As the campaign activities picked up ahead next month’s general elections, some ‘smaller’ political parties have described the unfriendly economic environment and paucity of funds as inhibiting their efforts at traversing the length and breadth of the country to woo voters.
Also, they attributed the seemingly lack of cash flow in the system to the All Progressives Congress-led federal government’s deliberate clampdown on persons, suspected to have unfairly helped themselves one way or another with public funds.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, had, recently assured that under his watch, government’s resources will not be used to fund his re-election campaign.
Notwithstanding this position, the minor parties are of the view that the ruling APC still has some financial muscle over and above them.
Besides, the minor parties alleged that the federal government’s use of the anti-graft agencies- the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the ICPC as well as the police to harass and intimidate its foes, was hurting their campaign plans.
The parties lamented their plight in various interviews with our correspondents.
The parties said they could not organise any meaningful fund raising ceremony to generate the much-needed funds to carry out comprehensive campaigns in all nooks and crannies of the country to sell their candidates.
They argued that apart from the ruling APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, which the parties believed boasts of many money bags in their ranks, they are finding it very difficult to meet their basic financial needs for campaigns.
Reacting on the challenges facing them ahead of the general elections, some of the respondents from the smaller parties also blamed ideological incompatibility for their financial woes.
For the presidential campaign spokesman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mike Angel, the fear of the anti-graft agencies is another major challenge.
“Fundraising is critical to any campaign success. Some of the challenges faced include, administrative, statutory, political, and environmental. Delay in putting together the campaign team is a challenge.
“Short notices in reaching out to campaign funders and compilation of names and sending letters to prospective donors. There is the issue of ideological incompatibility to fund seekers.
“The statutory limits of the amount of money to spend on political campaign, is yet another hindrance. The fear of the anti-graft body is another challenge in campaign fundraising in Nigeria.
“Some are considering covert action in generating funds to avoid unnecessary scrutiny. The economic environment is callously corrosive and unfriendly to the growing political parties,” Angel stated.
For the Action Democratic Party (ADP), its campaign fund only depends on the money solely contributed by its members.
When contacted, Presidential Campaign Director of Press, Pam Ibrahim, said his party does not depend on moneybags.
He said: “The ADP is limited by the challenge of paucity of funds. We can’t embark on full swing campaign due to lack of funds. The fact that the ADP is a newly registered political party that has existed less than two years now, is another serious factor because the party does not have any representative in government.
“Furthermore, the ADP does not depend on money bags for its funding. The party is funded by its members through payment of registration fees, annual dues, fund raising and donations. Other sources are sale of nomination and expression of interest forms.”
Two other political parties contacted told our correspondent their campaigns will rather be strategic than open rallies like that of the APC or PDP, owing to limited funds to embark on massive campaigns.
One of them, who has a popular presidential candidate said under anonymity that “you know there is no difference between the PDP and APC. Both parties have been in government for long.
“Though they don’t have anything to offer, but they have access to government funds to do all manners of rallies. We can’t compete with them. And although we have better initiatives on how to get our messages across to everywhere before the election, we are hindered because funds are needed even to carry out massive social media campaigns.”
The second party which did not also want to be identified lamented bitterly that his party was not shortlisted for presidential debate.
“The BON and other organisers of presidential debate have denied Nigerians and international community opportunity to tell them our programmes. We may not have money like them but Nigerians will accept us in 2019,” the spokesman of the party declared.
In its view, the Social Democratic Party said though it is enmeshed in controversy over who its presidential flag bearer is, the party said the real reason it is yet launch massive campaigns across board is limited funds.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Alfa Mohammed, said only the ruling APC has access to the national treasury, and therefore has no financial limitation to embark on elaborate political campaigns ahead of next month’s election.
“As you know, campaign is capital intensive. Only the ruling party APC which has access to the national treasury can freely disburse money to the electorate in form of tradermoni. You are also aware that they increased the salary of the police and other security agencies to curry their favour in the forthcoming election.
“Other parties like ours, have to strategise in the manner logistics can carry them. We are involved in house-to-house campaign and we try to preach to voters on the road and our neighbours.
“In our own case too, you know we are in court. The court had declared Jerry Gana as our presidential candidate and we are putting finishing touches to our campaigns,” Mohammed said.
It was same with the National Rescue Movement (NRM) which said, paucity of funds has not only limited its quest to storm the country with aggressive campaigns, but that it was forced to reduce the number of candidates in respective states because it did not want to shoulder unnecessary financial burdens, especially in places where moneybags openly flex financial muscles.
“We don’t harbour thieves in the guise of moneybags. Our funding is sourced from the donations of our members. Of course, we don’t command the kind of followership of the two main political parties as to generate huge sum from purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms.
“We don’t also tax our members to donate money because we don’t want to encourage people to abuse public trust placed on them. Besides, our members are mostly peasant farmers and petty traders, who require realistic change in governance.
“They have seen in us, the platform to bring about this change”, the NRM national chairman and Katsina State governorship candidate, Senator Saidu Dansadau said.
In the same vein, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) believes the present setting does not allow any party that is outside the major contending forces in the mould of the PDP and APC to muscle enough resources to embark on aggressive campaigns.
The FJP presidential candidate, Dr. Onwubuya Breakforth, said the party was “currently building and planning seriously for 2023, and does not have the resources to compete with the major parties for now.”