Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do You Support 'Zoning' or Not? Please Read!

Friends! I bumped into this article, written by Dr Alex Ekwueme, on the internet. It provides an insight into the issue of “zoning”, and what could have been if the 1995 Constitution was passed. Having read this article, I can now understand the spirit behind the zoning clause in the PDP Constitution.

Please read and share your thoughts.

What Nigeria Lost By Abacha's Untimely Death
Well-thought Out Provisions Of The 1995 Constitution

Alex Ekwueme

May 29, 2005

I was an elected member of the 1994-1995 National Constitutional Conference, which sat exactly for one year (June 26 1994 -June 26 1995) and had reasonable time to discuss and ponder over many thorny issues that concerned the Nigerian polity. We were anxious that the military should disengage as soon as possible and hand over to elected civilian governments at all levels. At one time we passed a resolution, later rescinded, setting January 1996 as the date for hand over. The work of the National Constitutional Conference culminated in a two-volume report, Volume 1 of which was report of the constitutional conference containing the draft constitution 1995.

In December 1995 we held a very successful "All politicians summit" At Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos which I had the privilege to chair. I describe the summit as "very successful" notwithstanding its disruption by agents of the government. It was obvious that General Abacha was in no hurry to disengage. We then formed the Institute of Civil Society, which again I had the privilege to chair, one of whose objectives was to sensitize the Nigerian public on the need for an early return to democratic ethos as we considered military rule which is imposed on and not elected by the populace, a vicious form of colonialism. It eventually materialised that Abacha set October 1, 1998 as the date for the transition from military to civilian government. But it was soon clear, judging by the decisions of all the five registered political parties to nominate him as the sole presidential candidate that it was his wish to hand over from Abacha as a military head of state to Abacha as civilian president. Some of us did not think that this was the right thing for Nigeria and at a meeting of the "G34" in April 1998, we decided to advise Abacha by a well considered memorandum not to countenance the prompting by sycophants that he should succeed himself. Within two months of the G-34 memorandum, Abacha was dead and so the question of self-succession also died a natural death.

There is no doubt that if it was necessary for anybody to flaunt anti-Abacha credentials, I was in a position so to do. Arguably, there was much that Nigeria gained by Abacha's untimely death, including release of some detainees and prisoners, accelerated transition to elected civilian administration midwifed by his successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, recovery of some looted funds etc. Although some of these so-called gains may have turned out in retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight to have been mixed blessings.

However, it is with a consideration of what Nigeria lost by Abacha's untimely death that I am here concerned. Before Abacha's death, "The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1995 (with Amendments)" had been finalised and was to have been promulgated by decree to come into effect on October 1, 1998. This constitution introduced some fundamental changes to Nigeria's previous presidential constitutions (1979 and 1989) based on experience garnered over almost four decades of Nigeria's independence, all calculated to conduce to a stable Nigerian polity within which all Nigerians could truly feel a sense of belonging and which would elicit the collaborative efforts of Nigerians to make the country a great nation.

With the death of Abacha, the 1995 Constitution was not promulgated. The reason for this is found in the report of the Justice Niki Tobi led Constitutional Debate Co-ordinating Committee set up by the General Abdulsalami government to propose a constitution for the incoming 1999 civilian administration. The 1995 Constitution was not adopted because it was suggested that "Nigerians raised compelling reservations" about it, holding forth that it was "a product of disputed legitimacy" and suffered from a "crisis of authenticity in the public consciousness." Significantly, the above-stated reservations emanated mostly from South-Western Nigeria, which had officially boycotted the 1994-1995 National Constitutional Conference and was therefore not prepared to accept that there was anything good that could come out of it. They, more or less, decided to throw away the baby with the bath water so to speak, and therefore preferred to settle with "the 1979 Constitution" (which), according to them, "had been tried and tested and, therefore, provides a better point of departure in the quest for constitutionalism in Nigeria." "Making only minor adjustments to the 1979 document, the Tobi committee recommended adopting the adjusted document as the new (1999) constitution."

Accordingly, Abacha's untimely death on June 1998 robbed Nigeria of the opportunity of having the 1995 Constitution promulgated on October 1, 1998. In order, therefore, to assess "What Nigeria lost by Abacha's untimely death" (the object of this piece) it would be in order to highlight a few of the salient and radical provisions of "the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1995 (with Amendments)," to wit:

1. Recognition of six geopolitical zones

S.229 (4): For the purpose of subsection (1) of this section, the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria shall be as set out in part III of the First Schedule To this Constitution. | states
1. North-Central - Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
2. North-Eastern - Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
3. North-Western | Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
4. South-Eastern | Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo.
5. South-South | Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
6. South-Western | Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo.

This is the first formal recognition of the six geo-political zones now in common usage politically in a legal or constitutional document.

2. Diffusion of federal executive responsibility

In addition to the offices of President and Vice President and Ministers, the Constitution provides also for the offices of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister:

S. 149(2): "Subject to such reservations or conditions as may be made by him, the President shall assign to the Prime Minister responsibility for the general administration of the Government of the Federation"

S.149(4): "The President shall hold regular meetings with the Vice President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and all the Ministers of the Government of the Federation for the purposes of -

a) Determining the general direction of domestic and foreign policies of the Government of the Federation (b) Co-ordinating the activities of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Government of the federation in the discharge of their executive responsibilities..."

Single 5 - year term of office for governor coupled with rotation of office of governor etc.

S. 149(4): "Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section a Governor shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of 5 years commencing from the date when (a) He took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office..."

S.184(1): "A person shall not be qualified for election to the Office of Governor of... (b) He has been elected to such office at an immediately preceding election..."

S.229(2): "The Office of Governor, Deputy Governor and Speaker of the House of Assembly shall rotate among the three Senatorial districts in the state.

If the above provisions had been incorporated into the 1999 Constitution, two of the three senatorial districts of each state would have already produced governors in every state leaving the third (remaining) senatorial district to produce the Governor at the next election. All the problems currently bedevilling most states in the matter of "power shift" would not have arisen and all parts of every state would have been given a sense of belonging.

Single 5-year term of office for president coupled with rotation of office of President etc.

S. 138(2): "Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of 5 years commencing from the date when (a) He took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office..."

S. 140(1): A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if ... (b) He has been elected to such office at an immediately preceding election..."

S. 229(1): "The following six principal offices shall rotate among the six geo-political zones created under subsection (4) of this section, namely -

  • The office of the President;
  • The office of the Prime Minister
  • The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • The Office of the President of the Senate
  • The Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives

  • Had the above provisions been incorporated in the 1999 Constitution, two of the six geopolitical zones would already have produced a President of Nigeria and a third zone would have been looking forward to producing the President in the next dispensation. The present controversy or argument as to which geopolitical zone or group of geopolitical zones or region should present the President in the next dispensation would have been narrowed down to manageable proportions.

    30-year transition period for evolving a Nigerian nation as distinct from a country or "mere Geographical expression"

    S. 2290(1): "The principle of rotation enshrined in this section shall be strictly adhered to by the political parties during the transition period of 30 years commencing from the date this Constitution comes into force."

    During this "transition" period of 30 years, at the state level each senatorial district would have filled the office of Governor two times, the office of Deputy Governor two times, and the office of the Speaker of the House of Assembly two times, each term of office being of 5 years duration. At the national level each of the six geopolitical zones would have filled the offices of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister, President of the Senate and Speaker at the House of Representatives for a term of 5 years each. Thereafter, the cry of "marginalisation" would have been a thing of the past. The 30-year period would have been used to positively and constructively promote state level and national integration at all levels, following which all positions could then be filled on the basis of merit and competence in the true democratic spirit.

    Discharge of functions of President

    S. 147(1): "Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) of this section, if any vacancy occurs by reason of the death or resignation or the removal of the President from office (impeachment) in accordance with section 144, 145 or 340 of this Constitution, the Vice President shall hold the office of President for the period of not more than 3 months during which there shall be an election of a new President from the same zone, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office."

    On the few occasions when President Obasanjo has been threatened with impeachment by the National Assembly, a few members, instead of looking at the grounds canvassed for impeachment on their merits, preferred to consider what would be the necessary result of a successful impeachment process, namely: that the Vice President (currently from the North-Eastern geopolitical zone) would be the beneficiary of the exercise as he would step into the shoes of the impeached President. On one occasion, in the Senate, it was the Alliance for Democracy senators from the South-West, who did not in fact vote for the President in the first place who threatened hell and brimstone should the impeachment exercise proceed further. The 1995 Abacha Constitution anticipated this possibility and provided that the Vice President shall fill the vacancy for 3 months only as a maximum, while INEC would arrange to elect a President from the same zone (in this case, possibly Olu Falae?). With this provision, it would be possible to examine a President's breaches of the constitution and other misconduct objectively to see if they justify or warrant impeachment.

    Farewell to "Winner takes all"

    S. 148(7) "The majority of the number of ministers appointed pursuant to subsection (3) of the section shall come from the political party or parties on whose platform the President is elected."

    S. 148(8): "Any political party which wins not less than 10 per cent of the total number of seats in the National Assembly or of the total number of votes cast at the election, shall, subject to the provisions of subsection (7) of this section be entitled to representation in the Federal Executive Council in proportion to the number of seats won by the party in the National Assembly."

    This is a prescription for an all-party government with ministers drawn from all serious political parties (with 10 per cent of the votes cast at the National Assembly election). This is to promote consensus building rather than antagonism among the political parties; and holders of ministerial posts from parties other than the President's party will appreciate that they hold such positions as of right by virtue of the constitution and not as a gift by the President or his party. Certainly not an invitation to "come and chop."

    Elimination of incumbency and its abuse to the electoral process

    The December 1959 Federal Parliamentary Elections may have had its abuses some of which were highlighted by Harold Smith in his autobiography "Blue Collor Lawman" but the 1964 Federal Parliamentary Elections certainly had many more electoral abuses than the 1959 election.

    Similarly, the 1979 Presidential, National Assembly and Gubernatorial elections may have had some abuses but they were, by comparison, much more free and fair than the 1983 elections. In the same way, in spite of any problems associated with the 1999 Presidential and other elections, they were certainly more free and fair than the 2003 edition. So, historically, it would be generally accepted that the incumbency factor does not promote free and fair electoral processes. Based on this historical experience, the Abacha 1995 Constitution provides as follows:

    S. 140(1): "A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if

    (b) He has been elected to such office at an immediately preceding election..."

    An incumbent President and incumbent Governors are therefore disqualified from standing election for the same office during their incumbency. This eliminates the incumbency factor and the abuses arising there from in connection with the electoral process.

    In summary, because of Abacha's untimely death in June 1998, "the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1995 (with amendments)" was never promulgated and Nigeria therefore lost the benefit of some of its well-thought out provisions which were intended to promote justice, equity, and national unity in the process of transforming Nigeria from a country of many ethnic nationalities into a modern nation state within a "transition period" of 30 years. This is what Nigeria lost by Abacha's untimely death. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NiGERIA @50: Nigeria & Indonesia, spot the difference!

·         Both Indonesia and Nigeria,  are the giants of their region, home to tens of millions of people.
·         Both were formed as one nation by Europeans around 1900.
·         Both were governed by the colonial system of "indirect rule".
·         Both once made money from palm oil, and later discovered oil and gas.
·         At independence, the standards of living in the two countries were comparable on most measures.
·         And since independence, both have suffered three decades of military misrule and corruption.
·         Their first coups were launched within months of each other - in September 1965 in Indonesia and in January 1966 in Nigeria
·         Military rule came to an end within 12 months, in May 1998 (Indonesia) and 1999 (Nigeria)
·         In Indonesia, the life expectancy of a child at birth had risen from 45 to 70 years since independence.
·         In Nigeria, life expectancy remains stuck just above 45; today it is around 47.
·         When Indonesia's second president, Haji Muhammad Suharto, took power in 1967 the number of people living in poverty was the same as in Nigeria; around six out of ten.
·         Three decades later, it had fallen from six to two. In Nigeria it had risen from six to seven.
·         Currently, Indonesia lies almost 50 places above Nigeria on the United Nation's Human Development Index.
·         Adult literacy in Indonesia stands at 92%, 20 points better than Nigeria.
·         Per capita income in Indonesia is close to $4,000, is almost twice that of Nigeria.
·         Basic healthcare is strikingly better in Indonesia, and the same is true for education.
·         Access to clean water and a good balanced diet are better too.
·         GDP: Nigeria $207.12bn, Indonesia $510.73bn
·         Population below poverty line: Nigeria 70%, Indonesia 17.8%
Source, UN, World Bank, BBC, CIA World Fact Book

I think it is time we need to ask ourselves, where exactly did the wheels fall off?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Election 2011 Campaign Finance: A Serious Challenge By Reuben Abati

THERE are issues beyond the constraint of time that INEC has identified with regard to the 2011 general elections which also need to be addressed, considering the implications for electoral outcomes and the integrity of elections, with consequential effect on governance. The first of these is the cost of elections, from the collection of nomination forms all through the campaigns and eventual election into office. The country experience has been that the monetization of the electoral process has resulted in such a situation whereby every candidate sees election expenses as an investment, and should he or she get elected, the immediate objective in office is to re-coup the investments made, thus providing a curiously self-serving justification for corrupt conduct.
One prominent Senator once publicly confessed, following allegations that he had collected a N50 million bribe to facilitate the passage of a Ministry's budget,  that his mission as a lawmaker in Abuja was first and foremost to recover his election investments, and that no one should talk about service. Past testimonies have revealed that many political office aspirants took loans, or sold their property or relied on the sponsorship of Godfathers and corporations to be able to meet the required high financial outlay.  In many instances this resulted in embarrassing outcomes with the most celebrated perhaps being the Chris Ngige-Chris Uba crisis in Anambra state, and the Rasheed Ladoja-Lamidi Adedibu face-off in Oyo state, with the Godfathers (Uba and Adedibu) insisting that their clients needed to pay back the investments made by giving them a share of the security vote in addition to other privileges. The refusal of both clients resulted in their summary removal from office. The root of that crisis is the monetization of election processes which makes poor but qualified aspirants utterly vulnerable.  This is one problem that electoral reform, now a postponed aspirational objective, could have solved. But now, we are going into another round of general elections, with so much emphasis on money both officially and otherwise.
The genesis is official. What the law stipulates is rather high given the level of poverty in the country.  It amounts to saying that only the rich can aspire to political offices. Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2002, Section 93 of the Electoral Act 2006 both deal with election expenses; the same subject is addressed in Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010. There is a quantum 100% increase in stipulated election expenses between 2006 and 2010 whereas the objective of the law should have been to make elections less expensive.  For example, whereas Section 93(2) of the Electoral Act 2006 requires a Presidential candidate to spend no more than N500 million total,  Section 91(2) of the 2010 Act stipulates N1 billion for Presidential candidates, and the same quantum percentage increase applies to other offices- Governor (N200 m, up from N100 million in 2006), Senatorial seat (N40m, formerly N20m); House of Representatives (N20m, formerly N10m), House of Assembly (N10m, formerly N5m), Local Council Chairman (N10 m, formerly N5m) and Councillorship (N1m, previously N500,000). Section 91 (9-12) of the 2010 Act which is in pari materia with Section 93 (9-12) of the 2006 Act, outlines penalties for the violation of these regulations.
Both in the past and now, and in utter disregard of Section 95 0f the 2006 Act, and now Sections 92-93 of the 2010 Act, politicians and political parties have routinely abused the rules on campaign finance and deliberately raised the cost of participation. This speaks to the failure of regulation and the reluctance to ensure campaign finance reform. There is no record of anyone being punished for violating the rule on election expenses. The twin issue of donations to political parties and likely undue influence was addressed in Yusufu v. Obasanjo (2003) 16 NWLR pt.847 but generally there is neither a structure nor mechanism in place for tracking campaign finances and enforcing INEC's rules as spelled out in the Electoral Act.   INEC officials at the end of their recent retreat in Calabar asked among other things, for an Electoral Offenders Commission, but until that emerges, there are already existing rules and penalties which only need to be enforced. The neglect of the rules on election expenses creates the room for the hijack of the process by moneybags; it results in the exclusion of otherwise capable and well-meaning but poor aspirants, and provides the basis for corruption.
The political parties often do not shy away from demanding the equivalent of ransom from candidates, this forms part of the total expenditure stipulated by the Electoral Act, but almost always, so much money is spent beyond the legal limits. Out of all the 62 political parties vying for offices in the 2010 general elections, the ruling People's Democratic Party was the first to roll out its guidelines and an outline of required fees. What has been done in this regard so far before the suspension of other activities in the light of the imminent review of the election timetable, illustrates the continuing monetization of elections. The PDP National Headquarters in Abuja requires aspirants to pay the following to pick up nomination forms: Presidential (N10 m), Governors (N5m), Senate (N3 m); House of Representatives (N2.5 m); state Houses of Assembly (N1 m). But so much more is spent, that at the end of the day, every aspirant has to look for money by all means or borrow or steal, or pay through the nose.
In the PDP example, the state branches collect the nationally stipulated fees from aspirants, but they also add their own charges. In Anambra state, the request for an additional two per cent nomination and expression of interest fee already caused a row within the party (The Guardian, September 21, at p.5). It is worse in other states. The standard fees, and initial expenses in the PDP say for the position of Senator and what is called "formalization of political intent" is as follows: N0.2m for the expression of interest form, N2m for the nomination to contest primary election form; state chapter administrative charges -N300, 000, another N150, 000 is paid to the state branch for "intent formalization form". Every candidate is also required to present tax certificates for three years: this is about N100, 000 per year (total N0.3m).  For the nomination to contest primary election form to be accepted, the aspirant must be sponsored by 30 persons drawn from different wards in all the local councils in the senatorial zone – each of these persons must be a registered member of the party and they all expect to be paid for their services!
The party also requires a lorry load of documents which have to be photocopied thus creating a boom for owners of the ubiquitous business centres in our towns. The sociology of this matter is that the moment an aspirant declares his interest in a particular office, he is immediately surrounded by a group of sycophants who immediately start addressing him or her as "your Excellency", "Distinguished Senator," "Honourable!", this of course includes the usual team of thugs or able-bodied men as they are more respectfully known: all of whom expect to be paid and fed, even if they have more than one client! The aspirant is also required by convention to visit and pay homage to traditional rulers within his constituency, the police chief, the SSS Director and so on, and everywhere he goes, he is required to pay some unstated charges.  By the time the aspirant becomes a candidate, he spends even more. In the PDP, female aspirants are allowed to collect nomination forms free, but they also have to pick up all the other additional expenses. Technically, every candidate spends a lot more than the limit prescribed in the enabling law. Adopting a rule of thumb assessment, even a formal, public declaration of political interest could cost more than the total amount prescribed by law for that particular position. But who will enforce the law?
Election finance is an important issue for reform. We cannot afford to run elections on a profit-motive basis: profit for the business centres, thugs, political Godfathers, the party, traditional rulers,  market women and others who are given free clothes, the media, rented crowds, printers, sycophants, cash-collecting voters, and the banks; the general assumption that election time is harvest time and boom time turns the whole event into a commercial undertaking rather than an opportunity for nation-building. ThisDay newspaper has reported that within ten days of selling nomination and expression of interest forms, the PDP raked in N3.5 billion (ThisDay, September 25, p.1). It stands to make more. In 2006, the party made N4 billion from the sale of forms alone. The excuse is that the party needed funds for the elections, but in 2007, the party soon announced that it was broke (didn't it?) and yet there was no clear indication that the party complied with the section of the law requiring each political party to submit its audited accounts for vetting by INEC, and of course in the Nigerian context, it is not the parties that fund individual campaigns, the candidate is required to do so.  The PDP has also talked about preventing a bandwagon effect whereby every Peter and Janet would express interest in political office because it is easy to obtain a form. This kind of snobbery translates into deplorable politics of exclusion, one that is driven by financial muscle and sheer illiberality. It should be possible for anyone that is interested in political office to gain access to express that interest. The ultimate choice must be made by the people and this must not be a function of cash.
The 1999 Constitution spells out the grounds for qualification for particular offices at Sections 65,66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177, 182: the key highlights of which include the fact that the person must have attained a particular age, and a particular level of educational qualification, must be of sound mind, must be a citizen of Nigeria, must not be bankrupt and must not have been indicted for corruption by an administrative panel of inquiry, must not have been convicted for an offence, and must not be  a member of a secret society. When political parties erect additional barriers, they invariably make the process of leadership recruitment rather exclusive; when their emphasis is on financial muscle, they prepare the grounds for future compromises; they reduce politics to the level of big money fit only for the highest bidder.
The monetization of the nomination process in the PDP is perhaps "good" for the polity, if it would encourage the other political parties to be more liberal and less business-minded, and if that would encourage aspirants who for financial reasons cannot access the PDP to go to the opposition parties and strengthen them. Unfortunately in Nigeria, party politics has not worked that way before now and may not even now. The political aspirant is not driven by ideology or public-spirited beliefs; he is interested in winning by all means and if the PDP is the party that he or she believes can bring him closer to his or her dream, he or she would be prepared to make the investment, knowing that after winning, the treasury is available for looting. This corruption-driven political culture is what must change for Nigeria to raise the integrity of the election campaign process. It is one challenge that INEC should begin to consider even as it struggles to gain the breathing space it so desperately seeks

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2011 election timetable: Matters arising By Reuben Abati

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has requested for an extension of the timetable for the 2011 general elections till April 2011, to enable it prepare better for the elections, its initial advertised timelines having already gone awry leaving no leg-room for adjustments. This proposal which would require consequential legislative action has already been endorsed by the political parties virtually with no exception and even many of the aspirants are so far enthusiastic that more time will be advisable. There can be no doubt that the extension is in the interest of both INEC and the professional politicians, but there are underlying consequences and possibilities which must be examined to ensure that in the long run, it is the people's interest that prevails. The INEC Chairman had consistently drawn attention to the limitation of time, although he kept promising at the same time that he and his team will do their best under the circumstances. A strategic meeting held in Calabar by INEC officials however came up with the resolution that the timing of the election is practically impossible. The schedule is "too tight", they said.
INEC deserves praise for its new-found honesty, for its earlier resort to ambivalence and double-speak seemed like an exercise in grand deception. Jega, the INEC Chairman must have seen that his so-called perfect alibi would not work after all. The political parties which have quickly endorsed Jega's proposal (they probably pushed him into it, anyway) have also done so for self-serving reasons. The Electoral Act 2010 leaves the political parties very little room for manoeuvre with its very strict deadlines. The parties for example were required to give INEC a 21-day notice of their primaries and conventions, without fail, by September 18,  no political party had met that deadline, and there was no clear indication that the various political parties had actually decided on whether to have direct or indirect primaries, or taken a decision on the content of their constitutions, because all of this was still an issue among the various stakeholders.
Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 on the mode of conducting primaries had also changed the nature of power relations within the political parties with regard to the selection of delegates. In the Peoples Democratic Party, this was meant to free the sitting President from the stranglehold of the Governors who in previous primaries held sway with their army of assistants and political appointees and all-powerful Godfathers, but in reality, the new structure requiring primaries at ward levels in all the 36 states still made the Presidential aspirants utterly vulnerable, and the process more expensive than hitherto.
Some of the parties, notably the PDP and the Presidency, were desperately looking for a way round this. Even the PDP time-table, which places the Gubernatorial primaries before the presidential, made an interested sitting PDP President vulnerable. It is therefore not surprising that although President Jonathan had signed the Electoral Act 2010, he and his aides had at the same time been asking for an amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 before it takes effect. The President's refusal to append his signature to the amended 1999 Constitution now appears deliberate and strategic. If this hypothesis is true, then our earlier argument that there may be a hidden agenda with regard to the 2011 elections may be provable after all.
So, what is likely to follow and what should be our concerns as citizens? If the emerging consensus that the elections be shifted to April holds sway, then there will be need for a review of the enabling legal framework, particularly the Electoral Act with regard to the timing of elections and the amended 1999 Constitution, on which the INEC September-January timetable is based, as well. Contrived as the controversy over the President's signature with regard to the amended 1999 Constitution may be, it is now an issue that also has to be resolved for Nigeria to move forward on the question of elections. Will the Electoral Act 2010 be amended to fit the 1999 Constitution or the amended version? And should the Supreme Court rule one way or the other when it suits it on the matter of the President's signature, what would be the implications? Is there enough time to embark on another round of constitution amendment? Will it not be safer to repeal the 2010 Electoral Act and use the 2006 Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution? If the professional political class manages to resolve this conundrum, the public must be watchful to ensure that the amendments do not end up as an attempt to re-jig the existing framework to favour particular aspirants following a posteriori realizations; for that would amount to a manipulation of the system to deliver pre-determined outcomes.
But in simpler terms, what all this tells us is that Nigeria is not really prepared for the 2011 elections. When John Campbell, a former US Ambassador wrote on September 12 about the possibility of the failure of the 2011 elections in Nigeria,  the current Nigerian ambassador to the US, Professor Adebowale Adefuye wrote a rejoinder telling Campbell he is a prophet of doom writing "an offensive… and jaundiced" article (The Guardian, September 13). Campbell and other commentators along the same lines would now appear to know what they were writing about and Ambassador Adefuye, merely pleasing the Nigerian authorities, fails the diplomacy test particularly with his second rejoinder available online in which he says "may the likes of John Campbell never come our way again."  No other general election in Nigeria since 1999 has been prefaced with as much confusion, anxiety and uncertainty as the proposed 2011 general elections. In retrospect, the preparations for the 2007 elections considered one of the worst polls in Nigerian history appear comparable, if not better in terms of certainty. Professor Attahiru Jega is certainly setting the stage for the loss of his own credibility, beginning with the current jagajaga (confusing, mixed up, incoherent) arrangements for the 2011 elections.
This is the situation, not because Jega does not mean well, but because in Nigeria there is very little institutional memory and our various institutions are driven not by traditions but circumstances and individual whims. Jega inherited from Maurice Iwu, an existing institution, but he met so much misalignment between mandate, objective and operational capability, he is having to reconfigure the institution afresh; this is something the Ghanaians next door have not had to do from one election to the other in the last decade. And as Jega and his team encounter new demons in the process of that reconstruction, they are compelled to come up with excuses. In a statement justifying the request for a change in timetable, the INEC Chairman has already offered an explanation in that regard, but there are additional questions that remain unanswered.
If what he is asking for is a leg room, more like elbow room, then why April? Why not February since the main challenge is that of the voter's register? Why not March? A two-month window before the inauguration of new government on May 29, 2011, may give the tribunals and courts a little room to treat election petitions expeditiously. But with the elections in April, Nigeria is more or less back to the situation in 2007. It means that practically nothing has changed. The various promises about electoral reform have come to naught. One major element of the electoral reform proposal was to ensure that election-related litigations are disposed of before swearing in to prevent a situation whereby persons enjoy stolen mandates for up to two or three years before they are found out and dismissed by the courts.
With the elections now likely to be held in April 2011, we are back to that old order, and meeting the challenge of ensuring credible elections has been postponed. The INEC budget was based on the plan to prepare the voters' register within two weeks and to run the election process between now and January 2011.  If the target is now April 2011, what happens to the INEC budget for the elections? Is it going to prepare a supplementary budget? Or is additional cost already anticipated in the earlier budget? If new costs will be involved, INEC must take the pains to explain that to the public and state exactly how much is required or may be saved from the existing budget.
Professor Jega has affirmed that whatever happens the hand over date of May 29, 2011 will remain sacrosanct. That is important, lest further credence is given to the suspicion that some politicians are bent on extending their tenure in office for selfish reasons. As it were, so much is being said about the importance of time. But this is not even, now in retrospect, the more pressing issue at stake. It is the quality of the Nigerian process and its leadership.  The various political parties that are now jumping on the time-extension bandwagon, were they proper political parties would have been ready for the next elections long ago and would not need to behave as if they too are starting afresh. But this is the Nigerian malady. Fifty years after independence, we are again talking about how to begin to plan for the future.
When the various issues are resolved however, Jega must be reminded that he no longer has any reason to offer additional excuses and he must begin to resist the temptation to sound like another prominent public official who comments on everything from the acting styles of Aki and Paw Paw to the eating habits of bank CEOs and much less on his core mandate. For now, our hopes about the 2011 elections are mixed. If the elections are free and fair, fine, but if not, we already know why

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pres. Goodluck Jonathan: After 2011, what next?

I came across a story in yesterday's edition of Thisday newspaper. It was titled "2015 complicates zoning and PDP plans mini convention".

As we know, the issue of whether to zone or not zone the 2011 presidential ticket seems to have taken over the PDP. And according to the newspaper report, some northern elites in the PDP are now looking beyond 2011. It's been reported that the "north" could concede the 2011 presidential to Pres. Goodluck Jonathan if it can be guaranteed that he wouldn't be seeking a "second term" after 2011.

There is a concern within the party that the region that produces the next president will rule for eight years. A "senior northerner" was quoted in the newspaper as saying "If (President Goodluck) Jonathan can openly declare today that he would do only one term and leave in 2015, the North will support him..….we cannot contemplate power being in the South till 2019, which is what will happen if Jonathan does two terms"

If the above statements are true, then it highlights the level of disregard the political elites have for the average voter. It's only in a country like ours, where the votes of long suffering masses don't count, will a political party assume that it will be in power until 2019.  Anyway, that's an issue for another day.

What I find puzzling in the newspaper story however, is the issue of whether Pres. Goodluck Jonathan can actually run for presidency in 2015. I have often asked myself the question if the federal constitution allows him to do so.

Whilst I agree that the focus of our attention should be on the forthcoming 2011 elections, I've just always been curious about possible political permutation post-2011. So newspaper story succeeded in setting my mind thinking on this matter. To inform the discussion I have included the relevant section of the Constitution.  

Section 137 of the 1999 Constitution deals with the issue of election into the office of the president. It states,

137. (1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of

President if -

(a) subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution, he  has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than  Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National  Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other  country;


(b) he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections;


(c) under the law in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a  lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;


(d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of  law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for  any offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or  for any other offence, imposed on him by any court or tribunal or  substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on

him by such a court or tribunal;


(e) within a period of less than ten years before the date of the  election to the office of President he has been convicted and  sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found  guilty of the contravention of the Code of Conduct; or

(f) he is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise  declared bankrupt under any law in force in Nigeria or any other  country;


(g) being a person employed in the civil or public service of the  Federation or of any State, he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired  from the employment at least thirty days before the date of the  election; or

(h) he is a member of any secret society;


(i) he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial  Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a  Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of  Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which  indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Government,



(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National  Electoral Commission.

(2) Where in respect of any person who has been -

(a) adjudged to be a lunatic;

(b) declared to be of unsound mind;

(c) sentenced to death or imprisonment;


(d) adjudged or declared bankrupt

(e) any appeal against the decision is pending in any court of law in  accordance with any law in force in Nigeria, subsection (1) of this  section shall not apply during a period beginning from the date when  such appeal is lodged and ending on the date when the appeal is  finally determined or, as the case may be, the appeal lapses or is abandoned, whichever is earlier.

As we can see Section 137(1)(b) does state explicitly that a person cannot be elected as president, if he has been elected into such office at any two previous elections. The operative word here is "elected".

The constitution is however silent on what happens in the sudden demise of the elected president and the V-P is sworn in as president. GEJ was not elected as president, as he only became a president by default. So strictly speaking, is first election into the office of the president will be in 2011.

I have heard people say that GEJ cannot seek re-election in 2015 because the president cannot take the oath of office more than twice.  From my viewpoint, there's nothing in the constitution to support such argument.   

Though I'm not a legal expert, my interpretation is that there's nothing in the Constitution that stops GJ from seeking a second term after 2011. Having said that, I may be wrong.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think GEJ can legally seek a "second term" after 2011?

PS- The above post is based on the assumption that GEJ will be contesting the 2011 presidential elections.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Will You Join PDP, If..........?

Let me start by sharing a recent experience. Few months ago, I received an email from a ‘facebook’ friend, who asked if I was interested in becoming a member of his political group. According to him, the group intends to mobilise interested Nigerians to become members of the PDP, with the aim of hijacking the party machinery. After reading the email, I quickly declined his offer. I declined the offer for three reasons. Firstly, because I’m based overseas and I couldn’t see how I can add value to their cause. Secondly, I have never hidden how much I detest PDP as a political party. Mind you, not that I believe any of the other political parties are better. I’ve just never believed anything good can come out of the party, except by “accident” (as a friend will say). And thirdly, I didn’t know the guy personally, so I wasn’t sure if they were been sponsored by another ‘cabal’.

Ok! That was then, but, what about now?

The PDP Chairman, Dr Nwodo recently noted that, the party will begin registration of its members this week. Prospective members of the party will be expected to pay a mandatory registration fee which will be registered online. According to media reports, the party believes it could raise N10bn annually by levying its members N1,500 each.

The PDP Chairman was also quoted as saying “gone are the days, where a ward chairman will not register a member because he/she doesn’t like the face of the prospective member”. But given the opportunity, how many people are interested in being members of the PDP?

So should the call for membership by PDP be seen by progressives, as an opportunity to get involve? What would it take to mobilise 500,000 “progressives” to register as members of the PDP, with the sole aim of reforming the party?. Why can’t all the political groups on facebook and other online social network work collaboratively, and join the PDP en mass? With 500,000 members (all on the same page), how difficult can it be to take over the party machinery, and force a change?

You may ask, why PDP and not ACN or ANPP? The answer to that is simple. Like it or loathe it, PDP remains the only party in the country with the geographical spread and structure to win an election. If one can mobilise enough numbers, why waste your time joining a party that only appeals to certain ethnic groups.

So I put the question to you, will you join the PDP, if there exist an opportunity to force a change within the party?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Youths Earnestly Ask for Jonathan - By Simon Kolawole

Nothing ever changes in Nigeria, isn’t it? The more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. The country is currently littered with mushrooms of associations asking President Goodluck Jonathan to run in the 2011 presidential race; all sorts of groups with names so similar you would be forced to suspect that they are being created and co-ordinated from the same source. They are singing the same tune – PDP must dump “zoning” (that is, power rotation) and let Jonathan run. Northern youths. Southern youths. Movement for this. Movement for that. Alliance for this.

Alliance for that. They all claim to be doing us some good and fighting for justice and equity and fairness. The impression being created is that the president does not know anything about it. It is Nigerians who are trying to exercise their freedom of speech. But haven’t we been here before?

Yeah, it looks too familiar. Youths Earnest Ask for Abacha (YEAA). That was in 1998 when the epidemic swept through the country. Gen. Sani Abacha, one of the finest dictators the world has ever produced, had held Nigeria by the throat for nearly five years, killing as many people as he could, looting as much as he could and doing all he could to push Nigeria into the abyss.

Mortuaries and prisons were filled with his victims. He embarked on a transition programme designed to ultimately produce him as the president. The five political parties he created all adopted him as their presidential candidate, even though he was never a member, never picked their nomination forms and never fulfilled any of the requirements for aspirants as prescribed by the law. We were told that Abacha was the best thing. At the million-man march organised by YEAA for him in Abuja, many prominent Nigerians – some of whom you would ordinarily expect to be sane – endorsed the project. Abacha died suddenly, effectively killing YEAA.

We had a similar project in 2002 when over 20 PDP governors stormed Ota, Ogun State, to “beg” President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for second term. Obasanjo, they said, was the only man for Nigeria. A bigger version of the project was launched a few years later. You guessed right: third term. Obasanjo organised a political conference, ostensibly to work for a new constitution, but surreptitiously to extend his second term in office. When it didn’t work, a full-blown third term project was launched. We were told Obasanjo was the only one that could solve all our problems. Indeed, everything seemed set for Obasanjo to get his third term as the constitution was about to be amended to accommodate his ambition. In a flash, the third term project collapsed. Obasanjo would later tell us that he was not interested in third term. As if we were born yesterday.

An amazing fact is that there are characters that have always been on the “tazarce” (“carry on”) scene. I will mention just two names here. Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu was heavily involved in the Abacha project as the publicity secretary of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) – the party of choice then. Mantu, representing the North-central, moved the motion that Abacha should be the presidential candidate of UNCP at its Kaduna convention on April 16, 1998. Others who moved the joint motion were: Ebenezer Babatope, Josiah Odunna, Saminu Turaki (who later became governor of Jigawa State), Sergeant Awuse and Ali Modu Sherif (current governor of Borno State). In 2005-6, Mantu, as Deputy Senate President, organised a similar project for Obasanjo, co-ordinating the failed attempt to amend the constitution to accommodate third term. Dear readers, Mantu is now one of the co-ordinators of the Jonathan 2011 project. “Tazarce” runs in his blood.

There is also this character called Greg Mbadiwe who, unfortunately, hails from an illustrious family. He was neck-deep in the Abacha project. He wrote an interesting article to justify the ill-conceived “tazarce” project. In the article, which was published just around the time Abacha died, he declared: “The UNCP must not renege on the decision to present General Abacha as its flag bearer. For, contrary to the utterances by a few people who have access to the press, the masses of the people are in support of continuity and General Abacha. They are in alignment with his regime’s efforts and are eagerly waiting to give him a stronger mandate come August 1, 1998.” Mbadiwe, it must be recalled, was also the one who moved for the extension of Obasanjo’s second term tenure to six years at the political conference in 2004. He was also well involved in the failed third term project. That’s his stock-in-trade.

I don’t know much about Mbadiwe’s involvement in the Jonathan project, but I recently stumbled on an article he wrote to campaign for the president. He first condemned zoning and power rotation and then began to talk about how God had ordained Jonathan and how the man is the best person for the job. Read him: “Jonathan appears to be the bridge of unity and national integration which has eluded Nigerians for a long time.

We were closer to the attainment of that goal in 1993 when Nigerians overwhelmingly voted a Muslim-Muslim ticket, only for the military through an ill-advised action, to annul that election. The opportunity has presented itself again and history beckons on us to, in the spirit of Nigerian unity to formally elect a man from the minority tribe as our president in 2011. That would not only confirm that we have come of age, we would be giving a practical expression to the letters of the constitution which guarantees us the right to aspire to any position in the country.”

Let me be clear about something: I am not comparing Jonathan’s obvious ambition to the self-perpetuation plans of Abacha and Obasanjo. The two were clearly involved in something illegitimate which could only be achieved by subverting and manipulating the laws of the land. Jonathan, on the other hand, has every right to run for office next year as enshrined in the constitution. The power rotation argument is not about law or constitution – it is about a “gentleman’s agreement” as they call it. It is a PDP problem. ANPP does not have power rotation. AC does not have power rotation. So when I talk about the roles of Mantu, Mbadiwe and their ilk in the Jonathan project and similar projects in the past, I am talking basically about this malignant tumour called AGIP – Any Government in Power. I am also talking about the unseen hands behind the scene, patting the boot-lickers on the back while pretending not to be involved in any way. You know what I mean.

In a way, I do not blame Mantu and co. In Nigeria, real economic productivity yields little gain, so it is political sycophancy that rewards bountifully. Hard work hardly pays. How much would you make working your head off 24/7 in your office compared to what you would make practising AGIP? A fresh university graduate with a decent job would need to work for at least five years before he can afford a new car. If he chooses sycophancy, he can buy a 4WD after just one “contract”. The budget for sycophancy is normally in billions of naira. Furthermore, those who get the biggest appointments in government are not necessarily those who want to contribute to the progress of Nigeria. They are mostly those who play the right politics – those who carry the bags of the right people; those who wash the feet of the right people; those who utter the biggest flattery. You don’t need to do too much research to discover why Nigeria is so backward. Those who have been holding us hostage for decades are the same people holding us hostage today. It’s a brood of vipers. They reproduce themselves. They are from every part of Nigeria. They are ever present in our national life in one form or the other. I am therefore not surprised, at all, that the Jonathan government is turning out to be like the previous ones. This government is proving not to be different from the others. The signs are there for everyone to see. In Nigeria, the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dreams Can be Crazy!

Dreams can be crazy, especially when malaria has a hand and a foot in it. Fancy the dream I had last night. It was so scary it made a horror film look like a routine Lagos traffic jam. I woke up sweating and decided it was time to see the doctor.

I dreamt that Senator Ahmed Yerima was elected the President of Nigeria. He settled into Aso Rock and ... See moreintroduced a thirteen year old, Fatima, as his wife and First Lady of Nigeria. That instantly posed a problem for the media which did not know whether Nigeria had a First Child or First Lady. Opinion was divided, but Ray Ekpu of Newswatch stepped in and decided that the media should hold a national conference and take a common position on how to address the President’s teen wife so as not to embarrass the President. The Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka maintained that to be grammatically correct, we should not address a child as a lady and asserted with authority that a “lady” is a term used to address “mature women” not “children.” He argued that she should remain a “First Child until further notice.”

But the People’s Democratic Party maintained that the problem was not grammatical but political. To which famous lawyer, Chief Femi Falana pointed out that the “child” in question was not of voting age and as such should not impose a political burden on the country. He maintained that the nation should assume that the President had no legal wife or in the alternative ask him to produce another wife worthy of being addressed as a First Lady and who was of voting age.

We were still trying to solve the matter when we heard that some civil right groups had taken the matter to the court to annul the marriage and let the child go back to school. We told them to hold on that the child was still in school and will actually be a part time First Child or First Lady and part time student. The case was dropped. We would have rested the matter there but guess what? Along came Prof. Dora Akunyili (I mean Prof Dora Akunyili again!) and said she had it on good authority that Her Excellency was still bed-wetting. She said it would do great damage to her rebranding exercise and wondered “how you could rebrand a country when the First Lady was busy wetting beds abroad.”

The Federal Ministry of Health responded promptly that it had developed drugs which could take care of bed-wetting, but if the drugs were not okay, then the First Lady could use catheter in the night and not wet beds in presidential guest houses abroad. Everyone was relieved but guess what? The Central Bank came charging that such money would not be charged to any budgetary item and would amount to an extra-budgetary expenditure and fraud. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission agreed and said the National Assembly should approve a “Bed-wetting allowance” for the president, before any fund was drawn. They noted that if the man were to travel as much as President Olusegun Obasanjo did, then it would add to the national inflation and would be difficult to justify based on existing financial regulations.

Well the debate was still raging when we heard that President Barrack Obama was coming to Nigeria on a state visit and would be accompanied by his wife, Michele. Civil liberties organizations swung into action and tried to persuade the American Embassy to postpone the trip until the “First Lady” issue was resolved. But the Embassy said the visit was part of a tour of strategic African states and Nigeria was amongst the most important in Africa.

Obama actually came and was met on the tarmac by President Yerima with his wife, Fatima, in tow. Obama thought Her Execllency, Mrs Fatima Yeriama, was the garland girl and bent down to have her hang a garland on his neck. Her Excellency on the other hand thought differently in the innocence of her childlike heart, and thought he was bending down to admire her dress. She giggled and said, “Isn’t this a very wonderful dress? It is the same color with my undies.”

Michele laughed heartily and picked up Her Excellency in her hands, stroking her head. I nearly fainted! She turned to President Yerima and said, “This should be your beautiful daughter, where is her mother -your wife?” To which President Yerima looked at her stunned, not knowing what to say. The American ambassador to Nigeria stepped in and saved the situation, “Mrs. Obama, that is the President’s wife that you are carrying in your hands. You may wish to put her down beside her husband so that the reception will continue.”

The Nigerian First Lady who had been struggling to get out of Michele’s hands, looked up indignantly at the American First Lady, said, “I will not be your friend again. Only my husband carries me up and you dared to carry me up.”

President Obama stroked his tie thoughtfully and said, “Let us not have a diplomatic row over this, I forgot to tell Michele that in Africa you catch them young. It is entirely my fault. My apologies to the First Couple. And now Mr President can we proceed to other reception formalities?”

Soon the airport reception was over and the two First Ladies had to while away time while the Presidents discussed matters of state. Mrs Yerima insisted on showing Mrs Obama her toys and her grades in school. The other women stood idly by as one baby doll after the other was shown to Mrs Obama. “My husband bought this toy for me from China, she can even sing, let me play it for you.” Mrs Obama nodded.

Her Excellency Fatima hit the button and the doll began to sing, “God damn America the great Satan, down with the infidels and down with the west…” Mrs. Obama cringed but the child paid her no heed.

She bounded over to the television and turned it on. Then she moved the dial to Cartoon Network and turned to Mrs Obama, “Do you watch Tom and Jerry?” But by this time Mrs Obama had had enough, she fainted and had to be flown back to America.

I was filing the report to my editor when my wife woke me up and said it was time to take my anti-malaria drug. [Ha HA Ha Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa]

Hat Tip Tobi Sowole