By COLLINS UGHALAA, Owerri, and CHUKS EZE, Enugu
As political parties prepare for primary elections to elect candidates to fly their flags in next year’s general election, controversy has erupted over the high cost of nomination forms on sale at the moment with many arguing that such development speaks ill of a dispensation that is anchored on moderation and anti-graft crusade.
Nigerians were stunned recently when the various political parties released the costs of obtaining their Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, with the ruling APC topping the chart with its whopping N55m as cost of the form for the nomination of the President.
Indeed, politicians have knocked parties for what they described as “the high cost” of purchasing and returning the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms by aspirants for the various positions for the 2019 general election in the country, describing the development as inimical to good governance and likely to breed corruption.
Those running for the office of the president on the PDP platform are required to pay N12m (N2m for Expression of Interest form and N10m for Nomination form) while those for the governorship election are required to pay N6m (N1m as Expression of Interest form and N5m for the Nomination form).
For those running for Senate, they are required to pay N3.5m while those running for House of Reps are required to pay N1.5m and House of Assembly aspirants to pay N600,000.
For the female aspirants, the PDP said they do not have to pay anything.
“All female aspirants are exempted from purchase of nomination forms for all offices”, said the PDP in a statement recently.
Also, in a statement by the National Organizing Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Akunwanta Mike Kwentoh, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party on the 28th of last month approved N25m for the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for those running for president; N10m for the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for those running for governor; N5m for the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for those running for Senate; N2.5m for those running for House of Representatives and N800,000 for those running for state assembly.
For female aspirants, APGA provides that “Female aspirants shall pay only 50% of the fees stipulated above for both the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms”.
For its part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) stipulates that those running for state assembly will pay N1m while those running for House of Representatives will pay N3.8m.
Those running for Senate will pay N8.5m while those running for governor will pay N22.5 and those for president will pay N55m.
These high costs of nomination forms have outraged Nigerians so much that President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have balked at the decision of his ruling APC to put the cost of the cost of the expression of intent and nomination forms at the “outrageous” cost of N55m cost for the nomination form for the office of the President.
The President, most likely APC’s sole presidential aspirant, said he does not have such amount of money to purchase his nomination form.
Although there are indications that many supporters of the president have volunteered to purchase the form on his behalf, questions have been raised as to the sincerity of the Administration’s anti-graft war when the ruling party, which should show the way in making nomination forms available to encourage more people to show interest in elections is the very one seemingly promoting “an outrageous race for the costliest nomination forms in this dispensation,” as one political analyst in Enugu put it.
Speaking on the development in Owerri, a senatorial aspirant in Imo State from Orlu Zone on the platform of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Comrade Precious Nwadike, said the APC, PDP and others are institutionalizing corruption.
He described the cost of obtaining the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms in those parties as outrageous, unpatriotic and targeted at frustrating young people with decent background from effectively participating in politics.
He contended that the parties through their actions are encouraging corruption as those who eventually spent this much in purchasing mere party nomination forms will first recoup their money before being answerable to the electorate.
According to the senatorial aspirant, the major political parties have shown “their indisposition to youth’s participation in politics and should not be taken seriously by discerning Nigerians”, adding that “they want to deepen and engender corruption in Nigeria by the hike of party nomination form fees. They have conspired again to shut credible people out of politics, which is the only possible reason to impose exorbitant fees”.
He maintained that no business man who knows the worth of a N1m to his business would accept to part with N10m for a governorship nomination form alone
For Ekene Uzodinma, Convener of The New Enugu Project and 2019 UPP Governorship aspirant in Enugu State, Nigerians must rise against the ever soaring cost of running election in the country, which, he argued, has taken a very dangerous dimension likely to have enormous adverse effects on its polity.
Among such adverse affects, he said, is disenfranchisement of the right candidates. Aspirants that possess the right capacity, will power, pedigree and can perform but lack possession of enormous financial muscle are edged out by the moneybags, he further argued, noting that “these are business politicians who do not see politics as a platform for service but rather as an avenue for personal aggrandizement.”
“The truth is that most of the politicians who have the heart to pay whatever amount, such as APC’s figures, for instance, would likely not perform in office,” he added. He has to recoup his money first and make some ‘profit’ first. It is practically impossible for a politician to be people-oriented in office after he had spent through the nose to fund his election.
“For instance, the outrageous figures that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has brandished as costs of their nomination forms for various elective positions, simply suggest that the process has already been deliberately designed to scare away certain categories of aspirants. But the United Progressive Party (UPP), frowns at such development.”
According to Uzodinma, in the UPP, nomination form for all positions is free for all female aspirants as well as all aspirants that are 30 years of age and down.
“And for the rest, the cost of nomination form for House of Assembly is N50,00; that of House of Representatives is N200,000; for the Senate N600,000m while the governorship N3m, in that order.
To purchase the form is one thing but to return it is a different kettle of fish altogether.
This inevitable action for aspirants who wish to actually prosecute the election may involve a round of even bigger expenses.
A typical party nomination form has spaces for 30 persons to endorse the candidate. As the candidate goes round to secure such endorsement, he pays off the persons endorsing him, climaxing with the local government party chairman who will always ask for so much to perform his duty.
The House of Representatives and Senate have provisions for about 25 persons each to endorse the candidate. This merry-go-round endorsement process involves a lot of money to be spent by the candidates.
“Sometimes I wonder if we are not responsible for the seeming irresponsibility of our representatives. People spend just too much to prosecute elections. What do you expect them to do when they eventually win? It is simple: they try to recoup their “losses” first before looking the way of voters. It is just a dysfunctional system all through,” said a senatorial aspirant in Abia State.