Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday warned against the use of state resources for campaigns and other political party activities by aspirants who are public office holders.
The CSOs, comprising Transparency International (TI), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), also pointed out that Nigerians are losing confidence in the country because of poor leadership and asked aspirants to give prime place to the observance of the rule of law, insecurity and poverty in their electoral blueprint.
The CSOs through the chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, noted that the use of taxpayers’ funds and collective resources of Nigerians to fund personal political ambition is totally unacceptable.
Rafasanjani, who also serves as the executive director of CISLAC and country representative of Transparency International, said: “We are living witnesses to how ministers and other top public office holders use state apparatuses such as government jets, public cars as well as funds to pursue their personal ambitions which, wrongfully, does not create a level playing ground and is a bad omen for our democracy.”
Rafsanjani noted that the move by 2023 aspirants-cum-public officers is shocking and alarming, saying that even with the enormous challenges facing the country at this moment, they still have the audacity to run for office with scarce state resources.
The TMG boss decried the exorbitant amount of money being demanded for the nomination and expression of interest forms to contest in party primaries, saying that such amounts could only be afforded by people with access to corrupt funds and those with plans to recoup their wealth when elected into public office.
He, therefore, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, and anti-corruption agencies to put the spotlight on the huge exchange of money at party conventions.
According to him, the above listed agencies should monitor the way aspirants bribe delegates with various sums of money, usually in international currencies like the United States dollar, which turn the leadership recruitment exercise into a game for the highest bidder.
He advised INEC to ensure that parties submit their audit reports as required.
Similarly, Rafsanjani urged political appointees and other public servants aiming for elective positions to tender their resignation, noting that political appointees are mandated to resign their appointments as a condition to contest the forthcoming election in adherence to Section 84 of the electoral Act recently signed into law.
Rafsanjani also disclosed that the TMG and its members would keenly observe the conduct of the primary elections and make sure that there is adequate compliance with the electoral law to ensure that there is electoral transparency in the country.
He also spoke on what is required of those aspiring to lead Nigeria.
“First and foremost, rule of law, respect for the constitution, human rights protection, social inclusion, nondiscrimination on the basis of ethnicity and religion should form part of their blueprint. They must adhere to the yearning and the aspiration of Nigerians. We cannot afford to have a president that violates the rule of law.
“We must also ensure that they include rebranding of the country nationally and internationally in their blueprint. We need to rebrand Nigeria; we need to reorient the people. Many people see Nigerians as criminals, liars, corrupt people and people who cannot be trusted.
“So, we need a total rebranding of the leadership of the country; not only the executive and the legislature, the judiciary must uphold the principles of justice. The blueprint must include tackling poverty, insecurity, and division in the country. They must ensure that social services such as healthcare, education form part of their blueprint.,” Rafsanjani said.
Northern Groups Decry Hijack Of Political Space By Same Actors
On their part, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), through its spokesperson, Suleiman Abd-Azeez said, “It is actually worrying that most of the aspirants to the 2023 presidency in both the major political parties happen to be among the same class of exploiter elite.
“Almost all the aspirants, especially those who can be said to be the forerunners, belong to the same exploiter class that has monopolised the total available activities in the country since independence.
“They belong to the same cartel of ill-equipped and ill-prepared leaders that has misgoverned the country and mismanaged our national economy in the pursuit of their quest for personal power and acquisition of fantastic wealth.
“Many of the top aspirants, in particular the PDP and the APC, belong to the old stock of leaders who always prefer to leave the bulk of Nigerians in poverty and fighting one another, so that they can continue to manipulate us during elections.”
He lamented that this class of elite had since 1999 formed an iron fortress around themselves, making it difficult for competent and reliable Nigerians outside their core enclave to have access to power.
“What is worse is that the current set of laws does not allow for alternatives in the form of independent candidates for Nigerians to have a wider scope of choice. They have also succeeded in manipulating the leadership selection process by imposing the indirect primaries by a handful of delegates who are numbered, known and with price tags.”
For his part, the president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said, “Well, so far I have not seen any presidential aspirant with a clearly-spelt-out agenda. Maybe it is still a work in progress.
“In terms of their suitability, it would all depend on what they are able to bring to the table in order for the masses to see whether their agenda is capable of bouncing the nation back to balance economically and socially, especially the worrisome challenge of insecurity.
He added that many civil society groups, including AYCF, want full democratization, instead of the politics of convenience, called zoning.
We Don’t Want Poor Governance To Continue – ACF
Meanwhile, the apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has called for a pragmatic president in 2023, not one that promises to continue from where the incumbent administration stops.
ACF secretary-general, Murtala Aliyu, who spoke exclusively with LEADERSHIP, said the forum’s position on who the next president should be has always been clear.
“We are looking for a president that is a Nigerian, a president who appreciates the challenges of Nigeria today, a president who would move the country forward, address security issues, economy, youth employment/empowerment issues, address our growth and also emplace our leadership on the African continent and black race. This is the kind of president we expect; we are not expecting somebody who will come and say we will continue from what has been done in the past.
“We are looking for a candidate who will be very pragmatic; we don’t care about the aspirant’s party. ACF is interested in anybody who will come to solve Nigeria’s problem and also protect Nigeria’s future as we expect it in the coming decades” he said.
Beware Of Aspirants With Empty Promises, Afenifere Tells Nigerians
On its part, commenting on the governance agenda of the presidential aspirants, the leader of the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said many of the promises from the aspirants are mere political contrivances to deceive the masses.
He said, ‘’We are just living in denial; all those promises they are making are to deceive the masses. Is the country stable for any development? Are you sure if you go to the polling station, you won’t have a bullet behind you?
“First thing first, let us save the Constitution, then there will be an election; any exercise without the Constitution is an exercise in futility. We need to have the country first before we can talk of development, before we talk of voting, that is the question that has not been addressed. The problem of insecurity, we have not been told how it would be solved.’’
Adebanjo argued that the first thing is to change the Constitution and agree on whether to be together or not, saying those who are confusing Nigerians know what they are doing.
Some Aspirants’ Blueprints Not Mere Political Statements – Ohanaeze.
However, the apex Igbo social-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday said the blueprints of some presidential aspirants are not mere statements.
The national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia disclosed this in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP.
He said he was convinced that some of the aspirants have the capacity to move Nigeria to a better position from their blueprints.
Though Ogbonnia refused to mention names, he said it was unfortunate that there are people who are not exposed to television debates to enable Nigerians know what they can offer if elected into office.
He said Nigeria is presently looking for a knowledgeable person who has the intellect to proffer solutions to the current challenges facing the country.
We Will Set Governance Agenda For Presidential Candidates – PANDEF
On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has said it will join forces with other regional bodies in the country to set up a governance agenda for presidential candidates of political parties.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, PANDEF’s spokesman, Ken Robinson, said at the moment, the organisation was more interested in the persons the major parties will nominate as their presidential candidates.
Robinson said, “Each one of the numerous presidential aspirants is claiming to be the right person that can take Nigeria out of the woods but suffice it to say that PANDEF would at the appropriate time, together with the other regional bodies, set a governance agenda for the presidential candidates.”
He further said that in the national interest, the next president of Nigeria, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year presidency, should come from Southern Nigeria, preferably from the South East.
Amaechi, Saraki, Peter Obi Intensify Campaign
Meanwhile, some of the presidential aspirants have intensified their campaign to clinch their parties’ tickets.
Among them are Rotimi Amaechi, Bukola Saraki and Peter Obi. They visited various states of the federation at the weekend to canvas their party delegates’ support.
Addressing delegates in Edo State, weekend, Amaechi urged them not to be carried away by the bevy of aspirants from the ruling party, but to stay focused on the goal of voting a credible, experienced and performing aspirant like himself to fly the party flag at the 2023 presidential elections.
He said, “Politicians will come to ask for your votes, but please, as South South people, as politicians, as good people of Nigeria, don’t waste your votes. The problem with politicians is you. The elite have shown you that they are here to ‘chop money’ and you allow them. They will bring money here and say you should vote for them, and nobody will care to ask ‘what was he before now, what is his performance?’ The economy they want to come and manage, how have they performed?
“Ask me as minister for transport; I’m working hard to make sure that the Lagos-Calabar rail line begins and it will come through Benin. I can account for my part. So, when those in charge of the economy come to you for votes, ask them how they have managed the economy.”
Amaechi also harped on the importance of having an electable candidate on the ballot for the APC to win the presidency.