By Philip Yatai

Some citizen groups on Monday in Kaduna engaged the gubernatorial candidates in Kaduna state in the 2023 General Elections on their blueprint and development agenda.

The One-day Public Policy Dialogue with Gubernatorial Candidates in Kaduna State was organised by Partnership for Issue-Based Campaign in Nigeria (PICaN) in collaboration with Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LANW).

The event was supported by Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office governance programme.

The gubernatorial candidates at the event were Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Sen. Uba Sani of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Mr Isa Ashiru of the People Democratic Party (PDP) who joined the event virtually.

The goal, according to Mr Yusuf Goje, Lead Partners of PICaN in the state, was to present citizens’ demand to the candidates to influence their electoral campaign manifesto and governance programme.  

Goje explained that the event, the second in the series, was to deliberate on citizen groups agenda and candidates’ blueprint with a view to obtain development commitments in key sectors.

He added that the dialogue also provides the needed forum for promoting youth and women participation in the electoral process and entrench issues-based campaigns in the state.

He also said that the event was to get the commitments from candidates on the development of key sectors and promotion of youth and women participation in the electoral process.

Goje, who presented the citizens’ demands, said that the issues cut across education, health, social protection, and other cross-cutting issues affecting persons with disabilities, market women, women, and youth groups among others.

On education, he said the citizens’ groups want improved investment in infrastructure, improved security, and safe spaces in schools to enhance a conducive learning environment.

On the health sector, Goje said that the demands were on improvement of health infrastructure and provision of minimum package equipment and facilities in all health centres and increased human resource for health.

“On social protection, the citizens called on the party candidates to ensure full implementation of the inclusive shock responsive Social Protection Policy, designed to ensure that residents of the state lived a life of dignity.

“We also urged the candidates to invest in strengthening social protection systems and ensure timely release of allocated funds in the efforts to reduce multidimensional poverty affecting households in the state.

“On other socio-economic and political issues, we want the candidates to consider providing more opportunities for women and youth in decision making positions if elected to office.,” he said.

Mrs Hannatu Ahuwan, We-You Project Coordinator, LANW, said that the organisation was part of the engagement to advance the involvement of women and youth in the electoral process in Kaduna state.

Ahuwan said that the project, being implemented in partnership with Action Aid and funding support from FCDO was also galvanizing citizens-oriented governance.  

“What we want to see is the political class and those in leadership positions working with the people, listening to the people, and addressing the people’s concerns and development aspirations.

“This dialogue is very critical such that when they eventually get into office, they will build on the understanding already established with the electorates to address their concerns,” she said.  

PERL’s State Team Facilitator, Mr Abel Adejor, said that PERL was supporting the creation of platforms for party candidates and citizens to discuss and agree on collective issues of interest.

According to him, the issues which the citizens presented to the candidates will inform the candidates manifesto which will drive the governance agenda of the new government.

“What we are doing is issue-based conversation with the party candidates on what they have to offer to the citizens if elected.

“The meeting, therefore, provides an opportunity for citizens to present to the candidates their issues for consideration in their manifestos for campaign and governance programmes.”

The PDP candidate promised to invest in agriculture, youth and women empowerment including Information and Communication Technology and work with citizens’ groups to address insecurity.

Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi of the NNPP also promised to address insecurity, improve education delivery systems, and more importantly review the sacking of workers and traditional rulers by the current government.

Sani of the APC also said he would focus on improving basic education by improving school infrastructure and ensuring only qualified teachers were employed to teach in basic schools.

He also pledged to address insecurity, increased investment in agriculture, and secure farmlands to enable farmers to go to their farms.