Do we really have a choice? The 2019 elections, our reality amidst hopes and dreams by Chiamaka Mogo

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By Maryam Amodu

"The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership." - Chinua Achebe

It is not debatable whether the Nigerian elections of 2019 were free or fair, talk less of it being safe! It wasn’t. Period. To the families that lost loved ones who probably were only trying to vote, as they were encouraged, how can we lie to their faces? It was not a successful example of citizens having the right to elect their leader. It was merely a show of intimidation; using military powers to scare people into not voting, a display of our failing electoral commission, and an embarrassing security situation that made it possible for children to vote, thugs and even law enforcement to steal ballot boxes unchallenged and the announcement of fake results. 

Still, after all this drama, in 2019, where some would have hoped for less corrupt outcomes, with all the youth that challenged the so-called system, the disappointment from the elections somehow have not yet ended. Results were challenged in court, and several re-elections took place in some states. Buildings kept collapsing, literally and somehow, people still gathered the courage to vote again, I remain in awe of the tenacity that is the Nigerian spirit. Despite the frustrations and complaints, we consistently elect leaders who have the audacity to promise us a better future. Change! Right?

Nigeria has more than a few issues, poverty in big shouting letters, frustration in the air and the ever-puzzling situation of some living their best lives amidst such chaos because they can afford to. I want to start a conversation about what we seemingly cannot afford as Nigerian citizens, not just in terms of what the value of our currency can get us, but in terms of the rights we cannot afford to exercise right now, and what kind of future we can actually afford to dream about or expect.

A bill just passed, allowing minimum wage to rise from 18,000 Naira to 30,000 Naira per month. Most Nigerians get paid once a month, this means that the average minimum wage earner goes home with an equivalent of about 83 USD for the entire month. That alone is bothersome. So, as Nigerians, we live in a socio-political climate where economically, the citizens are left to wallow in difficulty, where the oppression from the “rich” in society and harassment by military and police are beyond disheartening. There is inadequacy in opportunity, social infrastructure and little support from governmental institutions or others. What is the value of democracy?

If the 2019 elections taught us anything, it was that our government institutions are fundamentally faulty, and unreliable at best. At a time where it seemed like the mental barriers were being broken, among the educated and politically/socially interested youth, it was more than a little disappointing that the system won against the hopes of many. Younger than usual presidential aspirants as well as in various levels of government did campaign and even gained popularity, women came out boldly and were noticed, this time around, but Nigeria was not ready. Not because the people just would not vote them, but because it is not an electoral system where independent candidates, or candidates of less popular parties stand a fair chance at the seat of power. The mere process of voting on paper, collating and announcing mismatched results for days, military intimidation and violence against citizens set us up for failure. Also, let us not pretend about the rigging! 

The point is, when your economic future is bleak and your life is threatened if you walk down the street to vote, you would honestly care less about who becomes President or Governor. If you are somewhat optimistic, you vote the better of two major terrible options for candidates. Some give up on voting and the electoral system altogether. It is the democracy that works in many African nations; it is what has been working to keep unaccountable leaders powerful and in control of the resources, opportunities and potential of the citizens. As people who do not get a truly democratic governmental process, we cannot seem to afford to cast meaningful votes, neither can we afford to demand and expect excellent governance. I think we all long for a Nigeria where we can afford to dream of an ideal future. For now, it seems to me that we remain trapped in the hustle of trying to escape hopeless situations. 

So I ask, do we really have a choice? When we try against all odds and end up at the same spot, that is regressive progress. Is it really possible for Nigerians to demand living conditions and resources that allow them flourish mentally, physically and economically? What do you think?

Announcing the Winner of the IIDN Essay Writing Contest by Chiamaka Mogo

By Ellen Edet

On April 23rd, 2018, the Initiative for Inclusive Dialogue in Nigeria (IIDN) launched a call for essay submissions on the topic - What good governance means to me”. We are now very pleased to share that the winner of the writing contest is Nnadi Obioma Jnr. He is a JSS3 student of Assumption Secondary School, Lagos state, Nigeria. IIDN had the opportunity to speak with Nnadi by phone to share the good news and to learn more about his motivations and future plans. This essay is a reflection on some of the things that he shared, during that call. 

When school is in session, Nnadi stays with his uncle in Lagos. On the other hand, when he is on holiday - for example, this past Christmas - he goes home to his family in Enugu state, Nigeria. 

Nnadi was initially introduced to news and political affairs in Nigeria, by the same uncle that he resides with during the school term. It is a tradition to listen to the 7 a.m. news on the radio and also, to watch the news at night with his uncle. 

Nnadi is constantly interested in writing essays and participates in a lot of them. He came across IIDN’s writing contest during one of his routine searches for essay contests online. He was intrigued by the topic for our contest - “What good governance means to me”, and given that the state of Nigeria at the time (the Boko Haram crisis, etc.) called for good governance, he decided to participate and share his views. 

In the future, Nnadi would like to be an architect. He says that he has received a lot of compliments regarding his drawing skills and structure modeling using paper. He would like to concentrate on building architecture, and looks up to an architect in Enugu as a role model. 

Nnadi mentioned that while he would like to buy a device to use to access Nigerian and world news online, the essay contest prize (awarded on January 12, 2019) would be better served towards paying for his Junior Secondary School Exam (JSSE), given that he is in JSS3.

He is looking forward to senior secondary, reading more news and participating in even more essay contests.

Well done, Nnadi!

Thank you so much to the Vancouver Women’s Library (now-defunct) for being a generous, co-sponsor of the contest prize. Many thanks to Misrak Tekle, who is an Ethiopian human rights lawyer, for helping the IIDN team to review submissions.

Do you know the rights you have as a health services user in Nigeria? by Chiamaka Mogo

By: Maryam Amodu

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If you or anyone you know has ever used the Nigerian healthcare system, there is much to discuss. After many years of developing the proposed bill, Nigeria finally released a National Health Act (NHA) in 2014. The Act outlines how health services are organized and delivered in Nigeria. In addition, the act clarifies the arms of government responsible for services, as well as the rights and obligations of stakeholders within the healthcare system. As a patient or a user of this system, you are entitled to some rights.

Emergency Treatment: You have a right to receive medical attention in the event of an emergency. It is illegal by Nigerian law to refuse anyone emergency medical treatment. This might sound too good to be true or unrealistic to the typical Nigerian. How many times have we heard the unfortunate story of someone who lost his or her life because they could not afford treatment deposits? The National Health Act of 2014 clearly stipulates in Part III: Rights and Obligations of Users and Health Care Personnel under section 21 (1) that - “A health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person Emergency treatment for any reason whatsoever”. Section 21(2) of the Act goes on to determine that any guilty person is liable to a fine of 100,000 Naira or up to 6 months imprisonment. Some might argue that the punishment could be extended, but that remains another story.

Record Keeping and Confidentiality: Any health establishment that you visit is required by law to prepare a record of your stay, treatment and other necessary information to be held in strict confidentiality, except in the case(s) where you require access to that information or provide written consent for it to be released. No, it is not okay for your doctor or nurse to disclose your test results or state of health to a third party, except they have your consent to do so. Of course, the exception to release such information arises if it is a threat to public health, or if the individual is not capable of giving consent (such as minors, or if the person is determined “unwise” as defined by the act), or if the records have been court ordered. Your personal information should actively be protected.

Laying Complaints: You have a right to complain about the quality of service you receive at a health establishment. According to Section 30 of the National Health Act (2014), under the Rights and Obligations section, you can lay your complaints if you feel treated unfairly, and the complaint should be investigated. Not only do you have the right to complain, the manager of the establishment is responsible for making sure the procedure for laying complaints is displayed visibly at the location where health services are provided, and that clients are regularly informed that they can in fact, make complaints.

Organs should not be Sold/Bought: This should go without saying, but according to the NHA Part VI section 4 (4), any person who charges a fee for the donation of a human organ could be imprisoned for a minimum of 5 years. It is not uncommon for the altruistic purpose of organ donation to get exploited. In fact, there exists a complicated web of underground/black market buyers and sellers of organs, not just in Nigeria but all over the world. The key reasons why organs should not become commodities include the global issues regarding who has access to organ transplants and the scarcity of organs (donated). By selling organs, it is impossible to protect the vulnerable being exploited for the sake of financial gain. It only further decreases access to organs for those who would not be able to afford one (literally). The argument does still persist internationally on whether people should have the right to sell their own organs. In Nigeria at least, we know for sure that it is illegal according to the NHA.

Granted, it is not always the case that these rights and many others as explicitly stated in the National Health Act (2014) are enforced. It is however, useful for citizens to know that they have these rights, especially in cases where their vulnerability is being exploited for profit. Every human deserves emergency treatment without being asked to pay first, privacy and the right to life should never be compromised in a public or private health establishment. The first step to enforcing your rights is knowing about them. You should share this information with those you love and demand your rights. Copies of the Act are available online (see references for a link) for you to access. Most of the time, free knowledge is never popular, but maybe we can change that. 

References

WHO | The state of the international organ trade: a provisional picture based on integration of available information. (2018). Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/85/12/06-039370/en/ 

National Assembly. National Health Act (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.nass.gov.ng/document/download/7990

IIDN Writing Contest: Call for submissions by Chiamaka Mogo

The Initiative for Inclusive Dialogue in Nigeria (IIDN) is pleased to launch a writing contest, targeted at JSS 1 through to JSS 3 students in Lagos, Nigeria. Essay submissions must be on the topic: What Good Governance Means to Me. 

Submission deadline is 11:00pm on August 1, 2018 (EXTENDED from May 20, 2018).

Writing contest requirements at a glance:

  • Contestant should currently be enrolled as a JSS 1, JSS 2 or JSS 3 student in Lagos, Nigeria. 
  • Essay submission should be between 500 to 800 words (maximum) in length.
  • Please email your essay to: info@iidnigeria.org. Signify in the subject line of your email that you are participating in the writing contest.
  • Essay can also be sent in by contestant's self-identified guardian - in this case, please state clearly why the contestant is unable to send the email by him or herself.  
  • Each essay submission should clearly identify the names of the contestant, class and school enrolled in.
  • By participating in this contest, each contestant gives IIDN permission to publish the submitted essay (names included) on the IIDN website, should we choose to.

There are three prizes to be won:

  • 1st prize: 15,000 naira
  • 2nd prize: 10,000 naira
  • 3rd prize: 5,000 naira

We look forward to reading submissions from the future leaders. Let the writing begin! Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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IIDN Feature: Betty Abah on her journey of tackling equity shortfalls in Lagos slums by Chiamaka Mogo

By: Melody 'Melly' Akinduro

Betty Abah

Betty Abah

Betty Abah’s interests in social change, equality and equity in Nigeria have directed her to challenge human rights violations and have guided her campaigns for social justice in the nation. Betty is the founder of the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE Nigeria) - one of her biggest platforms where she directs her activism in empowering and fighting for the rights of vulnerable children in Nigeria. I am so privileged to feature one of my role models — an influencer and social activist doing astounding works in Nigeria, on behalf of the Initiative for Inclusive Dialogue in Nigeria. Be inspired:

Tell us a little about yourself

I am Betty Iganya Abah. I am a writer and activist. I was born in Otukpo in Benue State, North Central Nigeria around the mid-1970’s. My parents hail from Orokam, a Benue ‘border community’ sandwiched between Benue and Enugu States. My favourite quote is ‘With God, nothing is impossible.’ My guiding principle in life is — do good, it not only enriches humanity but it comes back to you in several folds. 

Please tell us about the social issues that you have been tackling

I have always been involved in working with and for the voiceless minority in the society, mostly women and children. In the last couple of years, with CEE-HOPE, I have been involved with children and young persons in urban slums, excluded and impoverished rural areas and generally, on children rights issues. Makoko which is reputedly the largest slum settlement in West Africa (with about 100, 000 inhabitants) is the site of our biggest programs with children, especially at-risk girls. We are involved in various initiatives aimed at the empowerment of vulnerable girls and children in general. We are also a child’s rights organization. Our work currently impacts children in six states across Nigeria. 

You founded the organization, CEE-HOPE, which aims at empowering, vulnerable and marginalized children in Nigeria. What programs does CEE-HOPE offer to implement her vision?

At CEE-HOPE, our signature program is the Girls-Go-for-Greatness (‘Triple G’) program which works on the rehabilitation of pregnant and teenage mothers, sexually abused and indigent girls. Our intervention, among other things, involves educational scholarship and girl leadership trainings. We also run the Hope Ambassadors’ Club which involves engaging, empowering and engaging children and young people in general in impoverished communities on a number of issues and initiatives. One of the things we are also bringing in to the Hope Ambassadors’ club is our environmental awareness campaigns since most of them live in coastal communities. It is our belief that the society is more progressive, safer and better if the critical mass of youngsters in underserved and impoverished areas are empowered and become assets to the society rather than a liability or threat as they are prone to most times, due to the prevalent neglects, those areas breed ‘children of anger’ as we have seen in the instances of Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants. Our projects entail sensitizing them to know their rights and also bringing government closer to them.

What have been some of the most effective and successful interventions of CEE-HOPE?

I think our work with children in Lagos slum communities have been the most profound for me, and that reality has fired us to extend it to other places both within and outside Lagos. Also, our work in fighting for the housing and human rights of children impacted or threatened with forced eviction in Lagos, be it in Makoko, Badia East or Otodo-Gbame. The latter is the hugest so far, involving the forcing out of more than 32, 000 people from a fishing settlement (despite a court injunction) because they happen to live on a beautiful island that got the attention of some powerful persons in government or close to the seat of power. Many of our beneficiaries were affected in the violent, unprecedented onslaught on the urban poor at Otodo Gbame. We embarked on a frenzied campaign, global media also weighed in. An NGO worked with the community and sued the Lagos State government, and in June last year, they won the government in their own court. We hope the government will do the needful and settle them, but for us, it’s quite exciting because the judgment also gave relief to hundreds of thousands of people in other similarly targeted settlements across the state. The shabby way the urban poor, including innocent children are treated in Lagos and elsewhere in the so-called quest for urbanization is simply unconscionable. The poor also have rights to the city and there are more humane and inclusive ways of running ‘a mega city’ than the brutal and sledgehammer approach that currently obtains here.

What advice would you give to others who want to start their own organization that addresses controversial social issues in Nigeria?

To keep their messages simple and straightforward and never be afraid to speak truth to power or shy away from looking the powerful in the eyes. But much more important, to do it with passion and sincerity. Integrity takes you farther than your talents. When you know your stand and stay consistently by it, eventually you will prevail.

Can you tell us a fun fact about you?

Wow, I am a plantain person! I believe I am one of the reasons why God created the plantain, LOL. I eat fried, boiled, roasted and chipped plantains, all sorts. I actually use raw ones for ‘fruit salad’. I stop by the roadsides to buy roasted plantains or plantain chips. The sight and taste of fried plantain complete with omelet with lots of red pepper lifts my moods any day! 

How can people connect with you?

Website: www.cee-hope.org ; Email: info@cee-hope.org , ceehopeng@gmail.com; Twitter: @ceehopenigeria ; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeeHopeNG/; Phone: +234-703-203-8897

Betty Abah (seated third on front row) with volunteers from Makoko and CEE-HOPE staff after an event in 2016 (Caption provided by Betty Abah)

Betty Abah (seated third on front row) with volunteers from Makoko and CEE-HOPE staff after an event in 2016 (Caption provided by Betty Abah)

IIDN holds Good Governance Training with Children and Youths from the Makoko Area of Lagos State, Nigeria by Chiamaka Mogo

From right - IIDN President, Chiamaka Mogo, CEE-Hope Founder, Betty Abah, with children and youths in attendance from Makoko, Lagos State.

From right - IIDN President, Chiamaka Mogo, CEE-Hope Founder, Betty Abah, with children and youths in attendance from Makoko, Lagos State.

On August 3rd, 2017, IIDN partnered with the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-Hope), to deliver a good governance seminar, to twenty-five youth who are mentored by CEE-Hope. Twenty-four out of these children and youth are from the Makoko area of Lagos State, while one youth was visiting from Ogun State. Children and youth from Makoko were the pre-planned target audience for this educational seminar delivered by IIDN. Given the attendance record, that goal was accomplished. The audience ranged from primary, to senior secondary-school-aged persons. The latter were significantly more in number then the former.

Makoko is a low-income community in Lagos State, that is significantly vulnerable, due to minimal government intervention. Many in the Makoko communities rely on fishing for income. Also, Makoko, like some other slum communities in Lagos State, is prone to State-sponsored evictions.

CEE-Hope has an impressive and inspiring record of working with children and youths from Makoko, in the manner of mentorships and educational scholarships, amongst others. This is why IIDN approached the organization for what we envisaged would be an impactful partnership. In particular, a partnership that will enlighten this young generation from Makoko, on sustainable good governance measures and thereby, also sensitizing them towards the implications of better governance. The young people in every society, are that nation’s future and this is why one of IIDN’s main mandates is to educate Nigerian youths on good governance measures. 

The presentation made by IIDN, focused on four (out of several) main measures of good governance (accountability, transparency, equity and participation) as they relate to Nigeria, and the success of any society. When IIDN asked if any of them aspires to be a politician, there was visible hesitation and disdain to the idea of being a politician, and no one in the room opted for such an ambition. IIDN then asked if this was as a result of the way they observe politics being done in Nigeria, and there were nods of approval. 

We used our presentation to emphasize that politics can be a medium for positive impact, if it is done well. Thus, also, sensitizing the young audience to public governance roles. Certainly, significant amelioration in the way governments are run in Nigeria, can foster a change of that mindset on politics. Through our presentation, IIDN also explained to participants, that governance may be required in roles that are not politics-oriented, and emphasizing to them that where there is governance, there should be - accountability, transparency, equity and participation.

IIDN initiated a brief quizzing session after the presentation to test understanding. We are very pleased to report that participants were quick to pick up new information and quite engaging to teach! After our presentation, Betty Abah, Founder of CEE-Hope expressed interest in having IIDN participate during their girls’ ICT summer camp program that is to be held around mid-August of 2017. This invitation was for IIDN, another measure of an impactful event with the children and youths from Makoko. 

This seminar was sponsored by two of IIDN’s supporters - Eby’s Tea and the African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative (AFMESI).