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Nigeria’s Democracy And Its Contradictions

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One of the fallouts of Ekiti
and Osun States’ gubernatorial elections was the case of the militarisation of the polls by the federal government that earned it knocks for alleged intimidation of the voters with heavy security and military presence before and during the polling days. The main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) argued that the militarisation of polls created voters’ apathy and was unhealthy to the nation’s democratic process.
Government’s response to the accusation of using high security and military presence to intimidate and disfranchise many voters at polling days was not without a valued point. According to it, “it is better to have a militarised polls where votes would count and the peace of the people is guaranteed in the electoral process than bloody and violent elections.” In the governorship poll of Ekiti, power changed hands from the APC-led government to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while PDP failed to unseat the APC government in Osun State.
Both Ekiti and Osun elections represented litmus test for the Independent National Electoral Commission as the commission prepares for the 2015 general polls. Nigerian’s democratic experience has witnessed many events that tended to question her march to democratic growth. The commotion at the National Assembly where the police reportedly tear-gased members of the House of Representatives, no doubt, represents contradiction to democratic experience and learning.
Sad as the action of the police was, members of the lower chamber had reconvened from its break to address a matter of urgent national concern bordering on the extension of the state of emergency in North East states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as requested by President Jonathan in his letter to National Assembly. But the action of the police, however, not only prevented the lawmakers from gaining access to the premises of the National Assembly, but also placed them “under siege”.
Police action and what it intended to achieve eventually became a tissue of concern to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and some civil society groups. While the APC, NBA and the civil society groups saw the invasion of the National Assembly by the police as a “threat to democracy,” leadership of the Nigerian police, defended the police action, claiming that the police acted based on the alleged “security reports.”
The NBA, for instance, said “the selective manner in which some persons were allowed into the National Assembly Complex, while others were shut out, raises doubt in respect of the authenticity of the alleged “security reports.” The NBA also condemned in strong terms the acts of members of the National Assembly, who in a manner unexpected of honourable members scaled the gates leading to the assembly complex to gain access to the complex. The Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba argues that the precincts of every parliament of the world are supposed to be sacred, yet, he said that there is no law that prevents one from scaling the fence to enter ones place. In the absence of law, where is the place of morality in the affairs of men?
The reaction of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, however, added another twist to the scenario when he said “we don’t have democracy in Nigeria yet. What we have is diarchy. We don’t have democracy. Diarchy is dictatorship”.
Apart from accusing the federal government of appropriating the police as its personal property, Amaechi was also equivocal that his party (APC) would not go to court if the PDP decides to rig the 2015 presidential election, but instead would form a parallel government.
In his words, “if you rig us out, we would rig ourselves in. Which means if you think you can rig us out in 2015, we will form our own government. We have met on that and we have agreed on that. We will install our own government and there would be two governments. The only way to avoid a parallel government is to have a free and fair election.”
Amaechi’s presentation can be examined under two areas namely: the issue of no democracy yet in Nigeria and secondly, that APC will form a parallel government if PDP rigs the 2015 presidential election. From several perspectives, the two issues raised by Governor Amaechi represent some of the contradictions of the nation’s democratic experience.
Records show that Amaechi was in the Rivers State House of Assembly as member and speaker for eight years and from the Assembly platform, Amaechi gained entrance into Brick House as governor. Even when Amaechi’s ride to Rivers Brick House was truncated by human error, it took another human rationality through court process to correct the error. Today, the governor is at the eve of his eight-year tenure. Yet Amaechi believes there is no democracy in Nigeria.
Point two. While it is a fact that freedom of expression is an attribute of democracy, that expression must find its whole within the ambits of the law of the land. The call for “parallel government, if PDP rigs the 2015 presidential election” by Amaechi and his party, many argue, “is a sad commentary by politicians who will like to collapse a system because such system was not favourable to their line of aspiration.” If some politicians appeared to be losing faith in democratic principles and strengths, is the judiciary not alive in raising hope in a workable system of which some politicians have benefited from?
Another contradiction in democratic growth is the state of the legislature in some states. While in Edo and Rivers States, it is on records that governments have shifted the sitting of Assembly members to Government Houses following crises that rocked both Assemblies, seven PDP lawmakers in Ekiti State, in a twist to the unfolding events in the state had reportedly removed Ekiti speaker, deputy and also approved commissioner nominees sent in by the State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Recently, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and his Ekiti counterpart, Fayose had exchanged hot words over the state of the legislature in their respective states. Oshiomhole had told Fayose, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Peter Okhiria, that there was no crisis in Edo Assembly and that Fayose should not drag his name (Oshiomhole) into the “political gangsterism that has become peculiar with the Ekiti State government.
But Fayose fired back, saying Oshiomhole lacked the moral right to question developments in Ekiti when he had not managed well the crisis in his state legislature. No matter how hard Oshiomhole and his aides may try to convince the public that all is well with the state assembly, political observers believe that both Oshiomhole and his aides are economical with the truth.
Is it proper for  a State House of  Assembly to sit in the Government House where the governor, his wife and children reside? What legislation will emanate from a legislature that is sitting exclusively at the comfort zone of the governor at Government House? There are fundamental questions that are begging for answers.
Those who may argue that there is no illegality for lawmakers to hold sessions inside Government Houses may be right, but they should also be reminded that it may not be laughable afferall if President Jonathan moves the sittings of the National Assembly to Aso Rock.
Fayose’s media spokesman, Lere Olayinka, while arguing that the lawmakers cannot sit anywhere else apart from the state House of Assembly, also raised concern whether actions taken at the sitting of a House of Assembly held inside Edo Government House can be said to have “stamp of legality”.
Threat to democracy should not only been seen in crude method, siege to legislative assembly or disobedience to rule of law, but also in shifting the goalpost of legislative houses and democratic principles for selfish interests of those calling the shots.
There is also democratic sacrilege when the executive arm of government pockets another arms, the legislature for instance. What signals are Nigerians sending to the world about the  status of Nigerian democracy when judges and judicial officers are beaten and desecrated at the hallows of court chambers by men suspected to be party thugs?
However, the All Progressives Congress recently asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to declared the seats of Ekiti six lawmakers vacant, for defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party. APC also prayed the court to order a bye-election to fill their seats in accordance with the 1999 constitution. The affected Ekiti assembly members are Dele Olugbemi (the factional speaker); Alex Ade Ojo; Israel Olowo, Adeyinka Adelooye and Ayoka Fatumbi and the lawmakers are joined with the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission as defendants in the action.
The plaintiff (APC), in originating summons had asked the court to determine “where upon proper construction of the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, defendants being persons whose elections to the House of Assembly was sponsored by the ACN, now the APC, can continue to retain their seats in the said house having become members of another political party, the Peoples Democratic Party since October 16, 2014 before the expiration of the period for which the House was elected.”
Outside the realm of making comment on the issue before the court, one striking concern is that while APC is not losing sleep to protect its house members from being poached by the PDP, the same APC is committed in poaching the territory of the former, and would stop at nothing in defending the actions of defectors to its fold. The case of the speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who dumped the PDP for the APC and since fighting a political battle to retain its status at the house at the hands of the PDP-led federal government, is a topical example of the irony of the nation’s democratic experience.
The political reality is that when it suits or favours one party, it glorifies that “our God is good” but cries to the high heaven of impunity and lawlessness on the part of opponent when it is disfavoured in the political chess game.
The recent protests on the streets of Port Harcourt by Ogoni youths over the adoption of Dakuku Peterside, member, House of Representatives as the APC consensus aspirant for the Rivers governorship election over and above their son, Senator Magnus Abe, further suggests that more than ever before, there are hazards arising from the nation’s developing democracy. Democracy itself entails participation in the affairs of men and where participation is shut out, it can rock the boat.
That the nation has practiced 15 years of unbroken democracy is not in doubt.
How has the democracy impacted on the lives of the people? True, the nation has not had the best of its times in the corridor of democracy, but that is not to write off the nation’s democracy. The bedrock for development and modernising change is to strengthen democratic institutions that will enforce standard and quality in growth.
Unfortunately, some persons lower standard to suit their landing and such practice spell trouble for the system to work well. Every attempt at putting a shine on the nation’s democracy should not be left for politicians alone. Even more necessary is that prevailing contradictions in democratic growth should not deter the people to work for democracy to survive in the land. Afterall, the gains of democracy is not accidental.

 

Samuel Eleonu

 President Jonathan

President Jonathan

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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Covid-19 Vaccination: Role Of Local Leaders

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It was a matter of time, but Covid-19 vaccination has already started to generate heated arguments following a hint that the Federal Government could start sanctioning anybody who refused to be vaccinated.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director,  National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, disclosed this at a recent press conference in Abuja. He, however, said that implementation was dependent on availability of the vaccines.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.
Already, attempts have been made by two states – Ondo and Edo – to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory, especially for public servants and members of the public who wish to gain access to certain places.
These places include religious worship centres, banks and public buildings.
However, those attempts and the suggestion that the Federal Government might sanction those who refuse vaccination have been criticised by some trade, professional and religious associations.
 The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) that kicked against the compulsory vaccination, said that government should rather embark on advocacy and persuasion, than coerce citizens into getting vaccinated.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated: “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task.
“ If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against Covid-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated. 
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said: “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Experts believe that properly communicating the advantages of being vaccinated, through the use of existing structures, such as religious and cultural institutions, would yield better results than subtle threats.
Communication connotes persuasion, even on occasions when the purpose of a piece of communication is not to persuade, there is still the need to win over the audience to accept the message.
In this era of fake news, and when the social media is awash with conspiracy theories against vaccination, persuasion must first be deployed to get the attention of citizens.
The burden increases tremendously when there are cultural and religious stereotypes which could prevent many adherents from accepting that being vaccinated is safe.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the U.S. for instance, vaccine hesitancy is responsible for over 90 per cent of all Covid-19 related hospitalisation.
Getting some Americans vaccinated has been so challenging that many people have been offered monetary incentives to convince them to get vaccinated in an unusual case of persuasion.
In Nigeria, where religious and traditional leaders are custodians of faith and culture respectively, they wield great influence on devotees and those institutions can be deployed to boost vaccination drive.
Historically, religious and traditional rulers often employ the cognitive process of persuasive communication to change an entrenched social perception or public opinion hindering required public support for relevant people-oriented policies.
Leaders have the influence to subtly appeal to the target to listen, accept, comprehend and act.
Therefore, before considering the stick, government should first explore the use of carrot.
Religious and traditional leaders can help in giving correct messages on vaccination as well as being role models, making sure that they and their loved ones too are vaccinated.
Faith-based and culture-based organisations can also collaborate with other leaders to sensitise communities on the benefits of vaccination and to also dispel the many myths and disinformation about it.
King Bubaraye Dakolo of Epetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa has been putting this practice to use, since vaccination was first rolled out in Nigeria in March.
“The arrival of the vaccine brought a huge relief to our kingdom. I mobilised my people to carry out awareness campaigns in the various communities to guard against apathy.
“My council chiefs and I led by example in being vaccinated early. When the people saw that, they were fully convinced that the vaccine is not harmful.
“We made it clear to our people through town hall meetings that the vaccine is safe and is designed to save humanity.
“We equally reminded them how some persons who refused to be vaccinated for poliomyelitis in the past are suffering the consequences of their actions today,” the traditional ruler said. 
According to the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, Nigeria had administered 4.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as at Aug. 31, 2021. Out of that number, 2.9 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, according to the NPHCDA.
With a fairly efficient vaccination structure, owing to many years of immunisation against polio, the Nigerian government should activate collaboration with religious and traditional bodies in its vaccination drive.
Experts, including health professionals and public administrators, believe that involving these leaders in advocacy and public enlightenment will lead to more people accepting to voluntarily get Covid-19 vaccination.
Of course, with just a paltry 0.7 per cent of the population vaccinated, the key indicator for any punitive measure for avoiding vaccination will be subject to availability of the vaccines.
However, to achieve the goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 200 million population before the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the end of 2022, Nigeria will need more than availability of vaccines.
There has to be the acceptance and willingness of the majority of its population to be vaccinated.
One of the crucial and effective way to achieve that is to work with religious and traditional leaders.

By: Kayode Adebiyi

Adebiyi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

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