It has always been said that there is no place politics is monetized in the whole world like Nigeria. The recent mouth watering fees charged by political parties for the purchase of their nomination and expression of interest forms led credence to this assertion. It is no longer news that Nigerian’s main political parties are charging eye-watering fees from election hopefuls, in a move condemned as undemocratic by political watchers and a breeding ground for high-level favouritism and corruption.
It was reported that supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan pooled their resources together to stump up the N22 million required for him to buy his nomination form from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is not left out in the bazaar of charging high fees as it asked for 27.5 million naira, forcing the most qualified of the contestants and incorruptible former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, to take out a bank loan to foot his, since he did not amass wealth like others when he held sway as the nation’s number one citizen.
This high cost of form did not stop at the presidency, as the two major parties, APC and PDP nets N10 million and N11 million from prospective gubernatorial aspirants for them to qualify for the primaries. Aspirants for national and state assembly elections are also to pay huge sums of cash, far outstripping the fees charged elsewhere in world.
The situation makes one to ask, from where do these parties want her aspirants to get such large sums? How many Nigerians, other than those who have made their hands dirty can easily secure these nomination forms? These parties and Nigerians as a people have not even started the journey for nationhood. We are just doing the macabre dance. General Buhari has said he had to take a bank loan to buy his own nomination form? How did he secure a N25 million loan? Will such facility be accessible to majority of country people? Your guess will be as good as mine.
These exorbitant fees no doubt skew the political system, furthering a culture of patronage and keeping out poorer, but perhaps more qualified administrators. It allows the moneybags and godfathers to dominate the political scene for their own selfish interest. This prompted Lagos based lawyer, Femi Falana to say that charging for nomination by both Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which oversees elections, and political parties was against the law.
The interesting thing is that apart from this sum paid to the parties’ headquarters, the secretariats of the parties at the state also charge another nomination fees for aspirants running into millions. This has made Prof. Taheed Adedoja, a governorship aspirant in Oyo state, to cry out that the sum is capable of scaring away people with great developmental ideas but with limited resources from contesting elections. Similarly, General Buhari (Rtd.) who got his through a bank loan also expressed his displeasure with the nomination fee of APC. He was quoted as saying that “It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be reviewed downward.” In reaction to Buhari’s concern, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said, “The N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys.” To most Nigerians, this could also mean to separate the super rich from the poor as ordinary Nigerian cannot afford it no matter how he hardworking he may be.
Opinion moulders and political watchers have come hard on the National Working Committees of these parties describing the fees as being exorbitant which will automatically discourage popular participation in the electoral process and consolidate power among the wealthy elite who are well positioned to afford that kind of whopping amount.
This practice of placing incredible amount of money by political parties for nomination forms only reflects the dangerous connection between politics and big business and the disconnect it fosters on the silent majority. High fees for nomination force aspiring candidates without huge financial means to raise money from super-rich backers, who will then expect pay-back if they are voted in power. This best explains the proliferation political godfathers in the system milking it dry through their sponsored candidates.
It is crystal clear that if the aspirants eventually got nominated and goes on to win the election, naturally he will feel indebted and obligated to those microscopic few and his loyalty will be to those people and not to the rest of the populace or the silent majority who have no voice.
It is an established fact that those who claimed that their forms were bought by well wishers like President Jonathan and David Mark will certainly have to contend with the reality of serving their purpose. It is a dangerous and vicious cycle because the candidate after getting elected cannot afford to forget where he got the money to bankroll his election. They may well be said to be the ladder that they used to climb to prominence and will always be ready to serve at their beck and core.
It shows that this democracy is certainly not for ordinary Nigerians, that poor country fellow whose rights of suffrage are mediated by Nigeria’s current cash-and-carry politics. How can democracy grow and function if political parties require their members to pay such outrageous sums just merely to indicate interest in the contest of political office?
How can political aspiration, the desire to represent underserved communities and people transform to public service if political parties compel candidates for political office to cough out millions of Naira in fees just to obtain nomination forms.
Moreover, picking the form is just the tip of the iceberg, there follows other kinds of responsibilities, and don’t forget that the main election is around the corner. Money has suddenly become the deciding factor or game changer in the mentality of Nigerians in contemporary Nigeria politics.
Given the kind of stomach politics we play in the country that speaks not to the mind but to the visceral hunger that impoverishes the Nigerian mind, it is clear that the pendulum will always swing to the side of the elites who are desirous of maintaining the status quo. Damages the PDP led government has done in Nigeria which has created great hunger had descended in the land like a hurricane devouring the minds of the people. It was the kind of hunger that made things seem futile because it did not only grip the stomach, it turned the mind also.
The tragedy in the Nigerian case is that our hunger is not merely the hunger of the stomach; it is the hunger of the spirit. It is the kind of hunger that has transformed the great promise of Nigeria’s democratic renewal into a pale, plutocratic corruption where the poor are outlawed or even locked out from any kind of contest.
Hunger they say obliterates every idea or thinking and that Nigerians are now left with no alternative than to keep on hoping that one day fate will throw up that benevolent leader that will reposition the system for good. It is time Nigerians come together irrespective of tribe, religion and political affiliation, sink their differences and chart a new course without losing sight of the good of people in the context of the common good.
After all, it has been said that positive signs in the contemporary world are the growing awareness of the solidarity of the poor among themselves, their efforts to support one another, and their public demonstrations on the social scene which, without recourse to violence, present their own needs and rights in the face of the inefficiency or corruption of public authorities.