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Why govt should fund political parties – DPC chairman [Peoples Daily]

Olusegun Peters is the Chairman of Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC), in this interview with Peoples Daily, he speaks on why the National Assembly should make law to fund political parties, among other issues? Excerpts:

What is the rationale behind the recent calls on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fund political parties?

INEC really needs to understand where they are coming from and also where they are going. Because in a developing country like Nigeria, we really need to put in place all the policies that will help out political process to grow. INEC don’t need to be against funding of political parties because we know they do not have that fund.

In fact, INEC and the opposition political parties are on the same level. We know quite alright that they do not have that fund, but what we are asking for is let INEC join force with political parties to appeal to the National Assembly and President Mohammadu Buhari led federal government, to look into it and see what they can do, to empower opposition political parties, by bringing back the grant. If they bring back this grant, it is going to eradicate this corruption that we have been talking about in our political system.  Why politicians go and start looking for money anywhere is because there is no any money set aside for them to run their affairs in their party. That is why some people will go and gang up and say there is one alliance here and there, and everybody will rush there, without even knowing the person of the candidate, or if the candidate is genuine and credible, to take the citizen of Nigeria to where they should be. But when each political parties have their own money, they will want to know the candidate if they are approached for any alliance; if he is the type of candidate that Nigerian masses will want, because all the political parties are okay in their parties. However, if the grant is not there, the country will continue to move in one direction of a political party system, and that is what PDP wanted during their government when they removed it. They wanted to rule this country for sixty year and for everything to be dictated by them, so they removed it. But as the whole thing is now, we are seeing the system now as a fresh one, we are seeing democracy changing face, and we are seeing democracy moving beyond what it used to be. So now, we believe that right now, we should put some things in proper structure and put some things in place, not because of us that are there today, but for those that will be thee tomorrow.

Political parties seem not assertive about this demand, even though I know they earnestly desire it, why are parties not forthcoming in pushing for the restoration of this grant in the Constitution?

Every political party is crying about this and every political party wants that grant which was removed in 2010 by the PDP led National Assembly replaced. Anybody that is not talking about it right now, maybe the person has nothing to do with Nigerian politics. But if you have anything to contribute into the democratic system going on right now in Nigeria, you will definitely ask for it.

Considering the abuse that trailed this fund previously, which was why the grant was scrapper, how should this grant be monitored?

INEC has a lot of key role to play as far as Nigeria democracy is concerned. The problem that INEC always have is that they have not fully realized themselves as the real umpire and the real kingmakers. Before you can become anything in this country, you must pass through INEC.  Not even only political party, one you pass through political party, from there to INEC, so INEC must be umpire between you and whoever you are contesting with to now bring you and say this is the candidate and that means a lot to the future of this country. The commission plays a key role in determining who the leader of this country is and who the leader at what level is in any situation in this country. So, because of this, INEC also has the power to control this. Is it everybody that writes you to say that they want to register a political party that you answer? You can maintain it from there, if someone writes you to say they want to register a political party, you can reply them to join one of the existing political parties. That has not contradicted the constitution of the country on freedom of association. It is when you replied, give them the process, and you allow them to pay and you have not now answered them, that is when it becomes an offence. But, when they write you and you advice them, then, it is not an offence. There are ways to everything. It is not everybody that says he wants to register a political party that you answer. I am not saying that INEC should stop people coming up to register new political parties, but what I am saying is the ones they have already, what have they been doing with it. Of what use are they to the country’s democracy. I don’t want to mention names, but I know political parties that are not relevant in this country, and they are there, some of them, they don’t even have more that National Secretary. Apart from that, they do not have other national officers. So if INEC wants to really work, they can get into each political party’s administrative structure and always be on them, and screen them properly. It is not all about audit accounts or this and that, because people can present any nonsense. But let INEC appoint officers that will be in charge of political parties and report to them on all their activities from time to time. This process can be monitored properly. The problem with Nigeria democracy is not all about registering new political parties. So, let them seat down and look critically into those parties that are really working and support them, by then, our democracy will be really ready to go somewhere.

Political observers have suggested that given the abuse in the past, only political parties that are able to win at least, an elective position should be allowed to benefit from the grant?

Let there be a level playing field for all political parties, and if we go to the field and party A is defeated, I know then that because you have a better candidate is why you won the elections. If we go to the field now and APC keep winning elections, then we know that it is because they have more credible candidates. I tell you, if the grant is there and there is proper monitoring, you will never hear anybody saying he or she is going there to join one alliance or the other. You have to work and bring out your own candidate for election. Even if there is going to be alliance, there is going to be a very serious agreement that that candidate is the person that everybody needs for that particular situation. So, what I am saying is that all the parties that fielded candidates in elections should be allowed to benefit from the grant, but not those that field officers member as their candidates, but credible candidates for the people.



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