Fisayo Okare 1

A Lesson on Religion in the 21st Century for Nigerian Fanatics

Fewer things are as aggravating as religiously inspired arguments in Nigeria’s socio-political and economic landscape. But one of the few takeaways from Yuval Harari’s 2018 book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, tells us that religions will remain important as long as mass cooperation and shared beliefs (or faith) continue to be the driving force of humankind. It follows that no matter how advanced or knowledgeable society becomes in technology and education, we can expect that arguments decorated with religious identities will continue to hold influence.

Harari urges us to ponder some issues, and this process requires an intellectual humility—a willingness to eliminate part of our biases and learn anew. To enable us understand the role of religions in the 21st century; he explains how religions’ brilliance for interpretation clouds our judgement. In a vivid illustration according to him, “When Ayatolah Khamenei [a major leader in Iran] needs to make a crucial decision about the Iranian economy, he will not be able to find necessary answers in the Quran and must turn to Karl Marx and the modern science of economics to get answers. After getting these answers, he’ll then use his religious knowledge and authority to wrap the scientific answer in the garb of Quranic verses and present it to the masses as Allah’s will” (Harari, 2018). But he explains that this garb is of little importance because when you compare the economic policies of Shitte Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia, Hindu India, Jewish Israel and Christian America, you won’t see that much of a difference. As a result, Harari posits that the Bible and Quran are just a decorative covering; degraded from a source of true knowledge to a mere source of authority.

While his two points about how religions’ genius for interpretation makes “current political positions look as if they are eternal religious principles”, and how religion “divides our human civilization into hostile camps” are valid, he is oblivious to the fact that some of the starting point of technology (architecture, as per Noah’s ark in the Bible; and Physics/Mathematics, as per Samson’s calculative grasp/hold of the pillars during his fight in the Bible or economic structures, as per Jesus’ teaching to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar) are highlighted in the scriptures, which he simply dismisses as obsolete ideas because according to him “ancient scriptures such as the Bible or Quran are not a good guide for modern economics”. He however genuinely admits that people’s religious identities have been a powerful historical force in building structures and managing conflicts, as religious movements have influenced the development of politics in countries as diverse as India, Nigeria, Turkey and even the United states. Yet, religion has also fuelled conflicts from Nigeria to the Philippines including religiously inspired misogyny and caste discrimination.

So really, what difference would religion make when facing the big questions of the 21st century, especially in matters concerning Artificial Intelligence (AI); Data Mining/Data Gathering? Should we grant AI the authority to make decisions about people’s lives? To choose for people what to study, where to work and whom to marry? What is the Muslim position on this question, and what is the Christian position? Harari asks. The truth is although this question is merely about those in favour of granting AI the authority or those opposed to it, both Christians and Muslims will be found on both sides of this argument, justifying their positions through interpretations of the Quran and Bible.

Today, our society is guided by modern economic theories and public policies that have been developed outside of religious teachings (say communism, socialism, capitalism, Marxism or Artificial Intelligence) but it has become common to interpret problems that exist in our society in ostensibly religious terms. It is because of such religious influence that there is a lot to be learnt in Harari’s book about how religion unites but divides us as a people, and the need to check and balance our fundamental religious values against our prevailing economic conditions and social realities.


Oluwafisayo Okare is a graduate intern at YIAGA AFRICA’s Media and Communications department; she studied Mass Communication at Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, and can be reached via [email protected]


For this month’s edition of YIAGA AFRICA’s Knowledge Management Series, team members express profound thoughts through their written reflections on Yuval Harari’s somewhat controversial and philosophical book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), which sets out to give the world a guide towards settling in the 21st century world.

Ibrahim Faruk 2

21st Century Lessons for the Nigerian State and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria

In July 2019, the Federal Government of Nigeria obtained a court order to proscribe the  Shiites’ organisation formally referred to as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and designated the activities of the Shiite organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.” The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria.

The Terrorism Prevention Act 2011, as amended in 2013, further expands the implication of tagging organisations as ‘terrorist groups’ to include meting out stricter punishment to not only members of the organisation who automatically become terrorists by virtue of their identification with the group, but also to all members of the public upon conviction for association with such group.

Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, in his op-ed on ‘The Nigerian State and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria’, argues that, “for too long, a pattern of behaviour has been established in which IMN members engage in protests and security agencies respond with excessive force and kill their members. The greatness of a state is never defined by its use of excessive force against citizens. In situations where such behaviour has emerged for whatever reasons, the state can start rebuilding its credentials by seeking pathways that reduce human carnage. The time has come for the Nigerian state to realise that it’s not a sign of weakness to redefine its relations with the IMN”.

Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, asks the question, “How then should the state deal with terrorism?” He suggests some answers for consideration. According to him, “a successful counter-terrorism struggle should be conducted on three fronts. First, governments should focus on clandestine actions against the terror networks. Second, the media should keep things in perspective and avoid hysteria. The theatre of terror cannot succeed without publicity. The third front is the imagination of each and every one of us. Terrorists hold our imagination captive, and use it against us. It is the responsibility of every citizen to liberate his or her imagination from the terrorists, and to remind ourselves of the true dimensions of this threat. It is our own inner terror that prompts the media to obsess about terrorism, and the government to overreact.”

The protracted conflict between the Nigerian State and Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (Boko Haram) clearly indicates a need to draw lessons from Harrari in managing the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in order to prevent a full-blown insurgency. As noted in the foregoing, Harari urges the state and people not to act out of panic as desired by terrorist organisations. If indeed the IMN is a terror group, it would have achieved part of its aim of instilling fear in the government possibly leading to the proscription.

The Nigerian State has missed the opportunity to invite the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to the table to amicably bring an end to the brewing conflict. The Nigerian State cannot continue to sit around waiting for a conflict to be “ripe” for talks to start, or for the forces of history to solve it for them. Beyond proscribing the IMN as a terrorist organization, dealing effectively with a terrorist threat that comes from such an action requires political leadership, patience, a reflection on lessons from the past (remembering what happened last time) and preparedness to take the necessary actions to forestall future occurrences.


Ibrahim Faruk is a Senior Program Officer with YIAGA AFRICA’s Youth Program and has a Masters of Science (M.Sc.) in Conflict Management and Peace Studies. He can be reached via [email protected]


For July’s edition of YIAGA AFRICA’s Knowledge Management Series, team members express profound thoughts through their written reflections on Yuval Harari’s somewhat controversial and philosophical book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), which sets out to give the world a guide towards settling in the 21st century world.

Bauchi State Coordinator, Not  Too Young To Run

My Not Too Young To Run Story : I knew I was amidst the right people with the right agenda – Bauchi State Coordinator

I knew I was amidst the right people with the right agenda ; young, vibrant Nigerians from all
walks of life – Nasir Umaru Launi, Bauchi State Coordinator, Not Too Young To Run

How I became a NTYTR state coordinator

I was first invited to a methodology workshop on youth political participation in June 2014 by the renowned YIAGA Africa. Meeting the conveners, Samson Itodo, Cynthia Mbamalu, Habu Hamisu and many others, is a memory that will linger for a very long time because I thought I was doing great in my advocacy and engagement with youth in my state. But that quickly faded away as I found myself in the company of very enthusiastic youth from all parts of the country.

A major challenge I faced

My biggest challenge was working with youth that have a different mindset and approach to what we wanted to achieve – especially because there was no financial gratification involved. This is a fact that many did not want to believe … A second was the complex nature of forming the state level team, as it is common amongst the youth to be self-centered … We had to form and reform the team many times before we finally agreed on a level playing field. A third challenge was that of identity. In the past, many of such advocacy campaigns were plagued by vested interests. We had to work extra hard to gain the desired recognition and respect to be granted audience and be listened to. Luckily, YIAGA Africa had already made its manifestos and advocacy well known.

What I’ve learned
After I heard that the Not Too Young To Run Bill had been sent to the states for their ascent, I went to the assembly complex and requested to see the speaker.  I said to him confidently, “Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are in receipt of the Not Too Young To Run  bill from Abuja, and this is why I am here to make inquiries on the honorable house and  next line of action”.  But he cut me off and told me that transmission of the bill to the states had been delayed and that the house would act at the appropriate time. Although I had visited the State Assembly on many occasions as the coordinator of the American Corner in Bauchi, the
last interaction I had with the speaker reminded me of the need to verify information before acting.

My most memorable experience
When I joined the struggle, I was not sure if what we were advocating for would scale. But then news of the states passing the bill started flowing and my state, Bauchi, joined the hall of fame by passing the bill on 1 February, 2018. My greatest memory was when the president signed the bill into law. I was first congratulated by the resident electoral commissioner of Independent National Electoral Commmission, Bauchi, and then I received a series of congratulatory messages from the clerk, the State House of Assembly, many of our team members and collaborators. That memory will linger on forever as we have made history.

Abia State Coordinator

I saw Joy on Faces of Young People When I shared the Not Too Young To Run Story – Abia State Coordinator

I saw the joy on the faces of young people when I shared the Not Too Young To Run  story with them. This made me
realize the importance of the campaign – Ikenna OgbuOdimkpa, Abia State Coordinator, Not Too Young To Run

Why I joined the Not Too Young To Run Movement

Not Too Young To Run was an ideology I embraced even before I had knowledge of the movement. As team lead of a youth-based organization, I commemorated the 2016 UN International Youth Day. The keynote speaker, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce, urged us to get involved in politics and community organizing. That was the defining moment. Soon after, Abia state held the local government election, and 10 young people registered under my organization ran for Councillor and chairmanship, and this was a huge experience for me; I made a mark.

How I became a NTYTR state coordinator

I was recommended from Abia state because of my antecedents to participate as the Abia state coordinator … The community organizing workshop unraveled many facets of leadership. I became aware of Mr. Mark Okoye, who was appointed Anambra State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget at 30 years, among other young people doing great work in government. I saw a peaceful society where young people are involved in policy making, contributing effectively to the growth and development of Nigeria, and are not involved in upturning systems because of neglect.

Major challenge I face

During our advocacy to the state assembly, I met a member who gathered four other members in his office and asked me to explain the bill. Though I saw it as killing five birds with one stone, I realized it had backfired when a legislator who didn’t like the ideas influenced the others. They said that we wanted to occupy their seats and send them back to the village. I felt scared, and I had to strategize. I had to find the leader who didn’t show up for the previous meeting and convince him to support the bill. The next time I came to the assembly, the previous five were easy to convert and they gladly had pictures with me and the NTYTR placard.

What I’ve learned

I learnt how to effectively execute projects to advance the course of humanity. Team Building was the first step … I couldn’t do it alone so I had to identify and build a team. We had to promote citizens’ engagement. We engaged in community organizing and enlightened the public, youth organizations, media and social influencers. We also had to be innovative by identifying relevant stakeholders and key actors and develop strategies to influence them to support the course. We employed flexibility,
accommodated disruptions and initiated twists to sway all. We were focused till our desired results were achieved. Employing all this, we won.

My most memorable experience

When the national assembly voted in favour of the bill, it was memorable. I received calls and messages from everywhere. I had acquaintances all congratulating me for the passage at the national assembly. The height of it all was when the president signed the bill into law. Just like Michael Jackson sang, I was speechless, without expression. I couldn’t explain how I felt. I am part of a movement that changed the course of youth involvement in politics in Nigeria. I made history – I shed tears as I smiled. What an irony. I am indeed, very glad to be part of this history-making movement.

NTYTR Logo

Not Too Young To Run Statement on Youth Exclusion in Ministerial Nominees

Following the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the general elections, the President exercised his constitutional power to nominate ministers to form the Federal Executive Council and forwarded the names to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

The list comprises 43 male-dominated nominees coming from across all 36 states with the notable exclusion of nominees below the age of 35. The conspicuous absence of young people under the age of 35 in the ministerial nominees read by Senate President Ahmed Lawan as sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari contradicts the letter and spirit of the Not Too Young To Run Law and the promise of inclusion in governance and political processes for Nigerian youth. The list of ministerial nominees is neither inclusive nor representative of the population and those who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari including youth, women and persons with disabilities.

The Movement recalls that President Buhari, at the signing of the Not Too Young To Run (age reduction) Bill into Law noted that the focus and contributions of the Movement successfully increased the quality and maturity of Nigerian democracy and expanded the political space for youth participation in politics.

Similarly, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Next Level Road Map prioritized Inclusion in Government by promising more youth appointments. The list of ministerial nominees is a missed opportunity by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC to keep their promise and show faith and fidelity with the Nigerian youths who entrusted them with a mandate for the next four years.

Nigeria’s most important resource is not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but undoubtedly the youth. Our energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria. Nigerian youths are ready to leave our mark on the political space, just as we have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields. Nigeria needs a government constituted to represent its diversity with respect to youth and women representation.

The recent emergence of Speakers under the age of 35 in State Houses of assembly of Oyo, Zamfara, Kwara and Plateau, as well as young representatives in various principal positions in their State Houses of Assembly demonstrates the capacity and competence of Nigerian youth.

The Not Too Young To Run movement is driven by the compelling need to restructure the country’s political system to address the deeply entrenched system of political exclusion and institute inclusive politics for transformative leadership and sustainable democracy. To this end, the Movement calls on President Buhari to ensure more appointment of youth, women and persons with disabilities into boards and agencies and on State Governors to write their names in history by appointing a truly inclusive cabinets and ensure youth representation in boards and agencies across the 36 states of the Federation.

The constitution of the Federal Executive Council is an opportunity for Nigeria to show leadership in the continent as a country committed to promoting inclusion of youth and women for inclusive growth and sustainable development and democracy in Nigeria.

One Shared Value, One Shared Goal, #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN

Our Shared Value, Our Shared Goal, #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN

Signed

Not Too Young To Run Movement

YIAGA AFRICA

YIAGA AFRICA Express Displeasure Over Youth Exclusion from Ministerial Nominees

Yesterday the Ministerial nominees for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office were announced at the floor of the National Assembly. The list comprises 43 nominees coming from across all 36 states and Federal Capital Territory with notable 7 women and no single person below the age of 35.

The conspicuous absence of young people under the age of 35 in the ministerial nominees read by Senate President Ahmed Lawan as sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari has to come us and the entire Nigerian youths as a big Surprise. It is indeed disappointing to see that despite the giant strides made my young people especially in the area of politics and leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari has not seen any person below the age of 35 worthy of any ministerial position.

Despite publicly proclaiming that young people of Nigeria are now set to leave their  mark on the political space, just as they have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields, we are surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari did not consider young people in his cabinet.

While portfolios are yet to be assigned to ministerial nominees, it is obvious that from the list, the minister of youth and sports will not be a youth as none of the nominees is under the age 35 not to talk of the  new National youth policy which classifies youth between 15 and 29 years old. This is in contrast with the faith President Buhari showed to young people when he signed the Not Too Young To run bill into law.

The recent emergence of  Speakers under the age of 35 in State houses of assembly of Oyo, Zamfara, Kwara and plateau not only shows that young people are good for ministerial position but also demonstrate their readiness to deliver effectively. Similarly, young people have emerged in various principal positions in their state houses of assembly. This is no doubt a huge result achieved within a short time and no doubt should have ensured young people staked a claim for ministerial slots in the cabinet list released on Tuesday.

While the wait for President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet is over, the wait for youth inclusion in his cabinet still lingers. State Governors across Nigeria still have an opportunity to change this narrative by appointing young competent people with character and capacity to head various commissions in the state.

Signed

Samson Itodo

Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA

Moshood Isah, media officer YIAGA AFRICA

Server Controversy and Implication for Bayelsa, Kogi Elections – Moshood Isah

Barely four months to the Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi state and with the controversy of over the usage of server hovering over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the commission may just remain in a fix on possibility of using a server for the upcoming Governorship elections. Although the court has taken a decision on permission to request to access the server that has been initially declared non-existent, stakeholders have interpreted the judgement in different ways. This is despite, election observation group like YIAGA AFRICA revealed that its observers saw INEC officials “attempting” to transmit elections result to a server and reports from media says officials of the commission confessed to have transmitted results to a server. While some believe the court decision further reaffirms non-existent of server, others think the court only decided it’s too early to access the server at the preliminary stage of the litigation.

It is no brainer that the commission transmitted results to a server using the smart card reader during off-circle Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun 2018. The only logical explanation for this is the expectation that the new electoral law will be signed into law and thus electronic transmission can be implemented in full force during the 2019 elections.  This is apparently why transmission of results using smart card reader was also in the electoral guideline for the 2019 elections. Then conundrum here however is that the lack of assent to the electoral law means, information on the server remain unharnessed as it has not been used to publicly authenticate manual data of either accreditation or results.

This article is not in any way taking readers back to the 2019 Presidential election tribunal on the server controversy as Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said he will address the server controversy that trailed the 2019 general elections, after the Presidential Elections Tribunal.  All the same, there is need to forecast the plans of the commission with the use of server in the upcoming off-circle governorship elections.

Argument abound on the idea of electronic voting or at least electronic transmission of election results is to provide a transparent evidence vis-à-vis results pasted at polling units and collation centers.  Political analysts have said electronic voting and result transmission to server is the solution to the consistent electoral hitches. Although, this is subject to assent to the new electoral act, analysts believe that the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa election is another opportunity for the commission to sincerely test run its server ahead of subsequent elections pending when the electoral law is signed.

On the other hand, for the fact that neither electronic voting nor electronic transmission has been backed by law, others may wonder the essence of financing and deploying a server for the Bayelsa and Kogi elections.   Similarly, considering the fact that data therein are for not necessarily for public consumption and cannot be used to authenticate results from manual collation, will the commission still go on  and still deploy servers for result and data transmission for the upcoming Governorship elections?

Without assent to the new electoral act, one begins to wonder what impact electronic transmission has served during previous off-circle elections where INEC publicly admitted it test-run its server in a micro scale. Despite this, it is not out of place for the electoral commission to pilot its server in off-circle elections just as it has done in Ekiti and Osun but when for how long will it keep deploying a server that may not have impact on the elections it was deployed.

In a bid to overcome this electoral conundrum, it is pertinent for the commission, civil society organistions and political parties to push for assent to the new electoral act which will solve a lot of electoral issues in Nigeria. It is believed that electronic voting will eradicate rigging, multiple registrations and voting while cases of political violence and hijacking of ballot boxes will be easily checkmated. Adopting this process for Nigeria’s democracy will not only increase transparency but will also boost citizen confidence in the process while further improving participation in the process.

Moshood Isah is an Election enthusiast and Communication Expert

Isah is the Media Officer of YIAGA AFRICA

He tweets @Moshoodpm

inec logo

Challenges facing INEC ahead of Kogi, Bayelsa polls by Raymond Mordi

Bayelsa and Kogi states are warming up for governorship elections on November 16. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI looks at the challenges that may afftect the conduct of hitch-free elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has turned full circle, with November’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States. Yakubu’s emergence as INEC Chairman coincided with the inconclusive elections witnessed in the two states four years ago.

The commission faces another crucial test with the conduct of the governorship elections in the North-central and the South-south states, on November 16, 2019. The off-cycle elections in the two states provide opportunities for the commission to perfect its systems and processes and convince Nigerians that it has learnt some useful lessons from its past mistakes.

Kogi and Bayelsa are among the seven states where the governorship elections hold on different dates from the other states. It will be the first time that two off-cycle elections would be holding on the same date. Four years ago, the Kogi election was held on November 21, 2015, while that of Bayelsa took place on December 5, 2015. But, the governors will be sworn in on different dates: Kogi on January 26, 2020 and Bayelsa on February 13, 2020.

In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking re-election for a second term, while Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be completing a second term in February next year.

Being the first major elections to be conducted since the 2019 general elections, the commission, observers said, must address the plethora of infractions that have cropped up at the various election tribunals on whether the card readers have helped to plug the loopholes for inflation of ballots.

Ahead of the elections, the nomination of candidates by the parties must be done within the stipulated time and in compliance with the Electoral Act. Yakubu’s words: “The conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates must be transparent and democratic in accordance with the provisions of Section 87 of the Electoral Act as well as our regulations and guidelines.”

The INEC Chairman said so far only three political parties have given notices indicating the dates for their primaries for both Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. He added: “The commission once again reminds party leaders to do the needful. In doing so, you should indicate not only the dates but also venues and time for the primaries.

“I urge you to avoid persistent rescheduling of your primaries or late minute change of venue which sometimes disenfranchise your members and make effective monitoring by the commission difficult. Where political parties opt for direct primaries, there should be proper register of members otherwise it will amount to conducting an election without the voters’ register.”

In Kogi State, particularly, the ruling APC is undecided about the mode of primary it is going to adopt to choose its flag bearer for the election. The national leadership of the party, it is gathered, is under pressure from the Presidency to reverse the indirect primary already ordered for the August 29. It was learnt that the party’s top hierarchy were already reviewing the decision in the overall best interest of the party.

The issue is believed to have generated tension among members of the National Working Committee who met in Abuja recently. The meeting, which took place at its national secretariat, was presided over by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. The meeting started a few hours after Governor Bello came to pick his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.

The party had adopted an indirect mode of primary for Kogi State, but kept mute on the Bayelsa State governorship primary fixed for the same day. But, about 20 APC governorship aspirants have protested against the decision, saying it would affect the fortunes of the party. They demanded direct primary instead and for a caretaker committee to be raised due to litigation over the State Working Committee.

Fears have been expressed in some quarters that the infighting over the primary could cost the party the governorship seat, as it happened in Zamfara and Rivers States during the last general elections.

The issue of security is another major challenge that would confront the commission during the conduct of the two governorship elections. This is not only true of Bayelsa, where militancy and violence has often been mixed with politics, but also of Kogi State, where reports during the last general elections painted a picture of violence and lack of enabling environment for expression of voter preferences.

A security expert, Dr. Joseph Ameh, said what Kogi people expect from President Muhammadu Buhari is for him to rein in security agencies and ensure that they are not at the beck and call of the ruling APC. Ameh said if security officials do their work with patriotism and in an unbiased way, politicians, especially gladiators would reckon that it is no longer business as usual. He said Nigerian voters have become wiser and know how to discipline selfish and arrogant leaders.

While recalling how, during the recent general elections, violence, intimidation and use of weapons to scare voters away became the order of the day, Ameh said if as many as six persons lost their lives in Kogi East Senatorial District, it could only be imagined what would happen during the governorship.

He said: “I am calling on President Buhari to ensure that there would be no gun-running and miltarisation during the November 16 governorship election. It is everybody’s concern, but we believe that the Federal Government would not be insensitive to the issues of security in Kogi State.

“Some of the things that happened during the last election may not be known to the Federal Government, but if the government was in the know, it would be a great blow to the integrity, transparency and even the anti-corruption war President Buhari said he is waging.

“It would be clear to everybody that the Buhari government is corrupt if the Kogi governorship election is allowed to be militarised; that is, if thugs are allowed to kill and maim during the November 16 governorship poll. We shall hold the Federal Government responsible to ensure that proper things are done.”

Other challenges INEC would confront in Kogi and Bayelsa include that of logistics and manpower, vote-buying, voter apathy and mobilization. For instance, one area INEC should demonstrate its capacity to learn from its mistakes is in the use of ad hoc staff. Recently a former chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, accused politicians of using university lecturers, who served as INEC’s ad hoc staff, to rig elections. Part of the allegation is that INEC officials collude with politicians to swap trained ad hoc staff.

Read Also: Breaking: Buhari plays video on INEC’s stand on results transmission
Already, INEC has commenced the review of the recruitment, training and deployment of ad-hoc staff ahead of the elections. Prof. Yakubu said reforms in the delegation of responsibilities by the commission to the ad-hoc election personnel has remained an exercise it will continue to review from one election to another. The INEC Chairman added that recruitment, training and deployment of ad-hoc staff, mostly members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), students of tertiary institutions and university lecturers are crucial to a successful free, fair and credible election. He said with the large population of Nigeria, INEC needed the services of ad-hoc election personnel in the conduct of credible elections.

In recent times, vote-buying has become common in Nigerian elections and there is no reason to believe that Kogi and Bayelsa would be exceptions. Though the Electoral Act criminalizes vote-buying, because it is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy, it has become a common feature of party primaries and general elections conducted in recent years.

Similarly, the 2018 Revised Code of Conduct for Political Parties also enjoins all political parties and their agents shall not engage in buying of votes or offer any bribe, gift, reward, gratification or any other monetary or material considerations or allurement to voters and electoral officials. Notwithstanding its prohibition, vote-buying continues to be a widespread practice in recent elections.

There is also the issue of distributing uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by INEC. National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, indicated recently that the commission will resume distribution of uncollected PVCs in Bayelsa and Kogi, ahead of the November 16 governorship elections. Okoye said that the commission would soon meet to decide on whether to hold Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in the two states before the elections.

He said: “In the next one month the commission will take a decision on whether to conduct CVR for these two states, just before the elections. So, that particular decision has not been taken. Definitely the commission will take that decision. But what is certain is that we are going to distribute the uncollected PVCs in Kogi and Bayelsa before the conduct of governorship elections in the two states.”

There are 186,798 unclaimed PVCs in Bayelsa out of the 923,182 registered voters, while 269,000 out of 1.6 million registered voters in Kogi are yet to collect their PVCs.

Elections in this clime have always been characterized with low turnout of voters. For instance, out of the more than 84 million voters registered to take part in the last presidential and National Assembly elections, only 35 per cent of that number participated. This could be traced to lack of adequate mobilization, threat of violence or the cumbersome nature of Nigerian elections, where an intending voter must be ready to sacrifice several hours just to exercise his or her franchise.

In a nutshell, everything boils down to the fact that people do not have confidence in the capacity of INEC to organize free and fair elections. For example, in the words of political commentator, Dolapo Akinbolagbe, one of the popular rhetoric’s that is pervasive is the idea that one’s vote doesn’t count. He added: “There is this assumption (whether accurate or not it is debatable) that the corrupt nature of the political process has led to issues like electoral malpractices.

“One side-effect of voter apathy can be low voter turnout on election day if voting is non-compulsory. In countries or areas with compulsory elections, voter apathy may manifest itself in the form of a high proportion of spoilt ballots or ‘donkey’ votes.

“The issue of voter’s apathy became a heated topic during the 2019 presidential and governorship election. As we saw, the election postponement created a form of voter fatigue as it caused an anti-climax amongst those wanting to perform their civic duty. The anticipation was cut short as news of the election postponement came six hours before polling units opened. This was highly unfortunate for many that had to travel long distances in order to vote.”

All told, as the country heads towards Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections in November, the commission said it will address all the identified challenges and lapses in the 2019 general elections and consolidate on the successes recorded to ensure it delivers credible, free and fair election in Kogi and Bayelsa come November 16.

Malam Mohammed Haruna, the National Commissioner in charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa states, who gave the assurance recently, identified logistics as one of the major challenges that confronted the last general elections. He said the large number of registered political parties that took part in the last election made the entire process cumbersome for the commission.

Source: The Nation

YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote team during an assessment visit to state based CSO in Kogi

Kogi Elections: State-based Organizations Call for Early Voter Education

State-based Civil Society Organizations in Kogi state have called for early commencement of voter education activities in the state to checkmate a possible low voter turnout ahead of the November 16 Governorship Election. The State CSOs made the call in Lokoja during an assessment exercise organized by YIAGA AFRICA to analyze the political and security situation in the state.

While registering their fears of possible low voter turnout for the Governorship elections in the state, CSOs urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reach out to citizens at various communities with voter education messages ahead of time.

Speaking during the exercise, Executive Director of Initiative for Grassroots Advancement (INGRA) Hamza Aliyu lauded YIAGA AFRICA for the initiative saying it will prepare the election stakeholders in the state for better civic engagement. While hailing the credibility of YIAGA AFRICA’s data-driven election observation methodology, he urged that attention should also be channeled to the community level so that communities understand the electoral process better.

He further advised collaboration between CSOs and other election stakeholders saying INGRA will be actively involved in voter education and pre-election observation activities for the Kogi elections.

Similarly, Executive Director of Conscience for Human Right and Connect Resolution (CHRCR) Idris Miliki Abdul also reaffirmed the importance of voter education saying the political and security terrain in Kogi is also taking an ethnic dimension. According to him, in order to forestall any possible violence, there is need to design special messages against electoral violence. He said there is need to map flash points in the state and also intensively stop and search vehicles to check arms proliferation.

In a similar vein, chairman of the Kogi state council of NUJ, Alhaji Momoh Jimoh Adeiza commended YIAGA AFRICA for the steps taken to ensure a free, fair and violent free election in Kogi state, urging them to step up their campaign.

Other State-based organizations that are part of the assessment exercise includes, Lift Up Care Foundation (LUCAF), Challenged Parenthood Initiative (CPI) and Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID).

 

YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote team visit INEC office in Kogi

Kogi Guber Poll: YIAGA AFRICA Commences Political, Security Assessment

Ahead of the November 16 Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi State, YIAGA AFRICA’s project has commenced a critical assessment of the political and security situation in the states as part of its plan for election observation. Speaking during an assessment visit to Kogi state’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office earlier this week, Programs Manager Cynthia Mbamalu said, as YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) project commences plan for pre-election observation in the state, the assessment visit is aimed to engage stakeholders in a bid to understand the political and security dynamics in the state.

According to Cynthia, WTV will be observing the pre-election observation environment starting from the political party primary elections saying the team will also be deploying Long-term observers to observe the pre-election environment in each of the 21 LGAs in the state.

She explained that  the objective of the WTV is to provide timely and accurate information about the election process to voters and stakeholders, to ensure that citizens votes count by deterring fraud and manipulation during the conduct of elections and collation of result and as well build citizens’ confidence in the elections.

WTV Project Director Cynthia Mbamalu and INEC head of voter education Ahmed Biambo in Kogi

She said that YIAGA AFRICA would be collaborating with INEC, security agencies, the media and other stakeholders to mitigate electoral misconduct, which allegedly characterized previous elections, and ensure it is reduced to the barest minimum.

“We shall be monitoring the build up to the election across the state. Identify flash points and work with all stakeholders to ensure that violence during the November governorship election in Kogi state is reduced to the barest minimum,” she said.

The team, according to her, will be carrying out more advocacy visit to stakeholders to create the desired awareness towards a more participatory election in the state.

Reacting to this during the meeting, INEC Head of Voter Education and Publicity in Kogi state, Ahmed Biambo expressed delight with YIAGA AFRICA’s early assessment and preparation ahead of the November polls. He reiterated the imperativeness of voter education saying election stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations have a role to play in reaching out to citizens with voter education messages.

According to him, “the success of every election is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and the commission is ready to collaborate especially in the area of voter education and publicity”.