Dangers of using state funds for APC congresses

Jide Ojo

It is no longer news that the ruling All Progressives Congress has chosen the path of honour, constitutionalism and legality by publishing the timetable for its congresses. It will be recalled that in February, the National Executive Committee of the party resolved to extend the tenure of the National Working Committee members for a year starting from June 2018. However, President Muhammadu Buhari saved the day when he declared the controversial move as illegal and unconstitutional during the March 27, 2018 NEC meeting.

Now, the party announced that the Ward Congresses will hold on May 5; Local Government Congresses on May 12, while the State Congresses will hold on May 19, 2018. However, there is a raging controversy on how the forthcoming party elections will be funded.

Last Friday, online news portal, Premium Times, broke the news that the APC had asked each of its 24 state governors to donate N250m each for the purpose of funding the party’s congresses and convention. This will amount to a whopping N6bn! It is unclear as of now if the Federal Government and local governments under the party are also being taxed for the same purpose.

After an initial dismissal of the story as illogical, the national spokesperson for the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, on Saturday, April 28, 2018 issued a press statement as follows:

“At the meeting of the National Working Committee and the governors of the party held at the party secretariat on Thursday, 26 April, it was pointed out that many of the governors had fallen behind in the payment of their party dues. While some of the governors have been up-to-date with the payments, a few others have not paid at all. The governors were therefore requested to pay up, especially in view of upcoming party activities. It is therefore possible that a governor that falls in the category of those that have not paid since inception could be owing up to N250 million. For the avoidance of doubt, party dues are paid by all members of the party holding positions, either by election or appointment. Therefore, members of the National Assembly as well as cabinet ministers also remit a percentage of their earnings to the party.”

The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in a statement on Sunday, April 29, accused the APC of diverting N6bn meant for the development of states under its control to finance the ruling party’s forthcoming national convention. The PDP was quoted as saying, “The APC is corrupt. Our investigation reveals that many of the APC governors are being coerced under the orders of the Presidency and the leadership of the party to move in huge sums of money in cash into the APC coffers, the bulk of which has already been frittered away by corrupt leaders in the party and agents of the Presidency”. Could this be true?

Sticking to the official response of the APC, how much is the percentage of the salaries of elected government officials and political appointees due to the party on a monthly basis? For instance, in April 2017, when Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State published his net monthly salary (after tax and other deductions), it was N470,521.74. Even if we go by the Gross monthly pay which is N555,926.25, there is no way any defaulting governor would have accumulated a debt of  N250m in party dues. Again, how come all governors are to pay the same sum of N250m? Truth be told, the APC is being clever by half.  Though the governors are supposed to pay personal membership dues and donate a percentage of their earnings for the running of the party, in practice, what they simply do is to use the state funds to make the payment. I recall that 21 PDP governors made a donation of N50m each amounting to N1.05bn on December 20, 2014 when the party organised a fundraiser in support of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid. Thus, the PDP accusing the APC of being corrupt is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Truth be told, using state funds to support political party activities is illegal, unconstitutional and an abuse of state and administrative resources. It is also unethical. According to the Premium Times, as of February, 23 out of the 24 governors were enmeshed in one salary row or the other, according to the Trade Union Congress. Only Lagos State has continued to meet its obligations to workers and pensioners. Many of the governors owe salaries or pensions or both for extended periods that range between four months and above. It therefore constitutes a moral burden to be owing workers’ salaries and find it convenient to give a princely sum of N250m to your party from the state purse.  The only reason the APC governors will not run foul of law is if the monies are paid from their personal account and not the state coffers.

Another serious issue this donation to the party raises is the potential unsparing influence the governors will wield on the process and outcome of the planned congresses and convention. If they are expected to donate such huge sums of money for party activities, you can rest assured that they will do everything humanly possible to ensure that their preferred candidates for the various elective positions emerged victorious at the forthcoming party elections. They will spare no expenses to bankroll their choice candidates to be elected into the new party executives at the various levels. This is how party structures are hijacked by the governors ahead of the general elections. It is simply antithetical to the promotion of internal party democracy.

If the governors are not paying their membership dues and had to be asked to pay lump sum ahead of major party activities, it shows that they are not loyal and faithful party men. This indicates that they are not good leaders. I know for a fact that the major challenge of political party administration in Nigeria is lack of financial commitments by members to their parties. This is what usually paves way for party hijack by few moneybags who make huge financial donations to the party in order to curry favours.

This N250m levy on the APC governors does not look good on a party whose mantra is change!  It is a negative trend that should not be encouraged because of the dangerous implications it has on democratic consolidation.  Political parties have a wide range of legal and legitimate ways to raise fund. Apart from membership dues, there are also opportunities for political parties to charge Expression of Interest and nomination fees, receive donations from wholesome sources, profits on investment as well as take loans to fund their activities. A level-playing field is needful in the conduct of party elections be it congresses, conventions or primaries. Encouraging big donations from a few individuals is an indirect way of promoting godfather politics and party capture. This is a negation of sound democratic practices.

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