Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dr. Robin R. Sanders' Remarks at The Vice President’s Election Event

The Road Map to Nigeria’s 2011 Elections:
What are the Stops on the Road, Who are the Players

Remarks by Dr. Robin R. Sanders

Vice President’s Election Event Organized by CODER, Yar’Adua Center
July 22, 2010

Good Morning. I was pleased to be invited here today to talk about the road map for YOUR 2011 elections -- going forward from this point in time until your election date. It is critically important that Nigeria holds free and fair elections in 2011 that meet international standards and are acceptable to the Nigerian people. It is your choice alone as a nation regarding how to organize your electoral system but there are a lot of players and stops along the 2011 election road. So let’s look at Your 2011 election road map as to who are the players and what are the stops.

On the players’ side, there is the current leadership of your electoral system such as INEC, the National Assembly, State Governors, and the executive branch. There are also the political parties that must become more transparent, respect internal democracy, and also be willing to allow other voice to be heard. Political parties must show true internal democracy to move forward so that the best leaders rise to the top to represent the people.

But the most significant player on the road to elections is the voter. It is the voter that holds the power to ensure that YOUR 2011 elections are elections that all Nigerians can be proud of so that the changes that need to take place in your country to advance development can happen.

The messages that we are hearing are clear: The Nigerian voter wants a 2011 election that is fair, free, credible and most importantly transparent. Voters with the right attitude are also necessary for a successful election. Your vote must reflect your desire to have leadership that can help Nigeria move forward on things like improving the education, health, and agricultural sectors and addressing other challenges such as ending the culture of impunity against corruption or corrupt officials. If you simply vote for whoever has offered you a jug of cooking oil, cash or whatever, then you are not helping democracy advance in your great nation.

Democracy is about government by the consent of the governed. Elections matter because it is through the vote that Nigerians can choose the people who will lead them in the years to come. It is through the vote that you place YOUR trust in leaders to represent your interest. It is through the vote that Nigerian election officials make a promise to the nation to deliver on addressing the key issues facing the country today in education, health, agriculture, and ending the corruption. The Nigerian Government has committed to this through the U.S.-Binational Commission and we heard it, as you do, every day that the Leadership of your Nation has promised to deliver a clean election.

The U.S. Government support for your elections is in the form of technical assistance, which we have been asked by YOUR government. We are doing that and have been since early this year. Our technical assistance is in the form of capacity building in a number of areas not only within INEC, but also with civil society and political party transparency. Let me say a few words about civil society since we are being hosted by a CSO today. CSOs do have a critical role to play in YOUR 2011 elections as monitors, the voice of the voiceless, and observers. They can also play a role in SWIFT Vote Counting where they monitor the results in a parallel manner to ensure that are not tampered with our changed from the polling unit to the satellites and collection centers.

We also are supporting the work of INEC, its new chairman Professor Jega and the newly-appointed commissioners to develop a workable plan for a successful poll early next year. All players in your 2011 election roadmap are critical to the success of YOUR elections from the INEC Chairman down to the poll workers and civil society observers in each LGA.

The other element or step on this road map we are outlining today is funding. This is YOUR ELECTION and it must be Funded properly by – guess who – you as a nation. You are the biggest stakeholder in your own election. It cannot be more important to anyone else than you. It cannot be more important to the donors or the international community than it is to each and everyone one of you. Given the enormous resources at your disposal, we urge the Government of Nigeria to fully fund the election effort, including expedited efforts to develop a credible voter register, begin voter education and to demonstrate the seriousness of purpose and dedication to YOUR democracy, YOUR future. Nigeria is a wealthy country with abundant resources at its disposal.

Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account currently holds US $3.2 billion and your foreign reserves stand at US $37 billion. You have the resources to fund the material and logistical needs of YOUR OWN ELECTION. Donor nations and the international community can provide technical assistance and encouragement, but the primary responsibility for funding a credible electoral exercise rests squarely with the YOUR Government.

I have already outlined what we as the USG are doing in conjunction with other donors like the UK. INEC must work to provide confidence in the voters, to encourage the Nigerian public's participation in national elections in 2011 and educate voters on the election process.
I think we all know what the immediate needs are for YOUR 2011 elections: a transparent voter, educated voters and a transparency process. The last biggest challenge on this road map we are talking about today is TIME. TIME is not on your side, particularly if you end up having an election in January 2011 or February 2011.

· Consider this illustrative example, remember this is just an example:
  • If your elections are in January or February 2011 – from now until then you would need to register or verify the registry of nearly 13 million voters every month;
  • Meaning every day, every day you would need to register or verify the registry of 500,000 voters or 50,000 voters every hour to be ready.
  • We understand that you have 120,000 polling sites and nearly 20-40,000 satellite locations.
  • Meaning every month you may need to organize and make sure nearly 25,000 polling sites are ready

But I have faith in the will of the Nigerian people, the will of the Nigeria voter to want this done so credible elections can be held. As a friend I want you to succeed. These are the stops on the roadmap to get there. We are with you every step of the way in a supporting role. But you must be in the lead. I have outlined the road map I see for you today. You must be in the driver’s seat on this road to Nigeria’s 2011 elections. Make them credible, Make them transparent, Fund them properly so you can take your rightful place in the community of nations that are not only proud of all of the wonderful things that make Nigeria what it is today, but most important because you…150 strong…desire and deserve a credible and transparent election.

Let your election be your voice. Let your election be choice for credible leadership. Let your election be the time to vote for changing the future of Nigeria. We are with you every step of the way if the things we talk about today or done. We are your friends and we want you to succeed.