Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that former Vice President of the World Bank and 2019 Presidential candidate, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili seeks to inspire better citizens engagement in the political process with her novel initiative known as #FixPolitics
A quest to understand the interconnection between politics and economic performance in a democratic society motivated Richard von Weizacker fellowship and research study at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, Germany, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili has said.
She stated this at the public launch of #FixPolitics, where she presented findings from her fellowship research on how to fix politics in Nigeria and Africa more broadly.
Ezekwesili invited 124 Nigerians from diverse fields of endeavour and geopolitical zones to collaborate on designing the research findings over the last one year as a Work Study Group. The group is the co-leadership organ responsible for an integrated citizens-led actions to fix the broken political system.
She pointed out that politics in Nigeria was not fulfilling the core requirement of a democratic system, which was to provide good governance for the common wellbeing of citizens.
“My research findings primarily reinforce that the poor state of affairs in Nigeria is the consequence of the quality of politics at play. Politics is at the heart of everything any society can or will become. The essential process of democracy is not complete without politics,” the 2019 Nigerian Presidential candidate said.
In her study, she established primarily that in a democratic system, “there are three triangular pillars which determine the kind of outcomes that politics will produce for the people.
Explaining the concept, the former World Bank Vice President said, “On the right angle or demand side of the triangle is the electorate; on the left or supply side is the politicians, political class and parties; and at the top is the regulatory – constitutional, legal, electoral and institutional context within which the politics happen.”
According to her, these tripod pillars create an interconnecting network of actions that determine the outcomes of every political system.
“Every pillar or angle of the triangle must function effectively and concurrently with the other two to enable the right quality of politics that will deliver strong economic performance for a people.
“In evaluating the outcome of politics in Nigeria and Africa, my study established that the quality of the electorate, quality of political class and quality and lack of independence and capacity of political institutions constitute a structural and systemic problem for democracy and must therefore be fixed by citizens,” Ezekwesili said.
She also said, “The research found that Nigeria is ridden with politicians without competing ideas of how to solve the problems of citizens, who lack a culture of public service and subordinate the common good to their personal and narrow interests.
“The constitutional, legal, institutional and regulatory environment is compromised by the political class to more frequently act without independence, fairness and adherence to the rule of law. The political space is thus completely monopolised by the supply side of governance, that is the political class, thereby causing political, economic and social stagnation for the nation and people.
“Currently in our politics, voters generally lack the level of influence necessary to compel the right political processes and good outcomes that serve the good of all in society.
“The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good.”
To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system.”
She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance.”
Delivering a keynote address, former President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said there was an enormous gap between the interests of the citizens and that of the politicians, which he saw as a major problem to a democratic setting.
“To fix politics in Nigeria, the citizens and the politicians must work together and represent the same in practical life,” he said.
Calderon further said that “citizens must change their perception of politics and political participation rather than holding to a view that politics is for corrupt and dishonest people.”
According to him, corrupt people are quite the opposite of what politics stands. “To fix politics is what happens when the people participate and take responsibility to provide political participation with ethical sense and ethical parameters,” Calderon added.
In a goodwill message, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said politics should be seen as an inclusive love affair and if institutionally implemented, “Africa will witness a great change in its democratic system.”
While dissecting the dynamics of democracy, three intergenerational panels with discussants like Prof. Atahiru Jega, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aisha Yesufu, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Jude Abaga (also known as M.I Abaga), Cynthia Mbamalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Samson Itodo, among others, agreed that there was an emerging consensus to fix politics in Nigeria as the status quo was untenable and unsustainable.
Speakers like Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Ayo Sogunro, Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje highlighted that “there is a need for young people and women to fully engage in partisan politics, create platforms for political engagement, use politics as a tool for framing a shared vision based on a new dominant value orientation of public service, connect the elite with the grassroots and mobilise the Nigerian public to mount pressure on the legislature for the right constitutional and electoral changes.”
Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Fakhrriyah Hashim and Adamolekun spoke at the first panel session titled, “Is there an Emerging Consensus to Fix Politics?” Dr. Jibo Ibrahim moderated the discussion.
Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed was joined by Aboyeji and Mbamalu to discuss “Emerging a New Value-based Political Class.” Dr. Amina Salihu served as the moderator.
Jega, Itodo and Ayo Sogunro took the podium as discussants on “Mobilising a Citizens-led Constitutional, Political and Electoral Reforms,” while Idayat Hassan was the moderator.
The event also featured a documentary on “The Journey to #FixPolitics” as well as another panel session on “Emerging an Empowered and Engaged Electorate,” which was rationalised by Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje. Chioma Agwuegbo moderated the session.
Ezekwesili in a statement by her spokesperson, Ozioma Ubabukoh, said the mission of the group was to elevate the office of the citizen to its rightful place in Nigeria and develop a political class of servant leaders.
“The Work Study Group aims at using the public launch of #FixPolitics to inform Nigerians about the research outcomes and stimulate public conversations and unleash ideas that will help emerge an empowered and engaged electorate, produce a new value-based political class and mobilise a compelling public campaign for constitutional, political, and electoral reforms,” Ezekwesili said.
“The overarching objective of the public launch event is to provide opportunity for a ‘Call-to-Action’ to a wider audience of citizens to join the Work Study Group members of #FixPolitics in crystallising the most effective collection action programme that can transform Nigeria’s politics.
“Such launch of activities that will over the years and decades consciously and systematically mobilise citizens across multiple divides of the Nigerian society to take responsibility and collectively course-correct their struggling democracy is the ultimate mission of #FixPolitics.”
The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good. To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system. She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance