In an age and time when many Nigerian churches and Christian ministries seem more often to ‘take’ from the community rather than give, Global Harvest Church Lagos has joined the league of those few that have redefined ministry. On April 22, 2011, Global Harvest Church Lagos launched a novel and innovative community outreach initiative tagged ‘Shop4Free’. Perhaps choosing to introduce such a concept on Good Friday was just in line with the spirit of the season, commemorating Jesus’ death and crucifixion, and indeed a perfect time to demonstrate true love. Shop 4 Free is a community project initiated with an initial goal to feed, clothe and give hope to over 1,000 people at its first outdoor market.
The doors of the venue, NECA House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, opened at 7am to a crowd of people. With an overall turnout of about three thousand people, the venue was saturated with a buzz of expectation and joy. This crowd of people comprised social workers, street cleaners, ‘okada’ riders, mechanics, law enforcement agents, the less privileged, and yes, they shopped for free. The church hall was stacked full with variety of products ranging from food items including bags of beans, rice, semovita, tins of beverage and milk, cartons of noodles, spaghetti and sugar, packs of frozen chicken, to clothing with mini boutiques set up for both male and female wear, books, drinks and personal effects. Forming a queue, people were assigned Shop4Free vouchers worth N2000 for individuals and N5000 for families. They proceeded to walk through the well structured make-shift supermarket to pick items for themselves and their families. Adequate controls were put in place by the project committee to ensure each person/family got just a voucher and used it only once, to make more available for others. The shop closed at 3pm, after 8 hours of meeting people’s needs. In the words of the Senior Pastor, Rev Victor Adeyemi, “The joy on people’s faces yesterday made it worthwhile for Global Harvest to reach out with this initiative”.
In what is seen as an exemplary case of Church Social Responsibility (CSR), Global Harvest church has joined those few others in setting the pace for community focused ministry. Departing from the general impression of prosperity for the benefit of the church, or perhaps as many may reason for the ‘Man of God’, Global Harvest church appears set to create a paradigm shift, keeping focus on more on the community. Shop4Free was funded by generous donations and wilful giving from individuals near and far. Could it be that there are still many benevolent individuals out there who seek such channels to reach out to the society? They may not be inclined to contribute to the direct needs of the church, but are enthusiastic to support whatever the church determines to do for the society. Perhaps this model of ministry is laden with such potential for growth and maximum impact. It certainly is reminiscent of the early missionaries who made their way to Africa, to preach the gospel. Their tools of outreach were embedded in the provision of service to the community, and as such they built schools, hospitals and clinics, roads and houses, many of which are still in use today.
The Nigerian society craves for change like never before. While we wait on the government to get its acts right with education, health, security and other forms of infrastructure development, there is an opportunity for non governmental institutions, including the church, to tap into. Some churches have such nationwide coverage that positions them to reach out to practically every region in the country. Embracing such possible initiatives as Shop4Free, Health4Free, Jobs4Free, Education4Free, Roads4Free, Housing4Free, with sincerity of purpose, and nationwide deployment, will certainly put joy on more faces, while drastically reducing poverty levels. There will be innumerable positive effects on society. Societal impact cannot be left strictly in the hands of the Government. The church and religious institutions must definitely play a part.
For Global Harvest church, this surely must be one of many steps in the right direction, and indeed an exemplary case of church social responsibility. There must be more to come!
The paralysis of analysis. This is what the recently concluded presidential election has generated for some thinkers and analysts. There is no dispute to the fact that the election was seen to be credible and peaceful. It has been adjudged to be comparatively free and fair, relative to previous elections of the sort. The turnout of voters at various polling units was quite impressive the highest figures reported at Bayelsa (85.6%), Imo (83.6%) and Abia (78%) states. Overall, the South Western states reported the lowest figures with an average turnout of 32.96%. Accreditation started promptly across the zones and subsequent voting was reported to be relatively smooth. Counting and collation was generally concluded within 48 hours, with the final announcement of a majority win by the ruling party and incumbent president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
The ‘Big One’ has come and gone. Results have been declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but rejected by the major opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Sporadic violence broke out in some Northern states over the last two days following the declaration of results. These events have exhumed the age old issue of a possible North/South political divide. Does this divide truly exist?
The results of the presidential election show what may seem to be a sweeping of the North West and North East by the CPC, with its presidential candidate being Gen Buhari, a Northerner from North Western state of Katsina. The remaining four geopolitical zones were overwhelmingly won by PDP, fielding a South-South candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. The general interpretation given to this pattern is that Nigerians voted along geographical fault lines. Did they really? Did the North vote specifically for the Northern candidate? Did the South vote in similar manner? The NW and NE vote analysis shows that 31.5% and 31.1% of voters there supported the PDP candidate who is from the SS. So, it is clear then that assuming the absolute veracity of these figures, an average of 31% of the core North voted for a Southern candidate. In the course of pre election campaigns, CPC did not spread its reach to the SE or SS, perhaps hoping for a northern majority vote. This probably accounts for its dismal performance therein. However, if CPC had campaigned vigorously in these zones, is there no possibility that Southerners would have voted for a Northern candidate? It is beginning to seem that the Nigerian electorate demonstrated a paradigm shift towards voting for the individual, as against a blind vote based on geopolitical affiliation.
The other issue that becomes striking following this election is the personality/party debate. It is not news to any Nigerian how that the ruling party, PDP, has been in power for 12 years, without commensurate economic and infrastructural development. In this light, it would hardly be expected for the progress minded to cast votes for this same party whose performance they have repeatedly criticised and ranked as low. However, the election results prove otherwise. Have Nigerians then stopped being progress minded? Perhaps not. On the contrary, general sentiment holds that the electorate voted for the person they envisioned as being better positioned to foster national progress, irrespective of the political party platform on which he ran. This is the paradox of Nigerian politics. Ideally, one would reason that a typical party member will share the party’s political vision and ideology. How possible is it for a party candidate to function outside the political platform to which he is loyal and owes his victory? The majority of Nigerians who voted for the incumbent on the 16th of April probably have expectations of transformational performance and record economic development even though such grand achievements have rarely been attributed to the PDP. Is it possible to vote for the personality, divorcing the party? Is this the definition of an alternative political perspective?
It remains important to note that whatever analysis has been done is only as good as the authenticity and veracity of the declared results. The major assumption, albeit questionable, is that vote figures were not inflated in any of the six geopolitical zones. Analysis remains only as relevant as its underlying data is. In the coming days and years, many things will become clearer to the world of political analysts and observers. Time will tell whether there is a possibility for a political personality to break the political umbilical between himself and his party. Until then, we can only observe, analyse and hope.
For those who are still wondering and analysing in their minds, the following thoughts are highlighted to stimulate discussion and an eventual decision. The current tussle for the presidency seems to be between Dr Goodluck Jonathan (PDP), Mallam Nuhu RIbadu (ACN), Mallam Shekarau (ANPP) and Gen Buhari (CPC). Who will you vote for on Saturday?
Dr Goodluck Jonathan is by all means a noble man, who has ascended the various levels of executive governance in Nigeria. He has risen through the ranks from Deputy Governor to Governor, from Vice President to President. However, there are concerns and challenges to the possibility of him continuing in office for the next 4 years – As the flag bearer for PDP, Nigeria’s ruling party and possibly the largest political party in Africa, Jonathan may be limited in whatever may be his noble aims and desires for the country by a number of factors. Most striking of these is his underlying association with ‘god fathers’ in the PDP framework. Like it or not, he who pays the piper, dictates the tune. Despite the fact that the party seems to be somewhat fragmented currently, it will be folly to undermine the potential influence of ex generals like Obasanjo and IBB, in the face of a PDP presidential win. These associations may easily become clogs in the wheel of Dr Jonathan’s good intentions. Unresolved issues including the alleged case of money laundering reportedly filed by the EFCC against his wife, Mrs Patience Jonathan, have been swept under the carpet. There is also a continued allegation of tacit facilitation of the release of former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, who is wanted by both Interpol and EFCC for money laundering charges and stealing funds worth $290m. Ibori is a strong member of the PDP, and it is believed that he played a key role in bankrolling the political campaign of the Yar’Adua-Jonathan ticket in 2007. Whether proven or not, these issues portend potential risks to Jonathan’s rule. How easy will it be for Dr Jonathan to call the bluff of his party stalwarts and ‘god fathers’? Charity begins at home! How believable is his anti-corruption plan, in the face of the allegations against his wife? Will he be free to implement positive development policies for the nation? Or will his intentions be choked and truncated by the many PDP stakeholders? Will he spend the next 4 possible years politicking and managing issues?
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu remains the well respected anti graft czar. However, his political strategy apparently did not have sufficient foresight considering the implications of him running on the ACN platform. Now, he seems to be positioned between a rock and a hard place. In responses to questions at debates and interviews, Ribadu made statements practically contradicting his anti graft war in the EFCC. It is recalled that he once described the corruption charge against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as being of international dimensions. He also stated then that there was a petition of complicity in money laundering charged against Mrs Jonathan. Recently, his statements imply that all such charges have been cleared. He probably did not envisage political challenges of this proportion. The other concern about his renowned performance at EFCC is that it was highly leveraged on executive support and empowerment by the presidency. This causes one to wonder whether he will be able to deliver even better performance if placed at the helm of national affairs, without such leverage. If there truly is a case against Tinubu, will he have the nerve to pursue it if voted into power? Will he function as a free president? Will his hands be tied?
Mallam Shekarau’s political campaign has been heavily hinged on the supposed successes achieved during his tenure as Governor of Kano state. There have been numerous questions to these claims especially from a number of Kano indigenes that do not share the same view with him. Asides this, his only other obvious leverage is his oratory skill. How many Nigerians really see him as president?
General Buhari’s major antecedent is the inflexible, autocratic style of his military rule in the early 80’s. Asides this and other questionable policies that characterised his tenure as military head of state, his leadership is widely acclaimed to be honest and without corruption. Buhari, it is said, owes no man! In a complex political state like ours, dominated by ex-military men turned politicians, who have so infiltrated the coffers of government to an inconceivable level, a Buhari presidency may be an effective checkmate to their nefarious activities. Nigeria probably needs an honest man of such integrity and calibre to be able to take on such stalwarts and put them in their place once and for all, similar to the Jerry Rawlings story in Ghana. Does he have the potential to do this? Probably yes. Will he? Is he truly the changed man he claims to be? Or is the country in line for a rude shock? One wonders. Still, the strength of his candidacy is likely to guarantee a period of stability, accountability, and integrity in governance, thus establishing a bridge between the current despicable state and the immediate future of vibrant development and youth empowerment. His age guarantees nothing more than 4 years in government. If there’s anyone that can tackle corruption, he probably is. His lack of economic and innovative prowess also suggests that Nigeria may see a repeat of the recruitment of skilled technocrats to create a formidable economic team similar to the Obasanjo type. Buhari may not be the final definition of change….he may be the beginning of change relative to the current Nigerian context.
I was asked a question today by a renowned Professor as we concluded discussions relating to Nigeria and politics. He asked “So, will you also be corrupt?” Having given him my response, I have since forwarded the same question to friends and colleagues. This same question becomes an acid test for these presidential aspirants – a possible tool to select by elimination. Based on what is currently known of them, Which can you say will not be corrupt? Which is likely to be successful at waging a war against corruption at all levels of government? Putting them on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you rate each candidate’s corruption potential index (CPI)? Another acid test question may be – “Which of them is most likely to create an enabling environment for leap frog development in Nigeria within 4 years?” The last acid test will be – “Which of them is most able to break Nigerian governance free from the clutches of the PDP behemoth?”
Think. Think. Think Again. Eliminate. Decide. Who will you vote for?
With the conclusion of today’s parliamentary election in Nigeria, there is an observed shift from the despair and disappointment of last weekend’s fiasco to a sense of hope, progress and possibility. To many, the elections may be described by any of the favourite political buzz words – Free, Fair, Credible, Transparent. With the exception of a two hour delay in some polling zones like Kaduna among others, accreditation and voting were witnessed to have commenced promptly all over, giving an overwhelming feeling of success as regards the general conduct of the elections. However, while progress was being achieved in some parts of the country, there were cases of violence and election malpractices in other locations including Maiduguri, Ughelli, Bayelsa and Owerri. Specifically, in Bayelsa, a politician was found with ballot boxes and materials in his residence, while on Friday evening, there was the report of election materials being tampered with in Owerri. A bomb exploded at a polling unit in Maiduguri leaving a number of people injured, while Ughelli witnessed some political miscreants attempting to cart away election materials, albeit unsuccessfully. Most disheartening was the diabolical bomb explosion at the INEC office in Suleija, which left some dead, and others seriously injured.
In retrospect, and relative to last Saturday’s initial attempt, we can say that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) certainly put some things right, applying the lessons learned, and demonstrating a tremendous improvement in performance. Were all the boxes ticked? Certainly not, but INEC’s performance today displayed a great deal of process improvement.
So then, is the stage set? Have we come to that point where we can say that Nigeria is on the brink of change or is it a bit too early to judge? Based on the conduct of today’s exercise, is it safe to assume that next weekend’s presidential elections will be better conducted? Is Nigeria about to shift from decades of democratic ‘selection’ to a true democratic government of the people? Will there be a re-enactment of the 1993 elections, where Nigerians trooped out to vote in what was judged to be the most credible election in our national history? Will Prof Jega deliver on his promise to ensure a free and fair election? Is the country about to witness the much-touted revolution?
Between now and Saturday 16th of April, 2011, both INEC and Nigerians at large will have seven days to determine a national response to those salient questions. If eligible voters maintain the apathy observed today in a number of polling units, then I say it’s ‘not yet uhuru’. It is understandable that many may have been discouraged by the previous weekend’s cancellation, but at no time and in no place has apathy created change. Life does not give what people deserve; it gives what people demand. It is clearly seen through the pages of history, that there is immeasurable power in one vote. It will be up to Nigerians to come out en masse on the 16th of April to exercise their civic duties. All those who registered must be at their polling units to vote and defend their vote.
INEC in its own preparation must attend first to a major issue – the voters’ register. In the coming days, it only becomes logical for INEC to immediately make the validated register available on its website, and perhaps in secure public locations nationwide. INEC must provide the means for voters to verify that their names are accurately listed in the national register of voters. There should be no repeat of the numerous complaints of registered voters not finding their names on the list with polling officers. There is only one valid voter’s register and not two. One wonders why there were reports from units stating that the voters list seen today was different from the copy used last week. The dismissal of this major issue only amounts to the eventual disenfranchisement of eligible voters. INEC, the buck stops at your shop!
The Nigerian Military and Police Force were armed and deployed all over the country to provide required security for a successful conduct of today’s elections. Where were these security agencies on Friday evening when detractors and enemies of state planted a bomb at the INEC office in Suleija, Niger State? What were they doing when a bomb went off at a polling station in Maiduguri? If change is to be birthed, security becomes a paramount requirement. Guaranteed security will definitely influence the massive turn out of voters especially at major flash points. They say the police is your friend, this is the time to show it!
As we patiently await the presidential and gubernatorial elections, one cannot deny that there is a sense of a wind of change. People voted, and waited behind to witness the counting and collation of votes; media stations ran a live coverage of the elections while it lasted, and very importantly, young people influenced the exercise with the flood of information available via twitter, facebook and blackberry messaging. Without mincing words, change is inevitable, but one just wonders if the stage is truly set.
In preparation for Saturday’s parliamentary elections, INEC needs to critically examine the hitches and issues that led to the termination of the initial attempted exercise. Of the numerous concerns expressed and questions raised, there are key issues that demand immediate attention and resolution to prevent the re-occurrence of systemic failure in the political process.
With respect to these key issues (among many others) highlighted, and specifically in terms of the distribution of materials and personnel, INEC needs to declare a state of operational emergency. According to Prof Jega, we know that all the election result sheets were finally delivered to INEC on the 2nd of April, 2011. As such, an emergency operational distribution strategy must be conceptualised and implemented as follows:
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 – INEC has 12 National Commissioners representing the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria (2 per zone). Each zone comprises states with respective Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC). The REC in each state has Local Government electoral officers reporting to him/her. Likewise, the LG EC’s have both Ward and Polling Unit electoral officers reporting to them. As at April 6th, the 36 REC’s were summoned to Abuja for a crucial meeting to discuss lapses in the system and proffer solutions in this regard.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 – By the end of business (6pm) on April 7, all election materials (Form EC8A, Ballot papers, Re-validated Voter’s register, etc) per geopolitical zone should be handed over to the 2 National Commissioners (NC) in charge of each zone. This should be done at the commission headquarters in Abuja. Giving another 2 hours, the NC’s should distribute and hand over all materials to the respective REC’s within their zones. The process of handing over should be concluded by 9pm on Thursday April 7. Prior to completion, Prof Jega must ensure that any used ballot papers from April 2nd, are retrieved, confiscated and destroyed, and are further replaced with new unused ballot papers in the same quantity. On completion, at 9pm, the INEC chairman should notify all political parties and the general public through a media announcement, stating the identities of the REC’s per state and the details/quantities of election materials in their custody.
Between 9pm on Thursday April 7 and 12pm on Friday April 8, the REC’s must mobilise on emergency basis, by land/air to their various states with all materials. If the new presidential jet purchased by President Jonathan must be used, then so be it. Such is the criticality of this emergency distribution strategy. The Nigerian Air Force aircraft should also be engaged to ensure that the REC’s with ALL the materials required are transported to their respective states and arrive there by 12pm on Friday April 8.
Friday, April 8, 2011 – Before arriving at their respective states on Friday, the REC’s must have summoned all local government, ward and polling unit electoral officers to the commission office for due briefing. On arrival at their states (latest 12pm), the REC’s must immediately proceed, with security escorts, to transport the election materials possibly to the vaults of the state branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria under guarded conditions or a designated bank vault where there is no CBN branch in the state. This should be concluded between 12pm (arrival time) and 2pm. Once completed, each REC must report to the commission headquarters by phone and email confirming the delivery of ALL materials to the state. By 3pm latest, the INEC chairman should proceed with another public announcement confirming that ALL materials have arrived at the 36 states. For security purposes, there should be no revealing of exact material locations.
At 4pm on Friday, the REC’s may then brief their local government, ward and polling unit electoral officers on due diligence as regards the conduct of the election exercise. As part of the brief, adequate transportation must be discussed, planned and agreed, involving the FRSC for land transport, the Nigerian Air Force for air lifting and the Nigerian Navy for sea transport where required. By 7pm on Friday April 8, all briefs and transportation logistics should be concluded. The REC must again report on progress and status to the commission headquarters.
A final media announcement confirming the readiness of all states, local governments and wards for the conduct of elections should be given by the INEC chairman by 9pm probably before the NTA network news.
Hopefully, with the exclusion of extraneous factors and natural disasters, such an emergency operational strategy should put INEC in a better prepared state for the commencement of parliamentary elections all over the country on Saturday, 9th of April, 2011. While it is not by any means an all encompassing submission, it certainly reveals the need for an emergency approach without which achieving success in the conduct of the parliamentary elections on the 9th of April remains nothing but a wish.
At noon today, 2nd April, 2011, the ongoing National Assembly elections were cut short and postponed to Monday 4th April 2011, by the INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega. This decision was attributed to ‘unanticipated emergency’ due to the late arrival of election materials in many parts of the country.
The exercise was planned to commence at 8am with accreditation of voters at the 120,000 polling units across the nation, and subsequent voting at 12.30pm. Between the hours of 8am and 12noon, there were varied reports from citizens across the nation – some parts of Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu witnessed slow but certain progress, while most other parts of the country including Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Eket reportedly experienced prolonged delays in the arrival of INEC officials with election materials. Asides the delay in the arrival of the officials and their materials, there were several other reported issues with a number of registered voters calling in to radio stations to register complaints about the omission of their names on the available register at the polling booth. There was also the alleged issue of ballot papers showing 3 different names – ACN, ACPN, and AC, for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Another notable issue was the shortfall of about 2 million ballot papers in Plateau State, as stated by the Resident Electoral Commissioner.
The most critical of these issues was the delayed mobilisation of officials to their polling stations all over the nation, caused by a protracted delay in the delivery of the election materials, specifically the result sheets. According to Prof Jega, the vendor contracted to transport these materials failed to meet INEC’s expected delivery date of Thursday Mar 31, 2011, eventually delivering them at 9am this morning, after accreditation should have started nationwide.
Prof Jega, in a swift move, revealed to Nigerians, via a press announcement, that there were major issues on ground hindering the credible conduct of today’s elections and consequently had to postpone the exercise.
His announcement is seen by some as a timely move, depicting Jega as a man of integrity. He, in his address reiterated his commitment to being upfront with Nigerians on the whole process, telling exactly how things are, sharing their successes and difficulties with the general public. In this regard, one cannot fault the INEC chairman. He said he would be open and transparent, and it seems he has demonstrated this. It is opined that his predecessor was probably faced with worse challenges in prior elections but went ahead to conduct them, declaring debatable results afterwards. For a nation where it is not popular to own up to one’s public faults, let alone accept responsibility for them, Jega has won the hearts of many, with his disposition to the current issues. Better cancelled than rigged, they conclude.
Another school of thought recognises his humble and sincere approach of accepting responsibility for the situation as a cry coming a bit too late. They wonder what happened between Thursday and Saturday morning. Since INEC was already aware on Thursday that there were logistics issues with the transportation and delivery of election result sheets, Jega should have been upfront at that moment, possibly postponing the elections then, to avoid the unfortunate waste of time and resources that was witnessed today. Questions are also being raised about the justification for outsourcing the production of result sheets to foreign vendors. Perhaps if the materials had been produced in-country, it would have eliminated the transportation delay?
In general, the issues around today’s election exercise reveal skill gaps in project execution. Every project, including the conduct of elections, should be well scoped and planned via a dynamic process. The activities and tasks should be well laid out and proven to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. A proper and ‘live’ project plan and schedule should guide the implementation of the project. As events unfold, the plan and schedule must be updated to reflect the project’s current status and outlook. The schedule of activities should then be analysed to determine what items have no time slack i.e. the critical path. What activities must be executed in perfect time to avoid impacting the whole schedule? The transportation and delivery of election result sheets would probably fall into this category. When identified beforehand, such activities may be given additional schedule allowances (float) to cater for slippages, thus resulting in a more realistic project timeline. Considering this, maybe April 2nd would not have been a realistic start date?
Also, in project planning, it is important to conduct a “what-if” analysis, to itemise the possible events (including ‘acts of God’) that may occur to disrupt project progress, or even terminate the whole project. Factors must be included in the base project cost and timeline to provide for these ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’. Contingency planning is critical to project success. Even typical engineering construction projects include what is known as a factor of safety in design variables before arriving at a final design. The ‘final’ proposed project start and completion dates should only be announced based on the contingency included in the plan.
INEC needs to gather its planners and strategists together within the next 48hours to determine what else could possibly go wrong, what has been overlooked, what other logistics issues and constraints may hinder the progress of the elections, etc. They should estimate durations for these possibilities and come up with a new election timeline based on their current experiences. Even though this will affect their budget without a doubt, it is just the reality of executing such projects especially within the complex and dynamic Nigerian environment.
Does INEC have a Quality Assurance and Control manager or is this responsibility the REC’s? There should be personnel deployed in this capability to ensure that all the election materials produced including ballot papers, conform to requirements, and display accurate information on the political parties, their symbols and acronyms.
Nigerians are simply looking for change. Cancelling an ongoing election, due to obvious irregularities and logistics failures is definitely a departure from prior national experiences – the 2007 elections were not cancelled even though they were declared the most disputed and fraudulent in Nigeria’s history. The 2003 elections also had their own fair share of challenges, yet took place without cancellation. Today, perhaps what we see is a glimmer of light in a dark tunnel – Jega has cancelled the elections to uphold the credibility of the eventual results. We can only wait and hope that INEC will seize this opportunity to resolve other issues, plan appropriately, deploy the right personnel and get the Nigerian ship sailing in the right direction.