By Elizabeth Uwandu
Nigerians have been called upon to put away voters’ apathy and take their rightful position in deciding those who become their leaders as well as how the polity is governed.
Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Senior Economic Advisor, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI), Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Amina Salihu, Senior Programme Officer, MacArthur Foundation; Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative; and Rotimi Sankore, Editorial Board Chair, Nigeria Info Radio Group, made the call at the 11th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series.
Themed “Rethinking Credible Elections, Accountable Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria” the event held on Saturday, 13th July, 2019 at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, was put together to celebrate Professor Wole Soyinka’s 85th birthday,
Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, is the Grand Patron of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
According to Ezekwelisi who was a candidate in the 2019 general elections, good governance was rested on good values. In her words, “If we are lacking in the building of those values and the shaping of those values, then we will have to wait endlessly. The people who should win our vote should be people with values and character. Age should not just be the determinant of the people who should lead us; it should be age plus values.”
“Citizens have abandoned politics in the hands of politicians. So, our political parties have become the venture of political entrepreneurs. It cannot work that way. Political parties are supposed to be the government in waiting.” She said.
Explaining that the citizens should go beyond thinking and rethinking elections, to acting to see the change they seek, Osaze-Uzzi of INEC said stakeholders should begin to focus on the electoral process in terms of voter registration, technology and infrastructure, the registration of political parties and other determinants of successful elections.
Speaking of appropriate technology for elections, Sesan, of Paradigm Initiative, explained that technology hardly needed to be sophisticated and expensive. According to him, INEC should have sent text messages to its over 80 million registered voters when the 2019 election was postponed just a few hours before the 2019 Presidential elections.
He therefore, charged the Commission to take advantage of technology to educate the technology savvy new generation of voters including the additional 20 million plus youth who will be eligible to vote by 2020.
For Amina Salihu, Senior Programme Officer, MacArthur Foundation, determining who to rule African’s most populous nation without an inclusive government of gender balance, will amount to nothing in the quest for true democracy.
Salihu who called for gender based affirmative action in governance, maintained that women have been “minoritised” despite being half the population as their voices have been diminished.
She however called for the push of naming and shaming of sex offenders through the launch of a national sex offenders register, assuring that this will be made possible soon.
In all of this call, Sankore, Editorial Board Chair, Nigeria Info Radio Group, said the role of the media was to report factually and seek to educate and solve problems rather than add to it, adding, that the media needs to engage with data and evidence.
Sankore cited examples relating to conflicts in the northern parts of the country, health, education and the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), of how the lack of in-depth reporting, verification of facts and deployment of evidence by the media have denied the people the opportunity to engage issues appropriately.
Giving reason for the choice of the lecture theme, Ropo Sekoni, the Board Chair of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), in his opening remark explained that “Rethinking Credible Elections, Accountable Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria” was topical given the insecurity that permeates the system.
Expressing appreciation for the honour bestowed on his father, the son of the celebrator, Olaokun Soyinka, thanked the WSCIJ on behalf of the family for the consistency that has brought the lecture to its 11th edition and its focus on promoting the culture of investigative reporting. He observed that Soyinka’s struggle to hold power accountable and fight against impunity are still relevant today.
Highlight of the lecture was screening of a documentary which chronicled the life, writings and crucial role Wole Soyinka played for the emergence of Nigeria.
The event was moderated by Stephanie Busari, Supervising Producer, CNN Africa. It was attended by journalists, policy makers, representatives of pressure groups and non-governmental organisations, students and other members of the public.