2023: CondemnationS trail groups buying forms for presidential aspirants

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By Omoniyi Salaudeen

In the last couple of months, Nigerians have been inundated with deluge of declarations of intent by aspirants seeking for elective positions at all levels of government.

For the presidential race, the list is as unwieldy as it is inexhaustible. Even long before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timelines for the elections, the body language of perennial contenders like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senator Bukola Saraki had clearly shown their overt ambitions to lead the country.Untitled6 14

From the time he lost the last presidential contest to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku, who had taken the shot for five consecutive times, has not hesitated to tell anyone who cares to listen that he is the best person for the job.

At every forum, he more often regales his audience with rhetoric about the ineptitude of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the comprehensive failure of governance and the urgent need to wrest power from the present leadership.

And so, when the issue of zoning arrangement in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came up for debate, the former vice president was the first to kick, claiming that the best was only good for the country.

He was partly right. Only a focused, intelligent, capable, inspiring and competent leadership imbued with genuine spirit of oneness can pull back the country back from the brinks of collapse. For so long, leadership selection process has always been a case of the unpatriotic cultivating the unprepared. Nigeria cannot afford to toe the same old path.       

But it is a grim irony that the same contenders who are leading the campaign for a change of status quo are doing so in the old way by playing the ostrich, claiming that some concerned interest groups gathered resources together to purchase nominations forms for them thereby making way for another politics of deceit.

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For Atiku, hardly had the PDP announced the commencement of sales of nomination form before a group, the Northeast Business Forum, led by its chairman, Dalhatu Funakaya, stormed his Abuja residence to present the N40 million intent form to him, declaring its ultimate trust in his capacity to reposition the country back to the path of prosperity.

“We made a pledge in November 2021 and we called on him to contest and pledged to purchase nomination form for him,” Funakaya said.

In a quick succession, another support group which identified itself as Friends of Aminu Tambuwal, followed suit and thronged the Abuja headquarters of the PDP to pick expression of interest and nomination forms for the Sokoto State governor. Speaking on behalf of the group, Aree Akinboro said that “Tambuwal is someone we have all known for 30 years and nothing has changed about him. He is humble, focused and intelligent. People ask if he has money to pursue this ambition. That is why we are here to buy this form for him. He is not aware, but we as professionals and apolitical, we want him to lead.”

Also joining the bandwagon, another group of young professionals working for Saraki presidency, jumped into the fray, claiming that the present challenges in the country prompted it to pick nomination form for him.

The leader of the group, Abubakar Danmusa, speaking on the occasion said: “After extensive consultations, we have concluded that the situation of our country is far from what it should be if we have the right leadership. It is for this reason that we are determined to ensure that only good, solid, forward-looking and visionary candidates emerge to vie for the February 2023 presidential election.”

Similar scenario equally played out within the camps of Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed; former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim; erstwhile governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, among others.

By this intriguing replay of the nuisances of the old order, the concerned aspirants have wittingly and inexorably tangled-up themselves with the web of controversy questioning the sincerity of their intentions, preparedness for the job as well as workable ideas about how to fix Nigeria. By electing to tread the path of deceptive politics, obtaining their nomination forms through proxies, they have implicitly made it clear from the outset that there may not be any significant departure from the past.

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had stirred the hornets nest during a colloquium with the theme: ‘African Christian Leadership Transformation’ in unsettled times organized to make the 61st birthday of Pastor Ighodalo, warning Nigerians not to vote for presidential aspirants “lying” that someone bought forms for them.

According to him, since such aspirants have lied to Nigerians that youths bought the forms, they do not deserve to be voted into office.

His words: “Today, they are paying N40 million. Some of them (aspirants) even said it is some youths who bought it for them.

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“In fact, anybody who would come out to tell you such a lie, you shouldn’t vote for him. Which youths gathered N40 million? If you want to buy it, buy it and tell us. You don’t need to lie to us.”

Other well-meaning Nigerians have also joined their voices to the statesman’s advice. An APC chieftain, Chief Ckekwas Okorie, berated the aspirants for the trend, describing it as childish and stupid.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, it is very childish and indeed funny. Nobody is deceived by the trend that has almost become the order of the day. They consider it as a mark of popularity to have their forms purchased for them by some young stars who are not known to have even settled their personal bills. I don’t know whether they want to blackmail the young ones who are clamouring for opportunity to participate in the leadership of Nigeria. If it is the same youths who are buying forms for the aspirants who are already in their 70s, how does it make sense for them to claim that they are not given any chance?

“On the other side, any person who has got a group of people buying form for him has already compromised the office he is yet to get into because he who pays the piper dictates the tune. There is no one in politics who spends money without string attached. I am yet to see one because politics is not a charity organization, it is a power struggle. Whoever is investing money for you to go for an election, you have already compromised yourself and Nigerians should be mindful of such people. “Again, the person who is being lured by other people who purchase form for him has never made up his mind to rule. God forbid, if such person gets to the office and fails, he will simply tell you that some people conscripted him into the office. So, he will owe nobody any obligation. In fact, none of the dimensions to the implications of this charade points to anything positive thing. It is stupid, childish and funny.”            

Senator Rufai Hanga, in his own analysis of the development, dismissed the antics as an insult on the intelligence of the youths.

He argued: “One, they have no confidence in themselves. Two, they are using it to deceive people. They want people to believe that youths like them and that is why they are buying forms for them. That is a deceit. Are they saying they are contesting because people want them to contest? These are deceits. In doing all this, they are playing on the intelligence of the youths who are agitating to be part of the leadership of the country. For example, Tambuwal who has misruled Sokoto State is now claiming that some youths bought form for him. It is an abuse of youths’ intelligence.”

The Secretary General of the Ijaw Elder Forum (IEF), Pastor Efiye Bribena, did not spare them either, lamenting that Nigerian politicians have lost all sense of decency.

He said:  “It is a big joke because they are only playing on people’s intelligence. Everybody is trying to portray himself as having support of the youths whereas it is not so. The truth is that our politicians have lost all sense of decency and they don’t even pretend about it anymore. They just do what they like, insulting our intelligence by gathering people in the name of buying forms for them. It is very unfortunate for the country.

“It confirms that our politicians are not serious because Buhari did the same thing in 2014 and now we are all seeing the result. For me, the current crop of leadership is the same with the useless politicians who brought us to where we are now. They share the same mode of thinking. We cannot get anything new from this set of aspirants. They are only interested in themselves; they are not interested in governance; they are not interested in addressing the issues. How many of them are talking about the issues facing the country? They all want power for the sake of having power. It is very unfortunate. The future of Nigeria is very bleak. It will take a miracle to pull Nigeria out of the brinks. There is nothing to look up to in them. Out of the lots, you may talk of credible persons like Peter Obi. But can he get there? It is very unfortunate that we are just sliding down the slope. There is nothing that can be done to pull us back.”   

The choice is for the electorate to weigh the options available in order to avoid the pitfalls of the past.

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