Politics has never been for the faint-hearted or those feeding from hand to mouth. This is even more so in Nigeria, where it is an exclusive preserve of the rich. I mean the very rich. For those who are not either multi-millionaires or billionaires, no matter how intelligent or what they stand to offer, they cannot attain that ambition except, of course, they can locate a godfather(s) with very deep pockets to bankroll it at a cost that leaves little or nothing for real governance when elected.
Unlike other climes where you can get support from the rich because of your conviction, or what you have to offer, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. In Nigeria, all you need is to be in the good books of one godfather who sees you as a means to perpetuating his grip on public office or till.
Again, in other climes, those willing to back you must have seen you as a possible winner and popular candidate. But here, the situation is different. You may just be a puppet for all he or she cares about, because popularity or acceptance has never won anybody any election in the country. The outcome of the election is determined by the politicians with the connivance of the ever-willing electoral umpire.
Election results or outcomes are known before the electoral officers go to the polling booths. The results are simply written and the sheet ferried to Abuja by supposedly respected professors who on arrival in Abuja can barely read the figures he or she claims represents the outcome of the elections.
On several occasions, some of the supposed results of elections either ongoing or concluded are already in the public domain. With this, went the interest of the people who continue to lose faith in the process and would do anything else than waste their precious time in the scorching sun or under the rains to participate in a charade of a process.
Thank God for some recent happenings around our electoral process. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued to assure us that the process as we used to know it would now be a thing of the past. They have used every forum available to them to assure us for once, Nigerians would be happy with the outcome of our elections. They point at Edo, Ondo and Anambra as signs of the good things to come. We have heard all of this and we hope that they would match action with word.
This piece is not much about the INEC, but about the activities of the political parties who, as we approach the next electoral circle, have not hidden the fact that unless you are into fraud or have stolen public funds or have somebody with a huge war chest to back you, one cannot aspire to public office in the country.
First, it was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that on Mar 16, 2022 fixed N40 million as the cost of forms for presidential candidates seeking election on its platform. This was part of the outcome of the 95th National Executive Committee of the party which was held in Abuja.
According to the PDP, while the expression of interest form is put at N5 million, the nomination form is put at N35 million. The governorship ticket expression of interest form goes for N1 million while the nomination form is N20 million.
For the Senate, the expression of interest is N500,000 while the nomination form is put at N3 million. The House of Representatives expression of interest form is N500,000 while the nomination form is N2 million.
All youthful aspirants would enjoy a 50 percent reduction of the payment for various positions.
And if we thought that N40 million was very high for anybody aspiring for the position of the president of this country, nothing prepared the nation for what was to come with the ruling party, the APC.
Of course being the ruling party with access to the national purse, the competition to offices on that platform is expected, will be higher than that of the PDP, but not as outrageous and colossal as was announced by the party on Wednesday, last week.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party fixed the cost of its presidential expression of interest and nomination forms at N100 million. For the governorship ticket, it approved N50 million for both nomination and expression of interest forms, while Senate and House of Representatives aspirants are to pay N20 million and N10 million, respectively.
Aspirants for state legislative seats are to pay N2 million for both forms.
The party approved a 50 percent discount for candidates less than 40 years and free tickets for women and persons living with disabilities.
In 2018, APC’s presidential form went for N45 million.
Expectedly, Nigerians have been wondering the wisdom behind raising it to N100 million from N45 million. Some would argue that it would reduce the number of interested people going for the office, and by doing so weed the pretenders or that it was a way to raise funds for the parties. However, what should be of more concern to the country is that by raising the cost so astronomically, the parties have deliberately reduced the office of the president of this country to only the highest bidders.
And if you realize that the single problem that has brought this nation to its current state is that of poor leadership, the import of this exercise, which has simply left the window open only to those who have either stolen from the nation, are currently stealing the nation or plan to steal when elected, will dawn on you. More like a government of thieves, for thieves or for the interest of thieves. The least of the worry of the parties is not whether by doing so they may deprive those who may have the required competence and necessary willpower to take this nation to the Promised Land. They are also not bothered that the candidate may not be accepted by the electorate and that they may lose the election to more acceptable candidates from the so-called smaller parties.
This is where the INEC will play a key role in the next electoral cycle. It is important that the electoral body should rise to the occasion. That will remain the only way to rescue this nation from the vice-grip of this over-monetized electoral process, where the end always justifies the means; where except you are super rich you cannot be admitted into the political arena of this country.
Thursday, last week, INEC maintained that the 2023 general election will be held despite the security challenges in the country. INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this in Abuja, said the 2023 polls will be governed by the new Electoral Act which contains provisions that will enhance the capacity and ability of the commission to better manage the electoral process. That is soothing to hear again.
When INEC guarantees and ensures that its processes, which hitherto rewarded brigands, electoral felons and political thugs, now rewards only the choice of the people, these political parties will begin to pay more attention to the credentials and electoral values of their candidates as opposed to the sizes of their pockets as currently obtains.
APC is posed to rake in billions from their aspirants and since not all of them would win the party’s tickets, those who may not succeed, in the event that their party wins the elections in 2023 it would be time to recoup their losses and make more gains knowing that to contest for higher positions next time, it would require more money and resources.
The PDP and APC can go ahead and continue to raise the fee, but the day the votes of the Nigerian voter begins to count, that is when these political parties would begin to realize that ruling this nation is not their exclusive preserves and they would begin to think up more ingenious ways of raising funds to run their parties rather than ambushing their aspirants and extorting them believing that they stand to recoup their monies when elected. This will also give hope to the so-called smaller parties.