TUNDE AJAJA examines the practice of politicians and their associates spending millions to buy presidential forms only to pull out of the race at the last minute
At any time in Nigeria’s history, whether in the years of economic boom or now that a whopping 16.82 per cent inflation rate has eroded the value of the naira, N100m is a lot of money.
Thus, when the ruling All Progressives Congress pegged its presidential forms at that sum, the outrage that greeted the announcement was somewhat understandable, especially in a country that has earned the reputation of being the poverty capital of the world, and where the minimum wage is a paltry N30,000 per month.
Clearly, there is a lot N100m can do in a depressed economy like Nigeria’s. That sum, for example, can pay the salaries of 3,333 workers on the minimum wage.
In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the N40m it sold its presidential forms can also pay the salaries of 1,333 workers on the minimum wage.
It may not be misplaced, after all, to examine the eventual waste it translates to when aspirants who paid such humongous amounts pulled out of the race or stepped down for others.
During the presidential primary of the APC, which was held on Tuesday and Wednesday, seven aspirants stepped down for a national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while one aspirant stepped down for the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Tinubu eventually won the election, scoring 1,271 out of the 2,340 votes.
Aspirants who stepped down during the primary were Dr Kayode Fayemi, Governor Abubakar Badaru, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Mr Dimeji Bankole, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Dr Nicholas Felix and Ms Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, while Dr Emeka Nwajiuba did not show up at the event.
Each of the aspirants paid N100m, save for Ohanenye, who only paid the N30m specified for female aspirants by the party. From this alone, the APC got a bonus of N830m.
In addition to this, various groups bought forms for former President Goodluck Jonathan; President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. Some of the forms were not returned, while those who did abandoned the process.
In all, the bonus in the party’s purse spiked to N1.23bn.
In the PDP, on the day of the presidential primary, an aspirant and former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, withdrew from the race; former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, dumped the party for the Labour Party after obtaining the forms; and shortly before voting started, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, also an aspirant, stepped down for Atiku Abubakar, who eventually won the party’s ticket. Thus, their N80m became a waste, literally.
That brings the total amount wasted, literally, by aspirants and associates in the two parties to N1.35bn. This is independent of the millions of naira some aspirants spent on chartered flights to ‘consult’ delegates across the country.
Some of the APC aspirants, who left the race for others, are captured below:
Akpabio: The former governor of Akwa Ibom State and immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was the first aspirant to step down for another that evening. While giving his speech, a moment afforded all the aspirants, Akpabio highlighted some of the many projects he executed in his state as a two-term governor. He even boasted that his vision for the state and impact earned him the ‘Uncommon Transformation’ slogan. He promised to deploy same if voted as the candidate. Added to that, he promised a three-point agenda of security, unity and the economy. However, his final words caught many unawares, saying, “I have seen a man who is older than me and was the first visioner in governance and that man enabled us to have good governance and development in Lagos State. I don’t have to be President to make things happen. I will join the next President to turn the boys in Nigeria into men, and therefore, I doff my hat and urge you that as I withdraw now, vote for Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. Thank you and God bless you.” That was the end of his speech and the touted ambition.
Amosun: A former governor of Ogun State and senator representing Ogun Central in the Senate was the second aspirant to step down during the primary. He said in his speech that he presented himself to be the President of Nigeria because he knew he had the wherewithal and the private and public sectors experience to govern the country. He went ahead to speak on how he would tackle insecurity, revive the economy, tackle unemployment, improve the education sector, boost power generation to 15,000 megawatts in one year and 30,000MW in two years, etc. His speech on what he “planned” to do was reassuring. However, he concluded, “I can go on and on, but having said these, I thank my brother (Akpabio) that just spoke. In the spirit of consensus building, supremacy of our party and most importantly to hearken to the call of Mr President and our people back home, I want to urge all my supporters and those who believe in me that we have somebody that can do the job; we will all rally round him to do the job. He’s no stranger to me, we have been together for quite some time, and that is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. With your support, he will take Nigeria to greater heights.” Again, that was end of it.
Fayemi: The governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was the third aspirant to follow suit. Touted as one of the foremost aspirants, his speech reaffirmed his preparedness and ability to deliver. He spoke on the need for unity, improved security, economy, social security and addressing poverty inequality, corruption and impunity. He also highlighted the need to empower women, provide jobs for the youth and ensure that the security agencies were well funded. However, as he appreciated the northern governors for agreeing with the South to produce the candidate of the party, he dropped the bombshell, “I have come to a difficult but necessary decision, which is that we must vote for the most appropriate person at this time to do this job. I am prepared to sacrifice my ambition; I am a young man, I still have a long time ahead of me, and one person I have worked with in the trenches of democratic struggle, a mentor, an elder, a supporter and great fighter for democracy and Nigeria that I will love to recommend to all my supporters and delegates is my elder brother, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I am not doing him a favour; for me it’s a duty of care for Nigeria. I know he will do the job well and we shall support him.”
Bankole: The former Speaker of the House of Representatives surprised many when he joined the race some weeks ago, having been away from the media space for a long time. In his speech, Bankole spoke remarkably about what he planned to do and left. But he re-emerged on the stage after Senator Ken Nnamani spoke. Smiling, Bankole after acknowledging the President and his wife and “standing on existing protocol,” said, “At this moment, I will also like to… and said in Yoruba, ‘I also want to grow old and become an elder someday,’ so I hereby withdraw for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.” He smiled and left the stage.
Badaru: The governor of Jigawa State was one of the four northern presidential aspirants in the APC. There were reports that he withdrew from the race following the consensus among most northern governors that a southern candidate should emerge. However, in his speech during the special convention, he reiterated his disposition to consensus, saying, “In that spirit and in the spirit of brotherhood brought about by the decision of my colleagues, I want to reconfirm my withdrawal from the race and invite all my supporters and delegates to support our father and leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Boroffice: The senator representing Ondo North in the upper chamber of the National Assembly was the fourth to announce his withdrawal and support for Tinubu. For several minutes, he reeled out his credentials and plans for the country, but came back later to join the flow. He said, “I am for democracy and the progress of our party. I have made up my mind at this point to step down for the great leader, a disciple builder, a progressive leader and achiever, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.” Another abrupt end to the ambition.
Felix: The 40-year-old United States-based pastor was the fifth to step down during the primary. He reeled out his plans, credentials and engagements at several levels, after reminding the audience that it was his second time in the race. He even bemoaned the idea of the youth settling for advisers and assistants when they could be the leader. He stated, “When the fee for the forms came out, I was going to be discouraged, but I refused to be. I said I must stand to represent the youth. Apart from the North and South, Nigerians are divided into two religions – Islam and Christianity. I grew up with Muslims and they are wonderful people. Many of them are my friends, but we cannot have a Muslim-Muslim ticket in this election, that is why I have decided to step down and throw my full support for His Excellency, the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.”
Ohanenye: She was the only female in the race in the the APC. Ushered to the stage with music, she danced to the delight of some of her fans. In pidgin English, she promised “everything go better because mama dey on board.” She then spoke about her motivation for joining the contest, “I came on board because of you people; the downtrodden, physically-challenged, indigent patients, elderly women, youths, etc. because I feel Nigeria needs a mother, so I decided to come on board and be that mother of the nation.” Then the moment came when she said, “Seeing how things are going, I found out that we still need some more time for it to happen. Based on this, I am pleading with all the delegates that your vote is a life-saver, please utilise it well for the right candidate and I feel I should step aside for that life-saver and the best candidate, who is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. I urge my delegates and supporters to cast their votes for him.”
Nwajiuba: He was the Minister of State for Education before he resigned to pursue his presidential ambition. He was the first to resign his position after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), ordered his appointees with political aspirations to drop their resignation letters. However, when he was called upon to give his speech during the primary, he was not available. He would later say in a statement that he declined to attend the event because all entreaties to make the South-East produce the party’s presidential candidate were not heeded. At the end of the race, he scored one vote.
Tambuwal: Touted as a top contender for the PDP presidential ticket, especially being the only candidate from the North-West, the region with the highest number of delegates, Tambuwal stood a good chance in the contest. During his initial speech at the convention, he described himself as a bridge between the young and the old. “I, therefore, crave your indulgence, dear delegates, to shy away from sentiments and do the right thing; let us vote for AWT (Aminu Waziri Tambuwal) for the leadership of this country for us to re-introduce vigour, intellect and experience in all arms of government.” Some minutes later, however, Tambuwal reappeared on the stage, and he came with this message, “I, Aminu Tambuwal, having consulted widely, throughout the length and breadth of this country, I have come to the firm belief and conviction that time may come in our sojourn to make sacrifices for the good of the people. In view of the situation of our country, and the need for us to minimise rancour and jostling for power, I have come to a patriotic conclusion to step down my aspiration, and not only that, but appeal to my supporters to take this in good stride and in the interest of national unity and patriotism, and those who are delegates should vote for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
The speeches brought an end to their lofty aspirations nurtured for weeks and months, including the money they already invested.
Meanwhile, speaking on the ‘abandonment’ of their aspirations after spending tens of millions of naira, a public affairs analyst and Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Liborous Oshoma, tied it to the intention of the aspirants to raise their stakes in the party, aided by the lack of transparency in the way electioneering was being funded.
He stated, “In many societies, you can see traces of how the funds are raised, but not in ours. Since the money ends up being a donation to the political parties, they are also not interested in the source.
“For example, I do not see the rationality in someone who was not a politician, didn’t interact with delegates, whose organisation owes a bank and then paid N100m to a party that you know is heavily cash compromised and you say you won’t give money to any delegate. What do we make of the donation you made to the party?”
He added that the political parties had been the storehouse of corruption in the country, noting that Nigerians had contributed to the recklessness by the two main parties for limiting themselves to the two of them.
“How much have these people wasting millions paid as tax? How come it was poor Nigerians that bought forms for rich men? The system makes it easy for people to hide behind groups. The height of it was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission officials doing photo-ops at the convention grounds, while delegates were being bribed in their hotels. The way the primaries were monetised was an outrageous display of irresponsibility,” Oshoma stated.