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Is N5 billion enough for a presidential campaign?

The 2023 Nigerian general elections will be the seventh consecutive election to hold in Nigeria since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999. It will also mark the longest reign of the electioneering process in Nigeria without a break.

Candidates of respective political parties are now putting preparations in place, mobilizing their structures, funding campaign councils and aligning all support groups’ rallies springing across different states in the country. Coupled with ads on television, radio, newspapers, and social media running simultaneously, among others – the costs never stop.

An essential component of every election is campaign funding. This is a way by which candidates and political parties gather and solicit funds needed to win an election. Funding can come from big donors or crowdfunding – a method reportedly employed by the very popular Labour Party and the ruling party APC.

Campaign funding is legal in most democratic countries across the world, and this is usually done within the confines of some set rules, to maintain order and avoid having the process truncated through irregularities.

For presidential elections, the 2022 electoral act increased the amount of presidential candidates’ spending during an election to N5 billion from N1 billion. Section 88(2) of the act states:

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  • (2) the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall not exceed N5,000,000,000.

Let’s compare this with other countries like the United States of America and African neighbours like Ghana. According to reports, in the 2-year election period between 2019-2020 in the US, presidential candidates raised and spent $4.1 billion. In a similar vein, the presidential campaign cost $100 million per candidate in Ghana during the last election held in the country.

The cost of election campaigns in Nigeria has been debated and viewed as expensive by citizens, Civil Society Groups, and Non-governmental organizations. The main question among pessimists is about where the money is coming from. Will the money be “reimbursed” from the public treasury when the candidate is elected? There have been stories of campaign funds coming from bank loans, godfathers, and in most cases, coffers from the incumbent candidate re-running.

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With the new spending cap and a look at previous presidential campaign spending, is N5 billion really enough or too high?

Let’s do a deep dive into the specifics of what the money is spent on.

Primaries: This is the very first step for any candidate. The cost of forms for part primaries varies based on respective political parties.

According to reports, here are some of the costs of form based on different political parties contesting in the next election: The ruling party APC – N100 million, PDP – N40 million, NNPP – N30 million, YPP – 20 million, SDP -35 million.

Some of the political parties revealed their presidential form was free. Notably, most parties give 50% discounts to women and the disabled interested in vying for political office.

Besides this, candidates also spend money based on the adopted mode of election within the party, to canvass and get people on their side. After which the winner is declared as the party’s flag bearer. Indirect primaries are the more expensive and direct primaries’ costs involve putting money in a few hands allegedly.

.s: .s are used for creating awareness and to sell the candidate to get massive support and votes on election day. In Nigeria, there’s usually a 5-month period or more before election day for campaigning. A check on the advertisement rates of one of Nigeria’s foremost newspapers shows that it charges around N2.2 million for a political advert with colour on its centre spread per day.

Interestingly, a 30-sec jingle on a radio station costs about N50,000. On TV, a station could charge as much as N300,000 for adverts on one of its political shows. Social media is not left out and reportedly influencers can charge N700,000 to N2M for advertising on the pages based on followers and reach.

Although, as of today, social media is heavily tilted towards one candidate. It’s a lost battleground for any party outside the Labour Party. So all mediums of advertisements cost could run into hundreds of millions.

Mobilization and Rallies: Depending on the venue, most candidates fly private jets to campaign grounds. Renting a private jet per hour could cost between $4,500 to $6,000. Based on the current exchange rate, this hovers over the N2 million-N3 million mark. This is not inclusive of the amount which would be spent on the venue, decoration, security, merchandise, and musicians, among others.

This process is repeated in all 36 states including the FCT. This alone could run into billions of naira. T-shirts, caps, and venues for all supporters in the country could also make a significant part of the costs. Rented crowds eat up most presidential election budgets. As crowds depict or reflect the strength and popularity of a political candidate. Empty stadia could mean unpopularity and most candidates would pay top dollar to avoid that faux pas.

Election day: In Nigeria, there are 176,846 polling units created by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC also recommends and allows only one registered agent per polling unit in the country. According to reports, agents earn an average of N10,000.

This means a candidate will spend over N1.7 billion on agents alone. This is not inclusive of other ‘unrecognized’ agents, and some earn more than that. Door-to-Door Canvassers and Mobilizers are paid to help woo the people to vote for their party. The entire amount could gulp almost all the money allocated for the election.

Sourcing funds for candidates: Most Political parties get funding from donations, crowdfunding and proceeds from sold candidate forms. However, there are limits to this. INEC has an embargo on funding from abroad for political parties and also places a limit on donations.

According to INEC, political parties can only receive N50m from an individual or organization as a donation. INEC also places sanctions on political parties and individuals when it exceeds this stipulated amount. This has also been viewed as unrealistic by politicians who believe they should get more as it’s the primary source of funding for them.

Over the years, political parties and candidates have not been adhering to the stipulated amount to be spent for elections. According to findings by INEC, the two leading candidates in the 2019 elections spent more than the stipulated N1 billion. APC spent N4.6 billion, while PDP spent N3.3 billion. Also, findings revealed that the money was spent on billboards, electronic media, political adverts, and campaign rallies.

In most cases in Nigeria, there are often extra costs after the election which are legal fees as cases of electoral malpractice often end up in the court.

Considering the above and the rising cost in the country beyond the 2019 election, the jury remains N5 billion is enough for a presidential campaign in the country.

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