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Nigeria at a Crossroads: The Upcoming Elections || By Tibor P. Nagy, Jr

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THE Department of State agrees with the view that Nigeria’s February 2019 national elections are a critical test. The conduct of the elections could have significant consequences for the democratic trajectory of Nigeria, West Africa, and the entire continent.

The conduct of the 2015 Nigerian elections, although by no means perfect, was a step forward for Nigeria’s democracy. That contest resulted in Nigeria’s first-ever democratic transfer of power to a non-incumbent party, thereby increasing capacity and improving conduct of Nigerian democratic institutions and election bodies.

Key Goals and Actions 

In advance of the 2019 elections, the U.S. government continues to support the Nigerian goal of free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people. Through diplomacy, robust public engagement including with Nigeria’s youth and civil society, and democracy and governance programs, we are helping the country to strengthen its democratic institutions and processes. The United States does not support any single candidate. We support a democratic process that is free, fair, transparent, peaceful, and reflects the will of the Nigerian people.

The U.S. government has developed a comprehensive election strategy to plan and coordinate our efforts. We have three main objectives:

  1. Support a free and fair electoral process, including technical assistance to Nigeria’s election institutions, civil society, and political parties as well as U.S. government monitoring of the election around the country;
  2. Prevent and mitigate electoral violence, including conflict monitoring, peacebuilding programs, and peace messaging;
  3. Support civic and political engagement, including support to Nigerian civil society election observation and parallel vote tabulation, social media campaigns to engage youth including through our Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), “get out the vote” campaigns, voter education, and Nigerian efforts to counter disinformation.

To advance our strategy, we have sustained high-level diplomatic engagement from Washington as well as robust and regular engagement by our Ambassador, Consul General, USAID Mission Director, and other officials based in Abuja and Lagos. Earlier this year, President Trump welcomed President Buhari to the White House and conveyed our expectations for a credible election. Two Secretaries of State, USAID Administrator Green, Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan, and many others have either traveled to Nigeria or met with senior Nigerian officials in the United States to underscore our commitment to free, fair, transparent, and peaceful Nigerian elections in the last twelve months.

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The State Department also hosted the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman in late October to observe U.S. preparation for mid-term elections and discuss challenges surrounding Nigeria’s elections. During this visit, INEC Chairman Yakubu observed early voting in Maryland, and met with Congressional staff, U.S. electoral civil society and legal experts, and U.S. government officials. The Chairman also met with USAID Administrator Green and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Hale.

I recently returned from Nigeria as part of my first trip to the continent. It was great to be back in Nigeria where I served as Charge d ’Affairs in 2016 and Deputy Chief of Mission from 1993-1995, and convey our expectations and concerns for the elections in person. I met with leadership from the two main political parties, INEC Chairman Yakubu, and civil society organizations, delivering public messages on the elections in a speech and in press engagements and private messages with key stakeholders.

That is just a summary of our Washington-focused diplomatic engagement on these elections. Our Ambassador and the Mission in Nigeria are working to advance our goals every day. My colleague from USAID will tell you more about the USAID programs in support of our three objectives. And, I can assure you that the U.S. government will remain intensely focused on the Nigerian elections in the coming months.

Expectations and Concerns 

I know many of you are watching the election closely. We share many of the areas of concern that you have voiced. We are monitoring and messaging – both publicly and privately – to mitigate a few key areas of risk that could jeopardize a free and fair process. For example:

  • potential attacks on the legitimacy of INEC and the electoral process for political gain;
  • intimidation and partisanship by security forces;
  • heightened insecurity, terrorist attacks on elections institutions, or violence towards voters, observers, or electoral officials;
  • an inability of large numbers of internally displaced persons or persons with disabilities to vote;
  • voter suppression, the use of armed gangs for voter intimidation, and other drivers of electoral violence, including a lack of official condemnation of hate speech and disinformation;
  • wide-spread vote buying that challenges the integrity of the electoral process.
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On November 18, the start of official campaigning, our Mission in Abuja released a statement with 25 like-minded missions to express our desire to see free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections, specifically naming many of these concerns. I can assure you we will be watching closely for instigators of violence or those attempting to undermine the democratic process.

Many of you have expressed particular concern about violence around these elections. I can tell you from my impressions during my travels and my previous service in Nigeria that I fear there will be some violence around these elections, as has been the case with previous elections. I do not anticipate large-scale nation-wide conflict, but rather localized violence. We are already seeing increased tensions and polarization as the election approaches. We assess that politicians are turning to narratives of identity politics in an attempt to improve their popularity, with potentially serious consequences for national unity. However, Nigeria’s political system and society have weathered such tensions before.

But, let me underscore that the U.S. government takes the risk of any loss of human life extremely seriously. As I just mentioned, preventing electoral violence is one of our three main objectives for our diplomacy and programs. When I was in Nigeria, I asked officials from both major parties to sign pledges that their candidates would conduct peaceful campaigns, and both major candidates have now signed a peace pledge. In assessing potential “hot spots” for violence, we look at places that are historically volatile around elections such as Rivers and Borno states. We look at states that are currently tense, especially if state-level politics are contentious like those in Benue, Plateau, as well as those in high-stakes locations with large populations such as Kano. We regularly engage with civil society organizations working in these “hotspots” and support their peacebuilding efforts. USAID programs and our public diplomacy campaigns also support peace campaigns across the country, such as #VoteNotFight. Through our YALI Network Nigeria campaign, Nigerians have made over 10,000 pledges to boost voter participation, reject violence, and vote with integrity.

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Conclusion

As I said in a speech in Nigeria, only the Nigerian people can determine lasting solutions and a path forward toward peace and stability. 2019 will be a significant year for Nigerian democracy – it has been 20 years since the country returned to democratic rule and this election’s youngest voters have never known a Nigeria without democracy. The upcoming elections provide Nigerians an opportunity to shape their country and solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.

 

 

Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs U.S. House of Representatives, Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations

 

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Makinde appoints Owoseni, former Lagos, Benue Commissioner of Police, Special Adviser.

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Former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Benue States, Mr. Fatai Owoseni has been appointed by the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, as his Special Adviser on Security Matters.

The Governor, according to a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, approved the appointment, which took effect from August 1.

The statement indicated that Owoseni’s appointment falls in line with the recognition of security as one of the four pillars of the Makinde administration in Oyo State.

Governor Makinde had also promised to unveil a new security architecture for the state before his first 100 days in office.

The Governor, in the letter of appointment, wished Mr. Owoseni, who has been working as a security consultant since his retirement from the police after 35 years of meritorious service, success in his new assignment.
Governor Makinde also urged Owoseni to discharge his duties with absolute loyalty and dedication.

The retired Commissioner of Police was born on August 17, 1962. He retired from the Nigeria Police with the enviable rank of Commissioner of Police earlier this year.

Owoseni, a holder of a Bachelor of Arts Bachelor in International Studies and Diplomacy from the University of Benin and a Diploma in Police Management (DPM) from the University of Jos, as well as several certificates in police and professional courses at the local and international levels, began his police career in the early 80s.

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He rose through the ranks as an Inspector of Police and became the Commissioner of Police in charge of General Investigations at the   Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID), Abuja.

He also served as the Commissioner of Police (CP) in Lagos State, the commercial capital/nerve centre of Nigeria, which has a Police strength of over 30,000 personnel, the highest in the country.

He was reputed to have served more than two years on the Lagos hot seat, ranking among the five longest-serving (out of about 35) Commissioners of Police, who had served in the State.

While on his tour of duty in Lagos, he effectively harnessed and utilised the available human and material resources to ensure the safety of lives and properties as well as providing the enabling environment for the social and economic development of the former Nigerian Federal Capital city.

He was subsequently deployed to Benue State at the height of the Herdsmen and Farmers clashes and he was reputed to have recorded remarkable achievements towards quelling the spate of violence in the food basket state.

He equally served as Commissioner of Police (Administration), at the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters, Abuja, where he made immense contributions especially by ensuring the success of the collaborations between the UNDP and the Police towards the successful conduct of the 2015 general elections.
It is also on record that Owoseni contributed immensely to the overall performance of the Nigeria Police Force in the 2015 general elections particularly in the areas of personnel training and writing/production of “Handbook on guidelines for Police Officers deployed on election duties,” (the first time ever in the Police).

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The retired Commissioner of Police also served as an Expert on Mission and Seconded Staff (at managerial level -P5 position) to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), while he made significant input (UN Police Component) into the United Nations Security Council Resolution on UNAMID, including the different levels of support programmes offered to the African Union by the United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN-DPKO).

The statement indicated that the newly-appointed Special Adviser on Security Matters is expected to bring his wealth of experience garnered over the decades through many local and international assignments to bear on the security situation in the Pacesetter State.

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Sanwo-Olu to Inaugurate Cabinet Tuesday

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Lagos State Executive Council will be fully inaugurated on Tuesday, according to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The Governor said he would not delay the swearing-in of Commissioner- and Special Adviser-designates already cleared by the State House of Assembly. He spoke at the weekend while receiving a body of retired top civil servants under the aegis of the Association of Lagos State Retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries (ALARHOSPS).

Sanwo-Olu assured  that the wheel of governance would be in full gear before the end of the coming week, in fulfillment of his campaign promise to inaugurate his cabinet within 90 days. He added that new Permanent Secretaries would also be sworn in on Monday to complement the activities of Commissioners and Special Advisers.

“Next week, by God’s grace, we are swearing in all other complements of cabinet and also Permanent Secretaries to have the engine of governance on full swing. At that point, we believe that all the campaign promises we made can come to reality and Lagosians can benefit more from the choice they made at the last election”, he added.

The cabinet members are expected to be allocated their individual ministries during the inauguration ceremony, scheduled to start at 9am.

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The Governor described the body of retired civil servants as “valuable assets” to the state, noting that their actions while in service contributed to the “enviable height” Lagos attained among states in the nation.

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See Names Of New Oyo Commissioners And Their Portfolios

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Oyo State Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde has assigned portfolios for the 14 commissioners screened and cleared by the Oyo State House of Assembly recently.

The inauguration of the commissioner was held on Thursday, at the Exco Chambers of the Governor’s office, Agodi Secretariat,  Ibadan,  the state capital.

Find below the Commissioners’ names and portfolios:

 

1. Hon Barrister Adeniyi John Farinto – Commissioner for Budget & Planning

2. Mr Adeniyi Adebisi – Commissioner for Commerce

3. Hon Muyiwa Jacob Ojekunle – Commissioner for Agriculture

4. Prof Oyelowo Oyewo – Commissioner for Justice

5. Barrister Olasunkanmi Olaleye – Commissioner for Establishment

6. Barrister Seun Asamu – Commissioner for Energy

7. Mr Rahman Abiodun AbdulRaheem – Commissioner for Land

8. Chief Bayo Lawal – Commissioner for Special Duties

9. Hon Funmilayo Orisadeyi – Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftancy Matters

10. Dr Bashir Bello – Commissioner for Health

11. Hon Wasiu Olatunbosun – Commissioner for Information

12. Prof Daud kehinde Sangodoyin – Commissioner for Education

13. Mr Akinola Ojo – Commissioner for Finance

14. Rt Hon Kehinde Ayoola – Commissioner for Environment.

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