Nigeria’s 20 years of democracy set for discussion in US

As Nigeria enters its third decade as a democracy, YIAGA AFRICA, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and Ford Foundation are hosting a conference in the United States.

The conference themed “Nigeria’s Democracy at 20: Reflections and Reform” will hold in Washington DC on October 22 and 23.

From 1999 to 2019, six general elections have been conducted. However, none has been declared totally free and fair.

In February 2019, Nigeria held its sixth general election since the country returned to democratic civilian rule.

According to observers and PREMIUM TIMES’ report, the last general elections was marred by vote-buying, intimidation of voters and other irregularities.

According to a press statement signed by Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of YIAGA, the conference provides an opportunity for reflection on Nigeria’s democracy with special focus on how Nigeria can consolidate and deepen its democracy.

“The event is designed to raise the profile of and build on ongoing election review and governance reform conversations in Nigeria and mobilise international support for democratic reforms in Nigeria,” the statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES read.

He also noted that the conference will feature a special roundtable on Nigeria’s economy and restructuring at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John Hopkins University, Washington, DC.

The event will feature a cross section of Nigerian civil societies, academics, and government officials discussing 20 years of inconsistent democratic progress, the 2019 elections, and avenues for reform.

Key speakers include: Okechukwu Ibeanu, National Commissioner in charge of electoral operations, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Eghosa Osaghae, University of Ibadan; Hussaini Abdu, Country Director, PLAN International; Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Ayo Obe, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Cynthia Mbamalu, Program Manager, YIAGA AFRICA. Others include Kemi Okenyodo, Executive Director, Partners West Africa; Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, Enough is Enough; Mufuliat Fijabi, CEO, Nigeria Women Trust Fund (NWTF), and Paul Phillip James, Watching The Vote Training manager.

Commenting on the last election, Mr Itodo stated that the election reflects both the strengths and deficiencies in Nigeria’s democracy.

“Whilst the political space is pluralistic and competitive, democratic institutions remain weak, and civic space restricted.”

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“Citizens have real expectations for government officials, and failure to meet these expectations can result in removal from office through the ballot, even as public trust in state institutions declines. Government structures and systems, including the electoral management bodies, security forces, and the courts are guided and constrained by democratic rules. And yet, politics is exclusionary and divisive,” he said.

Meanwhile, he noted that government officials and agencies often fail to operate transparently and respond to the needs and demands of the people.

“This and many more will form the thrust of conversations and dialogue sessions moderated by Prof. Carl Levan, American University; Jennifer Cooke, George Washington University; and Christopher O’Connor, National Endowment for Democracy.”

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