Back to Dr. Jonathan Event Page


  • Mr. Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council
  • Senator Chuck Hagel, Chairman, Atlantic Council
  • H.E. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Acting President, The Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • Dr. Nancy Walker, Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, Atlantic Council

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Welcome.  I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.  Excellency Acting President Jonathan, ministers and governors, distinguished members of the Nigerian delegation, distinguished members of Congress, ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Mr. Michael Ansari, members of the board, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the formal launch of the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center. 

I’m Fred Kempe and I have the great joy of overseeing this center which is being run by a director named Nancy Walker.  Nancy was the first director of the African Center for Strategic Studies at the Pentagon, long-time civil servant and befitting the Atlantic Council.  She is a Europeanist and an Africanist, fluent German-speaker who knows Africa as well as anyone in this town. 

Sen. Hagel will have the honor of introducing you, Mr. Acting President, but I must relate just a small story to you about the meaning of your position.  I was talking to a member of the local Nigerian-American community yesterday; his name was Ooka Unama (ph) of Ebonyi state and he made me write down his name and spell it so I could say it to you today.  Very well educated man and I talked to him for 15 minutes; we were having a casual conversation.  I told him what we were going to be doing today, hosting you and honoring you. 

With enormous pride, he told me your entire life story, from birth through your doctoral education through your positions in government.  With tears, he then told me how he had swollen with pride as he drove by the giant Nigerian flag outside your hotel, fluttering outside your Washington hotel, a larger version of the one he told me he had in his bedroom.  (Laughter.)  It brought home to me the hope and faith your countrymen have in your leadership. 

We are grateful this afternoon to the generosity of Kase Lawal, chairman and CEO of CAMAC International Corporation, of Bernadette Paolo, president of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa for helping to make this event happen.  Thank you so much, Bernadette.  We should also recognize a number of distinguished guests and at the Atlantic Council, we can’t name all the distinguished guests or we would never hear President Jonathan, so I’ll just name a few:  Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs; distinguished governors of four Nigerian states; the Honorable Ana Palacio, member of our board and former foreign minister of Spain; Ambassador Adefuye, the Nigerian ambassador to the U.S.; Ambassador Ogwu, the Nigerian permanent representative to the United Nations and Ambassador Robin Sanders, the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria.  Thank you all for being with us today. 

Let me say a paragraph about the Atlantic Council for those who are not familiar with our work so you see the context of why Africa.  Founded 50 years ago, the Atlantic Council’s mission is that of renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges.  That means there are two parts to what we do:  We renew the community and the second part is we address the most pressing issues in the world with global partners acting in common purpose.  The issues range from energy security to Afghanistan, from global financial stability to the multiple challenges of Africa.  It is in that context that we are launching today our Michael S. Ansari Center.  To introduce this new center and its founder and our distinguished speaker, I have the pleasure of welcoming the Atlantic Council’s chair, Sen. Chuck Hagel. 

Allow me to just briefly introduce Sen. Hagel, one of America’s leading foreign policy thinkers and the embodiment of our bipartisan nature and mission.  Sen. Hagel succeeded Gen. Jim Jones, who left to become national security advisor to President Barack Obama, as chairman of the Atlantic Council early last year.  He’s a distinguished professor at Georgetown, currently co-chairman of the President’s International Intelligence Advisory Board and a member of the secretary of defense’s Policy Board and also the secretary of energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. 

He represented Nebraska in the United States Senate from 1997 to 2009.  His expertise is broad and deep, including being a keen student of Africa.  In the age of ultra-partisanship, Sen. Hagel is still known for the line, “I took an oath of office to the Constitution.  I didn’t take an oath of office to my party or my president.”  It’s my honor to turn to our chairman, Sen. Chuck Hagel.  (Applause.)

CHUCK HAGEL:  Thank you.  Fred, thank you, and to all who have come this afternoon to welcome our distinguished guest, the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we not only welcome you but we appreciate you being here.  So many of you here today have made and continue to make important contributions to our world in many ways.  Many of you specifically have focused those contributions on the relationship between the United States and all of Africa and many of you specifically with our alliance with Nigeria and for that, we appreciate you and we very much appreciate what you continue to do and our relationship with so many of you here and the institutions that you represent.

Before I have the distinct privilege of introducing you to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I want to add my thanks and acknowledgment to Michael S. Ansari, who, as you know from your program and many of you from your relationships with the Atlantic Council, has not only been generous with his time and resources in establishing the Ansari Africa Center, but also it has been his vision, along with our former chairman of this board who, Fred Kempe noted, has taken on another assignment not insignificant as national security advisor to President Obama.  It was Gen. Jones and Michael Ansari who had the vision and the capability of putting all of that together and producing something that, we believe, for both our continents and our countries and the world, can be a framework, a working model for other relationships around the globe and so Michael, we are most grateful. 

You will hear from Dr. Nancy Walker here in a few minutes who has agreed to be the director of the center and she will explain more in more detail what the center will do.  Now, most of you who have ever held a position like chairman, you know, as Bob Dole once said, there’s very little heavy lifting – they assign you to very few things.  But one of the predominant responsibilities chairmen have is to introduce special guests and I am particularly pleased to introduce our special guest today and we look forward to hearing from him.

This is a – not just a distinguished world leader, not just a world leader who has, as Fred Kempe noted, a remarkable background:  what he has done in his country, not just to make his country better, more resourceful, bringing more opportunities and possibilities to his people but also to the continent of Africa and the reach that he has had in a very short period of time.  You, I know, have had an opportunity to read a bit about the acting president’s background, his biography, the things that he has accomplished so I will not recite that or trespass on those documents that you already have. 

But let me, as I ask him in a moment to come up here, make one more observation about this individual.  I suspect we all accept the reality that we are embarked in a new century and a new time of great possibilities but at the same time, a world that is challenged like never before with new threats and with those new threats come the reality that we all, six-and-a-half billion of us who are each part of the globe and each represent a global citizenry, have certain responsibilities. 

Those responsibilities are important for any nation and individual because it is only through those individual responsibilities toward this new world order will we, in fact, meet these great global challenges that face all of mankind:  resources; environmental issues; breaking loose from the cycle of despair and hopelessness, hundreds of millions of people; poverty; obviously, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the primary reason that Acting President Jonathan was here in Washington, along with 46 other world leaders.

That summit reminds us of how important world leadership is and how important individual leadership is.  So because of those things and because the acting president is on his way back to his country tonight but yet would still find time to come and spend with us at the Atlantic Council and others who have been associated and are and will be associated with this relationship, we are indeed honored to have you with us.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.  (Applause.)

ACTING PRES. GOODLUCK JONATHAN:  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Thank you.  The chairman of Atlantic Council, Sen. Chuck Hagel, the president and the CEO Atlantic Council, Mr. Frederick Kempe, and all members of this great organization and the senior government functionaries that followed me from Nigeria, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, first, I sincerely thank you for creating this little opportunity for us to interact. 

This council is quite a noble organization and one that I would love to stay at least one-and-half hours tapping your knowledge because I did not come here to give you an address but to listen to you:  the areas you think you can assist us in terms of making your suggestions in terms of the areas that you’re interested in playing a role making sure that Nigeria, as an African country, grows from strength to strength and develops economically. 

But unfortunately, I have a crowded program today so I’m going to spend a very, very short moment:  I have to thank my dear friend and others who have made this gathering possible and I will regret my inability to spend a reasonable time with you.  Let me just rush through and address, to open the discussion, and probably listen to one or two comments. 

Thank you for the opportunity to interact with you at this time.  I’m here to share a few thoughts about our current efforts at entrenching accountability in our country and also benefit from your deep insights and experience in this very important matter.  I want to begin by extending my sincere thanks to the Atlantic Council for the warm welcome and very specially congratulate you for what you are doing. 

Many of you will know that just last week, Nigeria and the United States agreed to establish a binational commission.  This marks a new and promising chapter in our relationship by recognizing the vital importance of our bilateral relationship and the need to maintain regular, high-level consultation and engagement.  We shall work together on good governance, a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta and stable West Africa, continued growing investments in the energy sector and strengthened for the security. 

At the heart of this joint effort and my work as acting president is the need to realize the promise of accountability, so as to arrive at our destination of a happier world within the shortest possible time:  accountability to the poorest Nigerians, who yearn to be free from the shackles of poverty; to the West African region, whose peoples yearn for good governance and democracy; and to our partners and friends in the struggle for a stable and peaceful international order. 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, there’s no time to waste.  Nigerians are very aware of this.  We have the opportunity and indeed the obligation to direct Nigeria on the path that allows it to live up to its considerable promise.  A strong, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria would be a voice for good in the world, not just Africa. 

We live in a world that has more than its fair share of challenges.  Over the years, Nigeria has taken a strong stance in supporting international and regional peacekeeping efforts.  We are determined to live up to our responsibilities as a valued member of the international community in combating all forms of violence that aim at, terrorize and harm civilians and property. 

We will remain a country that has been a strong actor for peace.  For instance, Nigerians’ blood and treasures were lost when we moved to intervene and to stop the – (inaudible) – civil wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries, most recently Darfur.  Nigeria has also stood firm in support of democratic elections, not just in our region but the entire continent of Africa. 

This is in addition to our local challenges which we must resolve for the good of our people.  Events and actions need to be put in perspective so that suggestions for solution will advance and benefit the whole, not a part.  The unfortunate and unacceptable violence in Jos, which you have read from the papers, from the media, led to a widespread misinterpretation that Nigeria is in the grip of a religious war. 

May God Almighty forbid the use of His name for unholy purposes.  Our present understanding of the Jos matter is that the feeling of economic exclusion is central to the crisis and not religion.  Like other parts of the world, the struggle for access to resources and position is taking different forms and in some instances, they explode in violence.  The tragedy in Jos is a reminder of urgent task of nation building, which we have sworn to accomplish.  These are national challenges knocking on our doors and the doors of so many African nations. 

In Nigeria we are determined to address the issues in a frank, firm and forthright way that will reaffirm our belief in our common humanity.  We are responding to this over five decades-old conflicts, to professional law enforcement and a deliberate increase in the pace and distribution of economic development.

In ordering a comprehensive law enforcement response to the latest incident that was recognizing the government’s accountability for the safety of every life, regardless of nationality, ethnic identity or religious affiliation.  The protection of life, liberty and property is the responsibility of all responsible governments the world over.  How else can that be different? 

Yet, in so doing, all the soldiers and policemen in the world cannot build a culture of peace.  That must come from sustained efforts to address the needs of the people, to recognize their dignity and humanity and ensure that we are all covered by the indestructible canopy of rule of law. 

The challenges are many and we need your support, especially in our determination to expand our economy so as to meet our obligations of delivering our promise of good governance.  This is particularly important in places like the Niger Delta, where poverty and the loss of livelihood through environmental degradation has created a social and political environment that allows a flourishing of a festering culture of discontent. 

The United States suffered a terrible tragedy just under a decade ago.  We stood with you then and we stand with you today in sharing that those responsible for that terrible attack cannot find any shelter or succor in Nigeria.  We are taking strong steps to ensure that our airport security is improved to a world-class standard.  We will continue to work hard to be a strong partner in the fight against international terrorism. 

As friends, we need to be honest with one another.  We were dismayed by a few months ago, when our country was put on the watch list due to the action of a young man flying to Detroit.  I am happy that the Obama administration has changed the airport security criteria and that national origin will no longer be used to determine who is to be screened.  It also bodes well for our partnership that we received such a sympathetic hearing when we raise this issue at the highest level.  We commend the American authorities. 

As the United States is discovering in Afghanistan and Iraq, a sustained peace is built in the final analysis and sustainable economic development.  This is one of the issues that we are accountable for.  A growing Nigerian economy whose fruits are enjoyed by all citizens will be the key to our long-term success.  In appointing a new cabinet, I sought to find ministers who understand how crucial it will be for Nigeria to rebuild its infrastructure, widen its sources of financing and investment for all Nigerians and lead public budgets that are accountable and transparent. 

These are not minor goals but have been too long in coming to fruition.  It is a time for committed change and building a solid base that will ensure that all Nigerians are well-educated, have access to electricity, are productively employed and can trust that government offices are sanctuaries for the delivery of services for the benefit of the people. 

But all these dreams can go up in flames if we do not focus attention on leadership recruitment and strengthen the institutions that can sustain our young democracy.  In this regard, we need to improve our system of elections.  Without a pool of accountable public officials in positions of authority, many of the ambitions we have for our country will come to naught and there is no way to win this credibility without ensuring that elections are free and fair. 

Already during this trip they have promised to reform the independent national electoral commission and this afternoon, I again reiterated that promise.  Electoral justice and accountability cannot be put by the wayside or delayed for some convenient time. 

Nigeria is rising and our rise will be for good of all our citizens.  Our economy is growing at a time when many countries in the world are unfortunately in the grip of recession.  Our young people are competing in the sciences and arts at a world-class level.  Our filmmakers make films that are some of the most watched all over the world.  We have the winds at our back.  Our challenges, which are considerable, offer us the opportunity to solve them and by so doing, be a generation that Nigerians will remember for many years to come. 

A strong and prosperous Nigeria will be a strong partner to the United States.  The time to bring this about is now, not tomorrow.  Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, join me in thanking the Atlantic Council for the opportunity for this interaction and very especially, I thank you for your attention and time.  Thank you all.  (Applause.)

NANCY WALKER:  Your Excellency, distinguished guests, it’s a great pleasure.  Thank you so much for giving time at the end of what has been an extremely busy several days in the first official visit to the United States.  It’s my great pleasure to serve as the first director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center and let me add my words of thanks to the Atlantic Council and to Mr. Ansari for giving me this opportunity.  It means the world.  And it means the world to us, sir, that you are part of our inaugural program. 

One of the main goals of the Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council is to bring more African voices to the policy debate here in Washington and you, sir, are a big and important voice as we look at United States policy in all its aspects and we are hoping that the Atlantic Council can play a constructive role in helping our government and NGO and private sector folks think about our relationship with African countries and a modern Africa, where we all want peace and prosperity. 

One of the other goals of the Atlantic Council long-standing has been a belief in creating and helping to foster the next generation of leaders, foreign policy leaders, and you see before you, the former professor, a number of students, students of Africa young and old and we are thrilled and delighted to see a roomful of people who are eager to interact.  It is the next generation that is important and permit me the privilege of the chair:  Talk to us a little bit about the next generation of Nigerians and what you and your administration are planning for them.

ACTING PRES. JONATHAN:  Thank you.  There is this saying that any individual that does not plan for the grandchildren is planning for the extinction of the family.  So as a nation, if you don’t plan for the young ones, then you are planning for the extinction of your country.  I always say that as a person, that as an adult, you only manage me; you cannot change me.  It is difficult to change somebody who’s over – significantly above 50 years.  But it is at a younger age that you can change and reposition them for the future growth of the country. 

So the investment of government is totally to bring a crop of young people with a different value system, a value system that they will think more about their country than their individuals.  That’s one of the greatest problems we have in society.  And you can only do that by showing them that, look, if you do things that are not acceptable in society – for example, the issues of corruption – that you pay dearly for it.  And if you live a decent life, you are rewarded.  Though that could be looked at as something like negative reinforcement, but that is a fact in society. 

So the government of Nigeria has a plan to prepare the generation that will take over.  In fact, whenever I address young people in Nigeria, they usually raise the issues that they have been hearing so many old names.  And the younger ones are so eager to take over.  But I usually give example that, look at the ministers we have; look at the governors we have; most of them are very young people.  So all what you have to do is to live a decent life.  You work very hard – of course, you have to be well-educated – you work very hard and be a decent citizen because then the future is very clear for you.  So that is really the cornerstone of our own focus as a government.

DR. WALKER:  Thank you very much. We have time for a few questions.  We have number of people with microphones.  May I ask that you stand, state your name and your affiliation and do us the great kindness of asking a short and succinct question so that we can enable the greatest number of questions here.  Let’s start with the lady in the middle row there, please.  Wait for the microphone, please, ma’am.

Q:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Rosemary Segero; I’m the president of Segeros International Group and Hope for Tomorrow.  Our organization focuses on empowering women and young people and our campaign focuses on export and investments.  Mr. President, thank you so much for coming.  Atlantic Council, thank you for inviting us. 

Mr. President, I just want to say one thing.  Empowerment of women and young people is the best way for the Nigerian leadership and the African leadership.  So now that you are acting as the president, put more women – 80 percent women – in your office.  (Laughter.)  You will see the development of Nigeria and in Africa and also involve the young people.  So –

DR. WALKER:  Thank you.

Q:  As you are here, I have a letter for you.  I don’t want to ask any question.  This letter I want to give to you my information.  When the other president was here, I told him I was coming to Nigeria so this letter, that is my information which I don’t want to disclose here so you can have it.  Thank you so much and I wish you well and involve women and empower them in Nigeria.  World peace in Africa and in Nigeria.

DR. WALKER:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

ACTING PRES. JONATHAN:  Thank you, though you didn’t ask a question.  But I have to commend you for the good work you are doing, because empowering the younger ones and the women is the business of society.  And I think my cabinet will have more female members, compared to most of the cabinets in the recent past. 

In fact, even because that one of the ministers who was a lady left, this is the first time that we are appointing a lady as the minister in charge of petroleum in Nigeria.  (Applause.)  That shows that I believe in women, and I believe that you can do very well, and believe that I can trust women.  (Applause.)

DR. WALKER:  Thank you.  Mel Foote?

Q:  Good afternoon, Mr. President.  Mel Foote with the Constituency for Africa here in D.C.  I have a lot of questions for you, but she said I only get one question, so my question has to do with the delta – the Niger Delta.  And what is your strategy for reducing tension and promoting economic development and getting it resolved?

ACTING PRES. JONATHAN:  Thank you.  The Niger Delta is central.  Of course, that is a major question.  Even to talk about the Niger Delta, it will take us about 30 minutes.  But I will be very, very brief.  If you have been following trends in Nigeria, you know, at the point, the restiveness in the Niger Delta got to what we will discover as a violent point.  And the government had two options.  One is either to combat the agitators with force for force, or opt for dialogue.  And we opted for dialogue, because it’s not fair of a government to wage war against its own very citizens.

And luckily for us, the young people, too, embraced that.  We came up with the concept of amnesty, that of course, if you take weapons against the state, it’s a criminal offense.  That you have a small arms or a light weapon is a criminal offense in Nigeria, except you have a license to hold it.  So for those who have done – who have the weapons, or probably, who have also done one thing wrong, the government now gives them pardon, kind of. 

That is the concept of amnesty.  They’ve been forgiven.  So surrender your weapons, and let us see how we can move the region forward.  Because the issues that you are agitating for are issues of development, and government is committed.  So we have that amnesty divided into three phases.  The disarmament phase – this is the voluntary surrender of weapons by the restive youths.  We have concluded that.  And then the next phase is rehabilitation. 

They have to move them from their previous military camps – (inaudible) – military camps, give them some business training and reorient their thinking.  But in this period, we have to provide some stipends for their survival and build some capacity for those who lack, and create opportunities for them.  Then, of course, we go to the formal reintegrating them into the normal society.  So we are on the rehabilitation phase now, and before we go into the reintegration.  That is for the militant.

But since the agitation is based on the concept that there is debt of infrastructure development in the Niger Delta, and empowerment.  Government has this concept of local content in the oil industry, so that people from within the Niger Delta and outside, could play a key role and get empowered.  But most especially, government has provided special funds for special projects in the Niger Delta, and the projects are just taking off.

And the minister of Niger Delta was personally set up to handle the Niger Delta.  This is the first time we are getting the minister dedicated to handling the Niger Delta.  And we decided to do that – it was not done until this period on accident; it was done before this time.  At any time that government has major challenges, we – a special ministry is normally created to handle that.  You know before this time that, when Lagos became a federal capital, and there was the need to develop Lagos, there was this minister of Lagos City affairs. 

After some time, when Lagos was obviously developed, there was no reason for that ministry again.  So even before the federal capital moved from Lagos to Abuja, there was no longer any need for the federal government to have a minister of Lagos City affairs, so it was abolished.  So also, the FCT ministry now – FCT is like a ministry now, because that is based on the constitution.  But probably, in some years to come, there will be no need for that.

But presently, we feel that there must be clear focus on the Niger Delta.  And that’s why the ministry was set up, to handle the Niger Delta issues.  And in addition to the Niger Delta government commission that is established by law to handle the developmental issues in the Niger Delta.  So while the special advisor to the president on Niger Delta is managing the militant youths that surrendered weapons – about 20,191 youths – the ministry of Niger Delta and the Niger Delta commission are managing the issue of youth empowerment across the Niger Delta. 

Because they don’t want a situation where you will focus on the people who carry guns against the state.  Then the peaceful youths – you neglect them.  In that case, you encourage everybody to carry guns so that they will be recognized, and we don’t want this situation.  Now, as much as we are tackling the issue of surrendered weapons, because we don’t want them to go back and get more weapons, we have not lost sight of the need to pull everybody along. 

That is why the minister of the Niger Delta is dedicated to the general development of the area, not managing the youths who have surrendered weapons.  The Niger Delta government commission is also concentrating on the whole area, not concentrating on the youths that surrendered weapons.  But only the special advisor to the president on the Niger Delta that is concentrating on these 20,191 youths that surrendered their weapons.  So by grace of God, we are progressing.  And if we go at the pace we are going, the crisis will really be reduced.

DR. WALKER:  Thank you.  In the back – this gentleman’s had his hand up from the very beginning – yes, you.

Q:  Hello.  My name is Carl LeVan and I teach at American University here in Washington, D.C.  And it’s been just over 10 years that I fell in love with your country.  So thank you so much for coming and thank you so much for putting so many public events on your calendar.  We really appreciate that and we think that, that is hopefully a sign of the transparency and public engagement of your administration.

In your public comments in Washington and in the press, as well, recently, you’ve indicated that the electoral commission, under Maurice Iwu’s leadership, has perhaps signaled some good news with certain local elections.  But there are also post-2007 elections in Anambra and elsewhere, which have not gone well, with, optimistically, 15 percent turnout and very serious problems with voter registration, and would appear to be an exaggeration and continuation of previous elections.

My question is, you know, the national assembly is contemplating a variety of electoral reforms, and as your administration weighs the next steps forward, electorally, both for the 2011 elections and also structurally, what kind of electoral reforms are you likely to support, and what kind of electoral reforms are you likely to raise some concerns about?  Thank you.

ACTING PRES. JONATHAN:  Thank you.  The observations are correct.  I still maintain that even within the laws we have, you can conduct elections that are acceptable.  The issues – I would have been surprised if the issues of elections are not raised, because these are quite interesting. 

But it’s good you specifically asked, what kind of electoral reforms, because to quite a number of people, the concept of electoral reform is removing the chairman of the electoral body.  That is the thinking of people.  If you remove Professor Iwu this year, there is electoral reform.  As long as Professor Iwu is there, there’s no electoral reform.

And I maintain that the individuals should be examined.  And I said it at various fora, that most of the actors in INEC are political officers that are tenured – that have tenured appointments.  We call them commissioners, including the chairman.  And most of them – about a third – their tenures will expire by the ending of June, this year. 

So it gives government opportunity to look at them with a hard lens to see that if they are not good enough, because they are not really appointed, we’ll have to get someone who is acceptable by society.  And the civil society in Nigeria is quite strong.  If I appoint people that have no reputation, the civil society will even assassinate me on the pages of papers.  (Laughter.)  So I have that burden, that I must appoint credible people – people that will be accepted. 

You see, but one, you specifically asked what forms of electoral reforms.  We are mending some parts of the constitution; we are mending some parts of t electoral law.  But there is one area that I will tell you that has been the key problem in Nigerian election, which, of course, it is in the present elector law.  The idea of declining resources and the voting unit – and that has been the greatest problem that we have.  Most of these manipulations, people do. 

There is accusations – like, you talk about Anambra case, where the turnout of voters are quite low.  There are two issues there.  For one, Anambra – you see, still, they have a lot of businessmen.  They are involved in a lot of commerce.  So most of the adults of Anambra State live in Lagos and other cities – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.  But during elections, during voter registration, Nigerian people – it’s not like United States of America, where if you are the ordinary residents of a place – that’s where you live – you belong to that place and nobody discriminates against you.

In Nigeria, we are still tied to our states; we are still tied to our tribes.  So during registration or during census, people go back to their villages.  Some of them don’t even go to the village for the past 10 years.  But they want to make sure that their village is recorded as populated for government’s attention to the – (inaudible).  So during election registration of voters and during census, people go back to their villages and register.  But if you do that, then during the election, it is there that you will go and vote. 

But what happened is that, because of some of the crisis we have in the Niger Delta, and of course, in the part of the Southeast, most people, they don’t want to go home.  So during the election, not all the residents in Anambra went for the elections.  And we’ve insisted that, look, your vote must count.  Even if you register in the states – if you register 3 million voters in the state – and if that day of the election, if only 200,000 members come to vote, we use those people who are willing to vote to declare to result.  We cannot wait for people who are refusing to come home.  You see, so that’s one of the reasons.

Another area that we feel – which also – (inaudible) – INEC is that one will look at the voter registration in Anambra, that we have some names that were strange to that area.  And I felt that, probably, the computer system that was used to process the voter registration had some problems.  So we are also aware of that.  But the good thing about the Anambra election is that, at least the people voted.  And because the votes were counted at the various units – I used to (explain ?) up to two other places – before this time, when you voted, the electoral unit – it was Nigeria divided into electoral units.  That is the smallest unit, for the election.

We have between 100 and 500 people that vote.  And so many electoral units are put on that – what we call a ward, with a ward headquarters.  And so many wards are put on the local government.  And so many local governments are put under a state constituency or a federal constituency or an INEC district.  And of course, the state is made up of INEC districts.  So you have different levels of collecting a result. 

Before this time, at the end of the voting and the polling unit, because of security reasons, the electoral officers don’t stay there to count the results and collate.  They move them to either the ward headquarters or the local government headquarters, where there is enough security, because there is this fear that people will cause problems.  And during that process of moving the raw results of that process, to either the local headquarters or the ward headquarters, there is a tendency for people to manipulate.  And the accusation is that, probably, somebody has 10 votes.  Before it moves to the local government headquarters, somebody will add three zeroes and count 10,000 instead of 10.  (Laughter.) 

So that has been the accusation.  And that is one of the reasons why people query and challenge the results.  But now it is that no matter what, people must stay there, at the polling unit.  We even encouraged people at the beginning, like a transitional phase, that if you vote, don’t even go away.  If you are so committed, stay around until the votes are counted and entered.  And everybody who is contesting the election must have an agent at every polling unit.  If you don’t have an agent in the polling unit, that means that in the whole of that polling unit, nobody supports you.  So you have no reason to contest the election.  (Laughter.)

But if you have even just one person alone that supports you, that person will stay there as the agent, so that at the end of the results, a copy of it will be given to your agent.  So even if you now move the results collected at the polling unit to the ward headquarters, where they will collect them from there, to the local government headquarters, where they collect – if along the line, somebody changes the figures, you have your raw field results. 

At the end of day, as the candidates, you take from all your agents and sum up and compare with the one declared by INEC.  And if there are variants, of course, you go to the tribunal, and you have the case.  The tribunal will turn the results, if they hold.  And we have used that method for elections in a state called Edo State, in the state assembly election. 

Then we’ll use that in Anambra – the governmental election.  And we just used that in a local government election in Abuja – the federal territory.  And within – and I’m not saying that those elections are perfect.  It’s difficult, even in very developed society, to have a very perfect elections.  But to some reasonable level, appreciate that there’s significant improvement.  But now, we are going further, like, maybe, one thing I’ll mention, if I could.  It’s difficult to go the whole hog about talking about all the reforms we want to do, because we have submitted all the papers to the national assembly and they are working on it.

I wouldn’t want to pre-empt them, because at the end of the day, it is they that will bring out the amendments and the new laws.  But it’s not necessarily what we submit.  But one thing we have also introduced is that, we see that during our electoral processes, a number of people commit forgery.  For example, it is recorded on the papers that Goodluck Jonathan has 10 votes in a particular ward.  And as you move this paper from the unit or from the ward level to the local government, somebody changed that 10 votes to 10,000 votes by altering the figures.  That is forgery. 

But what has happened in Nigeria is that, at the end of elections, somebody who is aggrieved may go to courts.  The courts will even cancel the result because of forgery.  But the person who committed that offense is going away; nobody cares.  It’s only depends on who lost the election or who else are frowning, and the person who wins will go smiling.  But the criminal that altered the result is not punished. 

And we said no, we must set up an electoral offenses commission – a commission that will not participate in the conduct of the elections – they will be removed from the conventional police, though they are police officers and other security agencies that will form the commission.  But they will be removed from the conventional police, so they have no business in conducting the election. 

But at the end of the election, they look into the election, whether anybody has committed any criminal offense.  Whether you win the election or you lose the election is immaterial to them.  But has somebody committed a criminal offense?  Even if the tribe announced or the court, in their pronouncements, that somebody has committed an offense, they will investigate.  They will not use – (inaudible) – or anybody to report.  But if somebody writes a petition, they will investigate. 

If there is no petition, then when the tribunals make pronouncement and say that somebody has committed forgery, they will step in and prosecute so that people will know that they don’t just commit electoral offense and just walk away, and say, it is election.  Election does not mean that somebody has to be fraudulent, does not mean that people have to commit forgery.  So those are some of the reforms that we’re talking about.  There are others that we raised that, probably, the national assembly may not agree with us.

And one thing that is controversial is the issue of appointing the electoral bodies – of course, civil society in Nigeria will say no, it is the national judicial council who is to appoint the people in INEC.  But we feel that INEC is an executive body, and by our constitution and by our separation of powers from the executive, legislative and judiciary, the judiciary, we believe, should not perform executive functions.  Otherwise, there will be no end to it.  So that is one – the only area we, maybe, don’t agree with the civil society.

And of course, we are all humans.  After all, the judgments given by the court – sometimes, we will even contest it.  So it has to do with the person who is making the appointment.  So we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.  If a president appoints somebody who is not good enough, we cannot, because of that one person, destroy a system.  We must maintain the separation of powers.  Otherwise, the concept of separation of powers in the presidential system will be bastardized.

So those are the areas where – if you read the – (inaudible) – report, it’s a voluminous book with so many recommendations, which I didn’t bore you with, which I can’t even remember all here.  But we have given the whole booklet and our own recommendations to the national assembly.  They are the people who will come up with the complete modifications.

DR. WALKER:  And the simple message for your upcoming election –

ACTING PRES. JONATHAN:  It will be clean.  (Laughter, applause.)

DR. WALKER:  Ladies and gentlemen, I have to ask your indulgence.  The acting president has not only had a very full day, but has a program that follows on this event, so perhaps we could tempt you back to the Atlantic Council for another visit to answer these questions when you return to the United States, because as you can see, the interest is great.  But ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure that you will understand that we need to conclude the formal program right now. 

And let’s do a little bit of housekeeping.  Before I ask you to offer our thanks to the acting president and the entire delegation from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, may I ask that everyone here please remain seated while the official party departs.  And may I also ask that you check our Web site.  And we really look forward to hearing from many African voices here at the Atlantic Council and the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center.  Ladies and gentlemen, please join with me in thanking Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

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