Friday 20 March 2015

Nigeria 2015 Elections Postponement and its Effects by Donald Inwalomhe. Part 2.

Already attention has been shifted away from core economic programmes to politics and campaign, bad enough, the 2015 budget is yet to be considered and approved by the National Assembly as a result of these activities. We are faced with worst scenario especially if the legislature decides to politicize its legislative assignments. The budget might end up not being passed until after the May 29th transition period. It is not pleasing that the President is currently financing the 2015 budget outside appropriation, considering the fact that the current exchange rate of the naira would make such expenses risky. What is most worrisome is that if the budget is not timely passed so as to become law, it would pose a great challenge for the incoming government to reconcile expenditure already made outside the budget and those approved from the budget. The effect of the election postponement has already suggested uncertainty in the economy, it has lowered investors confidence in the nation’s stock exchange. Foreign investors are already withdrawing their investment from the Nigerian stock exchange.

The process of implementing economic growth policies would be slow; since the incoming government will not be known until after March 28th. In the face of dwindling oil funds, this is certainly not the time for Nigeria to toy with any activities that would revamp its revenue profile; not even the 2015elections. In a special report titled ‘Nigeria: Postponed Polls: Protracted Uncertainty Weighs on Naira’, the international investment and financial advisory firm, Renaissance Capital said by postponing the election, the authorities have further exposed the weakness of the local currency in the face of continued depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves.

Besides, the postponement is in line with the provision in section 26 sub section one of the electoral act 2010 amended. Basically, the insecurity occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgents in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States were among reasons why the security agents advised INEC for the postponement, saying that it cannot guarantee the security of voters, personnel and materials for the elections under the circumstance.

According to Prof. Jega under such circumstances, INEC had no option than to postpone the elections. However, INEC had been contending with the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC), as millions of registered voters have been unable to collect their PVC as at the time of the announcement of the postponement by INEC Chairman, despite the extension of the collection exercise.

With the postponement of the elections due to insecurity in parts of the country, it therefore means that the Boko Haram insurgency which has been treated as a non issue by the military and Federal government has become a serious issue over night.

The postponement reminds Nigerians of the thankless role of the judiciary in the annulment of the 1993 general elections must necessarily become a warning in the light of the myriads of pre-election lawsuits currently pending in court ahead of the March 28 and April 11 polls. There are no fewer than five lawsuits seeking declaration that President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party is ineligible to stand re-election. As many as 10 separate suits are pending, wherein the court has been urged to disqualify the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) from the election.

Nigeria deserves this democracy, which, in the words of a prominent professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Itse Sagay, has become the minimum standard for a civilised existence. Indeed, democracy has been equated to the most basic fundamental human right of a people.

Inwalomhe Donald, Researcher, Benin City, Nigeria.

Nigeria 2015 Elections Postponement and its Effects by Donald Inwalomhe. Part 1.

The Nigerian Presidential election rescheduled to 28 March has been beset by controversy. This special report for the Liberator blog is by Donald Inwalomhe, a journalists for several national Nigerian newspapers, who works with a network to monitor the elections, and has been warning for several years of the threat in the north posed by Boko Haram.

THE general election earlier scheduled in February, 2015 has been postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to March 28 (Presidential and national assembly) and April 11, (governorship and state assemblies) 2015, Announcing the postponement on Saturday 7th February, 2015 in a press briefing, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega told Nigerians that the postponement was due to security report by the Service chiefs of the security agencies in Nigeria. The postponement is already having some cost implications on Nigerians. If not well managed, we might lose much of our economic projections for 2015 and further plunged into more hardship. With the postponement, various stakeholders have incurred several forms of loses.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has vowed to disrupt Nigeria’s general election in a new video released recently, after several suicide attacks in the northeast blamed on the Islamists killed many people. In the ninth minutes of the video which lasted for 11 minutes 57 seconds, Shekau began to talk about Nigeria’s 2015 election, stating that, it will not hold in peace. “This election will not be held even if we are dead. Even if we are not alive Allah will never allow you to do it,” Shekau said in the Hausa language, presumably referring to the polls scheduled for March 28. The video appeared to be the first message released by the group on Twitter, a sign of its changing media tactics after previous messages were distributed to journalists on DVD. Shekau was shown in unusual clarity in front of a solid blue background, dressed in black and with an automatic weapon resting to his right.

The international and local observers had already counted their losses. The apprehension which might arise from the outcome of the February 14, 2015 elections also made companies to suspend major profitable ventures during the election period. Some traders closed their shops or rather refused to replace their stocks thereby recording low turnover. The political parties have deployed massive funds in all of the 36 states. However, with the six weeks extension, the political parties would need to continue the engagement process with their supporters in various cost-driven activities. More town hall meetings, rallies and air time would be paid as adverts in the electronic and print media. This extension would definitely be a cost burden on the small parties. The economy also has its own share in the cost of election postponement.

Monday 16 March 2015

Election Preparations

The extraordinary public attack on Tim Farron and his judgment by the Liberal Democrats' General Election Chair Paddy Ashdown was viewed with raised eyebrows by those who remembered his desperate attempts to pursue "The Project" with Tony Blair in 1997-8.

This has quickly been followed by an orchestrated attack on Farron in today's Times [paywalled] after a pretty innocuous piece in the Mail on Sunday.  Meanwhile a lot of people have been working to generate publicity for Norman Lamb after the intrusive tabloid piece about his family members yesterday.

Lamb appears to have handled this very well, gaining momentum for his work to transform mental health care.  What Tim Farron hasn't said so far (but others can) is that perhaps Lord Ashdown's focus should be on voters in key areas, as Tim's is on his constituents; and that winning as many seats as possible on 7 May is perhaps more important.

After all, it does rather seem that the election preparations going on in some places are not being made with the General Election in mind.

Whoever authored the attack on the handling of the foreign affairs brief was not thinking of the leadership's judgment in staying almost entirely silent on international issues this Parliament; in forsaking Ministerial roles at the FCO and MOD; or indeed in appointing Tim Farron to the foreign affairs role.

Sunday 1 March 2015

The half truths of apologists for Putin's agression in Ukraine.

After my article on Ukraine was published in February's Liberator 370, Liberal colleague Geoff Woodcock asked what I made of a review of a book in the Guardian on the Ukraine crisis.

'Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa review – an unrivalled account' Jonathan Steele, 19 February 2015.

The review appears to show a lot of the ideological and political assumptions behind it – for me it is typical of the more thought out excuses given by 'left wing' and 'right wing' commentators to make excuses for the Russian state's war in South East Ukraine.

I think many of the basic points in this review are correct. But as with most of the articles that are basically hostile to the Kyiv government and make excuses for the fighting in the East, it is very one sided. I don't know whether the book is like that but the review is. The war in two parts of SE Ukraine, and the terrorism in other cities, would not be happening without the Russian state fuelling it. It is not a civil war (as some commentators like to overstate it) or popular uprising, it is an orchestrated destruction of government control over a major industrial region. A Lib Dem commentator called Matthew Green wrote a blog on Putin / Ukraine recently where he detailed a Facebook argument with a critic of the Kyiv government. He made the point I've just repeated "This is interesting because it is largely accurate on the core facts." There is elements of truth in criticisms of the 'Ukrainian side' and certainly of how NATO / the EU and US have handled things, but all of this is used to wash over the fact that Putin's Russia is fuelling a war in a neighbouring country that is not what people in that country want.

Matthew Green's blog is here: 'How far will liberals go to defend their values? Putin poses the question.' I don't agree with all of it as it makes some of the kind of sweeping statements that the Putin apologists make on their side. In the Jonathan Steele review of Sakwa it is typical 'us against them' rhetoric.

I have always blamed Thatcher and Bush for the collapse in the former Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, a great crime that they failed to support Mikhail Gorbachev with a Marshall Plan. I also think the expansion of NATO is ludicrous and that the EU failed to sufficiently take account of genuine Russian interests. But NATO, the US, the EU have not caused a war in Ukraine.

"Even today at this late stage, a declaration of Ukrainian non-alignment as part of an internationally negotiated settlement, and UN Security Council guarantees of that status, would bring instant de-escalation and make a lasting ceasefire possible in eastern Ukraine." This seems totally naïve as it involves trusting Vladimir Putin and you cannot trust Vladimir Putin. He has already breached such an agreement.

"Russia’s angry reaction to provocations in Georgia in 2008" means Russia's retaliatory punitive invasion of Georgia - provoked by Georgia but a grossly disproportionate response. "the EU has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic alliance." is simply left wing ridiculous conspiracy nonsense. He (Steele or Sakwa) are entirely correct that crimes / war crimes committed against separatists supporters or on civilians by the Ukrainian army are not apparently acknowledged or investigated. That is appalling. I agree that there is this fictitious national myth by the Ukrainian state of some idealistic historic Ukrainian nation. A myth, a construct, like all the nation myths in Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

From my experience in a large Russian speaking city in the South East I entirely agree with this passage:

"The alternative “pluralist” view emphasises the different historical and cultural experiences of Ukraine’s various regions and argues that building a modern democratic post-Soviet Ukrainian state is not just a matter of good governance and rule of law at the centre. It also requires an acceptance of bilingualism, mutual tolerance of different traditions, and devolution of power to the regions."

Delivering this would not satisfy Putin and his agents though as their work appears to be to fundamentally undermine independent Ukrainian statehood. There are many reports of industrial plant and equipment from Donetsk and Luhansk being systematically dismantled and taken back to Russia. The voices of the million and a half displaced people (as many of them, maybe more to Russia as to other parts of Ukraine) and pro-Ukraine people in Donetsk and Luhansk are silenced by the mercenaries' take over of those regions.

Kiron Reid.