Dr Ezekwesili is a senior economic adviser, Africa Economic Policy Development Initiative at Open Society Foundation. Ezekwesili holds a Masters Degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, a MA in Public Policy and Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Development, and several other academic qualifications. The former minister co-founded the BringBackour Girls Movement. She is the the Presidential Candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria. Dr Oby Ezekwesili speaks on political literacy, security and her plans for Nigeria.
Topic Of The Day: Political Literacy
“We are a young democracy. We suffered many years of militarisation. It is a young democracy…So, the younger generation born since 1999 will come to 20 years and they are the first time voters that we are seeing. And they are still an insignificant portion of the rest of the population. So the literacy level of democracy and what democracy requires of the citizens is pretty low. So a lot of political literacy campaigns, a lot of civic engagement will be necessary to take us to higher levels. We need to double up efforts quickly.”
“There is a lot of apathy. Citizens have felt that the government does not play much of a role in their lives. So they have this attitude of ‘let me mind my business and do the things that are more important to me!’ Forgetting that there is nothing more important than having a government that functions. The second thing is that the understanding of governance as a concept is distorted. People believe that to have a role in governance, you must be an appointed official or someone working in government but governance as a construct requires the engagement of the citizens. There is a demand and supply side. If the citizens don’t play their active citizenship role well, there will be no demand side of governance. And because we don’t have a demand side for governance that is well developed, the supply side will do anything they like. They will behave like a monopoly as they do not have any pressure to do anything that delivers results.”
“We often say that the media is a purveyor of public policy, at the heart of democratic accountability by the way it focuses on governance and public interest issues, it can create the necessary momentum for the democracy to work. That is why of all the professions, it is only the journalists that finds themselves expressly mentioned in the Constitution of the country. The media should help advance this knowledge of democracy and the political systems. Sometimes, I think it is a tough responsibility to simply give the media without the tools to execute this job effectively. So, civic organisations that have the content on what needs to be known should partner with the media. So, partnerships are important. Who provides and develops the content so that the media can disseminate? How do you balance the costs?”
The Political Race
“I came to the conclusion at the end of 2017 that our citizens not being politically conscious were leaving the space wide open. I began that idea that I will spend more time talking about politics and how it relates to governance and economic development in order to get the citizens to follow me and see that we needed to do more. That was what got me on that journey even faster than I imagined. That was when the Benue killings hit us and the government reaction was similar to what we had seen in the previous administration, as if the Nigerian life was being devalued…It was really horrific and I say I am giving a red card to the political class. And many Nigerians also say “we are giving the red card to the political class.” APC/PDP, there is no difference. It is like six and half a dozen. From that Twitter engagement, came an organic move that says we can have a movement of citizens fed up with the quality of governance and there is need for our political system to reinvent itself and bring in the kinds of minds that will look at politics different, far from this incompetence, self-aggrandisement and mediocrity…every kind of thing that shows a lack of understanding that governance was to improve the quality of life of the alternatives. From then, we did the Summit of the Alternatives…I said “Nigeria doesn’t have four years to experiment with these entrenched patterns of failure. It really got to me especially when the report came out that we had become the world capital of poverty and our political leadership did not pause.”
“Look, I have track record of solving problems in different contexts. Gender has never been an issue. I have worked in public and private sector. Helped leaders build their nations; solved governance issues; done things that have brought me face to face with the regular citizens. Those skills that one has acquired and the steadfastness of character to subscribe to certain fundamental values that matter for the growth of society will all stand me out.”