Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
Chairman, Transitioning Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) has called on Nigerians to be vigilant and ready to defend democracy, affirming that threat to 2023 general election is real.
He said while Nigerians are preparing to exercise their civic rights in electing leaders that will solve myriads of challenges confronting the country, some politicians are scheming to stop the election or ensure the poll is not free, fair and credible.
The civil society leader who expressed concerns about the election when he led TMG team to visit Rutam House, headquarters of The Guardian in Isolo, Lagos, to seek operational support towards the 2023 general elections, also accused some politicians of creating insecurity to justify looting of the nation’s resources.
To him, Nigerians are tired of monumental rigging and bastardisation of the electoral process, regretting that politicians have commercialised the electoral process and purchased power to have access to the public treasury to continue to deprive Nigerians opportunities of enjoying basic amenities.
He said, “every index is showing negative for Nigeria. Some countries at war don’t even rank in the manner Nigeria is ranked negatively. Some people are using our financial institutions to finance terrorism in Nigeria, but nobody is detecting them and they keep promising to make arrests.
“As Nigerians continue to yearn for new leadership at local, state and national levels, some people are also determined and desperate to make sure that 2023 election will not hold and because of the new threat they created, some parties cannot campaign in some states because the governors have commandeered state assets and public buildings. In some instances, they beat up people.
“We believe that as civil societies and media, we have the role to redirect the energy of Nigerians, especially, the young people who are being sponsored by politicians that are providing them drugs instead of providing them with education.
“They are starving the universities. Lecturers have been crying about infrastructure to make the system work like in other parts of the world. But because of corruption, they killed the university system to allow young people roam around the streets.
“We have numerous issues and it is only through election we can change our leaders, not coup, and if that is the only option, it means that we must sensitise and mobilise people to get the right persons at every level, so that they can bring some kind of relief to the suffering Nigerians are going through.
“Politicians’ children are never on the streets fighting for anything. They live abroad, but ordinary person’s children who have been deprived of going to school are the one they are using for electoral violence.
“As the conscience of the society, we must talk about the issue so that Nigerians can face the real enemies, rather than fighting themselves.
“We know working together with reputable media like The Guardian will help in terms of educating and sensitising the public.
“The second thing has to do with the uncertainty within the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) itself. We know that some desperate politicians are not happy with the progress made in the electoral reform that will deprive them of their usual rigging, so, they are trying other ways to achieve their aims.
“The INEC register recently published clearly shows a number of under-age persons as prospective voters, and it is a concern, because ideally, such a thing should not have happened, but thank God that they published the register. Now we know that we need to do more work to monitor INEC and also mobilise the public to be more vigilant. We need to ask necessary questions; we also need to support INEC to conduct credible election, but we cannot also shy away from telling them the truth. When we see lapses, we need to raise concerns.
“On insecurity, which some politicians are trying to use to stop the election, we want to say that in 2015, elections took place in those volatile areas where Boko Haram were operating. We did not hear Boko Haram disturb the exercise, so, why are they now talking about insecurity as a reason for stopping the election. I think we need to insist that we must have free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria without marginalising any part of the country so that Nigerians can actually express themselves by voting for the right calibre of people they want.
“We must make sure that young Nigerians are not used by wicked politicians who deprive them of going to school for eight months.” Expressing dissatisfaction over the wide gap in salaries of the university teachers and politicians Musa said: “A legislator who dropped out of school is going home with N17m monthly, legitimately, while the one they get illegitimately is more that what a university lecturer who has spent 30 years lecturing earns. Most professors do not earn up to N500,000 per month in the same country, the highest earning professor earns just above N400,000.
“Democracy is not about looting or creating hopelessness, it is about creating opportunities for the public to participate in the economic development of our country. It is not an excuse for people to perpetrate all sorts of atrocities in the name of politics.”
Also, Vice Chair, TMG, Miriam Mentiti said that the media has a critical role to play, especially by collaborating with the civil society to drive home the message.
She said: “The media set the agenda and it’s important for them to let people know what is going on and prepare them for the elections, to give them voter education and also to help us tackle the disinformation and misinformation that is being peddled about elections in this country.”
The Editor in Chief and Managing Director of The Guardian, Mr Martins Oloja said the newspaper will continue to collaborate with all groups working to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.