By Joni Akpederi
N100, 000, 000 (One hundred million naira only).
That’s the bill the ruling party –the All Progressives Congress (APC) will slap on each of the so-called Presidential aspirants in its fold. Their number rises by the day and observers reckon it may hit 30 before the registration door slams shut.
The 30 aspirants will collectively fork over an incredible N3 billion in fees to the party, just so one of them will be privileged to carry the party’s banner in the 2023 general elections. Social commentators have quickly calculated this to be equivalent to the salaries of 166, 666 least paid civil servants at N18, 000 a month, the authentic minimum wage in Nigeria.Virtually all state governments cannot pay the statutory N30,000 a month; and they have no regrets whatsoever.
Nor do the top brass of the ruling party give a hoot. President Muhammadu Buhari, is known to have told reporters that he was helped with the N25 million he shelled out for his Presidential race registration form back in 2015, as he then couldn’t afford it. He had gone on to denounce it as extortionate, and vowed to make reforms if he got elected. This is his second term in office and his constituents have spent seven years in the waiting room, with ears preened to hear him on the vexed issue. Silence!
Funnily enough, the President has again been “helped” out. Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former federal minister in the administration of the (now opposition) People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but now staunch APC apologist struggled to explain away Buhari’s apparent “tongue- tie” or insouciance. “The N100 million is chicken feed”, he said in a TV interview. The aspirants are only expected to pay that ‘paltry’ sum once, before the very considerate party takes care of the humongous bill of the Presidential campaign which he reckons would top a whopping N3 billion. It did not occur to him that that demanding N100 million of one aspiring to be President in a nation that has been borrowing even to pay civil servants’ salaries and for recurrent expenses in the past decade is utter idiocy if not lunacy. In effect, the country’s leadership position must be subject to a cash-and-carry proposition, to enable parties pool in enough to fund election bills made repulsively outrageous and out of tune with Nigeria’s reality as a poor struggling nation.
Critics say he is not alone in his “don’t worry” demeanour or stance over Nigerian authorities’ propensity to trivialize the nation’s profligate ways .Virtually all federal ministers think, rather curiously, Nigeria is on solid grounds with regards to its economic management model. Fears that the country is walking straight into a debt crisis are casually waved aside because of its considerable reserves of natural resources, chiefly oil and gas, on which the government almost totally depends. None of them is bothered by the nation’s awful macroeconomic indices, including 35 percent unemployment rate and18 percent inflation rate, which are even considered badly underestimated in many quarters. Nor is any of them worried about other piteous human development stats that place Nigeria at the bottom rung of all tables, including the Global Poverty and Open defecation Capital, the greatest number of Out-of-School Children, insurgency Capital …ad nauseam.
To the authorities, it is enough that Nigeria’s debt-GDP-ratio falls within globally acceptable parameter of less than 60 – 70 percent, ignoring the fact that, this makes sense only in highly developed and productive economies. But Nigeria, with its weak, unstable and highly vulnerable economy should operate on the more appropriate, sound debt-revenue ratio, since government revenue comes mainly from volatile, exogenously determined oil prices.
Total debt today stands at a bewildering N41.5 trillion even as government is smacking its lips to heap on more “lard” to its excessively fatty diet!. At almost three times the size of 2022 budget, the nation is literally wallowing in debt and shouldn’t be seen to be encouraging even more profligacy.
But what is the N100 million naira entry fee for a chance to play in the APC primaries signaling to the weary and flustered citizens of what one misguided pollster once adjudged “the happiest people” on earth?
Simple. Nigeria’s Presidency is for sale; nothing else but mere cash matters.
Surely, we the good people of Nigeria cannot let the rest of humanity go home with such an unedifying impression of our country, can we?