Sunday, November 30, 2014
In a well-researched and scholarly article on the back page of Thisday newspaper of November 4, 2014, human rights lawyer and a senior advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, dissected the illegality of the action of Nigerian political parties in charging political aspirants Expression of Interest and Nomination Fees. The exorbitant amount which is in millions of Naira is prohibitive, discriminatory and exclusionary. It must be stated that this is a major way by which political parties in Nigeria fund their operations. For instance, as at November 4, 2014, Peoples Democratic Party is reported to have raked in over N3 billion from this exercise. (See The PUNCH of November 5, 2014.)
Barrister Falana’s sound legal argument against collection of nomination fees is as follows: “To ensure some degree of popular participation in the electoral process political associations which intend to transform into political parties are not required to meet stringent conditions. In the same vein, candidates contesting elections are not obligated to pay nomination fees to political parties. Once they meet the conditions outlined in the Constitution they cannot be disqualified for failure to pay outrageous nomination fees imposed on them by political parties.”
The legal luminary went further to state that “Since the conditions stipulated in the Constitution do not include payment of nomination fees and production of tax clearance certificates (by political contestants) ….. Therefore, the collection of nomination fees from candidates by political parties, which is an additional qualification, is illegal and unconstitutional as political parties have no power to add to or subtract from the constitutional prerequisites which candidates must possess to qualify to contest elections in Nigeria.”
Falana further submitted that “Since the right of every citizen to participate in government of their country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives is guaranteed by Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 the guideline of a political party for payment of skyrocketing nomination fees which is capable of excluding indigent candidates from the political process is illegal. More so, that every citizen is entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the African Charter without distinction of any kind such as fortune or social status.”
He did not stop at that, the legal icon cited a case from the United States of America to buttress his point. According to him, “In Bullock v Carter 405 U.S 134 (1972) the appellants who sought to become candidates for local office in the Democratic primary election challenged in the District Court the validity of the nomination fees up to $8, 999. It was held that the fees contravened the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It was the view that “By requiring candidates to shoulder the costs of conducting primary election through filing fee by providing no reasonable alternative means of access to the ballot, the State of Texas has erected a system that utilizes the criterion of ability to pay as a condition to being on the ballot, thus excluding some candidates otherwise qualified and denying an undetermined number of voters the opportunity to vote candidates of their choice.”
The above argument by Femi Falana is logical and faultless. In fact, Political Party Finance Handbook (2011) published by INEC on page 7 stipulated five ways through which political parties may obtain funds for their operations. These are: Membership fees; Income generated by property owned by political party; Profit from the income of the enterprises owned by political party; Public funding i.e. grant from the state; and Contributions from legal entities and natural persons.
Let’s examine each of these sources. First, party members hardly pay their membership dues. Oftentimes, they only pay when they are contesting for elective offices on the platform of the party. At other times, aspirants vying for elective offices pay the membership fees arrears of their supporters in order to enable them vote during party primaries. Two, there is no more public funding for political parties since 2010 when the current electoral act came into force. Three, many political parties don’t own property or any other investments for that matter. Most of the party offices are in rented apartments, some of which are donated by wealthy party members. Thus, with little or no investments, no income is coming in from that angle.
Four, Nigeria’s Company and Allied Matters Act in Section 38 (2) forbids companies from contributing funds to political parties. It states: “A company shall not have or exercise power either directly or indirectly to make a donation or gift of any of its property or funds to a political party or political association, or for any political purpose…”
Therefore, with all legitimate means of funding for political parties yielding little or no income, how appropriate is the criminalization of the collection of expression of interest and nomination fees by Nigerian Constitution? Well, Falana believes “In the circumstance, political parties may only be permitted by law to charge administrative fees.” Maybe political parties should thus rename the Expression of Interest and nomination fees as administrative charges in order not to run afoul of the law.
Jide is Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
“Nigeria’s presidential, parliamentary and state governorship and assembly elections, scheduled for February 2015, will be more contentious than usual. Tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, the grim radical Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and increasing communal violence in several northern states, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias by security agencies, suggest the country is heading towards a very volatile and vicious electoral contest”
–International Crisis Group (November 21, 2014)
Many have asked me why I have not joined any political party or contested any elective positions in Nigeria. My simple response to such persons has been that I do not have what it takes to favourably compete in Nigerian politics. In terms of age, I am qualified to contest even for the presidential seat of this country. Academically, I am over -qualified as I am a Master’s degree holder (in the science of politics) when the minimum I need is a secondary school attendance certificate. I do not even need to have passed the external examination according to Section 65(2) (a) of the Nigerian Constitution. In terms of experience, I have acquired sufficient knowledge as a worker in the development sector to be able to govern this country. Indeed, on many counts except two, I am eminently qualified. What are the two exceptions? I am not wealthy and I am not violent. Nigeria’s brand of politics is not for a gentleman or an egghead like me but for the rich and ferocious.
In the course of my official assignments, I have been privileged to observe elections locally and internationally. Globally, I have been a short-term international accredited election observer in Ghana, the United States of America and Egypt. In none of these countries have I experienced the kind of electoral warfare and monetised politics as being on display in Nigeria. I have been an accredited observer during general elections in Nigeria since 1999 and have also researched on many thematic areas in the electoral process. Not only that, I have been involved in training of some actors and stakeholders in the electoral process from election officials to accredited observers, media practitioners, and political party executives. These experiences have clearly shown that Nigerian politicians are a rare breed. It is in this clime that the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means” finds perfect expression.
Our politicians are mostly ruthless and unscrupulous. They bate no eyelid before committing any manner of crime, be it killing, maiming, rigging, bribing, lying or subverting democratic ethos in as much as it will guarantee their quest for power. I once attended a conference where a former member of the House of Representatives openly declared that what many of them do is to send their immediate families abroad about three months to Election Day. As they too go on campaign, they have on them valid visas to many foreign countries with a minimum of 2,000 pound on them. So, should anything go awry, they will head for the nearest international airport to exit the country. These are the same politicians who will arm other people’s children to go kill and maim their political opponents, snatch ballot boxes and perpetrate diverse electoral heists and malfeasance.
The Independent National Electoral Commission on November 16 officially pronounced commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly elections in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended. Just imagine how the political temperature of Nigeria has soared in that one week of open campaigns. Political thugs went on the rampage in Ibadan between last Friday and Sunday killing at least three persons including a police inspector. Unknown arsonists torched the Peoples Democratic Party’s office in Cross River State. Officials of the Department of State Service last Saturday stormed the APC Data Centre in Lagos over allegation of cloning Permanent Voter Cards. Seven members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly sat and purportedly “impeached” the authentic Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House even when they blatantly knew that their action was an infraction on the law, not having the number to form a quorum to sit nor the required two-third majority to impeach the Speaker. The Ekiti scenario is reminiscent of what happened last year in Rivers State where five out of 32 members of the state House of Assembly purportedly impeached the Speaker.
The same thing happened at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum where a faction with 16 members claimed victory in a contest involving 35 members. Last Thursday, a show of shame was reenacted when police blockade against House of Representatives members including the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, made some of the lawmakers to jump over the gate. The action indeed is barbaric and condemnable. However, as condemnable as the dishonourable action of the lawmakers is, an adage says if you must blame the hawk for wickedness, first blame the mother hen for exposing her children to danger. If there was no biased police cordon, will the lawmakers have had to scale the gate? Some commentators said they should have left when police denied them access. Obviously, those who want Tambuwal impeached, if he was not going to resign having defected from the PDP to the APC, are naive. It is all politics, crude politics!
It is not only me that is worried stiff about the gloomy, ominous vista surrounding the next general elections in 2015. Some foreign bodies too are concerned. One of them is the International Crisis Group that issued a statement on Friday, November 21, 2014 titled, “Nigeria’s Dangerous 2015 Elections: Limiting the Violence.” The ICG, in the report, expertly articulated all the possible triggers of violence before, during and after the 2015 polls and made far-reaching recommendations on how to avert the doomsday.
The Group submitted that, “With only three months before elections, the government cannot engage in long-term structural efforts to improve the quality of the vote, but it can and must be encouraged to urgently take several steps to limit the risk of widespread violence. These include increasing efforts to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, paying special attention to the police to improve the security environment, reinforcing the capacities of INEC to restore confidence in the electoral process, and along with all politicians, avoid playing the religious card and reducing tensions within and between the parties. The government – President Goodluck Jonathan, the federal legislature, INEC and security agencies-must bear the greatest responsibility for implementing these measures, but other national and political figures, including civil society, as well as international partners must also rally to stop the slide.” Come to think of it, there is nothing the ICG said in its statement that our own indigenous CLEEN Foundation has not been saying in its quarterly, now monthly, security threat assessments. Indeed, there’s none so deaf as those who will not hear!
Follow me on twitter @jideojong
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Hearty congratulations to The PUNCH newspaper on its meritorious award as the 2014 Newspaper of the Year by the Nigerian Media Merit Award. My felicitations also go to the Daily Editor, Martin Ayankola, and the Editor, Sunday Punch, Toyosi Ogunseye, as well as other staff of the company who recently won awards. I am proud of my association with the numero uno newspaper in the country and pray for continued excellence in the service of our suffering motherland.
In a two-part report published on November 8 and 15, 2014, Saturday PUNCH a sister publication, did a research where it reported that governors’ lodges are costlier and better funded than the academic institutions of most states in Nigeria. According to the paper, “the cost of building many government houses in Nigeria is far higher than what it takes to build many universities in the country with some state houses gulping as high as nine times more than the cost of building a university.” Holy Moses! The newspaper’s investigation further revealed that, “in many states where billions of naira were expended on building bogus and expansive state houses for the First Families, universities owned by such state governments were in terrible conditions. In addition to this, many programmes run by these state universities have yet to be accredited by the National Universities Commission, the regulatory agency for universities in Nigeria, due to lack of funds.”
The report articulated the cost of building some state houses vis-a-vis what the state governments spent on their educational institutions. Some of the examples cited include Bayelsa, Delta, Ekiti, Kaduna, Plateau, Cross River, Ondo and Osun states.
In Bayelsa State, for instance, a Government House Complex named, “The Glory Land Castle”, allegedly gulped at least N24bn. Ironically, there is high level of infrastructural decay at the Niger Delta University owned by the state government. “The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Niger Delta University branch, Dr. Tuboukiye Sese, was quoted to have said that, “In the university, internal roads are non-existent, office space is a sad development and student hostels are in poor state.” On top of these, many of the university’s programmes were not accredited during the last accreditation exercise.
In the same manner, the Kaduna State Government which just inaugurated a new N9.6bn Kaduna Government House has a poorly funded university. According to the report, medical students of the Kaduna State University recently protested the non-accreditation of the institution’s medical courses by the NUC. They also griped at the poor conditions at the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, which is supposed to be the university’s teaching hospital.
The story is said to be similar in Akwa Ibom State where the government constructed a State House with the sum of N16bn and a Banqueting Hall with a 500-seating capacity with the sum of N18bn. In other words, while the state government could afford to pay a total of N34bn on constructing a state house and banqueting hall, unfortunately many courses in the state-owned university remain unaccredited. The Saturday PUNCH reported that the NUC, between July and August 2014, accredited only 11 courses in the institution’s Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences while courses in other faculties like Business Administration, Arts, and Education, among others which are over 40 have yet to be accredited.
A former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, allegedly borrowed N3.3bn to build a state house. However, he could not raise about N800million needed to accredit courses in the state-owned university locate in Ado-Ekiti. The report further revealed that despite Plateau State’s budgetary allocation of over N400bn in the last three years, the state government has not been able to fund the only state university established nine years ago. The university has also not been able to graduate any student since inception in 2005. If you think it’s because the state government is broke then hear this – the Governor Jonah Jang administration is reported to have recently sent a bill for N23.4bn supplementary budget to the state House of Assembly for consideration and approval. In the proposed budget, supply and fixing of curtains, blinds, customised cutlery and other items at the new Government House will be awarded to a foreign firm for N443m. Can you beat that?
In my own State of Osun, a source who craved anonymity allegedly told PUNCH reporter that when the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola was inaugurated, the Osun State University needed N900m for the accreditation of its Faculty of Medicine. The state government did not provide the money and as a result, 100 levels and 200 levels students were given alternative courses such as Chemistry and Physics, among others. The government also promised to send 300 levels and above students to Ukraine to complete their studies. (Meanwhile, Ukraine reportedly has a lower education standard than Nigeria.) The processing, we are told, took two years, when eventually they arrived Ukraine; the country was plunged into a civil war that has left the students and their parents frustrated. The source said the governor reportedly engaged the services of a consultant to process the Ukrainian deal at a cost of about N1bn, however, the state government claimed it spent only N146m. Shouldn’t the governor have sourced the money to get the state university’s faculty of medicine accredited rather than sending students to acquire worthless certificates in some sub-standard universities abroad?
The cost of building a brand new university from the scratch is put at between N5.5bn and N12bn.This is expected to be complemented by separate investment of between N1.8bn and N2.7bn for accreditation of courses with science-based courses gulping more money than non-science based ones. This is what some state governors are using to massage their ego by building themselves earthly palaces accompanied with mobile fortresses.
What Saturday PUNCH investigative report has shown is our government’s disdain for education and selfish approach to governance where humongous amount are wasted to build government houses when a fraction of such scandalous sums would have assisted to strengthen state’s academic institutions and enable them to provide qualitative educational services. Anyway, it is not totally unexpected that state governors are behaving in this self-aggrandising manner since none of their children or wards attends these public academic institutions.
It is quite disheartening that rather than provide needed funds for their educational institutions, many state governors in the country have abdicated their responsibilities to the interventionist funding agencies such as the Universal Basic Education Commission and Tertiary Education Trust Fund formerly known as Education Tax Fund. To make the matter worse, even the desired matching grants necessary to access the UBEC fund have not been forthcoming leading to huge unaccessed funds. As of September 8, 2014, there is a total unclaimed UBEC funds in excess of N49bn. Under the matching grant, each state is to provide a counterpart funding to whatever the Federal Government is bringing. However, not many states are keen to put down their own matching grants hence the huge unaccessed funds in the midst of the dire financial needs of most, if not all, public schools in Nigeria. TETFund equally has the challenge of billions of naira unaccessed by public tertiary institutions who simply fail to follow due process to get the funds earmarked for their institutions. It must be stated that there is no need for matching grants with TETFund. This is a clear attestation to the fact that there is a lack of political will to address the rot in Nigeria’s public education sector. Sad, very pathetic!
Follow me on twitter @jideojong
Monday, November 17, 2014
On October 17, 2014 while playing host to the House of Representatives Committee on Education led by Hon. Aminu Suleiman, the Kaduna State Governor, Mukthar Yero allegedly asked the National Assembly to consider passing a legislation that would compel policy makers in the country to enroll their children in public schools. In this interview with Kehinde Adegoke of Daily Newswatch, Jide Ojo, Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja bares his mind.
What’s you take on this proposal?
The governor was just echoing the opinion of most Nigerians who are of the view that until government officials’ children and wards are made to attend public schools, then the decadence in our education sector will remain unresolved. Such thought, though sound in logic, is weak on law. How do I mean? It is desirable but unrealistic due to the fact that it will be an infringement on the fundamental human rights of the public officials.
Education, we must know, is on the concurrent legislative list and has been liberalised through privatisation and commercialisation in Nigeria. Citizens therefore are at liberty to choose where to send their children to study whether home or abroad, private or public institutions. Individual family’s socio-economic status is thus the major determinant of where to send a child to school or whether to send such child to school at all.
What's your perception of the public schools in Nigeria today?
There is no gainsaying that public schools in Nigeria are at present bedeviled with a lot of challenges ranging from dilapidating structures, inadequate staffing, overstretched facilities, incessant strikes by academic and non-academic staff, insecurity, underfunding, corruption and lack of political will to solve the challenges by successive governments whether at the local, state or federal government. The libraries of most public educational institutions in Nigeria are obsolete, the laboratories sparsely equipped, the classrooms and lecture theaters bereft of basic conveniences such as a chairs and tables while the hostels are overcrowded. Today, in the 21st century, we have pupils and students of some schools learning under trees, sitting on stones and used tyres in classes and writing on the floor. Heartrending!
It must be said that federal government has been carrying out some reforms to bridge the funding gap in the public education sector by setting up Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) formerly known as Education Tax Fund (ETF). These are mere intervention funds and are outside the normal budgetary allocations to Ministries, Department and Agencies in the education sector. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme for instance was introduced in 1999 by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring quality of basic education throughout Nigeria. Quite unfortunately many states are yet to access their matching grants and as September 8, 2014, there is a total unaccessed fund in excess of N49 billion. (N49,211,970,941.55). Under the matching grant, each state is to provide a counterpart funding to whatever the federal government is bringing. However, not many states are keen to put down their own matching grant hence the huge unaccessed funds in the midst of the dire financial needs of most, if not all, public schools in Nigeria. TETFund equally have the challenge of billions of Naira in unaccessed funds by public tertiary institutions who simply fail to follow due process to get the fund earmarked for their institutions. It must be stated that there is no need for matching grant with TETFund. This is why I earlier said there is lack of political will to address the rot in Nigeria’s public education sector.
What were the public schools like during your time?
In my time in the 70’s and 80s, public education was qualitative. This reflected in the external examinations where the success rates were much higher than the abysmal performances we currently records. There were challenges then quite alright but there was nothing like the prolonged strikes. Our teachers and lecturers were dedicated to duties while infrastructures were not overstretched as we currently have it. Even then there were few private schools be it at primary, secondary or tertiary levels. Thus parents’ choices were largely limited to enrolling their children in public schools. With the mushrooming of private schools and the unresolved challenges of public sector education, the reverse is now the case as many parents in search of quality education now have to cough out mindboggling sums of money to train their children and wards in private schools both within and outside of the country. Ironically, limited job opportunities upon graduation have made the huge private investments to be of doubtful reward to parents and families. However, though there might be limited job opportunities upon graduation due to the stiff competition, graduates of private institutions still stand better chance to clinch the limited jobs on offer.
What is the way forward?
For Nigeria, the solution to our public education challenges does not lie in forcing public officials to enroll their children and wards in public schools. The way out is to incentivise enrollment into public schools so that of their own accord parents would embrace sending their children to those public education institutions. This we can do through adequate resource of these schools. If there is satisfactory equipment and staffing, appealing school environment, adequate welfare for staff and students and effective monitoring and control by regulatory education agencies, ministries and departments then the glory days of public education will be back, there will be higher enrolment and better performance of pupils and students in both internal and external examinations.
This piece was published in Sunday Newswatch of November 16, 2014 on Page 16
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The countdown to the fifth general elections in this Fourth Republic has begun and it is barely 92 days to the presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections slated for February 14, 2015. Will there be show of love during the electoral war? In accordance with Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, public campaign is to commence 90 days to the polls hence for the February 14 elections, campaign will officially start on November 16, 2014 while campaign for the governorship and House of Assembly elections scheduled for February 28, 2015 will commence on November 30, according to the timetable earlier released by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Many commentators including the electorate have been clamouring for free, fair and credible elections. That is a noble demand and is not unattainable. However, what do we need to achieve that ideal goal? How prepared are the various actors and stakeholders for the 2015 elections? Of what significance is election to a democracy?
The importance of election to the entrenchment of a democratic culture cannot be underestimated or over-emphasised. Election, by which we mean free choice of representatives in government, is one of the tenets of democracy and it is a gateway to achieving good governance. It is the elected leaders whether in executive or legislative positions that work on behalf of the rest of us to provide essential goods and services that will enhance our collective wellbeing.
INEC has been telling all those who care to listen about its optimum preparedness to conduct credible elections in 2015 which will be better than those of 2011. I have been privileged to attend two programmes in the recent past where the electoral commission gave account of its state of readiness for the forthcoming general polls. The first was on October 28 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, where INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, gave a run-down of where the commission was with its preparations for 2015. The event was a national stakeholders’ forum on elections organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room. At the forum chaired by the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Hassan Matthew Kukah, Jega held the audience spellbound as he reeled out his agenda at INEC and how much of that he had achieved.
According to him, prior to the 2011 elections, INEC introduced the following reforms: A new biometric Register of Voters; a remodified open ballot system (REMOBS); improved security features on sensitive electoral materials such as serial numbering and colour coding of ballot papers and result sheets as well as security coding of ballot boxes; revised framework for engagement of ad hoc staff; more transparent framework for results collations and returns including pasting of results of elections at the Polling Units and Collation Centres; closer collaboration and partnerships with a range of critical stakeholders including the establishment of Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security; enhanced voter education and citizens engagement as well as intensive training and retraining of the commission’s staff.
Immediately after the 2011 elections, Jega said the commission embarked on post-election audits which were done both internally and by external assessors. Four cardinal lessons the commission claimed to have learnt from the reviews conducted are as follows: Good elections require adequate and timely planning; good elections are about effective partnerships and cooperation; good elections are about openness and lastly, getting our elections right is still a work in progress. Jega said towards 2015 his concern was to have a progressive, incremental, value addition polls. To achieve these, the commission, he said, was focusing on three focal points namely, structure, policy and plan. Some of the milestones achieved in the last two years, he claimed, included putting together a strategic plan (2012 – 2016) and a detailed strategic programme of action; a detailed Election Project Plan; comprehensive reorganisation and restructuring of the commission; the consolidation and de-duplication of the biometric register of voters leading to the ongoing distribution of Permanent Voter Cards and the Continuous Voter Registration. The PVC is chip-based and the commission intends to deploy the use of card readers for verification and authentication of voters come 2015.
Other measures put in place by INEC include a communication policy; a gender policy; proposed amendments to the electoral laws; establishment of a Graphic Design Centre; mapping and re-engineering of the commission’s business process and election management system; review of electoral constituencies and planned creation of additional polling units; revision of all guidelines and regulations on the electoral process and the deployment of Election Management Tool.
Jega highlighted seven challenges faced by the commission ahead of 2015. These are insecurity, funding, attitude of the political class, apathetic and inactive citizenry, delay in the amendment of the legal framework, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units and the prosecution of election offenders. After the submission, Jega fielded questions from the forum participants among other things on how the commission intends to field-test or pilot the card-reader ahead of the nationwide deployment in 2015. The question was asked against the background of the glitches experienced in Ghana and Kenya where a similar technology had been previously deployed. Jega assured us all that this would be done. He said the card reader being deployed has batteries with eight-hour lifespan. Nevertheless, he claimed INEC had also made provision for 10 per cent redundancy.
The second event took place last Friday, November 7 and it was a roundtable held for media practitioners on conflict-sensitive reporting. According to the director of Electoral Alternative Dispute Resolution Directorate of INEC, Mrs. Ngozi Irene Oghuma, “The choice of words used in reporting political and electoral news can generate conflict, sometimes resulting into violence which invariably impacts negatively on electoral processes.” The keynote speaker at the roundtable, who is also a veteran journalist, Mr. Bayo Amosemo, critically analysed issues involved in conflict sensitive reporting. According to him, “an explicit aim of conflict sensitive journalism is to promote peace initiatives…” To buttress his point, Awosemo, quoting the European Centre for Conflict Prevention, stated that, “while journalism should ensure balanced reporting, it cannot be neutral towards peace.” Media practitioners are generally enjoined to be biased towards peace in their news reportage particularly of electoral and political events.
Now we know what INEC has been doing preparing for 2015 polls. What about other stakeholders? We do know that the political parties are in the process of nominating their candidates and kicking off their campaigns. Quite unfortunately, their activities have started heating up the polity with intra and inter-party frictions becoming palpable. Hate speeches, inflammatory comments, and inciting statements are beginning to fly around and it behooves various regulatory agencies to caution these political gladiators.
On the part of the civil society, a lot is also being done. Many non-governmental organisations are embarking on voter education and preparing for election observation. Indeed, the Transition Monitoring Group is set to deploy an innovative election observation technology called Quick Counts or Parallel Vote Tabulation. This will provide an independent source of verification for INEC announced results and has the capacity to boost people’s confidence in the electoral process. As I write this, my mind went back to those seven critical challenges raised by Jega and I wonder if they are not capable of derailing all the grand plan of the commission towards a successful and peaceful 2015 polls.
Corrigendum: In my last week piece, I erroneously listed a former deputy governor of Lagos State Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele among the impeached deputy governors in the country. I got a call from her saying that she did resign and was not impeached. This inadvertent slip is regretted.
Follow me on twitter: @jideojong
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
“Deputy gov sends stinker to Amosun” was the banner headline on the front-page of The PUNCH of Wednesday, October 29, 2014. The news story chronicled alleged mistreatment of the Deputy Governor, Prince Segun Adesegun by his boss, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State. The embittered deputy had on October 24 written a 10-paragraph letter to the governor chronicling all manner of ill-treatments being meted to him and his office. Among them are: starving his office of funds and allocation of old vehicles to his office. According to him, his September and October feeding, out-of-pocket and sundry allowances had yet to be paid while during this year’s Eid-el-Kabir and Eid al-Fitr festivals, funds were released to government functionaries except him and his aides. He also alleged that seven (now eight) months ago, electricity supply to his official residence was cut off because the state government is owing electricity bills. This has necessitated his spending an average of N30,000 daily on diesel to provide electricity for his residence.
The deputy governor wondered why his lodge was not initially connected to the state mini-power plant even “when it is on record that several government premises, including private residences and organisations enjoy power supply from the plant.’’ He lamented that he is the only deputy governor in Nigeria without a portfolio. The DG equally alleged that while the July 2014 monthly running costs of ministries, departments and agencies in Ogun State were duly paid, that of his office was withheld.
In his epistle, he reminded the governor that the engine of his official car knocked in December 2013 without the governor deeming it fit to replace the car for him. He said and I quote: “I had cause to remind you many times, but nothing was done. I resorted to using my personal car as back-up even when I was aware that you were giving vehicles, including Custom-made bulletproof vehicles to others. It was when a Good Samaritan bought a Tundra Truck for me that you deemed it fit to send a Toyota Prado XL V4 engine to me in late August.” Lastly, the deputy governor observed that his 2014 vacation allowance has not been paid.
The state commissioner for information and the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress both claimed ignorance of the ugly situation in Ogun State when contacted for their reaction. I wish these assertions were not true. This is no good news coming from the camp of the ‘so called’ progressives. If a governor will treat his deputy like a trash or rag, how then would he be treated by other cabinet members and the wider public?
The scenario in Ogun is symptomatic of how useless the office of deputy governor has been in Nigeria. Not too long ago, precisely on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 the deputy governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi was impeached by the state house of assembly. He was accused of running an illegal poultry in his official residence and also refusing to represent Governor Sullivan Chime at official functions. The lawmakers, in the impeachment notice, held that the said actions amounted to gross misconduct on the former DG’s part. However, the true offence of Onyebuchi, other sources claimed, was that he nurses ambition to contest for senatorial seat against the governor’s chief of staff who is the anointed person for the seat.
Such is the very expendable nature of deputy governors that they only hold office at the whims and caprices of their governors. Many of them had suffered cruel fate in the hands of their bosses. Some of the deputy governors who had previously been impeached include: B.B Faruk of Kano, Abdullahi Argungu of Kebbi, John Okpa of Cross River, Kofoworola Bucknor Akerele and Femi Pedro both of Lagos, Sani Abubakar Danladi of Taraba, Garba Gadi of Bauchi, Iyiola Omisore of Osun, Eyinaya Abaribe of Abia, Chris Ekpenyong of Akwa Ibom, Peremobowei Ebebi of Bayelsa, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia of Jigawa and Jude Agbaso of Imo State.
There is another category of deputy governors who though were not impeached but were given soft-landing of being allowed to 'voluntarily resign'. Three ready examples that come to mind are Akin Omoboriowo of Ondo State during the Second Republic, Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto and Nsima Ekere of Akwa Ibom. Yet, there is another category of deputy governors who though were neither impeached nor forced to resign but were embroiled in a bitter feud with their governors. Among them were Virgy Etiaba of Anambra, Michael Botmang and Pauline Tallen of Plateau. Segun Adesegun of Ogun State obviously belongs to the latter category.
As I opined in my last commentary on this issue published in my column of Wednesday, April 10, 2013 titled “Deputy Governors and their ‘Oga at the top’” It was former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife who was credited to have referred to deputy governors as spare tyres. It is indeed very much so as the position of the Secretary to the State Government is weightier and more recognisable than that of the Deputy Governor. For instance, section 193 of the constitution equated the office with those of the commissioners. It says in subsection 1 that “The Governor of a State may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government.” Thus, it is not surprising that while some lucky few among the rank of the deputy governors are assigned a ministry to superintend as a commissioner in addition to their role as deputy governor; the not-so-favoured ones like Prince Adesegun are either impeached or rendered redundant in office.
The position of the deputy governor is too shallow and only holds value to the extent that its holders enjoy immunity like the governor and have the prospect of becoming Acting Governors or substantive chief state executives depending on what happens to the elected governor as with the case in Adamawa where Bala James Ngilari, by judicial pronouncement, became the governor of the state after the impeachment of Gov. Murtala Nyako. I have previously suggested that if the deputy governor stands election independent of the governor in which case they are not mere nominee of the governor, perhaps they will cease to be treated as filthy rags or appendages of the governors. Quite unfortunately, there is no amendment to sections of the law which has to do with the office of the deputy governor in the ongoing constitutional amendment. My unsolicited advice to the wailing deputy governor of Ogun State is to either continue to stomach the shabby treatment being meted to him by the governor or honourably resign his position. The body language of the governor is very clear; he no longer wants his deputy, period!
Follow me on twitter: @jideojong