One news item that must have significance for most stakeholders in electoral politics in Nigeria during the week would be the announcement of Ene Obi as the new Convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room. She replaces the former Convener, Barrister Esther Uzoma.
It is not clear if the civil society Situation Room in Nigeria has warmed its way into the hearts of the average Nigerian. Whether it has done that or not, it can serve as a disciplinary instrument and check on electoral rascality on the part of the election management body, contestants and national post-election mood. A platform of over seventy partner organisations cannot but have tremendous framing power and for which electing an Ene Obi as Convener could be a turning point.
Obi’s predecessor, the late Barrister Esther Uzoma was, indeed, gender advocacy personified. She lived it but Ene Obi is a product of multiple tendencies. She is as complex as they come, capable of being so ethically and ideologically charged on the same wavelength as to, first, cry at the sight of the (electoral) rascality Nigerian elite are capable of before switching on the ideological combat dress.
With that culture of politicising contradictions she accumulated from the radical nationalism of the student movement years, sharpened in her stint with the Nigeria Labour Congress before docking at ActionAid International as Country Director for Nigeria, she must interest all those who argue that agency can overwrite structures or institutions in the making of reality. Her emergence as Convener of the Civil Society Situation Room, therefore, makes her someone to watch.
No one individual can, all alone, recreate History but that does not mean that an individual is a prisoner of his or her circumstances. Now that we know that interpreting and changing things are one and the same thing, agency can be decisive. This is more so with Mrs Obi, a practiced fighter for gender and human rights, social justice, inclusion of vulnerable groups, governance and women economic empowerment and a social scientist, to boot. As the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room itself hinted in terms of expectation, “she is poised to lead the Situation Room to greater heights”.