Three presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have threatened to conduct a parallel National Convention to produce the candidate of the party if the APC does not scrap the “exorbitant” nomination fees fixed by the ruling party.
In a statement they issued on Monday as ‘Coalition of 2019 Presidential Aspirants of the All Progressives Congress’, the aspirants urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the nomination form purchased for him by a group.
The statement was signed by three presidential aspirants, SKC Ogbonnia, Charles Udeogaranya and Mumakai Unagha.
A group under the platform of Nigeria Consolidation Ambassador Network (NCAN) last week paid the APC N45 million to purchase the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms for Mr Buhari.
The group claimed it raised the money from contributions by its members across Nigeria.
On Tuesday at State House, Abuja, Mr Buhari who was away in China when the group bought the forms, formally accepted them.
But in their statement on Tuesday, the three APC presidential aspirants also called on the president to reject the forms.
“We demand that President Muhammadu Buhari should reject the N45 million nomination forms purchased for him by a group,” they stated.
They said accepting the form was a contravention of the law, which states that no individual or entity can donate more than one million naira to any candidate.
“It fundamentally contravenes Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Law,” the aspirants said in their statement.
They said the offer also runs contrary to Mr Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade.
Adducing reasons why the APC should scrap the fees, the three presidential hopefuls said even though some aspirants can afford the “exorbitant” cost of the forms, “it is clearly not affordable to many others, including President Buhari and particularly the youth and women of the APC.”
“We demand that the party (APC) should, without further delay, scrap nomination fees, in line with the laws of the land.”
The aspirants threatened that failure to adhere to their demands would give them no other option than to lead the “true APC” in conducting the primaries in line with extant electoral laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, had warned that Mr Buhari and Atiku Abubakar for whom a group also bought the nomination form of the Peoples Democratic Party, would be breaching the Electoral Act if they accepted the forms.
However, another legal practitioner, Samuel Ogala, was of a different opinion. He said a group of persons cannot be seen as an entity, noting the real question was how much each member of the group contributed.
In his reaction to the aggrieved presidential aspirants, APC chairman Adams Oshiomhole, through his spokesperson, Simon Ebegbulem, defended the party, saying since the three persons have not purchased their forms, they cannot be seen as aspirants.
Mr Ebegbulem said APC fixed the fees of the forms so that it can fund the mode of primaries the party has chosen.
“These direct primaries are cost effective (intensive) and you don’t expect people to fund it.
“It’s the party that is going to fund it and it’s very expensive. So the plan is whatever money they are going to get from their (forms), they will use it. We don’t want to rely on individuals to fund it,” he said.