President Goodluck Jonathan expends N100 million naira of tax payers’ money every day to fund his presidential campaign, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) Prof. Pat Utomi charged in Abuja yesterday. Utomi, who spoke at a ‘Policy Dialogue with Presidential Candidates’ organised by Murtala Mohammed Foundation, said civil society organisations in the country have failed in their duty by keeping quiet over the president’s spending on his campaign, saying this can never happen in Brazil where a Constitutional Court has banned such spending.
On corruption, Utomi said the trend flourishes because people believe that nobody could prosecute them if they engage in corrupt practices, adding that if elected as the President of Nigeria he will fight corruption. He also expressed his commitment to institutional arrangements in the political arena, saying the country requires two viable and strong political parties. He expressed his displeasure over the inability of reformed progressives to form an alliance in spite of his personal efforts in that direction.
The presidential candidate also described the establishment of new federal universities without repositioning the existing ones as unreasonable. He said much attention is focused on tertiary education with little importance attached to the need to address challenges facing primary education.
He said, ‘’Teacher education is the starting point. How do we create intense teacher education? How do we bring prestige back to teacher education? It is going to be a life mission since the educational system has been completely neglected. We also need to rethink vocational education if we want to make progress.’’
On security challenges facing the country, Utomi called for the decentralisation of police and the adoption of modern community policing tactics, saying all the crises could have been avoided if early warning signals were considered.
When asked to make a choice of his presidential candidate if he is not contesting, he said, ‘’I told Nuhu Ribadu, if you emerge as a progressive candidate, I will support you. I will support Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. He will make a good President. He is an articulate man but he is not known outside Kano. General Muhammadu Buhari is a symbol of discipline and Nigeria needs discipline. If all these fail, we can survive with Jonathan.’’
Professor Utomi also declared his readiness to accord women a prime platform that will guarantee their active participation in the Nigerian political process, adding that his government would ensure that 50% of cabinet members are women. Drawing inferences from the female-dominated schooling system in the South-east, Utomi said a time would come when women will preoccupy the positions of governance and authority in the country.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday said they were not looking elsewhere when President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were spending tax payers’ money to the tune of N100 million daily as alleged by Prof. Pat Utomi and that they would soon take action to arrest it.
The Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) were unanimous in condemning the flagrant abuse and undermining of the rule of law and provision of the Electoral Act by political parties, especially the PDP and politicians alike, with TMG saying that the amount is even an understatement.
General Secretary of ACE Mr. Emma Ezeazu told our correspondent in Abuja that it is right that Prof. Utomi is actively playing the role expected of the opposition, saying however that the CSOs will look into the matter.
“If the president is spending that much on campaign, it will be more difficult for the opposition parties to contest with him. We will look into this matter and be sure of the fact. We will have to be sure so that we will just not be smearing our hands in the mud. If the president is spending that much it is horrible and does not augur well for the coming April polls, democracy and for the well being of Nigeria,” Ezeazu said.
TMG chairman and Chairperson-Elect of the newly formed West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON), Comrade Mashood Erubami, said CSOs are looking elsewhere as the organization was actually preparing to address the nation on the matter and that the delay was due to the organisation’s pre-occupation with the party primaries.
“The amount quoted is an understatement when you count in the number of official cars, drivers, consumables, institutional and man-day support from civil servants and direct cash being expended daily. There is also the issue of deferred payment in millions represented by unaccountable contractor supports which will later be re-paid in form of contracts and their attachable inflations.
“You cannot estimate the amount of spending from adverts from public owned media which are not directly charged but hidden under public announcement. TMG will take the matter to the civil society situation room for national based treatment,” Erubami said.
Executive Director of CICLAC Malam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani on his part said that the amount quoted by Prof Utomi cannot be far from truth, adding that civil society groups have actually being expressing concern over the non-compliance by political parties, especially PDP with the Electoral Act on party financing and donations.
“We are unfortunately having politicians who are no respecters of law. We are having a government that is legalizing corruption so much that they were celebrating people convicted of corruption; but we are not going to relent in our efforts and roles despite our inability to enforce the provisions of the laws,” Rafsanjani said.
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