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Published On: Thu, Sep 20th, 2018

Pricing out good candidates

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The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has put hefty prices on nomination forms for the various positions for which it intends to field candidates in next year’s general elections. The polls come up in February. The party is asking for 45 million naira ($125,500, 108,000 euros) from every aspirant who wants to take part in its presidential primaries. President Muhammadu Buhari, certain to be the sole aspirant, has had the fee paid for him by a group of supporters. The fee more than doubles the N27,5 million the APC demanded for the same position in 2015.

The cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for the governorship is N22.5 million. For a senatorial ticket, an aspirant will pay N1m for the expression of interest form and N6m for a nomination form, while those for House of Representatives will pay N3.85m, including N350,000 for the expression of interest form and N3.5m for the nomination form. A House of Assembly aspirant will pay N850,000, including N100,000 for the expression of interest form and N750,000 for the nomination form. The party, however, has offered a half-price discount for women and the disabled.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled Nigeria for 16 years, but in 2015, lost the Presdiency to APC’s Buhari, has reduced the cost of its presidential candidate forms to 12 million naira and the governorship from 11 million naira to six million naira. Unlike, APC, the PDP has made its forms free for female candidates, in a move to widen the political space and catch the votes of women.

The APC and PDP are, unarguably, the biggest political guns going into the elections. There are motley other 89 parties that eye the presidential race. These have not yet announced their fees. When they do eventually, the fees may be far less than those of the two frontrunners but the million naira benchmark will not be missed.

Reactions to the stupendous fees parties are charging have been one of anger and dismay. The Not-Too-Young-to-Run group, which successfully campaigned for a reduction in the age limit for elective offices, says the fees are “exorbitant” and would disqualify potential candidates. It accuses the main parties of “reneging” on a pledge to cap the cost of nomination forms for all elective positions. The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, a lobby group, fears the high costs show “how the two main parties have monetised the political environment. The system favours the wealthy and fosters cronyism and corruption, as sponsors who often pay for a candidate’s forms expect pay-back once they are in power.”

While we at Peoples Daily agree elections in Nigeria are, by world standards, scandalously expensive because politics here is seen as business that must yield profit for the investor, there is no legislation as yet that says parties can charge only so so amount for a nomination form. The electoral law, in its present form only pegs the amount of money an individual may contribute to a candidate’s campaign.

That said, the huge sums parties are charging run against the letter and spirit of the #NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN law that National Assembly passed last year and was signed by President Buhari last June. It is like offering younger Nigerians aspiring to elective office a clear coast with one and blocking the road with the other. As Professor Lai Olurude has observed, “the majority of aspiring Nigerian youths cannot afford the huge amount of money placed on nomination forms by the leading political parties.” We ask, therefore, for a drastic reduction to the barest minimum in order not to discriminate against this significant, vibrant segment of our population from the 2019 political contest.

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