The #NotTooYoungToRun Campaign and Exhorbitant Party Nomination Forms: Matters Arising! -Ishola Adebayo

September 21, 2018

Four months ago, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration signed the “Not Too Young To Run” bill into law. An initiative which received a lot of encomiums and mixed reactions from political analysts and observers within and outside Nigeria.

Thanks to the Not Too Young to Run Act, which reduces the age of aspirants by five years across board, enabling young politicians to run for any political office, including the highest one in the country. Much has been made of the newly passed bill, but young people remain unable to contest for the various positions due to the exorbitant amounts that some political parties are demanding.

Take for instance, two of the young presidential aspirants – 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 mirage if our current political system continues in this manner. 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 even if they can afford the nomination forms and get their parties’ tickets.

At the last nationwide vote in 2015, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of then-President Goodluck Jonathan charged 22 million naira (US$61 000) per nomination form. The All Progressives Congress (APC) of the eventual winner Muhammadu Buhari asked for 27.5 million naira (US$76 000) just to stand in the Party’s Presidential primary.

Now, as both parties prepare for polling in February next year, the APC wants an eye-watering 45 million naira ($125,500, 108,000 euros) per presidential primary candidate, according to an online source.

Individuals wanting to be selected to run for a governorship post have to pay 22.5 million naira, up from 10-million-naira last time round. The PDP has reduced the cost of its presidential candidate forms to 12 million naira and the selection for a tilt at a governorship from 11 million naira to six million naira. But both are still significant sums in a country of more than 180 million where some 87 million live in extreme poverty, according to the World Poverty Clock.

For a country with a high unemployment rate and a monthly minimum wage of US$50 (Naira 18 000), how does one reconcile such a wasteful amount for getting a party ticket to serve the people?

Clearly, the political system in Nigeria is one that still hinges on who has the most money and not who has the best ideas. The recycling of corrupt members of the House of Representatives, senators, governors and presidents becomes what the country gets stuck with. For a country that is supposedly bent on fighting corruption, the fight has certainly started in the wrong place.

It is easy to read between the lines: Making power expensive to get is equal to keeping power at all expense.

In Nigeria, the Not Too Young to Run group, which successfully campaigned for a reduction in the lower age limit for elected representatives, already raised concerns that the fees are still “exorbitant” and would disqualify potential candidates. It claimed the main parties had reneged on a promise to cap the cost of nomination forms for all elected posts.

The current system obviously favours the wealthy and fosters cronyism and corruption, as sponsors who often pay for a candidate’s forms expect pay-back once they are in power. Politics may not be cheap, but if we claim we are practicing democracy as a country, it must be free and fair enough for young aspirants to be fully involved especially now that the Not Too Young to Run has been signed to law.