Nigeria

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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