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High cost of nomination forms, Nigerian youths and challenges of electioneering

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President Muhammadu Buhari (middle) and representatives of Nigerian youths in 36 states of the Federation, during the signing of the Not Too Young To Run Bill at the State House, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA   


Despite the signing of Not-Too-Young-To-Run-Bill into law, this is not best of time for the youthful Nigerian politicians, aspiring to contest elective positions in 2019 elections on the platform of the two major parties-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). The high cost of nomination and express of interest forms of the two parties have set tongue wagging and made the youth to realise that electioneering is not a tea party.

While APC Presidential Nomination forms cost N45m, that of PDP is N12m. APC governorship form goes for N22.5m, that of the PDP costs N6m. Even though there are 91 registered political parties, many believe that the 2019 election may be a two-way race between the two major parties -PDP and APC, thereby the quest by many to run on their platforms.Now that majority of the youth who are desirous of vying for elective posts on the platforms of these two parties are being frustrated and discouraged! Bu what options are left for them? Why not use other parties’ platforms including, Young Progressives Party (YPP) that has youths as their leaders?

Findings reveal that majority of the 91 registered political parties have no structure across the country. Besides, PDP and APC have better chances of making impact in the elections than the rest of the parties. Despite that the youth have appealed to the leadership of the PDP and APC to review downward drastically the cost of nomination forms to enable them contest on the party platforms, the party appears unperturbed.

Speaking on the cost of APC and PDP nomination forms, co-convener of Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, Mr. Samson Itodo said on Thursday in Abuja that the youths are mobilising 50 million Nigerians to vote for credible and capable youths on other parties’ platform in 2019. He condemned the hike in the price of nomination forms by the two major political parties and high cost of running elections in the country.

Defending the cost of his party’s nomination forms, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said on Wednesday in Abuja that unlike the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would never betray public trust because it wanted to contest election.

He said: “Everybody knows that this administration under the leadership of President Buhari will never put its hands into the public treasury to take money for elections. Unlike the PDP, which went to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and took public money to run elections, we will not do that. We have decided to use what we get from the sale of forms to run our elections. I wonder why the PDP has made this their business.”Despite this explanation, which many believe is not tenable and reasonable, Nigerian youths who are capable and ready to serve in elective positions are the worst hit by this development. This has dampened their morale and erased the optimism that trailed the enactment of Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act.

It Behoves PDP To Grant Youth Waiver To Contest Primaries, Says Eya
From Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
Chinedu Eya, 38, is aspiring to represent Enugu North senatorial district at the National Assembly. Having obtained his expression of interest and nomination forms, he would be challenging the incumbent, Senator Chukwuka Utazi for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket.

The youthful Eya, whose father was recently kidnapped in Kogi State and released four days after with a warning to “tell his son to drop his senatorial ambition,” wrote the national leadership of the PDP, asking for waiver for himself and other youth aspiring to contest in the 2019 general elections.Speaking with The Guardian, Eya who has been in wool business stated that he was moved into writing the petition, because PDP in keeping with its promise to enhance the inclusion of young persons in the democratic processes of the country, following the passage of ‘Not-Too-Young-to-Run’ bill into law was morally bound to remember his personal sacrifice for the party, since joining the fold years ago.

Eya disclosed his contributions in PDP to include convening and coordinating  “Why It Must Be PDP In 2019” (WIMBPDP2019), a pressure group with membership across the 36 states of the federation, working for the return of the PDP in 2019.He explained that his organisation has since its existence in 2015, carried out a lot of activities to champion the party’s cause. He equally noted that if female aspirants are exempted from payment for purchase of nomination forms for all offices except national and ad-hoc delegate categories, as approved by the National Working Committee, the same gesture should be extended to Nigerian Youths to make its promise of supporting PDP to actualise its potential real.

“This is the second time I am making this appeal – I wrote a personal letter to Prince Secondus, our Party Chairman last month, bringing this case to his notice. Popular demand is that PDP should grant waiver to me and other youth for inclusiveness. Courtesy demands PDP to give youths soft-landing following the passage of Not-Too–Young-To-Run bill into law.”

Speaking further on why he authored the petition, he said: “It is not because I don’t have money to run my campaigns or buy the nomination forms but I did it because I am completely fighting a cause that should be sustainable because if you are saying “not too young to run”, you should accommodate those you felt are not too young and not to scare them with high nomination fees.

“There are youths who have excelled in their fields of endeavour. They have the means and know what they can do to bring positive changes. But they are not given opportunity for leadership because the fee is on the high side. How many of them can afford over N600,000 to buy nomination forms for House of Assembly or N1.5m for House of Reps, over N3m for Senate and others. It is not fair. So I want to go to the Senate to consolidate the voice of the youth but I should be seen as fighting their cause before I get there.”

On his experience since joining the race, Eya said that a lot had been done, especially by those in the system who tried “to scare me away by kidnapping my father recently.“My experience is such that, things are still done the old way. Nothing has changed. You spend too much money trying to contest election. What stops people from writing the party, saying that they have interests and then move on with their campaigns. Why do we have to come and make a public show? That is why people steal public funds when they get into office.”

‘Financially-Induced Election Process Breeds Corruption, Godfatherism’
From Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
One of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aniocha South Local Council of Delta State, Chief Fruitful Mekwuye, has decried the use of money in prosecuting election in Nigeria.
 
Describing it as an act of corruption, he insisted that it would be difficult to distance politicians from financial embezzlement once voted into power.He particularly condemned the huge sum of money charged by political parties for forms for various elective offices, stressing that the trend is capable of discouraging the youth, who are not financially bouyant from showing interest in contesting election.
 
This situation, he maintained, has a serious challenge to Nigerian politics. Mekwunye warned that so far political parties continue to place such ceiling on prospective candidates, the country will continue to experience the problem of god-fatherism and embezzlement of public funds by politicians.His position is that politics is viewed as investment upon which the investors will expect to recoup both his capital and interest.His words: “The cost of forms for various political offices is outrageous.  Spending such huge amount on the purchase of forms is dangerous.
 
“It encourages corruption and godfatherism in politics because youth who are interested in vying for political offices, but lack the financial wherewithal will either get discouraged or seek assistance of moneybags.“For instance, if an aspirant has to obtain loan from the bank to finance his election, we know that he will pay back his or her loan first before thinking of embarking on any developmental project.”

‘Cost Of APC Nomination Forms Is Discouraging The Youth’
From Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia) 
Engr. Nwabueze Onwuneme is the Director-General of Buhari South East Youth Movement BUSEYM. He is aspiring to represent Umuahia North State Constituency in Abia State House of Assembly.He described the high cost of nomination fees by APC and PDP as outrageous, urging that the cost should be reviewed downwards to accommodate more young persons with great ideas and programmes to participate.

To him, most great institutions built in Nigeria were built by great leaders in their prime. This was because then, Nigerian society encouraged such persons without idea and energy. On the cost of running election, Onwuneme said it solely rests on the citizenry who should have realized by now that most moneybag politicians are robbers of our collective patrimony. 

Looting of public treasury, he insists, accounts for the dearth of socio-economic and infrastructural development. “I have had challenging experience in the sense that corruption and godfatherism have eaten so deep into the psyche of our people.” Similarly, an APC governorship aspirant in Abia State, Ambassador Ukauwa laments the high cost of running election. He said: “I can see that those behind the high cost of nomination fees in APC are enemies of the party who actually do not want the party to nominate youth despite the recently enacted ‘Not-Too Young-To-Run Act’.
 
“They are same looters President Buhari has been fighting. How can Buhari claim that he is fighting corruption and the same corruption is existing and even developing in his own party. It is an irony that when the costs of opposition PDP Forms are far lower than that of the APC and even made free for female aspirants, APC has become a problem for aspiring youth like me that is sincere and ready to serve.”

‘It Is Retrogressive And Condemnable’
From Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)
The outrageous cost of nomination forms by political parties in Nigeria at a time when there is a clamour to expand the political space, so that the youth are given opportunity to participate has been described as retrogressive and condemnable.Those opposed to it argued that it strips the ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ Act of its intended goal of opening up the political space.

To 35 year-old ardent campaigner for the Act, Kiikpoye Karibo, who is vying for the  Abua/Odual State Federal Constituency ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the cost of intent and nomination form is not encouraging.His expectation had been that in an era when young people are being given opportunity to run the political and economic affairs of developed countries like France, Ireland, Canada and others, that political leaders in Nigeria would do same by creating an environment where youth who do not have the financial resources, but have leadership capacity can actively participate in politics.

Karibo said he is relying on friends to raise money for the form and then subsequently for his campaign. He narrated that it is ironical that the moment he reaches out to some people to acquaint them of his political aspiration, the person just believe he has kept money somewhere for the election and so want to extort from him.“The system is not encouraging young people. Though the Not –Too-Youth-Bill is now a law. It is not enough signing it into law. We also need to look at the issue of the cost of form. The amount people spend in electioneering process is supposed to be looked at. As it stands now, the implication is that it will push young people like us who do not have the financial clout away from politics. It will scare people like us away. Well, for me, there is no going back,” he said.

Karibo lamented that though the campaign has not even commenced, his expense on consultation has been soaring beyond what he had anticipated. He regretted that due to financial implication of running an election, those who want to venture into politics with altruistic motive, but don’t have the financial war chest will not be given the opportunity to participate.

“We need to make laws that will regulate people from using personal funds to run elections, even if you are a billionaire. Rather, the people who believe in you should donate through fund raising. That is the only way to minimise huge expense in electioneering.” Another aspirant, 29 year-old Tonye Felix, who wants to represent the Okrika State Constituency under the platform of the APC, told The Guardian that he was able to purchase his nomination through the assistance of his parents and friends.Felix explained that if the cost of the nomination form and the entire electioneering process was not astronomically high, a lot of youths with ideas and who are desirous to serve would have participated in the process.

“I don’t have the war chest for this election, but what I have going for me is that those whom I have interacted with see that I have the desire to serve. The consultation has gulped more money that the cost of the form, but I believe that as a young person once you set your mind to achieve something, God will see you through,” he said.
Ken Henshaw, the Executive Director, ‘We the People’, said the organisation is deeply alarmed by the outrageous costs of nomination forms in political parties ahead of the 2019 elections.

Henshaw observed that rather than open up the political space for youths to participate in the development of the country, the political parties have argued that the high costs of nomination forms serve the purpose of eliminating unserious aspirants from the elections, insisting that only serious ones will muster the resources to purchase the non-refundable nomination forms. He stressed that this argument is not only weak, but also defeatist.

‘Reduce Cost Of Nomination Fees To Allow Credible Youths To Participate’ 
From Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)
Speaking with The Guardian on the cost of nomination form, two Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants for the House of Assembly seats Modecia Ibrahim and his counterpart, Ibrahim Amani complained of the cost of party nomination forms, saying that such development breeds corruption. Ibrahim said: “The cost of the sales of party nomination forms is too exorbitant. To ask somebody to cough out 700,000 Naira to buy forms to contest elections into the House of Assembly is a serious issue. It is not easy to buy the nomination forms. This is truly on a high side given the prevailing economic situation we found ourselves in Nigeria today. Not every aspirant can afford to raise 700,000 Naira not to talk of N1.8m. A young graduate who may want to go into politics and contest in a party like PDP or APC may not find it easy to raise the money”.

However, he explained that the PDP to some extent listen to the voice of reasoning by reviewing downward N1million that was first announced to N700,000 for House of Assembly which I am contesting in my constituency. “If we look at the side of the parties, you may not blame them for fixing the amount. I am trying to be objective. This is because the cost of running political parties is expensive in Nigeria. You see, the disadvantage of high nomination fees is that unless a contestant is genuinely interested in service, I bet you when you take the cost of buying forms and the cost of campaign expenses into consideration, such person may be scared away.”

In the same vein, Amani insisted that the cost is too high and is a serious discouragement for some aspirants, especially the youths that genuinely want to serve. Amani further cited an example of a politician who withdrew from the 2019 elections because of high cost of nomination forms, saying: “I know one of my political mentors who wants to run for the House of Representatives in Kaduna North zone, but when the cost of buying the nomination form was announced he decided not to vie for the elections again.
“I am appealing to all the political parties in the country to reduce the cost of buying the nomination form for the primaries, if actually they want credible candidates to participate in politics.”

Parties Are Breeding Corruption Through High Cost Of Nomination Forms, Says Kalakala
From Emmanuel Ande, Yola 
House of Representatives aspirant for Guyuk/Shelleng Federal Constituency in Adamawa State, Justine Joseph Kalakala said it would be difficult for the youth to afford huge amount to purchase the nomination forms.“How can a young man that graduated from the university not too long ago, but has the capacity to give his people good leadership afford about one million naira just for nomination form. Even the middle-age or the old people that have good leadership qualities don’t have such money to spend,” he said.

He stated that leaders of political parties have turned the country’s democracy into a business venture, which according to him has created rooms for moneybag politicians to capitalise on this development to hijack the party primaries.“With what our parties leaders are doing they cannot caution or query any elected political office holder when he fails to perform. This is because he bought his ticket. There is no way any political party can defend the high cost of nomination forms. How much does it cost political parties to print nomination forms? How much was the cost of nomination forms during the last general elections? What gave birth to the increase which is twice higher than the last elections, if not greed and corruption,” he said.

Kalakala who called on the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act and put a bench mark on the maximum amount for political party to charge for nomination forms since there is a law on how much a candidate can spend during campaigns, pointed out that if nothing is done quickly political parties will soon handover Nigerian democracy to moneybags at the detriment of the country’s future.

If the National Assembly did not act on time, our political parties are about to privatise Nigerian democracy. We are heading to a situation whereby people like Aliko Dangote, Atiku Abubakar, Theophilus Danjuma and few others will buy all the nomination forms and share it to those they want. That means our democracy has become public liability company where billionaires can buy shares and wait for their dividends every year. The implications is that there will be no country again, but a company called Nigeria Plc,” he said.He said that without the youth in politics, the country will continue to suffer due to knowledge recession of the old generation leaders who have refused to quit the stage for the mentally vibrant youths to use modern knowledge to take Nigeria to the next level. Kalakala who is in his late thirties, called on the political parties to be nationalistic and show patriotism by cutting down the cost of their nomination forms, this he said will give room not only to the youth, but to other good leaders who are not financially buoyant to participate in politics.

‘It Is A Breach Of Law And Peoples’ Constitutional Right To Participate In Electoral Process’
 From Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
For a 41-year old presidential aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Congress, (APC) Mr Christmas Akpodiete, the cost of the nomination forms is expensive, unconstitutional and far beyond the reach of middle class and poor Nigerians.He argued that the development is a breach of the constitutional right of Nigerians to participate in the electoral process, adding that any law, rule or policy that is repugnant to the rule of natural justice, equity and good conscience should be declared null and void.
 
Speaking with The Guardian, Akpodiete disclosed that he sent a letter of appeal to APC chairman and the National Working Committee members on June 29, urging them to reduce the nomination fees to N18, 000,00 to give everyone equal opportunity to aspire, but my plea fell on deaf ears.According to him, it is an attempt by the Nigeria political oligarchs to make nonsense of the recently passed Not-Too-Young-To-Run-Bill and a calculated move to deprive the Nigerians their constitutional guaranteed rights to run for public offices in their country.
 
He said: “The implications are very clear for all to see. It breeds corruption. The cost is responsible for the desperate approach towards the electioneering process. When we get power, we will introduce a dynamic technological approach that will jettison this medieval policy that is currently in place. Akpodiete who also decried the huge amount being spent by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting elections said: “If you look at the amount INEC spend in conducting elections, it breaks my heart. It is a waste of resources applying a method that is not even perfect. We must achieve a proper data system that is unique and dynamic.” 

 
The presidential aspirant said he has dragged the APC, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja over the exorbitant cost of obtaining nomination form.He explained that in the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/951/2018 which is awaiting hearing, he is asking the court to restrain the APC, PDP from going ahead with the schedule primaries and if they do, he is asking the court to declare such primaries null and void. 
 
According to him, he is also asking the Court to restrain INEC from recognising such primaries, pending the determination of the substantive suit. Akpodiete is of the opinion that the nomination fees charged by political parties are not only ridiculous and unaffordable, but they are unconstitutional.¯“The nomination fees are repugnant to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience”. But he vows to remain in the party, but he would continue to push the case for reduction of the nomination fee, even to the Supreme Court, if the need arises.

He also expressed the optimism that “with the help of technology the cost of running elections will be drastically reduced. We shall scrap the PVC when we arrive, we shall create a social security number for every citizen, such numbers will be culled from the current national Identity Card. This number will reflect in the driver’s licence, international passports and will be used during election and tax purposes,” he said.


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