It still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of many observers that the All Progressives Congress (APC) of all parties could raise the fees of its nomination and expression of interest forms to prohibitive levels, writes Shola Oyeyipo
While Nigerians had expected that as its name implies, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would always act progressively, but in a display of insensitivity to current realities, the party pegged its nomination and expression of interest forms at an all-time high of N22.5m and N45m for the governorship and presidential aspirants respectively.
It was most surprising that the ruling party had the effrontery to initially announce that its presidential aspirants were to pay N55m for the presidential form while those seeking to be governors were to pay N25m. It took public outcry before the party reluctantly reduced insignificant part of the sum.
Senatorial aspirants paid N1m for the expression of interest form and N6m for a nomination form while House of Representatives’ aspirants paid N3. 85m, including N350, 000 for the expression of interest form and N3. 5m for the nomination form. State House of Assembly aspirants paid N850,000, including N100,000 for the expression of interest form and N750, 000 for the nomination form.
There is no gainsaying that these amounts are astronomically too high. Nigerians have vehemently castigated the undemocratic decision of the ruling party, because the action may have prevented many well-meaning Nigerians from seeking elective positions on its platform since only the super-rich and those, who have benefitted from the bloated salaries, allowances and other benefits of political offices would be able to afford such exorbitant payments.
No other factor best showed the irrationality in the cost of the APC forms than the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari himself told the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) members that the initial N55 million was too high for him and also that it took a group of Nigerians to dole out N45 million to purchase the form for him to seek re-election in the 2019 election.
You see, so many things have been said about the exorbitant amounts charged by the ruling party. The social media and conventional media have run various commentaries on the debate. Some people have said it was an attempt to close the political space to only serious aspirants. Some justified it because it was clear that President Buhari could be the sole aspirant on the APC platform and some others said it was an opportunity to raise enough money to run the affairs of the party after elections.
Though it is unclear what the real motive of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC was when it opted to fix such a high price for its forms, what is obvious is that the party has raked in billions of naira from the sale of forms and it is not likely to make the huge amount it has raked in public.
However, there are two important facts that the APC cannot sweep under the carpet in this matter. First, some Nigerians have been denied the right to be voted for.
Apparently pointing to this fact, a concerned Nigerian wrote on his twitter handle: “I am Christmas Akpodiete, I am an aspirant for president under the APC. The fees are unconstitutional and ambiguously outrageous. It’s an attempt by the political oligarchs to deny Nigerians their right to run for public office as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution.”
Another concerned Nigerian, Okeke Zandas, wrote: “Everything is wrong with the amount and it is even more ridiculous when the said form is being purchased in one of the parties by a state governor, who owes salaries. Politics in Nigeria I don’t understand and some people are justifying this public ridicule.”
THISDAY reliably gathered that the highly monetised nomination forms in the APC denied many aspirants, who couldn’t afford the opportunity to seek elective offices hence, elective positions in the party for 2019 were exclusively reserved for the highest bidders.
Peeved by the unbridled display of arrogance and disrespect for millions of Nigerians, who cannot ever dream of seeing one per cent of such money let alone own it, an aspirant to the House of Representatives from Jos East/Jos South federal constituency, Dr. Nyam Azi, wrote a protest letter to Oshiomhole, bemoaning the high cost of nomination forms.
To him, it was a deliberate ploy to deny young Nigerians the opportunity to contest.
According to Azi, “With the high cost of nomination forms and other charges, it is glaring that the APC National Executive Committee (NEC), headed by Oshiomole, is insensitive to the voices of millions of Nigerian youths yearning to take over leadership in this country.
“This is a systematic way of scheming the youth out by charging exorbitant rates that even our annual income in two years cannot cover. How come that in the APC, which is seen to be fighting corruption, only persons with huge resources can contest its primaries?
It is against this background that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a reaction to the high cost of APC’s nomination forms, by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the development would breed corruption among public office holders if APC members won election into any office.
“It encourages corruption and makes looting mandatory if their members ever won elections into any of the offices,” he said, hash-tagging it as “#corruptionwithoutlimits.”
The PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, did not hide his shock either. He castigated the APC as expected and demarketed the party leadership saying, “When we heard about the nomination fees, we all thought it was a lie or joke. But events have shown that the fees are real and the APC is indeed a party of deceit.
“We have now seen that instead of serving Nigerians, the APC and its members have come to serve themselves and their cronies. The amount of money it is asking its members and even Nigerians interested in elective offices to bring is horrible and criminal.
“Such action has shown the APC as a party of a few people, who have either looted funds meant for the entire Nigerians or are still looting, so Nigerians should resist it by running away from the party.”
Even where in his usual character and oratory prowess, Oshiomhole comes out and effectively justifies the hikes, how does he explain that the party gives no room for aspirants, who could not afford the huge costs and yet genuinely wished to serve?
How time flies! The APC chairman, like many of his cohorts in the party, must simply have lost memory of his humble beginning and how people he never knew gave him hope through scholarships that gave him education and eventually the opportunity to climb the ladder of success.
In the words of Nigerian Nobel Laurel, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the APC, and its president, are making “unforced mistakes” that are silently attracting the wrath of many Nigerians, because in a poverty-stricken country, such an open display of opulence can only engender revolt among the electorate.