Is N100m for presidential nomination not prohibitive?

By Tonnie Iredia

It is futile to argue with some Nigerians on any matter in which they have an interest or which they have cause to suspect might favour them even if tangentially. All that those in doubt of this conclusion need to do is to watch people on television marshaling points in support of any subject. They forcefully leave no stone unturned.

Those who do this are usually talented in public speaking or are senior lawyers especially those who have firm knowledge not only of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution but the exact sections, subsections and schedules of relevant provisions. For instance, when the issue of defector-governors arose, they argued in support of the defectors eloquently sermonizing on the difference between law and morality adding that what matters is law. Those of us who often drew attention to the spirit of the law in querying unwholesome political behaviours were shocked a few days ago to see the pro-technicality analysts taking sides with us to condemn the decision of government to pardon convicted former governors Dariye and Nyame. It was as if no one remembered that our Constitution provides for state pardon. So, is it all about winning an argument or publicity consciousness?

Against this backdrop, my immediate reaction to the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC to sell its nomination forms to presidential aspirants at the cost of One hundred million naira (N100m), was that it would not be difficult at all to find Nigerians who would instantly generate reasons to justify the apparent prohibitive cost. No surprises as the defences have since begun. To start with, there is already the argument that politics is capital intensive and that anyone who cannot raise the amount would not be strong enough to be President of the largest country in Africa. In fact, the argument that the funds can be raised with ease has already been proven. For example, two Abia state businessmen – Ukaegbu James and Nnanna Kalu have signified their intention to provide N200m to buy forms for two federal legislators, namely, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu. However, the public perception is that the two beneficiaries can afford to buy their own forms because as senators they are among the richest public office holders in the country

One candidate who is not likely to have any problem whatsoever in getting the form is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose supporters are now competing for who will be the first to raise the amount. As soon as the figure was announced, the Asiwaju Project Beyond 2023 reportedly raised the amount and announced that “we will be storming the secretariat soon to get the form for him.” On his part, the Director General of the Tinubu Support Organization (TSO) Aminu Suleiman said he had already signed a cheque for the amount rendering unnecessary, the previous pledge of N10m made by some youths under the aegis of the Tinubulate Nigeria Agenda (TINA). Senator Kabiru Gaya, Chairman of the Progressive Project (TPP), the umbrella organization of Osinbajo support groups had similarly vowed to purchase the nomination form for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. A pro-youth group, the North Central Coalition for Leadership (NCCL) had also planned to buy a form for another APC presidential aspirant, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state. It is therefore obvious that the strategy which all the aspirants used in getting different groups to earnestly beg them to show interest in next year’s presidential contest, would be deployed again to make the same support groups to announce their readiness to buy forms for their preferred aspirants. Such donors or perceived fronts are aiming to be the next set of cabals in the corridors of power come 2023.

A second argument put forward in support of the rather high figure of N100m is that the calculation took into account the current realities in which everything has increased. Petroleum products especially kerosene and diesel, foodstuffs, government loans, bandits’ attacks, ASUU strikes, petroleum subsidy, poverty etc. have all gone up astronomically. The fear in some quarters however is that the exorbitant cost of nomination forms for elections can be counter-productive. If nothing else, it will shut out some aspirants with good ideas which are greatly needed for national development. Politicians are probably the only ones comfortable with heavy expenses on politics and elections. Indeed, those of them in the legislature had earlier ensured that they legalized huge election expenses. In the new Electoral Act, they jacked up spending ceilings from between 150 to 400 per cent. Yet, nothing was done to halt the old order where political parties always breached the rule requiring them to disclose their electoral expenditures to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This brands the advocacy for high cost of nomination forms as self-serving.

Party leaders in particular are quite comfortable with the high cost of nomination forms because it gives them opportunity to generate ample funds for running their political parties. Putting it aptly, the new publicity secretary of the ruling party, Felix Morka had argued that Nigeria was yet to get to the level where party members would faithfully pay membership dues for running the party. It would therefore mean that the costs of nomination forms across board are that high because this is the ideal time for collecting revenues from elusive members. The truth therefore is that party leaders are anxious to secure huge party finances to put an end to the practice of going cap in hand to beg elected office holders to come to their rescue on a monthly basis. The situation could be worse where a party loses an election and would therefore have no elected office holders in their party to look up to for assistance.

The debate on whether the huge cost of nomination forms is prohibitive or not is fruitless because for quite some time nothing has shown that an increase in finances affects our people positively. Even the revenue from nomination forms could be squandered because some party members believe that the struggle for party offices is usually influenced by the desire of party leaders to help themselves to such funds. The same is true of government finances. Only last week, the House of Representatives’ Adhoc Committee investigating the state of the nation’s refineries had to raise an alarm over suspected sharp practices on the subject. The Committee is bothered that after allegedly spending $3.7 billion on repairs, none of the refineries has been restored to any level of functionality. Yet, neither the Minister of State for Petroleum Resource, Timipre Sylva nor the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari responded to calls by the Committee to throw light on the situation What the above narrative suggests is that instead of bickering over the cost of nomination forms, our civil society groups should rise up now to vote against non-performers. I

t is time to stop playing the victim and behaving as if citizens are hopeless and helpless the way Ekiti state pensioners projected themselves the other day. With an unpaid N37.8billion gratuities and pensions, Ekiti pensioners last Thursday began a prayer session seeking God’s face for swift intervention for the payment of their entitlements. If the pensioners come together to vote against the political party that placed them in their present predicament in the next governorship elections holding two months away, no state government would toy with them in the future. In other words, this is not a time to bother about the cost of nomination forms; it is also not the time for protests concerning poor governance, rather it is time to use the ballot to tell political leaders that they are elected to represent the people and not to turn them into objects instead of the subject of democracy. It is certainly not a time to beg leaders who previously failed to institute good governance to once more join the next race. Nigerians must take their nation’s destiny in their own hands.
April 24, 2022.

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