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Buhari’s sweet Nigeria: The business of politics – Part 1

By Chris Gyang
02 May 2022   |   3:55 am
The April 20, 2022, announcement of the costs of expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 general elections by President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) sparked widespread backlash from citizens and groups.

Muhammadu Buhari (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

The April 20, 2022, announcement of the costs of expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 general elections by President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) sparked widespread backlash from citizens and groups.

Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political pressure group, described it as the height of political insensitivity and an open invitation to thievery. The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) advised that anyone who purchased the forms at such ‘scandalous amounts’ should be arrested and handed over to the police or anti-graft agencies for investigation into the source of their money.

Even the state-owned broadcaster, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), widely seen as the official mouthpiece of the APC controlled Federal Government, would go against the grain on this occasion. The station, in a stinging rebuke of Nigeria’s political class, especially the ruling APC, carried an in-house commentary on April 23 in which it described the presidential system as “bogus and expensive.”

While decrying the fact that the APC pegged the cost of its presidential nomination forms at “a whooping N100 million,” the editorial expressed the fear that aspirants who finally win elections under such circumstances would “become corrupt in order to recoup their money.” As a result, “Public service for common good of citizens will suffer as the preoccupation of the elected will be on how to get their money back with interest.”

The broadcaster noted that the exorbitant costs of nomination forms and maintaining the National Assembly were among the factors making public spending on governance an unbearable drain on the nation’s dwindling economy. “It has now become clear that the nation may not sustain this political jamboree (in the National Assembly) while the people they so represent continue to wallow in inexplicable squalor and denial,” FRCN maintained.

Therefore, the National Assembly should be reduced to only one chamber, with members working part-time. On the whole, cutting down the cost of governance must begin with reducing the costs of nomination forms to make them affordable to all aspirants so that the electoral process and politics are made all-inclusive.

One of the youngest APC presidential aspirants, Adamu Garba, was aghast on Tweeter when he found out about the costs of the forms.“N100 million for the form. WOW!” he exclaimed, and continued, “If we don’t come together and use our collective power to save this country from the strangulation of the moneybags, we are doing a great disservice to our generation and that of the future. We cannot continue to buy political offices in Nigeria, we need competent leaders come 2023.”

But he was immediately trolled and lampooned by other, apparently, young Nigerians. Some of the tweets went as follows: “You go still do abi you no go do again? But on a serious note, how could this man declare to run for presidency under a party while he’s yet to know the form price? Just vibe. This shows he’s not even serious with his ambition. I even doubt he’s a registered APC member. Adamu, kindly contest for Whatsapp admin. It is not very expensive.”

Those who did not know that politics is a serious business in Nigeria should now have a rethink; do a deep soul searching. You think those big politicians in Abuja and our state capitals who labour day and night, sweating, sacrificing and even getting high blood pressure in the process are doing easy work? If you thought so, better have a rethink.

Did Adamu Garba think that because President Buhari signed the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill into law it automatically opened up the political space to all Nigerian youth? In this capricious game of seeking and holding onto political power, sometimes laws are merely promulgated to serve the exigencies of the time. In which case, even the paper on which the ‘Not Too Young’ law was written may have been worth more than its letter and spirit.

After signing the bill into law on 31 May, 2018, President Buhari told the overjoyed youth who were assembled from the 36 states of the country: “You can aspire for President but please postpone your campaign till after 2019.” In their excitement, the coalition of the about 40 civil society youth organisations who had pushed for the enactment of the law could not decipher the double-speak imbedded in those words.

Mr. Buhari was simply implying that, first, he was signing the bill to gain their support towards his second term bid. Second, after he has his way in 2019, he could not assure them that they would reap the benefits of that law. Now we all know better.

Because politics is a serious enterprise in Nigeria, making huge investments in order to gain a firm foothold on the political turf in order to make it yield maximum returns are very paramount. But are these not some of the golden rules of business? In short, the higher the profit, the larger the stakes. You can confirm this from the richest black man in the world, Aliko Dangote.

Therefore, if you think that the cost of buying the APC’s presidential nomination forms is too expensive, you should have a rethink. Afterall, is there anything that is still cheap in today’s Nigeria? So why should the ticket to such a once-in-a-life-time position of sheer splendour be an exception? In fact, even the once popular ‘pure water’, which you once used to wash your sweaty face and scrawny dusty feet, is no more cheap.

Likewise bread, which price jumped by 42 per cent between 2017 and 2022. According to the Business Insider Africa (April 18, 2022), Nigeria tops the list of the nine African countries with the highest cost of white bread where a 500g loaf costs $1.12. This is followed by South Africa – $0.98. Algeria ranks eighth with a cost of $0.16 while Tunisia has the lowest – $0.13. In-between are Ghana, Mauritius, Egypt, Morocco and Kenya. See how bread is gradually getting out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians?

Yet you want this highly prized ticket to Aso Rock to be made ridiculously cheap! Lazy youth! Our dear President Buhari knew what he was all about when he declared all of you a lazy lot. No more free meals in Nigeria! You should even thank God that the APC has slashed the fee by half for the youth.

Instead of N100 million and N50 million for the presidential and governorship application forms, the youth can pay half for each. The benefits of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ may still be within reach, after all. No thanks to the magnanimity of the APC.

As the political party championing this new pricing regime, APC should also lead Nigeria’s other political parties into the Nigerian Stock Exchange so as to fully, effectively and formally incorporate politics into Nigeria’s corporate environment and network. Their specialty should be trading in political/powerstocks. The politicians could teach the business elite a trick or two about the politics of business. Perhaps this could be the much-needed elixir for our economy. You ask about the possibilities and viability of these grand innovations? We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

But in the meantime, it is worthy of note that at the end of the sales of the APC forms, the men would have been separated from the kids. Above all, we must praise the entrepreneurship dexterity the APC has displayed here.

If you still think that the cost of purchasing the APC forms is rather high, please go for the cheaper ones. Simple. There are lots of them out there at the moment. That is the beauty of democracy. And the free market economy. Freedom of selecting from an array of choices is at the centre of our bustling democracy and thriving capitalism; not forgetting their shared, concomitant, profit motive.

We must emphasise that if you still insist that bottled water is too expensive, then continue taking ‘pure water’. Even though, just like bread, it is not so cheap these days, it is still relatively cheaper than bottled water. So, go ahead and drink ‘pure water’ but be ready to go down with typhoid or other pernicious water borne diseases. Also have it at the back of your mind that the staff in the primary health care facility at your backyard or the general hospital in your city who should treat you may very likely be on industrial action. Just like our public universities.

All we are saying is that you cannot compare the cost of the tickets of the most bullish ventures, such as the APC, with those of others that are second-rate. No. That would be denigrating the very essence of good business. And where would that take this our bustling and sweet politics and democracy?

Well, if you do not have N100 million or N50 million to purchase the presidential and governorship forms of the APC, you can resort to borrowing. Unless, of course, if your ambition is not the type that has pursued you throughout your life – like Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s. In business, borrowing is part of the game. That is, as long as you show the potential and propensity to repay.

Come to think of it. You can even borrow a leaf from the Buhari administration’s borrowing spree, which is now said to have reached epic, unprecedented, proportions. But, as the cynics where postulating, has it totally crippled our economy? Your answer is as good as mine. And since the business of politics and power in Nigeria has the highest yield on investment, don’t have any reservations about borrowing N100 million to buy the presidential nomination form.