The Resident Representative of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung,FES in Nigeria, Mr Thomas Mattig, has warned that the unfolding intrigues as Nigeria moves toward 2015 do not bode well for peace and democracy .He sounded this note of warning in his welcome remarks during the launch of a paper titled :’The Fire Next Time:Youth Violence and Democratisation in Northern Nigeria’ written by Ike Okonta. The paper was launched on Tuesday at Bolton White Hotel ,Abuja.FES is a German foundation.
Mattig said, “today’s Nigeria stands between two important national elections :the one of 2011 that saw a new INEC leadership and the need to break with the tradition of elections becoming worse and worse,and those of 2015 with a terrorist insurgency in the north and heightened tensions with regards to the traditional power sharing agreement in the governing PDP in the background.” He added pointedly that “The current heating up of the polity as it moves towards 2015 does not bode well for peace and democracy in the country.”
The resident representative also noted that “The violence in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 elections was a shock to the nation and stained an electoral process that was otherwise appraised for having been relatively free and fair.What happened in parts of the North reminded us of underlying grievances of a fundamental distrust in the state’s institutions and of the disappointment with Nigeria’s development since the end of military rule.It reminded us of a general feeling of disenchantment of a whole generation of youths that nobody seems to listen to:A generation that constitutes the future of this country while its own future is being destroyed through the continuous underfunding of education ,through insecurity, de-industrialisation and corruption”
Other experts who spoke during the event called on Nigerians to change their mindset .Prof Lai Olurode, a national Commissioner with Independent National Electoral Commission ,acknowledged among others that while there are indeed challenges facing Nigeria, it should be recognized that some milestones have been attained.’We have to deconstruct our method of reasoning’, Olurode said as he urged Nigerians to avoid demonizing government.
The professor acknowledged that there are indeed weak institutions in Nigeria because there are too many strong individuals.There has been no effective participation of the people in governance he said.Speakig on the 2011 elections, Olurode affirmed the position of Prof Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman that it was not perfect but he added that it was evidently better than what Nigeria used to have as attested to by observers.
Others who spoke include Comrade Ezike Ibuchukwu , representing the Civil Liberties Organization,CLO , representatives of the NYSC,IPCR and CSOs .
Okonta’s paper was reviewed by Olumide Olaniyan ,a development consultat and conflict expert.The author concluded his paper with the argument that “The great challenge of the moment is to work out new terms of northern political and civic leadership in which the pressing issues of economic depression ,de-industrialisation and violent Islam driven by mass poverty and religious and political intolerance and creative ways to tackle them is fore-grounded.”He further suggested that “Northern youth should be assigned an active role in the task of working out the solutions”.