Ekitis and Fayemi: Moral Values and Integrity of Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are new lessons and confirmation of old ones that have emerged from the July 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.

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Ekiti State

The first time that I witnessed an election up close was in 1983 in Ibadan. No, I was not an observer or a politician. I was “inside” the political campaigns, sitting next to gubernatorial candidates of political parties. I saw political thugs of candidates in cars and trucks that drove recklessly on town roads. I observed thugs using dangerous weapons to attack other thugs and supporters of political opponents of their leaders. I saw men lying in their pool of blood and barely breathing whilst policemen watched them dying. I was a terrified, fairly new reporter covering the campaigns.

At the then capital of Oyo State, I also witnessed heavily armed policemen who guarded the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) whilst vote counting went on inside. Only the returning officers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that constituted the federal government were allowed inside. The NPN agents were fully protected by the frightfully armed policemen. The officials of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the opposition party that governed Oyo State were prevented from entering FEDECO premises to witness or observe the vote counting.

As results were announced on radio stations, the city was locked down by security forces. The winning candidates circulated freely. The candidates of the opposition party were locked up in their homes or detained in police stations. According to the security forces, the security actions were necessary to “maintain law and order”.

When a political party constitutes the federal government in Nigeria, it has control of the security forces, and with it the power to manage and decide outcomes of elections is almost unlimited. The federal government uses this power when the stakes are high.

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Voting in Nigeria (via Techpoint)

In 2014 in Ekiti State, candidate Peter Fayose defeated sitting Governor Fayemi with a near 100 per cent vote count in the gubernatorial election. Fayose had the backing of the strong Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that formed the federal government. The party hence was in charge of the security forces and they backed candidate Fayose. During the election the state was locked down by security forces.

In the recent July 2018 elections in Ekiti State, sitting Governor Fayose’s hand-picked PDP candidate, Mr. Olusola Eleka, deputy governor, was defeated by former Governor Fayemi. The latter had the backing of the strong All Peoples Congress (APC) party that forms the federal government. The state was locked down by security forces.

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Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

 Lesson one – the party at the centre with control of security forces can use the so-called “maintain law and order” in ways that are open to various interpretations . The security actions that were taken by the federal government during elections in Oyo State in 1983 do recur in several elections. They were similar to the security actions taken in Ekiti State in 2014, and again in Ekiti State in 2018.

Lesson two – money has become absolutely crucial to win elections among Ekiti people. And the amounts needed to influence voters and buy results of party primaries and elections has increased significantly. The use of money is more public than ever. The Ekitis were general perceived as tough, stubborn and fiercely loyal in their political beliefs. They would hold a position, support a candidate and protect their beliefs with their lives, if necessary. The Ekitis have changed. Money has become the dominant factor for the voters. They guard their stomachs with their lives. Governor Fayose used “stomach infrastructure” as official governing policy. His opponents adopted it for the elections. At every stage of the recent electioneering process, within their means, for all parties, including APC and PDP, money was the currency of engagement.

Lesson three – the more money is spent by candidates to win their elections, the more money the candidates have to recover once elected. In addition, the successful candidates have to look after their party, members and their personal future interest. What do people expect from their governments, governors, elected politicians? Having spent huge amounts of money to buy party delegates during primaries, and also to buy voters during elections, there must be a lot of holes to plug once in office.

Lesson four – Nigeria has become more homogeneous in expectations from political leaders, especially during elections. Ekiti people are no longer an exception. “What we get NOW from the candidates for political offices is the only benefit to us. Once they assume office, we get nothing”, say the voters. For various reasons, including poverty, loss of confidence in the political leadership, pressing needs and sharp “marketing” by politicians, people have given up on higher standards of politics as service to the people.

Lesson five – election results are almost invariably contested. Only in rare instances do candidates accept their losses and cheer the winners. Campaigns and elections are desperate, win-or-die times for politicians to attain power and wealth. The reports of observer groups on Ekiti elections vary. Whilst some say that it was reasonably free and fair, others say that it was unfairly conducted and over-militarised. Both APC and PDP are accused of carrying out activities that could undermine the proper conduct of voting and determination of results. Several cases are in court to ascertain whether party primaries and state-wide elections were done properly.

Can the in-coming government of Fayemi recover some of the lost moral values of Ekitis? Can he rally his people to bring back the personal integrity of Ekitis on choice of political leaders? Can he rekindle the high ground that he took when he lost gallantly to Fayose in 2014? Can he raise the “bar of excellence” as he stated while conceding defeat? Or faced with the realities of desperate politics of acquisition wealth and power, will he fall further into the “stomach infrastructure” miasma?

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

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Nigeria 2015 Election, Issues and Lessons So Far

Several months of active and massive campaigns by political parties have shaken Nigeria to its roots and, either within or outside the country, all have felt the tremor of historic quakes that remind one of fragility of the nation state. There was so much uncertainty that outside interests, including the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS, visited Abuja or made statements to canvass for holding the elections on schedule, in a free and fair manner. Nigerians in and out of the country wondered whether things would fall part.

What issues and lessons have emerged from the electioneering? Similar to my previous write-up, “Oshun State and Other Elections: Meanings and Lessons” (Saharareporters, August 14 2014), I shall distill some salient points that we may ponder, especially with a view to take advantage of the significant events to reappraise, reflect, re-strategize, re-tool and re-focus for the future. In the construction of its nascent democracy, a new tradition is emerging in the politics of Africa’s most populated country, of which these past months form a significant part.

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Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections – An End to Corrubration

About a month to the elections, already something hidden about Nigeria has emerged.

Is it a fact or fiction – that a certain Nigerian politician is not corrupt? Is it a fact or fiction that a presidential candidate for a political party in the current political system is not corrupt and cannot be identified with any instance of corruption? Is it fact or fiction – that General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the main opposition part, All Progressives Congress (APC), has served as governor, federal commissioner (minister) of petroleum resources, president of Nigeria, and chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, yet does not have the material acquisitions that have become characteristic of Nigerian leaders and political leaders especially?

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The Theatre in South Africa’s Parliament

You can make your choice – either to laugh or to cry. The raucous in the parliament in South Africa is not going to stop anytime soon. It may get worse before it gets better.

In the new multi-racial democratic South Africa, the first and only known serious breach of protocol and rowdiness in parliament was between a ruling party member and an opposition legislator in 1998, four years after the end of a long ignominious apartheid rule in the country.

But that was until August 21 in 2014 when usual decorum of debate in the hallowed hall of legislation disappeared. President Jacob Zuma came to parliament for a scheduled question and answer session in the parliament in Cape Town, but it was not to be. Mayhem overcame the session when members of parliament of the recently-for med Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party heckled him. EFF members were dislodged by stern-looking security officers.  EFF wanted President Zuma to answer their questions on “Nkandla” – the name of his country home which has become synonymous with use of public funds for enhancement of personal assets. In a critical report, the public protector had said that official expense to renovate President Zuma’s Nkandla homestead was improper and that such items as swimming pool and amphi-theatre could not be included as security items paid for by government. The report concluded that unaccepted items should be reimbursed to government coffers by the president who was the beneficiary. The president had countered that he had nothing to do with the decision on what was done at his homestead, and the project was handled by designated officials. A committee set up by parliament on the report did not find the president guilty of any wrongdoing and the African National Congress (ANC) party with compelling majority in parliament exonerated the president of any wrong doing.

But business could not go on as usual. EFF, hastily formed as a political party a few months to the election of May 20 2014 and surprisingly garnered 25 seats in parliament at the election, has used its new membership in the house to torment the majority. EFF is the third most popular party with 25 seats in the 400 member house and six per cent of all votes, next to Democratic Alliance (DA), the lead opposition party, with 89 seats in parliament and 22 per cent of votes. The 102-year-old ANC has 249 seats in parliament, 62 per cent of votes and has ruled since 1994. Despite its few members, EFF has made itself a major force to be reckoned with. It made “Pay back the money” its permanent cry in parliament and vowed that President Zuma would have to return monies spent on non-security and un-entitled items at his Nkandla home or no smooth business would be conducted anytime the president showed up in parliament.

Living up to its word, EFF members turned parliament into a fighting field for the second time on February 12 2015 when President Zuma came to read his annual State of the Nation address. Barely had he started the address than pandemonium broke out with shouts of “Pay back the money”. On cue, smartly dressed security persons swarmed on the EFF members and bundled them out. But not without a struggle that left several people injured and bruised. For the second time in six months, South Africa’s democracy was stretched tautly.

The incident of February 12 generated a lot of heat. The Democratic Alliance (DA) and opposition parties walked out of parliament in protest against breach of parliamentary protocol by allowing in security personnel and for the ejection of EFF members from the house. Just moments before the incident, the airwaves were jammed and phone signals were not available, another action seen as strong arm tactic by the authorities to supplant democracy. There was no doubt that security forces were prepared to forestall the expected disruption of the president’s address. What resulted though was that a traditionally celebratory and almost banal event became a historic marker for parliamentary order or disorder and President Zuma had to deliver his address to only ANC parliamentarians.

EFF leader Julius Malema, 34, and his party leaders have not relented. Their cry is that President Zuma should return to parliament to answer questions on “Nkandla” and other matters, or he would be forced to answer questions on the issue at any opportunity in parliament.

“Nkandla” has split South Africa across many lines. Some use the term “Nkandlagate”, a recall of the infamous Watergate scandal of disgraced United States President Richard Nixon, to signal the importance of the subject. “Nkandla” is seen as yet another in a number  of accusations of corruption against President Zuma, even though he has not been convicted of any offence. In counterpoints, “Nkandla” is portrayed as just the latest dirty dress that opponents and critics of President Zuma hang on the line hoping that it would draw attention among several non-issues. The parliamentary committee’s report which did not find the president guilty of any wrongdoing should have closed the issue, they asserted.

Critics of EFF say that the new party has merely tagged on to the “Nkandla” agenda to cultivate publicity. It is advocating anarchy, including in its policy of championing land appropriation and attacking the private sector. Julius Malema was previously a popular leader of ANC’s youth league that played a major role in orchestrating the wrestle for power within the ANC that saw then deputy President Zuma out-manoeuvre then President Thabo Mbeki, to resign abruptly from office. With full backing and support of Malema, President Zuma assumed office in 2009 after a short interim arrangement. But rather the friendship between President Zuma and outspoken Malema fizzled and turned sour as Malema made several pronouncements on economic and political issues that embarrassed the ANC but captivated youths and energized disenfranchised, marginalized people. In 2012, Malema was expelled from the ANC and faced investigations.

In anger, Malema poured strings of accusations on President Zuma and ANC. Malema founded a movement that became a political party called EFF to contest elections in May 2014. That EFF won a respectable percentage of votes and seats in parliament confirmed the resonance of Malema’s message with a sizeable population, mainly among the black majority, erstwhile supporters of ANC who were disenchanted with the party. At the same election, President Zuma won his second mandate and has to deal with the EFF in parliament.

The new strong voice of EFF and its uncompromising position is playing out in the parliamentary chaos that may not be resolved anytime soon. Dressed in red housemaid-style gowns for women and red worker-style overalls for men, EFF parliamentarians stand out as rebels-by-choice in parliament. When they wish, they adhere to parliamentary rules. At other times they put up a mastery display of protests and civil disobedience. Although they were suspended and fined for the first rowdiness in parliament in August 2014, it has not daunted their zeal and they turned the parliament upside down a second time in February this year.

After the first incident, deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa intervened and attempted to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to all parties. It did not go far and compromise could not find a place over political anger . In a recent interview, former President Mbeki described the situation as a political one where technical parliamentary rules approach would not lead to a solution. President Zuma has said that he wanted people who have the competency to make the decision and advise him on whether he ought to pay for any of the jobs done at his private home. For Malema, despite facing criminal charges and friction within his new EFF, he is unbowed. “We are not scared of the ANC. We are not scared of Jacob Zuma. We are not scared of Baleka Mbete (Speaker of parliament). We were elected by our people to hold the executive responsible.”

The new date for President Zuma to appear in parliament is March 11. Until some way forward is agreed, South Africa’s parliament will from time to time turn into “Sollywood” soap operas, a copy of Nollywood, and a mirror of many legislative houses across the world where rowdiness is part of the parliamentary order.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post fist appeared on Sahara Reporters.

Elections 2015: The World Speaks (part 2)

Many African countries are holding elections in 2015. Of some 14 scheduled elections a few are predictably fraught with problems and may not be held at all. The most doubtful ones are Central African Republic and Mali – countries that have had serious political and violent crisis preceding their current fragile peace. In that vein, that Nigeria’s election was postponed and its certainty is still in dispute may expectedly raise questions about the country’s stability and how peaceful it is.

The first part of the article, before announcement of the postponement of elections in Nigeria from Feb. 14 (presidential) to March 28, looked into what the world thinks of the elections through comments, advice and analysis from various reports and media sources outside Nigeria. The article characterized the information as: first major election that shakes the dominant political Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999; the electoral contest is mainly between two major political parties – PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) key opposition; highly polarized electorate that has dug in its heels in the face of rising importance of faith and ethnicity, resulting in a divided nation; violence during electioneering and very likely potential for violence after results are known; questions on readiness, capacity, credibility of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); democracy will shake the country to its roots but Nigeria will remain one; and huge presence of international observers and media.

In this second part, we shall review information and analysis that is available from announcement of postponement to date. The facts obtained can be sorted into: explanation of the reasons for postponement and speculations on unstated reasons; recurring violence and how it can deteriorate; deeper issues on nitty gritty of campaigns by leading contenders of the two dominant parties – General Muhammadu Buhari, who is a former President under military rule, and current President Goodluck Jonathan; visible importance of positions taken publicly by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; and speculations on degrading security and further possible postponement.

We shall take the issues one by one and delve into each briefly.

Immediately following the announcement of the postponement on February 7, reports stated that Boko Haram’s offensive and lack of readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were the main offiCIAL reasons behind the postponement decision. There was obvious reluctance among several analysts to accept the official reasons stated and allusions were made to decreasing popularity of the ruling PDP and government’s intention to arrest the losses. Some reports wondered how Boko Haram’s conquest could be reversed within the six-week period of postponement.

There was near total agreement that violence was going to accompany the election campaigns. Overwhelmingly, any further postponement was seen as a lighter that would ignite violence, which, in any case, could be a preferred scenario for those who would rather not have elections held anyway. The calls made by governments, institutions and persons to hold the elections as scheduled were reaffirmed in the interest of Nigeria and the world at large.

Some reports, mainly from the USA, went deeper into the nuts and bolts of electioneering by the PDP and APC. In explicit details, two top consulting firms of US Democratic political party were cited to have worked for the two parties in Nigeria. AKPD Message and Media, owned by David Axelrod a confidante and close associate of President Obama, worked for the APC whilst Joseph Trippi of The Potomac Square Group worked for PDP. Trippi is reputed to have worked on campaigns of UK’s Tony Blair, George Papandreou of Greece, Italy’s Romano Prodi and President Jonathan’s last election. These advanced, expensive consulting firms claim capability to deliver results for their clients. The reports elaborated on the sharpness of messaging and use of multi-media outreach including the social media to canvass support of voters.

Jonathan’s public adverts featured students, new building projects, and generally a lot of Nigerians smiling and working and .Buhari’s campaign had an aggressive social media strategy that made “change” a persistent theme. The competing demand to get attention of voters is not likely to change voters’ inclination appreciably during the six-week postponement span.

Notably, a respected but usually conservative magazine, The Economist, has run series of reports on the elections, and their titles speak volumes – Nigerian politics: Bad luck for Nigeria; Nigeria’s election: The least awful; Nigeria’s postponed election: A powder keg; Why Nigeria has such poor election choices; Nigeria: Grim reading. In the “Least Awful” article, the weekly explained why “a former dictator is a better choice than a failed president”. In the same vein, the liberal-leaning newspaper, The New York Times, titled its strongly worded editorial, “Nigeria’s Miserable Choices”. According to NYT, “That Mr. Buhari, who helped launch a coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 and ruled until late 1985, has emerged as potential winner is more of an indictment of Mr. Jonathan’s dismal rule than a recognition of the former military chief’s appeal.”

Looming increasingly large over the elections are two different personalities – former President Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Soyinka. Both of these well known figures have ceaselessly commented on the elections and their views and positions are reported worldwide. Criticisms have also trailed their views, especially those of President Obasanjo.

The national elections, presidential and national assembly, are to hold on March 28, 2015; governorship and state assembly elections are to hold on April 11, 2015. It does appear that skepticism continues over the postponement and whilst INEC’s state of preparedness is an important item, the security angle looms larger as the primary obstacle. INEC’s ill-preparedness may be overcome within the time. The non-readiness of the military to provide security for the voting exercise in February, twinned with declared intention of government and military to suppress Boko Haram is “the elephant in the room” – an obvious difficulty that cannot be resolved easily. What will happen if the security situation does not change for the better within the postponement time?

Least reported are several ongoing court cases which decision can halt the leading presidential candidates General Buhari and President Jonathan, rumours of possible interim government arrangement to further delay elections, and suggestions of military intervention – all unpopular choices. With so much at stake, and yet such darkened skies, it is correct to say that the world will watch closely the coming elections.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post first appeared on Sahara Reporters.

Elections 2015: The World Speaks (Part 1)

Africa is witnessing some 14 elections this year. Nigeria is one of the countries expected to have elections early in the year, after Zambia that voted in January to elect President Edgar Lungu to serve through two years only, being the unfinished mandate of President Michael Sata who died. Lesotho will vote on the last day of February to resolve its political turmoil that almost set the country on fire but for intervention by South Africa.

Of all African elections in 2015, a whole lot is at stake in Nigeria. USA Secretary of State John Kerry signaled this much with his visit and messages to President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari. When anything goes wrong in giant Nigeria, Africa rattles and the world quakes. Prevention of upheavals is best.

Nigeria attracts attention for many good and bad reasons. For the present, let us deal with the good reasons, many of them obvious – its enormous population, economic attraction including huge oil reserves, citizens who are present all over the world, many of whom are distinguished men and women, Nollywood, faith and religion tourism… In the past months, the well known Boko Haram insurgency and its seemingly unstoppable horrible acts, and elections have concentrated world’s attention on Nigeria.

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Nigeria Elections: Letter To My Friends

Dear friends in many parts of the globe: You asked me for my thoughts on the recent Nigerian elections. Not what you have seen on the broadcast and television networks, nor what you read on the various online forums and websites. You wanted to know many things, and each of you has his/her priorities. It is difficult to answer all the questions individually and I have combined them into groups and responded accordingly. You have always been interested in Nigeria and we all agree that it is not just another country.

You asked for my views and that is what you will get. Some of them are joyful. Many are troubled and others are depressing. I do have profound views on my well endowed country, as you well know.

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

On the presidential elections of March, you wanted to know whether I agree with the uproar over President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession as an extraordinary issue. I do and I do not. It was a statesman-like decision that became a popular gesture. It was extraordinary for us in Nigeria. It was the first time that a sitting president was voted out of office. It was the first time that a presidential candidate who was losing accepted defeat and did not shout “robbery”. It doused tension and suppressed ill-intentions of agitators. That was important for us, and for the rest of the world. Forget about what we said here that it was the first in Africa, deserving of platinum medals. Like many large countries we pay little attention to what happens around us. We forgot that in several African countries elections take place regularly; fairly and peacefully organized to a large extent. Senegal, Botswana, Tanzania, many of the islands, and joined more recently by Ghana, Zambia, Lesotho, and post-apartheid. South Africa, to mention examples. In these countries and others, conceding defeat before winners are officially declared is usual. However, give it to us, we can now be counted among those countries where democracy is taking a foothold.

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