The Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has expressed worry over the huge amount being charged for presidential nomination forms by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying the country may soon jettison democracy for plutocracy.
Speaking on the topic ‘Citizens Participation in a Democracy’ during a brief ceremony to mark the 60th birthday of veteran civil society activist and Director of the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Mr. Clement Nwankwo, the bishop said that Nigeria cannot get the right citizens participation in governance if people don’t believe in the constitution or the electoral process.
He said that some of the bizarre things being witnessed today in Nigeria’s democracy have tended to exclude citizens from participation in governance.
“We went for democracy because we think it is the best form of government, but as it is now, if you want to declare interest to participate in the process or to pick your expression of interest form, despite the quality of your certificate, you went to Harvard, you went to Oxford and you went to that other institution.
“This is not about your ability, no it is not acceptable if you don’t have N100 million or N50 million to buy a nomination form or you don’t have the kind of friends that can buy it for you.
“You see this thing has been reduced to some kind of joke and Nigerians are sitting and watching in disbelief and keeping quiet that somebody will just wake up one day to pick a nomination form for N100 million, that person may not have been able to drill a borehole for his village or give scholarship to his people.
“We have to pay the price because we are complicit. What this means is that someone fixed the price, saying that poor people don’t have to apply, that only rich people can participate in the process. We should not pretend that we are running a democracy; we are rather pushing for plutocracy – government of the rich for the rich people,” he said.
Kukah said that every country deserves the quality of leadership it has constructed and in Nigeria’s case, bad leadership has given birth to monster of insecurity now haunting everyone.
According to him, constitution is a major factor that helps in uniting citizens and promoting good governance in any country.
However, the fiery cleric regretted that Nigeria’s constitution has remained an issue of contention and debate for many years.
He also said that the issue of citizenship in the country is still in suspended animation, adding that the most simplest thing that a citizen should enjoy from the state has remained elusive.
The Bishop also said that there is the need to find ways to manage ethnic and religious diversity if Nigeria is to attain true nationhood.
Earlier, the celebrant, said that Bishop Kukah has been a pillar of support for civil society groups for many decades.
Nwankwo recalled a memorable event in his life, when he got married to his wife in 1996 with Bishop Kukah officiating.
He narrated how he had to sneak out from one of the foreign embassies to attend the wedding during the military rule.