So, Nigeria is this rich? - By: M.U. NDAGI | Dailytrust

So, Nigeria is this rich?

Nigeria is this rich
Nigeria is this rich

Were it not for the recent purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms by dozens of politicians aspiring for elective offices on the platform of the two big political parties in the country, the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); the knowledge of how so much of the country’s wealth stuffs the pockets of very few Nigerians who constitute no more than a one-digit percentage of Nigeria’s 200 million population would have remained hidden from the remaining 190 million poverty-stricken, unsecured and critically vulnerable citizens.

Ten days into the sale of the forms, which began on Tuesday April 26, 2022 by the ruling APC, the party’s bank account had been replenished with N2.5 billion by 25 presidential aspirants who paid one hundred million naira each. More aspirants joined the race before sale of forms was closed by APC on May 10, 2022 after it was extended from May 6, 2022. Yet, this figure did not include the nomination fees paid by governorship, senatorial, house of reps, and state assembly aspirants who individually credited the party’s bank account with fifty million naira, twenty million naira, ten million naira and two million naira respectively. 

Think of the total figure that would have been paid as nomination fees by all the aspirants in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the platform of the APC alone. The amount will be huger when you add up the entire nomination fees paid by all the aspirants in all the political parties. I tried to do some calculations but had to abandon the attempt when figures went beyond my elementary knowledge of arithmetic. 

Nevertheless, the cost of nomination forms is not all about the expensive nature of politics in modern Nigeria. For instance, it excludes the expenditure to be incurred by a party’s presidential or governorship flag-bearer who, throughout the campaign period, may have to be travelling in chattered flights. The parking charges alone, where the aspirant owns a private jet, are crazily whopping. Indeed, the money-spinning season for chartered aircraft operators may actually seem to have started. I was quick to notice in my recent trip to and fro Lagos by air that the long fleet of aircrafts usually sighted while the aircraft is landing on the runway at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Ikeja had disappeared.

For aspirants that are able to clinch their respective party’s ticket to contest in the general elections, a huger expenditure lies ahead including allowances for party agents during the general elections. One could only imagine the enormous resources needed to be deployed by an aspirant to settle all electioneering bills including paid adverts on television channels and radio stations; outdoor billboards; posters; flyers; newspaper advertorials; cars for political aides; motorcycles for thugs; buses for select party supporters; key holders; face caps; memo pads; customized T-shirts, handbags, wristwatches and perfumes; customized bags of rice, sugar, and salt; customized tins of milk, vegetable oil, and honey. These are aside of paying for speeches by celebrities and casual presentations by musicians, comedians, performing artists, praise singers, and snake charmers at political rallies.

Given the flamboyance of free SUV cars with which some aspirants launched their declaration to contest in the 2023 general elections, it may not be an overestimation to put the aggregate cost of electioneering campaigns at one trillion naira. Some Nigerians conservatively believe that monies already reserved by aspirants for the 2023 elections would be enough to fix, at least, one of the country’s critical sectors. So, Nigeria is this rich? No wonder, Britain once campaigned against any offer by the World Bank to write-off Nigeria’s debt.

Is it not a mockery of governance at all levels that many citizens can neither afford three square meals in a day nor the cost of treating malaria fever in the same country where so much is spent by very few to acquire power? It is in this same country where young healthy boys scavenge refuse dumbs for ‘survival’ that the value of one hundred million naira, as recently demonstrated by politicians, was made to look as if it were one hundred naira. These monies are coming from select individuals in a country where university lecturers have been on strike for three consecutive months over comparatively cheaper demands.

I’m compelled by these random thoughts to think of what the monies proposed for 2023 political activities by aspirants can provide in terms of lecture theaters, hostels, science and language laboratories, engineering workshops, library materials and equipment, sports complexes, faculty and departmental buildings in addition to research grants, payment of revitalization funds and earned academic allowances. One only hopes that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is methodically following events of the ruinous commercialization of politics and monetization of democracy in Nigeria with a view, sooner or later, to availing Nigerians with some useful analytical data. 

In the latest edition of his weekly online column (View from the Gallery), my senior colleague in the media, Malam Mahmud Jega, identified the premiere qualification for the office of the president as being a serving or former president, vice president, governor, deputy governor, or minister who has or once had enormous access to public funds. Could it be public funds stuffed in private pockets? No wonder, serving professors in Nigerian ivory towers were not heard to have picked presidential nomination forms. 

If the exorbitant cost of nomination forms was meant to preclude some aspirants, the strategy only succeeded in excluding some credible but indigent candidates. While money-bag and desperate politicians were prepared to pick nomination forms even if it went for one billion naira, a presidential aspirant in PDP, Okey Uzoho, sued his party over the N40 million nomination fees for aspirants vying for the office of the president, which he said denied him the opportunity to contest. 

Except Pastor Tunde Bakare who was bold to say he did not borrow or beg for the money with which he paid for nomination forms, the rest were afraid of the eagle eye of the EFCC. Most of the presidential aspirants across parties ridiculously claimed nomination forms were obtained for them by their supporters. How could supporters who themselves are not worth N10, 000 contribute one hundred million naira? Only Nigerians who agree that a camel could pass through the eye of the needle would believe this. May Allah rescue Nigeria from the hands of evil politicians, amin.

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