Nigerian Democracy’s Uncertain Future

By Udo Jude Ilo

Last month, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a 76-year-old former military general, won his second term in an election marred by low voter turnout, legal controversy, and violence—which left at least 50 people dead. The outcome of the process was not merely a travesty for Nigeria; it was a warning sign to advocates of democracy and open society everywhere.

Just hours before polls were scheduled to open, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the vote by a week. By then, thousands of registered voters had made long journeys to their home districts to cast their ballots and literally could not afford to wait idle for another week. Threats of violence by Islamist extremists, logistical breakdowns, and deliberate intimidation of voters played a role in the low turnout of voters across the country. Worrying cases of intimidation of officials of the election management body added to a pattern of orchestrated attempts at undermining key democracy institutions.

When Muhammadu Buhari won his first election in 2015, he became Nigeria’s first political leader to succeed an incumbent via the ballot box. This was a milestone for multiparty democracy in Africa. The recent election, on the other hand, represents a setback for Nigeria—and for Africa as a whole. Indeed, there is reason to fear that if the decline in standards is not urgently addressed, it could be the beginning of a progressive decline in the quality of elections throughout the region.

In the face of these challenges, civil society groups throughout the country still worked diligently on behalf of Nigerian democracy, partnering with institutions focused on the nuts and bolts of the electoral process. They also developed a so-called threshold document to outline a set of conditions that electoral institutions, political parties, and security agencies must fulfill to give credibility to the electoral process. Despite these laudable efforts, however, there is no denying that, by the standards of an open society, the election was a failure.

What lessons can civil society groups, in Nigeria and beyond, draw from this experience? How can civil society organizations broaden their constituencies and bring leaders from business, labor, and organized religion into campaigns for credible elections? With more than one-third of the world’s population set to vote in elections this year, these are not abstract questions.

First, there must be a comprehensive audit and review of what happened in the 2019 elections. This process must be independent and driven by the Nigerian people (in close collaboration with international experts). It is imperative to identify what went wrong with the electoral process and to examine the influences in Nigerian political society that makes electoral malpractices acceptable.

Second, Nigeria’s government should establish an electoral offenses commission which is empowered to hold accountable those that committed offences during the election process. To be sure, given the government’s obvious interest in avoiding scrutiny, the international community should join with those in Nigeria who are calling for such a commission. The international community should consider sanctioning individuals guilty of inciting electoral violence, as well as applying political pressure to the Nigerian government if it continues to reject accountability.

Along the same lines, and because no real democracy can exist without the rule of law, domestic and international pro-democracy groups should closely monitor President Buhari’s policies with regard to Nigeria’s judicial system, which many observers fear is being compromised by those who want to shield the election results from scrutiny.

Finally, civil society groups in Nigeria must resist the temptation to retreat into apathy and cynicism. We must not forget that serious and systemic change is a long-term process, and that the fruits of today’s efforts may take years to fully ripen. Initiatives focused on bringing more Nigerians—especially young Nigerians—into the political process should be encouraged. The Not Too Young to Run campaign, for example, which was launched by a coalition of youth organizations and successfully lowered Nigeria’s age limit for seeking office, is a crucial investment in changing the dynamic between Nigeria’s citizens and those elected to serve them.

Civil society must work to ensure close collaboration amongst its ranks and consistency in its values. This will help it sustain the respect and trust of the citizens, and it will make mobilization easier in the future. While international organizations and domestic civil society groups have an enormous role to play, ultimately, the country’s political landscape can only be reconfigured by a popular movement of Nigerian voters demanding reform. That is the promise of democracy—in Nigeria, and around the world.

Source Open Society Foundation

Namibia: Deepening democracy in Sadc: A youth perspective

President Geingob has had a busy start to the year 2019, seized with matters of national development and regional peace and security in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

On 19 and 24 January 2019, respectively, Namibia celebrated alongside the People of Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as they inaugurated their democratically elected leaders and fashioned a relatively peaceful transition of power.

Fairly credible elections were conducted and in both cases, peace hung in the balance, as voting outcomes were challenged in the courts. It was a defining moment to witness the deepening of democracy in these two nations that have been characterised by coups d’etats.

For the DRC to have held elections is a success in itself, while the attendance of all former Presidents of Madagascar at the inauguration sends good signals. For Sadc, the political pendulum has swung in favour of peace, stability and constitutional democracy and this is a milestone.

As Sadc Chair tasked to steer regional development, President Geingob provided steadfast leadership to the collective effort to bring parties together, to agree on the development and implementation of an electoral calendar and electoral roadmap, which facilitated the holding of national elections in the DRC in December 2018.

In his consultative nature, President Geingob called a Double Troika Summit on 17 January 2019 to consult on the political and security situation in the DRC. (A Double Troika is a meeting of incumbent, former and incoming Chair of Sadc, and incumbent, former and incoming Chair of the Organ on Politics, Security and Defense).

An outcome of this facilitated dialogue was the Sadc common position, which observed the principles of subsidiarity, national sovereignty and respecting the constitution and territorial integrity of the DRC.

One of the ranging consultation methods employed by President Geingob is quiet diplomacy. His credentials as a freedom fighter, diplomat, international civil servant, skilled negotiator, administrator, consensus builder and respected statesman, have garnered him rapport among his peers and he has, in a short period of time, cemented brotherly bonds with a number of counterparts in the region, continent and world.

This camaraderie has served the President well, as he consults colleagues via direct line, in the wake of a crisis. President Geingob believes strongly in consultation and building consensus, as an avenue for decision-making and building trust.
As young Africans emanating from Namibia, it is vital to take note of the Sadc Chair’s principled argument in the case of the DRC, which aimed to defend and not compromise on the principles of sovereignty, democracy and governance, in a time of crisis.

President Geingob postulates that credible processes, systems and institutions are fundamental for effective governance and once endorsed, processes should be permitted to run their course. Where found wanting, these processes, systems or institutions should be strengthened, rather than undermined.

These convictions should come as no surprise considering President Geingob was Swapo Director of Elections (1989), Chairman of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of our Republic and founding Prime Minister of a transitioning government, tasked to establish Namibia’s governance architecture.

He is a leader whose entire youth, adult and intellectual life has been predicated on the design of nation building and effective governance. Building “an inclusive, united and prosperous Namibian House”, within the context of a regional Sadc neighbourhood, has been and remains his single-minded mission.

The emerging cohort of youth leaders can imbibe from President Geingob’s vision of ‘A New Africa’ where more countries embrace democracy with its culture of free and fair elections, respect for fundamental human rights, good governance and political tolerance.

A New Africa where there are no more coups and other unconstitutional changes of government. A New Africa where the African Union plays a more dynamic role in solving African problems and is at the forefront of pushing the African youth development agenda. A New Africa where former Presidents retire with dignity. Namibia, a harbinger of modern democratic systems, has embraced the concept of a New Africa.

President Geingob has befittingly declared 2019 the ‘Year of Accountability’, as Namibia will face elections later in the year, as will South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi. With Madagascar and DRC successfully behind us, seeming post-electoral conflict in Zimbabwe has undone the very gains made following their unprecedentedly peaceful 2017 elections. It is an appropriate moment to reflect on progress made and prospects for the future.

Twenty-eight years into democracy, our country has gained ample experience in its political, social, economic and constitutional life. We have achieved a great deal – freedom, peace, stability, social cohesion and greater prosperity.

Since independence government has lifted 600,000 (NSA, 2016) Namibians out of poverty. Not least among our challenges is the stubbornly high level of unemployment, which entrenches poverty and inequality. The peaceful transfer of power is therefore essential for socio-economic development. The war against poverty, in pursuit of economic transformation and prosperity for, is hinged on the prevailing peace and stability, while recognizing that peace cannot be sustained where inequalities persist.

In Namibia, the legacy continues. The generation of liberators who ushered in the present era is still among us, providing leadership to navigate the complexities of geopolitics and transferring to the youth the fundamentals for effective governance. This is the legacy we are now beneficiaries of and we should understand it, so that we can build upon it, or risk recklessly rubbishing it.

In Sadc, democracy is deepening, but work must continue to strengthen and safeguard democratic political institutions and processes at all levels, so as to accountably and efficiently deliver public services and build trust. Every democracy requires a healthy dose of scrutiny and discourse, to hold elected leaders accountable and in this regard a young demographic majority has a meaningful role to play. It is incumbent on the youth to assume a participatory role and responsibility, by holding elected leaders accountable and by contributing knowledge and expertise towards the consolidation and strengthening of our democracies. Tomorrow does not just happen, it must be designed and now is the time to build on these fundamentals and construct: The Africa We

Source New Era

NRM youth protest against UK Parliament discussion on Uganda’s democracy, three arrested


A section of youth claiming to be National Resistance Movement supporters have taken to Kamwokya streets to protest the decision by the United Kingdom Parliament to discuss the democracy of Uganda.

The youths who donned yellow NRM shirts held placards and other written material reading, “Back off Dr William. You are not a Ugandan”. The youth threw stones and matched to the British High Commission Offices in Kamwokya, Kampala saying they do not want the discussion to continue.

Police swung into action and cooled the commotion that was already disrupting the traffic and arrested three of the members.

Mr Luke Owoyesigire, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson said the three are being held at Kira Road Police station on charges of inciting violence.

“We are yet to take statements from them to know what they were exactly doing but we shall hold them until they tell us what the matter is,” Mr Owoyesigire said.

The UK minister of State for Africa, Mr Harriett Baldwin, on Tuesday evening said adherence to democracy, democratic processes such as rule of law and strong institutions are at the core of their development agenda in Uganda, and they continue to engage government on the matter.

The minister for International Cooperation, Mr Okello Oryem, in response to the allegations said he has no apologies to the UK government.

He said after 30 years of stability and prosperity, the agenda to destabilise is back on course.

“It is funny at this particular moment when chaos and turmoil engulf the Democratic Republic of Congo, commotion in South Sudan, a coup attempt in Gabon and Bashir struggling in Sudan, then Williams chooses Uganda,” Mr Oryem said.

Source Daily Monitor