This is the best of times for political parties in Nigeria, as many of them are cashing in on the rush by candidates for nomination forms and other million-naira offerings.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had since given the green light for all political parties to start selling forms for aspirants ahead of 2019 general elections. It was as if most political parties were waiting for this once-in-a-season opportunity, as many of them had following the clearance, sprung into action, held National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Working Committee (NWC) meetings and thereafter sponsored pages in national dailies detailing what each aspirant must pay to vie for any elective office.
While a large number of politicians holding various offices have not raised eyebrows over the huge amounts being charged by various parties, civil society activists, lawyers and some election monitors have condemned the charges, saying it was as if there was a “grand conspiracy” by the leading parties to favour those that have enough resources at their disposal at the detriment of those from outside the ring.
The addition of 23 new political parties on August 14 by INEC to the existing 68 registered ones bring the total to 91. Also, this will be the last round of registration of parties until after the general elections on 16 February 2019.
“This suspension is in line with Section 78 (1) of the Electoral Act, which requires all applications for registration as political party to be concluded latest six months to a general election,” INEC said in a statement signed by its National Commissioner and member, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Malam Mohammed Haruna.
Analysts are unanimous that only few of the political parties would field candidates during the 2019 general elections. However, the few that would contest have already released timetables for their primaries, and the amounts payable for each post.
There are 29 states where governorship elections would take place, considering that Ekiti, Osun, Anambra, Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa and Kogi states, due to staggered elections that took place in those states, would not be witnessing governorship polls in the 2019 general elections. There are 109 senatorial seats and 360 federal constituency seats that would be contested for next year.
Similarly, on the average, there are no fewer than 20 House of Assembly seats that would be contested for in each of the 29 states where elections would hold, conservatively putting the total number seats at 590. Kano, for instance, has 40 seats in the state assembly.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is asking for N25m from all those want to vie for the presidency under its platform. The party is also asking for N10m for gubernatorial aspirants; N5m for those going for the Senate; House of Representatives N2.5m and state house of assembly N1m.
For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Presidential aspirants are expected to cough out N45m; governorship aspirants N22.5m; Senatorial aspirant N7m; House of Representatives, N3.85m and state house of assembly N850, 000.00.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had pegged its presidential nomination forms at N12m while that of governorship at N6m. Others are Senate N4m, House of Representatives N1.5m, and House of Assembly N150,000.
Another opposition party, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) said the expression of interest and nomination forms for the presidential category is N12m and N6m for the governorship.
For Senate, according to the party, the fee is N2.5m; N1m for the House of Representatives and N450,000 for the state House of Assembly.
At present, the PDP has 16 aspirants that are practically campaigning, and most of them have obtained the forms. These include ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, former Minister of Special Duties Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, former governor of Jigawa State Sule Lamido, and the proprietor of Baze University, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Others include former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Senate President Bukola Saraki; former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; former Senate President David Mark; former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang; Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State; Chief Alfa Muhammed Oliver, Ahmed Buhari and Hon. Isah Saulawa, among others.
Assuming each of them paid N12m to get the presidential forms, it means the PDP will have over N1.9 billion from that category. And if only two people would buy the forms for gubernatorial election in the 29 states available for contest at N6m, it means the PDP will garner N348m.
There isn’t much interest in the APC presidential contest as only President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be in the race. But assuming two people would throw in their hats, it means the ruling party would have N90m from that category.
For the governorship, if two people in the 29 states where elections would hold in 2010 would buy the forms at N22m, And if two people would buy the forms for the APC gubernatorial contest, it means the party will smile to the bank with nearly N1.3billion from that category.
But the APC have a multitude of aspirants in many states, such as Nassarawa, where there are about 16 aspirants, all of them committed to clinching the ticket and therefore trooping to the party’s secretariat to get forms.
Political parties will rake in billions from forms sold for national and state assembly seats, and analysts predict that most of the parties would deploy such resources into other endeavours beyond what the law prescribes.
In spite of the economic hardship being experienced, there are indications that the major parties will fight to the finish. Ahead of the 2015 elections, the PDP charged N22m for the presidential nomination forms while the APC reportedly collected N27.5m.
The ‘Not Too Young to Run Movement’ has criticized the high cost of the forms for expression of interest and nomination for the 2019 general elections. One of the conveners of the movement, Hamza Lawal, said that the prices will make youths and qualified politicians to shelve their ambitions. He said the whole idea of paying exorbitant rates for nomination forms smacks of a grand conspiracy to keep the system only for moneybags, and shut out those with less financial muscle.
Speaking to the Hausa Service of the BBC, the National Secretary of the APC, Maimala Buni, said they have good reasons for asking for this much. “The APC does not get subvention from the government,” he said, adding that it is a self-funding political party and the money that would be raised will be used in financing the forthcoming primaries at all levels.
At the last nationwide vote in 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of then-president Goodluck Jonathan charged N22million naira per nomination form, while the All Progressives Congress (APC), of eventual winner Muhammadu Buhari, asked for N27.5million.
A rights activist and an APC presidential aspirant, Mr. Christmas Akpodiete, has dragged the ruling party, the Attorney General of the Federation, the INEC, the PDP, and other registered political parties before the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, over the high cost of nomination fees. His case is marked with Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/951/2018.
The presidential aspirant is asking the court to restrain the APC and the PDP from going ahead with the scheduled primaries. That if they do, he’s asking the court to declare such primaries null and void. Akpodiete is also asking the court to restrain INEC from recognising such primaries, pending the determination of the substantial suit. He is of the opinion that the nomination fees charged by the political parties were not only ridiculous and unaffordable, but also unconstitutional.
“The nomination fees are repugnant to the rules of natural justice, equity and good conscience,” Akpodiete noted, asking the court to give a judicial breath to this matter by pegging the nomination fees for all elective positions at N18,000 because according to him, that is the minimum wage.
But while that little drama plays itself out, more and more candidates continue to troop into party offices, paying huge sums of money, with hopes of victory at the polls in 2019.