Imperative of tracking politicians’ campaign promises


“Politicians campaign in poetry, but they govern in prose.”- Mario Matthew Cuomo, American lawyer and politician who served as the 52nd governor of New York.

Last week, I was in five out of the six South-West states (except Lagos) on what I tagged political evangelism. As a consultant on Democracy and Good Governance, I sometimes get opportunities to build the capacity of actors and stakeholders in the sector ranging from political party chieftains, staff of election management bodies viz. the Independent National Electoral Commission and State Independent Electoral Commissions, Civil Society Organisations, media practitioners, security agents, lawmakers at both federal and state levels as well as the electorate.  I was on one of such assignments last week when the Nigeria Women Trust Fund organised training for selected campaign promises trackers in Ekiti and Osun states.  What informed the choice of the two states was the fact that they just had new governors in 2022.

I seized the opportunity of the South-West visit to mix business with pleasure by visiting kith and kin in the geo-political zone.  It also afforded me the opportunity to attend the banquet organised in honour of that great folklore singer and thespian who recently joined the club of octogenarians. I’m talking about Sir Jimi Solanke. I was live at the June 12 Cultural Centre at Kuto, Abeokuta last Saturday, October 22, 2022 to be part of the mélange of the crème de la crème who came to honour the great Nigerian and witnessed the public presentation of his biography titled “The Grandmaster: Folk Songs. Folk Tales. Arts and Jazz. The Photo Journal of Sir Jimi Solanke.”

Back to business, the Nigeria Women Trust Fund in embarking on the tracking of campaign promises of the new governors of Ekiti and Osun states is sending clear message that it is no longer going to be business as usual when politicians make hollow campaign promises without any intention to fulfil them. It is not a new idea to track campaign promises of politicians elected into office, as a group known as POLITIFACT (The Poynter Institute) has been tracking campaign promises of the United States of America Presidents and congressmen from the time of President Barrack Obama to date. Likewise, the Centre for Democracy and Development did track 242 campaign promises of the President, Major General Muhammdu Buhari(retd.), and the ruling All Progressives Congress between 2017 and 2019. It was titled Buharimeter. However, what is unique about the initiative of the NWTF is that the monitors are to track the campaign promises of Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State and that of governor-elect of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, from the gender perspective.

This invariably means disaggregating the pledges according to gender.  This will enable the citizens to understand how the promises made will impact on both sexes, men and women.  The truth is that the needs of both sexes are not always the same, hence it is important to archive the promises and separate them into those that will impact men and women, positively and negatively. For instance, taxation, budget and social amenities can affect both sexes differently. As to the reason for tracking campaign promises from gender perspective, the rationale includes:  To ensure equal opportunities and development for both male and female population; to ascertain if there are gender gaps in government’s planning and programmes; to have empirical data for advocacy for gender equity in governance and to provide new programme ideas for gender parity.

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Tracking campaign promises from gender perspective involve the following: Developing a scorecard; organising town-hall meetings with government officials responsible for implementing the governor’s campaign promises; phone-in on live radio and television programmes to ask questions from government officials on state of implementation of the campaign promises, especially those that affect women; using the Freedom of Information Act  to demand from government officials the state of implementation of certain policies and programmes promised during political campaigns; advocacy visits to the governor and his commissioners as well as other relevant officials to demand implementation of pledges made during campaigns; public interest litigation such as was done by Nigerian women groups in 2022.

In case you don’t know, some of the laws giving legal backing to tracking of campaign promises of elected government officials include: The 1999 Constitution (as amended); National Gender Policy 2022; Open Government Partnership Agreement signed to by Nigeria; United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030); and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. For instance, some of the constitutional provisions are to be found in Section 42 which talks about right to freedom from discrimination; Section 14 (1) which says, “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.” There is also S. 14(2)(b) which says, “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government.” “S. 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution says, “The composition of the government of a state, local government council, or any agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority, and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the federation” S. 15(5)  also says, “The State shall abolish corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

Furthermore, National Gender Policy (2021 – 2026) sets a minimum standard expected of the Nigerian government to meet its mandate for gender equality. The policy also sets standards for good governance, accountability and being socially responsive to the needs of vulnerable groups. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Principle Two) says, ‘Leave no one behind’ is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Among the 16 commitments of Open Government Partnership, which Nigeria signed on to in 2016 are inclusiveness, service delivery, access to information, citizen engagement and anti-corruption.

Governor Biodun Oyebanji aka BAO has a six-point agenda namely: Youth development and job creation; human capital development; agriculture and rural development; infrastructure and industrialisation; arts, culture and tourism and governance. On the other hand, the Governor-Elect of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke better known as Imole, has a five-point agenda viz. ensuring direct, immediate impact of government policies to alleviate the suffering of the citizens; empowering women, artisans and traders through access to finance and skill upgrade; targeting agriculture as a tool for economic development, poverty alleviation and job creation; boosting state economy through direct labour policies in public and community infrastructure; and eliminating waste, high cost and corruption in governance. What the trained NWTF trackers will be doing in the course of this exercise is to monitor the appointments, policies, projects, legislations, and programmes of the two governors to see how they impact on women and Persons with Disabilities. A scorecard has been developed which will rate the implementation of these campaign promises in four ways namely Achieved, Ongoing, Pending and Abandoned. I do hope the NWTF will rate their excellences high in terms of gender mainstreaming at the end of their tenure in office. Good luck!

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