The high cost of nomination fees will lead us to politics of moneybags and eventually monetisation of Nigeria’s politics.
The nation’s general election is slated for next year, but we are already feeling the heat. Political activities are all over the place and politicians have started subtle politicking waiting eagerly for the final whistle to be blown for the commencement of the race.
The picking of nomination forms by aspirants of the two leading political parties is a signal that we are in a political season. Being the giant of Africa, Nigeria’s multiparty democracy is indeed one of the highly monetised in Africa. Nothing demonstrates this more aptly than the expression of interest and nomination fees of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and perhaps some other political parties in the country.
My focus in the article is on the two leading political parties, APC and PDP. For one to nurse the ambition of being considered a presidential aspirant of APC, the person has to cough out a whopping N45 million even if he loses the party’s primaries for expression of interest for fee and nomination fee. For President Muhammadu Buhari, some of his ardent supporters reportedly paid the amount on his behalf on Wednesday to pick the form. Apart from the president, I don’t know how many Nigerians aspiring for the position would be so lucky to have some Nigerians pick the form for them. How many female and youth aspirants can afford the hefty amount? The party pegged the fees for governorship aspirants at N22.5 million, senate N7 million, Reps N3.85 million, state assembly N850,000. The party added as a footnote that female and physically challenged aspirants will pay 50 percent of the prescribed fees for each position.
Cutting the fees by half for the itemized candidates does not make much difference. I do not know how many females and physically challenged aspirants can afford half of any of the nomination fees.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the fees are lower than those of the APC but all the same, they are still high. The PDP pegged both expression of interest and nomination fee for the presidential bid at N12 million, governorship, N6 million, Reps N2.5 million and State House of Assembly N600,000.
The party waived nomination fee for all female aspirants. However, female aspirants under the PDP will pay only N2 million for expression of interest for any position. In 2015 election, PDP charged its presidential aspirants N22 million for both expression of interest and nomination fee while the then emerging APC charged N27.5 million.
So, the monetisation of our politics is not novel. After Nigerians decried the vote-buying bazaar that defined the recent Ekiti gubernatorial election, the least they expected from any political party is the high cost of nomination fees for elective positions in the country. The high cost of nomination fees will lead us to politics of moneybags and eventually monetisation of Nigeria’s politics. With politics of the rich, the democratic essence is defeated.
This scenario of politics for sale will lead to politics of exclusion instead of inclusion as the political space is closed for the poor and open only for the rich. Monetisation of the polity will spell doom for the country.
With the high nomination fees, women and youths are already excluded from political participation. This makes nonsense of the ‘not too young to run’ rhetoric. Many men who are not within the club of millionaires will also be excluded. In a country with 87 million people that live below $1.90 per day, only the tiny rich, the godfathers or the Big Brother or the ogas at the top will determine the fate of the almost 200 million Nigerians. This is indeed a recipe for political disaster. Apart from political exclusion, the manifest danger of monetised politics is that good leadership will continue to elude the nation because good leaders are not necessarily the rich. As a people, we must begin to interrogate the source of high nomination fees paid by some politicians. Everything must be done by the stakeholders to reduce the cost of running for election in the country.
There is an inseparable link between high cost of running for an elective post and official corruption. Any politician that spends so much money to obtain a nomination form and spends so much money again during campaigns is bound to corruptly enrich himself while in office. He must recoup his investment and even make profit. This can possibly explain while political corruption is systemic and even endemic in the country. This is also why so many Nigerians are impoverished the more. After collecting N5000 from a politician in a ‘vote and cook soup’ drama, what do you expect from such a politician?
With the costly nomination fees of the APC and the PDP, expect a higher ‘vote and cook soup’ largesse in the 2019 voting exercise. Since high nomination fee is likely to encourage official corruption and endanger our nascent democracy, the two leading political parties should reduce the cost of nomination fees in such a way that women and the youths can afford them.
It is even not tidy that some people can pick a nomination form for any presidential aspirant. Such public show of support, though sycophantic, is a mockery of our democracy. It is not show us as a serious people. High nomination fee means that honest and good Nigerians are already shut out of our politics. Nigerian democracy must be saved from plutocratic tendencies that high nomination fee duly represents. Political parties should raise monies through members’ contributions and not from selling nomination forms.
The tragedy of costly nomination fee is that men of ideas, who are not necessary people of means, will be ostracized from the political system. Let all the political parties reduce their nomination forms to an affordable level. There is nothing wrong if the presidential form is sold for N1 million and others substantially reduced. The parties must open the political space for the participation of all Nigerians, the rich and the poor.
Political parties should be mass oriented and do things that will cater for the interest of the larger society and not for a few in the society. High nomination fee is anti people. It is utterly against the aspirations of women and youths to participate fully in the politics of the country.
We should not act in such a way that all Nigerians are wealthy and can readily afford the hefty nomination fees. The high nomination fee is showing high insensitivity to our being categorized as the poverty capital of the world. The two leading political parties are not exemplary in placing high price on nomination from fees. High premium should be placed on the character of the aspirants instead of nomination form fees. They should get their priorities right.