Is Not Too Young to Run Act a fallacy?
Nigeria is heading for moneybags politics and whoever gets more money wins the elections. The will of the people cannot prevail. It is a well-known fact that the major political parties we have today are controlled by the bigwigs in the political space, who determine who get what, when and how.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, some political parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) just announced the cost of their parties’ nomination forms and from the outcry of the people out there, the prices are outrageous and it is a calculated attempt to sideline the competent hands, who don’t have the financial muscle to contest for the political offices.
The media reported that the ruling APC has fixed its expression of interest and nomination forms for presidential aspirants to pay N45 million, while the PDP too was reported to have also fixed a fee of ₦12 million for the expression of interest and nomination forms for its presidential aspirants. According to the media report, APC fixed N22.5 million for both expression of interest and the nomination forms governorship aspirants, while that of the PDP is N6 million for both expressions of interest and nomination form. Again, the APC’s Senate aspirants would pay N7 million and N3.8 million for the House of Representatives, while the PDP Senate and House of Representatives’ aspirants are to pay N3.5 million and N1.5 million respectively. State House of Assembly aspirant for APC is set for N2.5 million, while that of PDP is N600,000.
In all honesty, how many Nigerian young men and women within the age of 35 to 40, who have never occupied such political position before can afford this kind of money for just expression of interest and nomination form? It is a thing of concern if money is used to determine who should lead us. Just of recent, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 31st May 2018. Can we now say that law is a fallacy? If not, why should money be used as the yardstick to disqualify potential candidates from expressing interest or acquiring nomination form to contest?
There are some salient questions these political parties must provide answers for, to enable us to know the reasons behind the high cost of their nomination forms especially that of the ruling party (APC). Does it mean they are using nomination form as a means of making more money or they are using it as a measure to determine the financial strength of a political candidate? Or a deliberate means for outright disqualification of the young aspirants? The decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or the Electoral Act to allow the political parties to determining how much money their expression of interest or nomination form are sold leaves a lot to be desired.
The Electoral Act 2010 Section 90 subsections (2) to (7) stipulates the amount of money every candidate is expected to spend in an election and other sections also spell out the activities and functions of the political parties regarding the elections. But the Act does not include the expenses before the primary elections, which form the foundation for every election. The Act did not take into account, the expenditure surrounding the issue of expression of interest, nomination form and all that, which is an integral part of the selection process. It appears that the INEC does not care whatever means any political parties used to present a candidate for the main elections. Less we forget, it is only the number of the candidates who purchased the nomination form that can contest for the primary election. And that is to say without the nomination form, no one can contest for any political office. This particular part of the electoral process is neglected by the INEC and Electoral Act, which form the basis for selecting the right or wrong candidates. As such, they have allowed money to determine who should be selected at these elementary stages. Instead of lowering the bar at least to a certain minimum level for those who have the interest, but don’t have such big amount of money or wealthy enough but have the ability to provide good leadership to contest. But the Act failed, neglect, ignore or refused to provide the guidelines for the minimum or maximum amount of money every political party supposes to charge for their nomination forms, which is the entry point and the first disqualification stage.
The electoral Act leaves the political parties at their own discretion to determine the amount of money a candidate or aspirant should pay. This kind of autonomy creates inequality in the electoral process. Political parties do as they so wish in determining how much money to be charged, and this has given the political parties the power to determine who get the political power or position rather than who the people actually want to be their leaders. It is obvious that he/she, who determines how much money one should pay to get the access to power, equally determine who get the power at the end of the day. It is also clear that the genesis of inequality in our political contest start from here, where the rich are given undue advantage to rule over the poor if even the poor are more competent than the rich person. In all, it is an attempt to sideline and silent the most qualified candidate from contesting for any political positions.
Then I ask, is a Not-Too-Young-To-Run law a fallacy? As long as the situation continues unchanged, campaign and political finance laws are not amended to incorporate the reality on the ground, not-too-young-to-run Act will remain a fallacy. It is a clear case of the political class given by the right-hand and collecting it back by the left hand. It is imperative to note that the political ruling classes are doing everything possible to limit the young people from occupying political positions and participating in Nigeria democracy.
There is need to provide a level playground for all the contestants to participate base on characters, integrity, performance, competence, merit and the ability to deliver, rather than limiting their possibility of becoming good leaders with the ability to pay. Ability to pay should not be the yardstick for our leadership selections. Highest bidder should not be made to govern us if even he/she is an armed rubber.
There is the urgent need to amend the Electoral Act to accommodate the provisions of the Not-too-young-to-run Act and also to incorporate the expenditures before and during the primary elections in the Electoral Act regulations. The movement for Not-Too-Young-To-Run should not rejoice yet, as the battle is not yet over, because the prices for the expression of interest and nomination form of the major political parties have contradicted the aim and objective of Not-too-young-to-run goals.
This challenge calls for another movement to advocate and to push for the amendment of the Electoral Act and any other election laws to regulate the influence and amount of money that should be allowed into the electoral process because it has an adverse effect on the outcome of the elections and how our society is been govern.
All hands must be on deck to redo their undo. May God bless Nigeria.
Samuel wrote from Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.
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