As more than 18 political parties in Nigeria preparing for the 2023 General Election in a bid to take over from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which leaves in a year, after two terms, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) now says it must be involved in the process by conducting drug tests for all the aspirants.
NDLEA’s chairman, Buba Marwa, has written to all the political parties for the consideration of the request to take part in the screening.
The constitution and electoral law does not require drug test for candidates and the electoral commission is not bound by the request of the NDLEA.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has listed key political parties such as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which are expected to be biggest contenders for most positions.
Appointees not exempted
Mr Marwa said the tests will not be limited to elective office seekers but other appointive office holders. “We have advocated and will continue to advocate that drug tests be conducted on politicians; some state governments like Kano are already doing this and not just politicians, but for all government appointees.
“And, I have just sent a letter this morning to the National Chairman of APC, who will be the first of the national working committee I wish to pay an advocacy visit on this issue.
“I recommended that drug tests be incorporated in the screening process for all those interested in running for public office. We will do the same for all parties,” Marwa said.
“Given the rampant use of drugs by some public officials, it is good we test them and know how mentally, physically fit they are. It is important that politicians cooperate, to allow competent and qualified persons to take over the positions of leadership,” he said.
According to him, if the aspirants fail the drug test, they should not be allowed to contest any election, not only presidential but every elective office.
“Sometimes when you see public officials doing something, you wonder what their problem is. Obviously, it is as a result of abuse of drugs,” he said.
The political parties on the platform of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), has described the call NDLEA’s request as an affront to politicians.
IPAC chairman, Yabagi Sani, said the pronouncement was outlandish and uncalled for.
“It is absurd and an affront to the political class,” Mr Sani said, describing it as rascality of the highest order.
“I have never heard of a country where people who want to rule are asked to undergo drug tests.
“Marwa should not tell Nigeria that kind of thing. Contesting an election is serious business. That pronouncement is outlandish,” Sani added.
PDP completed screening of all its presidential aspirants on April 29 in readiness for the primaries. It disqualified two and retained 15 among whom are former VP Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra state governor Peter Obi.
Other contenders are former senate president Bukola Saraki; current governor of Rivers state, Mr Nysom Wike; governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto; Bala Mohammed who is governor of Bauchi state and Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom.
APC has not started screening its 15 aspirants, notable among whom are the national leader of the party, Ahmed Tinubu and current Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Others who have indicated interest in the presidency are transport minister Rotimi Amaechi; Ondo governor Kayode Fayemi and ex-Ogun state Governor Ibikunle Amosu; labour minister Chris Ngige.
From the other political parties are Omoyele Sowore, a journalist, and Kingsley Moghalu, a retired deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
INEC requires all 18 registered political parties to submit the names of aspirant for various elective positions before June 4 for the elections that would be conducted in February 2023.