NASS members merit stipends not big allowances – NNPP senatorial candidate
Helen Mbakwe, a senatorial candidate for the New Nigeria People’s Party in the Anambra Central Senatorial District, discusses her reasons for losing the election as well as her opinions on the compensation of National Assembly members with IKENNA OBIANERI.
You claimed that the blurriness of your party’s logo on the ballot caused you to lose the election. What will you do next?
Despite my best efforts during the campaign to inform my supporters and voters in general about the NNPP and its logo, the NNPP logo and name were unfortunately blurred on the ballots on election day. That was the beginning of my letdown. I did not anticipate such a thing occurring once more during our elections. I had assumed INEC would have advanced past that point by this point. That is separate from the numerous instances where INEC officials were tardy in arriving. Voting was supposed to begin early in the morning and end by 2.30 p.m., but in my neighborhood, it actually began at 1.05 p.m. So let me see how it goes before I respond to your question about what I want to do. The national party has released a statement on that. I was prevented from taking part in the process of serving my people as a result of that action. I am speaking with my attorney and will say a prayer for the cancellation of the senatorial district election. The NNPP logo was barely visible and blurred on the ballots.
Have you started the procedure yet?
As I previously stated, I will ask the court to throw out the senatorial elections. Victor Umeh is the winner, and I’ve congratulated him, but I’m also contesting the results. In the interim, Umeh has been crowned the victor while the court considers my case. I’d like to express my gratitude to the residents of the Anambra Central senatorial district for exercising their right to vote. But INEC refused to give me that chance.
Do you believe the error was made intentionally? There is a procedure for parties to review the ballot papers for potential corrections before they are printed.
If it had been an error, it should have been repeated elsewhere, so I believe it was done on purpose. While they took their time to arrange those of the other political parties, they purposely made the NNPP logo blurry. They ought to have done their research before releasing such a thing for the entire nation of more than 200 million people. Before printing, they ought to have had representatives from each party review it and make sure everything was satisfactory. Therefore, what happened was better than having our names on the ballot. We discovered that even some of the ad hoc staff did not recognize the political parties’ logos because when we asked some of them, they were at a loss for words.
The NNPP logo that was printed on the ballot paper was not the one we used. I had warned my supporters not to expect to see me, but rather to watch for the NNPP and its distinctive logo, which features a map of Nigeria with a basket of fruits inside. I focused on the fruit basket, but if I hadn’t been patient enough, I might not have recognized my party when I arrived at the voting location. The party’s name was completely hazy. They did not even remotely resemble the NNPP logo with what they had there as our logo. Voters were perplexed because there was no fruit basket anywhere on the ballot paper. Voters were asking INEC staff in one of the polling places I visited around 4 o’clock to show them where the NNPP was listed on the ballot, and the staff appeared perplexed. The commission used a significant amount of resources and money to conduct this election, but the results did not support the significant outlay. It was deplorable.
In the presidential election ballot, did that also have an impact on your party?
Yes, it had an impact on both the presidential and National Assembly categories. The national party has responded and submitted a report to INEC regarding it.
Many people believe that Nigeria should adopt a part-time legislature in light of the country’s declining revenues; do you agree with them?
The National Assembly shouldn’t be considered a retirement community or a place where people go to work for a living. It ought to be regarded as a location for service. Because of this, anyone going there should be carefully vetted, and they should be individuals who have achieved success in their field or whatever they do. People should be able to serve at the National Assembly. Political office holders heavily contribute to the nation’s massive debt load when you talk about declining revenue. Political office holders, in my opinion, ought to be compensated similarly to civil servants. By doing this, the nation will spend less on ongoing expenses. The issue is that many people who hold political office have no other source of income or employment. Because of this, whenever they are elected to public office, such as the National Assembly, they make sure to plunder the nation to the bone. They should receive stipends instead of salaries and benefits because their service should only serve to supplement their work. The National Assembly should only allow its members to serve one term in order to make room for newcomers with innovative ideas.
What do you think about governors who leave office to run for the senate?
It’s because these governors consider the National Assembly to be a platform for personal advancement or a position they merit to hold following their terms in office. One of the things we should correct is this very wrong motive. The governors shouldn’t use the Senate as a place to retire. We ought to be able to enact laws to prevent that at the appropriate time. Instead of being a place where people go to retire or sleep, the Senate ought to be a place where people want to serve. It is regrettable that many people enter politics today with the intention of enriching themselves rather than promoting Nigeria’s development. I entered politics to serve, and because of what the NNPP stands for, that is why I joined.