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Politics Of ‘Free’ Nomination Forms

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In this report, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on the new tactics adopted by politicians seeking elective offices.

Since the return of democracy in 1999 till date, politicians in Nigeria have been devising means of winning the support of their people in order to get elected into one office or the other.
Most politicians vying for political offices will always say they are contesting because ‘their people’ asked them to run for a office. As Nigeria is set for the conduct of another general elections in 2019, the country is now witnessing a change of tactics by politicians. There seems to be new tactics being employed by politicians suggesting they are not desperate for the political offices they are vying for. The new trend, LEADERSHIP Friday gathered, is the purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms by ‘groups’ or ‘constituents’ for aspirants as if the office-seeking politicians are prompted to do so as thier wish.

Checks revealed that some persons or members of the ‘groups’ that purportedly purchased nomination forms for these aspirants, don’t even know the cost of the forms. It was further gathered that some of them are just hoodwinked into the ‘groups’ just to score cheap political points. Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, President Muhammadu Buhari, Deputy Senate President Ike Ikweremadu, Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Kano state governor Abdullahi Ganduje are beneficiaries of free nomination forms purchased by ‘groups’. A presidential aspirant under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prof Hagher Iyorwuese and many others also got their forms through groups. Speaking while receiving his forms, President Buhari said that his protest at the APC national secretariat on the ‘very expensive cost of the presidential nomination form,’ endeared many offers from different associations and organisations whose members were ready to pool their resources to buy him the form. “The 12 million members of the Rice Farmers Association offered to buy me a form,” Buhari said adding that members of the Fertiliser Producers Association also contacted his office with the same offer.

“Some members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association also offered to buy the nomination form. I can go on and on. I am very touched by these gestures. And I want to assure you all that my commitment to our Change Agenda is as strong as ever,” he noted while accepting the nomination form from the group by the name NCAN. “I want to ask all the other groups who have offered to buy my nomination form to redirect their contributions to the NotTooYoungToRun wing of the APC,” Buhari added. For his part, former vice lresident Atiku was the first to receive such a gift as he wept at his campaign office shortly after receiving the forms. The group, Atiku Support Groups (ASG) which purchased the forms, said they were committed to the Nigerian cause. Atiku, thereafter promised to do everything possible not to disappoint Nigerians if given the opportunity at the general election. “So, for such a woman to believe that I have got those leadership qualities and including those of you who have brought out your monies to buy this form, is one of the most serious challenges I have ever faced in my political career,” Atiku said.

Also, Ekweremadu’s forms were purchased by some contituents of his senatorial zone.The group said they are in support of Ekweremadu’s re-election because he has performed creditably well in office and positively touched the lives of the people of the five local government areas in Enugu West despite the prevailing economic challenges in the country. Presenting the nomination forms, the President of Enugu West Parliament, Hon. Paul Anikwe, described Ekweremadu as ‘God-sent.’ “He is a developer and a man of the people who honours God and respects mankind,” Anikwe disclosed. Ekweremadu was apparently carried away buy the gesture given his strange response. Elated, he said he can stay in the Senate as long as he want.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Dogara also had his forms purchased by his constituents. In his case, the scenario was dramatic. His people picked the nomination forms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for him when he was still (officially) in the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Dogara said having spent nearly 12 years in the House of Reps, the ‘overwhelming’ demand of his constituents forced him to seek for re-election.  Also, amongst the governors that got free forms is El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State. His forms were purchased by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and four other groups including Kaduna traders even though another group of traders denied being party to the free gift. The latter group issued the disclaimer on the ground that he ‘destroyed’ their markets while the other groups said they want Governor El-Rufa’i to seek re-election in 2019 because they believe in his leadership.   The four other groups which joined in buying the form are Petroleum Tankers Driver (PTD), National Association of Road Transport Workers (NARTO), Traders of Sheikh Mahmud Gummi Market and The Katsina and Daura People’s Association based in Kaduna. El-Rufa’i, who expressed surprise at the gesture, dropped what seemed like a bombshell as he said didn’t have N20 million to buy the nominations forms.

“I don’t have N20 million also to buy my form. The money I have in the bank is not close to that amount. I have only one account in GTB. Except I sell my house will I be able to raise that amount,” El-Rufa’i was quoted as saying.  Meanwhile, speaking on the new trend, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Kaduna State, Barr. Mark Jacob, said the current trend of free nominations forms, which he described as a shame, is the handiwork of APC politicians. But for a Kaduna-based lawyer and a human rights activist, Barr. Gloria Babeiam Ballason, it is an “interesting season” of the abject poor obtaining forms for the stupendous rich. “That’s what the curators of the funny skits would have us believe. Away from the satire of it, it speaks of how disrespectful the elite are to the rest of us. The networth of assets for most of these ‘the poor crowd-funded for my forms’ actors are in the public domain,” she said. Ballason added that some of the politicians have converted public property to their private use and citizens are just waiting for the garb of immunity to be stripped off them so they call them to account.

“So, really the facts are before us and facts are sacred. Many Nigerians do not believe the drama. I think also that citizens deserve more respect than to have their names or associations ‘falsely’ used as those who buy forms. Of course we are already reading disclaimers but the real point is, there is the need for basic decency and decorum to be observed even during electioneering,” she noted. The lawyer further said that Nigerians especially young people need to grow beyond gullibility, adding that having championed the Not-Too-Young-To-Run mantra, there is need to be a demonstration of value in young leadership and confidence in what they can deliver. “Rather than follow blindly, young people should take their seats to the table when they are neglected rather than be at the forefront designing these preposterous designs of politicians,” she said, insisting that the country’s democracy need to move beyond nascent adjectival descriptions.
“Money politics ought to be outdated by now,” she noted, adding that Nigerians cannot afford to mortgage their future for cheap and instant gratification. “The concept of democracy and the choice it guarantees should cause Nigerians to grow beyond certain proclivities to ensuring we have credible leadership for the greater good, growth and development of our beautiful country.
“Citizens need to know the power they possess and how that power can make all the difference between a great country and a ruined polity. We need to get to the point where we demystify power and decide to whom power in a democracy should reside in concentrates. Despite the odds, those who love this country and are committed to it are the people who can and will save this country and create a better image of it. In the end, what really matters is how much investment Nigerians are willing to make and how resistant and resilient we are against the things that plague us.”

“First, we should understand the meaning of democracy, it grants the right for everyone to vote or be voted for but does not guarantee you will win. That right can only be advanced by the one seeking votes. Now to convince voters is not a small business as you know it involves, dedicated and well organised campaign using both traditional and sophisticated methods and these costs money and so it is anywhere democracy is practiced in the World.  “Now, lets consider the role of political parties. To midwife and promote a political party is very costly too. Such association must establish presence in 24 states and FCT as required by law. Now, anyone can attempt this process but not all may succeed. Parties are not run by mere words or wishes, parties require funds on a daily basis to stay alive.  “During elections, parties are required to follow standard procedures by law to nominate candidates on their platforms, beginning from Congresses to Primaries and general elections,” she said. For his part, the national chairman of United Peoples Congress (UPC), Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, said a large percentage of the country’s population are gullible, adding that it’s all credit to lawlessness, religious and ethnic intolerance, poverty epidemic and economic situation of the country.  “Desperation is the order of the day and gullibility is gradually becoming a national status,” Ibe-Kalu said. He pointed out that the country’s democracy cannot develop when political parties that are meant to strengthen the system have become oligarchic in nature. “The political space has become so restrictive to favour a few who are termed ‘consensus candidates.’ We are on a race to the bottom with this undemocratic practice: we have now moved from no democratic primaries to hoarding of nomination forms in the established parties,” the mational chairman of Youth Party (YP), Suleiman Ibrahim said.
“Democracy cannot develop in a country where nomination forms are hoarded and where the people can’t choose their own representaive because a few people handpick and impose their own candidates in the general populace,” the YP chieftain said, noting that the key concepts of democracy such as transparency, representation and participation are gradually becoming an illusion.
“The good people of Nigeria should condemn this despicable brand of politics by shunning these parties and joining transparent parties like the Youth Party,” he added.





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