Nigerians, aspirants, youths worry over high cost of elections

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• APC, PDP Explain Rationale
Nigerians, including aspirants to the various political offices and stakeholders, have decried the high cost of Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms being charged by the two major political parties- the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- saying such monetisation of politics was capable of excluding vibrant aspirants from the race.

A governorship aspirants under the platform of APC, John Odey, lamented that Nigeria has a system whereby less than five per cent of its population control almost 90 per cent of its resources, giving less opportunity to the common man with little resources. Odey, who said most of the funding of his ambition is coming from his personal savings, lamented the very high cost of nomination forms, saying: “When you want to contest elections, people expect that you should be a moneybag and this kind of politics is destroying our country.

“You don’t have to be a moneybag to have an idea to uplift society; we need to begin to change our politics. You cannot have a society that is growing faster than its politics, so we need to make sure that we do everything to improve on our politics. “Entry into politics shouldn’t be money based; it should be about ideas, passion and service.”

In the same vein, a Northern Senatorial aspirant under the platform of PDP, Goddy Nyiam, said the high cost of nomination forms was a deliberate attempt by party leaders to scare off young politicians. “Despite the high cost of the form, I have bought and submitted my form. “Imagine a country where minimum wage is N18, 000, but you are selling form for N8.5million, in the case of PDP, N4.4million, where do you think we will get the money to come and run for election?

“What that simply means is that they don’t want us to come on board, so that they will continue to be where they are today. It is a very bad situation, but I know we will get there someday.” PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told The Guardian that the reason the opposition party carried out massive reductions in all its charges was to prevent the possibility of a hijack of political offices by the rich.

The opposition party reduced its fee for Presidential Nomination Form from the N22million it charged in 2015 to N12million, while the APC increased its fee from the N27million it charged in 2015 to N45 million.

On its part, the APC spokesman, Yekini Nabena, said: “Youths have money more than any other person; they are the most employed people, compared to the old people. In your organisation, are you employing old people? When you talk about technology, they are the ones controlling the industry and they have the largest number of people with money now in Nigeria.

“If you are going to contest a political office now, it is the people that will contribute to support you, because they have confidence in you and the ideology you hold. “We cannot operate like the opposition PDP, because we are trying to set example to Nigerians. We cannot dip our hands into the federal purse, be it NNPC or security vote accounts. This is why, as a party, we want to raise money to the primaries.”

Asked if the high cost would not make political offices only for the rich, as many aspirants might not afford the fees for form, Nabena said: “The fees are there like the party publicised; it is not for the rich. I’m a youth and if youths want to run for office, they can come together, bring out one person and support the candidate. By the time they contribute one naira each, they will get there.

“Election is a serious business and it is meant for people with serious mind. Often times, we see people come out and say they are contesting and the sole objective of the vying is just have the title, your excellency, senator, honourable and whatever. Now, it is like a title.

“Some of them want to be there because the form is N1million and they have the money, but they don’t have a single vote. Some people just buy the form and cannot go back to their community to campaign. We have seen a lot of people like that. “So, what we are trying to do is to ensure that we have serious-minded people, who, after spending such amount of money to purchase the nomination and expression of interest forms, will go back to their immediate constituencies and canvass for support from the people. People that are serious take over government and deliver dividends of democracy.

“It is not for people who just want the title associated with political offices attached to their names.” On whether this would not negate the Not-Too-Young-To-Run ideal, the APC spokesman said: “Like I said, the youths are in control of the economy now, they run the various economic sectors, from technology to finance and they have money.”

National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, described the nomination fees by some of the parties as “certainly outrageous,” saying: “It is ridiculous and most insensitive for parties that have been in power for many years to price their nomination fees like that.

“Party running and electioneering may be expensive, but making people pay between N20million to N45million, just to participate in a party candidates’ selection exercise is simply unacceptable. It is like some persons are deliberately being ruled out of the exercise. “But any quality aspirant should not allow themselves to be ruled out, such persons should rather distant themselves from such parties. There are many options. We have 91 political parties.“ADC’s nomination form goes for a fair amount- N350, 000 for House of Assembly; N750, 000 for House of Representatives and for young persons under 40 years, 50 per cent discount apply.

“What the youth get to pay is less than one per cent. Women and physically-challenged persons are given free nomination if they so desire.  “All the same, I believe we should take steps to cut down on election expenses. Government must be sensitive to such things. A government fighting corruption should be championing reduction in election expenses, not exacerbating it.”

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