Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, has alleged that leaderships of political parties are now using their parties as platform for trading in endorsement of candidates for the 2019 general elections.

He made the allegation when the national leadership of the party hosted the delegation from the European Union and Democratic Institute at the secretariat yesterday, claiming that some of them are charging exorbitantly to endorse candidates of the major political parties.

His words: “We now have professional civil society groups who are being funded sometimes by political parties or rich men.

“They sponsor them to go and speak as civil society, but obviously speaking the views of their political pay masters.

“The second which we must pay attention to is how INEC does accreditation of election monitors.

“It has become a huge fraud that people apply to INEC and it grant accreditation to them and they then Come to me as party chairman and say, I have this approval and I am ready to give you 100 slots, pay me XYZ so that I can give slots for you to allocate to your people who will pose as election monitors.

“This is a serious issue which point to the level of corruption in the society. I know you do interface with these people and sometimes encourage objective election monitoring. Right now, that process is being compromised.

“Increasingly, many of our so called men of God are using the pulpit to say things that are completely untrue and to elevate religion to a level that can complicate the Nigerian condition.

“The way religion is being used can understand security and distort people’s view about candidates and if people voted on the basis of religion rather than issues, and elections are won and lost on those basis, it can trigger religious war which will be a huge threats to peace and security.

“Our constitution guaranteed the freedom of association, INEC tried to restrict the registration of political parties the judiciary said no you can register anybody who wants to.

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“But the result is that, we have a long ballot paper which poses challenges on election day with regard to how people are going to identify who to vote for,” he said.

Speaking further, the former Edo State governor said, “We of the APC appreciate that the world legitimate basis for showing the level of concern that you have shown in our country and Nigeria is constant.

“The supra party is the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the party that govern from time to time will be governed by the people of Nigeria. That is the only thing that is constant.

“Our President has been a victim of rigging and a compromised judiciary and I was rigged out by President Obasanjo’s government.

“But we have made some progress and these are things you can cross check. We have moved from a process where the PDP as the ruling will arrogantly announced that there is no vacancy, whether in a government house in the case of state government or in the Presidency where they said they will govern for 60 years.

“It was common to find police carrying ballot boxes on election day and these were captured on camera and published on front pages of newspapers.

“But we had a former President in Obasanjo who publicly said last year that  nobody could be governor on his party platform unless he approved.

“He entrenched this culture of compromising internal democracy within the political parties and writing results on election day and challenging those who are victims to go to court and the court compromised the process.

“I was a victim of that. As a person, I come from civil society background. I was President of NLC for eight years and we were not foreign funded,  but were and still remain membership driven,  membership based and membership controlled.

“So, I am at home with using the tools that are legitimate in a democratic process namely persuasion, convincing people and putting your message across and communicating vertically and horizontally so that the people can decide why they should choose this person rather than that person.

“That is the gift that I have and as chairman of this party,  that is what we are trying to do.

“You may be aware that we have tried to change the way candidates emerge and try to do direct primary in some cases which allow ordinary members to vote.

“If the system that produce candidates is by itself compromised, you cannot build something on nothing.

“If you emerge through a fraudulent process,  the temptations to use fraud to go further is strong.

“Our problem is a bit more complex and I would like you to take not of that. Opponents, as you may be aware spent dollars.

“The PDP candidate bought his ticket no paying more. Dollars to all delegates than his rivals.

“If you spent millions of dollars to procure your candidature, I don’t think it will be difficult to. Sustain the argument that Vote buying is something that the opposition used to.

“On the neutrality of security, I will be more at home if specific examples can be given that on certain day, a security man did something against an opposition.

“Perception is ok, but it may not be real.  What is apparent may not be real.  So,  I am more at home when specific examples are given.

“I was a sitting governor and this is not a justification for coping bad manners. I was a sitting governor in Edo state and the PDP government stopped my flight because I was going for a political campaigns against a PDP candidate.

“That was the extent to which they abused power, even though in law, I had immunity as a sitting governor.

“Three weeks ago, I denounce the police for conspiring with a sitting governor in Akwa-Ibom State to interfere with the working of parliament because they were to remove and did remove a member of the APC who left the PDP.

“In spite of clear provisions of our laws and pronouncements by the Supreme Court.

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Speaking earlier, the leader of the delegation and former Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “There’s been lots of concerns raised about security, security in a number of facets. Lack of confidence in the security services neutrality, and the President (Buhari) responded that he has engaged with the security services and police and told them that they need be neutral.

“That does not change the fact that there is a perception that the security services are not being neutral.

“A number of concerns was raised among other political parties that the playing field is not even that the ruling party has some advantages that they don’t have.

“That is normal when you are the ruling party, but they are appealing that the playing field is not an even playing field.

“We got a lot of concerns raised about the electoral commission and about how the poll is going to be conducted, and again we had a very good discussion with the electoral commission.

“We talked with the National Peace Council (NPC) and we were extraordinarily pleased that the peace accord that all the political parties signed, that there will additional accord to be signed calling on all parties that once the result of the election is announced, any disagreement should be taken to the court.

“We also met with the president of the Appeals Court and talked to her about some of the challenges she may face, been a fruitful visit. We will be interested hearing from you some of the challenges you face,” the delegation noted.