The sweet and bitter sides of Nomination Forms
An axiom says: “whatever a man does not stress, labour or pay for to achieve in life, he may not value it”. Another one says in our pidgin parlance: “ soup wey sweet, na money kill am”. Bearing these in mind, it might appear unfair to outrightlycondemn our political parties for the high cost of expression of interest and nomination forms in our polity. There is no gainsay that the benefits (in cash and/or in kind) attached to any elective office in Nigeria are quite awesome and attractive. As revealed by Senator Shehu Sanni, a serving Senator in Nigeria goes home with a whopping sum of N13.5million on a monthly basis coupled with additional N750,000 monthly salaries and allowances. How can one then blame the political parties for selling their Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms at the current prices available to us in the media reports? I mean what is N8 million charged by the ruling party and the N3.5 million charged by the major opposition political party for Senate seat compare to what a serving Senator earns monthly from the federation account. The benefits of elective offices in Nigeria tremendously outweigh their cost. That is something to consider in this brouhaha over political parties’ nomination forms.
Again, political parties are non governmental organisations. This implies that our political parties, like other non governmentalorganisations, are expected to source and raise funds to finance their activities partly from monies levied on their members. We should not also forget that political parties do not receive subventions from the government except the goodwill, donations and gifts from selected few in the party or teeming fans/supporters. In advanced countries, members of a political party pay certain levies and dues to their political party for the smooth running of its day to day activities. But in Nigeria, only few members (political office holders, party chieftains/leaders)pay their dues and levies regularly to their political parties. The consequence of this lacuna is that our political parties are left in the hands of few members. Besides, the political parties use opportunity like the sale of expression of interest and nomination form to make as much as they could from their members. Part of the money realized in this process would be spent on rallies, campaigns, conduct of primaries (direct/indirect) and so on. This is something we need to also consider.
But beyond these explanations above, one critical question to ask is this: “can Nigeria’s fledgling democracy survive under this political arrangement?”! When “politicians pay through their nose” to occupy political offices, it would be foolhardy to expect quality representations, service delivery and good governance from them. One way, they must compromise in order to make maximum returns on their investments. By so doing, the country and the citizens would be the ones to bear the brunt and burdens of their malfeasance that might ensued in a bid to maximize profit.
It is crystal clear that over monetisation of the polity is a big challenge in the country. The cost and the benefits of the political offices are damned too high. The cost of running for the least elective office in the land is highly expensive and unaffordable for an average incorruptible civil servant. Consequently, our political offices are reserved “strictly and only” for the nabobs and parvenus in the country. Integrity, educational background, exposure and experience of Nigerians do not really count in this over monetised polity. A professor, well known and recognized for his intrepid and astute character may find it difficult contesting and winning his State’s governorship elections because of financial constraints. Where would one expect a professor to get and pay N22million for “ordinary sheets of paper “dabbed expression of interest and nomination form?
This partly explains why Nigerians are often limited and restricted in choosing their leaders. By now, the promoters of the “Not too young to run Bill” recently signed into law would have realized that age is not the only factor affecting youth participation and inclusiveness in the political calculations. Over monetization of the polity is a big issue that deserves our urgent and collective attention if we must give equal and fair opportunity to every Nigerian- rich or poor.
The current cost of nomination forms of our two major political parties does not also reflect the level of poverty and other socio economic challenges in the country. According to Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, Nigeria is home to the world’s poorest people-87 million precisely. The National Bureau of Statistic put the number of people within the labour force who are unemployed at 18million in 2017. This therefore, makes our political parties’ leaders to appear as people who are unrealistic, unapologetic and unshakably impassive to the plights of Nigerians.
Adding his voice to this debate, Femi Falana (SAN) posited that “it is illegal and prohibitive to collect nomination forms. When you do that you are excluding people from participating in the democratic process. In 2003, INEC attempted to collect money for nomination forms. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi led us to court and the court held that it is illegal and unconstitutional to collect nomination forms, after we have dragged not less than seven to eight state governments to court over money for nomination forms for local government elections”.
By and large, the pith of this piece is that high cost of the expression of interest and nomination form is closely tied to the over-monetisation of our polity. We must therefore seize this moment to critically re-examine our political processes. There is need to urgently demonetize the polity in order to give room for only serious minded, selfless, patriotic and diligent leaders in the country. In 2015 general elections, Nigerians pan the political parties on this same issue of expression of interest and nomination form. We are doing the same reprobation now. If Nigerians do not want to rewind the wheel on this same problem in 2023 general elections, President Buhari and his counterparts in the National Assembly must ensure that the proposal for the amendment of our Electoral Act must be signed into law on/before 2019 general elections. I understand that this new amendment addresses this issue of exorbitant fee being charged by our political parties for the collection of expression of interest and nomination form.
Shamsudeen Ayeni is a socio political commentator and writes from Akute, Ogun State.
He can be reached via: [email protected]