FILE PHOTO: President Muhammadu Buhari,and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (middle) and other party leaders, pose for snapshot after a meeting with APC governors.
Nigeria’s governing party, APC, has set its prices for forms for elective offices so high that it would be virtually impossible for poor, honest Nigerians, including civil servants to aspire for top positions in the country from the party.
Like the APC, the major opposition party, PDP, has also done same although its fees are much lower than that of the APC.
In fact, at the N45 million the APC fixed for its presidential form, it would take a honest civil servant about three life terms to earn such a sum to be able to vie for the position within the party, which prides itself as championing the cause of ordinary Nigerians.
The APC, in a statement on Tuesday, reeled out its prices for nomination and expression of interest forms with the least being N850,000 for the state houses of assembly.
The major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a week earlier rolled out its time-table alongside fees for nomination.
A review of the towering fee by PREMIUM TIMES shows that the amount is not only out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians but also on the high side in comparison with salaries of current political office holders.
APC, PDP IN 2015 AND NOW
History shows that nomination forms in APC has been on the high side since inception. APC came into being in 2013 as a result of prior merger of the smaller opposition parties who wanted to wrestle power from the PDP.
In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, the party asked those aspiring for president to pay N27 million for both forms (expression and nomination). That fee has now been increased to N45 million in 2018.
Incumbent governors, who wished to run for a second term were to pay N10.5 million in the 2015 elections, while fresh aspirants was asked to pay N5.5 million. For 2019 election, this amount was pegged at N22.5 million for all governorship aspirants.
For 2015 elections, the party put the price for sitting senators at N5.3 million; fresh aspirants N3.3 million. Returning members of the House of Representatives who intended to return were to pay N3.2 million, while fresh aspirants were asked N2.2 million. In the 36 states, the party asked sitting lawmakers of Houses of Assembly to pay N800, 000, and fresh aspirants N550, 000.
In 2018 however, all senate aspirants are to pay N7 million, state houses of assembly aspirants to pay N850,000 while those vying for House of Representatives are to pay N3.85 million.
The PDP, though far less, is not different in the contest of millions; although the party reduced its fees compared to 2015. The party pegged its presidential nomination and expression of interest form at N12 million as against N22 million in 2015, while that of governorship is N6 million, N5 million less the 2015 fee.
Others are Senate, N4 million against 2015’s N4.5 million, House of Representatives N1.5 million against 2015’s N2.5 million, and House of Assembly N600,000, half of the 2015 fee.
FORM OUT OF PRESIDENT’S REACH
An analysis by PREMIUM TIMES indicates that in an ideal situation, it would take Mr Buhari at least 13 years to serve as president of Nigeria to be able to earn the N45 million price tag his party is requesting from him.
According to data from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), a Nigerian president earns N3, 514, 705 annually.
The Commission has the constitutional backing to determine the remuneration appropriate to political office holders, including the president, vice-president, governors, deputy governors, ministers, commissioners, special advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mention in Section 84 and 124 of the Constitution.
With a monthly basic salary of N292, 892, it will take Mr Buhari 156 months or 13 years approximately to serve as president to be able to afford the forms.
Throughout this period, the president would have to shrug off all impetus to spend from his salary as doing so will alter the aim.
However, this may be impossible as Nigeria’s constitution only allows for a re-election once. The constitution recognises maximum two-term of four years.
If Mr Buhari were to work for eight years, as constitutionally allowed, without spending from his salary, he would only able to save N28, 117, 640, a 60 per cent of the total amount his party wants him to pay.
Nevertheless, Mr Buhari does not have to lose sleep over how to garner the huge sum of money.
A relatively unknown pro-Buhari group, Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN) on Wednesday, obtained the form for the incumbent president. The group paid the mandatory N45 million for the expression of interest and the nomination form for the president.
However, were Mr Buhari to contest under PDP, he would have to cough out the N12 million asking price; money he would legitimately earn as salary in three years and five months.
The PDP has among its presidential candidates a senate president, two senators, governors and others.
OUT OF SENATORS, REPS REACH
To pay the N7 million the party is requesting, an APC senator would have to part with his annual basic salary for three years and five months.
The RMAFC pegged the annual basic salary of a senator at N2, 026, 400 to be paid at the rate of N168, 886 per month.
By implication, a senator would almost dedicate a whole term of four years to sourcing funds for re-election to the upper chamber; that is if such lawmaker decides not to spend a dime from everything earned legitimately at month end.
For members of the House of Representatives however, the N3, 850, 000 asking price is attainable in one year eight months. The RMAFC pegged their annual basic salary at N1, 985, 212.
On the other hand, a PDP senator will have to part with his two years’ salary to pay the N4 million nomination fee while his Reps counterpart will save for eight months’ pay N1.5 million.
The cost of nomination forms may, however, not be source of headache for these lawmakers. Nigerian senators are known to receive illegal allowances aside their salaries.
In an interview with TheNews magazine, a senator, Shehu Sani, revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost.” He said that the running cost does not include a N700, 000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive.
The revelation was greeted by public outcry as Nigerians clamour for full disclosure of lawmakers’ earnings.
NO GO AREA FOR CIVIL SERVANTS
For civil servants on the N19,800 minimum wage, the APC presidential form is a no-go-area. Such civil servant, on the lowest cadre of the civil service, will have to have to leave at least three life times to pay for the ruling party’s asking price.
According to the latest WHO data published in 2018 life expectancy in Nigeria is: Male 54.7, female 55.7.
At N237,600 per annum, a lowly-paid federal public servant including in many states like APC-controlled Lagos and Ogun, will have to work, without spending from their salaries, for 189 years to be able to afford the APC presidential nomination form.
With an average of 55.2 life expectancy ratio, a Nigerian civil servant will have to live three lives and 23 years to match up to the requirement of the ruling party. On the other hand, it will take him/her 51 years to obtain a PDP form.
For the senate, such civil servant will work for 30 years for an APC form and 17 years for that of PDP. To obtain a House of Representatives form at N3.85 million the civil servant will have to save for 16 years and six years for PDP’s N1.5 million.
All these can only be possible if the civil servant does not take spend a dime from the salaries on essentials like transportation, feeding, accommodation, ward’s school fees, and so on.
Some leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the fee hike is a deliberate plan by the elite to take out people in the lower strata of the society from seeking elective positions.
Describing the development as antithetical to Mr Buhari’s anti-corruption posture, they alleged that the lofty fees are deliberate ploy to stave off ordinary Nigerians from participating in the elections.
The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, described the development as a move to intentionally exclude a section of the society from electoral process. She said Nigerian politics has been commercialised.
“It is commercialisation of the political process,” she said. “We’ve always been saying that politics is very expensive in Nigeria. But while we said it’s expensive, all the fees associated, the cost of politics itself is secretive. But now, they are making it frontal, they are putting it in our face with so much impunity. It’s exclusionary, it’s showing that (that) office is only for the rich, for only those who can afford.
“It a flagrant disregard, not just basically for the rule (of law), but for the people, at this point that we are advocating for transparency and inclusion in the political process.”
Ms Hassan noted that the development has already taken participation away from the reach of the youth, females and people with disabilities.
She knocked Mr Buhari for a hypocritical stance of being seen as working for more participation of these set of people and at the same time supporting policies against them.
She added, “It’s not just about the youth. There were so much mobilisation for women and people with disabilities. This is showing that even if they have money to buy forms, they will not have money to contest elections.
“So, it is one thing for Mr Buhari to sign the not too young to run, it is another thing for him to frontally say he is supporting women during the election but he and his political party are doing everything possible to see that these set of people are excluded from the governance process.”
Similarly, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said the move by the ruling party amounts to monetisation of the polity. He noted that the fees is a negation of the anti-corruption posture of Mr Buhari’s administration.
“It is monetisation of politics which is not good for our polity and for democratic consolidation. People don’t become Father Christmas because they are contesting. Whatever money they spent, they must recoup it at the end of the day through the public treasury.
“We thought that APC running a government focused on anti-corruption should have reduced their fees or maintain what it was.”
He also knocked Mr Buhari for his participation in a process that negates a bill he assented to.
“When you talk about the not too young to run, signing a bill to become law and at the same time, the material condition to that will enable the youth to contest is made much more difficult for them. It’s not in the interest of the youth at the end of the day.”
Armsfree Ajanaku, the Media and Communications Manager, Centre for Civic Education, said the APC is guilty much as its rival, PDP.
For Mr Ajanaku, these fees shows that the two parties ‘have practically shut out Nigerians from the political process.’
“It’s not just about charging high fees for nomination forms, it’s a deliberate ploy to shut out a lot of Nigerians who have ideas, who have integrity and what it takes to bring their ideas to the table in governance. This is part of monetisation of politics. A piece of paper going for N45 million, N20 million, it’s unbelievable.”
He charged Nigerians to challenge the political elite through local mobilisation.
HIGH NOMINATION FEE AN INVESTMENT – ANALYST
Meanwhile, a development and political analyst, Austin Aigbe, envisages a situation where politicians recoup their electioneering spending.
Mr Aigbe noted that the high fees will reduce the number of credible candidates in the forth-coming general elections.
“Since politics is now seen as a business because of the high cost of nomination fees, any investment destination must necessarily recoup their investment. Aside the high cost of nomination fees, campaign finance is also very high. You can’t buy vote and not get back your money.
“A story is told of a particular Member of the House of Rep who took loan and sold two houses to fund election. Do you expect that member not to replace his houses and pay back the loan?”