They are audacious. They make no pretense about taking over the job of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. They have been going around the nook and the cranny of the country, telling who ever cares to listen about what they intend to do differently. Welcome to the world of the new breed politicians nicknamed, ‘Not too young to run’.
Thanks to the Not Too Young to Run Act, which reduces the age of aspirants by five years across board, to enable young politicians run for any political office, including the highest one in the land. Two of them – Omoyele Sowore, publisher, Sahara Reporters, and Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, have been talking about what they intend to do. The former said he would scrap the Senate and fix the Lagos- Ibadan expressway in six months. The latter dreams of employing one million police men in one month, among others.
Their aspiration may remain a pipe dream if Sunday Telegraph’s findings are anything to go by. High cost of nomination forms, godfatherism, money politics and lack of experience are some of the factors that may stand against their aspirations. Many of the youths lack the financial resources with which to campaign if they afford the nomination forms and get their parties’ tickets.
Apart from President Buhari, some other aspirants they may have to run against are: Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, former governors Sule Lamido, Ahmed Makarfi, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governor Hassan Dankwanbo, to mention a few. For instance, the People Democratic Party (PDP) in the run up to the Ekiti State governorship election held July 14, charged N22 million for nomination and expression of interest forms.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirants parted with N20 million. This is not new. It will be recalled that prior to the 2015 election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) pegged the price of its nomination form at N27million, while the PDP put its own at N11million and the APC candidate, now President, Buhari, said then that he had to obtain a bank loan to purchase the form.
The argument in many quarters is that if Buhari, a retired Army general, who had been a Military Head of State and also held political positions in the past, could not afford N27million from his personal savings, then how many young Nigerians can conveniently do same? Wondering the rationale behind the high cost of nomination form, a political analyst who wants to remain anonymous asked, “How many self-made Nigerians, who have not been appointed at one time or the other to the corridors of power, would want to throw over N10million into the purchase of a governorship nomination form?
“The scenario created by the two major political parties, PDP and the APC in the build up to the 2015 general elections in imposing the prohibitive cost of nomination forms, leaves much to be desired, which seems to suggest that elective offices are up for sale to the highest bidders and will ultimately promote the already vexing corruption level in the polity to higher grounds.” He finds a soul mate in the Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, a pro-democracy group, who said the whole idea of paying exorbitant rate for nomination form smacks of a grand conspiracy to keep the system only for the financial kings and shut out those with less financial muscle.
A former deputy chairman of PDP and governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Mr. Gbolahan Folami, differs with the duo. To him, there is nothing wrong in selling of nomination form. However, there is need to reform the entire financing structure of politics in Nigeria to make it more accessible to all.
He said: “Whatever the court might have said, the electoral law has not made any legislation against it. What the electoral law tried to do is to prescribe the limit of what a candidate can spend on the campaign itself.” On whether it is right to collect it or not, he said, “It must be understood that that money is really the only income for political parties, because members do not donate to political parties here.
“Two things are involved: one, the parties use high fees to limit the number of contestants on the field. For example, if you say the form for governorship in a state is free or as low as N500,000, you may have to deal with the number of aspirants of 50 or even 100, which becomes unwieldy and difficult to manage. So the fee for forms and for expression of interest in a way is also used to screen out the number of people in the race. “Politics is not cheap.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any democracy where you can be poor and you want to contest election, unless you have some people who have put you forward and are paying your bills. There is no democracy anywhere were you do not have to commit resources. It is expensive and we have chosen the very expensive type, the presidential system, which is a winner takes all. If you look at it, it is designed in such a way that the winner can compensate himself. Like the security vote in office. And even the legislators have also found a way of rewarding themselves through high allowances.
“The cost of doing politics here is indeed high, but the cost of the form is even the least of all the expenses. If you look at the party, you cannot even call anybody to a meeting without giving him transport fare, even the ones you call political leaders. For you to retain a campaign team, you will have to pay them for the duration of the campaign.
“This is just a reflection of our poverty, because it is devoid of any self- pride. Because if you look at even the people that are collecting the money, you will be surprised that these ones that have been ministers before, that have been commissioners in a state before, they are not even turning down N20,000. He will collect it and if you don’t give him, he will ask for it. This is our politics. “So, really, I believe that there has to be legislation in this our electioneering campaign to limit the spending, because the nomination forms shouldn’t really be that expensive. National Youth Leader of PDP, Sunday Ude-Okoye, has no qualms with elders sponsoring young people into political positions.
To him, it will enable them take charge of political leadership of the country. Ude–Okoye said that prior to Buhari signing the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law, the opposition party led by Uche Secondus had launched what it called Generation Next, which was aimed at mobilising and empowering young people into the nation’s political leadership. Speaking on the fears being expressed that lack of funds might put aspiring young Nigerians in disadvantage position to vie for political offices, the PDP Youth Leader said, though money cannot be divorced from politics, young politicians might not easily fall prey to older politicians. “For me, my prayer is that the elders should continue to godfather us.
In fact, our prayer is that they should begin to godfather the youth of this country into positions, so that we will be voted in and take charge and decide. We will take good advice from them and reject bad ones,” he added. To human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) collection of nomination fees in whatever guise is illegal.
He has even threatened to sue political parties for sale of nomination forms despite, what he called, court judgements prohibiting such, arguing that parties cannot impose prohibitive rules that will restrict participation in the contest of an election to moneybags. According to him, any citizen who meets the requirements outlined in the Constitution, is qualified to contest any election; and parties cannot add to the constitutional requirements. Falana pointed out that parties were still engaging in sale of forms, despite previous court judgments prohibiting such.
“He said, “The conditions for contesting elections from local government, to the House of Assembly, governorship, House of Representatives, Senate and presidential levels, are all in the Constitution. “There are decisions of the court to the effect that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and State Electoral Commissions (SIEC), cannot collect fees from candidates who are contesting elections. “So, if I am going to contest election, you can’t ask me to pay N27m as nomination fee, because that is unknown to the Constitution.
“I believe any citizen who meets the requirements outlined in the Constitution, is qualified to contest any election. Political parties cannot add to the constitutional requirements.”
On his part, the INEC Director of Publicity and Voters Education, Mr. Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, expressed concern over the seeming commercialization of elections and voting on Election Day. “In a society where poverty is pervasive, it is difficult to persuade voters, especially the youths, to forgo what they think is their immediate gain of taking few thousands or hundreds of naira for a long term benefits and the fact that those politicians who pay may not be morally bound to deliver their promises. “It is important to point out that they are sacrificing long term benefits at the expense of their rights to good governance. We are taking all steps to ensure that the 2019 elections were successful.
We are undergoing training, enhancing the card readers, building confidence and transparency in all that we do,” Uzzi said. What then is the way out? Falana wants parties to go back to the days of yore, when parties were financed by membership dues. “When I was running for election in Ekiti State, there were old men and women who went to their rooms and pillows and brought out letters personally signed by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, acknowledging receipt of contributions to the party (Action Group). It was acknowledged by the party leader and that was how parties were run. And if you were in a public office, up to the Second Republic, you were charged 10 per cent of your legitimate salaries. I’m not talking of running cost and others,” Falana added.
Former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, calls for a reduction in the cost of nomination forms. Duke, who also aspires to take over from Buhari next year, said: “If the political parties want to encourage the participation of youths in politics, political parties must reduce the cost of nomination forms. Elders like me must encourage them by ensuring that the cost of everything in party politics is reduced.”
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