In recent years, political parties in Nigeria have formed the habit of charging very high amount of money for their nomination and expression of interest forms.
The trend, which came into being after the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, has snowballed into a money-spinning venture for political parties in the country.
Politicians across various parties have complained bitterly about the huge cost of purchasing forms in Nigeria, even when there are other miscellaneous expenses involved during the electioneering campaign.
Although a huge amount of resources is required to run political parties, stakeholders are of the view that it is, however, very dangerous to rely so heavily on the internal electoral process of parties as a major source of revenue generation.
For political watchers, the present state of things perhaps, gives the impression that the elections in Nigeria were reserved for the higher bidder. They also said that such high fees lead to corruption in government as those who so purchased the forms at exorbitant prices would want to recoup their investment at the detriment of the masses they are supposed to serve.
For instance, reports indicate that in last year’s gubernatorial election in Edo State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) generated N135 million from its candidates, while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) raked in N84 million.
A breakdown showed that Expression of Interest Form by each APC candidate attracted N2.5 million, while a nomination Form went for N20 million per candidate. On the other hand, both categories attracted N1 million and N20 million, respectively in the PDP.
The report shows that a total of N219 million was made from the sale of forms to prospective candidates in both the APC and the PDP.
For instance, in the run-up to the 2019 election, the PDP charged N12million for expression of interest form for the president, N6million for governor, N3.5million for senate, N2.5million for House of Representatives and N600, 000 for the House of Assembly.
The APC charged N45million for the president, N22million for governor, N7million for Senate, N3.5million for House of Representatives and N850,000, for House of Assembly.
Recall that incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari had lamented that he could not afford to buy the APC nomination form.
Reports had indicated that he took a bank loan to pay N25 million for a nomination form in 2015 and had to rely on well-wishers to raise the N45 million he needed for the same purpose to contest the 2019 polls.
During last year’s gubernatorial election in Ondo State the two leading parties charged exorbitant fees for the sales of their forms and generated millions after the exercise was conducted.
“When the fee for this year was announced, I screamed that it was too much and that I did not have the money,” Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu who was the APC candidate in the 2020 gubernatorial election had said.
Ahead of the Anambra State gubernatorial election slated for November 2021, the APC has pegged the sum of N22.5million for expression of interest and nomination forms.
This was contained in a statement signed by the
Director of Organisation, Al-Mustapha Medaner said the expression of interest form costs N2.5 million while the nomination form costs N20 million.
In most occasions, political parties are funded by contributions from membership fees, dues, subscriptions and donations by members and supporters. Also they can get money through contributions by organisations, including corporate donations that share their goals, and in some countries, public funding through grants from the state.
However, the situation is not the same in Nigeria, largely because some of the parties only exist in newspapers and show up during election period. So, in most cases, they have little grassroots presence, while their leaders have also refused to be innovative in terms of revenue generation.
Presently, there is the growing concern among stakeholders that the trend has assumed a worrisome dimension and if not checked could further undermine the nation’s fragile democracy. There is the belief that the trend has only succeeded in promoting exclusivity, encouraging godfatherism, corruption, and making a mockery of Nigeria’s effort at deepening democracy.
“The unnecessary high cost of nomination forms by political parties in Nigeria speaks loudly to the fact that representation is not democratised. I mean, it is only assumed to be for a minor section of the population that have the money.
“And not necessarily those who are competent to represent the people have good intentions to serve. No doubt, politics is financial- intensive. Nonetheless, exorbitant fees on nomination forms clearly signify a huge disconnect from selfless service to the people,” political analyst Kayode Kehinde said.
Kehinde further stated that the situation must change if the country was serious about deepening democracy and giving more political access to women and the youth.
According to him, “The unnecessary high fee on nomination forms takes out more opportunities to have the young generation as aspirants for elections and more disheartening women. Most often, these forms can only easily be purchased by older persons who have the economic power to do so. And from the long-standing gender inequality in Nigeria, we have a very little number of women that can purchase party nomination forms.
“Another angle to see this is that charging a huge sum of money to purchase party nomination forms contributes to more corrupt practices in Nigeria. Eventually, when these aspirants have access to power, it is just logical that they would want to get back the huge sum of money spent on nomination forms/campaigns. We need to properly review the highly expensive version of politics we practise here in Nigeria because, obviously, it is a contributory factor to the increasing level of corruption”.
Observers say that the trend has succeeded in shutting out patriotic Nigerians, who may be desirous to govern and offer purposeful leadership in government, while equally fuelling corruption among politicians some of who are often desirous to recoup their investment when they succeed in attaining elective positions.
But some politicians have urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to offer some form of regulation to the system by checking the amount parties sell their forms, even if it would involve an amendment of existing law in order to save the nation’s democracy.
Adelaja Adeoye, politician and a former national publicity secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said the current practice undermines Nigeria’s democracy because it shuts out competent individuals without financial strength, adding that it should be checked before the situation causes further damage.
According to him, “INEC also has the duty to peg the nomination fee, to allow more participants in our elections. High cost of nomination by political parties should be reviewed so that it can allow more participation from aspirants who are brilliant, have the competence, capacity and character needed to move the country forward.
“There are so many folks who have these qualities but do not have the financial muscles like these big moneybags politicians. I would rather advise our frontline political parties to bring down the fees to what can be affordable to people. I know that sometimes, these huge nomination fees are used to first screen and know those who are desirous and serious about the contest.”
Also, to run for political office at a higher level of president, governor, Senate and House of Reps requires a lot of financial commitment; however, people should be given the opportunity first at party level, and also be allowed to crowdfund in cases where they cannot match the moneybags.
Taofeek Gani, publicity secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, said the huge amount was justified sometimes, adding some several politicians often come from nowhere during election to vie on the political parties’ platforms without taking into cognisance how the party had been built.
Gani however, admitted that the amount should not be so high as to make it look like a punitive measure, adding that the Electoral Act should also take part of the blame.
“Why do they want to contest under the platform at all cost? They want to contest, reap where they did not sow. You must pay some dues; but I also agree it should not be so high, looking like a punitive measure, just like the way it is now.
“But I think the Electoral Act is where the lacuna is because; they did not specify how the parties should go about charging their aspirants for forms and the rest. But the parties need money for advertising; they do a lot of that during elections. So, it is not by force you can go under another platform and contest,” Gani said.