As the 2015 General Elections Approach; Worrying Trends on the State of the Nation: A Statement by the Say No Campaign-Nigeria
The Say No Campaign is a nationwide campaign against Impunity in all its ramifications, with Zonal Hubs and representation across the states of the federation.
The Say No Campaign [SNC] has noted that in recent times, the country has witnessed steady rise in the intensity of the contradictions within the system and the often times mutually antagonistic interests of the ruling political elites.
The SNC observes that these contradictions and the mobilization of mutually antagonistic interests are being deepened and compounded with the permutations around the upcoming general elections of 2015 and the series of governorship elections preceding the general elections.
Given the foregoing, and in the context of the mounting tensions, the SNC wishes to highlight the major sore points that currently characterize the State of our Nation, and which constitute potential or active dangers to the wellbeing of citizens and the security of the Nation;
- EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE [EVD] OUTBREAK
The SNC notes that whereas EVD has been around for decades, particularly since its first known outbreak in DRC in 1976; nevertheless this is the first time the outbreak will be occurring in West Africa, the first time it will be presenting as a multinational outbreak and the most serious and severe outbreak of the disease recorded in human history.
However, while commanding the effort put into the response by all stakeholders, which has enabled the country to more or less contain the outbreak; we are worried and concerned about the alarmist nature of the response, which we are convinced exaggerated the scale and scope of the risk, and which led to the spread of panic across the country, and the mushrooming of rumours about phantom cures, with often very fatal and near fatal consequences across Nigeria.
We are particularly concerned that this somewhat alarmist and deliberate overstating of the crisis, was part of the calculations of politicians and political leaders to ensure mobilization of resources and funds internally and externally into a pool, that like the response to the 2012 Flood disaster can be disappeared into the private pockets, looted and converted into election war chests.
We note for example that a fund was established and designated for the response; but without any clarity as to whether this was appropriated for, and where the funds will be drawn from. Furthermore, to buttress the point about the setting up of the fund as a conduit for corruption, controversy continues to trail the disbursement or otherwise of the said fund.
As usual, Nigeria’s ruling elites have resorted to their traditional attitude of seeking to always convert our collective grieve into the opportunity to loot. We condemn this continued display of insensitivity towards the plight of citizens on the part of the ruling elites.
We call on all stakeholders particularly the Federal and state governments to eschew political sentiments in dealing with this menace. The Ebola pandemic MUST NOT be politicized. We urge the Federal government to collaborate with state governments in fighting this scourge in the best interest of the Nigerian people. We also urge Nigerians to collaborate with the government by ensuring all suspected high risk contacts present themselves for treatment and quarantine. We urge all stakeholders to conscientiously observe the preventive measures suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).
We also urge ECOWAS to without further delay appoint a Special Envoy on Ebola that will facilitate regional coordination and response to the pandemic.
- INSURGENCY AND THE VICTIM SUPPORT FUND:
We note again that the Federal Government of Nigeria [FGN] has recently established a victim support fund for the victims of the insurgency ravaging parts of the country, even as it inaugurates with fanfare the committee to manage the disbursement of the fund.
While we commend this as usual belated response of the state towards the plight and sufferings of Nigerian citizens caught up in the cross fires of the insurgency and counter insurgency operations; we are however concerned about several issues of interest relating to the processes involved.
First, we wish to point out that there is a constitutionally established National Stabilization Fund, to be made up of 1.5% of funds deducted from the Federation Account annually. Is this Victim Support Fund [VSF] drawn from this Stabilisation fund? How much money has accrued into this National Stabilisation Fund since the inception of the fourth republic on the basis of the 1999 constitution which made provisions for the establishment of the fund? What has this fund been used for since its establishment? What is the balance in the fund after deducting the VSF? What has happened to the N2bn allocated in the 2014 appropriation act as a North East Development Intervention Fund?
Given the frenzied pace with which all manner of funds are now being established [in some instances targeting long overdue initiatives, and in some others targeting deliberately overblown crisis] in a year that is the eve of a general elections; again and again, we are being forced to draw the conclusion that the reason for the establishment of these funds now, has precious little to do with the plight of our citizens, but a lot more to do with the gluttonous greed for politicians for funds that will enable them wage the intensifying electoral battles.
Particularly given the lack of transparency and accountability accompanying the setting up of these and similar intervention funds of the recent past, we wish to condemn in very strong terms the cynical abuse and conversion of our collective pains into a source of collective gain for the political elite.
- THE MILITARISATION OF ELECTIONS:
Whereas it has been argued by some that the heavy and intimidating deployment of the Armed Forces during elections serves to ensure security, and guarantee the sanctity of the electoral process. Nevertheless, regardless of its seeming immediate and disputed short term advantages, this trend witnessed on increasingly overbearing and overwhelming scale from the Anambra elections, through the Ondo, Ekiti and the recent Osun elections, is not a sustainable antidote to electoral violence and electoral fraud.
In the first instance the deployment of troops in such numbers and in provocative manner, with heavily armed hooded personnel, into communities with very high level of mutual distrusts, can itself become provocative and a trigger for violence.
Secondly, whereas such humongous scale of deployment may be manageable in the context of single elections in a single state; this will become impossible to manage in the context of nationwide general elections. This is because to sustain the scale and scope of deployment witnessed in Osun state for instance across the country would require the deployment of nearly or more than half a million troops for election duties. This is simply not a sustainable solution to the existing problem, which requires simply ensuring adequate and effective policing in quantitative and qualitative terms.
We are worried about the grave dangers posed to our country and the ongoing intensely contested democratization process in the nation. This overwhelming deployment of the armed forces for electoral matters, poses a number of grievous dangers to the democratic process and the nation itself.
Not only does it constitute a huge distraction for the military and contributes to overstretching its resources thus rendering it impaired in the execution of its primary duty of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the country; it also contributes significantly to the politicization of the military.
And the danger is real, the overwhelmingly militarization of politics, engenders a consequent politicization of the military, that may lead to a situation where a politicized military strikes and cashes in on a general crisis partly created and partly reinforced by the militarization of politics and civic life, and truncates the democratic experiment.
It is for these reasons that we insist that the trend be reversed, and that the police be adequately prepared to play its policing roles and functions, instead of substituting a failed and failing police force with the Armed forces.
- THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED NATIONAL CONFERENCE:
Now that the 2014 National Conference with 492 delegates and a 6 member management team has concluded and submitted its 600 resolutions/recommendations and 10,000 paged report to its Convening authority, the President; it has become imperative for the resolutions and recommendations, along with all of the supporting documentation of this historic conference to be subjected to a very thorough scrutiny by the populace.
A majority of the recommendations of the conference are people oriented, patriotic, nationalistic, even radical and revolutionary in some instances; just as a few of its recommendations also leave much to be desired.
As Civil Society and active citizens, our duty is to engage with this report, to scrutinize and own it, and to utilize it as the basic fulcrum of our advocacy, campaigning and lobbying in order to ensure that the report is implemented.
We are convinced that a thorough implementation of the report of this conference will precipitate and lay the foundation for radical, significant and fundamental transmission of the country. If all its constitutional recommendations were to be implemented and utilized in amending the 1999 constitution for instance, the outcome of that constitutional review will amount to a fundamentally new constitutional framework on which to embark on the nation building journey of the next 100 years.
But we are also convinced that because of the fundamentally radical nature of some of the recommendations, these political ruling elite will not feel obliged to implement the report unless compelled by public pressure mounted by civil society and citizens organisations.
We thus demand that the President having received the report of a conference convened under his executive authority should take immediate steps towards full implementation of the report. This should include in the first instance the immediate release of a program and time scale outlining steps that will be taken towards the various Policy, Legislative and Constitutional recommendations of the conference.
We call on Nigerians all over the world to demand of political parties and their candidates their attitude towards the report of the conference and to extract commitments from parties and their candidates towards implementation of the report during the electoral campaigns.
May God bless Nigeria and may corruption and impunity end in
Awwal Musa Rafsanjani
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