Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 elections, Nigeria’s costliest!

As the Independent National Electoral Commission winds down on the 2015 general elections which were held on March 28 and April 11 with supplementary polls on April 25 and 28, I join millions of Nigerians and indeed other world leaders to congratulate INEC and Nigerian government on a successful exercise. Local and international observer groups have been lauding the significant improvements we have made as a country in consolidating democracy.

Indeed, there were many firsts recorded with the just concluded elections. It is the first time in this Fourth Republic (i.e. 1999 to 2015) that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would lose power at the center and many of the states (Both executive and legislative arms). It is the first time an opposition political party would defeat the ruling party in states like Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Adamawa, Plateau, and Benue. It is also the first time several peace accords would be signed by political parties and their candidates contesting presidential and governorship elections.

At the level of the Independent National Electoral Commission, it is the first time machine readable Permanent Voter Cards and Smart Card Readers would be used. By far the most significant and germane to this discuss is that the 2015 elections is the costliest this country had ever witnessed.

Many factors are responsible for this. One of such is the postponement of the elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11. That six weeks polls shift contributed in no small measure to increasing the cost of the elections. The independent National Electoral Commission had to spend more resources on voter education and mobilization, engaged more ad-hoc personnel to distribute the Permanent Voters Cards as well as on training of ad-hoc poll workers on the use of smart card readers. The electoral commission also spent resources to field test the card readers in some selected Wards across 12 states. Likewise, political parties and candidates spent more money than initially planned on their campaigns while civil society organizations working in the area of elections also spent more on voter sensitization and subsequently, election observation.  

The hyperinflation plaguing the country was also a contributory factor. During the electioneering period, the Naira was on a free fall against other major currencies such as the American Dollar, Euro and Britain’s Pound Sterling. That gave rise to high cost of living. The political spending of major political parties and candidates also worsened the inflationary trend.

Another causative factor is the amount of illegal spending embarked on by the major political parties like the PDP and APC. There is no gainsaying that the two parties alongside their candidates broke campaign finance regulations. The Centre for Social Justice (a non-governmental organization which tracked campaign finance of the presidential candidates with funding support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems) revealed at a press conference on March 9, 2015 that PDP and APC overspent beyond the permissible limit of N1 billion ceiling specified for presidential candidates in Section 91 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended. The Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere said the PDP expended N3.5 billion on publicity between December last year and February this year while the APC spent N1.42 billion during the same period.

2015 general elections also witnessed a lot of vote buying. Accredited observers reported incidents of cash for votes where voters were paid between N1, 000 and N5, 000 for their ballot. There were also allegations of purchase of Permanent Voters Card ahead of the elections.   The APC in December 2014 raised the alarm that a certain political party is engaged in buying Permanent Voter’s Cards with a view to disenfranchising the owners of such cards, especially in opposition strongholds. In a statement issued in Lagos on Friday, December 19, 2014 by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said while such purchased PVCs may not be transferable, those who are buying them are doing so to reduce the votes in the opposition strongholds and improve the chances of their own party at the polls. (See Vanguard Newspaper of December 19, 2014, online edition)

In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party raised alarm over the alleged purchase of Permanent Voters Cards by the All Progressives Congress ahead of Saturday, April 25, 2015 re-run election in 250 electoral units in Imo State. In a statement by the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Kizito Onuoha, the party alleged that the agents of the APC had embarked on the massive purchase of PVCs at the cost of N10, 000 each from Imo voters. (See The Punch, April 17, 2015, online edition). Apart from the illegal purchase of PVCs, desperate politicians also sponsored miscreants to steal the Permanent Voters Cards in states like Lagos, Rivers, Edo and Delta. Politicians also distributed Rice, Recharge Cards, branded T-Shirts and Face Caps etcetera to induce voters. Funding of political thugs to commit electoral offences such as attacking INEC offices and opposition party offices, snatching of ballot boxes and molesting of opposition supporters also featured prominently in the course of the just concluded elections.

It is recommended that INEC should organize post-election retreat where its campaign finance monitors, those from the civil society and political parties can compare notes on issues of campaign finance in the lead up to the 2015 general elections; do a cost estimate of what different stakeholders spent on the elections and map out how to reduce cost of elections in Nigeria. INEC needs to make perpetrators of campaign finance breaches to face due punishments. Otherwise, impunity will continue to thrive.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tribunal judges should do the right thing!


Jide Ojo
“You must listen attentively and enquire appropriately, taking care not to descend into the arena. In addition, it is crucial that you consider all the evidence before you carefully, deliberate conscientiously, and adjudicate swiftly and justly as not only you but the entire judiciary will also be on trial
—Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, at the inauguration of 242 election tribunal judges on February 3, 2015.
Do you know that the 2015 general elections are not technically over yet? How do I mean? Yes, the Independent National Electoral Commission may have done its bit by conducting elections into the various political offices ranging from that of the president, governors, Senate, House of Representatives and the state Houses of Assembly, however, both the political parties and their candidates have the locus standi to challenge the outcome of the polls. The constitution of Nigeria confers the right on them to ventilate their grievances and seek redress at the election petitions tribunals. The constitution in the Sixth Schedule 1 (3) and 2(3) states that the Chairman and other members of the election petitions tribunals shall be appointed by the President of the Court of Appeal in consultation with the Chief Judge of the State, the Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the state or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the state, as the case may be.
Election Dispute Resolution has been part of our jurisprudence and it is a form of checks and balance on the activities of the executive arm whose agency, INEC, conducts the elections. In an electoral process, the three arms of government play different roles. The National Assembly designs the legal framework for the elections through constitution amendments as well as the passage of the enabling Electoral Act. The President which represents the executive arm has to assent to the bills while INEC which is also under the Presidency conducts the polls. The judiciary adjudicates on election disputes be it pre-election matters such as those arising from the candidate nomination process (party primaries) or Election Day issues.
We are now at the post-election phase and this period is as important as when the polls were conducted. It needs be understood that only the election tribunals can review and reverse what the INEC Returning Officers have declared. There was no time that the importance of election tribunals was felt in our 93 years of electoral democracy (since 1922) than in the lead up to and even after the 2007 general elections. There were a number of locus classicus decisions made during that era by Nigerian courts, especially the Supreme Court. It will be recalled that five days to the April 2007 presidential election, the Supreme Court ruled that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, having been lawfully nominated by his political party, the Action Congress, had been unlawfully excluded by the INEC on the grounds of a dubious indictment by an administrative panel of inquiry set up by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who then had also unilaterally declared the VP’s office vacant because he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the AC. The Supreme Court ruled that the VP should be put on the ballot and INEC had to reprint about 65 million presidential ballot papers less than a week to the polls.
Other notable court and election tribunal decisions led to the retrieval of the stolen mandate of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, and Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. That Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was sworn in as governor without contesting or campaigning in the governorship election of 2007 was made possible by the Supreme Court which set aside his substitution and disqualification by the PDP after contesting and winning the party’s governorship primaries in December 2006. Today, by virtue of courts and tribunals decisions, we now have off-cycle governorship elections in seven states namely Kogi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Anambra, Edo, Osun and Ondo states. But for the judiciary that gave correct interpretations of the intendment of Section 180 of the Nigerian Constitution, some unscrupulous governors were living under the assumption that their tenure starts to count from the date they were sworn in after an election tribunal ordered re-run elections and not when they were first sworn in after their disputed elections.
Before the 2010 constitution and Electoral Act amendments which now reformed the election dispute resolution procedures, there used to be five members in each of the tribunals while there was no timelines for resolving the disputes. All that has changed. Due to paucity of judges, the relevant portion of the constitution has been reviewed to limit the number of EPT members to chairman and two others judges. The timeline for filing of petitions is also now pegged at 21 days after election result declarations (Section 134 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended) while the tribunals have a maximum of 180 days to adjudicate on the matter (Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution as amended in 2010 as well as Section 134 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended), 60 days each is set aside for appeals at the appellate courts.
As the aggrieved political parties and candidates troop to the election tribunals to seek redress on their electoral losses, it is important to sound these notes of warning and admonish our judicial officers on the need for them to act right. Having worked closely with the Office of the President of the Court of Appeal in my former employment, I do know of the daunting challenges before tribunal judges and their coordinator which is the Office of the President of the Court of Appeal. I do know of the paucity of funds to give the best welfare for the judges; I know of the many malicious and unfounded petitions usually sent to the President of Court of Appeal seeking removal of some members or disbandment of some panels by some desperate politicians and their legal teams. I also do know of the threats to the lives of these honourable men and women who would have to leave their comfort zones – states, courts and families to go on national assignments in a totally unfamiliar environment. I am also not ignorant of the inducements some desperate politicians usually dangle before them in order to procure judicial victories. I want to enjoin them to shun such entreaties and perform their duties professionally, conscientiously and with the fear of God. I know it is not a mean task but they should strive to dispense justice and not judgment. They should not dwell on technicalities but the merits of the petitions brought before them. They should not allow lawyers, particularly the senior ones, to intimidate them but should be in firm control of their tribunals. I need not remind them that the alternative to justice is anarchy and self-help is one thing we do not want the aggrieved to resort to. Best wishes.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Buhari and challenge of delivering dividends of democracy

The 2015 elections have largely been conducted save for the supplementary governorship elections to be conducted this Saturday in Taraba, Imo and Abia states. In spite of the large number of losers who conceded defeats, many of the defeated candidates and political parties are heading for the election petitions tribunals to seek redress. That is a good omen. It is better to ventilate your grievances at the tribunal rather than on the street.
After elections, comes governance and as we approach the May 29 handover date, it is important to chip in some words of advice to our newly elected leaders to guide them in their onerous task of administering a complex entity like Nigeria. The incoming administration of the All Progressives Congress campaigned on the slogan of Change! This may be a vacuous battle cry unless we, the citizens, make a concerted demand of our elected representatives for a positive change. Change, as we know, is double-faced. It could be for better or for worse. It could be positive or negative as well.
In governance, like in economics, demand engenders supply. Many of us are eying dividends of democracy. We have both the hardware and software of this. The hardware dividends are made up of the tangibles. The concrete things like uninterrupted electricity supply, modern health care facilities, world-class educational institutions, good roads, pipe borne water, employment opportunities, and low cost housing, security of lives and properties. As for the software of democracy dividends, we are talking of the rule of law (i.e. supremacy of the law, equality before the law and civil liberties or what many of us know as fundamental human rights). It also consists of separation of powers and checks and balances among the three arms of government.
I was a guest on “Mementos”, a radio programme of Premier FM 93.5, which is the Ibadan Zonal Station of the Radio Nigeria on Monday, April 20, 2015. The current affairs programme is anchored by Olubukola Enimola and Adedamola Tinubu where my colleague and I discussed the issue of checks and balances among the three arms of government and how the incoming government can work harmoniously to deliver on its campaign promises.
One of the distinguishing features and the beauty of the presidential system of government is the concept of separation of powers. This ensures that the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government are independent of one another unlike what obtains in the parliamentary system where there is fusion of powers as members of the cabinet are picked from the parliament. In order to ensure that each of these arms is not a lord unto itself and that they do not misuse the powers vested in them by the constitution, there are checks and balances. These controls make the three arms to work as a complete system. They need one another to survive and succeed.
It is true that the legislature makes laws, the executive implements the law and the judiciary interprets the law. However, the legislature performs oversight functions on the executive to ensure optimum performance. The executive formulates policies and drafts annual budget estimates, but it cannot spend money without the express approval of the legislature. The appointment of high ranking judicial officers such the President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Justice of Nigeria and even Supreme Court Justices have to be approved by the Senate just as high profile appointment of members of the executive such as minsters, ambassadors, heads of parastatals and boards of government institutions have to be approved by the upper legislative chamber – the Senate. The President also has veto power over legislative bills while the parliament can also override presidential veto.
Under the outgoing administration, the relationship between the executive and legislative arms, particularly at the federal level has been frosty and adversarial. Though the Peoples Democratic Party controls the two branches, it could not have been worse if they belong to different political parties. There is no area where the bickering of the two arms are most blatant than on the issue of appropriation. The National Assembly never fails to condemn the Federal Government, particularly the Presidency for late submission of budget estimates for the parliament’s review and passage, low budget performance, unrealistic oil benchmarks, lopsided capital vis-a-vis recurrent budget ratio which is at the ratio 10:90. On some occasions, the President has refused to append his signature to the appropriation bills passed on to him by the National Assembly on the grounds that they were unimplementable.
As Muhammadu Buhari steps in as the next president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, expectations are high on the part of the Nigerian masses that it is going to be business unusual from May 29. However, if the incoming government will succeed, there has to be a cordial, collaborative working relationship among the three arms of government and the three tiers of government viz. the federal, state and local governments. A tree, the saying goes, does not make a forest. Unless national interest is paramount in the heart and mind of the operators of the system, there will be little or nothing to cheer at the end of the term of the incoming administration.
Buhari claimed to be a converted democrat having been a dictator as a military Head of State between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985. Under this democratic dispensation, his strength of character will be put to test as he cannot rule by fiat but has to negotiate with varied political interests many of which backed his election for diverse personal reasons. Buhari will soon learn that he will have to hurry slowly and needs to convince his lieutenants about the need to put Nigeria first and not their own personal aggrandisement. I agree with those who have suggested to him not to get involved in the election of the leadership of the National Assembly as his predecessors had done. The good thing is that his political party, the APC, won the majority of seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives and as such will produce the leadership of both chambers. Also, he should steer clear of the politics of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. He should learn from the outgoing presidency which tried to foist a leadership on the NGF only to be rebuffed. Again, the APC has majority of the governors and whoever emerges as the chairman of the forum will likely be from the APC.
While Buhari should not be unduly meddlesome in the affairs of the other branches and levels of government, he must strive to have good working relationships with them all. Besides, he should run an inclusive, open and transparent government and should avoid any form of shadow-boxing and witch-hunt, and remain disciplined, honest and focused as well as appoint the best men and women into his cabinet irrespective of political affiliations, gender, religious beliefs, social status and ethnic backgrounds.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

President Jonathan’s veto of the 4th Amendment to the 1999 Constitution

Less than seven weeks to the end of the current political dispensation, the legislative and executive arms of the government have continued to engage themselves in buck-passing as to why the 4th amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly has not been ratified. KEHINDE ADEGOKE of Daily Newswatch had a chat with the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja Mr. Jide Ojo:

 1.       What is your take on this please?

I wish to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for acting in accordance with the Constitution by refusing to assent to the 4th amendment to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with reasons as required of him by section 58 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The section gives the President a 30-day grace period to assent or decline to append his signature on any bill passed to him but he has to offer explanations for such an action.

I wish the President had towed this line of constitutionalism on the other 40 bills or thereabout that have been passed to him for assent but which he has refused to sign neither has he offered any reasons for the withholding of assents. I have opined in my column on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 in The Punch newspaper that the president has not acted in the national interest and as a patriot by so doing. I sad inter alia  “That President Jonathan has about 40 pending unsigned legislative bills gathering dust on his table was alleged by members of both chambers of the National Assembly. First to make it public was the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Information, Zakari Mohammed, while delivering a lecture recently at an event organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Ibadan, Oyo State. It was also among the 14 political sins some senators accused the President of while gathering signatures to impeach him after the Peoples Democratic Party primaries last November.”

2.       Will President Jonathan assent to these bills before he leaves the office?

I do not think so unless those grave observations he made are addressed by the National Assembly. The Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, in a newspaper interview said that the National Assembly could still examine the President’s arguments and further amend the bill for his assent before the expiration of the current legislature. It would be recalled that the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Amendment had immediately commenced two day retreat on April 15 and 16, 2015 on the president’s seven page observations with a view to guide the National Assembly on the next line of action. Whether the National Assembly can further amend the already altered proposals is doubtful considering the fact that the amendment has gone through full legislative process and actions which includes holding of public hearings and getting the concurrence of two-thirds of the State legislative assemblies on the amended portions of the Constitution. It must be recalled that the current attempt to amend the 1999 Constitution for the fourth time commenced in 2012 with a lot of resources (time, energy, money, research) committed to the exercise.

3.       What happens to the Bills if he fails to give his assent?

If the president refuses to assent to the constitutional amendment as it is with the case under review, the legal options left for the legislature is to override the president’s veto. Section 58 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended states that: “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law, and the assent of the President shall not be required.” That to me is the most plausible option left if the 7th National Assembly intends to salvage their three years effort at amending the Constitution from imminent death.

4.       Would efforts of members of the National Assembly be in vain?

It can only be in vain if they fail to muster two-thirds of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives to pass the amendments thereby overriding the president’s veto. The possibility of this is high as elections are over and majority of members have been reported to have lost their re-election bid. The motivation to attend legislative sessions may therefore not be there again for the losers. However, if the leadership can rally them to attend and vote in support of the amendments they would have performed an historic feat and demonstrate their independence and patriotic zeal which will go a long way to deepen our democracy.

5.       What would also happen to the money spent by the Federal Government on the constitutional amendment?

There is no two ways about it, the billions of Naira spent on the constitutional amendment exercise would be money flushed down the drain unless the National Assembly successfully overrides the presidential veto. Beyond the money however is the collateral damage the non-successful amendment of the constitution will have on other beautiful, needful, and desirable amendments that are not contentious but which will get swept away by the few controversial ones highlighted by the President.  

6.       What would be your advice to President Jonathan, and the National Assembly?

My advice to President Jonathan is to sign the over 40 bills that have been passed to him or write to the National Assembly to state his reasons for vetoing those bills. It is painful that the huge resources spent in minting new laws is not being factored in by the president likewise the salutary effects the signing of those bills will have on good governance.  One of the many unsigned bills is the National Disability Bill which aims to give a new lease of life to the over 22 million persons with disabilities in Nigeria who are suffering a lot of discriminations and neglect. The bill proposed the setup of National Disability Commission which will see to the proper welfare of these PWDs. I implore President Jonathan to sign this bill and make it a good sendoff gift to the community of PWDs.

As regards the National Assembly, they should rise above partisan interests and overrides the president’s veto particularly on this constitutional amendment. I agree with the president on the procedural error of the NASS using voice vote rather than actual voting in the passage of the amendments. If the law permits them to re-vote on the amendments and remove some of the controversial amendments, they should do so. However, what must be guarded against is allowing all their three years efforts at amending the Constitution for the fourth time to be in vain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Now that power has changed hands

Welcome to the new Nigeria! Sequel to the general elections held on March 28 and April 11, 2015 in the country, power has finally changed hands from one political party to another at the centre as well as in many states. The routing of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party by the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, which began on March 28 was completed on April 11. During the first leg of the polls, the APC defeated the PDP at the presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives elections. By the results of governorship election thus far released as of Monday, April 13, 2015 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the APC has won in 19 states namely Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states. The PDP has only managed to win in seven states. They are Rivers, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Delta states. Unfortunately, elections were stalemated and declared inconclusive in three states – Abia, Imo and Taraba. It will be recalled that there were no governorship elections in seven states – Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo, Osun, Edo, Ekiti and Anambra.
These elections had thrown up a number of firsts. It is the first time in this Fourth Republic (i.e. 1999 to 2015) that the PDP would lose power at the centre and many of the states (Both executive and legislative arms). It is the first time two deputy governors would be elected governors to succeed their principals. This happened in Kano and Ebonyi states. It is the first time three governorship elections will be declared inconclusive. It is the first time an opposition political party would defeat the ruling party in states like Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Adamawa, Plateau, and Benue. It is the first time peace accords would be signed by political parties and their candidates contesting presidential and governorship elections.
Furthermore, it is the first time many candidates would concede defeat and call to congratulate the winners. This happened first at the national level when President Goodluck Jonathan called to congratulate Muhammadu Buhari on March 31, 2015. This exemplary conduct had been emulated by defeated governorship candidates in Niger, Benue, Adamawa, Lagos, Kaduna, and Oyo States. It is also the first time so many incumbent governors will lose their senatorial ambitions to the opposition party. This happened in Adamawa, Niger, Bauchi, Kebbi and Benue. Lastly, it is the first time that an incumbent governor would win re-election in Oyo State. That feat was performed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
At the level of the Independent National Electoral Commission, it is the first time machine readable Permanent Voter Cards and Smart Card Readers would be used. On a lighter note, it is interesting to note that the two frontline governorship candidates in Sokoto State were brothers-in-law. I learnt the governor-elect who is also the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives is married to the younger sister of the PDP governorship candidate, Ambassador Abdallah Wali. It was also reported that the governor-elect in Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, will be sworn in by his mother-in-law, Justice Fati Abubakar, who is said to be the state’s Chief Judge. Well, congratulations to all the winners of the March 28 and April 11 polls. I wish them all fruitful and successful tenures in office.
As the curtain draws on the elections, a number of issues need to be dealt with. It is saddening that many lives are still being lost to election-related violence. The APC in Rivers State alleged that about 55 of its members had been murdered prior to the April 11 governorship poll. Some few lives were again lost last Saturday while multimillion naira properties were also destroyed. INEC in a press statement released on April 12 said, inter-alia, that, “Overall, many parts of the country remained relatively peaceful during the elections. Some states, however, recorded a significant number of violent incidents, the most affected being Rivers, AkwaIbom, Cross River, Ebonyi and Ondo states. INEC’s records show that there were 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling units, the Commission’s officials, voters and election materials. These were in Rivers State (16 incidents), Ondo (eight), Cross River and Ebonyi (six each), Akwa Ibom (five), Bayelsa (four), Lagos and Kaduna (three each), Jigawa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun (two each), Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Imo, Kano and Ogun (one each).” Some deaths had also been recorded in Taraba State after the violent protests of April 13, 2015.
INEC during its forthcoming post-election audit retreat should do well to find lasting solutions to the glitches still being experienced on the Smartcard Readers and logistic challenges. Distribution of the PVCs should resume forthwith to enable those who still have interest to collect their cards to so do. Public enlightenment on how to transfer registration details by those who are interested in doing so should also be embarked on.
Now that we sought change of government and we have had our noble heart desires granted, our job as the electorate have not ended. In fact, it just began. We need to set an agenda for the incoming administration both at the centre and at the state levels. We need to hold our newly elected representatives to account. We need to demand the implementation of their campaign promises. We need to revisit their party manifestoes and start to demand of them full actualisation of those promises. There are several ways we can do this: Through advocacy visits, newspaper articles and letters to the editor, press releases, press conferences, memoranda and petitions to their constituency offices, town hall meetings, newspaper advertorials, social media commentaries, peaceful street protests, etc. Impeachment and recall are also two legal instruments we can use to bring an unpopular and failing government down rather than tolerating four years of maladministration.
My own agenda to the incoming APC administration at the centre is that the new government should not throw away the baby with the bathwater. It should audit all the ongoing projects of the Federal Government, study all committee reports and continue with the good ones while discontinuing with the bad ones. I want Buhari to run a small government. We don’t need a cabinet of 42 ministers. Yes, the constitution recommends that each state should have a representative in the Federal Executive Council, the ceiling of that should be 36. The incoming administration should discontinue with sponsorship of pilgrimages to Holy Lands be it Hajj or Isreal. He should do well to sell off the 11 aircraft in the presidential fleet and retain only two. The APC government should not only fight corruption but should be seen to do so without minding whose ox is gored. The culture of impunity should be broken in our society. Perpetrators of electoral violence should be investigated, arrested and prosecuted. Oil theft should be decisively dealt with the same for the insurgency plaguing the country. The perennial problem of the energy sector (oil and gas as well as electricity) should be solved. Best wishes in your new Herculean assignments.
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Vote buying and electoral fortunes in Nigerian politics

The March 28 national elections had come and gone but the echoes are still very loud and clear. The behemoth called Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which had hitherto promised to rule Nigeria for minimum of 60 years and had been in power at the center since 1999 met its waterloo. The party was roundly defeated by its main challenger, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in both the presidential as well as Senate and House of representatives elections. It is a positive political tsunami which is bound to have salutary effect on our democratic culture. It shows that power belongs to the people and an incumbent government, no matter how powerful or influential, can be voted out.

If money is the sole determining factor in the March 28, 2015 polls, APC would not have been able to inflict such incalculable damage on the ruling party. This is because PDP has a sizeable war chest which it puts to use during the electioneering campaigns. It would be recalled that the party on December 20, 2014 held a fundraiser in Abuja where it garnered a princely sum of N21 billion. The party in the course of its campaign organized the most flamboyant political rallies, spent most on advertisement and engaged most in vote buying.

It was reported that the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan gave a whooping N7 billion to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for sharing among the Christian clerics to buy their support for his re-election bid. In a February 19, 2015 edition of The Punch, a Borno-based Pastor, Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, alleged that the CAN got the said money (N7bn) on January 26, 2015 and disbursed N3m to each State Chairmen of the association across the country. Before Musa-Dikwa’s confession, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, had earlier broken the news that President Goodluck Jonathan gave pastors across the country N6bn to vote against the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), in the presidential election.

In another report published by Sunday Punch on March 15, 2015, the newspaper reported that the President and his team doled out various amounts of money in dollars to monarchs from South West geo-political zone during his recent visits to the states in the region. Competent sources allegedly disclosed to the newspaper correspondents that a handful of Obas received as high as $250,000 each, while the least paid were traditional rulers of small towns who were given $10,000 each. Sunday Punch went on to report in the same edition that “The windfall from the President is not limited to traditional rulers alone as groups and individuals have also benefitted hugely from it. The groups, which included market women, students, professional and ethnic groups…. made between $5,000 and $100,000 in Lagos.”

Not done yet The Punch in its March 16, 2015 edition reported the accusation leveled against President Goodluck Jonathan administration by the   All Progressives Congress for sponsoring ethnic militias such as the Oodua Peoples Congress and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra to foment trouble before, during and after the general elections. The APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said N9bn was recently paid out to the OPC, MOSSOB and a few others to scuttle the polls. Indeed, Oodua Peoples Congress on March 16 went on street protest in Lagos in support of President Jonathan’s re-election bid, while at the same time calling for the sack of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. While it cannot be ascertained if OPC and MASSOB received the said amount, it was however on record that the ethnic militias were offered oil pipeline surveillance and protection job by the federal government. It was a multibillion contract which allegedly took effect on March 16, 2015 according to The Nation newspaper of March 12, 2015.

While addressing a press conference on Monday, March 9, 2015, Centre for Social Justice had accused the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress of squandering over N4.96bn on campaigns. The Lead Director, CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said the PDP expended N3.5 billion on publicity between December last year and February this year while the APC spent N1.42 billion during the same period. According to Eze, the APC spent N332 million in the newspapers to campaign for Mr. Buhari and another N1.09 billion in other media outlets. On its part, the PDP spent N1.05 billion in the print media to promote Mr. Jonathan and another N2.5 billion in other media outlets.

The point here is that given the quantum of resources allegedly deployed into the 2015 General Elections by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential standard bearer, Goodluck Jonathan, the party should have won with a landslide. The reverse is however the case as the party lost its leadership of both the executive and legislative arm of government on March 28. This is very instructive. It reveals that vote buying alone is not the magic wand to winning elections in Nigeria. Although money matters, other factors that determines good electoral fortunes include the popularity of the party seeking the votes, the personality of the candidates, primordial sentiments such as ethnicity, religion, economic status, academic qualification, oratorical prowess as well as party manifestoes, state of the economy, security, infrastructure and the ability of the governing party to deliver on its electoral promises.

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


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Was APC’s victory on March 28 God ordained?

“Not to be a little superstitious is to lack the generosity of the mind
—De Qunicey
Ahead of the March 28, 2015 elections into the office of the President, Senate and House of Representatives, there were a lot of predictions made by prophets, metaphysicians, and other spiritualists about who would win what. Of particular importance were the forecast made on who would win the presidential election between President Goodluck Jonathan and his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari. Many of the prophecies gave victory to the incumbent President while only a few gave it to Buhari. One may be tempted to ask, what has God to do with elections?
However, Nigeria being a highly religious society, many people seek ‘the face of the Lord’ or gods in order to know the outcome of their ventures or endeavours. It was therefore not totally surprising that President Goodluck Jonathan became a “political evangelist” in the run-up to the March 28 elections as he visited and worshipped in many churches seeking prayer support for his re-election ambition as well as votes of the church members. Though the President might have done his political evangelism openly, there are many of his fellow politicians who did theirs “Nicodemously”, I mean secretly. It is an open secret that politicians spend a lot of resources consulting prophets, “alfas”, fortune-tellers, star-gazers and marabouts in order to enhance their victories at elections.
In the March 28 polls, a number of “spiritual things” are presumed to have influenced the victory of Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the APC. When on February 16, former President Olusegun Obasanjo asked that the chairman of the PDP in his ward, Surajudeen Oladunjoye, should tear his membership card, some theologians likened the act to tearing down the PDP government in Nigeria. They compared the act to what transpired between King Saul and Prophet Samuel in the Bible in 1 Samuel 15 verses 27 and 28 in which the prophet made a pronouncement that, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbour, who is better than you…” when King Saul mistakenly tore the cloth of the prophet.
On March 28, something significant also happened. The Independent National Electoral Commission had deployed four Smart Card Readers to the polling unit where President Jonathan would vote in his Otuoke hometown in Bayelsa State. Ironically, when the number one citizen and his wife arrived for accreditation, the SCR failed to authenticate him and his wife. For more than 10 minutes the electoral workers did everything they could but the machines did not authenticate the first couple. It was a moment of national embarrassment for the first citizen and INEC as all the drama took place in the full glare of international and national media. Eventually, manual accreditation had to be done for the President and his wife. Curiously, at the same polling unit, the President’s aged mother, Eunice, was promptly and duly verified and authenticated by the same card reader that rejected his son and wife. In Daura, Katsina State where the President’s main challenger voted, both Buhari and his wife, Aisha, had a seamless accreditation with the smart card reader. Did that say something about divine endorsement?
When the results of the election were computed, the APC won by 15,424,921 votes while the PDP’s total vote tally stood at 12, 853,162. Some thinkers went to work and did arithmetic on the results. They added each of the figures in the results together and it amounted to 28 for each of the parties. Was that a coincidence? How come we had the election on March 28 and both parties had results that are 28 when added? The philosophers were not done. They subtracted the total figures for the APC from that of the PDP and it came to 2,571,759 votes. Now, if you add these figures together it comes to 36 which is the total number of states we have in Nigeria. Was that a coincidence too or the hand of God in the election?
If you’re not yet convinced of some celestial involvement in the March 28 polls, how come Buhari became the fourth Nigerian president in his fourth attempt in this Fourth Republic in the fourth month of this year? Ladies and gentlemen, take it or leave it, there is a divine involvement in what happened on March 28. It is unprecedented for an incumbent President to be defeated in an election in Nigeria. More so, for a benevolent President who wields a lot of influence and was on a spending spree, whose political party controls both the executive and the legislative arms as well as majority of the states, it takes more than chanting the change slogan and flowery campaign promises to boot out such a political party at both the executive and legislative arms in one fell swoop.
I must hasten to say that seeking spiritual guidance or metaphysical support about an important assignment is a global phenomenon though the practice may not be as widespread as it is in Nigeria nay Africa. It will be recalled that Europeans engaged the service of Octopus Paul to make prediction on the team that would win in World Cup matches in 2010. According to Wikipedia, “Paul the Octopus (26 January 2008 – 26 October 2010) was a common octopus who supposedly predicted the results of association football matches. He made several accurate predictions in the 2010 World Cup which brought him worldwide attention as an animal oracle. During divinations, Paul’s keepers would present him with two boxes containing food. Each box was identical except for the fact that they were decorated with the different team flags of the competitors of an upcoming football match. Whichever box Paul ate from first would be considered his prediction for which team would win the match. His keepers at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, mainly tasked him with predicting the outcomes of matches in which the German national football team was playing. Paul correctly chose the winning team in several of Germany’s six Euro 2008 matches, and all seven of their matches in the 2010 World Cup-including Germany’s third place play-off win over Uruguay on July 10. Following these predictions, his success rate rose to 85 per cent, with an overall record of 11 out of 13 correct predictions. Aside from his predictions involving Germany, Paul also foretold Spain’s win against The Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final by eating a mussel from the box with the Spanish flag on it.”
Now that power has changed hands at the national level and could change hands in many states after the April 11 governorship and state house of assembly elections, the time has come to remind our newly elected representatives of their campaign promises and make concerted demands of them for the implementation of their manifestoes. Eternal vigilance, it is said, is the price of liberty.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The good, the bad and the ugly sides of 2015 elections

The much awaited 2015 elections started with the presidential and National Assembly polls on Saturday, March 28. I am glad, extremely happy, to have voted in the elections. It’s such a big deal for me being part of history as I participated fully in determining my political leaders for the next four years. As of the time of writing this, results are still trickling in. The projection is however that the wind of change has blown on Nigeria and that Aso Rock may actually have a new occupier by May 29, 2015. It is also still hazy whether the opposition will clinch a majority in either of or both chambers of the National Assembly. I have been doing media rounds as an invited panelist on election analysis both on television and radio. As we receive news feed from the field and analyse the political development, I am more tutored on the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of last Saturday’s elections.
Starting with the good side, there are quite a few of them. Nigerians showed their patriotic nature when they assisted the Independent National Electoral Commission to succeed in the conduct of the elections. They trooped out en masse to exercise their franchise. They were largely orderly in their conduct even in the face of provocation by INEC poll officials’ lateness to commence the elections as well as malfunctioning Smart Card Readers. When the elections dragged till nightfall, some voters volunteered to provide lightening for the smooth conclusion of the exercise which included voting, sorting, counting and announcement of the results. Even where elections had to be postponed till the following day, many voters still turned out to exercise their right to elect their leaders. In the Polling Unit where I voted, by the time I got there at 7:35am, some volunteers had taken it upon themselves to issue numbers to the electorate in order to facilitate smooth conduct of the polls. It is also noteworthy that there was a significant turnout of the elderly, women and persons with disabilities.
Another positive development was the outcome of the elections. In spite of the huge sums spent by some candidates and the power of incumbency exercised by some governors who contested the senatorial seats, some upsets were recorded as some of these candidates with deep pockets lost to their opponents who did not have as much resources and influence. This goes to show that money alone is not the sole formula to winning elections. Instances of such upsets took place in Benue, Kebbi, Niger and Bauchi states where incumbent governors reportedly lost their senatorial elections to opposition candidates. It is also significant that the Igbo in Lagos had decided to put their numerical strength to good use by electing some of their own as their representatives in the House of Representatives. This newspaper reported four of such in its Tuesday edition. This is unprecedented and shows that elections are winnable when popular candidates are fielded irrespective of their states of origin.
It is equally significant that in Anambra State, two out of the three senatorial seats will be occupied by women. In fact, Senator-elect Uche Ekwunife actually defeated a former governor of the state, Dr. Chris Ngige. This feat is historic. The security agents should also be commended for performing their election duties in a very professional manner in many places across the country while the media coverage of the polls was very superb. The accredited observers also acquitted themselves well by ensuring transparency of the entire political process.
Also noteworthy and commendable is the electoral umpire’s transparent and accountable handling of its activities. The sorting, counting, announcement of results as well as final collations and declaration of results were all done in the open and where there were petitions, preliminary investigations were ordered such as with the case of Rivers State where the commission dispatched three national commissioners to investigate the petitions submitted by one of the contesting parties.
On the flip side, the elections were greeted with some perennial challenges one of which is the late commencement of the polls in many of the polling units. Where I voted, the poll officials came in at about 8:35am but the accreditation did not commence until about an hour after as they set up the polling centres and sorted out materials into voting points. This is not an isolated occurrence as the same scenario played out in many other polling units across the country. The late commencement of accreditation made the poll officials tense and was partly responsible for the late conclusion of the exercise in many areas. One wonders when INEC will overcome this recurring challenge. Also, there were noticeable glitches with the Smart Card Readers as the device malfunctioned in many polling units. Although INEC claimed that the device only had problem in about 0.25 per cent of the total Pus, it was widely believed that many of the handlers did not remove the polythene seal on the scanning device hence the inability to authenticate voters. It was also alleged that some of the handlers pressed some wrong buttons hence the malfunctioning. The SCR was also said to be very slow in many polling units.
Aside from that, there were also unproved allegations of swapping of the trained poll workers with others who did not participate in the training. There were also isolated cases of multiple voting particularly where the SCRs malfunctioned and poll officials had to revert to manual accreditation, underage voting, ballot box snatching and electoral violence. A newspaper reported that the National Human Rights Commission claimed that about 50 lives were lost to the Election Day violence across the country. For instance, a soldier was said to have died in Port Harcourt; gunmen also killed some persons in Gombe and Bauchi in attacks said to have been masterminded by some insurgents. In Benue, three poll workers died in vehicle accidents. May the souls of the departed rest in peace. The postponement of seven House of Representatives elections in Jigawa State as a result of insufficient ballot papers is unfortunate.
The ugly side of the last Saturday’s election includes the inability of the SCRs to verify and authenticate President Goodluck Jonathan at his Otuoke polling unit in Bayelsa State. This was despite the fact that four SCRs were deployed to his unit. Also, the attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party presidential collation agents to scuttle the announcement and declaration of results was scary, undemocratic and reprehensible.
All said, INEC should return quickly to the drawing table to tighten the nuts and bolts of its preparations for the April 11 governorship and state House of Assembly elections. The issues of late commencement of polls, malfunctioning card readers and other challenges noticed in last Saturday’s elections need to be quickly fixed. Congratulations Nigerians!
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