Thursday, July 1, 2010

It is Your Election – Manage It Well! - Remarks By Dr. Sanders at NIM

It is Your Election – Manage It Well!

Address to
The Nigerian Institute of Management

Dr. Robin Renée Sanders, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
On the Occasion of the Annual Distinguished Management Lecture, July 1, 2010 – Lagos

All other protocols duly observed

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen and Members of the Press.

Thank you for inviting me to speak on the topic of “Management of the Electoral Process: An Imperative for Democratic Governance of the Nigerian State.” I want to congratulate the Nigerian Management Institute and its role in promoting multi-disciplinary discussion of the best ways to manage the challenges and opportunities that Nigeria will face, particularly as regards to elections. Certainly the topic I was asked to speak on is really the topic of discussion in the polity of this country today given that Nigeria has several key milestones approaching: The celebration of 50 years of independence as well as a pivotal point in your democratic experience as you seek to hold not only a free and fair election, but a credible one. Let’s take the first milestone first. Fifty years, that is big step for a mature nation. It is a time for both celebration and reflection. So let’s celebrate first. Let’s celebrate that . . . you are a dynamic country in both energy and force of resources and that your nation will shape the future of the region and of the continent.

Let’s celebrate that you as Nigerians embrace democracy . . . … and the principles of democracy and have had two peaceful transitions of power from one head of state to another.

And, let’s celebrate your respect and presence on the world stage as your nation assumes its rightful place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. These are things to marvel at . . . These are things to celebrate!

So now let’s talk about the things you may want to reflect on as you reach 50 years of the life of a nation . . . looking back on where you have come from . . . where you are going . . . and what challenges lay ahead. I have been here a long time now . . . and truly feel that I am at home and . . . a family member . . . and as a member of the family these are the things I wonder about as Nigeria moves forward and begins its 51st year in 2011. I want to start with the challenges that I have heard Nigerians talk about in the agriculture, health, and education sectors, and the need to fight corruption. So let’s talk about these issues a bit before we move on to the next milestone – elections -- because for me all of these things are legs of the same democracy stool. Strong democracies are not just about election but a number of things – particularly in development.

I just wanted to share some information with you as food for thought today…food for reflection as you collectively think about where you want your nation to be, your home to be given that you are management specialists and taking stock of your nation at this pivotal time. So I just want to provide you with some statistics to consider as regards to these three key sectors.

Let’s begin with agriculture. Nigeria hosts the largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa of 150 million people . . . with a growth rate of 2.2 per cent . . . Feeding this many people can prove to be a daunting task... The agricultural sector contributes 42% to this nation's GDP . . . and accounts for 80% of the jobs in Nigeria. But currently you import . . . 1.4 million tons of rice a year more than any . . .other . . . country in the world and you are one of the largest importers of wheat in the world as well. Why? You have the talent, and both the human and natural resources to be self-sufficient in any stable crop you choose, particularly these two. The United States Government has pledge 37 million dollars to help Nigeria become more food secure… working to make subsistence farmers more commercial; developing drought-resistance crops; and, aiding farmers in developing markets.

In education, teachers are critical to quality education. At present only 59% of the 600,000 primary school teachers have the minimum required qualification, the National Certificate in Education, as stated in your Ministry of Education’s Statistics of Education in Nigeria (1999-2005). We do applaud the Ministry's current approach to reforms of teacher education. However, according to the Nigeria EdData Survey 2004, conducted by Nigeria’s National Population Commission, over 72% of Nigeria's children aged 4 to 12 lack basic functional numeracy and literacy skills. Girl child education lags behind that of boys, with some reports having 51 per cent of girls not attending primary school. The United States Government provides technical assistance in the development of the revised National Teacher Education Policy . . . and the Ambassadors Girls Scholarship Program provides text books, uniforms and shoes, and scholarships to over 9,000 girls and boys attending schools in 13 states throughout Nigeria. . . . a literate and numerate citizenry is the foundation of any democratic society.

Nigerians also tell me they want a strong health care system that can provide basic health care. The United States Government and the American people worked hand-in-hand with Nigeria's health care professionals to care and treat – and more importantly prevent – some of the major diseases many Nigerians face: polio . . . malaria . . . tuberculosis . . . and HIV/AIDS. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (better known as PEPFAR) alone has committed nearly $400 million a year for Nigeria. On malaria we will be increasing resources in this area under President Obama’s Malaria Initiative in the tune of $51 million dollars, including a campaign to provide bed-nets to every household in Nigeria. As management leaders I just want to highlight one statistic that I think you will find interesting. Nigerian Government expenditures towards HIV/AIDS programs in 2008 according to a recent report by your own National AIDS Coordination Agency or NACA and UNAIDS stated that only 4.5 billion naira is spent on preventing and fighting HIV/AIDS yearly, so it is interesting to read in the press the proposed budget of somewhere between 10-62 billion naira on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations ... remember we are in the reflection stage of our discussion this morning. A more realistic beginning figure for Nigeria to truly start combating HIV/AIDs is at least 27 billion or 15% of the funding noted by the goals set in your 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework.

Then there is Power. Development depends on adequate, reliable supplies of power ... to run factories, light offices and homes, process foods, power computers in schools and run diagnostic equipment in clinics… But we no longer notice the steady noise from standby generators . . . the fact that we no longer notice is not a good thing. Nigeria struggles with the power it needs to grow and it doesn't have the transmission capacity to move the power it has to where it needs to be. Our countries agree that reform of the energy sector is crucial to attracting investment and promoting development. The United States provides technical assistance through USAID . . . USTDA, and the Department of Energy… to help in the power sector, especially on independent power projects. I have signed at least five of these grants since I have been here. On corruption, you must make stemming corruption the order of the day as it will under cut development at every turn, including affecting your electoral process. Our assistance supports the development of hydro-electric power, regulatory frameworks, and renewable energy.

So with this backdrop of where you are, where do you want to go with your next election in 2011? You hold the power to ensure that your 2011 elections . . . are elections all Nigerians can be proud of . . . can respect and that can . . . move the country forward.

Your friends like America want that too, and we are committed to working with you. So what are we doing? We are supporting civil society organizations, providing technical assistance to INEC to encourage a more transparent voter registry, and training political parties so they can play a more transparent and effective role in the 2011 electoral process. We also are helping INEC review its overall operational planning for the upcoming elections; providing training to 7,000 domestic and 100 international observers, and training 8,000 civil society members to conduct quick vote counts in key states to validate voting at the polls and advocate against election fraud and violence.

We see the appointment of the new INEC leadership .… as a positive step toward the management of credible elections. There appears right now to be insufficient time to create a new voter registration list; however, INEC must do all it can in the time remaining to ensure that the current list is as accurate as possible…. The National Assembly has appropriated funding for INEC … but reports are that funds are yet to be disbursed into INEC election account in order for it to truly begin the hard work of operationalizing its plan, updating the registry, and addressing logistics, and distribution of materials.

Constitutional amendments put forth by the national assembly are pending with the thirty-six state legislatures. Among the issues addressed, these amendments will determine the date of the election, a decision that must be made soon.

Remember . . . democracy is about government by the consent of the governed…. Elections matter because it is through elections that you as Nigerians will choose the people who will lead you, represent your interests, and address the issues that we already noted in the reflection of your 50 years of independence. Again, as management leaders I want to leave you with some stark statistics to think about because time is running out on getting many things done . . . and done in time. Consider this example. If your elections are in early 2011, say in January or February, every month from now until then you would need to either register or verify the registry of nearly 13 million voters…meaning everyday (every day) you would need to register or verify the registry of 500,000 voters, or 50,000 voters every hour in order to be ready on election day. For polling places, we understand that your need is approximately 120 thousand polling sites with 20-40,000 satellite locations. What this may mean is every month you need to establish 25,000 polling sites, 1000 per day, 100 per hour. This is a daunting task, but I have faith in you. I was asked to speak today about the management of the election processes . . . and these are the tasks that are before you . . . these are the management issues before you . . . to get you to . . . at process . . . that is transparent . . . and a credible election.

Then of course there is political will. That is always the variable. All of the technical assistance in the world cannot overcome a lack of commitment by every single player in the political process to do right by the voter – from the ruling party to the polling site manager. That has always been the challenge. And, we hope that in your 50th year . . . as a maturing democracy that this is no longer the case.

As your friend, we want you to succeed. But we can't want it more than every single Nigeria does -- from the elite to the farmer. This is your country. . . These are your choices. As you approach the 2011 elections, choose your leaders wisely. Expect more of them. Hold them accountable. Remember, the essence of democracy is the power of the people . . . and each and every voter.

I remember being taken to register to vote as soon as I turned 18 years of age. My parents – who grew up in a segregated South of the United States, whose parents and grandparents, faced challenges to their right to vote . . . instilled in me the importance and the power of the vote. Since that time . . . I have never missed voting for the President of my nation because I knew that my single vote can and did make a difference. I have heard that desire from every single Nigerian I meet. I wish you well in 2011! But time is of the essence. Be wise and know that the people of the United States stand with you, as one of your best friends, and we want the very best for our best friend – credible, transparent elections in 2011. Thank you.