Economy, governance to suffer as APC, PDP garner N43.9b from forms
• Nigeria pushing for plutocracy, says Kukah
• Yiaga Africa: APC, PDP used forms’ prices to marginalise youths, women
• Garba dumps APC after withdrawing from presidential race
• Stakeholders want units in EFCC, ICPC to probe funds, tax politicians
• Experts seek leeway for lax campaign finance regulations, monitoring
Described by some stakeholders as obscene, money laundering scheme, investment and fund-raising tactics, the rave purchase of nomination forms and the slush fund in the hands of political parties ahead of 2023 general elections is creating fresh worries of a situation that could harm national development and the nation’s economy, financial experts and civil society organisations have said.
From indications, The Guardian’s estimates show that the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) stands to earn nothing less than N32.1 billion from sale of nomination forms to aspirants across all offices, from presidential, Senate, House of Representatives, governorship to state Houses of Assembly.
While the forms sell for N100 million for presidential, governorship goes for N50 million, Senate for N20 million, N10 million for House of Representatives and N2 million for House of Assembly.
More than 27 presidential aspirants already picked the form, totaling over N2.7 billion, at least three aspirants are expected across the 36 states (108 aspirants) for governorship, totaling N5.4 billion and at least three forms are also expected to be picked for 109 Senate seats (327) standing at N6.5 billion.
For the House of Representatives, which has 360 slots, at least three aspirants are expected (1,280) per Federal Constituency, bringing the earning to N12 billion and in the Houses of Assembly where there are 990 seats, at least three aspirants each totaling 2,970 aspirants are expected, bringing the earnings to N6 billion. The ruling party is therefore projected to raise N32.1 billion.
The major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is expected to raise nothing less than N11.8 billion with N680 million already raised from presidential aspirants. At least, N2.2 billion is expected from governorship forms, N1.1 billion from Senatorial aspirants, N3.2 billion from House of Representatives aspirants and N4.5 billion from House of Assembly aspirants. These are projected to bring total earnings of PDP to N11.9 billion.
This development is coming at a time Nigeria’s economy has been struggling and currently faced with yearly widening budget deficit, rising inflation that has worsened prices of food items and other products, high foreign exchange, unemployment rate standing at 33.3 per cent, debt burden at a time President Muhammadu Buhari has already approached the National Assembly to borrow N965.42 billion from the domestic market to fund the deficit in the 2022 budget.
THE Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has expressed worry over the huge amount being charged for presidential nomination forms by both APC and PDP, saying the country may soon jettison democracy for plutocracy.
Speaking on the topic ‘Citizens Participation in a Democracy’ during a brief ceremony to mark the 60th birthday of veteran civil society activist and Director of the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Mr. Clement Nwankwo, the Bishop said Nigeria cannot get citizens’ participation in governance right if people don’t believe in the constitution or electoral process.
“We went for democracy because we think it is the best form of government, but as it is now, if you want to declare interest to participate in the process or to pick your expression of interest form, despite the quality of your certificate, you must have a deep pocket.
“This is not about your ability, it is not about being acceptable; if you don’t have N100 million or N50 million to buy nomination form or if you don’t have the kind of friends that can buy it for you.
“This thing has been reduced to some kind of joke and Nigerians are sitting and watching in disbelief and keeping quiet that somebody will just wake up one day to pick a nomination form for N100 million, that person may not have been able to drill a borehole for his village or give scholarship to his people.
“We have to pay the price because we are complicit. We should not pretend that we are running a democracy; we are rather pushing for plutocracy – government of the rich for the rich people,” he said.
For Yiaga Africa, the high cost of nomination forms being charged by political parties in preparation for the 2023 general elections was used to allegedly marginalise youth, women, and persons with disabilities from political participation. The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, stated this in a statement on Tuesday.
He said: “This is a huge disservice to teeming young Nigerians and women who nurse the ambition to run for elective office in next year’s general elections.
“These groups make up the largest demographic in the country from participating in the political process, with young people constituting over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population and 54 per cent of registered voters.”
THIS was the case with a presidential aspirant on the platform of the ruling APC, Adamu Garba II, who this week withdrew from the race over his inability to raise N100 million for the nomination form. He attributed his decision not only to the high cost of obtaining APC’s expression of interest and nomination forms to run for office of president but overall cost of running for political office.
He noted that his campaign team had generated N83.2 million in private and online donations, adding that the sums would be returned to the donors.
“This goes contrary to our belief that you can only separate serious contenders from unserious ones by the competency, capacity, credibility, strength of the programme, workable solutions, and sellable candidate to Nigeria through rapid intraparty debates and other high-level criteria reviews that can ensure we present a better leader for future for Nigeria.
“We further discovered that even if we went ahead to obtain the form, the party has foreclosed the plan for primary election because of the presence of the request for a Letter of Voluntary withdrawal on page 18 of the nomination form.
“I cannot, in all honesty, rally funds from my supporters in the hope that we will be having a primary election, then sign a postdated letter of voluntary withdrawal from the contest.”
After announcing his decision not to buy the APC presidential nomination form, Garba yesterday dumped the party, alleging that it has “lost its moral bearings.
“I cannot continue to retain membership of a party that favours money beyond competency, vested interest beyond common interest, chronic elitism beyond public good, politics of exclusion beyond inclusion.
“I do not in all honesty, sincerely and with consciousness believe that any young man in Nigeria has a future or model worthy of emulation for the benefit of Nigeria in APC. I believe the party has drifted so much from the original beliefs of its foundation to something more cynical, undemocratic institution,” he said, though he has not announced the party he would be joining.
Economics and developmental experts are worried over sources of political funds, insisting that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) urgently begin investigating into sources of fund of politicians as well as their tax records.
Coming in the days of extreme hardship for the masses, some stakeholders have described as obscene the crave for nominations, insisting that it remained a slap on the faces of innocent hardworking Nigerians who would never see such sums in their entire lives.
“No one should pay such an amount without showing how they earned it,” Patrick Okigbo, who heads Abuja-based Nextier Advisory said. According to him, at the very least, politicians must submit their tax returns and let auditors in the opposition party comb through it to validate that aspirants could afford such an amount.
Okigbo demanded reform in campaign financing, stressing that no groups or friends should be allowed to pay that much of money on behalf of their friends.
“It is for this reason that various western countries put limit to how much an individual or organisation should contribute to a party or candidate,” he said.
Economic expert at PWC, Habeeb Jaiyeola, noted that while attention of politicians have shifted to election at the detriment of developmental issues, government decisions are already becoming politically motivated instead of focusing on the economic benefits for the country.
Team Lead (Research and Policy) Nextier SPD, Dr Ndubisi Nwokolo, noted that there was a political economy dimension to the sale of forms by the two dominant parties in the country.
While using previous experiences as a benchmark, Nwokolo said the parties are using these long list of aspirants to build a war chest for the campaigns, adding that, it “looks like sheer corruption, finding a way to circumvent the rule on party financing and elections.”
The development according to him would have implications on the economy considering that “majority of the fees paid are drawn from the country’s treasury by one way or the other.”
An International Development Consultant, Micheal Uzoigwe, stated that the prevailing situation only confirms that the moment most politicians get into positions they begin to mop finance for their next position.
“That war chest is something that would have been amassed using public position. There are people we know have no clear businesses that can generate that amount of money. So, Nigerians need to ask questions around how these resources are being mobilised.”
Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Faith Nwadishi, said: “The money for the purchase of nomination form is just the beginning. They have to pay delegates at primaries. They have to settle party hierarchy. To whosoever that wins, the first thing is to recover that money. This is investment for them. This is why corruption and nepotism will never stop in this country,” she said.
An economic expert, Prof Godwin Oyedokun, noted that the prevailing situation would drastically affect the economy and national development.