Keynote address by Comrade Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL at the Summit on Civic Education #EkitiVote2018 organised by Ekiti Project Vote 2018 at Christ School Alumni Hall, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria on 22 February, 2018
I must express my delight and appreciation for the honour and privilege of being Chairman/Keynote Speaker at this all important and very auspicious Summit on Civic Education organized by #EkitiVote2018. I am truly humbled and doubly honoured as I have also been nominated for the esteemed ‘The 2018-2019 Ekiti Project Vote Role Model /Ambassador Award’, just as I thank the organisers for deeming me worthy of this honour.
The significance of today’s event at such a crucial and decisive period when our country, Nigeria is preparing for yet another set of elections coming up between 2018 and 2019 cannot be overemphasized considering that the coming electoral processes present another opportunity for Nigerians to decide those that would govern them in the nearest future through the ballot.
Our Vote, Our future
The theme of the Summit “Ekiti 2018: Our Vote Our Future” is very apt based on the nexus it highlights; that is the connectivity between voting in the present and the socio-political and economic consequences on the society in future. As they say the people deserve the kind of leadership get because they through their votes establish a social contract between them and those that govern.
The importance of voting as a civic responsibility is paramount to the success of democracy as it is the only legitimate way to participate in deciding how governments emerge and the means through which the people can take control of their socio-economic destiny indirectly through their elected representatives. By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values enshrined in the founding document, that is, the constitution of the country.
The voting process empowers and grants the people the right to voice their opinion, and agree with or disapprove of the actions taken by the stewards of public trust, who we help put into office to represent us. Many people do not exercise this right yet they will bash, ridicule, make declarations about and slander the people elected into office and the government itself and ultimately condemn themselves to a fate of ‘suffering and smiling’.
It is instructive to highlight that with the experience of recent elections, particularly the 2015 general elections, the chaos that hitherto characterized our electoral system have been greatly diminished whereby the votes of the people are evidently counting as the country’s democratization process deepens.
If as a people we are worried about the trajectory and direction of our country, if we are concerned about our fate as a people; then we must bring down the walls of apathy by shunning petty sulking and complaining, we should instead take action by performing our civic responsibilities.
We must accept that the present in terms of governance performance is as a result of the choices we made in the past elections in same the way our future socio-economically will be determined by our voting patterns in the oncoming elections.
It is based on the foregoing that civil populace must be enlightened on the consequences of their actions or inactions as far as carrying out their civic responsibility of voting is concerned particularly.
It therefore behove on the civil society organizations, community based organizations, political parties and relevant government agencies especially the National Orientation Agency, NOA and the Independent National Election Commission, INEC to make concerted efforts in the civic education of the people. Efforts such as this summit and other strategic tools must be deployed in reaching the minds of the people achieve a populace that is at all times conscious of their civic responsibilities.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, less than 40% of registered voters [28 million out of 58 million in 2015]; meaning less than 20% of our total population have been deciding our fate as a nation through their votes in elections! With less than 20% of the population that have been voting; the reality is that the winners of the [presidential] elections have been elected by less than 10% of the population [in 2015, the winner of the election had less than 15 million votes out of a population of more than 160 million in total]. With our population being very youthful, the number of registered voters in Nigeria should be within the range of 90 million to 100 million people!
The implication of all these is that only a minority of our population has been participating in elections, even worse, is that our leaders have been elected by an even a smaller minority of our population.
We must wake our people from their sleepless slumbers; we must facilitate a qualitative and quantitative collective consciousness that would enhance the participation of the silent majority. It is such a consciousness that can galvanize people to getting registered on the voters register; getting their PVCs; participating in the campaigns by interrogating the candidates and parties with the coming elections.
Quintessentially, it is significant to point out that routine election as a democratic practice does not necessarily translate to collective control of the socio-economic existence of the people. Even though our constitution provides for government to ensure the socio-economic rights of the people whereby their security and social wellbeing is prioritized in a way that the wealth of the people is not concentrated in a few hands as required of a democracy, the aberration of this reality is what obtains.
Consequently, as the 2018 – 2019 elections approach and with the excruciating conditions of living of the majority, Nigerians must rise in unison to struggle for the assertion of their socio-economic rights as dialectically required components of a democracy under best practices. Chapter 2 of the Nigerian constitution should be the guide in the choices we make in the elections by ensuring that the governments at all levels commit to the security and social welfare of the populace before earning their votes.
The economic practice of neo-liberalism that has continued to be imposed on country by successive governments is antithetical to democracy given that it has only succeeded in widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The Bretton Woods institution dictated neo-liberal policies which have failed almost in every country it had been imbibed must be abandoned to achieve a socio-economically harmonious existence of the people.
Beyond elections, Nigerians must invigorate the struggles for social emancipation holistically because the present status quo will perpetually ensure penury in their lives if the system is not overhauled and replaced with a more humane one that would guarantee the social welfare and security of life and property. Today, if Beko was to be alive, he shall definitely lead the campaign for socio-economic rights, not campaign for one thieving party or the other through the rituals of four yearly balloting:
SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE: LET’S DEMAND FOR ITS ENFORCEABILITY IN THE COURTS OF LAW AS NIGERIANS:
- The right of all Nigerians to work and to be well remunerated must be recognized
- Right of all to be well Sheltered – Housing for all
- Right to Education at all levels at the expense of the State
- Right to receive medical treatment at the expense of the State
- Social Welfare Schemes for Nigerians, for the aged and physically and mentally challenged
- Unemployment Benefit Package for all adults that not productively engaged.
- Fair wages for fair labour
- Management of the commanding heights of the national economy for the benefits of the entire nation and never concentrated in the hands of a cabal.
- Bridge the gaps between the wretched and the super-rich, economic inequalities and social injustice.
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” — Frantz Fanon
The electorates of Ekiti must shun amala and ‘stomach infrastructure’ politics now, and that is the generation role history has imposed on us. Once again, I thank the organizers for this delightful opportunity, I am humbled.
Thank you all for your attention. Long Live Ekiti! Long Live Nigeria!!
Executive Chairman, CACOL