The elections have come and gone. A long month of campaigns, political engineering, analysis, postulation, tragedies and seeming successes has passed. Today, Africa’s most populated country is closing on the verge of transition from one democratically ‘elected’ government to another. Were the hurdles clearly scaled? There are reasonable doubts. Describing the process by the popular lexicon, we can conclude somewhat that the country obviously ‘wobbled and fumbled’ to this point. Nonetheless, it is a marked departure from the past and this effort should be lauded.
As is typical with high profile board meetings, walking through an agenda, the stakeholders brainstorm at lengthy sessions, conclude on consensus items, pen down issues and areas of concern, and then finalize with two words – Next Steps! Consequent to the agreements made, specific action items are identified for immediate implementation and responsibilities are assigned. Dr Goodluck Jonathan has been declared winner of the presidential election, the South Western states save one have been re-captured by the Action Congress of Nigeria, election results are being queried by some parties, INEC struggles to resolve the inconclusive election in Imo State, while all eyes seem set on the May 29 self handover date – Next Steps?
Dr Jonathan must now get to the drawing board. This is not the time to appease political supporters or campaign loyalists. Neither is this the moment for a regurgitation of a 5, 7 or 9 point agenda. Seeing that the votes he amassed, where valid, represent the will of the people, perhaps we may assume, albeit questionably, that he owes no one or that he is no longer anybody’s boy? Whichever is the case, this is his moment to wield the force of character and demonstrate the psyche of progress. He must call the bluff of all potential performance saboteurs and detractors.
He will do the country great good by adopting the model of governance already implemented in Lagos state. Fighting corruption may not be a strong point, and his campaign did not deny that. The Lagos state model is not belaboured with anti-graft operations, but is rather focused on the core of service delivery. Dr Jonathan should employ the same model. He must envision the Nigerian state as a business with its citizens being the customers, who frantically beckon for service delivery, while desiring an end to corruption. They maintain a higher preference to see government expenditure on power generation and supply than endless litigations against offenders.
If the customer truly is king, then Dr Jonathan must meet their preferred demand. Electricity supply is a core customer requirement. Education, health, security, roads and infrastructure development are ingrained in the customer’s desires. If their needs are not met within his government’s lifecycle (a mere 4 years), the availability of a substitute product with low switching cost will make a change in customer choice inevitable.
His next steps then are clear: Meet the demands of Nigerians! Assemble a cabinet of realistic and innovative technocrats who can deliver change to individual parastatals. Set quick win targets and assign timelines. Employ the strategy of communication and involvement. A monthly accountability report to the citizenry through a live media chat, with an open avenue for people to express their questions and concerns is not an option, it must be done. Nigerians must know what is going on, how funds are accounted for, what projects are being implemented, what the issues and resolution plans are. Prof Jega has evidenced this already. His numerous media sessions successfully communicated INEC’s situation to viewers and by large endeared many more to his credibility. That being said, talk still is cheap. Dr Jonathan must walk the talk.
In the process of service delivery, with a medium term focus, stricter policies for adherence to the rule of law should be introduced. As the leader of the nation, Dr Jonathan and his party, PDP, should embrace the policies of transparency and rule of law by allowing INEC to turn the spotlight on him. He should demonstrate to INEC that in adherence to section 91 (2) of the 2010 Electoral Act, he did not incur more than one billion naira on his presidential campaign, neither did any individual or entity donate more than one million naira to his campaign fund according to section 91 (9). Where the Executive clearly shows adherence to the law, it becomes a strong case for promulgating a national anti-graft campaign.
Security must become the watchword of his administration. There must be an end to the periodic breakout of mindless arson and carnage. Foresight and speed must be seen to be the underlying operational dimensions of security. Forces must be deployed early to areas where tension is seen to accrue. The lives of Nigerian youths, serving their fatherland, were wasted in the recent violence that followed the presidential elections because security forces delayed in responding and as such the victims were not protected from the raging mob. In determining his next steps, Dr Jonathan must revalue the worth of life for Nigerians and doggedly resolve to reverse the trend.
Whatever the next steps may be, in addition to the aforementioned, they should be communicated to the media in the weeks to come. They must be unambiguous, succinct and specific as they will become some of the standards by which his performance will be measured. The next four years will to a large extent provide an answer to Sonny Okosun’s age old question – Which way Nigeria? The first answer will be embedded in Dr Jonathan’s response to the thought of the moment – What Next?
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.
In view of the forthcoming April 2011 elections, Nigeria commenced the voter’s registration exercise on the 15th of January, 2011, with an estimated timeline of about 2 weeks. Owing to various issues, unprecedented and otherwise, the duration of the exercise was extended to enable a greater majority of citizens register. Rating the whole exercise as successful or not may be much of a debatable item. Nonetheless, INEC must acknowledge the collaborative efforts of the media, the entertainment industry and most especially, Nigerian youth in general. There are verifiable accounts of various young artistes who personally motivated their fans and followers to get registered. The campaigning was done via social networking platforms and offline.
Having ‘successfully’ concluded this first phase of the Register-Select-Vote-Protect (RSVP) process, all eyes are set on the next phase – the critical issue of selection. In every aspect of life, people are faced with a variety of options and are constrained to choose or select, in what we commonly refer to as decision-making. The bedrock of selection is the availability of viable options. Where there are credible options, it is then left to the individual to comparatively analyse, and ultimately select.
Taking a look at the Nigerian political scene today, we are faced with what seems like a plethora of options – 63 registered political parties, all fielding candidates for various positions. The question is how viable are these options? With the spotlight currently on all the presidential candidates, there are some that immediately strike the common man as being the key contenders:
He is the incumbent President of Nigeria, native of Bayelsa State, Christian, born in 1957. He holds a PhD in Zoology (University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria). His work experience includes civil service and lecturing in biological sciences in Rivers State. He worked as an Assistant Director in OMPADEC (Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission) from 1993 – 1998.
10 years back, no one would have predicted his rise to political prominence. This was initiated by his advent into full politics in 1998, and a consequent emergence as the first deputy governor of Bayelsa state in 1999. He was sworn in as governor in 2005 after the impeachment of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Jonathan was then selected in 2006 as the running mate to Umaru Yar’Adua for the PDP presidential ticket. The duo won the subsequent elections in what was described as one of the most disputed elections in Nigeria’s history. After 3 years of rule, Umaru Yar’Adua took ill and eventually died in May 2010. Dr Jonathan was sworn in as the current president on May 6, 2010. He has been described as a man who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Dr Jonathan set out to uphold the ‘rule of law’ mantra of his predecessor, declaring a war against corruption, kidnapping and militancy in the oil rich Niger-delta. It is not quite clear what the extent of success in this campaign currently is, with pending unresolved high profile cases like Willbros, and Siemens. The anti-corruption agencies (EFCC specifically) under his government seem unable to replicate the quite impressive performance demonstrated between 2003 and 2006. There is also immense concern on accountability regarding the excess crude account which is reported to have been depleted from $20bn (Sept 2008) to as little as $500m (Sept 2010) and $2.2bn currently.
Nigeria’s population today is dominated by the youth (over 40%). Dr Jonathan, aged 53 years, seems to fit well as a generational bridge between the crop of older generation politicians and the swarming upwardly mobile youthful populace. His focus on the use of electronic social networking tools to propagate his thoughts and vision, has positioned him within the immediate reach of the upwardly mobile Nigerian youth both at home and abroad.
There are immense national challenges that have faced the country for decades. These include constant power supply, proper maintenance of highways and access roads, and basic infrastructure. Nigerians are eager to see new and innovative solutions to these prolonged problems. How innovative has Dr Jonathan been in response to these issues? Does he have the required potential for generating new, fresh ideas to create solutions?
Goodluck Jonathan’s current campaign is centred on providing good governance, power and energy, food, education, health, land and transport, unemployment, security and the Niger-delta. Besides these high level goals, there are no specific action plans identifiable in his published manifesto online. There is also the alleged threat or limitation of him not being his own man; of not being assertive enough – will he be a second fiddle to a godfather or cabal?
A native of Katsina State, Muslim, born in 1942, Buhari was 7th head of state of Nigeria (1983 – 1985. His initial military training was at the Nigerian military training school and military college, Kaduna. This was furthered at the Officer’s Cadet School (UK), Army Mechanical Transport School (UK), Defence Services’ Staff College (India), and United States Army War College. His previous work experience includes: Governor (North-Eastern Nigeria, 1975), Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources (1976-78), Chairman, NNPC (1978), Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF, ‘95 – ‘99).
Within 2 years of military rule, Buhari implemented a number of measures, some of which were considered extreme, hence his reputation as being authoritarian. Nigerians were forced by whip-brandishing soldiers to queue up at bus stops; tardy civil servants were subjected to ‘frog jump’ punishment, and press freedom was restricted. In a bid to grow the economy, imports were cut, resulting in a rise in commodity prices and ultimate inflation. However, in 1995, he was appointed chairman of the PTF by the Sani Abacha administration. There is a general perception that he handled this excess oil revenue fund with transparency and efficiency.
Relative to the political scene, Buhari is certainly not a newcomer. In 2003 and 2007, he contested the presidential elections on the ANPP platform and lost in both cases to the ruling party, PDP. He unsuccessfully challenged both election results in court.
He is judged to be a man who commands a sizeable level of followership and respect, especially in some northern circles. This may not be unconnected with the successful implementation of an anti corruption and indiscipline campaign during his military rule. Many Nigerians still see this effort as having instilled the highest level of order, discipline and perhaps accountability in the nation’s history.
On the global front, Buhari is reported to be well respected. It is on record that he and Nelson Mandela were the only private African individuals invited by the White House to Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.
To the average Nigerian youth, Buhari falls into the older generation category. While he also has employed the use of a website and electronic social networking as campaign tools, it is not clear whether he will fit well to bridge the generational gap between past leaders and the current crop of upwardly mobile, technology-enabled Nigerian youth.
Regarding national issues such as accountability and governance, he proposes the concept of an online budget monitoring and performance system. He has set a target to generate and distribute at least 15,000 MW of electricity by 2015, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 10%, transform the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to a commercial business, and progress the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). A critical point of his manifesto is to make information technology, manufacturing, agriculture and entertainment Nigeria’s key economic drivers. Are these goals a possible recycling of old political promises or do they portend fresh and innovative resolutions to issues?
General Buhari’s current campaign is centred on providing good governance, economic recovery and infrastructure development, power and energy, agriculture, education, health, land and transport, women empowerment, security and the Niger-delta and unemployment. These goals with sub-activities are identifiable in his published manifesto online. The dichotomy of his person still poses the question – military or democrat?
Native of Adamawa State, Muslim, born in 1960. He was executive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC, 2003 – 07). He holds a Masters degree in Law (Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria) and was called to the bar in 1984. He also had a stint in strategic management at Harvard Business School, and is a fellow at Oxford University (UK). He worked with the Nigerian Police Force for a period of 18 years (1985 – 2003), serving as key operational officer in the General Investigation and Force Criminal Investigation departments, eventually rising to become the head of the legal and prosecution department.
Ribadu’s political experience seems to have been initiated by his appointment as the pioneering boss of the anti-graft agency EFCC. While executing this assignment, he served as a member of other strategic committees including the Economic Management Team, National Committee on Public Service Reforms and the National Cybercrime Working Group. He is widely perceived to have wielded such commitment, drive and passion in his various assignments. In September 2010, Ribadu made a formal declaration to contest the presidential elections on the ACN platform. This is the first time the former EFCC chief will be contesting for a prominent political post.
Between 2003 and 2007, the Obasanjo government earned a great deal of nods and accolades for its apparent success at initiating and implementing the war against corruption. This war was spearheaded by Nuhu Ribadu with many notable results. Under Ribadu’s administration, supposed ‘sacred cows’ were not spared. The EFCC charged governors, ministers, party members, and 419 (advance fee fraud) offenders. Of notable mention is the conviction of the then Inspector-General of the Police Force, with the recovery of N20 billion.
Many have viewed the success of his corruption war as being hinged on strong support from the executive arm of government. Others allege that he was a political tool in the hands of his boss, Obasanjo, to get rid of his perceived detractors, while sparing those considered as allies. While these allegations remain unproven, his previous performance in the force, with awards received, quells questions about his capabilities.
Aged 51 years, Nuhu Ribadu appears to fit very well as bridge between the older generation politicians and youthful populace. He is perceived to command a strong youth appeal and is quite active in his personal use of electronic social networking media as campaign and feedback tools.
His campaign goals include the plan to invest in coal (utilizing existing national coal reserves), wind, solar and biomass as alternative means of power generation, create 30 million jobs, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 8% within 5 years and 10% in 10 years, and reduce fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP. A critical point of his manifesto is to expand the economic hinge to include non oil sectors. As regards food and agricultural production, there is a commitment to create a system of providing an egg and a glass of fruit juice or one glass of fresh milk to each child in school by 2014.
Summarily, Nuhu Ribadu’s political campaign is premised on developing human capital and infrastructure, growing the economy, good governance, youth employment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, security, defence and the Niger Delta. These goals are clearly outlined with detail in his published manifesto online. If voted into office, will Ribadu be a man of his own? Will he then be empowered to bring all corrupt public officials (both previous and current) to book?
He is the acclaimed publisher of Ovation International magazine, raised in Ile Ife, Osun State, Christian, born in 1960. He holds a Masters degree in English Literature (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria). He lectured briefly at the Oyo State College of Arts and Science (1982-83), and later served as a civil servant in Ondo State. In 1986, he honed his managerial skills running Motel Royal Ltd, Ile Ife. An avid writer, Dele Momodu quickly rose to prominence in the media industry, working as news editor for the Weekend Concord (1989). Having worked as editor to the celebrity magazine, ‘Classique’, in the early 90’s, and as founding editor of ‘Leaders & Company’, Dele eventually started his own production of Ovation International, in 1996.
Chief Dele Momodu’s foray into politics can be traced back to the second republic when he was appointed as private secretary to the deputy governor of Ondo State (1983). Ten years later, Momodu joined the campaign organisation of Chief MKO Abiola, a presidential aspirant in 1993. He was arrested and detained for his activism and pro democracy activities and eventually fled into exile in 1995. Ovation International was birthed during his exile years. Dele Momodu is renowned as one of those Nigerians who have built a global brand out of humble beginnings. In 2010, he declared his intention to contest the presidential election and was elected as the National Conscience Party candidate in January 2011. This will be his first electoral contest.
Declaring his assets and compelling public servants to do the same is Chief Momodu’s first stab at tackling the scourge of corruption in the land. He has vowed to maintain a transparent and accountable government.
Dele Momodu is seen to have a strong connection with Nigerian youth. Generally respected for his achievements in the media industry, he is also viewed as a big brother figure to many young Nigerians. Fondly called Bob Dee, he portrays himself as an ordinary Nigerian like any other, without the cover of godfather-ism. Aged 51, he fits very well as a generational bridge and maintains strong relationships with the youth through his deft use of electronic social networking tools.
He proposes to address national issues by implementing innovative solutions including the creation of a financial system that provides mortgage facilities to young graduates, building a light rail system to provide easier access to different parts of the country, replicating the Milton Keynes city project in developing new cities out of Ogun State, diversifying the economic base by providing incentives to motivate youths investing in agriculture. He is very emphatic about building infrastructure and creating an atmosphere that supports the growth of local entrepreneurs and investors, ultimately improving production and increasing GDP.
In summary, Dele Momodu’s political campaign places emphasis on infrastructure, economic growth, transparent governance, youth empowerment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, national security, and the Niger Delta. His campaign website provides further detail in this regard. Will his skills in business development, together with his erudite and influential personality be sufficient to steer the Nigeria’s wheels through the many challenges ahead?
In conclusion, it is apparent that the lines are gradually being drawn and redrawn, and aspirants are propounding their ideologies and goals of governance. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also successfully completed the registration of 67 million eligible voters, against a target of 70 million. This has now shifted the onus to the typically apathetic Nigerian, and more than ever, the dissatisfied and complaining youth, to view the available aspirant options, compare and contrast across board, analyse strengths and possible threats, and make that informed decision – SELECT.
Over the past year, I have read and heard various perceptions and opinions of young Nigerians regarding the civic duty of voting. In spite of the ongoing campaigns aimed at motivating and stirring the voting spirit, some young folks still seem to be either apathetic or totally against the whole concept.
This apparent apathy is not surprising. For a country whose political system has no obvious trend pattern of justice or fair play, it becomes an arduous task convincing the young populace to believe in, or worse still partake in it. How do you convince a young high school leaver that university education is the path to his future when he can see his peers foretasting instant wealth from aligning with local government chairmen or ward councillors? Res ipsa loquitur. In the same vein, most young people, logically thinking, cast their minds back on past elections, the pre-event campaigns, the attendant violence, their results, and acclaimed winners. They recall numerous post event tribunal cases (mostly protracted), and the melodrama that beclouded them. For the rational mind, based on the foregoing, the question certainly begs – Why should I vote? Votes in the past have been counted but didn’t count, voters security and safety was hardly guaranteed, results have been declared with votes exceeding the population in the region, spurious voters cards (with names like Michael Jackson) have been reported in several cases! It certainly makes no logical sense to vote…the past bears witness!
So what then? Is this a lost battle? If votes never really counted, will they count now? There are no easy answers to these questions. However, the defining question to propose will be – Does the past determine the future? Statisticians will suggest that with past experiential data, we may predict future ‘possible’ occurrences by regression analysis, based on the same variables. What happens where the variables change?
It has often been said that you cannot change your background, but you can affect your foreground and influence your future-ground. While we have no control over when or where we were born, or even how we grew up, we can choose the kind of lives we want to live now and in the future. Yes, we acknowledge the past, we embrace our history, but we choose not to allow it become a limiting factor to our present progress. We learn from the past, affect the present, and influence the future.
Nigeria’s demography (2010 estimate) shows that over 40% of the population is between ages 15 and 39. This age group currently holds the controlling share in terms of population size. A shareholder with controlling stakes in a firm has the power and influence to create change in the firm, by his vote! This category is the Nigerian Youth, latent with the power to influence positive change in the growth of such a great nation. It is very possible that in the past, this age category was unable to wield the force of critical mass. Today, however, with aggressive ongoing campaigns like RSVP (Register.Select.Vote.Protect), Enough is Enough Nigeria, there is a growing awareness, an increasing aggregation. It will be difficult to shout down the voices of at least 45 million young people. From the north to the south, the east to the west, critical mass is forming, young people are getting together, and the stage is being set. A man who refuses to speak will never be heard. Your vote is your voice. It is not a sound to the past, but a note to the future.
Our country contends today with the forces of bad governance, dilapidated infrastructure, inconsistent policies, poor accountability, and the mother of all, corruption. In response to these prevailing issues, many young people sit at evening hang-outs on a typical Friday evening, complaining, counter-complaining, buck-passing, blame-gaming and what not. They rise to leave, yet with their eyes focused only on the past and what brought us to this point. It is time to make that shift from merely acknowledging our past failures, and analysing current political imbroglio, to active participation in the determination of our future. Your vote is your future.
So, young Nigerian, will you sit unperturbed and maintain status quo? The era of ‘siddon look’ is fading away. The clouds are gathering, people are rising, and change is imminent. Do not be left out..