The 2023 general election in Nigeria will be the seventh consecutive election to be held in Nigeria since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999. It will also mark the longest reign of Nigeria’s electoral process without a break.
The candidates of the respective political parties are now making preparations, mobilizing their structures, funding the campaign councils and aligning all the support rallies of the groups that have sprung up in different areas. state of the country. Combined with television, radio, newspaper, and social media ads running simultaneously, etc. – the costs don’t stop.
An important part of every election is campaign funding. It is a way in which candidates and political parties gather and solicit funds needed to win elections. Funding can come from large donors or crowdfunding – a method reportedly used by the very popular Labor Party and the ruling party APC.
Campaign financing is legal in most democratic countries around the world, and it is usually done within the limits of certain rules, to maintain order and prevent the process from being disrupted by irregularities.
For the presidential elections, the 2022 electoral act increased the amount of presidential candidates to spend during the election to N5 billion from N1 billion. Section 88(2) of the law states:
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- (2) the maximum election expenses incurred by a candidate in a presidential election shall not exceed N5,000,000,000.
Let’s compare it to other countries like the United States of America and African neighbors 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. Similarly, the presidential campaign cost $100 million per candidate in Ghana in the last election held in the country.
The cost of election campaigns in Nigeria is debated and seen as expensive by citizens, Civil Society Groups, and Non-governmental organizations. The main question of the pessimists is about where the money comes from. Will the money be “returned” from the public treasury when the candidate is elected? There are stories of campaign funds coming from bank loans, godfathers, and often, coffers from the incumbent candidate who is running again.
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With the new spending limit and looking at past presidential campaign spending, is N5 billion really enough or too high?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the details of what the money was spent on.
Primary: This is the very first step for any candidate. The cost of the forms for the primary segment varies based on the individual political party.
According to reports, here are some of the expenses in form based on the different political parties contesting 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 have expressed that their presidential form is free. In particular, most parties give a 50% discount to women and the disabled who are interested in running for political office.
In addition to this, the candidates will also spend money based on the adopted election method within the party, in order to canvass and support the people. After this the winner will be declared the flag bearer of the party. Indirect primaries are more expensive and the direct cost of primaries involves putting money in some hands allegedly.
Advertisements: Advertisements are used for creating awareness and selling the candidate to get more support and votes on election day. In Nigeria, there is usually 5 months or more before election day for campaigning. A check on advertisement rates in one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers shows that it pays close to N2.2 million for a political ad with a center color spread daily.
Interestingly, a 30-sec jingle on a radio station costs about N50,000. On TV, a station can charge as much as N300,000 for ads on one of its political shows. Social media is not left out and it is reported that influencers can charge N700,000 to N2M for advertising pages based on followers and reach.
However, right now, social media is heavily biased towards one candidate. This is a losing battle for any party other than the Labor Party. So all the mediums costs of advertisements can run into hundreds of millions.
Mobilization and rallies: Depending on the venue, most candidates fly private jets to the campaign grounds. Renting a private jet per hour can cost between $4,500 to $6,000. Based on the current exchange rate, it hovers above the N2 million-N3 million mark. This does not include the amount that will be spent on the venue, decoration, security, merchandise, and musicians, etc.
This process was repeated in all 36 states including the FCT. This alone can run into billions of naira. T-shirts, caps, and areas for all national supporters will also be a significant part of the costs. Renters eat up most of the presidential election budgets. While people describe or show the strength and popularity of a political candidate. Empty stadia can mean unpopularity and most candidates will pay top dollar to avoid that mistake.
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, the agents earn an average of N10,000.
This means that a candidate spends over N1.7 billion on agents alone. It does not include other ‘unknown’ agents, and some earn even more. Door-to-Door Canvassers and Mobilizers are paid to help persuade people to vote for their party. The total amount will swallow almost all the money allocated for the election.
Funding for candidates: Most political parties get funding from donations, crowdfunding and income from sold candidate forms. However, there are limitations to this. INEC has embargoed funding from outside the country for political parties and has also placed limits on donations.
According to INEC, political parties can only receive N50m from an individual or organization as donation. INEC also imposes penalties on political parties and individuals if they exceed the set amount. It is also seen as unrealistic by politicians who believe they should get more because it is the main source of funding for them.
Over the years, political parties and candidates have not followed the set amount to be spent for elections. According to INEC findings, the two leading candidates in the 2019 election spent more than the stipulated N1 billion. APC spent N4.6 billion, while PDP spent N3.3 billion. Also, the findings revealed that the money was spent on billboards, electronic media, political adverts, and campaign rallies.
In most cases in Nigeria, there are always additional costs post-election legal fees because electoral malpractice cases often end up in court.
Considering the above and the increased cost to the country beyond the 2019 election, the jury remains that N5 billion is enough for a presidential campaign in the country.