Friday, July 31, 2015

How do we reduce cost of elections in Nigeria?

It was a rainbow coalition of academic juggernauts. They came from private and public universities. Vice chancellors, professors, doctors as well as those who have their PhDs in view, all of them gathered to brainstorm on the recently held Nigeria’s 2015 general elections. The two day forum held in Abuja on July 27 and 28, 2015 was organised by The Electoral Institute arm of the Independent National Electoral Commission.  The event was tagged “National Conference on The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria: The Real Issues.”  In attendance at the opening ceremony were the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, the chairman of the Board of Electoral Institute, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, the Director General of TEI, Prof. Abubakar Momoh, some national commissioners of INEC, Directors in the electoral commission, members of the donor community, and INEC partners. Prof. Adele Jinadu gave a keynote address.

I was there too, even though I felt like a fish out of water, not being a thoroughbred academic. However, I was privileged to have had my abstract accepted and got the nod to draft a paper titled “Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections and Political Finance”  About 95 of us made it through as paper presenters out of 391 abstracts received after the initial call for papers. According to the DG of TEI, the over 90 papers received will be published in four volumes by TEI after they must have been peer reviewed. This initiative by Prof. Momoh is laudable and unprecedented in the history of electoral commissions in Nigeria.

My paper which is one of the several presented on political finance dwelt on how the issue of party and candidates campaign finance panned out in the lead up to the 2015 general elections. In the work, I did a brief introduction on the  research topic. Thereafter, I examined some of the international and national legal instruments guiding political finance. These include the Article 7 (3) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as well as Article 10 of the African Union Charter on Preventing and Combating Corruption which stated that each State Party shall adopt legislative and other measures to: (a) Proscribe the use of funds acquired through illegal and corrupt practices to finance political parties and (b) incorporate the principle of transparency into funding of political parties.

Among the national legal instruments examined were  the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended; the Electoral Act 2010, as amended; Companies and Allied Matters Act (2004); Code of Conduct for Political Parties (2013); Political Finance Manual and Handbook (2015); and INEC  Guidelines and Regulations  for Political Parties (2013) ).

I submitted that in the lead up to the 2015 General Elections, Nigerian political parties adopted five prong methods to raise monies for their electioneering campaigns. These are: Expression of Interest and Nomination fees; Fundraising luncheon and dinner; Electronic donation platform (particularly All Progressives Congress); Membership fees and Use of state and administrative resources. I chronicled with examples that some of the political finance abuses recorded during the 2015 electioneering period include: Illegal expenditure including vote buying; Funding from infamous sources; Abuse of state and administrative resources; Personal enrichment (bribery of delegates to party primaries); Political contributions for favours, contracts, or policy change (activities of Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, Door-to-door campaign group,  etc) and Limiting access to funding for opposition parties.

I asserted that Nigeria’s 2015 elections were the most expensive in the country’s history of electoral democracy. However, in spite of the huge resources deployed by candidates and political parties to capture electoral victory, the paradox of the elections was that financial ‘war chest’ was not able to guarantee the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) success at the polls especially given the election tsunami that swept the party off its presidential seat and control of the National Assembly. PDP also lost 20 gubernatorial seats to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) out of the 29 where governorship elections were held in April 2015.

The paper also dwelt on INEC’s campaign finance control measures taken ahead of the elections. These include:  Restructuring of the Political Party Monitoring and Liaison Department. This department was merged with Election Monitoring and Observation Unit to form Election and Political Monitoring Department; Publication of “Guidelines and Regulations for Political Parties 2013”; Drafting of seven Political Party and Candidate election expenses tracking forms;  Review of the 2011 Political Party Finance Manual and Handbook; Training and deployment of political finance tracking officers to monitor the campaign finance of political parties and candidates as well as actual tracking of campaign fund  of  8,173 candidates that participated in the March/April 2015 general elections. I also mentioned the collaborative efforts of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems as well as Centre for Social Justice in this regard.   I ended the paper with 20 legal, policy and institutional reforms needed to enhance disclosure and control of political finance in Nigeria.

The paper was well received. However, I asked a nagging question during the interactive session that followed. The poser is, how can Nigeria reduce the cost of elections? I asked given the fact that there was unanimity of views that the last general election was held at a prohibitive cost. I didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Perhaps, you, my reader, knows.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Citizens’ role in good governance

Oftentimes, we blame our country’s underdevelopment on bad leadership. We point accusing fingers at the political elite, particularly the elected public office holders, blaming them for the country’s woes. In the development work that I have been involved for close to two decades, the buzz words after the elections are on citizens’ engagement to hold government to account. We always mount pressure on elected representatives at both the legislative and executive arms of government to deliver on their campaign promises. We classify such pledges made during the electioneering period as social contract between the government and the citizens which must be fulfilled. I duly and truly subscribe to the mobilisation of the citizens to demand and indeed fight for their rights and even privileges. However, the citizenry, I dare say, cannot solely be on the demand side of good governance. They have to also be on the supply side. How do I mean?
For me, while it is a good and noble thing to demand dividends of democracy from our elected and even appointed leaders, we as citizens also have a role to play to bring about these dividends. It is true that liberal democracy provides for civil liberties and that good governance is hinged on security and welfare of the citizens. However, government, by this I mean, political heads of government institutions alone cannot by themselves, without the cooperation of the rest of the society, get the job done. Let me drum this home with some examples.
Many a time, we pontificate about corrupt politicians. However, some of us are culpable and vicariously responsible for the creation of these corrupt crops of politicians. Our notion of a successful politician is that he or she is rich and must therefore be our Automatic Teller Machines that must always cough up money on request. I have heard many politicians complain about the huge number of their constituents who daily besiege their homes and offices requesting financial favours. These people many of whom are party members go to the political leaders for their children’s school fees, settlement of hospital bills, funds for social events such as weddings, naming, funerals, feeding allowances and many more.
These people who constitute themselves as parasites on politicians care less whether the funds being used to meet these endless requests are stolen or worked for. The immediate past Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, thought he was doing the right thing when he focused on infrastructural development of the state rather than sharing the resources of the state to some political vermin. How wrong he was. The Ekiti people acknowledged and appreciated the solid, physical infrastructural development but asked also for “stomach infrastructure”. We saw how he lost the June 21, 2014 election solely on account of his unwillingness to share out the state resources to the greedy and needy constituents.
We all want good things of life but a large chunk of Nigerians do not want to pay tax. I dare say that only those who work in the formal sector are compelled to pay tax by virtue of the fact that such taxes are deducted from source under the Pay As You Earn system. With the exception of the government workers and those in the organised private sector, the rest of us will rather dodge paying tax. Voluntary compliance with tax obligation is rare in Nigeria. Many of us who even claim to pay tax pay far less than we ordinarily should pay. This is made possible by hiring rogue tax consultants who help to do the dirty job.
As with the payment of Personal Income Tax, so it is with the compliance with every other forms of taxes, levies, duties and tolls. Many companies are not paying the right company tax. Many goods importers under-declare in order to reduce their import duties. Some even engage in outright smuggling in order to evade payment of customs and excise duties altogether. Many motorists try to evade paying tolls in those days when we had toll gates. Even part of the reasons for the stoppage of collection of tolls on our federal highways was due to corruption by those manning the gates who went to print their own tickets and sell more of theirs than those of the government.
Yes, it is desirable to have good governance but how realisable will that be when some of the citizens engage in all manner of criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, banditry, vandalism, copyright piracy, oil theft, scamming and cultism? There is no gainsaying the fact that but for the sabotage activities of gas pipeline vandals, electricity generation would have improved tremendously in the country.
Even the inability of the Nigerian government to successfully prosecute the campaign against the activities of the insurgents was largely because of the fifth columnists in government and communities in the areas where these terrorists operate. These saboteurs leak vital information to these enemies of the country and thereby foil the well-orchestrated plans of the Nigerian troops.
Many motorists do not observe traffic rules. To them, traffic lights are for decorations not to be obeyed. A similar attitude is shown to pedestrian bridges as they are largely ignored by citizens who rather prefer to take a dangerous dash across the highways than take the painful but lifesaving walk across the bridge. Needless to say many have lost their limbs and indeed lives as a result of this act of disobedience. Some of my compatriots are in the habit of building on water plains while many more have the bad habit of emptying their trash cans in the waterways. These have caused avoidable flooding during rainy seasons.
When we exploit other people for our personal advantage such as importing fake, sub-standard or expired products for people’s consumption, under-dispense fuel as petrol attendants, sell with inaccurate measurements or scales, make false financial claims, we should learn to put the blame where it should be, which is on ourselves and not at the doorsteps of government. The point being made is that accountability should be a two-way thing rather than being seen as uni-linear which is from government to the people. People indeed also owe it a responsibility to be accountable to government. Everybody and everyone are needed for the attainment of good governance. The leader and the led owe the country a duty to work robustly together in the national interest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The renaissance of Nigerian music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”   –Bob Marley
I love good music. If there is one thing I am addicted to, it is soulful, joyful noises. I listen to all genres of music from the traditional to the contemporary. I have a stockpile of downloaded music on my phones and personal computers. I have also invested a small fortune buying musical cassettes and compact discs. They range from indigenous juju, fuji, apala, Afro-beat, highlife, and sakara to the contemporary hip-hop, pop, jazz, and rap. I am also in love with country music and gospel. As rightly observed by Taylor Swift, “People haven’t always been there for me but music always has.” What do I love in music? I love the inspiration, the idioms, the creativity, the originality and the relaxation that good music offers.
Among my Nigerian music icons are Sir Victor Abimbola Olaiya, I.K. Dairo, Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba Eto), Tunji Oyelana, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Lijadu Sisters, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe of the Osondi Owendi fame, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Sunny Okosun, Onyeka Onwenu, Oliver De Coque, Lara George and a host of other artistes too numerous to mention.
The evolution of Nigerian music is phenomenal. There was a time highlife ruled the Nigerian music world. Then came juju, fuji and Afro-beat popularised by Fela in the sixties. Thereafter came the Nigerian brand of hip-hop in the early eighties. I remember the likes of Mike Okri, Felix Lebarty, Danny Wilson, Blackky, Chris Okotie, Dizzy K. Falola and Alex Zitto. On the reggae side, we had the Mandators, Oritz Wiliki, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono and Evi Edna Ogholi. The evolution gave way to revolution in the 90s with the emergence of new kids on the block like The Remedies, Plantashun Boyz, Daddy Showkey, Papa Fryo and Daddy Fresh. There was also Junior and Pretty, Maintain group and the Styl-Plus group. The split of The Remedies and Plantashun Boyz gave rise to star artistes like Tuface Idibia, Tony Tetuila and Eedris AbdulKarim.
The revolution of Nigerian music went full cycle with the emergence of Paul and Peter Okoye popularly called P-Square, the relocation to Nigeria from the United Kingdom by Dapo Oyebanjo better known as D’Banj and his ex-producer and business partner, Michael Collins Ajereh, better known as Don Jazzy, Bankole Wellington, aka Banky W, David Adeleke who goes by the stage name, Davido, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, aka Whizkid, and Olamide to mention but a few. In recognition of their creative efforts, they have won lots of international and national awards.
Just last Saturday, July 18, some of them for the umpteenth time did the country proud in faraway Durban, South Africa. It was at the 2015 edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards. At the show popularly called MAMA, Nigerian musicians won in seven categories. Davido rules Africa as the Best Male Act. He won the same award last year. Yemi Alade won the best female artiste in Africa. The inimitable duo of P-Square won two awards. The twin brothers won the “Best Group” award as well as the prestigious “Artiste of the decade” in recognition of their successful longevity at the top of African music. Nigeria’s Patoranking was named the “Best New Act” while his compatriot, D’banj (aka Kokomaster) won the 2015 MTV Evolution award. Don Jazzy led his Mavin Record crew to receive due reward for their single, “Dorobucci”, which came out on top as the “Song of the Year”. To crown the day of glory for Nigeria was Burna Boy who won the “Best Collaboration” award with AKA, Da Les & JR for their hit song “All Eyes On Me”.
It was not only at the MAMA that Nigerian artistes have brought honour to their motherland. They have performed similar feats at other music awards such as Kora, Channel O Music Awards, MTV Europe Music, MOBO, MTV Africa, Headies, BET and African Muzik Magazine Awards popularly known as AFRIMA. These garlanded artistes could be regarded as ambassador plenipotentiaries having given Nigeria positive mentions in international news thereby helping to change the narratives from the country of fraudsters and monsters to that of creative minds.
The value chain of the Nigerian music industry is very long. Kudos must be given to the music recording labels such as Afrodisia, Decca, Ibukun OrisunIye, Rogers, Tabansi, Sony, Premier, EME, Starboy, Chocolate City, Mavin and Kennies. These record labels employ or did employ thousands of workers such as producers, studio engineers, directors and many others. They give the platform for these musicians to realise their dreams of being on vinyl. The artistes themselves have managers and Public Relations outfits that manage their image. There are also the Disc Jockeys in radio and television stations as well as social events who play the music and videos of these musicians thereby popularising their music and burnishing their image. The marketers are also part of the value chain. They help distribute the albums both nationally and internationally.
Mention also has to be made of telecommunication companies who have given endorsements and made some of the star artistes their brand ambassadors. Not only that, they also assist in marketing the music of these artistes by offering their customers opportunity to download their songs as ringtones for tokens. That way, both the artistes and the telecommunication companies make more money. Nigerian musicians have also boosted the dance and movie industry. While their video producers hire choreographer and  dancers to feature in their musical videos, the musicians also make money by producing soundtracks for movies and films. Those selling musical instruments have also been having a field day. Nigerian music, just like their foreign genre, has also boosted radio and television listenership and viewership not only by playing the music but also through the introduction of musical chart countdown such as Top 20 or Top 10 music or music video of the week.
Also noteworthy is the advent of music reality television shows. There is now a Nigerian Idol show sponsored by Etisalat, Project Fame by MTN and the X-Factor show sponsored by GLO. A few of the stars who have emerged through these avenues include Dare Art Alade, Nyanya, Chidinma, Timi Dakolo and Omawunmi Megbele. These artistes apart from winning mouth-watering cash prizes also have recording deals. It was reported that seven Nigerian artistes made the list of the top 10 richest African artistes’ list released by Forbes for 2013, with music producer and CEO of Marvin Records cum rapper, Don Jazzy coming second behind Senegalese American legend, Akon. The third to the sixth positions are also dominated by Nigerian music acts like P-Square, D-Banj, Wiz-Kid and Tuface Idibia; with Ice Prince and Bankky W closing the rear at the ninth and 10th positions. The list was put together, using indices such as endorsement value, popularity, show rates, sales, awards, YouTube views, newspaper appearances and advertisements, social media presence and others. It also comes as the clearest testimony of Nigeria’s music dominance at least in Africa.
Perhaps, the biggest challenge facing the Nigerian music industry, nay the entire entertainment industry, aside from the recurring leadership crisis is intellectual theft otherwise known as piracy. The headquarters of these rogue pirates are at the Alaba International Market in the Ojo area of Lagos. It is heartwarming that on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged a renewed offensive against these thieves. Buhari charged law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators of copyright piracy, their sponsors and collaborators, and bring them to justice. He restated the fact that the practitioners, more than ever before, need the support and backing of government to stem the tide. Well said, Mr. President! Piracy is an economic crime that should carry stiff penalties to be rooted out.
Meanwhile, let the music flow, please!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Barons, couriers and victims of narcotics

The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.
– Nigerian proverb
Since 1987, June 26 of every year is observed as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The General Assembly of the United Nations “recognised that despite continued and increased efforts by the international community, the world drug problem continues to constitute a serious threat to public health, the safety and well-being of humanity, young people in particular, and the national security and sovereignty of states, and that it undermines socio-economic and political stability and sustainable development.” This year’s theme is “Lets Develop — Our Lives — Our Communities — Our Identities — Without Drugs.”
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, “Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.” While the United Nations in 1997 established UNODC to assist member states in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism, at the national level, Nigeria through Decree 48 of 1989, now an Act of Parliament CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, established the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
According to the NDLEA, “In Nigeria, the problem of drugs began to assume very worrisome dimensions at the end of the Second World War following the return of some Nigerian soldiers from, mainly, Burma, India, where they had fought. One of the negative consequences of the war was the return of the soldiers with some seeds of cannabis sativa, also known as Indian Hemp, which they in turn experimented and discovered that the illicit plant could do well in some parts of the country. With time, the cultivation of cannabis sativa began to grow and so was the trafficking and abuse of the cannabis plant. Drug barons soon discovered that the geographical location of Nigeria, its thick population, bustling commerce, and vibrant air transport hold so much attraction for a thriving drug business. This led to the experimentation with Category A drugs such as cocaine, heroin and other psychotropic substances; a situation that has made the country a drug trafficking/transit point.”
Experts are of the opinion that apart from the devastations of the Second World War, no other phenomenon has had more debilitating consequences on mankind like drug scourge. This view is anchored on the fact that even the much dreaded HIV/AIDS which has yet defied any known cure has narcotics as one of its principal causes. Besides, drugs are known to induce social vices, civil upheavals and other forms of criminalities.
Drug trafficking and abuse are a twin demon plaguing Nigeria and this is heart-rending. There is hardly a week in which the NDLEA does not arrest some drug couriers or destroy Indian hemp plantations. The agency’s Chairman/Chief Executive, Ahmadu Giade, recently told stakeholders that the “NDLEA played a very crucial role towards the peaceful conduct of the last general elections. This is because the monetary value of seized drugs and cannabis plant destroyed in 2014 hit a record high of N542bn. This huge amount is mind-blowing and has the capacity to derail the most credible elections. Such proceeds can be used to either subvert the wishes of the electorate or instigate upheavals.”
In an article entitled, “Do the math – why the illegal business is thriving”, Oriana Zill and Lowell Bergman offered insights into the lucrative nature of the illicit trade. According to the researchers, “What keeps the drug industry going is its huge profit margins. Producing drugs is a very cheap process. Like any commodities business, the closer you are to the source the cheaper the product. Processed cocaine is available in Colombia for $1,500 per kilo and sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilo (retail). Heroin costs $2,600/kilo in Pakistan, but can be sold on the streets of America for $130,000/kilo (retail). And synthetics like methamphetamine are often even cheaper to manufacture costing approximately $300 to $500 per kilo to produce in clandestine labs in the US and abroad and sold on the US streets for up to $60,000/kilo (retail).”
Any wonder many Nigerians now volunteer to be recruited as couriers of these deadly substances? The NDLEA claimed to have arrested 3,478 persons between January and May 2015 over drug-related offences. The agency said it also apprehended a suspected drug kingpin, Chukwunwendu Ikejiakwu, aka Blessed, after 13 months of “high level surveillance.” The agency explained that Ikejiakwu led an international drug trafficking organisation that recruited and sponsored drug couriers to China, Malaysia, Turkey and Italy.
In the course of their get-rich ambition, many of these couriers have met their untimely deaths in foreign lands. According to Sunday Sun of May 3, 2015, as many as 132 of Nigerians are said to be on death rows in some Asian countries like China, Indonesia and Singapore. Of this number, 120 of them are on death row in China for drug sales/drug smuggling offences. In Singapore, only one Nigerian is reported to be on death row. At least, six Nigerians had been executed in Indonesia for drug trafficking this year alone. This happened in January and April despite the Nigerian government’s pleading for clemency.
Really, considering the negative impact of narcotics abuse on human life, stiffer penalties need to be meted out on the merchants of these deadly substances in Nigeria. The current punishment seems not to be much of a deterrent. I advocate for the reintroduction of death penalty just as it was in 1984. In the alternative, I propose a minimum of 20 years imprisonment with hard labour, without an option of fine, together with forfeiture of the proceeds of the crime. These merchants of deaths, barons and couriers have destroyed many innocent lives and need to be made to pay dearly for their crimes against humanity.
It is very unfortunate that one of Nigeria’s most popular and talented musicians is currently battling for his life as drug abuse has turned a once very handsome and elegant musician to a frail, shadowy figure who is at the brink of death. Many other less popular persons have been destroyed or rendered insane by these psychotropic substances. Beyond punishments for these merchants of deaths, there is a need for the NDLEA and the National Orientation Agency to partner the media to step up enlightenment campaigns about the evils of drug abuse and trafficking. Religious houses and community leaders should also support the initiative. The NDLEA deserves commendation for the sustained war against narcotics. I appreciate the organisation’s recorded success and solicit better funding and support to enable it perform better. It is imperative for us to develop our lives, communities and identities without drugs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jega’s unfinished business at INEC

On the eve of the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Attahiru Jega on June 30, 2015, I granted an interview to RayPower 100.5 FM on the tenure of the cerebral political scientist as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. In the discourse which was aired last Wednesday, I analysed his achievements, challenges and pointed the way forward for the electoral management body. In fact, Jega and his team could be said to have come, seen and conquered. Among the unprecedented things Jega’s tenure did at INEC are the many reforms he initiated.
Among the innovations brought to bear on the country’s electoral process are the introduction of the chip-embedded Permanent Voter Card and smart card reader. These two increased the integrity quotient of Nigeria’s electoral process. Jega conducted a wholesale voter registration in January/February 2011 and thereafter Continuous Voter Registration. I recall that after the 2011 elections, INEC under Jega went through a lot of restructuring. This was not done spontaneously. A notable organisational management consulting firm was invited to take a look at INEC’s organogram and operational efficiency. It was based on the report of the consulting firm that the restructuring was carried out. In it, many departments were merged and new scope of work given to new directing staff. Of course, some directors lost their exalted job in the process. His tenure also added another layer of administrative officers below the Electoral Officers which before his coming into office was the lowest level of electoral administration in INEC. These admin officers are known as Registration Area Officers who now take charge at the Ward level.
Jega improved on the security features of the sensitive election materials such as ballot papers, ballot boxes and result sheets. He introduced the colour coding system to frustrate election riggers. He introduced the Re-Modified Open Secret balloting system where accreditation and voting are done at different times. In 2011, accreditation was done from 8am-12noon with 30 minutes of voter education before voting would commence at 12:30pm with sorting, counting and announcement of result taking place at the Polling Unit once the last accredited voter in the queue voted. Under this voting system, there was no official closing time for polling. In 2015, the timing was adjusted by an hour increase. That is, accreditation starts at 8am and ends by 1pm while voting commenced at 1:30pm. For the first time, INEC under Jega developed a home grown Strategic Plan 2012-2016. This was put together by INEC staff.
Jega’s term enjoyed a lot of goodwill from the international donor community. These donors supported INEC directly and indirectly by funding some of its programmes and projects. Areas in which their support were most pronounced were Voter Education, Voter Registration, Election Security and Election Day logistics. The support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems which has been working collaboratively with INEC since 1998 led to the establishment of the INEC Graphic Design Centre where the commission now designs and prints some of its election and administrative materials; Election Management System and Election Operation Support Centre from where election day logistics is now tracked. Other donors like the UNDP assisted INEC to produce first of its kind Gender Policy while I-IDEA supported the commission to produce an Election Risk Assessment tool.
A lot of encomiums have deservedly been poured on Jega. However, former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan should equally be commended. While Yar’Adua initiated electoral reform way back in 2007 which culminated in the legal reform of 2010 which among other things put INEC’s funding on the First Line Charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund, Jonathan should be lauded for appointing the immediate past INEC Chairman and board members as well as for not interfering in the activities of the commission unlike many of his predecessors. Also praiseworthy are Jega’s lieutenants. By this I mean his 12 national commissioners, 37 resident electoral commissioners, technical assistants as well as the management and staff of the commission. A tree does not make a forest and if these people had not shared in Jega’s vision, such laudable goals would have been dead on arrival.
A number of things are unique with Jega’s term apart from all the aforesaid. It was the first to conduct two general elections; that is 2011 and 2015. It was under him that we had the first successful merger of political parties to form a formidable opposition party. Hitherto, we had working alliances among the political parties. Jega was the first to also conduct a general election in which a ruling party lost at both the executive and legislative arms of government at the centre.   It was under him that INEC began the monitoring of candidates campaign finances. It is also noteworthy that at present both the acting chairman and the secretary of INEC are women. This is unprecedented! Now, Jega is out with six of his national commissioners and about 16 of the resident electoral commissioners. The immediate challenge before President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is how to find suitable replacements for these crops of patriots who have served their country meritoriously.
The question about what should be the character of Jega’s replacement was posed to me in the radio interview mentioned at the beginning of this article. My response was and still is that Buhari should go for the Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais committee report of December 2008 and follow the laid down guidelines for appointment of INEC chairman and board members. The recommendation calls for public advertisement and shortlist of three nominees by the National Judicial Council to the Senate for final selection. I am in full support of competitive selection process not only for INEC chairman but also the national commissioners and the resident electoral commissioners.
The current system where members are handpicked is not too tidy and above board. Even if President Buhari will not want to cede the power to the NJC, then he needs to ensure that Jega’s replacement and team members have unassailable character, sound knowledge of elections and are team players. We do not need people who will learn on the job as time is very short before off-cycle elections will start rolling in. Between now and 2019, when the next general elections will hold, there are going to be statutory governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states. This is the least as election petitions tribunals currently reviewing the 2015 general elections could still order re-run elections while by-elections would still hold as a result of death, impeachment or resignation of some political office holders. I suggest that Buhari may wish to toe the line of Jonathan by picking from the midst of the 22-member Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee of 2008.
It is worth mentioning that Jega, in spite of his sterling performance, left many unfinished business in INEC. Some of the reforms he initiated are either inchoate or yet to be properly mastered. Among them are the issue of distribution of Permanent Voter Cards and the use of Smart Card Readers. Others include the operationalisation of the Election Day logistics particularly the use of Registration Area Centre camping to ease distribution and movement of election materials. The failed Memorandum of Understanding with the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers which led to the late movement of election materials and commencement of voting procedures during the last elections needs to be revisited. Also deserving of being looked into is the lingering issue of special salary scale for INEC workers and the aborted   amendment of the fourth amendment of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010. The new INEC board needs to lobby the Eighth National Assembly for quick passage of the new electoral framework. Lastly, the incoming board of INEC needs to sustain the goodwill enjoyed by Jega’s board with donor partners, the civil society as well as the political parties under the auspices of the Inter-Party Advisory Council.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

APC’s disappointing start to governance

In an article in this column on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, entitled, “Spot the difference between PDP and APC”, I stated inter alia that “I have asked myself if there is truly a difference between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. As far as I can see, the difference between the two is that between six and half-a-dozen. Perhaps, the difference lies in nomenclature. Yes, the wordings of their party manifestoes may be different but in terms of governance, it will seem they are copying from the same textbook.” Even though in that piece my primary focus was the appraisal of the party’s congresses and national convention of Friday, June 13, 2014 where forced “consensus” option led to the emergence of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the national chairman of the party; since that time a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge. The APC has since moved from being the most vibrant and vociferous opposition party to becoming the ruling party at the federal and most of the states following the 2015 general elections.
It has been some 90 days after the end of the polls and 30 days after the inauguration which took place on May 29. What have Nigerians seen? It’s been a huge disappointment to say the least. At the level of the Presidency, President Muhammadu Buhari is still running the government as a “sole administrator”. He has yet to appoint key aides as well as his cabinet. Information trickling in says this may not be done until late August or early September. Much of the blame was put on the late submission of handover notes by the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. In truth, the handover notes were submitted to the President on the eve of inauguration. Be that as it may, the new government has since received formal response from the Ahmed Joda transition committee since June 12, 2015. It will not be fair on Nigerians to have to wait eternally for the scrutiny of the 800-page report of the committee before President Buhari will kick-start his government.
As things stand, the “motion without movement” of the present administration, as the PDP described it, is impacting negatively on the polity and economy. While the Nigerian capital market reacted positively to the election of President Buhari in April when it gained 8.30 per cent, its single biggest daily gain this year, wiping off the negative year-to-date (YTD) performance, after the INEC declaration, the same market is now reacting negatively to the delay in coming up with any economic roadmap.
According to Thisday newspaper, June 29, 2015, experts warned that “the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in appointing persons to drive his government’s economic blueprint and provide a policy direction for the government about a month after he was sworn in is hurting Nigeria’s business confidence. This is just as market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange has plunged by N353bn since Buhari’s inauguration, as investors continue to react to the absence of a policy direction. In one month of trading since Buhari assumed office, market capitalisation on the Nigerian bourse depreciated by three per cent from N11.568 trillion to N11.215 trillion last Friday while the NSE All-share Index has dipped from 34,044.65 points at the beginning of the month to 32,853.49 points on Friday.”
I quite agree with the submission of the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, who in a press statement released last Sunday, June 28 observed that, “We are deeply worried that the President who promised to unveil his cabinet two weeks after his inauguration has not been able to decide on key appointments such as ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a Chief of Staff and advisers in key sectors of the economy…The delay has brought government business in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to a dangerous standstill with coordination of important policies vested on ministers and the SGF now in tatters while the system drifts.”
I read the rebuttal of the Presidency to Metuh’s barb against the government where the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated among other things that, “The Buhari administration is naturally contemplative because there was absolutely no rhyme or reason to the way the PDP ran the country, particularly in the immediate past dispensation. That is why the Augean Stable is being cleaned now, and it requires scrupulous and painstaking planning. Across all sectors, our national life was devalued, and it takes meticulousness and sure-footedness to repair all the breaches. This, the Buhari administration will deliver.”
To the above assertion I also disagree and my thoughts are in sync with the position of Metuh when he observed that “In Greek mythology, Hercules, in his ingenuity, took the task and efficiently cleared the Augean stable in a day for which he demanded a reward of a tenth of fine cattle belonging to the king. Nigerians would not want to believe that in the so-called clearing of the Augean stable, although not delivering in one day, President Buhari wants to play Hercules in his demand, this time, by wanting to run the government alone without the statutory components of the executive as enshrined in the constitution.”
What Adesina needs to realise is that Nigerians have high expectations from the new government and they have yet to be convinced that the new administration is any different from the last one. In any event, most of the dramatis personae in the APC today were key players in the PDP. The hood does not make a monk just as changing of party platform does not in any way turn a conservative politician to a progressive.   What has really changed? President Buhari promised to publicly declare his assets but has failed to do that. Rather, like ex-President Jonathan, he only followed the status quo by declaring it to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Also, since the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 9, 2015, the two chambers – Senate and House of Representatives – have been embroiled in leadership crises. These have culminated in last Thursday’s shameful fisticuffs on the floor of the House of Representatives and a shouting match the previous day at the APC caucus meeting at the Senate. Since June 9, both chambers have embarked on two recesses. First a two-week adjournment which they resumed from on June 23 only for them to embark on another month-long recess from June 25 to July 21, 2015. To my own mind, these lawmakers do not deserve to be paid for this period of vacation in the midst of national emergency when they ordinarily ought to hit the ground running. The APC, as it were, is holding the entire country to ransom by allowing its internal issues to affect the entire country. With all the leadership positions yet to be filled and committees yet to be established, how can the lawmakers perform their constitutional role of lawmaking, oversight, and confirmation of key appointments of the executive arm?
It is most unfortunate that the APC leadership was largely responsible for the crisis in the National Assembly by trying to impose candidates on its members in the parliament. Perhaps, if the party had not overreached itself by trying to meddle in the elections of the National Assembly leadership, the crisis would have been avoided. If the party must know the truth, it is just an election winning platform. Many of the elected members actually bankrolled their own electioneering and as such it will be difficult to sanction the erring members without incurring disastrous consequences to the party’s electoral fortunes in future elections.
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Another look at the public funding of Nigerian political parties

On June 22 and 23, 2015, the Political Parties Leadership and Policy Development Centre (PPLDC) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in Plateau State  organized a stakeholders conference on 2015 elections with a theme “Political Parties and the 2015 Elections: Lessons Learned and Way Forward.” The conference was held with the support from United Nations Development Programme, Democratic Governance for Development II.    Present at the two day dialogue which was held in Abuja were party chairmen and their secretaries, academics and members of the civil society.  I have the honor of participating as one of the panelists that discussed the paper presented by Professor Abubakar Momoh, the Director General of The Electoral Institute of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The session was chaired by the renowned academic, Professor Etannibi Alemika of the University of Jos.

At the colloquium, the chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council, Dr. Yunusa Tanko advocated, among other things, for the restoration of public funding for the registered political parties in Nigeria. His colleagues in IPAC echoed the same thought in their various interventions. They blamed their poor showing during the 2015 elections on paucity of funds and the use of the State and Administrative Resources by some of the parties who are in control of government offices at state and federal levels. This they said put them at a very great disadvantage as it created an uneven playing field.

The political parties were not alone in their lamentations. Some of the academics also supported their call for the restoration of public funding for political parties. One of such is Prof. Sam Egwu of the Department of Political Science, University of Jos.  According to the scholar, public funding may be helpful in two important ways: 1) Reducing the roles of elected presidents , governors and godfathers who finance party activities and ii) Re-emphasizing the public nature of political parties in order to strengthen the hands of regulatory bodies, civil society and citizens in demanding for a more transparent party system. Prof. Adele Jinadu from Babcock University in his presentation at the conference also advocated for public funding of political parties as a way out of dealing with the debilitating issue of lack of internal party democracy arising from the hijack of the political parties by few moneybags or oligarchs which are regarded as godfathers in local parlance.

Historically, public funding of political parties was introduced in the Second Republic by the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 205 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make laws “for an annual grant to the Federal Electoral Commission for disbursement to political parties on a fair and equitable basis to assist them in the discharge of their functions.” During the aborted Third Republic, the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Retd.) not only promulgated two political parties, Social Democratic Party and National Republican Convention, into existence, he also built party offices for them in all the local governments, states and federal level. According to Prof. Victor Adetula and Ezekiel Major Adeyi in a paper titled “Money, Parties and Democracy in Nigeria” (published in Political Parties and Democracy in Nigeria edited by Olu Obafemi , et al: 2014) “Under the guise of discouraging political ‘godfatherism’ , the two parties were funded by government which literally turned the political parties to government parastatals.”

Contextually, public funding of political parties has been thrice introduced in Nigeria and has been thrice banned. This happened in 1983, 1993 and 2010.  I must hasten to explain that the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria re-introduced public funding of political parties in section 228 (c) which says the National Assembly may by law provide “for an annual grant to the Independent National Electoral Commission for disbursement to political parties on a fair and equitable basis to assist them in the discharge of their functions.”  The 2002 and 2006 Electoral Act specified the sharing formula among the parties. However, the 2010 amendment of the Electoral Act expunged the provision of public funding for political parties as stipulated in section 91 of the 2006 Electoral Act. Since then, INEC has ceased to provide funding for political parties.

It is worth mentioning that it would seem that the public funding of political parties was an incentive for the multiplication of the organization in Nigeria. How do I mean? In 1999 there were three political parties that contested the elections. In 2003 the floodgate was opened as the number swelled to 30. By 2007 there were 50 political parties in Nigeria while the number snowballed to 63 by 2011. The 2010 Electoral Act amendment empowers INEC to deregister political parties who submitted false documentation to get registered or fail to win any elective positions. That led to the deregistration of over thirty political parties. As at the time of conducting the 2015 elections, the number of the political parties has been pruned to 29.

To my own mind, there is still provision for public funding of political parties in Nigeria in as much as section 228 (c) is still extant though similar provision has been expunged in the Electoral Act. However, given the very parlous state of Nigeria’s economy it is most unlikely that the new government will heed the clarion call for the public funding of Nigeria’s political parties.