By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
A one-day Agenda Setting Dialogue With Candidates for Federal and State Legislative Constituencies organised by Partnership for Issues-based Campaign in Nigeria (PICaN) in collaboration with Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LANW) has been held in Kaduna, with participants seeking more dividends of democracy for electorate.
Facilitator, Yusuf Goje in his opening remarks, said that the interaction is geared towards hearing from candidates ahead of the 2023 elections, what they intend to deliver to electorate, to deepen Nigeria’s democracy.
“Unlike what we used to have in the past where we just had rallies and campaign, we have moved ahead, we engaged about six gubernatorial candidates.” He said.
According to him, the dialogue for candidates of Chikun/Kajuru Constituency is geared towards having a robust conversation between the civil society groups, which serve as watchdogs, with the candidates, hence a lot of them were invited to participate in the dialogue.
In a welcome address, Mr. Istifanus Akau of Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), said that the independence of the legislature is key to strenghtening Nigeria’s democracy.
“Is it possible for a person to dictate for the person that holds the funds?
“I want to say that this meeting is very critical. We surrender rights to legislators who are expected to protect our rights when they get there.
“We are very happy when we see money allocated to key sectors, but who checks the utilisation? Oversight is very important from the legislators,” he said.
According to him, some of those legislations that are there need to be reviewed.
“We have this interface with you, these are some of the things you shared with us. In case you get there and you have forgotten, that document will be there to remind you.
“We will sign a social contract at the end of the day to use in reminding you, on this note, I welcome you all to this dialogue,” he said.
In a goodwill message, Madam Hannatu Ahuwan of Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW), said that they have been partnering Action Aid in getting young persons elected.
“The project started end of last year and we have engaged leadership of political parties to amend their documents to ensure their parties support young people and women for positions within their parties and even at the general elections.
“For me, I was disappointed when the results of the primaries came out and we didn’t see young people and women emerge.
“Youth and women should not only be used during elections to campaign for votes.
“I am a really very happy that we are doing this process. The outcome from community members gladdens my heart. They said this is the first time such engagements are taking place and they are calling for more engagements.
“As we go back to our communities we need to start sensitizing them, we are not particular about any political party, our problem is inclusiveness,” she declared.
In a goodwill message, Action Aid’s representative, Mr. Celestine Odo, said that they were happy to be associated to the dialogue.
Mr. Odo who is Action Aid’s Governance Programme Manager, said that they looked forward to the interaction.
He explained that Action Aid is working in about 43 countries.
“For us, social justice is what we do. People should be able to get their rights. For me the starting point is the social contract existing between the people and the government
“For us, it is how do they realize their rights. We support politics, but for us, we don’t support any party, but support people to realize their rights.
“This dialogue is an opportunity to interact with the candidates and listen to their agenda. If you say you are providing hospitals, building roads, the question is how?” He queried.
He expressed worries about the widening gap between the rich and poor in the country, stressing that leaders have to be focused in closing the gaps.
“Looking at poverty, the statistics are frightening. There are 15 indicators NBS used in doing their statistics. 133 million if you minus that from the entire population, it is large.
“What we want to hear from candidates is, how would you deal with the poverty. This is very important for us. Nigerians are suffering, there is no positive variable for Nigeria, everything is negative. It is time for us to stand up as leaders to bring leadership that will translate into positive dividends for Nigerians,” he said.
He insisted that both federal and state governments have roles to play, to better the lot of Nigerians
In a goodwill message, Mr. Emmanuel Odeh Adikpe on behalf of PICaN, said that it is a privilege for them to have organised the dialogue.
We are not interested in any political party, let’s see how we can strenghten the process,” he said.
Among those who attended were, Malam Anthony Maisamari, Village Head of Kujama, representative of District Head of Gwagwada, Yakubu Nuhu, Mr. Celestine Odo, Action Aid Nigeria, Frank Abu, Action Aid Nigeria, candidate PRP Stephen Umaru Chikun/Kajuru Federal Constituency, Honourable Cafra Caino APC Candidate Chikun Kajuru Federal Constituency, PERL representative, Istifanus Akau, Authentic News Daily Consulting Editor, Okpani Jacob Onjewu Dickson
Partners of the dialogue were, PERL, The Agenda, YMCA, AUTHENTIC News Daily and Procyon Radio/TV.