Condemnation has trailed the cost of the expression of interest and nomination forms of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 general elections.
Some Nigerians, who spoke to BusinessDay in separate interviews, said the development posed a serious danger to good governance, accountability and sustenance of democracy in the country and must be urgently addressed.
The PDP NEC, at its 95th National Executive Committee (NEC) held on Wednesday in Abuja, fixed N40 million for the nomination form of its presidential aspirants. While expression of interest form is put at N5m, the nomination form is pegged at N35m.
PDP members aspiring for the governorship seat are to cough out N21m, with the expression of interest form pegged at N1m while nomination form is N20m.
Senatorial aspirants will pay N500,000 for expression of interest and N3m for nomination form, totalling N3.5m.
Also, the House of Representatives’ aspirants will pay N2.5m, with expression of interest at N500,000 and nomination form at N2m. Those aspiring for State House of Assembly will pay N100,000 for expression of interest form and N500,000 for nomination form.
Political watchers say that the charges do not reflect the current reality in the country, especially considering the high poverty rate among Nigerians and the high cost of living in the country.
In recent years, political parties in Nigeria have formed the habit of charging very high amounts of money for their nomination and expression of interest forms.
The trend, which came into being at the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, has snowballed into a money-spinning venture for political parties in the country.
Politicians across various parties have complained bitterly about the huge cost of purchasing forms in Nigeria, even when there are other miscellaneous expenses involved during the electioneering campaign.
Although a huge amount of resources is required to run political parties, stakeholders are of the view that it is, however, very dangerous to rely so heavily on the internal electoral process of parties as a major source of revenue generation.
For instance, in the September 2020 gubernatorial election in Edo State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) generated N135 million from its candidates, while the PDP raked in N84 million.
A breakdown showed that the expression of interest form by each APC aspirant attracted N2.5 million, while a nomination form went for N20 million. On the other hand, both categories attracted N1 million and N20 million, respectively in the PDP.
The report shows that a total of N219 million was made from the sale of forms to aspirants in both the APC and the PDP.
For instance, in the run-up to the 2019 election, the PDP charged N12 million for expression of interest form for the president, N6 million for governor, N3.5 million for Senate, N2.5 million for House of Representatives and N600,000 for the House of Assembly.
The APC charged N45 million for the president, N22 million for governor, N7million for Senate, N3.5million for House of Representatives and N850,000, for House of Assembly.
As a presidential aspirant in 2014, Muhammadu Buhari lamented that he could not afford to buy the APC nomination form.
Reports had indicated that he took a bank loan to pay N25 million for a nomination form in 2015 and had to rely on wellwishers to raise the N45 million he needed for the same purpose to contest the 2019 polls.
Wale Ogunade, lawyer and national president of Voters Awareness Initiative, said, “It is an unfortunate situation that we have found ourselves, but it is the way that politicians make their money here in Nigeria. If you look critically, the money is not used for anything tangible; candidates that emerge still look for money around to campaign.
“The situation is the reason why you see the infighting in the political parties now to control and see who takes what. It’s not only in PDP; it is a practice among the major parties. You can imagine you see the smaller parties calling some candidates that will lose out in the major parties to come and take their form for free.”
“There is no justification for these charges; maybe, it is a way of separating the boys from the men, but for me I think it is money for them to share among themselves. The forms are just a piece of paper that they print for N20,000,” Oguntade added.
Pundits say that the high cost of the form is an indication of the monetisation of Nigeria’s electoral process.
According to them, it is an indication that the country’s democratic system is for the moneybags which, to a large extent, is not good for the political system.
“One of the inherent reasons that can be adduced as to why the political elite steal public funds is because of the high cost of participation in the electoral process. A situation whereby an aspirant needs to buy a nomination form at an exorbitant fee shows that the political actors have perceived electoral politics as ‘commercial business,’” Kunle Okunola, political analyst, said.
Adelaja Adeoye, a politician and chieftain of the PDP, said the amount charged by the party was moderate and not outrageous because “politics is a serious business and not for the jokers or players.”
He said, “For those who intend to run for elective positions in 2023, I’m sure they didn’t start planning it this year; they know that they have to dole out some funds for nomination and campaigns.
“To be fair, there are different categories of aspirants; some will have their own funds, while others will seek funds through friends, family or crowdfunding to be able to run.
“The only two positions I feel the cost of nomination should be brought down are those running for President and governor; the party can review it downwards.”