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Fellows host Zoom on running for local government office in Nigeria

ElectioneeringNigeria

In October 2020, two Nigerian Tutu Fellows, Akin Oyebode and Serah Ugbabe, co-hosted a Zoom discussion, entitled, Let’s Run for Office: Spotlight on Local Government Chairman. The guest speaker for the event was Folarin Gbadebo-Smith PhD, the Director General for the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research as well as the Local Government Chairman for Lagos from 2003- 2007.

In the Zoom discussion, Folarin shared his history, personal anecedotes, and insights into working and rising through local governance in Nigeria.

Both Akintunde Oyebode, a 2019 Tutu Fellow, and Serah Makka-Ugbabe, a 2018 Tutu Fellow, come with experience of government. Akin is now the Commissioner of Finance and Economic Development at Ekiti State Government and Serah is the Nigeria Country Director for ONE Campaign, an advocacy and campaigning organisation that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.  Aside from the previously-mentioned professional history, Folarin is also the Moderator at the Center for Conflict Resolution at the Munk School of Public Policy. He serves as the Principal Consultant at the Lagos State Public Staff Development College, a World Bank Project.

The Zoom discussion unpacked the false dichotomy between ‘us’ (citizens) and ‘them’ (the elected). It also considered local governance as a viable and important avenue for highly skilled, educated Nigerians to explore as being part of an active citizenry in Nigeria – in spite of the prevailing narrative. Some key takeaways, include Folarin emphasising that “moral rectitude is not itself a goal to run for office – find your cause and motivation.” He shared practical tips for running for office. As an example, he recounted when he was running for office at a time when there was a lack of security in Obalende, Lagos in the early 2000s. He and some members of the community paid for and equipped vigilante groups to secure the community. As a citizen without a political platform, he ran as an independent candidate and literally canvassed for votes knocking on doors in the community. He was later noticed by one of the two big parties given the momentum he was able to mobilise and finished his race under one of the parties with more structure.

During his tenure, he noted the value of “tenacity” - keeping going until someone stops you. Furthermore, Folarin noted how advantageous the connections and networks the likes of the Tutu Fellows have that could be brought to local governance and public-private partnerships. On the recent SARS protest, he compared the protest to that of the Arab Spring, saying that he believes the protest quickly morphed from a specific issues to a general dissatisfaction with government. He warned that power will not simply be surrendered.

This Zoom discussion was the first in what the hosts hope will be a series of like-minded discussions.

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Saturday, 23 January 2021

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