Barring any last minute change in plan, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will handsomely harvest about N2.346 billion from the sale of Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to 34 presidential aspirants contesting on their platforms.
The APC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), Wednesday, approved the cost of forms presented to it by the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC).
While the Expression of Interest form for state Assembly goes for N500, 000, its nomination form is pegged at N1.5 million bringing the total to N2 million.
The Expression of Interest form for the House of Representatives goes for N1 million while the nomination form goes for N9 million. Also, the Expression of Interest form for Senate goes for N3 million while the nomination form is pegged at N17 million.
For the governorship, the Expression of Interest form is pegged at N10 million and nomination form at N40 million.
As for the presidential ticket, the Expression of Interest form goes for N30 million, with the nomination form being pegged at N70 million.
As at the time of this report, Blueprint Weekend can authoritatively confirm that almost a dozen aspirants had publicly declared their intention to contest for the nation’s top job on the APC platform.
They are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos state Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Imo state Governor Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha; former Rivers state Governor and current Minister of Transportation Rotimi Ameachi; Ebonyi state Governor Dave Umahi, Minister of Labour and Productivity Dr. Chris Ngige, Kogi state Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello, former Abia state Governor Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Dr. Ibrahim Daudu; Jackrish Tein and Moses Ayom.
Others that are yet to make their declaration public but planning to do so in a matter of days include: Ekiti state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; former Ogun state Governor, Ibikunle Amosun; Minister of Science and Technolog,y Ogbonayan Onu; Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva; and Mr Osifo Stanley.
While N1.1 billion is expected from Tinubu, Osinbajo and nine other aspirants who have made public declaration, another N600 million is most likely to be harvested from some six aspirants, who it was gathered would also declare their bid soonest.
This puts the expected revenue to be generated from the APC presidential aspirants at N1.7 billion, Weekend Blueprint gathered.
And from the PDP camp, it was gathered that at the end of the close of sale of the forms, Friday, the party’s purse had swollen by N646 million, being proceeds of the sale of forms from 17 presidential aspirants, including a female.
The party has slated its National Convention to elect the presidential candidate for the 2023 general election for May 28 and 29, 2022.
All the 17 aspirants beat the deadline for the purchase of the forms.
The PDP National Organising Secretary, Hon. Bature Umar, had upon the commencement of sales of forms March 17, announced that the party pegged its Expression of Interest and Nominations forms for Presidential aspirants at N40 million. While the expression of interest form was put at N5 million, the nomination form costs N35 million.
The party allowed the only female candidate in the race to pay N6 million as cost for the two forms.
Our investigation revealed that with 16 male presidential aspirants, the party have raked in N640 million, and when added to the N6 million paid by the only female aspirant, it gives a total sum of N646 million.
The aspirants include the 2019 presidential candidate of the party and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Speaker House of Representatives, Chairman, PDP Governors Forum and Sokoto state Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; two-term Kwara state Governor and immediate past Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki; and another former Senate President and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.
The rest are former Minister Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Bauchi state Governor, Senator Abdulkadir Bala Mohammed; former Minister of State for Education and Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike; Akwa Ibom state Governor, Udom Emmanuel, 2019 PDP Vice Presidential Candidate and former Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi; former Ekiti state Governor, Ayodele Fayose; a United States-based medical doctor, Nwachukwu Anakwenze; and media mogul, Dele Momodu.
Also in the race are investment banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; a pharmacist, Sam Ohuabunwa; former Speaker Abia House of Assembly, Cosmos Ndukwe; Charles Ugwu; Rt Hon Chikwendu Kalu, as well as the only female aspirant.
Reactions to outrageous cost
Nigerians, including the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), have continued to react to the development, with some describing it as insensitive.
In his reactions, Executive Director CISLAC and Chairman Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), said it was shameful that the ruling party endorsed the expression of interest and nomination forms for its presidential ticket at N100mllion.
He said this was coming at a time many were dissatisfied with the level of youth participation in partisan politics, called for deliberate measures to create the enabling environment for wider inclusion and active participation of women and youth in politics and governance of the country.
He said a key question to ask is: “Who can legally afford N100 million for a presidential ambition? This despicable decision by the APC begs this question as it only serves within the following contexts to marginalize youths, women and average citizens.”
The CISLAC boss said despite claims of a 50 per cent reduction in nomination and expression of interest fees, the presidential nomination fees from N100 million to N50 million remained clearly higher than the 2019 Presidential aspirant fee which was N45 million, N40 million for nomination form and N5 million for expression of interest form.
He further said, “This will apparently exclude the youth, women and average Nigerians who have clamoured to improve opportunities to exercise their rights to declare their interests and contest in the elections.
“The current total fee is N5 million higher than it was three years ago when inflation was significantly lower and the common man had a better spending power. It has been well established that money politics has served the purposes of consolidating elite rule as well as the political exclusion of the less financially stable and marginalised groups.
“Today’s decision by the ruling party however makes a mockery of the efforts of all the stakeholders and general public that campaigned vigorously to secure the signing of the Not- Too-Young To Run Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 31, 2018.
“It once again re-emphasizes the lack of sincerity of purpose and political inconsistencies that have plagued this administration’s decisions / commitments to any cause or agenda.”
However, a Board member of Yiaga Africa, Ezenwa Nwangwu, has noted that it was within the power of political parties to determine the cost of their nomination form.
He pointed out that “the real challenge has been our inability to bring in the political parties into conversations around reforms of their internal process.
“We continue to respect them, we hardly oversight, drag every other in the election/electoral space except the politicians, their parties and candidates.
“We need to invest more in political party reform advocacy, otherwise, we are forced to live with the continued constriction of democratic participation and consequently increased cost of election and governance,” he said.
It’s unfair, says Ebiri
Reacting to the development, an APC chieftain and former Cross River state Governor, Clement Ebri, faulted the huge cost of obtaining the party’s forms.
“The APC owes it to itself and the teeming number of Nigerians who voted it into power for two consecutive terms, to remain a party of true progressives and a true party of progressives,” Ebri said.
He reminded party leaders that the APC came to power with the promise of coming to fight corruption in the system, “and the Nigerian people must continue to see us as accountable stewards of the mandate given to us.”
The former governor raised some posers including: “How are those presently in government able to legitimately raise the required funds to qualify for the party’s presidential ticket nomination for example?
“If such candidates claim they are being sponsored by friends and backers, can those backers show evidence of their income via their income tax returns?
“What is the implication of this on the cost of running the actual campaigns? How many people can legitimately spend this much to obtain party nomination and still effectively be able to fund their campaigns?
“Will this not adversely affect voter’s perception of our great party, if we do not review our position? Are we justifying inflation by such a whopping increase in the cost of nomination forms from 2015 to 2023? Are we not inadvertently making the APC a party of wealthy by the wealthy for the wealthy?”
Okechukwu justifies APC’s stance
Appealing to those outraged over the huge cost imposed on the APC aspirants, a founding member of the party, Osita Okechukwu, explained that it was to maintain the axiom of President Muhammadu Buhari, not to fund the party with public funds and for candidates to mobilise funds as Buhari did.
Speaking to Blueprint correspondents in a phone interview Okechukwu, who is the Director General Voice of Nigeria (VON) said: “May I humbly appeal to our compatriots, our membership and our teeming supporters to note that the N100 million and other nomination fees are to primarily maintain the axiom of Mr President not to use public funds to fund our great party the APC.
“Secondly, that President Buhari expects the candidates to mobilise nomination fees from their supporters as he did at various times in his four times bid for president. With nostalgia, one remembers when we opened Bank portals for Mr President where in the first round, Hajia Fati Koko, a Kebbi restaurant proprietor of blessed memory and Senator Ikechukwu Obiora topped the chart with N1 million respectively.
Indeed an aspirant doesn’t need to personally own the N100 million or N2 million as the case maybe.
“Thirdly, we need the pardon of Nigerians, for APC as the foremost brand in the electoral landscape is not expected to charge the same N30m presidential nomination fees with His Excellency Rabiu Kwakwanso’s NNPC; just as Mercedes G-Jeep is not the same price with Innoson G-Jeep.”
…Chekwas Okorie too
On his part, another APC Chieftain, Chekwas Okorie, said the party’s high presidential nomination fee would make the primary election less chaotic, stressing that it would also determine the seriousness of the aspirants.
“I think the APC by this, intends to weed out unserious aspirants, because any person who seriously wants to contest the presidency of this country will begin by his determination to participate in the primary election.
“Any person who can cough out N100 million has indicated some level of seriousness. It is just to make the primary election less chaotic. If you notice, the party has said that the presidential primary election will be by indirect primaries and they are looking at 7,800 delegates at the convention.
“So to make it less chaotic, they begin to determine the seriousness from that angle. There could be other hurdles to prune down the number to a manageable proportion.
“The level of expression being shown by members in the presidency is unimaginable. The aspiration from the South-east alone is in legion. So, it is not a bad thing to use the fees to determine those that are serious,” Okorie said.
….‘It’ll prevent syndicates’
Like Okorie, the APC Women Leader, Dr. Betta Edu, said the huge cost would shut out unserious aspirants.
Speaking on ‘Good Morning Show’ on ARISE News Channel monitored by Blueprint Weekend in Abuja Thursday, she said: “Everywhere around the world, running for elections has never been cheap and the party must be able to have means to guard several other issues that may arise. You find people who are not interested in running for elections just standing up, picking up forms and just waiting to constitute a kind of barrier or put a stud in the entire process as it goes on.
“These are not things that we want to see as a party. We are the ruling party, the largest party in Africa, a party where if you pick their nomination form and you are the candidate, the probability of you becoming the elected person for that position is almost hundred percent.
“So, we cannot afford to dabble or joke around or gamble around. So, we want only serious people who are interested in running and representing different persons to run.”
…N100m cost stands – APC insists
On whether the ruling party could reconsider its position on the high cost of the presidential nomination forms, APC spokesman, Felix Morka, said the decision, as approved by the party’s NEC, has come to stay.
He said: “Nigerians should understand that APC is not like PDP and other parties that will rely on the public money to finance election. Part of this money will also go to the state chapters of our party for logistics and the general elections.
“Again, the cost is party’s way of asserting financial autonomy. It is important to note that in the other party, one man will be boasting of financing the party, but in APC that culture does not exist.
“So, the overall reason to know is that this same money will be expended to finance our campaign,” the APC spokesman said.
Facts speak for itself – PDP
The PDP said unlike the APC they were conscious of Nigerian youths and women arriving at various prices for the expression of interest and nomination for various positions in the forthcoming 2023 election.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, in an exclusive interview with Blueprint Weekend on Friday said the N646 million generated from the 17 presidential aspirants is for the party’s electoral processes and administrative services.
He explained that the party was people-oriented and put them into consideration in all that they do, adding that “We also consulted and discuss with all organs of our party before we arrived at the price of forms for various positions.
Ologunagba said, “Our party is consistent with our constitution, our rule and guide, and in arriving at the price of our expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 general election, there were discussions involving all organs of our party.”
According to him, the PDP’s major interest is to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the electoral process so that any government that comes out of the process will be the people’s government.
Continuing he said, “Our party decided on those figures to encourage inclusiveness in our democratic process.
“In doing that we retained House of Assembly to be N600,000 because that is the major grassroots and where there are fewer people with means to participate. More importantly, that is the cadre where you have more young people.
“Again as a party, we have a process and we believe in mentorship. That is learning politics and administration, younger people should be encouraged to participate so they can understudy older people to deepen democracy, so we decided that in obtaining forms for any elective office, young person of 25 to 30 are entitled to 50% reduction in the price of the form.
“Compared to the other party, the APC, the facts speak for itself. The form of the House of Assembly is N2 million. Now, how many young people can afford that?
“So the APC have discounted young people. In any event, is a party that has described them as lazy youths. We know the youth are not lazy, but they just want an opportunity to participate. APC wasn’t conscious of youth and women, but we are conscious of them in what we do.”