The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has condemned the recent attack on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
In a press release, issued by the anti-graft organization’s Director of Administration and Programmes, Tola Oresanwo, the Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran said, “It will be recalled that eight passengers have died after gunmen attacked a busy train between the Nation’s capital, Abuja, and Kaduna city. The gang mined the track forcing the train, carrying 970 passengers, to a stop on Monday evening. Gunmen subsequently surrounded the carriages and opened fire. An unknown number of passengers were abducted from the train, considered the safest way to get between the cities”.
The Abuja-Kaduna highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the country as kidnappers have been known to have ambushed vehicles at several points along the expressway. Over the last few years this has pushed many to avoid the 150km (93-mile) journey by road instead opting for the rail link, which opened in 2016. It is more expensive but considered safer as the trains have armed guards on board.
The recent attack on the rail line underscores the level of insecurity in the country. We cannot forget in a hurry how the security of the Kaduna Airport was also breached and an attempt was made to attack the Airport. The recent happenings are new dimensions being added to the already battered security system in the country, and has raised so many questions looking for answers.
We at CACOL would like to know “What has happened to the security votes of the states along that railway corridor? Nigerians would want to know how the governors of those states have applied the money allocated for security to security in their respective states. Have they set up local intelligence-gathering system to work with local vigilance groups with the view to supplying usable information to the security agencies to abort sinister plans of terrorists before they become emergency? The Governor of Kaduna State is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of the State, and as long as he cannot guarantee the security of lives and properties of the people, it means he could not be entrusted with the security and welfare of citizens of the state. That means that people’s lives and livelihoods have been exposed to jeopardy ab initio. And if we have to take Mr. El-Rufai by his words before becoming the governor, it means he, like many other governors in the country, has demonstrated crass incompetence in administering the state. As long as Gov El-Rufai has confessed to know where the terrorists were camping he should route them out by any means possible, including hiring mercenaries as he has threatened. Nigerians will stand by him and against anyone, agency or institution that tries to constitute a clog in the wheel of his progress. But if he merely keeps lamenting, engaging in self-pity and does nothing about the debilitating situation, Nigerians will not pity him. It only shows he is unable to carry out his statutory duties and he didn’t raise the alarm long before the tragedy happened, the next honourable thing he would have to do is throw in the towel”.
“The situation also throws up the question: What happened to the annual huge budgetary allocation for military, paramilitary and other security and defence agencies at the federal levels? if Kaduna state that’s the repository of national security and defence headquarters could easily be placed under siege by rag-tag army of terrorists The President, being the Commander-in-Chief of armed forces should justify his continued stay in office or be legally dealt with if he should fail to account for the humongous amount that such sectors have consumed and nobody has been punished for its misappropriation, misapplication or mismanagement. At a point like this, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum should let Nigerians know how much security of life and property they apply the unaccounted, monstrous ‘Security Votes’ they allocate to themselves is able to take care of and what gaps need to be filled by the federal government. They should take responsibility for the duties they swore to carry out as the chief security officers in charge of their respective states. The governors cannot continue to claim that they are not in charge of their state’s security but collect so much money that makes no impact on the lives of the citizens. The joint security and defence system should be more pro-active than reactive in their operations. They should take the battle to the bases of the terrorists rather than waiting for them to cause irreparable damage before making usually futile efforts towards tracking them down. Also, Nigerians would want to see those arrested in connection with terrorist activities maximally punished for their crimes to deter others”.
“The Minister of transportation also needs to tell the good people of this country at what point did he make the request for the security gadgets needed for the rail line security. Was it made part of the original plan for the rail lines or mere afterthought? He should also tell us who disapproved or unnecessarily delayed or prevented the requisition from scaling through before the tragedy struck. Otherwise, he should apologize to Nigerians for lacking foresight and courage to perform the duties entrusted to him or resign from the cabinet”.
The practice of allocating a humongous chunk of state resources to security votes or whatever name they choose to call it, by federal, states and local governments in the country is an open day robbery and a carry-over effect of military incursion into power. We have always maintained that any money not appropriated for by the National Assembly, states’ legislature or local governments’ equivalent of it, or appropriated for but not judiciously accounted for by the respective Administrative arm of government is simply misappropriation of public funds.
The CACOL Boss adds, “As much as we agree that security matters of any nation or its component states are a very sensitive and strategic issue that should be handled with tact and panache, we urge all stakeholders within the security apparatai to take necessary steps to find a lasting solution to this needles waste of life. We cannot continue to expose people to this unending carnage and still be allocating billions of Naira to defence and security. This is completely outrageous, insensitive and alien to the letter and spirit of democracy and its kernel of social contract theme that presupposes that those in government only serve as custodians of power bestowed by the electorate, who ultimately, remain the custodians of this sacred sovereignty. We therefore, call on the government to bring the perpetrators of this dastardly act to book while not sparing those who have been doing a thankless job of collecting money to provide security for the entire country with very little or nothing to show for the humongous amount of money collected over the years.”
PRESS BRIEFING ON PRIORITIZING ANTI-CORRUPTION AND SOCIAL INCLUSION IN THE 2023 POLITICAL AGENDA: IMPERATIVES AND COMPONENTS, ORGANIZED BY THE CENTRE FOR ANTI-CORRUPTION AND OPEN LEADERSHIP (CACOL) HELD ON 30TH MARCH, 2022.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press.
Corruption, wherever it occurs, represents a decline in our value system as a nation. If left unchecked, it poses a grave threat to our democratic values and our dream of being an ethical and truly developing state. Corruption is committed by individuals who are driven by greed; they steal state resources, business opportunities and consciences of civil populace that are intended to grow the economy, eliminate poverty and ensure the achievement of development outcomes.
Corruption is commonly but, unofficially conceptualized as the misuse of public office for private gain. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that the ”State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power” (Nigerian 1999 Constitution Section 15.5). Similarly, the Act establishing the Nigerian Independent Corrupt Practices (ICPC) criminalizes corruption. According to Transparency International, corruption is: “Misuse of entrusted power for private gain” (TI 2013). Corruption includes abuse of power, but it is a larger concept and a much more serious issue than the misuse of public office for private benefits. Corruption is the breach or perversion of legal rules, established procedure, and code of conduct or social norms and values in the service of unethical or illegitimate ends. Nonetheless, CACOL defines corruption as any act of dishonesty.
The issue of corruption has continue to draw lots of attention to Nigeria and controversies in Nigeria as a result of the negative impression, perception and reputation that successive Nigerian government has earned for the country in various areas where countries of the world are ranked as far as corrupt practices are concerned.
It is against this background and the need to shift the paradigm of corruption fighting away from the ruling class that has been committing corruption crimes to the right holders who have been suffering the jeopardy resultant from such criminal activities that the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, (CACOL) have had series of consultative meetings with some prominent Community Based, Civil Society and Faith Based Organizations in Lagos State. The fora presented an avenue for us to intimate them on the roles they are expected to play in prioritizing anti-corruption, accountability and social inclusion issues in Lagos State as the State prepares for upcoming 2023 elections. All the CBOs, CSOs and FBOs consulted expressed happiness and appreciation at the fact that such a meeting had been organized to involve them on the roles expected of them prior to 2023 elections. They also assured us of their continued cooperation and support.
From our consultative meetings with the CSOs, and FBOs in the state, it is a unanimous opinion that corruption in Nigerian environment is an act deliberately perpetrated by policy makers and a contradiction of democratic values and principles by politicians thereby thwarting accountability and transparency. Corruption is systemic in Nigeria leading to a particularistic political culture in which values are allocated based on one’s connections in the society and not merit. The weakening of political institutions and lack of political willingness in combating corruption made it a bane for good governance and development in Nigeria. The efforts to fight corruption were sabotaged by policymakers as anti-graft agencies were politicized and turned into a tool for intimidation of opposition.
Corruption is exhibited by elites in forms of bribery, extortion, nepotism, cronyism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. Corruption has been institutionalized in the entire Nigerian system including political, administrative, and bureaucratic. Corruption in Nigeria has been perceived as a brazen squander of public treasury by office holders impoverishing the masses and leading to low infrastructural development. Corruption in Nigeria is perceived either in the form of grand, bureaucratic and legislative corruption. Corruption in Nigeria can be seen in the jumbo payment of salaries to political office holders while paying the average worker a meager amount not plausible for survival.
Nigeria’s Fourth Republic commenced on the 29th May, 1999, with great hope and expectations in spite of the fact that the process was initiated and mid-wived by the military that had perpetually held on to political power and so lacked the moral justification to convince the generality of the people of its success. Many people saw the development as a dawn of a new beginning for good governance and democratic dividends. However, the euphoria that greeted the return to civil rule has been replaced by frustration and hopelessness as those elected by the majority to represent the people continue to live in opulence that does not conform to the present economic realities. Campaign against corruption by successive regimes has remained mere rhetoric just as the rule of law is mere pronouncement. Although the country has held six general elections (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019), so far they have all been marred in controversies, fraudulent practices by both the electoral body and the security agencies with credibility and legitimacy crises as end products. In fact, it has been argued in several fora that corruption remains the worst problem challenging and hindering the country’s socio-economic and political development. In recent times, many development scholars and public affairs commentators have concluded that the socio-political and economic woes of Nigeria are rooted in corruption.
Electioneering in most multicultural societies like Nigeria is a deliberate agenda of the elites to polarize voters along ethnic and religious lines. As such, campaign messages are usually tainted with sentiments and hate speeches to divert the attention of the electorate from the real socio-economic problems of the state. Although the 2015 Presidential Election has been described as historic in the annals of Nigeria’s democratic journey, emerging realities necessitate the review of the link between campaign propaganda, electoral outcome and dynamics of governance in the post-2015 era. We have observed that high-level campaign propaganda influenced voter choices and ultimately, contributed to the victory of an opposition party in the 2015 Presidential Election. However, the winning party has substantially failed to deliver some of its electoral promises. Instead, it has deployed the state power in pursuit of sectional interests. We believe that this trend can be reversed if key democratic institutions are established and strengthened in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, political parties and candidates are usually seen as representatives of ethnic or religious groups. Individuals have strong attachment and allegiance to their ethnic nationalities and religion since these variables often constitute basis for political patronage and reward. As a result, voters are incapable of making objective political decisions on the basis of the antecedence and competence of candidates, as well as the ideological leaning of the political party. Rather, electoral choices of individuals are informed by ethno-regional and religious considerations, and pattern of voting reflects deep polarization of the electorate along parochial interests. Indeed, political parties and candidates exploit this deep vacuum to frame campaign propaganda that depicts the north-south dichotomy in order to influence electoral outcome.
Political parties have undeniably assumed an indispensable status in the democratisation process given the critical role they often play in effectuating good governance, the rule of law and human rights protection. Beyond this, political parties are seen as platforms through which the mobilisation and enlightenment of the citizens on the policy direction of the state are made possible. They perform the latter function by organizing opinions and attitudes around sets of issues of public importance which would subsequently be disseminated to the electorate through various the mass media. The essence is to consciously modify the voters’ worldview in line with the programmes, sentiments and proposals of the party in order to elicit either objective or subjective support from the targeted group.
Election promises have come to represent one of the fundamental elements of the representative democracy through which hopes and expectations are created and sustained in any society. It is also the larger context of the strategies which political parties adopt to stimulate voter turnout, motivate supporters to vote in an election and, ultimately, determine the outcome of the election. Thus, given the general distrust against election promises by the citizens, the tripodic linkage between campaign promises, election outcomes and post-election governance have constantly remained the subject of scientific inquiry. Essentially, the crux of the inquest has revolved around: inspecting the electoral promises made by politicians and political parties before an election, determining how it largely influenced the outcome of the election and understanding the modalities on ground to faithfully convert these ideas into reality in the post-election governance.
In advanced democracies like the United States and United Kingdom, election avails voters opportunity to objectively scrutinize and analyze the programs of political parties and competence of candidates. Election messages are designed in line with the prevailing socio-economic challenges of the state. In Nigeria, reliance on ethno-religious considerations for electoral decisions as seen in the 2015 presidential elections have polarised voters along religious and ethnic lines. Inciting messages, questionable promises, hate speeches, and campaign of calumny were features of the 2015 presidential electioneering. Absence of issue-based campaign in Nigeria has led to disputed elections, undermined the emergence of competent leadership, exacerbated social crises, and deepened acrimonious relationship among the citizens.
We are not unaware that faith-based organizations and ethnic-based communities have naturally been part of basic consideration in socio-political power play in Nigeria. Our concern is hinged on those demographics that are only theoretically included but practically excluded in the scheme of administering their lives and that of their progeny. They are those that we have earlier stated – the physically disabled, youth, women, displaced people, people in the rural communities, illiterates, etc. These are groups that have constitutional rights to be included in the scheme of political considerations but have no specific rights that are justiciable, that could be asserted, when such people are excluded in the act of governance. We recognize that faith-based tendencies and ethnic affinities have been adequately taken care of as primordial conditions for elections and appointments as government functionaries, albeit we disagree with using religion or ethnicity as parameter for selecting candidates for elective and appointive political offices and responsibilities. It is our belief that the principle of merit should primarily be upheld towards ensuring that it is only the most qualified in terms of technical knowledge, cognate experience and good quality of mind that are the reasons why a person is elected or appointed to serve the appropriate position of authority.
In order to ensure social inclusion in the electoral process, voters must be given information about how to register, where to register and when the registration centre is open. Women, youth, people living with disability, internally displaced people etc. may also need encouragement to register, in particular where cultural norms imply that elections are a male domain, where there is illiteracy or where there is widespread political apathy. In most countries with high illiteracy rates, women constitute the largest proportion of illiterate voters. In some contexts, it will also be necessary to ensure that information is provided in local languages.
Why is it important to foster youth political participation?
It’s a known fact that in many political parties, the relationship between youth and the parties is strained. To break a cycle of skepticism and mistrust, youth can develop the skills and motivation to successfully interact with political parties. At the same time, political parties could be encouraged to create space for them by removing barriers to youth involvement. In some contexts, youth wings of political parties have played a central role, by providing a powerbase for young members, retaining and grooming them, and reaching out to young voters.
Participation is a fundamental democratic right. It should be an end in and of itself to remove existing barriers to youth political participation. From a more purely pragmatic perspective, if young people have the perception that formal political processes are not accessible and/or attractive for them; this can shape their attitudes for a lifetime, with potentially long-lasting negative impacts on a country’s political culture.
It has been found that in new and emerging democracies, the inclusion of youth in formal political processes is important from the start.
Through their active contributions, democratic values can come to life, paving the way for the overcoming of authoritarian practices. In countries where youth led protests have forced authoritarian regimes from power, significant frustration is likely to arise if youth are not included in new formal decision-making procedures. This might have a destabilizing effect on democratization.
Further evidence suggests that youth are more inclined to participate in informal political processes. Activism, protests and campaigns are common avenues; youth are often driving forces behind reform movements. In the current world and throughout history, there are many examples of powerful youth-led protest movements. Youth also tend to get involved in civic, service-oriented activities, such as volunteering for a social cause. Many young people are more inclined to join a tree-planting project, for example, than to join a political party talking about planting trees in the future.
We would therefore make the following recommendations based on the unanimous opinion from our consultative meetings with the CSOs and FBOs in the state:
1. It is our recommendation based on our findings on the field that there is an urgent need to overhaul the whole gamut of election architecture in Nigeria through aggressive and comprehensive reforms. Firstly, there is need to strengthen the administrative, financial and institutional autonomy of INEC to regulate the use of hate speech during electioneering. In most cases, the Electoral Management Body (EMB) lacked the capacity to punish highly placed public officials who violate extant electoral rules and guidelines mainly due to institutional incapacitation. The institutional weakness no doubt, has hindered effective coordination of the electoral processes by the EMB. Secondly, INEC should be empowered to punish any candidates found to have violated the new electoral law by disqualifying and banning them from participating in elections for a minimum of eight (8) years.
2. The statutory functions of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be expanded to undertake the democratic role of political education and enlightenment of the electorate on the borderline between conventional campaign promises and political propaganda. In carrying out this function, the agency must prioritize use of indigenous languages in order to get to wider audience not conversant in English language. By so doing, the electorate would be well-informed on what constitutes a realistic campaign promise and a mere slanderous propaganda targeted at discrediting an opponent unjustly and scoring cheap political popularity. The NOA should also insist that Nigerians deserve the truth and should be told the truth and nothing more, no matter how unpalatable it may appear.
3. The media must be regulated by law to disseminate objective messages during electioneering. Specifically, it must be restrained from being an appendage of a given political party, showing preference for any candidate and serving as tool to disseminate disinformation and hate speeches.
4. The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) drawn from academia, trade unions, media and social research institutes should jointly conduct background checks on contestants and manifestoes of political parties, and subsequently, educate voters on the qualification of candidates and feasibility of their programs. Most importantly, CSOs should organise and insist on compulsory participation of all candidates in a televised debate. In most cases, presidential candidates abscond from debates and only educate the electorate on the policy direction of their parties during campaign tours. In Nigeria, political campaign tours is an inappropriate means of educating voters since actors utilise the platform to showcase their dancing skills, engage in names calling, and reel out questionable campaign promises.
5. Equivalent media fact-checking tools such as the Politifacts which finds out when politicians are making false claims; Truth-O-Meter that tells the voters whether the politician is saying the truth or not, and Flip-O-Meter that tells when politicians are flip-flopping promises during campaign, should be established in Nigeria.. As a corollary, fact-checker would help political actors to articulate issue-based campaign programmes reflecting the peculiar challenges of Nigerian state rather than relying on disinformation as viable means of accessing political power. The utilization of the fact-checking tools in Nigeria could help to limit hate speeches and spread of questionable campaign messages. Again, it will serve as a viable instrument for deepening democracy in Nigeria. However, the absence of these tools suggests that political parties and candidates are unhindered from coining and spreading controversial electoral promises.
6. Financial flow of political parties in terms of their income and expenditures should be closely monitored and the political actors should be compelled to give blow-by-blow account with verifiable evidence in terms of bank statements, payment receipts, etc. to ensure that they don’t overspend and they should not receive cash donations from their patrons or members. All contributions and payments to their service providers, consultants, etc. should be made through financial institutional transfers. Moreover, no politician should be allowed to distribute cash to electorates or people at the campaign grounds. The distribution of palliatives like food, household items and the rest should be limited to electorates at ward level and it should be tied to the needs of the people. The cost of the palliatives and the expenses incurred to distribute it should be manifestly accounted for. Politicians who have emerged as candidate of political parties should not distribute palliatives at all while aspirants at their ward level can do that in order to ameliorate some of the sufferings of their constituents but as soon as they emerge as candidate of their political party they should not indulge themselves in such things.
7. We would also lend our voice to the call for speedy determination of so many high profile corruption cases dotting the various temples of justice across the country. The cases involving Stella Oduah, former Minister of aviation, Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State Governor, Rochas Okorocha former Imo State Governor, Theodore Orji, former Abia State Governor and many other serving Senators still having corruption cases hanging on their necks should be dispensed with as soon as possible so as to serve as deterrents to others.
It is generally believed that corruption is responsible for the perpetual underdevelopment of our country and this had been enabled directly and indirectly by the custodian of the governing instrument which in most cases were not freely given by the citizens through their periodic voting exercises. We believe that this can be corrected if all the available legal instruments are diligently implemented by the wielders of political power imbued by the persistent demand of the citizenry. The citizenry can force the hands of the government officials backward from making corruption a state policy by perpetual monitoring of their activities in and outside of their places of official engagements and questioning them on issues of probity, accountability as well as insisting on the observation of all democratic principles and ethos. This is what CACOL has taken upon itself in collaboration with willing hands in the civil society and the populace to engender with a view to ensuring that corrupt elected officials are not welcome back into their ancestral communities. We believe this will deter others who flaunt ill-gotten wealth from continuing in that trade and ensuring that the innocents of their communities are not polluted to the extent that upcoming political elements will not see corruption as a dignifying career that they could adopt just like internet fraudulent practices is gaining ground among the younger generation.
Thank you for your attention.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL has condemned in strong terms the attack by some assailants of the Chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) , Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju and his wife at their Lagos home.
In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Tola Oresanwo, the anti-corruption organization’s Director, Administration and Programmes on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he stated, “We received the sad news of the attack of the Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju and his wife by gunmen numbering five with great shock. The fact that the gunmen at about 2:15am on Monday invaded only Suraju’s residence out of other 220 buildings in the estate is suspicious and a pointer to the fact that they may not be ordinary armed robber but may have been sent to carry out the dastardly act by some group of people who are enemies of truth”.
“We learnt that the assailants who were heavily armed with guns, knives, and other dangerous weapons also threatened to kill Mr. Suraju, physically hit him and his wife both of whom had to be hospitalised.
The assailants who were caught on CCTV camera invaded Mr. Suraju’s home in Lagos at around 2:15 am on Monday, 28th March 2022, breached the Estate’s Security and burgled the security features in his house with sophisticated tools. Currently, both the intent and the extent of the damage cannot be fully estimated yet”.
“This underscores the height that insecurity has reached in the country especially when this can happen in an estate with adequate security apparatus. We therefore condemn this attack in its entirety; we consider it as an attack on the truth, a major blow on whistleblowing endeavours in Nigeria and an irreparable loss to the anti-corruption activism in the country which is capable of reducing the rating of Nigeria’s seriousness in terms of anti-corruption within the comity of nations”.
The Chairman further remarked, “We are still amazed at the manner of desperation that could warrant this kind of attack on the personality of someone who has been on the forefront of anticorruption and whistle blowing in the country. It only goes to show how shameless and conscienceless many have fallen in their nefarious acts. We believe the Police will rise to the occasion by investigating this case and bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to book and hope such elements would desist from their evil ways before they inevitably meet with their nemesis.”
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has hailed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for arresting former Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos. He was reportedly on his way out of the country to Houston, Texas in the United States after handing over to his successor, Governor Charles Soludo. It was reported last November that the EFCC had placed Mr Obiano on a watchlist. The EFCC had requested the Nigeria Immigration Service to inform it anytime the Governor is travelling out of the country from any of the international airports, as well as other points of entry and exit.
In a release issued by the organization’s Director of Administration and Programmes Tola Oresanwo on behalf of its Chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran, he noted, “Corruption allegations are weighty issues that must never be handled with kid’s gloves or trivialized at any rate, especially when it involves people we have placed in trust of our commonwealth, for administrative, economic and security of lives and properties of the citizenry. If you look at this particular matter that involves Mr. Willie Obiano, you will notice that he had been under EFCC watchlist for some time and it was not a surprise to hear that immediately after the swearing in of the new governor, he made his way towards the Airport with a view to jet out of the country.”
“We would like to commend the EFCC for this intuitive action carried out to prevent the Ex-Governor from evading justice as we believe this singular action will deter others with transient immunity from committing or engaging in corruption while in office knowing fully well that they shall be called upon to give account of their stewardship whenever their tenure expires”.
“Without prejudice to the investigation and prosecution that will eventually follow this episode, CACOL wishes to reiterate the popular adage within legal circle that, ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’, we expect the EFCC not to leave any stone unturned in couching charges against the former governor since it is presumed that his investigation would have been concluded before the end of his tenure. The least we expect is that since he cannot be charged this weekend, we expect that first thing Monday morning he would find himself face to face with the law and we expect EFCC to expedite action in ensuring that there is diligent prosecution with a view to getting an adequate penalty on conviction.”
“If tracking and averting corruption is usually better than detecting and applying necessary sanction as a deterrent, anywhere in the world, the situation is actually truer here; this is why we have appealed to the federal government to set up special courts for trial of Corruption cases, especially the ones involving Government officials, strengthening of existing laws towards ensuring that no corrupt official gets away with looting or misapplication of our collective wealth, under any technicalities or manipulations”.
The CACOL Boss added “based on all our past experiences, only very few governors have been exonerated or have come out without corruption baggages after their tenure of office. On this note, we believe that it is not out of place to presume any outgoing governor corrupt until he is able to prove otherwise, without prejudice to all evidence and witnesses that EFCC could have gathered against him before he was arrested”.
“We would also suggest that anti-corruption agencies should set up a full-fledged investigative unit that would oversee the activities of all elected officials that are enjoying immunity while their tenure lasts and this includes President, Vice President and their families, Governors, deputy governors and their families etc. There should be a particular unit that will follow up every step they take that involves expenditure. That would help them to make prompt arrest and quick prosecution of such officials when their tenure lapses.”
“It is therefore incumbent on the anti-graft agencies to intensify their commendable efforts in tracking, investigation, arraignment and effective prosecution of all corrupt officials to avert a situation whereby the court would be left with no other choice than to order the release of a known corrupt public official for lack of diligent prosecution or perpetual detention without trial”.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has taken a swipe at the members of the National Assembly for voting against gender bills in the constitutional amendment process.
In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Tola Oresanwo, the anti-corruption organization’s Director of administration and programmes on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he stated, “CACOL as an anti-corruption and transparency in leadership organization received with rude shock and embarrassment, the news that members of the National Assembly voted against gender bills in the constitutional amendment process. We found it funny that the national assembly voted against bills seeking to give women more opportunities in leadership and governance at this age of our national life. Their action has sparked a protest by some women at the national assembly, who accused the lawmakers of bias. Similarly, Pauline Tallen, Minister of women affairs, said the male lawmakers who voted against the gender bills have no respect for women.”
“We are aware that when it comes to voting, more women vote than men and we believe that the quality of leadership in the country will not change if the scope of selection is not widened to accommodate more youths and women. We believed that setting aside 35 percent of the elective positions for women would have made a lot of sense because right now, the level of underrepresentation of women in key positions and decision making is alarming. Even at political party level, women should not be given only the position of women leader while all other positions are occupied by men”.
Although at our own level we believe that the bill would have been differently couched so that it will not give unintended meaning to the user either today or in future. Instead of ‘Gender parity’ or ‘Gender equality’ gender equity would have been more appropriate because it may be very difficult to achieve gender parity or gender equality but if we use ‘gender equity’ it will make a lot of sense to several people. Also, instead of ‘Gender balancing’, ‘Gender justice’ ought to have been used.
“We are of the opinion that affirmative actions should be limited to appointive positions rather than elective. The polity should not insist on affirmative actions for elective positions because if there are no candidates of a particular gender contesting, you can’t force people of that gender to contest elections but it is easier to apply it for appointive positions. We must also encourage political parties generally to encourage gender affirmative actions, meaning that there should be significant motivations for all genders to contest elections just like the different demography that exist within the parties. It will not be right to insist that if a political party does not have 30 percent or does not succeed in having the percentage stipulated for different gender the party cannot contest election.”
“It is against this background that CACOL has come out to seriously frown at the action of those lawmakers who threw the gender bills overboard without considering the effects on the psyche of our womenfolk in particular and the nation in general. The contributions of some notable women like Dr. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, late Prof. Dora Akunyili to mention a few to the development of the country cannot be easily overlooked. By voting against this bill, these set of lawmakers are inadvertently denying the country of more capable hands of womenfolk who can contribute positively to the greatness of our nation”.
“Clearly, Nigerians would be shortchanged and greater harm would be done to the country by denying us the opportunity of allowing more competent and capable womenfolk to serve their fatherland in various capacities. We have reduced women only to the role of the voters, who are only relevant for the purposes of election. It is quite unfortunate that this is coming at a time when many other countries, even in the African region, are opening up their political space for more women participation”.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has thrown its weight behind the Nigerian Senate bid to investigate the abandoned N400 billion naira National Primary Health Centre Project initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo across the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria.
In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Tola Oresanwo, the anti-corruption organization’s Director of Administration and Programmes, on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he stated, “We welcome the decision by the Senate of the Nigerian legislature to investigate the abandoned National Primary Health Centre project initiated by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo”.
The resolution was reached on Wednesday during plenary by the Senate after it considered a motion to that effect. The motion, “Need to investigate the abandoned Four Hundred Billion Naira National Primary Health Center Project”, was sponsored by Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central).
Senator Oloriegbe, in his presentation, noted that the National Primary Health Center project was initiated by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. According to the lawmaker, the project was to build in each of the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria, a sixty (60) bed Primary Health Center to be complemented with a three-bedroom flat, doctor’s quarters, an ambulance, all basic hospital equipment and drugs.
The CACOL Boss stated that “It is a known fact that primary health care, as important as it is, is lacking in most parts of the country, especially the rural areas. According to UNICEF, over the past five years, infant and under-five mortality rates have remained steady in Nigeria, at 74 and 117 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. At these mortality levels, one Nigerian child of every 13 born dies before reaching age 1, and one in every eight does not survive to their fifth birthday. This is an alarming statistics that could have been remedied if these Primary Health Care Centres were functioning in all the 774 local government areas in the country”.
“This action by the Senate is no doubt in line with our previous calls for a probe of all abandoned projects that litter the nooks and crannies of the country. The irony of this situation is that the contract for the project was awarded during the administration of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo whose administration coincidentally created most of the anti-corruption agencies in the country.
The CACOL Boss further enthused, “we at CACOL commend the Senate for this bold step. It is indeed a step in the right direction and we want them to make the report of their findings public so that every Nigerian will know what went wrong with the money allocated for this project and anyone found wanton in the award, implementation and execution of the project should be made to face the full wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others. We also use this medium to call for stronger legislation, strategies and mechanisms that will ensure efficient project monitoring and implementation across the country”.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has commended the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for extending a hand of support for two out-of-school girls in the state. The organization however implore him to put all machinery in motion to give effect to the Child Right Act that the state has domesticated more than a decade ago, noting that if it had been earlier implemented there wouldn’t be any need for him to stop his convoy to appraise out-of-school children that he found by the road side.
In a release issued by CACOL’s Director of Administration and Programmes, Tola Oresanwo, on behalf of the Chairman of the Centre, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he noted, “We observed the interest shown by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the plight of two out-of-school girls in the state”
“It would be recalled that the media reported that on his way to an official function recently, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu momentarily halted his convoy to attend to a disturbing situation. It was a sight of two underage girls on an errand for a bean cake vendor during school hours. The girls were expected to be in school. But, both Amarachi Chinedu, 9, and Suwebat Husseini, 12, were forced to skip school by their parents in order to serve some domestic assistance”.
The girls were going to deliver buckets of peeled beans and pepper to a grinder when the Governor sighted them at Anthony Village area. It was a glance that presented a discomforting image for Sanwo-Olu, who revved his convoy to a stop to find out the reason the girls were not in school.
Amarachi’s story left the Governor to shudder throughout the encounter. Her mother is a teacher, but the nine-year-old was not allowed to go to school because her parents could not afford the current session’s tuition fees. Amarachi would have to miss a school year because of this reason.
Suwebat’s mother is the bean cake seller for whom the girls were running an errand. Her parents, who are Jigawa State indigenes, relocated to Lagos months back. Suwebat’s four male siblings were all in school at the time she was stopped on the road by the Governor. But her parents preferred she stayed back home to help with some domestic chores.
The decisions taken by these girls’ parents, Sanwo-Olu said, “could rob the little ones of their innocence, their future and put them at a disadvantage among their peers”. The Governor stressed that his encounter with the girls left his heart bleeding.
Salvaging the situation, Sanwo-Olu, at the scene, told the girls he would personally take up the responsibility for their education and upbringing, promising to enrol them in school to continue with their education.
The anti-corruption Czar said “We will like to commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for taking this bold step aimed at returning these out-of-school girls to school. We believe there are many Amarachis and Suwebats out there who are not that lucky to encounter the Governor. To this set of children something drastic ought to be done to save them from the scourge of illiteracy.”
We also believe that if the Child Rights Acts which Lagos state has domesticated since more than a decade ago is fully implemented there wouldn’t have been any out-of-school child in the state because it would have been an offence for parents to engage their children in economic activities or for any child to roam the streets during school hours.
The CACOL Boss added, “.Section 15 sub section 1 of the Act stated that Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education. Subsection (2) stated that every parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary and junior secondary education. Subsection (6) of the Act stipulated appropriate punishments for a parent, guardian or person who has care and custody of a child and fails in the duty imposed on him under subsection (2) of this section.
“We hope the state government would look into the implementation of this Act and all the needed financial, human and material resources would be put in place in order for the dictates of the Act to be fully implemented and thereby sow a good seed in the educational sector of the state by reducing the population of out-of-school children to the barest minimum”.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has thrown its weight behind the move by the House of Representative to investigate the alleged failure of the Nigeria Police Force to account for firearms totalling 178,459 as of January 2020.
In a release, issued by the Director of Administration and Programmes of the anti-graft organization, Tola Oresanwo on behalf of the Chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran, noted, “It would be recalled that The House of Representatives has mandated its Ad hoc Committee on Arms to investigate alleged 178,459 arms reported to be missing by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu”.
According to the 2019 audit report, the arms which include AK-47 rifles and other assorted rifles and pistols from different Police formations nationwide could not be accounted for by the Nigeria Police. The House resolved to probe the missing arms following a motion moved by the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), on Thursday, during plenary. Leading the debate, Mr Okechukwu lamented the poor record-keeping of the police on arms and ammunition. He said the missing arms could be connected with the spike in insecurity across the country.
Speaking in support of the motion, the Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), said the investigation will reveal a lot. He, however, argued that there is no need to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the matter, rather an existing committee investigating arms should be charged with the probe. Consequently, the committee investigating arms procurement chaired by Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa), was charged with the investigation.
The Chairman of CACOL opined that “It is very unfortunate that the Nigeria Police Force has become a shadow of its former self as a result of maladministration of various funds budgeted for firearms, welfare, logistics and capacity building of the rank and file of the force over the years but which vanished into thin air This is a classic example of how much damage corruption and mismanagement of scarce resources have caused us as a nation and has made law enforcement a herculean task for the Force.”.
The issue of alleged missing firearms is just a tip of the iceberg, considering the monumental misappropriation going on in the circle of those saddled with the responsibility of carrying out various procurements for the Force. It is a known fact that the Police Force has been permanently incapacitated, disabled and rendered helpless majorly by the non-availability of firearms and the use of superior firearms by various enemies of the State which has deprived the Police of carrying out its primary duty of maintaining law and order within the country and also made the use of the Armed Forces inevitable even for internal security.
Concluding, Mr. Adeniran commended the House of Representative’s effort geared towards unraveling the whereabouts of the missing firearms and urged the Committee Members to carry out their duties without fear or favour and those found wanton should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has thrown its weight behind the Nigerian Senate in its bid to unravel the mystery surrounding the alleged N14.7bn proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).
In a release issued by CACOL and signed by Tola Oresanwo, the anti-corruption organization’s Director, Administration and Programmes on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he stated, “We received the news that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun investigation of N14.7bn proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise”.
It will be recalled that the committee acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December, 2019.’
The Acting Auditor-General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, had presented the report to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Ojo Amos, on September 15, 2021, while the Senate and House Committees on Public Accounts began investigation of the queries.
The defunct government-owned National Electric Power Authority was privatized and renamed PHCN, which was later unbundled to become the present generation and distribution companies.
The query stated that the funds were still in the banks as of December 31, 2016, whereas the privatization of the PHCN had been concluded since 2013.
The query read in part, “Audit verification and reconciliation revealed that the sum of N14,720,396,432.43, being proceeds from the privatization exercise of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria was reported in the bureau’s trial balance to be in commercial bank accounts as at 31st December 2016. Whereas, the privatization of the PHCN was concluded in 2013, the proceeds are yet to be remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria Privatization Proceeds Accounts”.
The anti-corruption Czar opined that “It is very funny that the money generated as far back as 2013 when the Privatization of PHCN was concluded is still hidden in some accounts in commercial banks despite government directive that all money generated by Ministries and MDAs should be deposited in the Treasury Single Account. This is an affront to the laid down rules as this could lead to revenue leakages and open the door for grand corruption with the said amount of money”.
The CACOL Boss further enthused, “We want to commend the Senate Public Accounts Committee for questioning the award of these contracts. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria generally vests the legislature with the power to make laws, although this responsibility is not limited to making laws as a lot of additional responsibility including that of oversight has also been placed upon the legislature. Oversight functions serve a variety of purposes among which are to keep the executive establishment responsible and accountable, to promote rationality and efficiency in the formulation and administration of public policy, among others. We want to believe that if the current trend by the senate committee is intensified and sustained with the cooperation of the various anti-corruption agencies in the country, stemming the tide of corruption in the various agencies and parastatals of government will not be a herculean task”.
Comments Off on THE IMPERATIVENESS OF RECONSIDERING THE REJECTED ELECTORAL BILL AND THE NEED FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION TO REDUCE CORRUPTION IN THE AGENDA OF POLITICAL PARTIES: A CASE FOR DIRECT PRIMARY AND ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS IN THE NEW ELECTORAL LAW.
THE IMPERATIVENESS OF RECONSIDERING THE REJECTED ELECTORAL BILL AND THE NEED FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION TO REDUCE CORRUPTION IN THE AGENDA OF POLITICAL PARTIES: A CASE FOR DIRECT PRIMARY AND ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS IN THE NEW ELECTORAL LAW.
Gentlemen of the Press, you’re welcome to today’s Press briefing.
It is no longer news that the President has refused accents to the amended electoral bill that was passed by the national assembly since November 9, 2021. It is unfathomable that the presidents knowing that he is not likely to assent to the bill delayed it for that length of time without giving a hint that he was not likely to assent to the bill. He didn’t need to wait for that length of time before letting the public know that the bill will not be assented to by him. If he had given a hint, a lot of consultations and further clarifications would have been made to him by the sponsors of the bill and concerned public during the grace period that he had to assent to the passed bill unfortunately he didn’t do that and that is not a good democratic practice.
We are all aware of what led to the need to amend the existing electoral law. Several shortcomings have been identified, the most prominent ones are the issues of modes of how party primaries should be held and transmission of electoral results these two items have generated a lot of debate. Not many people gave consideration to the security implication that the president cited as one of the reasons he didn’t assent to the bill. Those who raised the question of funding were convinced that the proponents of direct primary system that each party should have perfected his own strategy to carry out that exercise while the INEC have assured Nigerian public of its readiness to ensure that electronic transmission of electoral results works effectively. We believe that the president ought not to take the words off those who are directly concerned about the issues arising on those plans. He would have left the parties to determine how they hold their own direct primary elections because every member is expected to be as important as the other. We don’t believe that hand-picked delegates should impose their will on the generality of membership of a political party. That the principle of equality of membership should hold sway at the level of political parties.
It is unnecessary for the president to take it upon himself to canvass on behalf of smaller parties knowing fully well that by virtue of the law that guides formation and registration of political parties in Nigeria, no political party is expected to be small as far as the existing law is concerned.
As far as human beings and political party structures exist in all parts of Nigeria and the elections have been holding at different times during the same period when the security challenges were identified, it should not be the sole concerned of the President to act on behalf of the legislators who are direct representatives of people of those regions. If the legislators of people of those regions deem it fit that direct primary will hold then it is not for the president to take over the function of the House of Representative members that represents the federal constituencies in those areas and the Senator who is representing the senatorial district of those areas. They ought to have brought it up if it was a serious concern during the debate on the bill and trashed it out before they agreed to pass the bill. So it is out of place for the president to begin to canvass on that premise. We believe the President could have been differently convinced by opponents of the bill to withhold his assent and it is our hope that the national assembly will take the alternative option of getting the bill passed whether the President like it or not.
Notwithstanding the above, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership had been nursing its own misgivings about the bill when it was being processed, we knew that our views were not being properly represented in the bill, but we believe that half loaf is better than none at all, that as long as the bill was passed inclusive of the issue of direct primary and electronic transmission of electoral results we could raise other arguments for the further amendment of the bill in its future. Ordinarily, CACOL would have canvased that the bill should not be passed as it was, this is because of some of the ingredients of true democracy that we observed are lacking in the Act as it were:
1.) Is lack of political ideological direction by virtually all the political parties that have been registered.
2.) is the bogus requirements by the INEC that all registrable political parties should have offices in all parts of the country
3.) Lack of anti-corruption agenda in virtually all aspects of the manifestos that have been presented by all the registered political parties.
4.) Inadequate and nebulous social inclusion agenda in virtually all the political parties.
5.) This is apart from the generally accepted weakness of sanctions for those who violate electoral law. We also know that the electoral law provided upper ceiling for how much individual contestants and their political parties can spend on their campaigns but there is no serious monitoring mechanism, sanctions and machinery for imposing the sanctions contained in the existing electoral law.
Some of these inadequacies will be further addressed in this briefing.
Ideological leanings: Part of the gaps is that the new law as passed by the national assembly does not make ideological leanings compulsory for all political parties. That means setting up and registration of political parties are amorphous without any concrete bases upon which the citizenry would pitch their interest vis-a-vis their hope for a better country.
There ought to be ideological leanings for all political parties so that whoever is voting knows the kind of government that will be formed at the end of the election. So we are thinking about if it is going to be left leaning, it should be fully left leaning, if it is going to be socialist it should be socialist, if it’s going to be welfarist it should be clearly spelt out how things will be done. If it’s going to be fully capitalist, it should be fully capitalist. People should not be left groping in the dark.
We know the principle of socialism where everybody contributes to the pool according to his ability and everybody draws from the pool according to his needs. If it is going to be welfarist it should be clearly spelt out that the welfare of the citizenry would be paramount in the minds of whichever government is formed after the election and that nobody will be left without basic needs including jobs, education, health care, accommodation, etc and the capacity to engage in trade or any form of business and establishment of business outlet should not be in doubt. If it’s going to be capitalist, let us know the extent of capitalism that the party wants to practice. Are they going to liberalize the supply of oil? Are they going to commercialize energy, power, water and other amenities like this? If at all they will commercialize, they should let us know to whom? Is it to the private sector or to individuals? Are they going to leave the oil rigs in the hands of well-connected individuals and companies? What will be the policies on local content of everything that is being done in the economy? Are we going to keep importing all our needs without manufacturing anything locally? Are we going to be a raw material producing country forever?
The amended bill does not make any provision for anti-corruption safeguards and social inclusion. What we expected is that the new amended law would include safeguards that will make it compulsory for political parties to ensure that anti-corruption agenda will be prioritized. An anti-corruption policy has to be clearly stated on how the party feel that anti-corruption war should be fought and if they form government how they are going to wage the war against corruption, for example, the fight against corruption should not be a fire brigade approach, political parties should have pre-stated it that if we win election, anybody found guilty of corruption crime that is up to a particular amount of money, this is the kind of recommendation that will be made to the judiciary. If it’s going to be life imprisonment or death penalty or total suspension from participating in politics or holding political office, it should be clearly stated, so that anybody that is voting for that political party knows how good they are going to deal with the issues of corruption once they are voted into power.
Then there should be a policy on religion, parties should be allowed to state clearly if they are religious party or ethnic party so there should be policies on religion, ethnicity and the likes. But if a party is neutral then religious consideration should not be brought into it and whenever they want to state their manifesto they should make it clear that religious and ethnic leanings will not be given any pride of place. And the case that we don’t want Christian/Christian, Muslim/Muslim ticket will not arise in any political party. We believe that merit should be the target, there are several States where you have Muslim/Muslim ticket even when they have other religions and they are still surviving so why won’t they allow that to happen at the national level.
We believe that political parties that have similar ideological and political leanings should be made to pull together and all political parties don’t have to have what they call national outlook. If a political party decides that it has only the capacity to operate in just one local government, they should allow him register to run in the local government. If it is a state, he should be allowed to run in the state, if it is in just a region or a section of the country it should be allowed to run in that region or section of the country without any harassment and they should make it clear in their manifestos and programs. During campaigns, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to monitor their campaign and campaign materials so that it will not go out of what is contain in their manifestos. Whatever they say should be in accordance with what has been documented in their manifestos that will be submitted to INEC. And necessarily there should be a law that will make it compulsory that they should stay within the limits of the ideologies they have avouched so that people will not be disappointed at the end of the day.
We also expected that every political party should state clearly its policies on power, technology, trade and commerce, economy, military, police, foreign policy, education, food, work, and all other aspects of our national life. Their monetary/financial policies should state clearly if individuals will be allowed to accumulate as much material wealth that are possible without control or if there will be certain level of control or upper ceiling for how much material wealth individuals can accumulate for himself. The same should apply to corporate entities. Then how they are going to implement the existing laws on money laundering, currency trafficking, human trafficking, drug trafficking, etc. all these should be clearly stated.
The cost of politicking should also be clearly stated. The law should develop a scheme by which political spending will be monitored and anybody that violates the laws and regulations should be sanctioned accordingly. If it has been stated that the president should not spend more than 20 billion naira for his campaign a machinery should be set in motion to monitor his spending anytime he crosses the bar somebody will raise a red flag and that will count against the candidate or the party at the end of the day where the party may lose nomination or election.
The monetization of the polity should also be given prominent place by the new electoral law anybody that is found to be bribing voters and officials either before, during or after elections would be sanctioned in a particular way so that at the end of the day we will know that there is full level playing ground.
The law should also be realistic about whatever is specified as minimum spending for political parties and candidates during election giving consideration to the size and population of Nigeria and if need be campaign should be restricted to news media – print and electronics and maybe social media but if physical campaign should be launched it should also be specified that it may not be outside the state capital so that smaller parties should be able to have their way wherever they have the capacity.
Nigeria as a country should develop its own national ideological leaning that will put upper ceiling on how much an individual can accumulate. Once it is streamlined, then the propensity to commit electoral fraud or corruption will be reduced to the barest minimum and getting to office at all cost will also be reduced since every citizen will have upper ceiling of how much they can accumulate which would have been prestated.
Any political party that is coming into office should determine how it is going to do it and as soon as a new government is formed it will be based on the ideological learning of the political party.
We have observed that in recent time, the idea of political party’s candidate selection process enjoys unrivalled eminence in political discourses and analyses in Nigeria. However, party primaries and conventions are mere platforms of voice affirmation of elite’s consensus, which most times renders candidate selection process less credible. The process through which candidates emerge is often fraught with controversies, which often lead to violence and litigations. In fact, a greater percentage of those that emerge from party primaries are products of imposition, consensus and compromise. Emerging through consensus is not an aberration neither is it undemocratic but it becomes a problem when it is orchestrated by the party’s godfathers who see themselves as the owners of the party. We believe that experience is the best teacher and that godfathers should only play advisory roles and not lord it over when it comes to the modus operandi of the elected office holders.
Another issue that has attracted our attention is the one that has to do with social inclusion in our democratic processes. Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society—improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity.
For example, on the issue of gender balancing in the democratic space in Nigeria, the trend in the political parties paints a gloomy picture. For example, only one position, that is, that of the Woman Leader out of the twelve positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) of a party is usually occupied by a woman, the rest are male-dominated. Even at that, in some Muslim-dominated Northern states, between 2007 and 2015, for example, the Woman Leader positions were given to men. Similarly, the youth is still viewed as a boy/girl child to be fed, clothed, housed and tended to by their parents. For most political gladiators, a 30 year old person is still a child and is not capable of being assigned any position of responsibility in government. The common verdict in this regard is, leadership is not for boys and girls.
Same could be said about the persons with disability. This underrepresented group is politically reduced to an insignificant actor whose only democratic value is the voting card. None of the foremost parties in Nigeria has any semblance of disability policy either in their constitution or in their manifestos. Unlike the youth and the women that are represented at the National Working Committee (NWC) of the parties through their leaders, the disabled persons do not have such official portfolios designated to them. Apart from not having their own in the NWC, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC) of these parties, the disabled persons experience a total black out in the affairs of these parties at all levels. Nobody is willing to lend them any support, apart from assisting them to vote during elections. This segment of the society remains the most politically marginalised and democratically suffocated.
The question we may want to ask is why are women not in top positions in the party structure and in elective positions? The answers are not far-fetched. In Nigeria, party structures are typically male-dominated. Another significant constraint to women’s political participation is the lack of material resources available to women. Politics in Nigeria is about money and elections cannot be won without adequate funding. The Nigerian economic environment, like the political environment is also clearly dominated by men. It therefore, follows that the Nigerian woman is marginalized, politically and economically.
Just like the women, Nigerian youth are also under-represented within their respective parties. A close scrutiny of the parties’ constitutions will expose the huge gap that defines the dismal place all parties in Nigeria place on the position of youth in party operations. In the Nigerian context, following the African Union (AU) categorization, the youth represents a group of people within the ages of 18 and 35. However, most of our political parties as presently constituted have their youth leaders that are above 40 years.
Moreover, apart from the position of the party youth leader, no youth is in the other organs of the party. Nigerian youth are not adequately incorporated into the various committees and sub-committees of these platforms.
What we expected is that the new amended law would specify affirmative actions that would ensure social inclusion not just by mere words but there ought to be concrete figures that every political party that worth its onions will work with. For example, if affirmative action for female folk is 35% and that of disabled is 5% that of youth, actually the youth should cut across all facets, so we expect any aspect of it to contain at least 35% of youth. So if 35% are women, female should form 35% of that 35% the same thing for the disabled. If the disabled should form 5% then disabled female should form minimum of 35% of that initial 5%. These figures should be the minimum, it may be higher than what is proposed here. And the law ought to make it compulsory for political parties to adhere strictly and implement it in their respective parties.
Clearly, one of the main challenges political parties in Nigeria face is that of internal party democracy. The most noticeable trend that runs through all narratives is the culture of exclusion and underrepresentation of some segments of the society. Political parties in Nigeria, overtly or covertly, fail to accord the underrepresented groups such as women, youth and the disabled a place within the democratic space. Party constitutions relegate these groups to the background in the affairs of the parties. Party structures are equally not accommodating to these groups. In Nigeria, more women are likely to vote than men yet women are underrepresented in the leadership of their parties and elective positions in the country. Many factors are responsible for these challenges and they are worth summarising here.
As explained earlier, the cost of politics in Nigeria serves as a hindrance for the marginalised groups because politics is oiled through monetary values that are beyond the capacity of the underrepresented groups. In Nigeria, party financiers or godfathers typically exert their influence in deciding who eventually picks the party’s flag. State governors particularly wield enormous power within their respective parties. The governors, being the main financiers of the party, especially at state levels, believe that they have the ‘right’ to impose candidates on the party. In most instances, such undue influence leads to internal wrangling because a level playing field is lost in the process that produces the candidates. This explains why most election-related legal tussles are cases that mostly originate from pre-election activities of political parties. Political parties have become clearing houses for political patronage by godfathers who satisfy the material needs of their clients along the primordially segregated lines of ethnic and sectional agenda. In line with this, party primaries, conventions and congresses have been turned into platforms of producing godsons as candidates for elections. Another related issue is the delegate method. This method of candidate selection is open to fraught, manipulations and abuse by the godfathers who hijack the delegates by buying their votes and subsequently imposing their candidates and surrogates.
Another factor responsible for the underrepresentation of certain segments of the society in the political parties is the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society. In most African countries in general, and Nigeria in particular, patriarchy is centrally embedded in all structures and institutions of society. As a result of the patriarchal nature and character of the Nigerian society and democratic practices in Nigeria, party structures, organs and elective positions are male-dominated, giving rise to the gender insensitivity that has become a feature of the political parties.
Recently, the media reported that there were sharp disagreements among senators during the consideration of a bill seeking to promote women empowerment and gender equality.
The bill, which was eventually stepped down, is designed to create equal opportunities for both the male and female gender in the country.
It was obvious that religion, ethnic affiliation and section 42 of the Constitution as amended, led to the split that reared its head at the Hallowed Chamber.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ekiti South, is titled “A bill for an Act to make provisions for the empowerment of women and gender equality and to establish a legislative framework for the empowerment of women”
The document was presented for second reading, but after much heated debate, the sponsor was forced to withdraw it after some senators who kicked against it, cited “socio-cultural and Islamic concerns.”
According to the sponsor, the bill is designed to align all aspects and implementation of laws relating to women empowerment as well as address issues relating to appointments and representation of women in decision making, positions and structures.
Gender equality in political parties also has crucial implications for democratic legitimacy and resilience. On a basic level, a democracy without the participation of half a country’s population is not a democracy. Women and men are entitled to equal civil and political rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international commitments. Furthermore, a growing body of evidence indicates that women’s political participation can lead to tangible democratic gains, including greater policy responsiveness to diverse citizen needs, reduced risk of conflict recurrence, and higher levels of political stability. Parties that take women’s participation seriously can also benefit electorally by accessing new groups of voters and signaling their commitment to social change.
We believe that social inclusion can serve as a veritable tool in engendering anti-corruption stance within the political parties.
DIRECT PRIMARY ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN THE NEW ELECTORAL BILL.
On the new electoral bill that was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly which made direct primary mandatory for all political parties for the emergence of their candidates for general elections, we want to throw our weight behind the bill and we believe that its high time we fine-tuned the principles of democracy we operate in this country, so as to meet the best practices in other advanced democratic climes.
We have looked critically at all the shades of opinions about direct primaries and we noticed that the direct primary system will guarantee returning power to the people where this government of the people, by the people for the people would be seen operating fully for the benefit of the people. That was why the two chambers accepted for the benefits of direct primaries outweigh that of indirect primaries. Therefore we stood fairly and still standing for direct primaries.
We also believe that the amendment constituted a right in itself to voters’ fundamental human right of having their votes count. Therefore, we believe the president had the duty to protect their rights by signing the bill. President Buhari should show high sense of responsibility by signing the bill. Not only to sign the bill, he should do so in good time. This is to forestall unnecessary apprehension because delay in doing so may raise tension and create agitation among Nigerians.
The direct primaries model will curb impunity in the electoral process and would force politicians to go back to the grassroots. They will no more distance themselves from the electorate. It is now that relevance in politics will count as against vote-buying and imposition of candidates by the powers-that-be during primaries using the indirect method.
Based on the fore goings, we want to recommend as follows:
1. There is need for increase sensitization on Anti-Corruption and Accountability in Elections at the grassroots level.
2. The anti-graft body EFCC should be involved in electoral process for screening of candidates who want to contest for an electoral office to ensure his integrity and incorruptibility.
3. The Media need to increase their reportage and investigations on Corruption and Accountability issues before, during and after Elections period to enhance political parties and their candidate to incorporate Anti-Corruption and Accountability issues in their Manifestos and Agenda.
4. Civil society groups should embark on massive civic awareness of the electorates on the dangers of corruption in electoral process and its impacts on their future;
5. There is an urgent need for anti-corruption campaigns to percolate down to the grassroots and even to the level of primary and tertiary institutions to stem the tide of rising cyber-crimes (A.K.A Yahoo Yahoo) among our youths.
6. Political Parties must be engaged to mainstream Anti-Corruption and Accountability into their manifestos and Activities.
7. There is an urgent need to amplify the voices of the people at the grassroots because most of them do not even have access to their elected representatives once they are sworn in.
8. We would like to use this medium to call on all the political parties to redress this anomaly and try as much as possible to incorporate these marginalized sets of people into the scheme of things in their various political parties.
9. Finally, we urge Mr. President to assent to the new electoral reform bill which consists of the e-transmission of results and direct primary. We are afraid that the controversy and cacophony of voices over direct primary may wittingly or unwittingly scuttle the entire Electoral Bill, and thus throw away the baby with the bath water.