Thursday, April 4, 2019 6:04 am
For Muhammadu Buhari, the excitement of winning what was unarguably one of the most keenly contested presidential elections in Nigeria’s history seems to be giving way to consideration of the legacy he will leave behind at the end of his eight years in office. “This is my fifth and last time of standing for an election – for that reason I’ll like to leave something behind. And what I want to leave cannot be successfully done without your support,” the President said while soliciting the cooperation of senators-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a dinner he hosted at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on a Monday night after his victory.
Buhari’s meeting with the lawmakers who are already plotting on how to share the leadership position among themselves ahead of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly is itself significant as an indication of his determination to do things in a different way in his second tenure of office. The President had stood aloof, refusing to intervene in the process of emergence of the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly in his first tenure of office. Mallam Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity had repeatedly affirmed that the President was ready to work with whoever emerged as either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the heat of jostling for positions ahead of the inauguration of the about to expire 8th National Assembly.
The President’s aloofness gave way to the hijacking of the National Assembly leadership by hostile forces which, with the support of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP became obstacles to his programmes. “What happened in the last Senate and so on is regrettable because I still feel it shouldn’t take seven months to pass a budget,” the President said while acknowledging the self-inflicted problem during the dinner.
Ready For Another Four Years
Nigerians are waiting to see how Buhari will navigate the fight for positions among the lawmakers to ensure an outcome that will be favourable for meeting the yearnings of Nigerians during his second tenure. The President has also assured that he is in the right frame – health wise to meet the aspirations of Nigerian. Speaking to members of his cabinet who were on congratulatory visit to him few days after he received his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Buhari said the fact that he was able to physically go around all the states of the country during the campaign for election had proven the opposition wrong that he was unfit to govern the nation as well as an indication that he was ready to continue in leading Nigeria for the next four years.
While promising that he will continue with his three-point agenda of fighting insecurity, corruption and fixing the economy, the President was forthright about what to expect: “My last lap of four years, I think, is going to be tough because people are being forgetful. That was why wherever I went; I reminded them of the campaign promise of our party, particularly security, as I kept on saying that you have to secure the country well and institutions. If you don’t secure the country, you can’t achieve anything no matter how many programmes you put in place,” the President told his cabinet members led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
He also spoke about the need to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of the youths who constitute 60 per cent of Nigerian population as well as the need to continue to explore alternative means of revenue due to volatility in the price of crude oil. “The new Administration will intensify its efforts in Security, Restructuring the Economy and Fighting Corruption. We have laid down the foundation and we are committed to seeing matters to the end. We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out,” the President promised while speaking in the first statement he made after he was declared the winner of the presidential election in the early morning of Tuesday, 27 February.
A Victory Against Gang-Up
The President will begin a journey to actualize all his promises when he is sworn – in for his second and final tenure on 29, May. Buhari had secured the ticket for his second term of office with 15,191, 847 votes to defeat his main rival and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who scored 11,262, 978 votes in the presidential election.
The more than four million difference between the winner and the runner up qualified Buhari’s victory to be described as a ‘landslide’ in all ramifications in an election in which voters’ turnout across the country averaged 35 per cent according to INEC.
Some have blamed the low turnout on the sudden postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections early in the morning of 16 February it was first scheduled for. To win the election, President Buhari had to overcome a gang up of religious, regional and other interests arrayed against him and in support of his main opponent, the candidate of PDP. He also overcame trenchant campaign of poor performance and failure to deliver on the promise of his party bequeathing ‘change’ to Nigerians in various areas of national life. The opposition had pointed out that the first four years of the Buhari administration was a ‘disaster’ for Nigerians as it witnessed increased deaths from alleged attacks from herdsmen and other deadly bandits in the North Central and North West parts of the country in the negation of the promise the President to secure the country.
The opposition also pointed out that contrary to his promise when he was seeking election into the office for his first tenure, the President failed to end the Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria. They also pointed out that rather than the buoyancy he promised, the economy went into recession under Buhari’s government while the number of Nigerians living under poverty increased under his administration. In essence, the opposition argued that the APC government lacked the competence to solve the deluge of problems facing the country; hence, there is the need to “Get Nigeria Working Again” as the PDP presidential candidate tagged his campaign message. While also latching on to the ‘incompetence message,’ a pan-national group under the aegis of the Forum of Nigerian Leaders and Elders made up of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum had also warned Nigerians against returning Buhari to office for a second term.
The group which has among its fold prominent Nigerians such as Chief E. K. Clark, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief John Nwodo and Dr. Pogu Bitrus had in addition to the charge of incompetence, accused Buhari of failure to deliver on the promise of restructuring made by APC included in the party’s manifesto. While some Christian leaders with large congregations also joined the fray as they used their pulpits to convince Nigerians not to vote for Buhari, citing as reasons, the inability of the President to stop the killings going on in some parts of the country and an alleged plot by the administration to Islamize the country.
The retired Generals flank of opposition to Buhari’s re-election was led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who did not let any opportunity to ‘de-market’ Buhari slip during the period leading to the election. Obasanjo had repeatedly vowed that he would never support the presidential ambition of Atiku, who he accused of involvement in various corrupt practices as his vice president from 1999 to 2007. But in a swift and surprising turnaround, the former military president virtually took on the role of salesman of Atiku in the campaign period, as he embarked on self – appointed task of selling the candidacy of the PDP presidential candidate locally and internationally. Obasanjo supported Buhari against former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. He attributed his turnaround to alleged incompetence displayed by the APC presidential candidate in his first term office, arguing that re-electing Buhari would be tantamount to ‘rewarding failure.’
“The gang-up against the person of the President of Nigeria happening now is unprecedented. The Vice President said the gang-up is coming from religious, ex-military Generals, civil society, political groups posing as social cultural organisations,” Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the spokesperson of the Buhari Campaign Organisation had told this magazine in the run up to the election. He had also promised then that the Campaign Organisation would continue to educate Nigerians on the need to return Buhari to office for the second term in spite of the apparent gang up which he attributed to opposition to the President’s fight against corruption.
But the Campaign Organization also tried to defend Buhari against allegations of non-performance, citing the President’s ability to take the economy out of recession, completion of projects inherited from his predecessor, anti-corruption drive as well as his massive social investment programmes as evidence that Buhari was living up to his electoral promises.
How The Battle Was Fought And Won
Despite the ‘gang’ up and allegations of non-performance, the President was able to secure a re-election. According to analysts, the question of performance played very little role in the re-election of Buhari. Rather, they argued that voting was based on ethno-religious sentiments in most parts of the country. And though the two major candidates were Muslim and from the Northern part of the country, Buhari had his traditional base of support which had consistently delivered over 10 million votes for him in the past elections.
To emerge victorious, President Buhari won in 19 states – including the two most populous, Lagos and Kano – while Atiku won in 17. “In the end, the electoral map of 2019 closely resembles that of 2015 with most northern and south-western states going to the All Progressives’ Congress.
In Lagos, the All Progressives’ Congress won a slight majority in the face of economic decline but campaigned primarily to get voters to go to the polls. This only partly succeeded. In the north, the All Progressives’ Congress’s vote share generally dropped on a state-by-state level, but turnout was high enough vis-à-vis the south to win the elections overall,” Leila Demarest, Assistant Professor of African Politics, Institute of Political Science, Leiden University, said in his analysis of the outcome of the presidential election. On the contrary, he noted that Atiku failed to make the expected huge gains in the Middle Belt states, “Particularly noteworthy is Atiku’s poor performance in the North in general. His home state of Adamawa was only won with a slim majority,” Demarest added.
The defection of key politicians from the South to the ruling party ahead of the elections as well as the allegations of corruption hanging on the neck of PDP candidate were also some of the factors believed to have worked against Atiku in the election. It was believed that such defections helped Buhari to achieve the more than expected number of votes he polled in the South-south and South-east regions of the country.
The President had polled a total of 198,248 votes in the five states of the South-east in the 2015 general elections. And with Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State on the ballot as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, the President’s performance was expected to be even worse in 2019. But on the contrary, Buhari went on to poll 403,968 votes in the south-east and even scored 25 per cent or more in three states, the first time he would record such feat since he started contesting elections.The APC presidential candidate also garnered the highest votes he ever recorded from the South South zone.
It was gathered that the poor performance of the former Vice President in the Northern part of the country was also due to his repeated assertions that he would sell off the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and other government owned assets if he was elected President. The Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, a Northern socio-political group, Anthony Sani, said the Forum did not support Atiku because of his politicisation of restructuring and plans to sell the NNPC if he was elected: “I believe ACF did not believe in the mantra of restructuring and in the further sale of national asset like NNPC, considering that past exercise did not improve the economy by way of diversification away from over dependence on oil wealth which is not a result of hard work.” This was especially used to campaign against Atiku by the ruling party in the Northern part of the country.
“Besides his regional origin, Atiku as a candidate also had his weaknesses, including a credibility problem due to the fabulous wealth he made during his time in office as vice-president. For many voters in both the north and the south, Atiku represented a return to the past rather than a break from traditional Nigerian politics,” said Demarest. “Buhari’s first term record has little to show for it, but it is in the end still possible that he did win the elections, simply because the Peoples Democratic Party could not provide any viable alternative,” he said.
A Claim of Foul Play.
However, Atiku had alleged that the election was massively rigged in favour of the APC candidate. The former officer of the Nigerian Customs Service alleged that the Buhari administration used security operatives to suppress votes in the Southern part of the country where he expected to record massive votes, while the election was massively rigged in the Northern part of the country. The presidential candidate had already filed a petition to challenge the outcome of the election. He listed the APC, President Buhari and INEC as the first, second and third respondents in the petition in which he is praying the tribunal to declare him as the winner of the presidential election.
Contrary to the declaration by INEC, the PDP presidential candidate said he polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari who scored 16,741,430 votes in the petition he filed before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal on 18 March. He claimed that he got the figures which he described as the total votes scored by the candidates in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, as there was no report about the results from Rivers State as of 25 February 2019 from an INEC’s server. In the five ground petition, Atiku had claimed that Buhari was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
He also alleged that the election of Buhari was invalid by reasons of corrupt practices, non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended while the APC candidate was also not qualified to contest at the time of the election. “The 2nd respondent submitted to the 1st Respondent an affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election,” the PDP presidential candidate said in allusion to the allegations that the President lied about the claims that he has a school leaving certificate in the documents he submitted to INEC for the election. The PDP presidential candidate had assembled a team of senior lawyers to defend the petition and get back his ‘mandate’ through the court.
The Spokesperson of Buhari Campaign Organization said APC is anxious to meet Atiku in court. He said the court case will give the ruling party opportunity of showing in a conclusive manner, the free and fair nature of the comprehensive defeat of Atiku at the polls. “An election is not termed ‘rigged’ only by the mere claim of it by the loser. That is what Atiku and the PDP want to ram down our throats. Unfortunately for them, international, continental and sub-regional observers (who can be seen as neutral by all standards) all declared the election to be free, fair and credible. No ego-massaging narrative can change that,” he said.
Buhari Needs To Re-invent Himself!
Even as the country awaits the outcome of the petition, there have been no shortages of suggestions and advice on how Buhari can make his second term more eventful for the citizens from Nigerians.
Many of those who spoke to this magazine said Buhari’s first step should be to change his approach to governance. They pointed out for instance that the President seemed to be comfortable running the government around his clique and trusting people to be able to do things. “He believed that all he needs to do is to be the figure at the centre and seeing many people saying ‘this man is a legend, he is this and that’ and everything will just flow. But that hardly works,” Tope Fasua, the presidential candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP said. Though he was skeptical of the ability of Buhari to make the desired change in his approach to governance, Fasua also advised the President to stop taking Nigerians for granted like he did in his first term in office when it took him about six months to appoint ministers.
Also, Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Chairman MUP said Buhari should live up to the promises he made in his acceptance speech to run an inclusive government by not allowing “the voting pattern” that brought him to power determine his appointments. He advised the President to address agitations of marginalization in appointments to key government and public offices by different groups and well-meaning citizens. The retired military officer also advised the president not to treat opposition politicians as enemies to be haunted or destroyed while he should ensure that his administration adhered meticulously to the rule of law. “History beckons on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a giant leap forward and re-invent himself. Within his grasp lies the chance to transform into a statesman and become the real father of the nation,” Umar said.
Buhari’s Second Term: Our Expectations
While congratulating Buhari on his re-election, former military President Ibarahim Babangida said his first preoccupation should be to initiate actions that will heal the wounds of the bitter exchanges of the election campaign by embracing those who contested alongside with him.
He also said the President should put more energy into tackling the security problems confronting the country. “Now that the President has won his re-election bid, he should confront with renewed vigour the most urgent problem confronting Nigeria: ‘insecurity of lives and property’. The Boko Haram insurgency remains a threat to many Nigerians particularly in the North East sub region, while the twin evils of kidnapping and armed robbery/armed banditry remain a major national menace. The president must pay priority attention to these security issues.”
In addition, the former military president advised Buhari to focus on measures to revamp the economy while also giving heed to the clamour for restructuring of the country in his second term of office.
“There is the need to be more creative in formulating policies that will improve the nation’s economy, create employment opportunities and give hope to our teaming youths. The President may wish to heed to the yearnings of reasonable Nigerians for restructuring and seek all constitutional means to devolve some powers presently exercised by the Federal Government to the other tiers of government,” Babangida said.
Also, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide in a recent interview, advised the President to take actions that will move the country along the path of true federalism in his second tenure. He added that the country could achieve rapid growth and development with true federalism which allowed devolution of powers.
According to him, the decisions of the Gov. Nasir El-Rufai led committee on restructuring set up by Buhari’s administration in 2017 was far-reaching enough for the restructuring of the country and should be revisited. “We have to gradually move back to the period of generating revenue and not sharing revenue. Each federating unit should be allowed to exploit and explore its resources. So, in the next four years, Buhari should be able to finish the process, foundation and implementation of the El-Rufai’s committee recommendations. I think it is very essential that the report is implemented as a first step to entrench a true federal system of government.”
He also advised that the President should make national unity a priority in his second tenure by ensuring that all parts of the country were given sense of belonging through appointments and projects. Also, a former Senator and the Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba (Dr) Moshood Lekan Balogun said the President should embark on pragmatic actions that will lead to a more robust economy for the country in his second term. He advised that this can be achieved through liberalization of the economy to encourage investments. “A robust economy will mean a robust livelihood for the citizen. Let me also add that he must equally work towards ensuring that education is less expensive, attractive and affordable to all irrespective of the social class,” he said.
Olatunji Lawal, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at University College Hospital, Ibadan said President Buhari in his second term should embark on measures that will help reverse the negative health indices of the country. While noting that Nigeria as a country is hemmed in on all sides by different problems, the medical doctor said improved funding of healthcare by government will help to address the country low life expectancy which he said is comparable to that of a war-torn country. He noted that tackling the funding is an integral part of addressing the gaps in primary healthcare, emergency services, cancer treatment, maternal and child health and health insurance. “Leadership is fundamental to addressing these problems. Adequate funding for the health sector, reactivation of the primary healthcare services and making them do what they are set out for, addressing maternal and child health as a national emergency and bringing every Nigeria into the national health insurance scheme will go a long way in moving the populace out of this disaster,” he said.
Dr Usman Mohammed Jahun, Commander General, Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) advised the President to review the security architecture of the country to tackle the problems of kidnapping, insurgency, banditry and others in his second tenure. He said the President can do this initiating measures that will encourage community participation in the fight against insurgency and other crimes while emphasis should be on training and re-training of security personnel and provision of modern and sophisticated equipment for all the security and intelligence services.
Dr Tunde Oyekanmi, a political scientist and lecturer in the University of Ibadan said the President can strengthen the country’s electoral system by ensuring full implementation of the Uwais Committee report on reform of the country’s electoral process in his second term of office working with the National Assembly.
He noted that the report made recommendations about the establishment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal and the appointment of the Chairman of INEC among others that should not be jettisoned. “If you take a look at the report of the electoral committee, it is a fantastic one. I think the government both the executive and the legislature should bring about all the reforms that are necessary so that next time around, we would have improved on the electoral processes,” he said.
Tony Abolo, a Benin based veteran journalist, analyst and social commentator said it will be difficult to expect anything from Buhari due to the way he ran the government in his first term. Nevertheless, he listed areas he will want Buhari to tackle during his second term to include the rejigging of the electoral act, enhancement of national unity and creation of the atmosphere for regional economic development. “He should think of regional development. Lagos has had some priority for the benefit of the economy of the entire country. Developing sea ports all over the country to decongest Apapa [sea port] is a way of spreading wealth across the southern states and across the national economy. He also advised the President to stop his focus on the oil sector by encouraging the growth of other sectors of the economy.
Barr Jefferson Uwoghiren, a social commentator said security of lives and property as well as provision of reliable electricity supply should rank high on the priorities of the President in his second coming. “Government needs to urgently overhaul the national security architecture and apply more intelligence driven policing. They should mop up all the illegal arms in circulation because many Nigerians can’t freely sleep at home, travel freely, farm freely, gather freely, participate in politics freely, and attend schools freely without the fear of violent attacks and deaths. This can’t continue,” he said. “Government needs to remove all the institutional bottlenecks militating against power generation in the country,” the legal practitioner added.
Dr. Philip Ugbodaga, CMD, Central Hospital, Benin, and National Chairman, Coalition to Save Nigeria (CSN), asked Buhari to design a development plan for the country in his second tenure. “The next four years should be devoted to strengthening the National Planning Commission whose responsibility it is to formulate long term development plans for the country in such a way that even coming administrations will be involved in the implementation, especially when such plans have legislative institutionalization,” Ugbodaga said.
He also advised the President to embark on measures that will heal the wounds of the election by demonstrating more commitment to policies that will engender national unity and cohesion. The Chief Medical Director also urged the President to put more focus on how to revive the power, health and security sectors and boost national economic development in his second term of office.
“The government needs to rejig its economic team for better performance as the lull in economic activities, especially in the productive sector, has cast a pall of disillusionment over the general population. The people want food on their tables. They want to be able to afford the basic necessities of life. They simply want a good life which can only be guaranteed by a sound economic environment,” Ugbodaga said.
— Additional reports by Jethro Ibileke and Gbenro Adesina
2019 Elections And The Remaking Of The Nigerian Project
Leadership recruitment is what elections are about. It is a process that is central to society’s capacity to solve problems. Should something go wrong with it, most people would wish it were possible to leave all other problems in society unattended to in order to streamline or sanitize the process. It is in order to streamline the process, by identifying with alternative proposals for a biometric system of voting, that I want to pay attention to the cartoon image of Nigeria that has emerged from the General Elections of 2019.
To talk about a cartoon image of Nigeria is not far-fetching. The country has often been viewed as something of the world’s capital of corruption, as Francis Fukuyama posits in one resounding chapter of his 2014 book on ’Political Order and Political Decay’. In 2017, Nigeria had the distinction of being heckled for insecurity, and for hosting the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. By 2018, Nigeria had become known as the capital of world poverty with UN statistics showing 13.2 million children of school going age virtually carpeting the streets outside the school system. Now, following the victory handed to incumbent President, General Muhammadu Buhari, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, after the Presidential elections of 23 February, 2019, Nigeria is being described, and not inefficiently, as the capital of election rigging and electoral malpractices in the world.
The reality is that the General Election was merely the latest insertion in the history of an awfully compromised leadership recruitment process. It is a process that has given Nigeria a rash of unelected leaders for several decades. Meaning that: without a template of free and fair ballot, the country has witnessed gladiators angling for power and office by slumming it out in a truly shabby electoral culture, in a mimic democratic dispensation of which the presidential election was supposed to be the height of civic experience. Indeed, the large turnout at the Presidential elections on February 23rd showed how much the people were wishing for a better deal. At the polling station where I was voting for the first time, after a hard-won transfer from a distant local government, I became aware of how distraught the electoral culture made many people feel. The derailment of franchise was of particular concern to the voters as they were sharing their experiences of the previous half decade of what many, not sarcastically, continued to call a nascent democracy. Their narratives began with expressed trepidation as to whether the votes will be allowed to count ‘this time around’. It happened that, on one occasion four years ago, the votes at this particular polling station were cancelled because someone was killed at the polling booth. On another election day, some identified thugs stole the ballot box and caused another cancellation. A third election, a gubernatorial, was cancelled because hoodlums who had snatched the ballot box were apprehended and beaten up.
The resulting commotion at the polling station became the reason for a cancellation. The voters were disenfranchised. And there was no police action, no prosecution to deter future recurrence. True, nothing untoward happened ‘this time around’ on February 23, after the voting, and into the long night of waiting to the next day at the collation centre where, as folklore had it, ‘anything could happen’. But cynicism was strong and was not dispelled as I moved with journalists and observers and keyed into social media and ‘live’ television coverage of the election. There was no escaping the conclusion that the electoral cultures of the land were indeed of a kind, acute sink-holes of corruption, electoral malpractices and violence. On this, let’s be quite square: that the electoral cultures covered so many strands including padding of voters registers, registration of under-age voters, imposition of candidates where candidates used to be returned unopposed, multiple voting, ballot stuffing, stealing or burning of ballot boxes in constituencies where opponents are strong, purchasing of voters cards for custody by party warlords, deliberate destruction of election materials, and announcement of wrong results at collating centres.
We may well add the bribing of security officers or hiring of thugs in military uniforms to block voters from performing civic functions, the illegal disuse of electronic machines, deliberate depression of voters’ roll against unfavoured constituencies, inflation of voters roll in favoured constituencies, wrongful allocation of votes at collation centres, and hence deliberate falsification of election results. All of it tended to happen between the electoral commissions, the so called umpires, and the regular political warlords, vote wreckers, who treat elections as lower case civil wars that they may upgrade, at random, to full-scale explosions, with Kalashnikovs.
For a little history: it should be noted that all the malpractices and irregularities have been in the repertory of election riggers, in an inchoate or advanced form, since the first of major elections across Nigeria’s three colonial regions in 1951. That year was when three political parties, Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, in the North, National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun, NCNC, in the East, and Action Group, AG, in the West, began the competition that would create implacable antagonisms, artfully nurtured by colonial gerrymandering and pumping of irreconcilability. The competition formalized the distancing of region from region, achieving an in-ward looking format for each, that worsened the struggle for virtual loot-sharing at the centre.
From the standpoint of recruitment of leaders: the fracas between the regions progressively recreated the stratagem that had been put together by Frederick Lugard, the amalgamator of the original Northern and Southern protectorates. In a 1902 memorandum to the British Colonial Office, he vowed to put an ethnic group over the North and the North over Nigeria from one generation to another. It was left to the colonial resident of Katsina, Richmond Palmer, chosen by him to plant Indirect Rule in the South, to organize the Conference of Northern Residents which formed the base for organizing regional hegemony.
Once Palmer became Lieutenant Governor of the North, after 1924, the colonial strategy of overcoming central institutions by emplacing ethno-regional bias was dutifully secured. The battles between colonial officials in the north and colonial officials in the south was fierce. They ensured that more land from the south was added to the north and in 1939 the smaller southern protectorate was split into two towards a future that could protect British interests. Another decade down the road, after the All-Nigeria Conference gave Nigerians a fore-taste of self-rule, the regional election in the North was rigged by colonial officials in favour of the traditional elites of the Northern People’s Congress.
They displaced the early riser, the radical Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, as well as the United MiddleBelt Congress, UMBC, from political centrality in the North. The power of incumbency was used to prevent the franchise in the North from being based on universal adult suffrage. Women in the North could not have the vote. Not until much later, in 1979, thanks to military rule. Meanwhile, the NPC’s hold on the North meant using jail, trumped up charges, and extra-statutory violence by dandoka, Native Authority police, to hound opposition, and using thugs self-described as dan Mahaukata, sons of madmen, against other parties of the North. Parties that were formed in the South and in coalition with Northern Opposition, were forced to run obstacle races. The conservatives wanted a Federal system in which every region would be for itself, a virtual confederalism in which political parties would not cross regional boundaries while the progressives wanted Nigeria to have a common welfare system and local self-rule for regions run by national political parties. Across the Federation, other parties actively frustrating free and fair elections, took a cue from the NPC, which , from 1954, was the senior partner in the ruling coalition at the centre. The NPC’s triumph over pan-Nigerian consciousness was at its height in the 1964 General election when 84 out of 137 candidates of the NPC from the North were returned unopposed.
In general, across the regions, in the first Republic, the battle slogan of the incumbents was ‘whether you vote for us or you do not vote for us, we shall win.’ In the Second Republic, with the downgrade of mobile units of the Nigeria police into petty dandoka roles as ‘kill and go’, only the militariat in the barracks were deemed able to defeat the marauding ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. It happened. In the ill-fated Third Republic, in the so-called freest and fairest election that one man so easily annulled, both slave and slave master, landlord and tenant, labourer and entrepreneur,’agbero and the owner’, were lined up behind candidates in an underdeveloped Option A 4 voting system. Constitutions and manifestoes had been drafted for mere parastatals masquerading as political parties which ‘bloody civilians’ were not even allowed to form on their own. In the Fourth Republic, before do or die tactics became the announced vogue, the rigging slogan was ‘if we could win an election organized by the military when we were not in power, how can we lose the one that we ourselves have organized!’ Quite intriguing today is that Nigeria is gravitating towards having a new slogan: ‘if we could out-rig a government in power when we were in opposition, how can we let ourselves be out-rigged as incumbents?’
Of course, the great facilitator of the rigging propensity, across the decades, has been the slap-dash surrounds of political party finance. The access to political money in the economy happens to be as fickle as the general state of employment. Or unemployment. All in a parlous state. Payment of dues and subscriptions by members of political parties have been unavailing. This has given primacy to capitalist and baronial financing of political parties. It has induced incumbents to destroy normal accounting systems in government and to engineer self-help security funding. It has since given way to pure kleptocratic financing. Not to forget: in the colonial era, the NPC depended on funds straight out of Native Authorities. The attempt by Nnamdi Azikiwe as Premier of Eastern Region, to use a personal bank, ACB, dependent on access to state funds, to do party finance, was scuttled by colonial authorities via the Forster-Sutton Tribunal.
The Action Group, which borrowed money as normal businessmen could, from the Marketing Board, to build estates that could finance political party activities, had its assets seized by the ruling NPC/NCNC coalition at the centre. Socialist parties that sought funding from abroad, were liquidated by government after the January 1966 coup. State subvention of parties, as the constitution recognized after 1979, and as happens in many democracies of the world, has been ritually sabotaged by ruling parties across Nigeria’s history. Quite critical for thinking about party finance, was the intervention of the military dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari, who seized power and sent politicians to gargantuan jail terms for enriching their political parties. Unfortunately, he was not, and has not, been able to provide intelligence to move party finance away from pure kleptocracy. The consequence is that, since foreign aid is legally not an option, the assault on state coffers has had all rooftops looking the same.
Including all ruling parties at state and Federal levels. That is, no matter how loud the megaphones of incumbents in their supposed war on corruption, they have been mired in the same loop of pure kleptocracy. Also, in the absence of fair legislation guiding party finance, a free for all has overtaken all electoral malpractices. Although thriving democracies in the world enact laws that are observed fairly rigorously to contain corrupt political money, the Nigerian circumstance of free-for-all loot-hunting and loot-sharing has been abetted by inane laws and equally inane security structures, which pamper incumbents and their cronies. Hence the wooliness to be observed in the construction of electoral commissions with doubtful umpire status, which administer elections, and register and monitor political parties. The short of it is that in the kleptocracy that the political system has become, a sharp distinction has to be made between the strategic malfeasance and distortion of process by the personnel of electoral commissions administering the elections and the mischief of the party stalwarts who organize virtual looting squads around elections.
This point deserves emphasis because electoral commissions, even now that they are described as national and independent have been always too beholding to the agenda of incumbents and the ethno-regional calculations of power activists. What is more, in relation to the 2015 and 2019 elections, there has been the glorious run of a regional agenda in the performance of Professor Attahiru Jega, and his protégé and successor, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, as Chairmen of INEC. Both of them have been poster icons of a regional security assertiveness, in the Independent National Electoral Commission which has turned, provably, into an industry for undermining a pan-Nigerian definition of free and fair elections. Once Jega set the template, as a respecter of geo-ethnic frames, doing geo-cultural suppression and inflation of the number of registered voters, it was left to Yakubu Mahmood’s INEC to round out the score. The Independent National Electoral Commission has since been serving as a hatchet for depressing registration in one cultural geography and inflating it in another, disenfranchising registered voters, denying them Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs, leading to the eventual suppression of voting across designated parts of the Federation. Before 2015, the trust reposed in the Chairman by a populace that was quite enamoured of his reputation as a radical progressive, was turned into a means of over-determining the whole electoral process against free and fair outcomes.
In short, the rigging of the election was being achieved in advance and being scientifically processed with the active involvement of those who would be its victims. Irrespective of who paid attention, the outcome was rounded out in a square design for the 2019 Elections.
Instead of the commendation which INEC ought to deserve for the painstaking job of weeding off over-registrations and under-age voters (forever ubiquitous on INEC menu), the evidence of ethno-regional bias, and intimation of worse, has littered the landscape of their performance. What seemed like a mere sketch, four years ago, has blossomed into a strategic, and repeatable, accomplishment in fore-handling. As I have written elsewhere. ‘‘INEC began registration of voters, as was the case with their predecessors, so close to the election as to truncate the process of raising objections to mis-registrations. Instead of an electoral commission that registers all qualified people all the year round as people reached the voting age of 18, Nigeria has had an Independent National Electoral Commission that makes being a voter not a right but a privilege that can be withdrawn. This was the case when one third of registered voters were literally deregistered as they were not given permanent voters’ cards to vote! Mark the record: Bornu, Adamawa, and Yobe registered, 68.29%, 80.68% and 74.95% collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards, as against 36.44% for Ogun, 49.94% for Oyo, 38.94% for Lagos and 50.23% for Imo state. By what professional magic, asked one interlocutor in The Guardian of February 18, 2015, did Jega reach 68.2% of voters in Borno, where (due to Boko Haram terrorism), many of the people were refugees “ now in Cameroun? What magic did Jega use to reach 79.4% of Katsina within 60 days, a state with lesser (sic) literacy level than Lagos which has 38.39% in 90 days?” It was easy to conclude that “Even Professors cannot commit a perfect crime”. Hence disenfranchising a third of the electorate on the presumption that they had no permanent voters cards remains a permanent blot on the electoral system that Jega ran. Even the attempt to stem or fudge it by postponing polling day was worse than a ruse as it merely exposed the unfair and unfree nature of the whole exercise. It set the template for the future. After his victory, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a February 2016 visit to London, narrated how Professor Attahiru Jega admitted to a National Council of State meeting that his electoral Commission was satisfied with 60 percent rating on the scale of free and fair elections! Quite a rating! He was comparing his own performance to his own 35 percent rating of previous elections. The truth is that no previous electoral commission in Nigeria’s history had made as vaunted an attempt to reduce the number of voters from particular parts of the country as Jega’s did”. That is, except for his successor, Professor Mahmoud who has benefitted immensely from Jega’s deviation from transparency. At any rate, the filaments of Jega’s INEC are notoriously present in today’s INEC in line with the testing-ground “rooting for a 30,000 increase in polling units from 119, 973 to 150,000 after reducing the number of registered voters from 73 million to 53 million, a truly non-transparent operation against padding, and without the proportional representation promised.
As one Daily Sun advertorial on September 11, 2014 stated: “if with registered voters of 13,188,864 the South West had 24, 673 polling units as compared to North West registered voters of 18,607, 496 with polling unit of 29,961(and this gives a proportionate variance of 29% for registered voters and 17.7% for number of polling units), what was then responsible for the 47.4% disparity in the number of new polling units allocated between the North West and South West if the claim of proportional representation holds? Or how could FCT that has only 892,628 registered voters with 562 polling units compared to South East with 7, 178, 185 registered voters and 15, 529 polling units (giving a proportionate disparity of 87.6% for registered voters and 96% for polling units in favour of the South East) suddenly be allocated only 1, 167 polling units compared to 1,200 polling units for FCT? How does this advance Prof. Jega’s theory of proportional representation?”
Evidently, whether acted upon or not, the testy allocation of polling booths contextualizes so much else. For instance, due to slapdash accounting or mischief by INEC, the figures for registered voters in 2019 moved from an original 84,004, 084 to a contingent 82,344107 registered voters, out of which 72,775,502 collected voters cards. It is now the business of the courts to decide whether 35,098,162 as argued by prime critics or 29,394,209 as stated by INEC is the acceptable figure. It is a matter of 2.5 million votes out for grabs. An equally substantive issue is that after the Presidential election on 23rd February 2019, it became obvious that while registered voters were enjoying inflation in the North, the Southern states were generally having a depression of their numbers. It would normally be considered as sectionalist to point out such details. But there is such unmissable brazenness in the figures. In 2015, the north had 16,227,005 votes; in 2019, the figure made an upward progression to 17,259,624. The south moved from 12,051,078 in 2015 to a swift hawk’s dive to 9,195,201 in 2019. The gap between 4,175,927 votes difference in 2015 and 8,064,423 votes difference in 2019 speaks to the inflation in the North and the depression in the south. The 9,195,201 votes cast by 17 southern states, with 5,703387 going to pdp and 3,491814 to the APC registers the reality of a stronghold of the opposition being stormed and downsized. Too much in evidence, is that, coldly, calculatedly, between 2015 and 2019, the voters in the south East suffered a computer carnage. How come INEC bureaucracy was so so fastidious and efficient at reducing padding from 7.6 million registered voters in 2015 with 5.6 million pvcs collected in the Eastern states? In 2019, there were 2,097,493 actual voters in the South East down from 2,663,154 in 2015. Who will know this and not marvel at the voting figures from Borno which more than doubled from 499,183 in 2015 to 908,284 in 2019 with 92% of that, 836,496, going to the incumbent President?. Arguably, INEC as the electoral supremo may have had a smart appreciation of rigging dynamics that can explain how the total of 1,556,313 shared between PDP and APC in the Rivers state and 1,260,315 between them in Delta states in 2015 plummeted in 2019 to 624,681,in Rivers, a decrease of 931,632, and 815,360 in the Delta, a decrease of 444,955 votes. PDP’s whopping share of 1,487,075 in the Rivers in 2015 was down sized to 473,971 in 2019. If over-voting in the South South, in 2015, conceivable in an electoral culture of malfeasance, can explain the sanitation exercise that INEC has achieved in 2019 in Rivers and Delta states then there must be alchemy, not science in the dazzling and highfalutin registration figures in Katsina and Kano, and the election results generated thereby. Pure Mathemagics! Of which the case of Kaduna state gives the accredited Voters at 1,428,895 votes.
The APC winners received – 1,044,710 votes and their PDP opponents got – 815,168 giving a total of 1,859,878 votes. What happened to the 400,000 over-voting? It is a case quite similar to the collated results for Yobe State in the Presidential election. It gave a total Number of Registered Votes as 1,365,913, accredited Voters as 601,056, Total Votes Cast as 586,137, Rejected Votes as 226,772. Interestingly, the APC got 497,914 and the PDP – 50,763. A simple question: If total votes cast amounted to 583,137 votes and there were 226, 772 rejected votes, how did the APC score 497,914 votes? Anyone who has encountered such information in the media is obliged to wonder at the INEC results which show that General Muhammadu Buhari scored 15,191, 847 against Abubakar Atiku’s 11,255,978 votes. How justify global figures for the Presidential elections with the mind-boggling figures that INEC has affirmed! Very seriously, the mathemagics of INEC figures authorize the zeal with which Abubakar Atiku has offered to go to court to contest the victory granted to Muhammadu Buhari in the elections. As he has claimed in his petition, “contrary to what INEC declared, he garnered a total of 18,356,732 votes, ahead of Buhari who …. got a total of 16,741,430 votes”.
One point of great concern is that the means for in-built correction in the political system, through tribunals and up to the Supreme Court, are threatened with redundancy. The election petitions filed by the aggrieved in all the Presidential Elections of the past, heinously rigged as they all have been, never acceded to any correction. Largely, this makes for the established mythology that no election petition can ever succeed against a sitting President. The proof of this in the Fourth Republic covers the judicial resistance by the Presidential candidate of the ANPP, Chief Olu Falae, to the victory of President Olusegun Obasanjo at the inception of democracy in 1999. Falae was literally harassed and blackmailed at home and abroad until he agreed to withdraw the case from the court. True, late President Umaru Yar’adua of the PDP, has been unique in admitting, before the Supreme Court gave him clearance to carry-go, that the election that brought him to power was flawed. Otherwise, it is not in the character of incumbents to be so sanguine. The epic and lost legal battles of General Muhammadu Buhari across three elections 2003, 2007, 2011, before his election victory in 2015, confirm the myth of unwinnable petitions against an incumbent President. In the case of President Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent who lost the 2015 Presidential election to a long-distance runner called General Muhammadu Buhari, the narrative remains the stuff of legend. In spite of humungous irregularities that marred the elections, the loser, true to his own vow never to let his ambition become a reason for bloodshed, conceded defeat. He withdrew for peace to reign, making it the only Presidential election that has not been contested in court in the Fourth Republic.
In essence, the mythology that no one wins a petition against an incumbent President, has formed the rationale for the motley that constitutes what deserves to be called the DontGoToCourtLobby. Or rather, they are different lobbies advising and cajoling former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in the 2019 Presidential Election, not to go to court or if already there, to withdraw the case. Too evidently, they are not speaking for vast communities across the country whose votes had never been allowed to count in elections. Imagine so many long-suffering constituencies where the repeated success of riggers, ballot stuffers, allocators of, and announcers of wrong results at collation centres, had established rogue political cultures for political parties that have become major domo, permanent stomps, helping to sustain the myths of a thriving democracy! It shows there are good grounds for the charge that, in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 or 2015, the elections were in the language of the international observers, marred by irregularities. it is no longer a case of Nigeria having no history of, and no template of free and fair elections to go by; but that the rigged elections of the past are being used as models, normalizing atrocious mathematics, in 2019. Such that: overcoming opponents by any means possible soon acquires respectability in the hands of undiscriminating analysts and columnists performing some Greek chant and chorus.
Now, as the patterns already created by riggers continue to serve as the basis for ascribing voting behaviour to ethnic and religious groups and fractions, much of the analyses of voting behaviour and voting patterns across the country, merely amount to recycling myths. It explains, without question, why every next election has become worse than the preceding one – on the scale of free and fair. Besides, the contrived managerial incompetence of the electoral commissions, and the deliberated mischief of incumbents and their driven partisans, have beefed up the Nigerian factor of sectional drives . In 2019 the uses to which incumbents have put the militariat, in shameful acts that Nigeria’s military establishment ought to consider treasonable, shows the kind of impossible challenges awaiting those who see Nigeria as too eminently save-able to need current mimic messiahs. Why waste enormous national resources to bolster their egos, their stand, and stature instead of building systems that work!
To be sure, looking beyond mimic messiahs is what post-election interventions should be all about: to return things to normalcy by reflecting on how to equate the ballot with the actual wishes of voters. It should, I believe, involve a remake of the whole voting system, a re-orientation of the Independent National Electoral Commission which administers elections, and a stringent reform of the finance of political parties. In this regard, my tack for a start, is to identify with, and add my mite to the proposal for an alternative biometric system of voting, towards a genuine electoral reform that can meet the irregularities and malpractices that are so hideously on display. My wish is to adapt earlier proposals in Taking Nigeria Seriously and The Nigerian Agenda to recent developments. The purpose is to advance a system that is simple, sensible, secure, and friendly to all; especially, friendly to the non-literate in our midst for whose sake, I think, we need to consider a five year ‘special education’ to wipe out illiteracy from our country. Otherwise, I want to present the features of the proposed biometric system as one requiring that: –
(1) Every Nigerian of school-going age should have a National Identity Card with a registered thumbmark or registered fingermark
(2) A National Identity Card must be confirmed by being attached to a polling unit after the age of 18
(3) To accredit yourself as a voter, you slot your confirmed National Identity Card into a Polling Machine which automatically displays the polling unit of the thumb or finger placed on it
(4) To choose a party, you tap a green button on the Polling Machine which displays the election(s) of the day and the logo of the political parties
(5) To vote, you press a registered thumb or registered finger upon the logo of the chosen political party. It is for a single vote no matter how many times you press.
(6) To complete voting, you tap a red button on the machine which informs INEC and designated monitors and observers.
(7) Every 20 minutes, the Polling Machine displays the number of voters already processed but without displaying any results.
(8)At the end of the day’s voting, when INEC shuts down, the machine displays the full results and notifies INEC.
The advantage of this proposed biometric system is that, as in the case of using an ATM Card in banks, a polling machine operates in the same way in every part of the country. You don’t have to travel to where you registered or where you got your identity card before you can vote. Since a thumb or registered finger is accredited for only one vote per election, there is no fear of over-voting. Once accredited, a thumb is added to the list of voters in the polling unit to which it belongs. The eighteenth year confirmation of the National Identity Card takes care of underage voters. Those confirmed who, for whatever reasons, are not able to vote at the polling machine of their choice, can move to another one in any other location within or outside the village town or city. There is no need for collation officers, or returning officers or armed personnel, and there are no election materials beside the Polling machine. No use discolouring fingers to prove that you have voted because no matter how many times you press your registered thumb or finger against a party logo, and no matter how many machines you go to, only the first mark can be valid. Party agents may mind the polling stations in order to be sure that the maintenance officers for the polling machines are alive to their duties. The short of this is that once a vote is cast, it cannot be rescinded or transferred, burnt or stolen. The usual mathemagics that went by the name of election results in the past will be consigned to history.
Most relevant to our discussion, in this regard is that the alternative voting machines will generally do away with the raft of electoral malpractices based on contrived logistical problems which ritually compromised past elections. Ballot stuffing will simply be impossible. The use of thugs to dragoon polling stations as willed by political warlords will be meaningless as a dangerous constituency can simply be avoided. Voting can take place in any of the safe havens outside it. All across the country. Besides, once installed, the Polling Machines, which must be built rugged to last, will also reduce, very considerably, the cost of running INEC which has had a humungous budget of 250 billion Naira in its kitty for the 2019 elections.
On the firm assumption that the Polling Machines will be manufactured in Nigeria, the first order of appraisal is to make it possible, as with ATMs in the banking system, to monitor the technical proficiency of the machines. Recall that in the Second Republic, it took the weight of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s opposition to prevent the imposition of electronic voting machines that were pre-programmed to give votes disproportionately to different political parties. It has since been haggled at election petitions in the fourth Republic that electronic machines were used to derail the vote for some candidates. Such genuine fears or lack of faith in technology can be properly stemmed through demonstrations. Just as no one in the age of ATM machines would touch banks that are known to be programmed to mis-allocate funds, it should matter that a format exists which enables polling machines to be constantly tested; without needing to be taken to babalawos, dibias and marabouts instead of electronic engineers and computer scientists. It so happens that there are already many home-grown technologies across Nigeria being tested to override negative possibilities. The Nigerian circumstance of Executive and Legislative brinkmanship simply needs to be tackled and factored into a transparent mode; that is, away from the kind of fiasco that has bedevilled the production of a National Identity Card system after so many decades of trying. A government that is unable to pull it off must be deemed too antediluvian to run a modern economy.
-Odia Ofeimun, is a renowned poet and an award winning columnist. He is a former President of Assocition of Nigerian Authors and former private secretary to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He studied Political Science at the University of Ibadan.
Reflections on Nigeria’s Elections: From A Distance
What follow are reflections on the recently concluded [if, indeed, they are] elections in Nigeria. As the title indicates, I was not physically present in the country either during the electioneering campaign or the elections that took place in its aftermath. Yet, from my considerable geographical distance, I was a keen student of the goings-on while the campaign lasted. And the distance from the scene of the action was abridged by the availability of virtual connections and the all-important live streaming of news and events from Nigeria as they unfolded, often in real time. Notwithstanding this resource, the analyst’s purview is limited by the lack of access to public opinion, to the unfiltered expressions of ordinary people in everyday conversations on air, at beer parlours, in neighbourhoods, at work, in public transit, at private parties, prayer meetings and motley other religious gatherings, and so on.
Whatever defects attach to considering issues from a distance must affect my reflections in this piece. But it is to be hoped that the proverbial advantages that accrue to detachment secured by distance would also be afforded the piece.
From a distance, there was a lot of violence associated with Nigeria’s elections. Yes, it is easy to see the violence as a mere extension to the electioneering season of a phenomenon that has wracked ordinary living in Nigeria in recent years. Yet, one must wonder why, after almost two decades of elections being conducted, won and lost, we have not lost our penchant for self-help motivated by a fundamental distrust in our regime of rules and procedures, that is, in the integrity and efficacy of process. There is a simple explanation for this sad situation. No, our people are not congenitally bound to violence. But if you are going to have humans behave in fit and proper ways, you must humanize the structures within which their lives unfold. One way in which this is done in the modern era is to create an impartial, impersonal, violence-monopolizing third-party institutions endowed with final jurisdiction in the adjudication of social conflicts among individuals. The state generally has this charge but the specific responsibility for adjudicating conflicts rests squarely on the shoulders of the personnel of the judiciary.
Unfortunately, no thanks to our collective inattention, we did not take seriously the degradation, in the present case, of the judiciary enacted by our erstwhile military misrulers. We have persisted in mistaking the hood for the monk. We keep thinking that the requisite temperament for impartiality, professional pride, independence, and a fierce commitment to the cause of justice inheres still in the robes worn by our judges. We did not reckon with the fact that a cancer had been injected into our legal system that makes the bar, the bench, and other law enforcement agents partisans of graft, impunity and the subversion of process. The people did not fail to take notice. Once people no longer trust that their hurt would be ameliorated in a timely, orderly, fair and just manner, the door to self-help and instant, on-the-street justice is left ajar.
The purge of the judiciary has not been undertaken; on the contrary, the judiciary is now an emporium of impunity where permanent injunctions against investigation, not to talk of arrest and prosecution, are readily available for purchase and the rule of law has become denuded of all nobility and reduced, instead, to an empty shell of malodorous legality.
There is a dimension to the saturation of the Nigerian society by violence that calls for additional remark. In the past, a fraction of the violence and associated disorder that pervaded the country would have been the pretext for some military adventurers to insinuate themselves into the political system presumably to correct the ills in the polity and restore order. It is a mark of the political maturation of our polity and the no less significant change abroad in the world respecting the unacceptability of extra-constitutional rule that, with all its pitfalls, our democracy, flawed but steady, has endured and not even a certified insurgency, including momentary loss of territory, has evoked any suggestions of extra-constitutional intervention by the military. We should never lose sight of this nor should we make light of it. All the hiccups in our democracy will eventually be contained and a commitment to empaneling a proper judiciary will, once accomplished, reduce the lure of self-help.
Let us turn to the elections themselves. It may not be obvious now but for the near future of Nigerian politics, especially at the federal level, the re-election of Muhammadu Buhari augurs well. Had Atiku Abubakar won, one unsavoury consequence would have been the resurrection—I chose that word deliberately—of the dead and buried political godfather+pretendstatesmen+elders-to-hearken-to careers of the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Danjuma, and their ilk across the country. Abubakar’s eagerness to bow to the wills of those principal architects of Nigeria’s prostrate position in the world, who, by the way, are yet to be held accountable for their misdeeds and who, in decent societies—which ours is not by any stretch of the imagination—would be spending their twilight years in jail, must have terrified all who desire to have a clear path to a great future for the country. An Abubakar victory would have delayed that opening for, at least, another four years.
From a distance, I watched the vice-presidential debate and the town hall conversations with the top of the tickets of the select five parties that were anointed by the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria and the debates group as worthy participants in those events. Let me be clear; not since 1983 have we had elections that had any intellectual edge to them or were marked by debates about ideas or, with M.K.O. Abiola’s campaign in 1993 being the sole exception, vision.
So, there was no reason for me to expect that the recently concluded campaign would be different. But, then, Peter Obi was chosen as Abubakar’s running mate. His strongest selling point was his “intellectual attainments and professional successes” attested by all the sterling schools he garnered credentials from, his business and economic management acumen as well as his being savvy with the ways of the world at the present time that neither Buhari nor his stuffy law professor running mate could match. There is a personal dimension to my reaction to Obi’s credentials and performance: he is a philosophy graduate from what, at least when he graduated, was one of our top philosophy departments in Nigeria, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, no less.
Let me just say that I was quite underwhelmed by Obi’s intellectual articulations and his public presentations that I saw—from a distance, of course. His repetition, ad nauseam, of India and China as his models of what an administration of which he would be a part would do to lift Nigeria out of its economic doldrums betrayed a fundamental lack of intellectual engagement with the history of those two countries and the motivating factors behind their spectacular advances in the last forty years. Truth be told, both countries’ stupendous attainments were jumpstarted by the kind of intellectual engagements that only one politician to date in Nigeria remains the sole instance: Obafemi Awolowo. Neither Abubakar whose claim to capacity to restructure Nigeria boiled down, for some of his vociferous supporters, to the inane fact that he married into different geopolitical zones in the country, nor Obi whose ease at invoking China and India provoked Adams Oshiomole’s wicked but spot-on humorous riposte, coupled with his penchant for glibness, especially when it comes to substituting dubious statistics for serious argumentation, gave the slightest hint that they were denizens of this universe marked by intellectual curiousity and solutions based on serious study. Finally, on this score, collecting certificates from institutions even if your attendance is for in-service/refresher course equivalents does not equate to claiming them as alma maters. Even if you could, it does not indicate that you got an education. Remember I am writing this from a base led at the present time by a president who never tires of reminding everybody of his “Ivy League” credentials! Enough said. Nothing in Obi’s pronouncements would have led me to believe that he had four years of tuition at a top-flight philosophy department such as Nsukka was when he graduated from there in 1984.
Let us go back to 2010 and the electoral landscape at the time. Goodluck Jonathan was the PDP candidate who was still in in the good graces of his sponsor, Obasanjo. The opposition was badly split. Buhari was at the head of his CPC. The then Action Congress of Nigeria was looking to break out the southwest and was shopping for a candidate at the national level.
There was something about that historical conjuncture that many, politicians and commentators alike, may have failed to apprehend and appreciate. With the conclusion of Obasanjo’s presidency, there was, for the first time in post-military rule Nigeria, no single personality that loomed large in, much less be said to dominate, the national political scene. That meant that the road was clear to fresh faces, new ideas, and novel coalitions in Nigerian politics. Jonathan had neither a constituency nor the kind of personality marked by charisma or intellectual gravitas to dominate the scene. It was obvious that Buhari had no national profile when it came to his leadership and political bona fides. The ACN, moved more by the ambitions of its leaders and the usual short-term calculus limited to the elections at hand, after dilly dallying on what to do with the presidential elections, ended up instructing its voters to vote Jonathan at the center and their party candidates at the other levels. Talk about writing the book on political myopia, if not bankruptcy!
Doubtless, this set the stage for the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of Buhari as their flagbearer in the 2015 elections. It quickly became clear that though the APC had a plan for winning the elections, it had no blueprint for governing. The lack of a governing blueprint was the bitter fruit of the cynical preoccupation with winning power with absolutely no vision for what to do with power or a long-term plan for steering the country to a more desirable future.
Unfortunately, this chronic absence was not limited to the two major parties. Because we are a country with a fire-brigade culture dominated by a sprint mentality but bereft of the planning and pacing required of the distance runner, other parties and constituencies, too, were not in any better shape. This became clear in the frenetic pace at which new parties and coalitions mushroomed in the run-up to the recent elections. Absent long-term planning, even the new parties were all fluff and little substance. Just as with the “success” of “Occupy Nigeria”—remember it?—many were those who mistook virtual popularity for real electoral support; the Nigerian penchant for loquaciousness on the web and the ephemeral, almost instinctive “likes” and “dislikes” on social media for real political movement.
From a distance, I would like to suggest that the re-election of Buhari is the end of an era in which our national politics has been dominated by retired military misrulers and their accomplices in mufti. With Obasanjo finally unmasking himself as the self-preferring, faux statesman some of us have always known him to be, with the rump of the retired generals with any semblance of national presence having shown their hands and having them badly scalded, with Abubakar left with no other party to which to defect, and various potentates like Bukola Saraki and AbiolaAjimobi being disgraced off their pedestals in public life, we, once again, have a clear stage for the emergence of a better future dominated by ideas, integrity and, most of all, vision.
This is the object lesson of the last elections for all who deign to “save Nigeria”, “take Nigeria back” or build “a new Nigeria”. I will put it bluntly. Movements don’t run for elections: they generate the ferment and the requisite momentum that propel parties and other organs to sign on to their programmes. Movements don’t mushroom overnight, especially in a terrain where there are significant cleavages that are not seriously addressed and have always managed to fracture and doom previous ones.
Here is an example of what movements do. Those who want a different future can now turn their energies to creating the kind of public opinion that would force the National Assembly to take seriously, on pain of its members losing their political future, the issue of remuneration of its members, greater accountability for public spending, and suchlike.
Given my contention that Buhari’s re-election represents the twilight of a certain dominant pedigree in our politics, nothing except our lack of imagination or our penchant for short-term fixes stands in the way of our settling on a vision and agenda that would ignite the imagination and enthusiasm of ordinary Nigerians across our diverse cleavages for a better outcome four years hence.
Along the way, from a distance, I offer a few pointers for our collective consideration. No liberal representative democratic regime worth its salt would rest on a shaky and shady judiciary as is the case in Nigeria right now. What is required is radical surgery that will make it over completely. How we do it should be the matter of a debate in the national assembly and the public at large. But a judiciary that sanctifies with the force and legitimacy of law the rule of license and impunity by distorting the law to disable the investigation and trial of wrongdoing has not merely lost its reason for being. It is an existential threat to the polity, tout court.
Additionally, the need for throwing out the present Constitution is underscored every day. This is not hyperbole. A constitution that you cite for mundane administrative and pedestrian legal issues is no longer worthy of the appellation. Every time I see our “learned friends” trot out provisions of the constitutions to clarify electoral issues, I marvel at their lack of self-awareness that, in so doing, they are reducing the constitution to statute, administrative law, even, and divesting it of the majesty that befits the founding document of our polity and its vision of itself as a moral entity. Constitutions that answer the name are brought in as a last resort; constitutions are not the first authority you fish out to litigate issues in politics. There is a reason why constitutional challenges are not a first recourse in political and other issues in a polity.
Next, we must confront the issue of restructuring. There is the candidate who styled himself a “nation-builder” with barely any evidence of an intellectual engagement with the idea and no hint of his being a latter-day Ataturk. Anyone in Nigeria who expects to be taken seriously by any but illiterates and conmen when (s)he talks about federalism must engage and argue with Awolowo. During the electioneering campaign, the refrain for the Abubakar campaign was that he would start restructuring the day after his inauguration on May 29th. I am sure that with his loss, both he and his party, PDP, have parked the restructuring bus not to have its engine fired till the next campaign comes around. This is the opportunity for public opinion to mobilize and ask him and his party to show their good faith by introducing proper instruments in the National Assembly to show up the APC and its allies as bulwarks against restructuring. It would be a good basis for selling the idea the next time around.
The discourse must not be limited to the gross aspects of our polity like geographical boundaries or distribution of largesse. There should be no all-seeing INEC in a proper federal structure. They should only run federal elections and even those with locally sourced functionaries. Nor should there be any one of the centralized but misbegotten relics bequeathed by our military misrulers like NYSC, FRSC, UBEC, JAMB and NUC. This is the opportunity for our smaller parties that pretend to being rare oases of ideas for the future to show their hands, work quietly to spread those ideas, secure more buy-in from the populace rather than berate the electorate for being stupid, addicted to stomach infrastructure, or preferring misrule of the corrupt to the rule of the clean and enlightened, and begin to move the dial ever more slowly but surely to a more clement future for us all.
I am acutely conscious of the usual refrain that greets calls like I just made. For instance, many argue that state police would quickly become the security arms of their respective state governors. Or that not having an NUC would leave the task of quality control of our tertiary education hanging in the balance. Unfortunately, these are the alibis of a people and their intellectuals who have given up on their imagination. They are driven by fear that they would not be able to handle new problems even if the solutions to the old problems are not working. Fear-driven choices do not ever release our imagination to think up new and better ways of doing things nor do they enable us to set about building resilient institutions through the true and tested practice of trial and error as is done in all human settings. We often grant that existing arrangements are not working but we are petrified by the idea of substituting new ones. How a people can make progress this way passes my understanding.
What is worse is that our proclivity to short-term thinking about perennial problems makes us to embrace the immediate while ensuring thereby that upcoming generations would forever operate in what is a perpetual holding pattern. Our people deserve better and can work for it, given the proper intellectual and ideological leadership.
I hope that the preceding reflections aid the illumination of my readers. If not, here is my caveat: I am talking from a distance.
-Professor Femi Taiwo was Secretary General of Student Union of the University of Ife. He has taught Philosophy in Ife and universities in America and Asia. He is the Chair of the Africana and Research Centre, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Moving Nigeria Forward
No one in good conscience ever thought an exercise as gigantic as conducting a Presidential election in a country as vast as Nigeria, would go without hitches and setbacks. And in spite of the generally positive comments by observers, last the exercise did not. It goes without saying that the outcome of an imperfect exercise cannot but remain imperfect itself – a fair illustration of the dictum; garbage in garbage out.
In the circumstances, we are obliged to look with sympathy at the decision by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to concede defeat but to mount a legal challenge against the result of the Presidential election that held on the 23rd of February, 2019; result that gave victory to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. And yet, regardless of the way he feels about it, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has an obligation to tread cautiously, taking into account the impact any action he or other leaders take will have on the gravely tense political and security conditions prevailing in Nigeria today.
As we are well aware, elections and electioneering campaigns in Nigeria as in much of Africa, have almost always proved to be deadly triggers for strife, apprehension, disputes and other forms of conflict, often leading to violence and bloodshed. The longer and the more protracted the process, the heavier the toll. Sadly, Nigeria has suffered terribly from these calamities in the course of this bitterly contested election exercise. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party ran an admirably strong and sophisticated campaign. He should be justly proud of his achievements. He had established his credentials as a powerful and worthy alternative presidential material now and in the years to come.
Unfortunately, his decision not to accept the outcome of this election or conceded victory to his opponent may seriously detract from the high pedestal that he deserves in Nigeria’s political establishment. In the interest of peace and our democracy, I as one of his admirers, advise that he reconsiders that decision.
While at this, we hasten to remind the declared winner that he does not have all that much time to redeem his pledges of being a leader and unifier of all Nigerians. The public had welcomed with cautious optimism the promises he made in his acceptance speech to run an inclusive government. To become a leader of all Nigerians requires that he ignores the voting pattern that brought him to power and consider the country as one large family. Agitations over marginalization, particularly in appointments to key government and public offices mounted by groups including Ohaneze Ndigbo, PANDEP, Middle-belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, and all those well-meaning citizens must be addressed and redressed.
Opposition politicians must not be treated as enemies, haunted or destroyed. A meticulous adherence to the rule of law must be observed. History beckons on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a giant leap forward and re-invent himself. Within his grasp lies the chance to transform into a statesman and become the real father of the nation. Finally, he must discourage and disavow the antics of his overzealous supporters whose excessive and provocative triumphal display can only overheat and further polarize the polity.
— Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Chairman, MUP
What Buhari Should Do
By Femi Falana
Even though President Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected for another term of 4 years by the Nigerian people, he and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress ought to study the result of the polls critically. The election was neither an endorsement of the laissez faire economic policy of the APC nor the cavalier manner of handling the issue of insecurity or the selective execution of the anti corruption agenda. In spite of the limitations and contradictions that characterized the first term of the administration, majority of Nigerians decided to re-elect President Buhari for three reasons. First, Nigerians did not perceive former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as a credible alternative. Second, the opposition to the administration was essentially led by discredited retired military generals, decampees from the APC who rejoined the PDP as well as the pampered and thieving elite. Third, the other political parties failed to form a rainbow coalition and present a viable political and economic programme which is capable of transforming Nigeria from poverty to prosperity. Instead of mobilising Nigerian voters to reject the men and women of expired ideas that have dominated the political scene since independence the sponsors of the new political parties were busy campaigning in the social media. It was against this background that Nigerians decided to re-elect President Buhari. As the results of the national elections have shown majority of the voters are not on any of the social media platforms.
However, in view of the terrible human rights record of the administration coupled with disobedience of court orders, official impunity and and lack of respect for the rule of law it is indubitably clear that not much will change in the polity in the next four years. In other words, in spite of the promise of the President to constitute a cabinet of credible people and form a government of national unity the Nigerian people do not believe that the status quo will be radically altered. To start with, the ruling party has a duty to compel the President to implement its manifestoes and programmes on job and wealth creation, mass housing, compulsory and free education from primary to secondary school, power devolution etc. The ruling party has to make it clear to the President that Nigerians voted for him and not for the cabal that has been in charge of the affairs of the country since 2015.
With respect to the economy the substitution of Chinese economic domination for western imperialism has to give way to the control of the national economy by the Nigerian people. A situation whereby not less than half of the national budget is wasted on importation of fuel and other petroleum products, food products, furniture items, poultry products, palm oil, textile materials, papers, computers etc cannot be justified. But crude oil can be refined locally while other products can be produced in Nigeria in abundance and exported to other countries. Raw materials like cocoa, cashew, groundnuts etc should no longer be exported but processed in the country. The funds recovered so far from looters should be spent on fixing roads and hospitals in all the six geopolitical zones. Nigerians should monitor and track the budgets of the all tiers of the government.
For job creation the government should embark on industrialisation, promote mechanised farming and stop the contract award system. As our youths are not employable artisans are sourced from neighbouring African countries. In addition to retraining our army of unemployed young people the Nigerian Content Act and other indigenisation regulations should be enforced to create jobs and empower Nigeria to control the oil and gas industry and the entire economy. Without addressing the energy crisis the development of the country will continue to be arrested. After 4 years President Buhari cannot continue to complain about the $16 billion alleged to have been spent or wasted on electricity supply. If Egypt can generate 14,000 megawatts of electricity in barely 2 years at a cost of $9 billion the Buhari administration should move speedily to address the energy crisis.
In compliance with the judgment of the Federal High Court in Femi Falana v. Attorney-General of the Federation the Federal government should restore the Peoples Bank instead of the Tendermoni Programme. Apart from the TSA and BVN which have recorded some degree of success, the anti corruption agenda should be reviewed, redefined and reinvigorated. It has to be realised that corruption cannot stop without prompt payment of gratuity and pension of civil servants, provision of houses through mortgage institutions, subsidized by the government, provision of cheap and affordable drugs in well, equipped hospitals, affordable and qualitative education and availability of job opportunities. Instead of leaving the EFCC and ICPC to wage the anti corruption crusade, the Nigerian people who are direct victims of corruption should be mobilized to own the process.
My request for the recovery of not less than $200 billion from the NNPC, Oil Majors, CBN, shipping companies and foreign banks has been ignored by the Federal government. The said figure of $200 billion is based on reports of the NEITI, EFCC, NIMASA and judgments of local and foreign courts. In fighting for the equitable redistribution of the nation’s resources it is high time the privatization of public enterprises was reviewed. In other words, the recommendations of the Senate on the sale of public assets should be implemented without any further delay. Another area that calls for urgent attention is the scandalous enrichment of a few individuals and corporate bodies that are awarded oil blocks and marginal fields by the Federal government. The Privatization and Commercialization Act is not applicable in the oil and gas industry as Section 44(3) of the Constitution has vested all the minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon the territorial waters of Nigeria in the Federal government. Therefore, the allocation of oil blocks to a few people and corporate bodies including multinational companies by the Federal government is inequitable, illegal and unconstitutional. In fact, one of the oil block owners once confessed that he did not know how to spend the hundreds of millions realized from renting out the oil block awarded to him by the Sani Abacha junta. Such unlawful enrichment of a few individuals has to stop in a country where the Federal, State and local governments depend on loans and bail out to fund budgets and pay salaries of workers, political office holders and other public officers.
Nigeria discovered crude oil over 60 years ago. Yet, the oil and gas industry is still dominated by foreigners in spite of the clear provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 which has fully indigenized the industry. It may also interest you to know that the Presidential Executive Order No. 5 2018 has mandated all procuring agencies to give preference to Nigerian companies in the award of contracts and preference to Nigerian professionals and workers by all agencies and companies in Nigeria and prohibited the granting of visas and expatriate quotas to foreigners to work in any areas where local expertise is not lacking. But the relevant agencies of the Government have not implemented the provisions of the Executive Order. Instead of waiting for the government to implement the provisions of the Local Content Act and Executive Order No. 5 of 2018 the labour unions, professional bodies and other relevant interest groups should compel the government to carry its legal obligations under these indigenous laws and regulations. The Executive Order No 17 of 2017 issued by the President for transparency and efficiency in the business environment in Nigeria is not working. For instance, touting and soliciting or receiving bribes from passengers or other users at the airports and seaports prohibited by the Executive Order have continued to thrive. Can the federal government seriously talk of ease the process of doing business if the country’s port is not accessible due to the Apapa-Oshodi gridlock? It is worrisome that Nigeria has refused to learn from neighbouring countries like Benin, Togo and Ghana that are reaping bountifully from substantial investment in their ports. The point that I am struggling to make is that Nigeria is losing trillions of naira due to the refusal of the federal government to develop the ports.
The ethnic divide in the country was manifested in the votes recorded by President Buhari in the just concluded elections. The ruling party has itself to blame for refusing to address the structural imbalance in the country. The country cannot sustain a distorted federal government inherited from the defunct military dictatorship. The ruling party should as a matter of urgency implement its manifesto on devolution of powers without any further delay. The composition of the federal and state governments and the conduct of public affairs should be carried out in such manner as to reflect the diversity of the people in order to promote a sense of belonging and command loyalty among the people. Having been a victim of electoral manipulation President Buhari should seriously address the fallout of the 2019 general election. We cannot afford to waste hundreds of billions of Naira on elections that are manipulated, by the political class. In fact, local government elections conducted by the so called independent state electoral commissions are worse than national elections conducted by the INEC. Even though INEC has been empowered to deploy security agencies for election purposes some powerful elements in the government have engaged in the deployment of armed police and military personnel to intimidate voters. Having joined other civil society organizations to stop do-or-die politics under the previous regime the APC should not be allowed to usurp the powers of INEC to deploy security forces including the armed forces for election purposes. Without waiting for the outcome of the legal challenge of the results of the presidential election by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP the Buhari administration should embark on the implementation of the recommendations of the Mohammed Uwais Panel, Ahmed Lemu Panel and Ken Nnamani Panel set up by the Yaradua, Jonathan and Buhari regimes respectively. One of the most important recommendations of these panels is that the government should embark on mass mobilization of the people. But that is not possible in a country where over 60 million people are illiterates. The situation calls for the immediate enrolment of the over 15 million out-of-school children and promotion of adult literacy programme.
Of course, President Buhari deserves commendation for the remediation and clean up of Ogoniland, the construction of the abandoned 2nd Niger Bridge and payment of the entitlement of Biafran soldiers and policemen. But the regime must accept full responsibility for the murderous attacks on the Shiites and IPOB by the Nigerian Army, the killing of farmers by herders as well as the terrorist attacks by the Boko Haram sect, bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers. The police should be well equipped and trained to maintain law and order while the armed forces should be limited to the defence of the territorial integrity of the nation. That is the only way to end the increasing militarization of internal security in the country. A nation that operates under the rule of law cannot afford to promote impunity by deliberately breaching laws and disobeying orders of municipal and regional courts.
The foreign policy of the country has to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. The deportation of Cameroonian refugees and asylum seekers has lowered the reputation of Nigeria in the country of civilized nations. As a matter of urgency the federal government should negotiate with the Paul Biya regime to have them brought back to the country in line with the judgment of the federal high court. That was what happened in 1981 when Alhaji Shugaba Daman who was illegally deported to Chad was brought back to the Nigeria based on the orders of a court. As a country that once hosted exiles from the Southern African region, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other troubled spots in Africa, this country cannot afford to turn her doors against Africans and refugees from crisis ridden countries. Through progressive and popular programmes, Nigeria should resume the traditional role of providing leadership in the Non-Aligned Movement, ECOWAS and African Union.
-Femi Falana was a radical student union leader at the University of Ife where he read Law. He is a successful lawyer and human rights activist who has won many awards for his activism. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
How To Stop Digital Terrorism in Elections
Early on Monday, 18 February, two days after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the postponement of voting in Nigeria’s presidential elections to 23 February, a handle, which turned out to be a Bot, launched an incendiary graphic with four #HashTags #INECCompromised; #PDPBiafraNexusEstablished; #PDPElectionSabotage; #INECIbeanuMustGo. It tagged some handles, including the official handle of the ruling APC party.
The graphic launched in this hashtag alleged a grand conspiracy to unseat the ruling APC government hatched between the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the leadership of the Parliament/National Assembly, election observers, the US government, INEC, and named leading civil society actors, among whom were Innocent Chukwuma (of Ford Foundation in West Africa); Chidi Odinkalu (of the Open Society Foundations); Clement Nwankwo (Civil Society Situation Room); and Olisa Agbakoba (Founder of Nigeria’s Civil Liberties Organisation of Nigeria and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA). They linked this alleged network to Prof Okey Ibeanu, INEC’s Commissioner for Election Operations. All of this was supposed to be a network of influence deployed for the objective of realizing “Biafra”, the failed secessionist attempt that led to the Nigerian Civil War from July 1967 to January 1970.
On the back of this, also, the government launched an effort to intimidate INEC. The State Security Service (SSS) was instructed to arrest Commissioner Ibeanu. They invited him for interrogation and only last-minute advocacy and intervention involving senior international election observers prevented them from going ahead with arresting and detaining him.
There was only one link between the major civic actors named in this graphic – they are all of Igbo ethnic origin in Nigeria. They are also independent voices in Nigeria’s civic space. The effort to link them in this way to election and national sabotage in a time of serious electoral crisis was worse than a dog-whistle.
In the context of Nigerian history and present sentiments, this was akin to a declaration of war. It amounted to an invitation to a sundry army of sectional “patriots” and the security services to “defend” the “territorial integrity” of the country. In this way, therefore, a feedback loop may have been created that ultimately links the sectional violence and heavy handed security deployment that characterized the elections on the one hand, and digital manipulation on the other. How this was procured may ultimately be one of the revelations from the post-mortems on #NigeriaDecides2019.
What followed was the massive diversion and deployment of military and security assets in operations to violently interfere with voting in those parts perceived to be not well disposed to the ruling party and to procure inflated results from those parts perceived to be well disposed to the party. The INEC was itself forced to acknowledge this was the case in Rivers State, for instance. Conservatively, the body count of people killed in the elections is now over 730. The unique contribution of this election cycle to Nigeria’s pathology of violent elections is that many of these killings are attributable to the security services.
As it turns out, the deployments of security services in the elections was not just heavy handed, it was also counter-intuitive.In other words, rather than deploy military assets in those parts of the country that had chronic, structural violence, such as the North-East and the North-West, they were sent to parts that reported the fewest casualties in violence (South-East) or reinforced in parts with the longest presence of expeditionary military deployment (South-South/Niger-Delta). These geo-politics of deployments also coincided with the patterns of perceived support for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or of antipathy towards it. The North-West and North-East which reported the greatest forms of deadly violence before the elections, are strongholds of the party, while the South-East and South-South were seen as strongholds of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). In the aftermath of the elections, the North-East, which has one of the worst crises of displacement in the world, inexplicably reported voter turnout rates more than double that of the very densely populated South-East and South-South. It is not surprising, therefore, that allegations of deliberate voter suppression by the government have been credibly made.
All of this was arguably triggered with the tweet which went viral within an hour of its launch on 18 February before migrating to the more WhatsApp platforms.The interaction between online behavior and off-line deployments was incredibly co-ordinated. There was clear interaction between the onset of official bigotry and violence on the one hand and the online virus and poison manufactured by government and the ruling party on the other.
It is important to recall that on the morning of 16 February, 2019, the INEC had convened a meeting of stakeholders to explain its decision to postpone the election. The ruling party, represented by its Chairman and former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, had condemned the postponement of the election alleging foul play and demanding an apology. The opposition party on the other hand restated its confidence in the Commission.
In less than 48 hours after this meeting, online terror was unleashed on persons of Igbo ethnic origin starting with the hashtag #PDPBiafraNexusEstablished. This was closely followed with the hashtag #INECIbeanuMustGo. This hashtag was sponsored and trended using social media amplifiers and human-bots. Tweets went out at a rate of 25 tweets per minute and ended up with about 1530 divisive and hate-filled tweets in an hour. Some of these tweets tagged prominent verified handles such as that belonging to the Presidency’s digital strategist, Tolu Ogunlesi and the Vice-President himself. These tweets called Commissioner Ibeanu ‘a Biafra apologist and agitator’ and alleged he diverted materials meant for some northern states such as Kano and Katsina States.
It may be important to map out how strategic these sponsored hate-filled messages were. Kano had the capacity to deliver 4.9 million votes. Going by voting history, the bulk of votes had gone to the ruling party in 2015. Katsina also had the capacity to deliver 3.1 million votes and had often followed same voting pattern as Kano State. By alleging that Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu was in on an alleged conspiracy to suppress northern votes through a malign mismanagement of logistics, the sponsors of these messages were carrying out a systemic plan to unleash terror on INEC and persons of Igbo extraction.
The plan which took root on Twitter grew branches and became a regular WhatsApp broadcast. It is important to note that 41% of Nigeria’s internet users are on WhatsApp. This message spread quickly like wildfire ahead of the postponed date of 23 February, 2019. WhatsApp has been used as a tool for violent calls to action in the past in Nigeria. On the election day, reports filtered in concerning attacks in parts of Lagos State and Kano dominated by Igbo persons. There were videos of ballot boxes smashed and damaged, persons beaten, threatened and advised to ‘go back home’ and vote. There were video verified reports of heavy voter suppression at Isolo, Okota, Oshodi and Surulere, all parts of Lagos with substantial Igbo residents.
The voter suppression circle was complete, and people disenfranchised or, so we thought until the day after election when Igbo traders were rounded up and beaten for failing to vote for Buhari as alleged. This was without thought to the fact that APC had sizeable votes (compared to the turnout) in south-eastern states. The human bots took to twitter again to trend hate messages suggesting Igbos go back to their supposed ancestral homelands in South-East and South-South of Nigeria to vote in their own “states of origin” during Lagos governorship election, sharing information about an alleged ballot box snatcher ‘Demola’ (a Yoruba name from South-West Nigeria) who had allegedly been murdered by Igbos.In reality, persons of Igbo extraction had not only saved “Demola” from mob action (after he was accused of leading thugs to destroy ballot papers) but had taken him to hospital after saving him. Meanwhile, a call for retaliation was issued through various bot-like accounts. The retaliation message was further strengthened online by hate speech campaigner with a large online presence, Adeyinka Shoyemi (aka Adeyinka Grandson) through video and text messages put out on Facebook and Twitter. During the governorship elections, there was a heavier presence of security officials around Okota and Isolo areas of Lagos with a much lower turnout.
Social media platforms have not fared well in providing citizen regulatory framework as intended by their reporting mechanisms. The acknowledgment time of Twitter to reports made between 18 of February to 27 February, 2019 was an average of 56 hours. Feedback response time averaged 108 hours post-acknowledgment of report. Twitter’s mechanism provides a feedback which may state that an account has been found in violation without stating any corrective actions taken or sanctions imposed on the account. Facebook on the other hand has been more responsive to reports with a clear statement of actions taken. However, a lot is lost to a lack of cultural context of these hate-filled messages. It is usually dangerous speech intended to fan and incite offline violence but masked with cultural innuendos and may be given a pass as a regular post. The danger of this is that these merchants know their audience is vulnerable and absorb information with skewed emotions.
Studying this online electoral violence/ digital terrorism, a clear pattern can be seen with the actors. Actors can be grouped into the following classes;
i. Social amplifiers (Pay-per-click messengers for hire)
ii. Hate merchants (Ethnic bigots fanning flames of hate)
iii. State actors with motives (State actor capitalizing on amplifiers and hate merchants)
iv. Election merchants (Those who take this as a brief with no emotional attachment)
v. Social media influencers (those with large cult-like following)
Arising from the post-election violence of 2011, much focus has been placed on political actors to ensure accountability and prevent pre and post-election violence. Little or no attention has been given to keyboard terrorists during elections in Nigeria. It is interesting that the Cybercrime Act which has been used at times convenient for state actors to suppress free speech does not seem to come to play at this time. Section 26 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015 clearly calls out what happened from 18th of February through the gubernatorial elections as a hate crime. Despite these human-bots tagging government actors and being egged on by same, there may be no prosecution, or anyone being held accountable for what happened.
-Dr. Chidi Odinkalu is a senior team manager for the Africa Programme of the Open Society Justice Initiative, Abuja
-Nana Nwachukwu, a lawyer, is a knowledge management coordinator at Policy Development Facility Phase 11, Abuja
Rebuilding Nigerian Public Service for Nation Building
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Given its function of developing and implementing long term vision, the public service is the main corridor, which enables governments to direct societies and nations to attain higher standards. Being the policy hub for delivering public goods, its capacity to serve as the catalyst for national development provide the legitimacy with which it can execute all its other functions, which include raising revenue; ensuring managerial, political and financial accountability; developing conducive environment for non-state actors to produce efficiently; achieve human development; and monitor and evaluate performances of public, private and non-governmental organizations rendering services on behalf of government.
The task of developing vision is in reality a derived function, which is dependent on the broad projections of political leaders. These are basically projections that highlights estimations of what leaders hope to achieve. Without any doubt, in different ways, every leader would have some estimation of what should be achieved. In the context of democratic governance, founded around activities of political parties and electoral contest, there are wide array of vision statements and documents, contained in for instance, party manifestos, campaign declarations, statements and speeches of candidates, etc. All these should under democracy highlight the broad vision of elected political leaders.
Part of the conceptual reasoning, which confers some fancied advantages to democratic governance founded on periodic elections is that ideally electoral victory should also represent vision choices made by societies and nations as expressed through majority votes. Once such choices are made, it is expected that through managerial leadership, which is expected to come from elected politicians, the public service will be able to process vision statements as provided in the party manifestos, campaign statements, speeches, etc. and translate them into enabling policies that will produce development programs and projects. Ability of elected politicians to symmetrically connect with the public service and be able to therefore translate visions into policies is a critical success factor for political leaders to serve as effective developmental catalysts for societies and nations.
While recognizing that Nigeria’s democratic experience was disrupted with the 1966 military intervention, it is important to also acknowledge that the emergence of the First National Development Plan in 1962 represented the effectiveness of Nigeria’s political leadership of the first republic to direct the nation’s young public service towards national development. At such formative stage of nationhood, to envision a five-year plan out of some broad national policy thrusts, provide leadership for the public service to mobilize the needed personnel and financial resources, and develop the necessary competences to execute most of the foundation infrastructural projects is a testimony to the huge resourcefulness and development potentials of the country.
With a capital expenditure budget of about $1.9 billion over the plan period (1962 – 1970), defining national projects such as construction of Kainji dam, oil refinery and 2,000 miles of farm-to-market roads, extending the Northern Nigeria railways by about 293 miles, etc. were achievements of the First Nigerian National Development Plan. The realities of developing the public service to execute these projects, in some respects was what led to Morgan (1963) and Elwood (1966) Commissions, which were assigned the tasks of reviewing salaries and wages of junior workers in Federal Government and correcting identified anomalies in grading and other conditions.
Partly on accounts of the modest successes achieved under the first plan, Nigerian military leaders who overthrew the first republic adopted the national development planning model and governed the country based on successive plans with a five-year tenure for each one. A total of four plans were therefore executed between 1962 and 1985. Note that Fourth Plan (1981 – 1985) was produced during the 2nd Republic, which basically continued development-oriented planning founded on good symmetrical connection between elected political leaders and the public service.
Each plan had projected capital expenditure budget based on which the public service was vested with the responsibility of both mobilizing the financial resources as well as executing specific projects. Accordingly, the First Plan (1962 – 1968) had capital expenditure estimate of $1.9 billion or N2.2 billion; Second Plan (1970 – 1974) estimated N3 billion; Third Plan (1975 – 1980) estimated N30 billion, later revised to N43.3 billion but N29.3 billion was expended; and Fourth Plan (1981 – 1985) estimated N82 billion.
Through these capital budgets specifically, in addition to achievements under the First Plan as highlighted above, NNPC, Calabar and Nkalagu cement factories, Warri refinery, Volkswagen and Peugeot Assembly plants in Lagos and Kaduna respectively were established under the Second Plan. The Second Plan recorded higher public investments in both economic and social sectors, notably education, transport, agriculture and social welfare. The Third Plan provided funding for free education, construction of Warri and Kaduna refineries, as well as Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
It is also important to note that problems of indiscipline in public financial management began to produce high balance of payment deficit under the Third Plan but got worsened in the Forth Plan. A major factor was that the oil boom period in the late 1970s accounted for national expenditure of N979.8 million on importation of consumer goods, which exceeds the budgeted N667.4 million. Secondly, crash in oil prices as a result of international oil glut eroded the basis of funding projections under the Fourth Plan. This is because from projected $40 per barrel and 2 million barrels per day, by mid 1981, prices dropped to $18 and production crashed to less than 1 million barrel per day.
Given such huge drop in financial resources, projects under the Fourth National Plan such as Eleme Liquified Natural Gas, Port Harcourt Refinery, petrochemical plan in Kaduna and Warri refineries, Onne fertilizer, etc. were abandoned. The nation also began to have difficulty paying salaries of public sector workers. Somehow, attempts to correct these problems led to the establishment of Dotun Phillips Commission of 1985, Admiral Patrick Koshoni Review Panel of 1988, Ayida Review Panel and Steven Oronsaya Panel. Predominantly, the main thrusts of the works of these Commissions and Panels centered around the need to restructure operations of the Nigerian public service in order to resolve issues of financial mismanagement and associated balance of payment problems.
With public service reform conceptualized based on the search for resolving problems of public financial mismanagement, almost all the Commissions and Panels had the responsibility of recommending measures to reduce both size and cost of the public service. Privatization, through which operations of some public corporations were transferred to the private sector therefore became a central feature of public service reform since 1985. This is in addition to public sector staff rationalization measures (retrenchment), which resulted in mass sack of public sector workers. Under President Obasanjo (1999 – 2007) alone, more than 35,000 public sector workers lost their jobs on accounts of rationalization.
Coincidentally, since 1985 too, national planning model, which ensured that development targets are set and programs and projects executed to achieve the targets was abandoned. In place of development planning models, so-called rolling plans were adopted. These were in many respects, contraptions that, unlike national development planning, lacked measurable development targets with projected financial estimates. Without financial estimates, the problem of public financial mismanagement gradually grew into a cultural milieu in the public service on account of which the function of mobilizing financial resources became redundant.
Without any debate, up to perhaps the end of the Second National Development Plan (1970 – 1974), the public service in Nigeria was able to discharge the function of mobilizing all the financial resources needed to execute government programs and projects. In fact, up to the Third National Development Plan (1975 – 1980), Nigerian public service was able to discharge this function substantially. Two significant features that perhaps distinguished especially the First and Second Plans were:
Almost all projects executed were done without clearly predetermined guaranteed funding sources. Therefore, the public service had to mobilize virtually all the financial resources needed to execute projects under the plans. Although during the tenure of the Second Plan, export of petroleum products to the international market had commenced, mobilizing funding to execute capital projects was perhaps the most important function of the public service, including what may be regarded as startup funds for the commencement of production activities in the petroleum sector.
Secondly, execution of development projects was the focus of initiatives by political leaders. Execution of projects was then the basis of capacity development for public servants. On the one hand, there were ambitious targets of very high budgetary estimates requiring the public service to mobilize, and on the other hand, there was also the task of developing skills and technical competence to ensure capability to execute projects. Most, if not all, public service reforms undertaken under the first two plans were essentially a function of evaluation of skills and technical competences of public servants. For instance, the Udoji Commission of 1972 was assigned the task of overhaling the entire public service to ensure development and optimum utilization of manpower for efficiency and effectiveness.
The conventional excuse is that oil boom of the late 1970s to early 1980s provided the needed funding to finance government projects. What is however also very evident was that instead of directing government funding to execute capital projects as provided in national development plans, reckless importation of consumer goods became the national priority. Strict application of analysis of consumer behavior and impact to national income accounting would highlight the devastating impact of rising importation of consumer goods.
Overtime, the consequences of the dominance of funding availability from the petroleum sector was that issues of skills and technical competence of the public service to execute projects became weakened, contract services gradually took over many schedules of the public service and some junior service schedules such as drivers, cleaners, domestic staffs, etc. become monetized. Once capacity to execute projects is weakened, service experiences, which ordinarily should confirm skills, instead deskill public servants. Again, instead of government facilitating national development, it become a receiver-manager with the objective of transferring operations of public entities to the private sector.
Processes of rebuilding the public service should also be strengthened and complemented with re-institution of national development planning, which should serve as the test for organizational effectiveness and its political relevance to the vision of political leaders. Combination of organizational effectiveness and vision of political leaders would aggregate the strength of symmetrical relationship between the public service and political leaders.
It may be strongly tempting to dismiss proposals of rebuilding Nigerian public service to get back to performing its core functions anchored on re-instituted national development planning. It however needs to be stressed that so long as so-called reform initiatives are only limited to evaluation of contractual engagement terms based on receiver-manager orientation, Nigerian public service will continue to present cost challenges, national development initiatives will continue to elude the nation, and where semblance of development is achieved, sustainability will be difficult and reversal highly probable.
To achieve this would require strong commitments of political leadership to develop the framework for negotiation and implementation process. This is one area that President Buhari can make a difference and with determined effort commence the process of rebuilding Nigerian public service and bequeathed to successive governments a resourcefully skilled and technically competent public service. It is one area where Nigerians will look up to President Buhari and expect him to once more demonstrate the power of possibility in the same way he was able to, together with other political leaders in APC, successfully negotiated the merger that led to the emergence of APC.
Similar to the pre-2015 political challenge, which beacon on President Buhari and APC leaders to respond to the yearnings of Nigerians, here is, yet again, another clarion call on President Buhari and APC leadership to rollout another national agenda to stimulate rebuilding initiative of Nigerian public service. It is a possibility with the huge potential of engraving APC and President Buhari in the political and development consciousness of Nigerians at all times!
—Salihu Moh. Lukman was Labour activist. He now works for Progressives Governors Forum, Abuja.
Buhari and The Imperative of a New Governance Agenda
By Tunde Babawale
In the aftermath of the recent 2019 elections and President Buhari’s subsequent victory, the need for a re-evaluation of the successes and failures of his policies in the last four years has become compelling. The re-evaluation would reveal those areas in which gaps exist between objectives and outcomes, promises and actual fulfillment, expectations and results.
The Buhari administration at its inception in 2015, promised to tackle corruption, enhance the level of security and improve the state of the economy. It is therefore apposite to assess its performance based on the extent to which these promises have been fulfilled. There is no doubt that so much has been done in these three sectors but, a lot still needs to be done to make those efforts worthwhile.
For instance, the economy went into recession, no sooner than the administration took over, even though it can be reasonably asserted that the foundation for recession had been laid by the previous administration especially because of its profligacy and failure to curb rampant corruption within its ranks. Yet, it may still be said that recession was not unavoidable and would probably have been averted but for the present administration’s obvious missteps in the widespread denunciation of the country and its people as being almost irredeemably steeped in corruption.
Investors that could have brought in foreign direct investment avoided the country like a plague. Those who had foreign exchange in their bank accounts repatriated it to other countries and the situation got worse with the devaluation of the nation’s currency.
There is no doubt that the security situation inherited by the administration was grave with several local governments in the north east occupied by Boko Haram insurgents. Abuja, the nation’s capital was not spared from serial bomb explosions with the United Nation’s office in the city at one point being a victim of Boko Haram bombing.
However, with the ascendancy of the Buhari administration, Nigerians experienced some respite from the Boko Haram menace for about two years. Tragically, recent events have shown that the menace is yet to be over as the Boko haram insurgents appeared to have regained confidence, attacking military formations, police stations and burning down entire villages, towns and cities with the attendant loss of lives and property. The situation has been further compounded by a new security scourge epitomized in widespread farmers/herders conflicts in virtually all parts of the country, the increasing wave of kidnappings, ritual killings and of course the spate of violence that attended the 2019 elections.
All of these have shown that as the Buhari administration commences its second tenure, it requires a new template that would enable it confront these challenges headlong. A new security architecture that involves communities in the process of securing the country is required. The current leadership of the security agencies namely, the Army, Navy and the Airforce must give way to a new leadership with vision and vigour.
Although the economy is now out of recession, steps must be taken to ensure that the nation is cured of the perennial symptoms of economic underdevelopment – reflected in high rate of unemployment, drastically reduced purchasing power of workers’ earnings, increased economic inequality and inequity, double-digit inflation, etc.
It is heartwarming to note that President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved a new minimum wage. This is good news for workers whose wages have stagnated for a very long time.
There is an urgent need to intervene in the unemployment crisis that is ravaging the nation. Indeed, it would not be out of place for the administration to start-off by declaring a state of emergency in the employment sector. Our investment in infrastructure and the establishment of industries must be given priority. There is hardly any state in the country that has not been turned into a graveyard of industries that had thrived in the past.
Such collapsed industries can be resuscitated in phases to provide jobs for unemployed graduates and school leavers. The idea of having multiple exchange rates created ample room for corruption. This practice ought to pave way for a uniform exchange rate in order to curb corrupt practices in the forex market and enhance the value of the nation’s currency.
No nation can develop without a stable power supply system. Smaller countries in Africa enjoyed more regular electricity supply than we do in Nigeria. This is the surest way to develop both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. The anti-corruption war must be put into higher gear and divested of all the drama and showmanship that has been its trademark till date. More can be achieved in this realm through preventive measures such as ensuring that all financial transactions in MDAs are done electronically. Secondly, new checks and balances must be introduced into the system to ensure that no single individual has the final say on financial or procurement matters.
The point should be made that any anti-corruption crusade that exempts the civil service will remain a dissolving mirage. Indeed, the civil service in Nigeria is the epicenter of corruption in the public sector especially because of the important role the service plays in procurement matters.
A searchlight should be beamed on the civil service which at the moment is also neck-deep in corruption. Yes, politicians and political office holders engage in corrupt practices but none of them can do so successfully without the assistance and support of the civil servant. This suggests that the current war will continue to flounder and generate motion without movement unless we frontally tackle corruption in the civil service as well.
Furthermore, the Nigerian civil service is overdue for reform if we are to restore sanity and productivity into the system. Our civil service as presently constituted cannot serve as the engine room of development for our nation. It is too large, too cumbersome, phlegmatic, unproductive and corrupt to be effective.
President Buhari should know that the country is at the moment deeply divided and the fault-lines that amplify our differences have been magnified by inter-ethnic clashes, as well as religious and political intolerance.
Nigeria’s new cabinet must be an inclusive one that accommodates people not only on the basis of their political persuasion but rather on the basis of their competence, track record, pedigree and character. Only then can we get the best that the country has to offer. Nigeria’s deserves an A+ cabinet and nothing less.
Successive regimes have paid lip service to the diversification of the economy. This administration in its second term must depart from this trend by showing concrete commitment to the idea of diversification such that Nigeria can reduce drastically its excessive reliance on crude oil as its main foreign exchange earner. A nation blessed as we are, can afford to tap from its numerous God-given resources if it is determined to do so. The culture and tourism sector is one that our governments have made so much noise about and done very little to exploit. Culture as the expression of our identity and way of life ought to be elevated to such a level that it influences not only our revenue-earning capacity but also our international relations. That sector at the moment lacks a compass which is the CULTURAL POLICY.
That policy is at the moment in a draft form and yet publishing the document has remained an uphill task. Government should as a matter of urgency publish the cultural policy, revise the Tourism master plan and institute the endowment for the arts which has been gazetted but left inactive.
Many countries around the world have found the culture and tourism sector to be a veritable goldmine for revenue-generation. Culture has indeed served as a useful instrument for diplomacy and the exercise of soft power. We need to take full advantage of the sector by encouraging states and local governments to promote cultural competitions and periodic cultural fiestas.
The epileptic mode of funding government-owned cultural agencies must also change for a more sustained funding that is not just sufficient for mere housekeeping functions but also for organizing meaningful cultural programmes and activities.
This administration must avoid the temptation to continue with the blame game about how previous governments destroyed the country and its economy. It should take itself by the bootstraps and embark on transformative policies that would serve as imperishable legacies in the annals of the nation’s history. The people have invested their votes in the ruling party (APC) precisely because they wanted a change in the existing order to a new dawn where they could realise their hopes and aspirations and live a more meaningful life. Their desire is to have results and not excuses.
-Tunde Babawale was Deputy Speaker, Students Representatives Council, University of Ife, former DG, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), former Dean, Students Affairs, Universiy of Lagos, where he is Professor of Political Science.