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Published On: Sun, Sep 23rd, 2018

High cost of Nomination Forms: A conspiracy against the youths

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

Amidst the mixed feelings trailing the high cost of Nomination Forms for interested candidates to participate in the 2019 general elections, there is growing consensus for the electorate should go for credible candidates rather than political parties in order to achieve desired results.

This is because since some political parties in the country, notably, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), released their approved Time tables and modalities for the 2019 general elections, tongues have continued to wag over the high cost of nomination forms, which has practically excluded most of the eligible candidates who would not b able to afford the fees.

Obvious had been the outrageous cost of Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms demanded from aspirants to the respective elective positions. Some Nigerians have continued to condemn the astronomical hike in the fees, which they say has doused the intentions of many men and women of ideas, honesty and clean conscience to rule this country.

Most of the commentators who reacted to these high fees were almost unanimous that the new introduction lends itself to money-bag-politics in Nigeria, stressing that judged from the current trend, it appears that opportunities for people with ideas and who can restore confidence in Nigeria’s democratic process maybe dashed or doomed forever.

Worst hit are those who, for several months, have  been  jostling from one rural community to the other watering grounds to lay foundations to sell their manifestos when the whistle for the commencement of campaigns for the 2019 general elections will be blown; only to be shocked and  told, in plain languages, that they should drop their ambitions in the forthcoming electoral arrangement through the astronomical hike in fees for Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms as approved by the respective National Working committees and National executives of the various parties.

According to the schedule and Time Table by the APC, the Presidential aspirants for the 2019 election paid N45million to obtain the party’s Expression of Interest and Nomination forms, to stand a chance of contesting in the direct primary slated for 20 September. The schedule listed the various fees that aspirants for all offices will pay and the dates of congresses and primaries for all the elective posts.

For record purposes only a presidential aspirant collected the Expression of Interest form at a cost of N5million and  the Nomination form for  N40 million. The party directed that there shall be no separate charge for the vice-presidential aspirants and also announced a 50 per cent discount for female and physically challenged aspirants, for all positions.

Aspirants for the governorship posts paid N22.5 million for both expression of Interest and the Nomination forms; while the latter paid N20 million, the expression of interest form costs N2.5 million. House of Assembly aspirants paid N850,000. Aspirants into the House of Representatives paid N3.8million and the Senate N7million.

In the PDP, presidential aspirants paid N12 million each; House of Representatives N1.5million; governorship N6 million; Senate N3.5 million; and House of Assembly N600,000 million, respectively.

For the APGA, presidential aspirant paid N25million; governorship N10 million; Senate N5million; House of Representative N2.5million; and House of Assembly N1million.

These fees as being enforced by the respective parties are believed to be scandalous, annoying, baseless and a pointer to some ulterior motives by politicians in this country. The hikes have since, sparked –off  spontaneous  reactions  and comments by  contestants, students, youths and well meaning Nigerians, saying that, whatever the intentions, the action is a complete departure from the intentions and purposes of the “Not too Young to Rule Bill”, recently assented into Law by President Mohammadu Buhari.

For instance, while the new Law provided some encouragements for youths to aspire for political leadership of this country up-to any level, the  fees attached to the positions are, rather, discouraging youths from  contesting any of the elective positions because they cannot afford the money.

A group of farmers reportedly contributed the N45million for Buhari to pay and return the Forms for the position of the President in the 2019 presidential election. The president earlier criticized the party for the high cost of the fees wondering how people could raise the money without compromising their integrity.

Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, Kaduna State governor had said, when  the Association of Cattle Sellers, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), NATO, and Sheikh Gumi Market Association came to present their support to him by assisting him to pick the nomination form of the party.

“…I don’t have N20 million also to buy my form. The money I have in the bank is not close to that amount. I have only one account in GT Bank. Except I sell my house will I be able to raise that amount?”

Thus, Rufai became one of the early birds to cry foul to the high cost Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms by political parties. It is heart-warming that a group in Abuja has challenged the high fees in court. But the preference being accorded to money-politics, it would mark introduction of bad governance with associated bad policies.

This is probably, one incident a veteran Journalist and former CEO of NDDC, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu had in mind in his Paper:”Leadership and Good Governance in Nigeria” at the Chief Emeka Anyaoku Annual lecture. He said we cannot achieve comprehensive restructuring in one swoop, arguing that the beneficiaries of the existing dysfunctional system would not allow it happen.

”Here I believe we can say, without fear of contradiction, that there is an overwhelming sense that our country has failed to achieve its potential. There is a deep and growing frustration with consistently under-performing governance; a situation where sometimes, Nigerians look back to the past and wish that their country had remained there.

“I believe that if we can make improvements on the structure of government, which I believe is the main source of bad policies we have (in Nigeria), we would make progress towards the achievement of good governance in Nigeria.”

In Abia state, where there are no solid farmers or groups willing to help aspirants purchase their Forms, the journey has not been easy. Many who had earlier hoped to participate in the 2019 race have been compelled to drop the idea, for the obvious reason.

Some members of the National Association of Nigerian students (NANS) who commented on this issue, described the amounts pegged against each of the positions as very exorbitant and un-affordable by any zealous youthful aspirants, except politicians. They observed that fees being charged, if allowed to remain as they are, will provide a leeway for wealthy persons to run this country the way they like.

To them, it will introduce cash-and-carry brand of politicians to pilot affairs in this country; a situation they claimed would be very dangerous. Those students who spoke to BusinessHallmark did not want their names in print, since, according to them, their parent body is  already discussing the matter in their respective Students Union Governments(SUG) with a view to coming-up with a position Paper soon.

A  University don, Dr. Madubuko Dimkpa, described the hike as the beginning of, what he called plutocracy-type of administration, instead of developing our democracy in Nigeria. He opined that with the goings-on is that the ‘haves’ would soon hijack the polity of this country to the detriment of the masses.

According to Dimkpa, the gesture explains the difference between the political intentions of the great Nigerian Nationalist (core politicians) of the blessed memories and present-day politicians (who are only concerned  with stomach infrastructure; without national focus). He observed that present-day politicians are only out to make money, instead of putting Nigeria (as a country) on the right foot-path of Nationhood.

A prospective guber aspirant, under the umbrella of the APC, in Abia state, Ambassador Chidike Ukauwa hinted that the high fees and other incidentals have become threats to his governorship ambition.

“EFCC could go after me if I doll-out N22million for Nomination form only”, he chided.

He lashed out on the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole and his led executives for allegedly raising the cost of the party’s forms, saying the essence is purely to scare away young and credible aspirants who may not have the resources to do the needful.

During an interaction, Ukauwa, who was considered as an APC 2019 governorship hopeful in Abia State, regretted supporting Oshiomole and his led executives because the increase was a calculated attempt to deprive the youths in APC the opportunity to aspire for any elective positions of their choice.

Ukauwa noted that the “Not Too Young To Run” bill, which was designed to reduce the age barriers across political offices including the presidency, was not taken into consideration when the National Working Committee(NWC) took decisions on the particular amount aspirants should pay to collect the nomination/expression of interest forms.

“This is a conspiracy against the youth, who do not have the money to pick the Forms. This will also produce an unpopular candidate. Take for instance, if I managed to cough out N22.5 million to pick the governorship forms, don’t you know that EFCC will immediately come after me to investigate how I got such money”.

He wondered why a group should pick the nomination and expression of interest Forms for President Mohammadu Buhari, who has the financial   muscle to do so. He therefore wondered why a party faithful like him (Ukauwa), who has done so much to package the image of the party in the South- East, particularly, in Abia State, should be left out.

“I have done my best to clean the face of the party from wrong notions held against it by our people. I am a credible candidate for the governorship position”.

“I must commend my party in Abia state for adopting the direct system of voting. At least, aspirants will have to spend less in the hands of the delegates. APC should not be carried away by the affluence of aspirants, especially, those going for the governorship seat of Abia state but to go for a candidate who will make impact in the state.

The 2019 governorship race in Abia is going to be a departure from the usual. It is going to be about the party the candidate is coming out from, but about who will deliver Abians from the hands of the pharaohs.  So, what we are looking for is a credible candidate who will wrestle out power from the PDP”.

 

 

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