With the election of Gen. Muhammdu Buhari GCFR (Rtrd.) as President of Nigeria, firstly in May 2015, and secondly in May 2019, the All Progressives Congress APC, the party platform upon which the President contested both elections, became the party in power at the national level.

Between its formation sometime in 2013 right through to formal registration with INEC in July 2014 we had all looked forward with lots of hopes and expectations to the emergence of a credible alternative political platform that will learn from the mistakes of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP and do things slightly differently from the manner in which it had conducted it’s affairs. Regrettably, this has turned out not to be the case.

The most recent manifestation of this tendency is the costs that have been pegged on nomination and expression of interest forms payable by those who aspire to contest the 2023 election on the platform of the Party. I am worried, just as several other Nigerians too are, the extent to which this situation could conceivably degenerate if left unchecked. But, even more, I am worried that this high cost of fees payable by aspirants on the Party platform may actually turnout to be in conflict with the constitution of the Party.

According to the preamble to the APC constitution the party makes no pretentions whatsoever about its determination to “render service at all levels of governance; and to build a nation which will guarantee equal opportunity for all”. Now, how do you guarantee equal opportunity when your policy options as a party are flagrantly in conflict with the aspirations as a political party?

Take for instance the N100m payable for expression of interest and nomination forms it is only a few members of the political party that can afford to part with such a humongous amount of money. Unsurprisingly, almost all those who have paid this fee and obtained the requisite fees are current or previous occupants of public office of various kinds. Where then is the equal opportunity which is guaranteed under the preamble to the constitution of the Party?

Furthermore, Article 13 of the Party constitution places “final authority of the party” on the shoulders of the “National Convention”. Now, I have perused a copy of the minutes of the just concluded National Convention where national officers of the Party were elected into office and, hard as I have tried, I am unable to see where the issue of cost or fees payable for expression of interest and nomination forms featured, was deliberated upon and a decision taken.

Indeed, Article 13.4 iii of the constitution mandates the National Working Committee of the Party to “prepare financial guidelines for the approval of the National Convention subject to the ratification of the National Executive Committee”. It is common knowledge that at the time of its just concluded National Convention, the APC had no NWC, clearly there could not have been a financial guideline prepared for approval by the National Convention.

Clearly, that decision to peg the costs of purchase of forms where it is right now, is incontestably not the decision of the national convention, certainly not the most recent convention.

By virtue of Article 22 of the APC constitution there are five items listed as sources from which “the party shall derive funds”: i. subscription, fees and levies on members, ii. proceeds from investments, iii. Subventions, donations and fundraising, iv. Gifts and grants by governments, individuals or groups of individuals as allowed by law, v. borrowing as approved by the National Executive Committee and vi. Any other lawful means.

Now, there is nowhere in Article 22 where it is stated that “purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms” is a source from which the party “shall derive funds”. Now, this has legal and other implications.

In the light of the argument we have already put forward regarding Article 13.4 above, can it be argued, even by any stroke of imagination, that purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms amounts to “lawful means” within the contemplation of Article 22 vi, I have my doubt.

It remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved, if and when it goes before the courts of the land, and I pray that an aspirant to any of the offices up for grabs, will muster sufficient courage to challenge this infraction, if for nothing else then of course as a major contribution to the process of democratic consolidation in our country Nigeria.

Barr Utsaha(Makurdi)