By Pelumi Olajengbesi, Esq
The political trick book of Nigerian politicians is as old as Nigeria’s politics. Prospective and returning aspirants almost always borrow a leaf from the old-timed written fads of how to manipulate the public and milk it of all possible sympathy for shallow causes usually masked as the people’s will. If anyone thinks the cloak of integrity has introduced a change in antics, I invite such a person to rethink that conclusion. Nigerian politicians hardly ever accept that old tricks don’t cut it anymore.
Over the past two weeks, we have been treated to a particular trickery: form buying by shadow groups forcing an aspirant to contest or re-contest an election. Really!
President Muhammadu Buhari received his over N40Million Presidential Nomination Form bought by Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN), a previously unheard of group, over the weekend all in keeping with his ascetic, simple and ‘poor-President’ profile. My friend, one of the Villa in-house guys, now looking very big with enjoyment sure also contributed to sponsor the President. An elaborate ceremony was held at the Villa celebrating the purchase with emphasis placed on how heavily the Mr. President was ‘besieged’ and ‘cajoled’ by a group of concerned Nigerians to continue his ‘good works’ in office.
In Kaduna state, Governor Nasir El-rufai like-wise received a ‘gift’ of the gubernatorial nomination form from IPMAN and Sheik Gumi Market Association, ostensibly because Mr. Governor claims to be unable to singularly afford the cost of picking his nomination form. Some eminent people around us still do that, while those of us who need people to pay for our forms had to pay ourselves.
The above two instances are hardly exclusive; they only go to highlight how prevalent this trick is amongst politicians desperate to portray themselves as impoverished. Rather than employ the position of their offices to protest the high cost of nomination forms, these political actors would rather attempt to pull a wool over the eyes of Nigerians by passing off their nomination forms as donations or gifts. It doesn’t speak well of men who tout the virtues of honesty, integrity and simplicity to accept over-priced nominations forms with no questions asked and smiling faces. If anything, it does impeach their reputation as trustworthy.
This is grossly insincere and should invite opprobrium. It is difficult to accept that such men who have long been in the circle of government and who have little to show for their performances in office have become the sole choice out of a million others so much so that poor men and women living in misery would contribute millions to perpetuate them in office.
Nomination form buying for political aspirants is a tell-tale sign of political insincerity and sycophancy. More often than not, this group of form purchasers are made up of people whose individual self-worth summed together hardly meets the cost of the form being purchased. The ruse is usually to give the impression that a particular politician has performed so well or enjoys the popular goodwill of the people that they have chosen to undertake the cost of buying him or her a nomination form to contest elections.
In a time and age when we should be carrying placards and protesting the exploitative cost of nominations forms in Nigeria, coupled with the economic hardship of the common man, isn’t it perplexing and annoying to hear of groups spending millions of Naira in furtherance of a myopic agenda with self-aggravating undertones?
We should be protesting a practice that effectively discriminates against youths or other genuine minded would-be contestants without the wherewithal to contest elections owing to the huge cost of nominations forms rather than applauding the hypocrisy of those who buy this forms and pass it off as a donation by phantom groups. Youths who lend themselves to such an enterprise are a clog in the wheel of progress and definitely working against the full realization of the #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN movement.
I think we can all agree that this public show of forms being purchased for politicians are untrue. We can also agree, I dare say, that because it is common place and conventional does not make it right or acceptable. It is a form of deceit that disregards public sensitivity. It is a case of misplaced priorities and public fraud. We must call these political actors out and strongly condemn this trickery. It is simply unacceptable. Men who have pillaged our commonwealth should not be allowed to continually disrespect us as such. Nigeria is not a theatre, we must rid ourselves of the absurdities.
A good place to start would be to revisit the cost of certain nomination forms, engender a more transparent process of picking this forms and holding political participants to account for their actions during this period and beyond.
Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq. is the Principal Partner at Pelumi Olajengbesi & Co. Law Corridor