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Billion Naira Enterprise: Why politicians are rushing to join 2023 presidential race

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THE race to succeed Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has become an all comers affair, particularly in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) – despite the sum of N100 million that aspirants have to pay to obtain expression of interest and nomination forms that will qualify them to participate in the presidential primary election.

AS at May 7, about 30 politicians have indicated their intention to seek the presidential ticket of the APC for the 2023 general elections.

If all those who are declaring for President on the APC platform go ahead to obtain forms, the party’s presidential primary election – scheduled for May 30 to May 31 – would witness an unprecedented number of presidential aspirants seeking the ticket of a particular political party.


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The APC is also raking in billions of naira from the sale of forms.

Cost of APC presidential forms has increased by over 300 per cent since 2015

The N100 million price tag on the expression of interest and nomination forms means that the fees paid by APC presidential aspirants has increased by more than 300 per cent since 2015, when the party first participated in Nigeria’s general elections.

In 2015, the APC’s expression of interest and nomination forms for the presidential election cost a total of N27 million. The party won the presidential poll as Buhari defeated incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Goodluck Jonathan and by the next election – 2019 – APC presidential forms went for N45 million.

The cost of the forms have increased from N45 million in 2019 to N100 million for the 2023 election.

The major opposition party, PDP, pegged its expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 presidential election at N40 million. By the time the sale and submission of forms closed on April 22, seventeen presidential aspirants were set for the party’s presidential primary election, having purchased and submitted the forms.

The cost of PDP’s presidential forms rose by nearly 100 per cent since 2015. That year, presidential aspirants bought the expression of interest and nomination forms for a total sum of N22 million.

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Following Jonathan’s loss to Buhari in 2015, the PDP had become an opposition party by the time the 2019 general elections and the party’s new status was reflected in the reduced cost of its presidential forms. The PDP expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2019 presidential poll went for a total sum of just N12 million.

From N22 million in 2015, down to N12 million in 2019, the PDP jerked up the cost of its presidential election forms to N40 million for the 2023 general elections.

APC rakes in billions from large turnout of presidential aspirants

But, although the PDP forms are more affordable than those of the APC, the ruling party (APC) is recording a much higher number of presidential aspirants.

Abdullahi Adamu
APC national chairman Abdullahi Adamu

The 17 PDP presidential aspirants that bought and submitted expression of interest and nomination forms paid a total sum of N646 million.

As at May 7, APC presidential aspirants who had reportedly picked up forms have paid a combined sum of nearly N2 billion.

They, reportedly, include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church Tunde Bakare, minister of state for education Emeka Nwajiuba, Jigawa state governor Abubakar Badaru, Ebonyi State governor Dave Umahi, Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello, former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu, former Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha, minister of transportation Rotimi Ameachi, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former Zamfara State governor Ahmad Yerima, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio and Nicholas Felix.

The APC presidential forms have also been purchased for Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele, and African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina.

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A female aspirant Uju Kennedy picked the APC presidential forms for N30 million, in line with the reduced cost for women, youths and persons with disabilities.

Other presidential aspirants that have declared their intention to contest on the platform of the APC include Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi, governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, former party national chairman Adams Oshiomhole, minister of labour and employment Chris Ngige, former Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun, former Abia State governor and Senate Chief Whip Orji Kalu, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole, minister of science and technology Ogbonnaya Onu, Ihechukwu Dallas Chima, Usman Iwu, Tein Jack-Rich, Adamu Garba, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Moses Ayom and Ibrahim Bello-Dauda.

Senate President Ahmed Lawan and minister of state for petroleum resources Timipreye Sylva are also expected to join the presidential race before.

By the time all the aspirants pick up their forms, the APC would have raked in more than N2 billion from the proceeds.

On May 4, the APC National Working Committee (NWC), in a statement signed by National Publicity Secretary Felix Morka, announced the extension of sale of forms to May 10. The sale of the forms was initially slated to round on May 6.

An analysis of the list of presidential aspirants show that those in the race are mostly governors, ministers and former governors – a class of Nigerians that can easily afford to gamble with N100 million.

However, while the aspirants all pointed to a desire to serve the country as the reason they joined the race, Nigerians – including political analysts and leaders of civil society organisations involved in policy and governance – who reacted to the large turnout of presidential aspirants for the 2023 elections in interviews with The ICIR, expressed different views on the unprecedented development.

Many presidential aspirants are coming out because Buhari has reduced the worth of the Presidency – Onyekpere, Lead Director Centre for Social Justice

Many presidential aspirants are coming out because Buhari has reduced the worth of the Presidency – Onyekpere, Lead Director Centre for Social Justice

In an interview with The ICIR, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Eze Onyekpere noted that the 2023 presidential election is witnessing a large turnout of aspirants because the Buhari administration has reduced the worth of the Presidency.

Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

“The Buhari presidency has reduced the value and worth of the office. He has reduced it to the extent that any charlatan feels that if Buhari can be there for eight years, then anybody can be there. The present administration has reduced the ambience and elevation attached to the office, that is why it is becoming an all comers affair,” Onyekpere said.

He further observed that majority of Nigerian politicians “want to answer President for the sake of answering President”.

Onyekpere argued that, considering the enormity of the challenges facing the country, if politicians were sincere about serving Nigerians, only a few aspirants will come out for the presidential election.

“If you understand that we are using 90 per cent of our revenue to service debt, if you understand what that means and you want to serve the people, I don’t think there will be up to five people coming out to contest for President.”

Onyekpere raised eyebrows at the source of the funds the aspirants that are still occupying public office are using to finance their presidential ambition.

Large turnout of presidential aspirants scandalous, embarrassing – Suraju, Chairman HEDA Resource Centre

Large turnout of presidential aspirants scandalous, embarrassing – Suraju, Chairman HEDA Resource Centre

Also speaking with The ICIR, Chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre, Olanrewaju Suraju described the large turnout of presidential aspirants as “scandalous and embarrassing” especially considering the “huge and undemocratic cost of nomination forms imposed by the APC”.

According to Suraju, the development shows that quite a number of ministers and governors enriched themselves at the expense of the country and in breach of public trust.

“It is also an indication that a lot of them are not really bothered about the enormous challenges facing the country. Considering the challenges bedeviling the country, I would want to believe that any sincere person would want to think twice before coming out to run for president,” he added.

Joining the presidential race is an investment for some aspirants – CDD Director Idayat Hassan

The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Idayat Hassan, in an interview with The ICIR, noted that many of the politicians who are declaring for President are just investing for future political opportunities.

Hassan, however, added that some of the aspirants also believe they have a chance of winning.

She said, “There are different reasons for this. It is a competitive process and some actually believe they can emerge the presidential candidate at the end of the day. But for some it is just a game. To them declaring for President is to secure a bargaining chip for the next administration.

“So some of these people are investing their N100 million or N40 million for something bigger in the future. With it they will have a bargaining power to seek ministerial appointments or other top positions in the next administration.”

Hassan also pointed out that, most times, aspirants who drop out of the race lobby to be drafted into the party’s presidential campaign team.

“So for some of the aspirants it is just an investment,” she observed.

Large turnout of presidential aspirants show that political corruption is thriving in Nigeria.

Large turnout of presidential aspirants show that political corruption is thriving in Nigeria… Rafsanjani, CISLAC Executive Director

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Rafsanjani said ‘political corruption’ was the reason for the large number of presidential aspirants, despite the N100 million charged by the APC.

“This is what happens when political corruption is being amplified by those who pretend to be fighting corruption. It is not about service to the nation. The reason you are seeing a proliferation of presidential aspirants is not because so many people want to serve. It is about personal ambition for personal benefit and gain,” he observed.

Rafsanjani raised concerns at the presence of political office holders in the presidential race.

“They should tell us where they got the money because their legitimate salaries as vice president, ministers, governors and members of the National Assembly cannot match the money they are spending.”

The CISLAC executive director said political corruption was thriving in Nigeria because the fight against corruption has been derailed.

“Those that are supposed to be leading the fight against corruption are the ones undermining it,” he said, adding that many of the aspirants who are coming out to contest the presidential election are among those who are benefiting from the collapse of the anti-corruption campaign.

“If there is an effective campaign against corruption, they dare not come out to say they want to be President,” he observed.

He said it was unfortunate that Nigerian politics had become comnercialised to the extent that only politicians suspected of involvement in money laundering, and those who have access to public funds, are able to contest elections to “capture power”.

Conspiracy theory

Director-General of The Heritage Centre, an Abuja-based think-tank, Katch Ononuju, raised a conspiracy theory in an interview with The ICIR concerning the mass turnout of presidential aspirants in the APC.

Ononuju alleged that most of the aspirants are joining the presidential race in order to derail the electoral process in the party – in order to pave the way for Buhari to decide who emerges the party’s candidate.

“Most of them are not ready. Most of them never said they want to be president. It is just Abuja telling them to go and collect form and as they collect the form they also sign the withdrawal certificate. It is a government scam. Because the government does not want the political process to determine who will emerge as the candidate. The President want to determine who will become the candidate, he does not want a primary,” Ononuju said, adding that Buhari does not want to hand over power to a Southerner.

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