•Some of the participants in a group discussion during the training of election monitoring campaigns in Owerri. Photos by Chinonso Alozie
By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, over 200 members of civil society organisations and media have been trained to monitor and take record of campaign promises made by politicians in the five states of the South-East zone.
The Executive Director of Citizen Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights, CCIDESSOR, Mr. Obidi Mgbemere, disclosed this to South-East Voice during one of the trainings in Owerri, tittled: Deepening democracy through profiling of elected Representatives.
He said that those promises made by candidates of the various political parties, would become a tool with which their constituents would engage the elected representatives in order to rate their performance.
Mgbemere also said that it would be a deciding factor on whether such elected leaders would be voted back by their constituents.
Speaking also to South-East Voice, the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, was of the opinion that campaign promises remained a valid contract between the elected representatives and the governed.
However, he argued that both the elected leaders and the electorate were guilty of the bad leadership being experienced. He also pointed out that youths should stop forming groups in the name of extorting money from politicians but that such a platform ought to be used not only to monitor politicians but also to engage them based on the promises they made.
In his remark, Professor Dede Okonkwo of the Department of Mass Communication, Imo State University, Owerri told South-East Voice that the electorate should be asked to stop collecting money from politicians. He attributed this as the reason why politicians have neglected the needs of the governed once they get into office.
The CCIDESSOR executive director, Mgbemere, said: “This programme is an off shoot of a bigger programme that we have with the National Endowment for Democracy. Under that engagement, we are working hard to see that there is good relationship between the elected executive and their constituents; that is part of the mandate of the project.
“For there to be a good relationship between the elected executive and their constituents, there must be understanding of what the candidates are offering to do. If the candidates make promises of what they are going to deliver, the electorate are supposed to know what these promises are.
“They should be in a position to identify them and subsequently want to see whether these promises are kept or not. It will enable them know whether they want to vote for these candidates during the next election or they want to make a fresh decision.”
He further outlined mission for which the training was organised.
“CCIDESSOR, is an organisation that has been designed to protect the weak. We are interested in social rights and good governance and effective democracy. If good governance comes to play, then the people who decide whether the government runs or not play a central role in it.
“What we are doing is to train civil society organisations who are in turn going to educate other citizens on the need to pay attention to election promises, with a view to holding accountable those who are making these promises.
“If you look over the years, the promises that were made during campaigns and try to narrow them down to promises that are kept in the course of stewardship, the statistics do not tally. This is to ensure that politicians think critically before they make promises and then strive hard to keep those promises.”
On the gains of having the programme,the executive director said: “This is called campaign promises monitoring. The mandate we have is to educate people from the five states of the South-East zone.
“Before now, we had mapped out stakeholders from different states – over 40 from each state, we called them Citizen Accountability Assembly, CAA.
“This meeting is with some representatives from each state and they will go back and hold another meeting with the 40 members of CAA, and then step down the training. From there, all of them will start working from different states.
“They will identify the promises made by the politicians, we will catalogue them and produce them and then use them as tools for engagement.”
Pointing out the challenges facing the actualisation of good governance, the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ononamadu, said: “The euphoria that follows the election makes 90 per cent of us lose our heads. It is only in the South-East zone that you see the geometric multiplication of youth groups immediately campaign is around the corner.
“And why are those groups there? Is it for the interest of the society? No. They have come to see how much they can obtain from the politicians forgetting that what goes around comes around.
“Let me say clearly that there is a school of thought that says that campaign promises cannot be justiceable or not enforceable. But the truth is that a campaign promise is really a valid contract. In any clime, the lacuna is because we do not document them properly in such a way that you can approach the court of law, to say that this man has decieved me to vote him in by making these empty promises.
“There is one charge that the police do regularly, that law is called obtaining by trick. Is that law still in force? If it is still in force, then a campaign promise is still a justiceable contract. It is actionable in the court of law and public opinion.
“But the docility of citizens particularly in the South-East, will always shoot ourselves in the foot. Sometimes we run into the bush and come out and be asking who is winning. We are all guilty and we can’t continue like this.
“Remember, we were number one in education before but now, we are last. Also we were number one in industrialisation before but now, we are last. Let’s talk of infrastructure, we had the best market before but it is unfortunate that we are still asking what the problem with our zone is.”
In summary, on what is expected of the electorate to entrench quality leadership, Okonkwo, of the Department of Mass Communication Imo State University, Owerri, said: “I presented a paper on documenting campaign promises, citizens roles, responsibilities and strategies in an effective post-election engagements.
“It centres on what the citizens can do to bring politicians to account; to monitor the activities of politicians and to access the level of compliance in the implementation of the campaign promises they made because the experience has always been that most of the promises made by politicians were not kept. I examined the reasons why politicians deviate from the promises they made.
“And who is to be blamed? Is it the politicians or the people? Both parties are culpable because a society gets the kind of politician it deserves and the politician is the product of the society. His thoughts and actions are shaped by the values that the politicians uphold. You can see that there are two sides of the same coin.
“In my paper, I outlined six strategic steps that should be taken by the citizens to ensure that a politician does not deviate from the promises he has made during the electioneering period.”
Okonkwo advised that the electorate to desist from demanding gratification from the candidates as this would not only distort the integrity of the election but will also discourage politicians from keeping to their campaign promises.
“The strategies outlined will lead to the politician knowing that there are consequences for deviating from his promises or abandoning them. If these strategies are upheld or followed, definitely, the politicians will be influenced and compelled to do the needful.”