As the 2019 general election approaches, the high cost of nomination and expression of interest forms is generating ripples in the polity. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are some of the parties that have announced the fees that political aspirants will pay for nomination and expression of interest forms.
The outrageous fees for nomination forms of these major parties have been condemned by many Nigerians. According to the APC, the cost of the nomination and expression of interest forms for the office of the President is N45m. President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be the sole presidential candidate of the party. Those seeking the party’s nod to contest the Governorship seat will pay N22.5m, while aspirants to the Senate and House of Representatives seats are asked to pay N7m and N3.850m respectively and State House of Assembly N850,000.
In the PDP, presidential aspirants are charged N12m; Governorship N6m; Senate N3.5m; House of Representatives N1.5m; and House of Assembly N600,000. For APGA, presidential aspirants will pay N25m; Governorship N10m; Senate N5m; House of Representatives N2.5m; and State House of Assembly N1m.
The fees announced by the parties are seen to be scandalous, highly prohibitive and unacceptable to many Nigerians. It is not in the best interest of our nascent democracy. There is no justification for high cost of nomination fees. With high cost of nomination fees, our democracy may likely be hijacked by the rich and political offices sold to the highest bidders. This is most unfortunate and should undermine our democracy if not checked.
Even though we concede to the political parties the right to fix fees payable by aspirants seeking elective offices on their tickets, such fees must be reasonable and justifiable. Political parties must also pay attention to participation of the citizens in the democratic process. Sadly, the exorbitant fees announced by the parties have, wittingly or unwittingly, shot our democracy in the foot, and Nigerians are shocked and disappointed at what these parties have done.
Perhaps the most revolting part of the high nomination fees is that money is now capable of corruptly influencing the outcome of our elections. More dangerous is the fact that overpriced nomination fees could deprive Nigerians of good leadership at various levels of government. That this is happening at a time Nigerians yearn for ideas’ men and women to run our politics and give it the oxygen that will restore confidence in our democratic system is indeed sad. The exercise is an invitation to corruption in its raw and audacious fashion. And we ask: What will be the fate of our democracy, and indeed, our country where good, honest and ideas-driven people are shut out of politics because they cannot afford loads of cash to pursue their ambitions?
It must be said that our democracy faces formidable obstacles ahead if our politics continues to be driven by “cash-and-carry” politicians. A level playing field for all political aspirants is what sustains democracies around the world. Political offices are duties to be done, not prizes to be won by those who can afford the highest asking price. Let’s assume that only moneybag politicians can afford the nomination fees, why would the electorate complain if they do nothing but everything to recoup the money they spent during campaigns to get into office? We are running a democracy, not a plutocracy.
As a result, the game of politics should be played by its own rules. If the political parties believe in collecting high nomination fees from aspirants to run their affairs, it shows the hollowness of our system. It has its own negative repercussions on our democracy as it encourages high-level corruption.
If money politics is not checked, our democracy is doomed. As we inch towards the 2019 elections, it appears that opportunities for people with ideas who can restore confidence in our democratic process may be foreclosed.
That is the danger of outrageous nomination fees. It abridges access to participation in the democratic process and disenfranchises millions of Nigerians. Let the high nomination fees be drastically reduced in such a way that they can be affordable.