Osinbajo, Odinga Worry over Investors’ Fears Ahead of Elections

•VP tasks elite on fair electoral dispute resolution 

•Former Kenya prime minister fingers elite in failing democracy 

•Marwa promises more clampdown on drug cartels

Udora Orizu in Abuja

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Former Prime Minister of Kenya, Hon. Raila Odinga, yesterday, expressed concerns over fears by investors about election period, which might lead to economic volatility.

The duo, who spoke in Abuja while delivering their addresses at a conference on “credible elections and an economy in transition”, at the 14th leadership conference and awards, tasked political elite across to carry out their duty in the interest of the economy and economic wellbeing of citizens.

Leadership newspapers had recently unveiled its 2022 awardees with the trio of the president of AfreximBank, Prof Benedict Oramah; the chairman/CEO of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig-Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), and world athletics champion, Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, clinching Persons of the Year award.

While the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike emerged “Politician of the Year 2022”; Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai; Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; and the Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun emerged “Governor of the Year 2022”

Speaking at the conference, Osinbajo said, there was a reluctance to invest before the elections, because consumers were careful not to spend their savings or to be bullish in the stock market, because of the fear of electoral disturbances that might spiral out of control and make business and commerce impossible.

He noted that Nigeria’s known electoral history, had too many examples of electoral violence following disputed electoral outcomes, which usually meant the destruction, sometimes, of public and private property and infrastructure.

The VP urged the political elite to ensure that elections and electoral dispute resolution processes were free, fair and credible, adding that it was the least they could offer the nation and the African continent.

“The daily struggles for food, for shelter, for clothing are bigger than any other matter. Certainly, bread and butter trumps everything else. So, in our democracy, where we have today over 200 million people, 90 million of whom require education, and job opportunities, those are under the age of 30 and all others requiring health care infrastructure and social service, the enormity of the challenges are stuck.

“Democracy, the rule of law and the election of governments by free and fair elections are crucial, because they are meant to support the primary objective of enabling citizens to live well and have access to well-paying jobs, opportunities and services, or in a broad sense, to support the growth and stability of the economy and the social structure of the nation.

“So, it is evident then that we must carefully curate these safeguards for the wellbeing of our citizens to ensure that they do not negatively affect the very wellbeing that they are meant to protect, namely, the economy and the social structure of society. And this is a delicate task indeed because in every election cycle, the first casualty is the economy. For the most sophisticated economic actors, it makes sense to simply wait until the complexion of the new government is clear.

“But the prospects for the disruption of the economy is even greater. Where elections for one reason or the other, produce governments that are not credible, legitimacy of governments as conferred by the freely given mandate of the electorate, is a major consideration as we’ve heard from our guest speaker, for self, for savvy investors, both local and foreign capital, they say is a great coward, running away from the slightest sign of trouble.

“I also want to emphasise the integrity of the electoral courts. Where the umpire is perceived as unfair, there is potential for trouble; where the courts are perceived as arbitrary, as whimsical or acting in contradiction. To establish precedents, there is an almost commensurate loss of confidence by the electorate. The political elite in Nigeria have a duty in the interest of the economic wellbeing of our citizens, and of course, in the overall interest of our people, who we claim to represent,” Osinbajo said.

In his keynote address, Odinga said if the election was rigged, and the leader was overriding laws and constitutional provisions, investment fell because there was a lot of economic risk in doing business in countries with unconstrained governments, lamenting that since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s, the quality and credibility of elections have steadily deteriorated.

According to him, many of the countries’ election management bodies have been captured by the ruling parties or individual politicians, making it impossible to have fair contests.

The capture, Odinga said, led to skewed processes like voter registration and appointment of election management officials, with disastrous consequences.

Specifically, he said elections and democracy were failing in Africa not because a majority of Africa’s voters preferred authoritarian form of government, but because an organised elite, keen to protect narrow selfish interests, has forged strategic alliances and captured strategic systems and institutions of various nations with the sole purpose of subverting the substance of elections.

Using the last election in Kenya as an example, Odinga, who is currently the opposition leader in his country, said the country has become a laboratory for bad election practices that others borrowed around the continent.

He therefore, advised on the need to internalise the fact that elections were important political risk assessment tools for investors.

His words: “Back home, I have expressed fears that if we do not comprehensively and credibly address the issue of the credibility of 2022 election outcome, the virus will spread and affect upcoming elections on the continent. More immediately, Kenyans may lose all faith and decide to boycott future elections because they will believe their voices do not matter.

“Kenya has become a laboratory for bad election practices that others borrow around the continent. You may recall that our malpractices of 2007 quickly became the script for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Since then, more of our neighbours have followed suit and perfected the use of technology to override the will of the voters. As a pan-Africanist and an Afro-optimist, I fully subscribe to and support Africa’s Agenda 2063, which seeks the socio-economic transformation of the continent.

“But I want to send a red flag at this forum. If Africa wants to achieve the goals of Agenda 2063, then, we must prioritise and entrench free, fair and credible elections by all member states. As a continent, we have to agree that critical development efforts cannot succeed without a legitimate and democratically elected government that is responsive and accountable to its citizens and the investor community.

“Free and fair elections are indicators to investors that there is government in place that believes in fairness and the rule of law. When a government comes in through a fair ballot, investors get the reassurance that their property will be respected, taxation will be fair, investment rules will be simple and clear and they will not have to resort to corruption and bribery to set up or stay in business.

“Illiberal regimes send signals that are the direct opposite of what the investors are looking for. Professor Mike Touchton of Boise State University in the US wrote… ‘Many (investors) conclude that governments that violate electoral laws to stay in office would also be willing to violate investors’ property rights.’

“Regimes that come to power by rigged elections cannot guarantee judicial independence and other state and non-governmental bodies that are critical to the rule of law, which is an indispensable requirement for a good investment climate.”

While noting that many nations have evolved modern systems for collection, collation, transmission and tallying of election results, he called for a rethink use of technology, saying either a reliable election technology, including voting machines that generate a voter-verifiable audit trail, is adopted or we go fully manual.

“In a number of countries, we are witnessing a situation in which the majority is increasingly at the mercy of the minority with regard to free, fair, transparent and credible elections. Africans, who wake up at dawn, stand in long queues all day to cast their ballot, end up with results that indicate their votes were not counted and did not count.

“In the last decade, many of our nations have evolved modern systems for collection, collation, transmission and tallying of election results. Many have adopted a results management systems that combines traditional vote counting and tallying processes, and use of technology to verify voter eligibility, register votes and transmit results.

“In addition, we have seen the evolution of the electoral laws to allow representatives of political parties to independently tally the results and transmit to party tallying centers. But as we have witnessed in Kenya both in 2017 and 2022, technology is getting compromised and results altered. This has severely damaged the credibility of election management bodies in many of our countries,” Odinga added

Chairman of Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Gen. Buba Marwa, while speaking to journalists, assured the nation of more clampdown on drug cartels and making lessons of those in the cartel.

For the elections, Maruwa, who was awarded person of the year 2022, promised that the agency would completely clean the country, calling on those with addiction not to shy away or feel stigmatised, but rather come out and get help.

In his brief remarks, the FCT Minister, Musa Bello, said the government has over the last seven and a half years repositioned the Nigerian economy and put it firmly on the path of growth and economic sustainability outside of the oil and gas sector.

This action, he said, has in effect put the Nigerian economy on the path to growth and economic recovery, which could only be achieved through free and fair elections, where the in-coming administration would build on the legacies of President Muhammadu Buhari.

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