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#BreakTheBias: Nigeria must not be missing in a progressive new world order By Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi

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There was no missing March 8 on the global calendar for women. It has been forty-five years since the United Nations(UN) singled out that date to celebrate women, many years after being held under by a male-dominated wold system.

The early signs of emancipation had come in the early 1900s when Soviet Russia granted women voting rights in 1917. Since then, and in spite of that act of tokenism, the world appears to have moved rather too slowly to erase the discrimination against women, and attain a much desired gender equality.

The pace of progress towards parity has been particularly woeful in most developing societies, especially Africa where the patriarchal system still looms large and women remain largely relegated to the background. It must be said, though, that Rwanda has stood out as a shinning example, driven, perhaps, by the challenge to reinvent itself after a gruesome civil war that claimed thousands of lives.

The build up to this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) had been quite remarkable, coming soon after the world began the early steps of recovering from a global pandemic that drove more African societies into economic quandary, and found its women taking up additional family responsibilities in order to contain the excruciating pangs of poverty.

Therefore, this year’s theme, #BreakTheBias, could not have been more apt. Not only had conversations around the event been very illuminating, the engagements have been very robust, especially in Nigeria where women in their thousands have, for several days, fiercely stood up to challenge the failure of government to systematically address the troubling issues of gender equality, and women’s rights, among others.

It was evident, given the events of March 1, 2022 that the women were not going to give up without a fight. On that day, lawmakers in Nigeria’s House of Representatives and the Senate, in separate resolutions, threw out five gender-related bills in the country’s bid to amend its constitution.

The bills would have had the salutary effect of closing the perceived parity gap between men and women, notably in the area of access to political and socio-economic power. There had been hopes that the lawmakers would see reason, especially as incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, had, in a historic move, led a women’s lobby group to speak to the gender bills. But all that was to fall flat in just one day of deliberations at the National Assembly.

The development did not come as a total surprise to anyone who had followed the country’s political space keenly. My immediate findings showed that Nigeria’s constitution barely referenced women, even in its wordings.

Another damming discovery was a report which presented Africa’s most populous country as having one of the continent’s lowest female representation in parliament, ranking 181 out of 193 nations. This is according to the International Parliamentary Union.

In more specific terms, my searches had also shown that in the current Nigerian 9th National Assembly, women occupy only 7 out of 109 Senate seats, and 11 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives. A comparative review appears to reveal an uneven growth, with 3 female Senators reported in 1999; 4 in 2003; and 9 in 2007. In 2011 and 2015, the number of female Senators had sadly declined to 7 respectively.

Before the March 1 rejection by the 9th Assembly, the 8th Assembly had also acted its own script. For three years, between 2016 and 2019, it ensured that the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO) was frustrated and finally buried!

This writer is convinced that the most intricate game plan to keep women subjugated has been the rejection of the five gender bills which would have conveyed the following advantages on womenfolk:
—Citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman, and vice versa
—Indigeneity through marriage
—20 per cent appointed positions for women
—35 percent affirmative action in party administration and leadership
—Extra seats for women at National Assembly

I still cannot fathom why Nigerian lawmakers acted the way they did before coming under intense pressure to rescind their positions. And, this is why my heart goes out to all women and other sympathizers who kept vigil to ensure that the travesty of justice at the National Assembly was reversed.

The shift in position by members of the House of Representatives, though not radical, represents only but a symbolic gesture, if viewed critically. Here is why.

Of the five gender-related bills, it resolved to revisit three namely: bills to expand scope of citizenship by registration, affirmative action for women in political party administration and provision for criteria to be an indigene of a state in Nigeria.

The House cleverly left out the bills on extra seats for women in legislative houses and the 20 per cent quota for women for appointment into federal and states cabinets. Noteworthy is the fact that the Nigerian senate is yet to adjust its known position even in the face of the ongoing protests by women in the nation’s capital.

A less than smart move by the federal government to assuage the feelings of women came in the hurried revision of the National Gender Policy, just a day after lawmakers rejected the gender bills. The government had said it was driven by the higher ideals to promote gender equality, good governance and accountability across the three tiers of government in the country.

Even as the world celebrates women, it is clear to this writer that Nigeria faces the danger of operating in the fringes in an emerging progressive world order, as government’s initiatives appear not far-reaching or half-hearted.

I am yet unconvinced that the reign of tokenism in our clime will effect the desired change needed to close the widening gulf between men and women, measured by access to opportunities across all human endeavours.

Perhaps, a significant leap would manifest in guarantees for equal employment opportunities, equal rights to inheritance, equal rights for women in marriage, equal access to education, and protection of rights of widows, among others.

One is constrained, therefore, to join the horde of courageous citizens, both women and men, speaking truth to power, and insisting that modern societies, Nigeria inclusive, must avoid discrimination against women and promote gender equality.

To this end, we must act quickly to overcome the euphoria of celebrations and continue to pile more pressure on recalcitrant politicians who have been blinded by an unprogressive patriarchal culture. To retreat is not an option at this time when Nigerian women have increasingly shown capacity for leadership, not just locally but globally.

While these giant strides should be celebrated, staying focused on the ultimate goals remains the bigger task. I dare say that the centre stage is where Nigerian women are destined. Let us work to #BreakTheBias.

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Direct or indirect primaries: The uniting factor is moneybag politics by Afe Babalola

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THE Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) provides for the system of nomination of candidates by political par ties through primary elections ahead of presidential, state governorship, and legislative houses elections. Section 84(1) of the Electoral Act provides that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. Subsection 2 provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Direct primaries, as described in subsection 4 of the Act, connotes that the members of the political party will be given equal opportunity to vote for a party member of their choice as the nominated candidate of the party. It involves the participation of all registered members of a party in the selection of the party’s candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, is a system whereby members of the political party democratically elect delegates at the party’s congress and, in turn, the delegates elect the party’s candidates on behalf of the members of the political party. Sections 5-8 of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) generally stipulates the procedure for the conduct of indirect primaries in Nigeria.

The third category, and perhaps the least commonly adopt ed, is the system of consensus candidacy whereby all aspirants in the political party will voluntarily and expressly withdraw from the primaries and endorse a single candidate; and where there is no such express withdrawal, the political party will mandatorily proceed to conduct direct or indirect primaries. Section 9 of the Act provides as follows: 9 (a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate; (b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions. (c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Over the years, the choice of whether a party should adopt direct or indirect primaries has been the subject of debate by political pundits, commentators, and aspirants. The system of indirect primaries which most political parties adopt has been criticized for being easier to manipulate by party lead ers, and on their part, the delegates are expected to align with the party leadership. Another inherent defect in the conduct of indirect primaries includes some instances of the dubious manner of appointment of delegates. For instance, where a sitting Governor or President’s political appointees are made the party’s delegates, it is not in doubt that their nominations will ultimately favour their appointor’s political interest. Be sides, it is not uncommon to find dissimilar delegates’ selection at party congresses, conventions and primaries. On the other hand, the criticism of direct primaries is that it is a lot more expensive to operate and requires much more planning and organization. It is also more easily manipulated. For in stance, a strong contender in a political party can sponsor the members of his own political party to purchase membership cards of the opposition party en masse in order for such members to deliberately vote for a weaker candidate in the said opposition party to win the primaries, thereby giving him an edge in the general elections.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the conduct of direct and indirect primaries, there however exists no real difference because of the association of Nigerian politics with godfatherism and moneybag politics. Though it is easier to bribe fewer delegates to support a faction of the party as op posed to the reduced propensity to tilt the votes of all members of the political party to one candidate if direct primaries were held, it still does not change the fact that the underlying factor is the ability of a candidate to sway the few delegates, or the larger party members, with money.

In an interview published in the Punch newspaper on 19th June 2022, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party rep resenting the Ilaje/Ese Federal Constituency stated the im pact of money on politics. He reportedly said: “Except some are lying, it is real. Our politics is monetised. The process is monetised. Some will just come and tell you that they never pay money. They paid money. We paid money to delegates. There is no way you can survive that hurricane without effectively and efficiently releasing resources for those people (delegates). Whether you have served them for seven years and you have been their perpetual or perennial friend, it is not going to count. You just have to do the needful at that point. Again, if you don’t do it, they will not vote for you. This is because it is not just one aspirant or candidate that is doing that; it is a system. You will give what the system is asking for. There is a stimulus that the system is pumping and which the electorate will have to react to. It is not the fault of those who are currently in power or those that are seeking to come to power, it is not their fault… If you are the best (among the aspirants), you will pay; if you are the worst, you will still pay. It is just a systemic thing. Those who eventually won, it is still the same. In my area, we had three very strong contenders. We paid equally and people made their choice on who they wanted. The three people (aspirants) paid equal amounts of money. They (delegates) collected money from the three of us and made their choice on who they wanted.”

The bold admission by the honourable member of the House of Representatives excerpted above is the reality of the Nigerian political climate today. The influence of moneybags in Nigerian politics continues to hold sway in dampening the hopes of the nation in achieving true democracy. After all, the whole idea of democracy is the free will of the people in electing their political leaders, and where such “free will” is manipulated through the influence of political juggernauts, the country is further pulled away from the attainment of the best democratic policies. It accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterized many elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, the politician who owes his nomi nation to his huge investments will naturally seek a win by any possible means. Where his reliance is placed on a political godfather, he can count on his godfather’s ability to deploy enormous wealth in a bid to corrupt electoral officials and the electorates and where these fail, violence will be deployed to bring about the desired result.

Consequently, the politician who wins an election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no ob ligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will there fore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies, and his godfather. There is an unhealthy synergy between godfatherism, money bag politics, and poverty. It is the entire citizenry who suffers the effect of political office holder’s obligation to recoup his investments and/or satisfy the whims of his godfather who, more often than not, are the actual persons in power.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, LL.D (Lond.)

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Genuine politicians must die by Kenneth Amaeshi

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I often one wonder why people go into politics in Nigeria, because the challenges of the country are massive. Poor health systems. Low quality education. High youth unemployment and low skills. Hunger, poverty, and famine. Weak infrastructure and institutions. In addition, the politics appears dirty and bitter.

The usual but superficial reason people often offer is that they are keen to serve. If the lure of politics is to serve others, why would one subject oneself through the tortuous process of democratic elections in order to serve? Sleepless nights. Odd meetings. Very strange companies. Painful compromises.

A cynical view might suggest that whether a career in politics is pursued to serve or lord it over others, it is simply a quest for power. Of course, it is human and natural to seek dominion over others. But even at that, what then is the purpose of power and is politics the only means to exercise such powers?

Another view is that politics is simply business – in the sense that politicians financially invest in it and expect worthwhile returns on their investments. In such contexts, they may use money to influence votes. When politicians make such investments, they obviously expect some gains, and the higher the risks, the more the expected returns. However, politicians come in various shades.

Some politicians do not pretend about money politics. It is as clear as it can be. It is what it is – a very transactional engagement. It is all about their self-interests. This understanding makes it easy to attract like minds and to agree on expectations and outcomes. They often portray and pride themselves as the real masters of politics. Many people tend to agree with them, and they are unashamedly transparent about their strategies and aspirations. That’s how it is done. Anything short of this is naivety.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Other politicians prefer not to be very overt about their crude intentions and strategies. They rather mask them in some nebulous and grandiose cloaks – often packaged as a form of progressivism and intellectualism. However, beneath this garb of elegance and decency is a constantly warped and treacherous display of self-interest and greed packaged and sold as enlightenment. The main difference between the two categories is their strategies. While the former is overt, the latter is covert. Nonetheless, their goals are the same.

A third group is made up of politicians who are very idealistic and puritan in their approach. They have something to offer and truly want to serve, but they either do not understand the rules of the market for votes or they think they can change things by ignoring the rules and in most cases swimming against them. However, they hardly win elections because they rarely make any financial investments in the business of politics. As much as some voters may like what they represent, they rarely have sufficient incentives to patronize the politicians in this category. In the end, the politicians become cases of good products but unrealized potentials.

Unfortunately, the business of politics and pretentious service leadership are the bane of democracy and good governance in many countries. Sadly, too, they are often normalized and taken for granted. This normalization and taken-for-grantedness could be as a result of helplessness – because people – i.e., the electorate – do not know how to unravel and dismantle them.

However, no matter how they disguise, they can be unmasked effectively. In Nigeria, for example, where the elections season is simultaneously booming and looming, genuine politicians can be assessed by their preparedness to sacrifice and die for the good of Nigeria. Given where the country is today, especially with her challenges, it only needs politicians who are in it, not for their own sake, but for the growth and development of the country – i.e., politicians who are both competent and ethical. Anything short of this is simply an entrenchment of the status quo, which has not done the country any good.

Nigeria needs genuine political leaders who can literally take the proverbial bull by the horns. This will entail a lot of discomfort, political risks, sacrifices and even death. As scary as it may sound, genuine politicians are rarely deterred by it.

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

But how do we identify genuine politicians, given the confusion and obfuscation of personalities and personae in the system? One way to decipher genuine politicians is to look at their antecedents and ask some very pertinent questions. What have they achieved outside politics? What comforts and luxuries are they leaving or setting aside to serve? What sacrifices are they willing to make and or are making? Are they willing to die for Nigeria to thrive? As much as these questions may sound unrealistic, politicians who fit this mode are truly the sort of politicians Nigeria needs now.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, offered an excellent idea of what genuine political leadership looks like in practice when he said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” (emphasis, mine).

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

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