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Tag Archives: Nigeria Democracy

Concluded Party Primaries: A Perspective and Matters Arising

Compiled by: Mr Lazarus m., Miss Jerume Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Ozobulu Esq.

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If democracy is the government of the people for them and by them, as the popular adage goes, then it is the nexus in the democratic process. Elections are central to the deepening and sustainability of the democratic system of Government anywhere in the world. It provides Citizens with the opportunity to vote in or out any leader of their choice at all levels of Governance. In the election sub-sector of Democracy and Good Governance, elections are not an event but a process. There are three phases in the electoral cycle. They are the pre-election, Election Day and the post-election.

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Currently, we are in the pre-election phase for the 2019 general election and many activities have been carried out and are still being conducted by various stakeholders. The just concluded party primaries held between Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, October 7, 2018 were legally the responsibility of the different political parties to carry out under the supervision of INEC.  Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended makes it mandatory for political parties organizing congresses, conventions and nomination of candidates to give 21 days’ notice to INEC to enable the commission to observe the process.

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So how did the Political parties fare in the conduct of the just concluded party primaries? Lawyers Alert will attempt to X ray the general conduct of political parties with focus on the major political parties from 3 basic perspectives. These will include adherence to deepening of democracy and its values in the electoral process in Nigeria, Gender equality and respect of Women Human Rights and respect of the electoral Act 2014 and other legal issues thereto.

Globally, elections are intended to deepen the culture and practice of democracy. Political parties are expected to abide by the norms of the electoral process in fielding aspirants by providing a level playing field, equal opportunity. They are expected to be transparent, accountable, provide a participatory process that will throw up the best candidates from which the electorate can then choose. Was this achieved in the recently held primaries?

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In fact, the just concluded party primaries were colored by a range of malpractices as alleged by affected aspirants. Cases included vote buying, violence, intimidation and threats, tampering with the delegates’ list and candidates’ imposition among other forms of anti-democratic acts which were recorded across all parties in different states of the federation. The primaries became warfare, as the power brokers and aspirants seeking tickets turned venues of the intra-party poll to a theatre of war, with the attendant injuries, loss of lives and property and palpable tension. Internal democracy and lobbying were substituted with Machiavellian antics and the reign of impunity and terror.

In Zamfara State for example, the entire election was marred by violence and intra party crises with 2 sets of results brandished by two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Media reports suggest that the INEC has since barred the party from fielding any candidate for the forthcoming elections. So, what happens to all the Aspirants that spent time, money and other valuable resources? What happens to the wishes of the electorate willing to express their franchise under the APC in Zamfara? What will happen to the growth and deepening of democratic values in that State?

The People’s Democratic Party Presidential Primary Elections held in Port Harcourt is also alleged to have been characterized by vote-buying and intimidation. An aspirant purportedly flooded the venue of the party’s convention with so much foreign currency that local parallel market operators opened temporary offices at the venue. At the end did the winner get voted in or did he simply purchase his victory at a price? These are questions.

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APGA, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, was anything but “progressive” in the conduct of its primaries. News reports suggest that certificates handed over to the wrong aspirants are to be recalled. Indeed, the party chairman is said to have apologized to party members explaining that the sudden fame enjoyed by the party caused a rise in some of the confusion that unfolded.

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, had its own share of drama as young politicians who opted for the platform in hopes of avoiding the scheming associated with the big 2, APC and PDP, soon found themselves facing equally unsavory circumstances. In Benue state. the party is said to have allowed itself to be bought over by a certain big wig in who was not welcomed in the first party he defected to. The party has also been accused of not holding any ward congresses whatsoever and merely imposing officials on the party.

There was also the issue of imposition of candidates by Political Godfathers. For example, our investigations reveal that in Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), no primary election took place for the State Assembly. The party big wigs picked and chose the candidates dear to their hearts regardless of how the delegates or the electorate felt.

In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), among others, the story was not too different as protests against the manner of primaries and alleged imposition continued to resonate across the states where the parties have strongholds. From Gombe to Benue to Oyo, stories of aspirants threatening fire and brimstone over the primaries abound, with some even already defecting to other parties.

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Aggrieved political actors across the six geopolitical zones are not giving up over the perceived high-handedness meted out by the top echelon of influential party elders, doing all they can to salvage “the situation.” Ironically, among the ranks of those involved in subdued anger and frustration in the party are a couple of state governors whose preferred choices as likely successors or anointed candidates for other levels of Grade A contests were frustrated by more powerful forces in Abuja.

As it stands, the questions political observers are now asking are: how do the dramatis personae intend to douse some of the ignited flames? What is the shape of the things to come ahead of the general elections? Considering the unnerving discontent at various levels of the power strata, will the general elections still be a battle of the 2 Titans, APC and PDP or will the discontentment in their ranks give the up-and-coming parties a much-needed boost?

The 2019 elections promise to be a thing of awe…though not necessarily in a good way.

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Fears linger around Buhari’s commitment to a free press

Journalists jailed by Muhammadu Buhari’s regime in the 1980s are ready to forgive, but others are skeptical

When Muhammadu Buhari hit the campaign trail in Nigeria earlier this year, he got help from an unlikely source: Tunde Thompson. As a reporter for the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper in the 1980s, Thompson was one of two journalists jailed under the repressive military regime led by Buhari.

Thompson was a casualty of Decree 4, a draconian piece of legislation that allowed the government to imprison any journalist who embarrassed the country’s military leaders — a nebulous charge that was frequently invoked to muzzle the press and civil society during the 18 months of Buhari’s rule. After Thompson and his colleague Nduka Irabor published a report on diplomatic postings that involved top military brass, the two were arrested in February 1984 and held for eight months.

Three decades after his ordeal, Thompson said that “time is a healer of certain wounds,” and he came out in support of Buhari in his campaign against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

“People should learn to be charitable. They should learn to forgive and let bygones be bygones,” Thompson told the online Premium Times newspaper. Saying that Buhari wasn’t personally responsible for his 1984 arrest, Thompson added that he “bear[s] no grudge against him.”

Buhari defeated Jonathan in the March 28 election, and as Nigeria prepares to peacefully hand power to a man who 30 years ago seized it by force, forgiveness is on the minds of many. Even those who suffered during Buhari’s brief reign hope that the notoriously hard-nosed disciplinarian can stem the corruption and the growing tide of insecurity that undid his predecessor. For journalists too, there is guarded optimism that Buhari, now a professed “converted democrat,” has turned over a new leaf in his transition from military strongman to civilian leader.

“What happened during the military regime of Gen. Buhari cannot happen in [a] democracy,” said Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. “I think we are going to see a different Buhari.”

Skeptics question how long the commitment to democracy will last for Muhammadu Buhari, a former military man who showed little tolerance for dissenting voices the last time he was in power.

Buhari’s ascent to power in December 1983 ushered in a period of crackdowns on civil liberties and freedom of speech, with the arrests of Thompson and Irabor part of a broader effort to muzzle the country’s once vibrant press. Journalists and editors were regularly detained on trivial offenses, and self-censorship became the norm, with newspapers fearful of publishing stories that could incur stiff fines and jail sentences. By the time Buhari was overthrown in a coup in August 1985, a commentator in The Concord newspaper reported that the local press was in a “comatose condition.”

Since the return of democracy in 1999, though, the industry has managed to make slow but steady gains. With dozens of publicly and privately owned newspapers and TV and radio stations, Nigeria now has one of the most diverse and boisterous media climates on the continent, although the industry faces a rash of challenges. Buhari tried to offer assurances on the campaign trail that he would uphold those freedoms once in office, promising “to promote the consolidation of democracy … by guaranteeing that the media’s freedom is not compromised in any way.”

“Without a robust and thriving media, the masses would have no voice,” he added.

Yet skeptics question how long the commitment to democracy will last for Buhari, a former military man who showed little tolerance for dissenting voices the last time he was in power.

“You think that you’re going to have all the time to continue [the media’s] goodwill,” said Jahman Anikulapo, a former editor of The Sunday Guardian, referring to the honeymoon period Buhari is enjoying. But if he struggles to deliver on some of his campaign promises, “there’s going to be a lot of criticism. And that’s when you will see how democratic he is.”

Nigeria is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists last year ranked the nation 12th on its list of deadliest countries, citing “a steady rise in unsolved murders in recent years.” It was the second year in a row that Nigeria appeared on the list, with group noting that the country’s “press freedom record is on the decline.”

The broader unrest in Nigeria has taken its toll on journalists, who struggle to operate freely in much of the country. With the continuing threat posed by armed group Boko Haram in the north, kidnappings in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, rampant criminal and politically sponsored violence and a general culture of impunity, Dapo Olorunyomi, the editor-in-chief of The Premium Times, suggested in a 2013 op-ed that this is “perhaps the most dismal period” for the profession in its 150-year history in the region.

The run-up to this year’s presidential polls was especially troubling, according to the Lagos-based International Press Centre, which documented 32 attacks against journalists in Nigeria from November to February. On Monday the military released two Al Jazeera journalists it had detained for nearly two weeks, underscoring the IPC’s findings that “police and other security agencies have continued to be the principal perpetrators of attacks,” a fact that it called “particularly alarming.”

Citing the broader culture of impunity in Nigeria, Garba noted, “We are yet to see a serious case against either the state security forces or individuals that have committed crimes against journalists.”

Still, within the industry, there is hope that Buhari “has a chance of cleaning up” that culture, according to Femi Adesina, the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Despite his heavy-handed time as a military ruler, Buhari entered the campaign season with a no-nonsense reputation that enamored him to the many voters who had grown weary of the rampant corruption and waywardness of the Jonathan era. Yet Adesina cautioned it “remains to be seen” how Buhari would manage to push reform while abiding by the country’s democratic institutions, as opposed to ruling by decree, as he did 30 years ago.

Perhaps the greater threat to Nigeria’s press stems from powerful controlling interests in a country where, according to Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, roughly 70 percent of media companies are owned by politicians.

Perhaps the greater threat to Nigeria’s press stems from powerful controlling interests in a country where, according to Garba, roughly 70 percent of media companies are owned by politicians and the dire financial straits of most organizations leave them particularly susceptible to outside influence.

The issue was brought to bear during the bitterly divisive campaign season, when the press was routinely criticized for failing to maintain its objectivity, publishing slanderous attack ads and promoting hate speech. Last month a Lagos high court issued an injunction against several broadcasters — including the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority — for running a negative and specious documentary against Buhari’s running mate, Yemi Osinbajo. The broadcasters reportedly received roughly $50 million to produce and air the program, which was bankrolled by Jonathan’s ruling party.

The lapses in ethics throughout the campaign season, said Anikulapo, reflect the broader struggle by media in recent years to live up to their mandate as watchdog in a country hobbled by corruption. He pointed to the Freedom of Information Act, signed into law by Jonathan in 2011, which mandates that institutions receiving public money disclose their operations and spending and that citizens have the right to access information about those groups’ activities. At the time, the act was hailed as a victory for transparency and accountability, but it has only sporadically been used by the press since, and Ankikulapo cited it as an example of the media’s failure to “engage with power … and raise the necessary questions,” even with legal tools at its disposal.

That failure, he said, raises doubts about whether the media can “wake up from that slumber all of a sudden and start to tackle a former general.”

“Now that you’ve dined with the devil,” he asked, “how do you extricate yourself from it?”

 
 

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Nigeria’s Elections: Deciding the Fate of a Young Democracy

By Chidi Odinkalu
 

Unquestionably the most closely-fought in Nigeria’s turbulent history, Nigeria’s presidential elections on 28th March offer both promise and peril for Africa’s most populous country.

Let’s begin with the promise. Nigeria’s potential is immense if it can harness the dividends of democracy and its demography. Both are on show in these elections. About three quarters of Nigeria’s 170 million people are under-35 years old; half are under -18.

The youthful demographic partly explain the passion in these forthcoming elections: many of the participants will be voting for the first time. Blissfully unconstrained by the troubles of their country’s past, these young voters simply want a country that promises them a better future.

Since the end of military rule in May 1999, Nigeria has enjoyed 16 years of uninterrupted civilian rule, the longest in its history. Over this period, the judiciary has emerged as a major stabilizing influence in elections, and institutions for fighting corruption have been established, albeit with mixed results.

The benefits of these advances are evident in the closeness of the imminent ballot. Nigerians have a choice between two parties – the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) – each with a genuine chance of winning the presidency. This is progress.

In the immediate term, however, the management of these elections has been beset by challenges of digital technology. In an effort to confront the country’s reputation for controversial elections, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will at these elections deploy a new biometric voter identification solution for the first time. How this experiment works could determine the outcome of the elections as well as their acceptability.

Despite the progress and possibilities, Nigeria’s forthcoming Presidential election is pregnant with peril. The ballot takes place as the country battles brutal, extremist violence in the north-eastern States master-minded by the dreaded Boko Haram sect, which killed over 11,000 last year alone, has displaced nearly two million people, and recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

This is a dire humanitarian situation that also poses challenges for election administration. The elections have already been postponed by six weeks, supposedly to allow time to restore security for areas under the Boko Haram threat. The military have made significant recent gains in this campaign, recovering about 40 towns and settlements previously occupied by the extremists.

Together with inter-communal violence in the north-central states and resource militancy in the resource rich, Niger-Delta, however, this violence has stretched the resources of Nigeria’s internal security institutions and somewhat foregrounds the forthcoming elections.

These elections will test the limits of Nigeria’s extraordinary resilience and diversity. The country is no stranger to violence around elections, but what is happening this year is unprecedented. The National Human Rights Commission that I chair has recorded scores of deaths from political violence already in 2015.

In January 2015, former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his former counterpart in the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, brokered a peace pact between Nigeria’s principal parties to eschew political violence. It has had little impact.

The warning signs have been showing for some time already. In a report released on 13 February, the Human Rights Commission warns that “if urgent steps are not taken to arrest further escalation, Nigeria’s 2015 general elections would confront a high risk of significant violence which could pose a clear and present danger to the stability of the country and its neighbours.”

In Kenya in 2007 and in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 there were early warnings that elections would be tight – and heated. But little was done before the storm broke. Thousands died in Kenya; in Côte d’Ivoire, France intervened militarily when Laurent Gbagbo took to violence to cling to power – he has ended up in The Hague, answering International Criminal Court charges.

Nigeria is a young democracy and an emerging economy but the challenges around these elections are exceptional. To overcome them, the two leading Presidential candidates – incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger and former military ruler, General Muhammadu Buhari – must take personal responsibility to set a more civil tone, condemn and hold to account their supporters who use hate speech or incite violence, and commit unequivocally to accepting the outcome of the polls.

They both need to show a united front against the despicable Boko Haram insurgency – militarily, but also morally. This means the military must respect the human rights that the extremists flout, while staying neutral from election politics.

Nigeria’s stability as the anchor of sub-Saharan Africa matters to the world. Nigerian peacekeepers have helped protect people from conflict across Africa. Nigeria also has the largest economy on the continent, with £8billion in trade with the UK alone. The world, especially the UK, should lend its support to Nigeria so that, together, we can realise the promise of these elections.

Chidi Odinkalu is the Chairman, Nigeria Human Rights Commission

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Elections

 

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IMPEACHMENT OF ADAMAWA STATE GOVERNOR: ATTACK ON CONSTITUTIONALISM/LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

Being a Press Release by the Doing Democracy Movement, DDM.

DDM have received with utter shock the untenable display of might as right, in the manner upon which the governor of Adamawa State, MR. Murtala  Nyako, was forced out of office by the State House of Assembly, beating every civilized constitutional standards, and pretending it was an impeachment by constitutional means. Without prejudice to whatever offence that the governor may or may not have committed, DDM position is premised  on the fact that the action of an obviously compromised and controlled House of Assembly,  from the federal capital, lacked the requirements of the minimum standard of civilization, ideals and expectations of an open quality democracy. This no doubt is sowing further seeds of crisis in an already violence-charged Nigerian polity. 

DDM maintains that in the case of Mr. Murtala Nyako,  fair trial did not take place as underscored by the Magna Carta: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice; and indeed, under the Nigerian Constitution. This concept revolve around the premise that no man or woman will be denied the opportunity to be heard without delay or prejudice, before an unbiased judge. This procedural due process of law requires that every man or woman should have his day in court of law, and the benefit of the general law which hear before it punishes, which proceeds not arbitrarily or capriciously, but upon effective inquiry and gives judgment only after trial. Why the rush in Adamawa state? 

DDM maintains that evidence on ground suggest that the  fate of Mr. Nyako was already predetermined by the Presidency and  the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). The abuse of the  impeachment process, was simply   to legitimize illegitimacy, if the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution must be taken seriously. Inspite of the approach of the Court by Nyako to test the legitimacy of the process, a Judge of the Court of Law, proceeded with  reckless to do a hatchet job, his training, judicial code of ethics notwithstanding.  

DDM insists that sustainable democracy requires constitutionalism, compromise, competitiveness, open access and respect for law. What has become absolutely clear in the predatory society which the present administration consciously engenders, is a clear field where political actors use any means and break any rules in the quest for power  and wealth. What Adamawa State signifies is an environment that is conducive to corruption: where politicians bribe, blackmail, intimidate, assassinate political institutions, silence criticism, eliminate their opponents by legal manipulation, arrest and detain. The police and soldiers are made to protect the ultimate order, rather than the general populace. Police do not enforce the law and judges do not decide the law. 

DDM unequivocally condemns the selective use of the impeachment process by the Presidency to haunt perceived enemies or those opposed to the benchmarks of the status quo. The impeachment process which is a veritable democratic instrument inserted in the constitution to enable representative institutions to punish erring elected executive members, must be used strictly for purposes envisaged by the spirit of the constitution, and in accordance with laid down criteria of the same. It must neither be used as a witch hunting instrument nor in a discriminative manner, which offends the tenets of effective liberal democratic  behavior. 

DDM calls on the Presidency and all political actors to seriously note that enduring stability can come to Nigeria only from a representative government that is accountable to its citizens, respects and protects their rights, and is guided by the rule of law. It is important that Nigeria escapes from this cycle of military democracy,  that is intolerant of any strong opposition. Only a truly fair, open, credible and participatory, competitive electoral regime can begin that process effectively. The presence of a veritable opposition political party or parties, is critical for the survival and deepening of this democracy, since no single political party can possibly represent the many diverse interests of such great, multi-ethnic country. President Jonathan can best secure his place in history by ensuring that such opposition party and other voices of dissent, are not deliberated slaughtered in the alter of inordinate ambition. 

Conscious of the  tacit  attitude of the ruling elite in Nigeria to resist change and competitiveness in the political space, DDM calls on the majority of Nigerians of whom power resides; and who bear the brunt of evil governance to  revisit their strategies for radical transformation in the country. By change we mean the transition from the present socio-political structure of our society towards a shared or equitable society, in which all men and women, especially youths enjoy justice, freedom of opportunity, of expression and of association; a society which is ruled by a government to which the majority of the people have  given their freely expressed consent without coercion or arbitrary manipulation; a society in which a good measure of economic equality and basic infrastructure prevails; 

If we view the hard realities of present day-Nigeria against the background of the principles of a shared society, its backwardness inspite of enormous human and material resources abound, the conclusion must be that change will have to be radical, if it is to be meaningful, in the sense that it must aim at a profound transformation of society itself, rather than the mere change of individual attitudes within society, which has been the mainstay. It should be a process of liberating ourselves from ourselves, rather than  solely of development.   

  

Signed:

Anyakwee Nsirimovu

DDM is a network organization in the Niger Delta Region of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organisations

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Governanace

 

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