Asking governors to cough out N250m each to support the All Progressives Congress has further exposed the party that promised change as one that is insensitive to workers’ plight, writes Davidson Iriekpen
The All Progressives Congress (APC) spent the better part of last week denying a report that it asked the 24 governors elected on its platform to contribute N6 billion.
The story by an online medium, said 24 governors are to contribute N250 million each towards the paty’s congresses and national convention.
But the partyâ€™s National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement, described the story as misleading. He explained that governors who were not up to date in payments were requested to pay up, especially in view of upcoming party activities.
Abdullahi said it was, therefore, possible that a governor that fell in the category of those that had not paid since inception could owe up to N250 million, noting that it was, therefore, grossly misleading, if not downright malicious, for a report to simply apply this sum to everyone and multiply by the number of governors.
â€œThe APC denies the story and wishes to state that the story is misleading and has misrepresented our party. We, therefore, wish to make the following clarification. At the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the governors of the party held at the party secretariat on April 26, it was pointed out that many of the governors had fallen behind in the payment of their party dues.
â€œWhile some of the governors have been up to date with the payments, a few others have not paid at all. For the avoidance of doubts, party dues are paid by all members of the party holding positions, either by election or appointment. Therefore, members of the National Assembly as well as cabinet ministers also remit a percentage of their earnings to the party. It is, therefore, false to say governors are expected to pay up with state money,â€ the APC spokesman said.
Since the news broke last week, many observers have been condemning it, especially against the backdrop of the fact that 23 out of the 24 governors are having issues meeting their obligation to their workers.
A recent study on the financial positions of states showed that only six out of the 36 states in the country are viable.
Apart from Lagos State, many of the governors are owing salaries or pensions or both for extended periods ranging between four months and several years. These states remained largely unable to meet their obligations despite the bailout extended to them by President Muhammadu Buhari. The president also released about N1.9 trillion to them as part of the Paris Club refund windfall.
Going by the partyâ€™s response, analysts are wondering how much elected officials and political appointees are expected to contribute to the party on monthly basis. For instance, in April 2017, when Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State published his net monthly salary (after tax and other deductions), it was N470,521.74. They reasoned that going by the gross monthly pay which is N555,926.25, there is no way any defaulting governor would have accumulated a debt of N250million in party dues. They also wondered how come all governors are to pay the same sum of N250m?
Besides, they wondered if APC could ask governors for such a whopping sum, how is it different from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose members it is currently prosecuting for receiving funds released to them for electioneering.
As soon as President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015, PDP members such as its former spokesman, Olisa Metuh, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ms. Jumoke Akinjide, Dele Belgore (SAN) and former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, Femi Fani-Kayode and many others were arraigned in courts over campaign funds.
This is why in an article titled: â€˜Dangers of using state funds for APC congresses’, punished in the Punch, Jide Ojo, expressed reservation over the partyâ€™s action.
He said: â€œTruth be told, the APC is being clever by half. Though the governors are supposed to pay personal membership dues and donate a percentage of their earnings for the running of the party, in practice, what they simply do is to use the state funds to make the payment.
â€œUsing state funds to support political party activities is illegal, unconstitutional and an abuse of state and administrative resources. It is also unethical.”
According to him, as of February, 23 out of the 24 governors were enmeshed in one salary row or the other, according to the Trade Union Congress. Only Lagos State has continued to meet its obligations to workers and pensioners. Many of the governors owe salaries or pensions or both for extended periods that range between four months and above. It therefore constitutes a moral burden to be owing workersâ€™ salaries and find it convenient to give a princely sum of N250m to your party from the state purse. The only reason the APC governors will not run foul of law is if the monies are paid from their personal account and not the state coffers.
He said â€œAnother serious issue this donation to the party raises is the potential unsparing influence the governors will wield on the process and outcome of the planned congresses and convention. If they are expected to donate such huge sums of money for party activities, you can rest assured that they will do everything humanly possible to ensure that their preferred candidates for the various elective positions emerged victorious at the forthcoming party elections. They will spare no expenses to bankroll their choice candidates to be elected into the new party executives at the various levels. This is how party structures are hijacked by the governors ahead of the general elections. It is simply antithetical to the promotion of internal party democracy.
â€œIf the governors are not paying their membership dues and had to be asked to pay lump sum ahead of major party activities, it shows that they are not loyal and faithful party men. This indicates that they are not good leaders. I know for a fact that the major challenge of political party administration in Nigeria is lack of financial commitments by members to their parties. This is what usually paves way for party hijack by few moneybags who make huge financial donations to the party in order to curry favours.
â€œThis N250m levy on the APC governors does not look good on a party whose mantra is change! It is a negative trend that should not be encouraged because of the dangerous implications it has on democratic consolidation.
â€œPolitical parties have a wide range of legal and legitimate ways to raise fund. Apart from membership dues, there are also opportunities for political parties to charge Expression of Interest and nomination fees, receive donations from wholesome sources, profits on investment as well as take loans to fund their activities.
â€œA level-playing field is needful in the conduct of party elections be it congresses, conventions or primaries. Encouraging big donations from a few individuals is an indirect way of promoting godfather politics and party capture. This is a negation of sound democratic practices.â€
The opposition PDP on its part, in a statement accused the APC of diverting funds meant for the development of states under its control to finance the ruling partyâ€™s forthcoming national convention, vowing that it would probe the action and ensure rule of law if voted into power. The party, in two separate statements signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbodiyan. asked the APC to stop lying to Nigerians.
It alleged the money was being pulled from funds derived from federal bailouts and other monies budgeted for critical development projects in various communities, many of which have now been stalled. It claims that the people whom the money was meant for had been deprived and impoverished.
â€œThe APC is corrupt. Our investigation revealed that many of the APC governors are being coerced under the orders of the Presidency and the leadership of the party to move in huge sums of money in cash into the APC coffers, the bulk of which has already been frittered away by corrupt leaders in the party and agents of the Presidency.
â€œIt is appalling that this is the same party and administration that have been accusing others of corruption and publishing fabricated â€˜lootersâ€™ listsâ€™ just to deceive Nigerians and divert public attention from their sleazes. We challenge the APC to publish the names of the governors, ministers and other APC political office holders, who have already brought in money as well as inform the nation on why they are moving the money in cash contrary to financial regulations, if the source is not proceeds of corrupt activities.
â€œAPC and President Buhari have refused to open up on the source of funds for their very expensive 2015 presidential campaign. This time, they are again coercing governors to steal money meant for development and payment of salaries to finance their 2019 campaign, What many Nigerians are yet to know is that the APC actually plans to rake in a total of N14 billion from government coffers, out of which it has already planned to procure expensive cars for their national officers as well as share to their leaders close to President Buhari,â€ Ologbodiyan said.
Also, former Edo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Kassim Afegbua, condemned the directive to pay a whopping N250 million per state for the purpose of conducting congresses, saying that it should be discarded forthwith in order to save the party the orgy of ridicule and condemnation. He said there was no justification for the APC to direct its governors to contribute such a humongous amount of money towards its convention in an era when it thought it had dealt a serious blow on PDPâ€™s indecent past
â€œHow on earth, will APC as a party, leading an anti-corruption government, derive the courage to look in the faces of her elected governors and direct them to go and steal from their states? The import of that directive was a direct way of telling them to go and dip hands into the coffers of the state, and scoop out N250 million each. Yet, this is a government and party that only recently accused PDP of being a party of looters. Where is the justification?
â€œI have argued elsewhere that all politicians are the same wherever they inhabit or whichever political party they find themselves. They speak from both sides of their mouths. The ideal of morality is just a lip service.
â€œNo testimonial of decency. No scintilla of morality to justify the heist that was to be committed should this directive go unnoticed or unreported. In an era when the APC thought it had dealt a serious blow on PDPâ€™s indecent past, it ended up opening up its own dirty linen in such whimsical strokes to deny itself of that moral badge of courage.”
If APC could ask governors for such a whopping sum, how is it different from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose members it is currently prosecuting for receiving funds released to them for electioneering