artistes can make any serious impact in the field of politics.
Many have called them jokers. Many said they are attention seekers. Say what you want, the Constitution of Nigeria has guaranteed their rights to aspire to the highest elective position in Nigeria. It is a right and not a privilege. Yes, it is true that in politics there are contenders and there are pretenders. All are encouraged to participate. At the appointed time, whether at party primaries or at the general election, the wheat shall be separated from the chaff; the men from the boys.
As the saying goes, low aim is crime. Why shouldn’t these men and women of ‘timber and calibre,’ as the late K.O. Mbadiwe would say, be encouraged to aspire to any political offices of their choice? There are examples to draw from both domestically and internationally. Actor and filmmaker, Mikail Olarotimi Makinde took the risk in 2011 and is today representing the Ife Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Musician, actor and filmmaker, Tony One week Mounagor is the Minority Leader in the Anambra State House of Assembly representing his Idemili North Constituency under the All Progressives Congress formerly Action Congress of Nigeria. Hon. Ayo Omidiran used to be a female football promoter, Omidiran Babes; today she’s the only female House of Representatives member from Osun State representing Irewole, Ayedaade and Isokan Local Government Areas.
Internationally, two-time president of the United States of America, Ronald Wilson Reagan, was an actor before becoming two time governor of California and later president of the most powerful country on earth. Superstar actor and filmmaker, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, was also a two-term Governor of California under the Republican Party in USA. From Ukraine is the inspiring story of a world renowned pugilist, Vitali Volodymyrovych Klitschko. He is the former WBO, WBC heavyweight champion. In 2005 he became active in politics and was elected member of the Ukrainian parliament. Today, he is not only a doctoral degree holder; he was on May 25, 2014 elected Mayor of Kiev. Indeed, ambition should be made of sterner stuff, so says William Shakespeare in his book ‘Julius Caesar’. Nigerian politics need more of role models from Nollywood and the wider entertainment industry.
What worries me about the forthcoming elections however is the monetisation of Nigerian politics. Our brand of politics is not for paupers or people of average means. It is meant for the ‘big boys and big girls’ with heavy war chest. Expression of interest and nomination forms alone is in millions of naira, not to talk of money for campaigns. No wonder 59 year old Wahab Junaid whose story was published in the October 2 edition of this paper will have to vandalise oil pipeline to raise money for his electioneering. Some others have to sell off their assets or use them as collateral to obtain bank loans in order to raise money to contest elections. This makes many politicians to be predisposed to corrupt practices.
As a corollary to that, due to high stakes in politics, violence becomes inevitable. It is often battle royal, a civil war with the theme ‘survival of the fittest and strongest’. According to Sheik Ahmed Lemu Federal Government panel on the 2011 electoral violence, 938 persons died and 735 injured across the northern Nigeria during the last general election crises. Already, deaths are being recorded even as electioneering is just starting.
Among the casualties on record are that of a Peoples Democratic Party leader, Pa Taiwo Ogundele who, murdered in Ile-Ife in March during the INEC Continuous Voters Registration; that of a member of the All Progressives Congress in Ilesa, Tolu Adeosun who, allegedly lost his life during the fracas that ensued during the mega rally of the PDP in the town in the lead up to the August 9 governorship election in the state. Also, more recently, an APC member, Alhaji Azeez Asake, was allegedly killed shortly after the PDP held a rally at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on Saturday, September 20, 2014, while ex-NURTW chairman in Ekiti State, Omolafe Aderiye, was assassinated in Ado-Ekiti on September 25, 2014. I hope, truly hope, that 2015 elections will be peaceful and credible. It is our collective responsibility to ensure.
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

The $9.3m ‘Arms-Purchase’ Scandal

The controversy surrounding the purported trafficking of $9.3 million dollars to South Africa in a Private Jet of a renowned Christian cleric by two Nigerians and an Israeli in September has added to the long list of knotty issues that have caused this crippled giant of a nation international embarrassment. The pertinent questions to ask are: Why did the traffickers refused to declare the huge sums to the South Africa customs and immigration officials at the port of entry if the business they are doing with the money is not illicit? Couldn’t such money presumably meant for purchase of arms and ammunition by Nigeria’s federal government had been made through electronic transfer? Why making cash purchases? Are there contract papers from the Ministry of Defence to the arms dealers to make the purchase on behalf of the Federal Government? Is it true that some members of the House of Representatives were bribed with $50,000 each to prevent the issue from being discussed by the House? All these and more are posers for the relevant government institutions to answer.

The justification being made by some people that paying cash to buy arms is a normal practice globally sounds hollow. If it’s normal to move such huge sums to purchase arms, why then did the traffickers not declare the money to the South African authorities?  The defence of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor that his aircraft which was used to illegally transport the money was on lease to another company is a pointer to the fact that some blessings are burdens. The Private Jet was bought for the pastor a couple of years ago and he had to lease it out in order to raise money for its proper maintenance. If he could not maintain it, why retain it? The revered legal luminary, Femi Falana, SAN has come out to say that having been registered for evangelism, the aircraft now being used for commercial purpose is in breach of Companies and Allied Matters Act as churches are registered as Charity Organisation which is not-for-profit.

To a discerning mind, this $9.3m scandal has a sign of a botched money laundry exercise, otherwise the funds would have been officially declared at the point of entry in South Africa. That also raises another question about the complicity of Nigerian Customs, Immigration officials and Federal Aviation Authority of Nigerian personnel who allowed such huge cash to be checked in without proper documentation.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ekiti warriors and desecration of the temple of justice

Compatriots, hearty congratulations on Nigeria’s 54th independence anniversary and successful containment of the Ebola Virus Disease. Today, as the President reads his independence speech, so will the Independent National Electoral Commission be issuing the Notice of Election in fulfilment of the provision of section 30 (1) of Electoral Act 2010, as amended. With the umpire blowing whistle for the formal commencement of electioneering towards the 2015 polls my anxiety is heightened by the dishonourable antecedents of Nigeria’s political class. The unfolding scenario in Ekiti State, if it will be the barometer for 2015 elections, then all well-meaning citizens and well-wishers of Nigeria must be concerned.
Am I really surprised at last week’s attacks on courts and judges in Ekiti State? No, I am not. It’s a war foretold. The Ekiti warriors were just acting out a similar script has had been played in Delta, Edo and Rivers states. How do I mean? In January 22, 2014 article I wrote in this column titled, “Reversing anarchy in the temple of justice,” I had chronicled previous attacks on Nigerian courts and judicial officers. I said then that Nigerian judiciary is undergoing three types of violence: physical, psychological and structural.
In that piece I said:” It is fast becoming a norm for judicial officers or their family members to be assaulted in order to intimidate them from carrying out their lawful duty. Sometime ago, some judges in Delta State came under severe molestation by assailants. According to media reports, on August 7, 2012, a High Court judge, Marcel Okoh, was abducted and spent 10 days in his abductors’ den. Also, on Tuesday, December 3, 2012, another judge of the High Court, Marshal Mukoro, allegedly escaped death by a whisker after his sports utility vehicle was riddled with bullets by unknown assailants. There was another case of Justice Flora Azinge who purportedly escaped being kidnapped and had to run away from the court for months. Also, on Friday, May 10, 2013, unknown gunmen abducted the wife, daughter, and driver of a Supreme Court Justice, Bode Rhodes-Vivour. The victims were travelling to Edo State, ahead of the Justice’s daughter’s wedding ceremony.”
“Rivers State has added to the list of environment that is hostile to judiciary. Courts, which are temples of justice, are being routinely vandalised and bombed in the crises rocking the state. In 2013, a Magistrate’s Court in Okehi in the Etche Local Government Area of the state was vandalised while files and other vital documents were set ablaze by unidentified arsonists. On December 18, 2013, an explosion reportedly rocked the premises of the Ahoada High Court under Justice Charles Wali. The same court on January 6, 2014 was bombed by unknown attackers. The blast affected the secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association located within the court premises. Same day, another High Court in Okehi in the Etche Local Government Areas was also set ablaze. There were suspicions that the explosion and fire might not be unconnected with the involvement of the two courts in handling matters relating to the political crisis rocking the state.”
I then wrote about the psychological violence being inflicted on judges by lawyers and their clients who because they have lost cases in court will come out openly to disparage the judge and accuse them of having been compromised. On structural violence, I talked about the underfunding of the judiciary among the three arms of government. I wrote in that piece that: “Statistics have shown that, funding from the Federal Government has witnessed a steady decline since 2010, from N95bn in that year to N85bn in 2011, then N75bn in 2012 and dropped again in the 2013 budget to N67bn. I learnt the allocation for the judiciary in the 2014 budget is N68bn, a paltry N1bn more than last year’s.”
I must hasten to say that it is not only the members of the bench, I mean the judges, that suffer violence. Members of the bar also do. In April 2011, an Abuja based lawyer who then was vying for the senatorial seat in the Federal Capital Territory, Kayode Ajulo, was kidnapped and later released. In August 2013, human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, was kidnapped in Edo State and released 20 days after paying a ransom of N40 million according to Thisday of 10 June, 2014.
Back to the latest assault on judiciary in Ekiti State. News report has it that on Monday, 22 September Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, who is handling a case filed by the Ekiti-11 on the eligibility of the Governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, to contest the last June governorship election narrowly escaped being lynched by an irate mob who attacked his court on that fateful day. Same week, precisely on Thursday, 25 September, a sitting   judge,   Justice John Adeyeye, was   beaten up   and his suit torn by political thugs. The record book of the Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, was also torn into pieces by the thugs who also disrupted proceedings at the state Election Petitions Tribunal. The tension in the court forced the state’s chief judge to order the immediate closure of all the state high courts. Aftermath of the ensuing tension, former Ekiti State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Omolafe Aderiye, was murdered on the night of 25 September. Reprisal by his supporters led to arson in which several houses and vehicles were burnt. This made Governor Kayode Fayemi to impose a dusk to dawn curfew on the state.
I couldn’t agree more with the position of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project who in a petition dated 29 September 2014 sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, had observed that, “Apart from violating the rights of the judges to personal dignity and security, the attacks also constitute a threat to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the entire justice system. The attacks amount to improper interferences and pressures on the judiciary, and can undermine the smooth function of justice, public’s confidence in the rule of law, effective enjoyment of human rights, and ultimately lead to people taking the law into their own hands.”
Beyond the aforementioned implication as enunciated by SERAP, the development in Ekiti has not only led to further delay in the course of justice in the state as a whole particularly for those seeking redress in other criminal and civil cases that have nothing to do with politics, it has also impacted negatively on the fragile peace reigning in the state since the June 21 governorship election with concomitant deleterious effects on the socio-economic life of the state. The Ekiti scenario is a bad omen for 2015 elections and is a wakeup call for government at all levels to beef up security around the courts and judicial officers. All those who are connected with the unfolding anarchy in Ekiti need to be arrested and successfully prosecuted. If reign of terror is allowed in the sacred temple of justice, we should be rest assured that Hobbesian state of nature where life is short, brutish and nasty will be the sole alternative. The choice is for government and the unruly political elite to make.
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