For its clear abuse of law and repudiation of his avowed commitment to the fight against corruption and moral decadence, President Muhammadu Buhari must reject the N45.5 million All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential nomination forms bought for him yesterday by a shadowy group called Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network.
When the president was sworn in on May 29, 2015, he was obligated not only to defend and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic, but also to avoid any conflict between his personal and official interests. The Electoral Act 2010 as amended, being a creation of the Constitution, provides in S91(9) that no individual or other entity shall contribute more that N1million to the election expenses of a candidate, stipulating a fine of N1million or 12 months imprisonment for any candidate, who knowingly violates this provision.
By the guidelines of the APC on its nomination procedure, the president, being the aspirant, is the one required to purchase the forms. In his characteristic Spartan approach to life, he had openly protested the exorbitant nomination fees, saying as a salary earner, he could not afford it.
It would be cynical to argue that the group’s intervention is a goodwill gesture meant to bail out an indigent president. However, the hefty sum of N45.5m used to purchase the forms amount to nothing but a contribution to the president’s election expenses, which abundantly infringes on the law that pegs individual and group contribution to N1million.
Law apart, the development threatens to smear the moral credential of the president as the exhibited profile of members of the group cast a large shadow of doubt on their capacity to raise the huge amount in question. Certainly, none of them is known to be of any visible business or vocation, giving credence to the speculation that they might be fronting for a lousy North-central governor, who had earlier proposed to purchase the forms for the president.
Should our president, who has spent the last three years and more, expressing his disapproval of graft, be associated with this kind of doubtful transaction? We think not.
We appreciate that it could be argued back and forth, whether the nomination process being a pre-election exercise is intended to be covered by the law on election expenses. But we hold that our anti-corruption president ought not to be within the vicinity of any doubtful act that could in the fullness of time be found to be unlawful.
Besides, accepting a gift of N45.5million forms would gravely offend the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, which restrains public officials from accepting gifts which exceed certain limit that is capable of compromising the performance of their official responsibilities. This point is significant, because in his presentation, the group’s National Coordinator, Mr. Sanusi Musa, said they put the money together to assist the president in appreciation of his good works. This, no doubt, amounts to gratification, an act the code seriously frowns upon and prescribes stern punishment for.
Our charge, therefore, is that the president should err on the side of caution and distance himself from this potential political time-bomb that is bound to explode shortly. He should reject the N45.5 million nomination forms bought for him by this group, whose integrity no one except the political jobbers around the Presidential Villa can vouch for.