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Kehinde Akintola – Abuja
Executive Director of OrderPaper, Mr. Okey Epia on Thursday called on Nigerians to vote for National Assembly Candidates with clear understanding of the core functions of the Parliament out of the 4,223 Candidates scheduled to contest during Saturday, 25th February, 2023 general elections.
Mr. Epia who presented the report on the surveys conducted by the Organisation at a press briefing held in Abuja, observed that 0.23% of the 4,223 Candidates vying for the elective positions have requisite knowledge of the statutory roles of the Parliament namely: lawmaking, representation and oversight of the Executive arm of Government.
According to him, Nigerians are expected to elect 469 lawmakers during the National Assembly election scheduled to hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023 which will take place in 176,846 Polling Units across 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal Constituencies across the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Out of the total number of 1,101
Senatorial Candidates, 1,008 are Males and 92 Females; while out of the total number of 3,122 House of Representatives Candidates, 2,832 are Males while 288 are Females.
He said: “going by the concept of representative democracy, the legislature is the first and foremost arm of government, and it plays a crucial role in the sustenance of democracy as a tradition for a country’s people.
“Having had a series of military interregnums in politics where the National Assembly gave way for Military Decrees and Edicts, a return to democracy in May 1999 saw the inauguration of the 4th National Assembly, and we have since then had the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and now, 9th National Assemblies.
“It is, therefore, noteworthy to state that this year’s National Assembly is holding on the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the Nigerian National Assembly; at least in the uninterrupted Fourth Republic.
“In each of the six electoral cycles leading to the election of lawmakers who have served in these Assemblies, we have observed as a legislative-focused organisation that many at times, the majority of the lawmakers who have served in the various Assemblies we mentioned earlier, emerge through a bandwagon.
“This trend, to a large extent, sacrifices merit for party considerations, especially as the National Assembly elections hold simultaneously with the highly-anticipated Presidential Elections.
“In no small measure, this has affected the quality of representation in each Assembly and also prevented effective service delivery. This development is what OrderPaper and our partners have considered necessary to address for the future development of parliament,” he noted.
As part of its efforts toward ensuring effective coverage of the National Assembly election, Mr. Epia disclosed that the OrderPaper’s National Assembly Election Situation Room located at the Board Room, Hawthorn Suites will open by 8:00am on Saturday, 25th February 2023 and deployed Citizens Observers across the 360 Federal Constituencies for Election Monitoring and Observation (EOM).
While speaking on the performance of the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan in the 9th Assembly, Mr. Epia argued that: “if we infuse legislative election into our reportage and keep away or do less of the drama. Okay, you are watching out for if Lawan is going to be floored by PDP because of the Machina affair, that is dramatic that is fine.
“It is political reportage people to know that but are we also able to make people know that Lawan didn’t sponsor a single bill althrough this 9th National Assembly? And that’s not excusable because he is a presiding officer, because we know his opposite member here he has sponsored 27 bills.
“So, being a presiding officer is not an excuse why he didn’t sponsor a single bill. People know him to be the chief enforcer of the President’s desires in the National Assembly and he has been quoted that much, he has not refuted that anything Mr. Buhari wants he will get it, Mr. Buhari is always right.
“So, these are one of the opportunities for us to be able to infuse the right knowledge and awareness in our reportage. In the midst of the drama we are able to capture in the elections, we can also put in the facts and figures, the data that will enable citizens make informed decision making when they are casting their ballots, not just in 2023 but going forward in other elections,” he urged.
On the preliminary assessment of the campaign promises tracking for the National Assembly Elections, he disclosed that: “Majority of the candidates running for the 469 National Assembly seats (especially among the aspiring lawmakers) cared very little about releasing an articulated plan of their campaign promises (manifesto) for their would-be constituents.
“Most of the manifestoes and campaign promises of the legislative candidates were heavy on subjects outside the core duty of a legislator.
“From the records available so far, only 0.23% out of the total 4,223 National Assembly Candidates running for elections on Saturday, February 25 2023 had functional and well-articulated manifestoes that speak to these core duties.
“We, therefore, fear that a lot of these candidates do not have a clear picture of what they will be doing at the 10th National Assembly in the event that they are elected on Saturday.”
In the bid to address the challenges, he said: “Today, Thursday, 23rd February 2023, being the official close of campaigns for the National Assembly Elections, we encourage Nigerians to take advantage of the list released by the Independent National Elections on September 25, 2022, and scrutinise the candidates seeking their votes on Saturday.
“We also urge them to elect these would-be lawmakers largely on the basis of merit or performance in the case of returning lawmakers.
“We also urge our friends and partners in the media to give the 2023 National Assembly Elections robust reportage to enable Nigerians take the issues of Parliament more seriously.”