Being a keynote address presented at the 2022 Easter summit of the Nsukka Journalist Forum (NJF) on June 18, 2022


Without being told, you are all aware that we in this part of the world are already an endangered species living daily under the fear of the unknown. There is no
safe haven anywhere except the Lord God who has been our refuge and strength.
It is of his mercy that we are not yet consumed, and, therefore, I consider it
pertinent to begin this address by giving thanks, honour and praise to him who
has kept all of us alive to witness this day and this event, despite the inhibitions of
our biting economy, sociopolitical uncertainties and security challenges. May His
name be praised forever.
Let me sincerely express my profound appreciation to the leadership of the
Nsukka Journalist Forum (NJF) and the organizers of this conference for extending
this invitation and asking me to deliver this keynote address. In fact, the moment
I saw your letter of invitation I was inwardly moved to accept and honour it, not
for any other thing but for your commitment to addressing the matter of the
Besides preaching and evangelism, which are the basic means of communicating
the gospel by the church, are the fundamental duties of the Christians on earth.
And so, when I got this invitation, it immediately occurred to me that journalism
as an aspect of advocacy and communication has a lot in common with the
assignment of the church on earth. I think the church and the journalists are
partners (or should be partners) in the ministry of disseminating information. Of
course, you all know that the hallmark of authentic journalism is thorough
investigation before dissemination. So is the task of authentic gospel preaching:
the church detests heresy as true journalists detest fake and unverified
I am particularly delighted that this conference is tagged Easter Summit, even
though it is taking place in June. This shows me that your association is
conversant with the cardinal tenets of the Christian faith. It means that you still
realize the significance of Easter as the momentous victory of truth over lies and
conspiracy. You know that on Good Friday the entire gamut of the powers of

darkness, principalities and powers trumped up allegations and ended up
crucifying the TRUTH on the cross of Calvary, but on the third day, the Easter
morning, the TRUTH resurrected in resounding triumph and eternal victory over
death and the agents of darkness. And so, Easter can never be belated and I thank
you for reminding us of the significance of Easter by this Easter summit.
Our vote, our power
The theme of this summit which my keynote address is expected to highlight is
“Our vote, our power”. This, briefly put, is a summation of everything embedded
in the axiom that “power belongs to the people” or the famous idea of Abraham
Lincoln, who defined democracy as “government of the people by the people for
the people”. Therefore, when we say “our vote” we mean the vote of the people,
that is, the voting masses. In other words, in a true democracy, the voter card is
the supreme instrument with which all the people (not a special class or
hegemony) decide who becomes what in the polity of a people. “Our power”, in
this context, means not necessarily our physical ability or strength but, primarily,
the right we have as a people to decide or execute a decision that affects our
lives. This right is constitutional and inalienable, and belongs to every citizen who
meets all the conditions for eligibility. No wonder A. O. Ojo (1984) averred that
“government as an institution is the machinery with which the dreams of a nation
are formulated and realized”. The type of dream formulated and realized by any
government is determined largely by the type of people elected. In other words, a
nation gets it right or wrong at the level of electing her leaders at all the levels of
governance. And this is exactly what the Bible says in Proverbs 29:2: “When the
righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan”.
You know better than I do whether we are rejoicing or groaning in Nigeria!
From the foregoing, we can see how important and laudable the theme you have
chosen for this conference is, especially at this critical time in the political history
of our nation when people have developed cold feet to go out and register or
vote in elections because of the apparent injustice that has beclouded our
politics, politicians and the electoral process from the national to the local level.
There is no gainsaying the fact that since 1999 there has been increase in voter
apathy as a result of the glaring instances of electoral violence and fraud, which
have made millions of Nigerians conclude that “our votes don’t count; therefore,
what is the need of bothering ourselves with coming out to vote?” Voter apathy
has grown by the day. For instance, reliable statistics show that in 2015 it was

only 15.3% of the voting population that voted to determine the result of the
presidential election. And this number was just about 42.4% of the registered
voters that year. The 2019 statistics were worse: it was 18% of the entire voting
population that voted, which represented about 35% of registered voters; which
also means that while many did not register at all, many others registered but did
not vote.
The answer is simple: the fear of being killed by political thugs who have been
saturated with money and the conviction that the election figures would be
manipulated have kept millions of Nigerians from coming out on election days.
There are three reasons why election figures have always been manipulated in
our elections and these are only some of the cankerworm eating and destroying
the fabrics of our democracy. They are:
Disguised one-party system
Constitutionally, Nigeria is a multi-party-system democracy, where more than two
parties are expected to present candidates in the general election at all levels. But
in reality we know that some states are practising one-party system because of
the Machiavellian theory of the winner takes all. Instead of people forming strong
opposition parties to create healthy competition with the ruling party, everybody
wants to join the bandwagon. This is why at the turn of every election in this
country we see people defecting shamelessly from one political party to the
other. This is because they have no political ideology to defend but simply see
politics as a walk of life. This is why many people did not know when the last local
government election took place in the state where they are full-fledged citizens
let alone participate in it. How would they know and how could they participate
when the so-called primary elections ended practically in only one party
presenting candidates? What was the need of coming out to vote in an election
where there was no challenger? In a disguised one-party system, other political
parties are either intimidated by naked power or silenced by infiltration, and this
is dangerous to any nation. Of course, there is no democracy in this kind of
process where 99% of the population is excluded in deciding who should be their
leaders. It is this kind of politics that promotes the idea of zoning of political
offices, which I consider as a scam. Yes, I mean that zoning is a scam! It is true
that the idea seems to be a display of fairness, justice and equity but one needs to
ask: why do people agitate for zoning? Injustice and marginalization birthed the

agitation for zoning. If governance should be devoid of self-aggrandizement and
hunting of perceived enemies, agitation for zoning will die naturally.
One inevitable consequence of a disguised one-party system is godfatherism. The
situation where an incumbent “anoints” and imposes a candidate on the ruling
party (and consequently on the entire electorate) as his sacrosanct successor is
abhorrent and inimical to true democracy. These anointed successors are not
chosen on the basis of any excellent pedigrees but simply because of their
sheepish and dubious allegiance to the godfathers. When this imposition
happens, the people with the right leadership qualities, people who have the
interest of the people at heart are silenced and pushed out from the race, and the
masses continue to suffer. This is why the local government system which is
meant to deliver democracy dividends at the grass roots has become a colossal
failure. Why? Because the godfather-governors always choose (not elect) their
loyal party boys as chairmen of the local governments, thereby ensuring that they
have absolute control of the allocation to the grass roots. Again, the masses
Money politics
The only factor which makes a disguised one-party system and godfatherism
thrive in our polity is money. Money politics means power to the highest bidder,
whether he is a thief or not. It is not democracy but money-crazy. People sell their
conscience to remain in perpetual penury. We have always seen it play out in
Nigerian politics but we saw it play out in the recent conventions of the two major
political parties, where some delegates betrayed their leaders who took them to
the convention because they saw dollars. What type of democracy are we
practising in a situation where the presidential form is sold at N100, 000,000? Yes,
N100, 000,000. And if what we heard was true that each of the delegates to the
presidential primaries went home with not less than twenty-five thousand dollars
as inducement from the contestants, does it not imply that the presidency goes to
the highest bidder and not to the best man for the job? If it is true that each of
the delegates to the gubernatorial primaries went home with not less than N400,
000 and were directed by the incumbent on whom to vote, does it not portray us
as a money-crazy nation instead of a democratic entity? These pertinent
questions must be asked: is there any hope in the type of candidates presented

by this money politics? Is it not a national shame and tragedy that our universities
are closed down for more than three months because of staff emoluments and
yet politicians are paying hundreds of millions to indicate their interest in
becoming our president? Is it not painful that even our primary school teachers
(primary school o! – the very foundation of any nation’s formal education) are on
strike simply because of minimum wage and yet the powers that be are busy
campaigning for 2023 election instead of securing the future of our children?
Where then is the patriotism and commitment to social contract which are the
hallmarks of elected public officers?
Why won’t people be demoralized and disillusioned? Why won’t there be voter
apathy? What confidence do people have that if they come out to vote their
votes will determine their leaders? This is more worrisome in our own region, the
South-East, the Igbo states which has been at the receiving end since the
inception of democracy in the country.
But how long shall we continue in this traumatizing apathy? It must be
emphasized at this juncture that if we must change a system we must be deeply
involved in it and, I think, this is the import of the theme of this summit: that the
best form of defence, as they say, is attack, not running away.
The good news
The good news is that there is a revolution going on. More than ever before,
people are realizing that absconding from election is not the best way of
emancipating ourselves from political slavery. The eagerness and enthusiasm with
which people are struggling to get the PVC this year is a sign of this revolution.
The fact that our youths are rising against the recycling of old-time politicians is a
sign that this revolution will bring about the natural dismantling of one-party
system, godfatherism and money politics. This tempo should be sustained and
The charge
As we come close to the 2023 general election, I charge everyone here to rise to
the occasion. It is time to take our destiny in our own hands by using our ballots
to vote out incompetent and corrupt leaders, just as South Africans voted out the
apartheid regime with their votes. We must resolve to eschew voter apathy and
participate fully in the electoral process. As a church we have started the

campaign from the pulpits, urging our members to go and get their PVC and arm
themselves for the election come 2023. I therefore use this opportunity to urge
our members to intensify effort in this direction, especially now that the deadline
for registration and verification is almost here with us. We are also telling our
people that voting should base on the credibility of the candidates not on the
alluring wads of money which some politicians distribute as baits to the electorate
whenever an election is at the corner. We must shine our eyes and be wise.
As I thank the Nsukka Journalist Forum for providing this forum for us to
brainstorm on the way out of our political debacle, I also urge you to put on your
professional garb as the conscience of the people and help provide the public
with the information needed to make the right choice during elections. As
watchdogs of the society, you should always remember that you have been
designated as the invisible fourth branch of government. In other words, after the
executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the journalists should be the hope of
the common man, in terms of providing reliable information and creating
platforms to challenge executive recklessness, legislative lawlessness and judicial
travesty that tend to deny the people of their voting right or secured mandate.
Already, there are cases where the INEC mode of operation is making it difficult
for people to register or verify their PVC, either as a result of system failure or
deliberate bottlenecks aimed at denying some targeted people their voting rights.
Our journalists can unravel the mystery behind this anomaly and thus restore
people’s right to them. In 2015 GoVote was developed and launched by
collaborating organizations as a platform aimed at educating and empowering
Nigerians with the right tools to vote. It simplified the entire electoral process and
served as an information point to different categories of voters. It will be a
welcome development if the church and the journalists in Nsukka can collaborate
and create similar platforms across the zone to make people more responsive to
the entire electoral process. With just less than three weeks to the end of
registration and verification of voters, it will also be nice for INEC to further
decentralize the venues to reduce the human gridlock and fasten the process.
The American human rights activist, Loung Ung, rightly said that “voting is not
only our right, it is our power”. What it means is that voting is a strong catalyst for
positive change in the society. It also means that our votes are strong weapons in
our hands to choose who rules us. Therefore, we must do the needful: we must

register and get our PVC and engage in the electoral process in order to change
the narrative and build the type of nation we want, bearing in mind that,
according to Larry Sebato, “every election is determined by people who show up”.
It is better, therefore, that you vote and have locus to blame the electoral umpire
if they fail in their own duties than stay away and leave the stage for those who
show up in elections only to trade with and destroy our future. Above all, we
should always realize that all power belongs to God, who is capable of thwarting
and overruling all human manipulations and intrigues and choose credible leaders
for his people. As we faithfully go to him in prayers and play our part honourably,
He shall surely bless us with good leaders.
Thank you once again for this privilege, and God bless you.
*Rt. Rev. Agbo, JP, is the bishop of Nsukka (Anglican Communion).


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