People & Money

How Political Parties Are Commercialising Democracy

“It’s therefore important that the political parties ask themselves what their decision to commercialise their platform means for our democracy and society. Knowing the kind of people at the helms of these parties, I wouldn’t count on them engaging in any introspection”.

As the 2023 elections draw nearer, political parties are scrambling to prepare for the pivotal elections, that will among other things determine President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. This scrambling has thrown up one of the absurd elements of our electoral democracy and that’s the amount of money required to run for offices in Africa’s largest democracy. Here I am not talking about the money required for the campaign, which can be expensive in many countries running the presidential system, but the money required to officially declare interest in political offices by the big political parties.

The largest opposition party the People’s Democratic Party on Wednesday announced the price of its nomination and expression of interest forms for presidential aspirants as a princely sum of N40m. If you are running for governor, the party requires you to shell out N21m for its forms. Senate and House of Representatives are pegged at N3.5m and N2.5m respectively.

Also Read: Citizen Interference In Governance As Due Diligence For Democracy

While the ruling All Progressives Congress is yet to announce the cost of its own forms for these positions, it recently announced the prices for forms for various party positions it is trying to fill and these prices were as absurd as the PDP’s. To run for the APC chairmanship position, a candidate will have to pay the party the sum of N20m, while the deputy chairmanship position goes for N10m. Other positions are pegged at N5m. In 2019, the same party had pegged its presidential nomination form at N45m and a Premium Times report estimated the party had made a sum of N6.9 billion from sales of forms for the various elective positions in the country.

It is difficult to come up with an argument to justify the prices these parties are slapping on nomination forms. Democracy was not created for only the wealthiest in society and political parties were not supposed to become a platform for only people with wealth or access to it. While politicians pretend to care about the inclusion of hitherto poorly-represented groups such as women and youth in governance, monetising the process in a greedy way limits the options of members of these groups. It is not a surprise that most of the people who end up picking up forms for these positions are the usual suspects who have been in the corridors of power since 70% of Nigerians alive today were born.

Also Read: Democracy, Leadership, and the Future of Nigeria – Dr. Sam Amadi

There is also the question of the expensive political process that encourages corruption. How are the elected officials supposed to make back the money they use in prosecuting their campaigns? The entire annual official remuneration, salary, and allowance inclusive, for even the president can barely cover the cost of PDP’s nomination form. It would take more than two years of remuneration to cover APC’s 2019 nomination form. The situation is probably even more precarious for party officials whose salaries can be undefined. Corruption seems to be the only way to recoup the investment and that’s for people who manage to win in the first place. It’s therefore important that the political parties ask themselves what their decision to commercialise their platform means for our democracy and society. Knowing the kind of people at the helms of these parties, I wouldn’t count on them engaging in any introspection.

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