Money politics and consequences for Nigeria’s democracy

Money politics (Photo. infoguidenigeria.com)

Apart from the consequences of money politics on the nation’s democracy, the failure of the PDP to zone the presidency to the South is a clear derision of the established principle of zoning and rotation of power between the north and south and utmost disregard for the principles of equity and unity of the country.  

By Goddy Ikeh

ABOUT a decade ago, some Nigerian pupils were lamenting on radio that it is only in Nigeria that the citizens brake crude oil and petroleum products pipelines to steal crude oil and petroleum products and pollute and degrade the environment. In the same vein, some Nigerian politicians and other adult stakeholders are now in 2022 lamenting the monetization of Nigerian politics and its consequences on the nation’s fragile democracy.

The politicians have thrown caution to the wind and despite the harsh economic situation in the country, the two leading political parties pegged their declaration of interest forms at N100 million for the presidency by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and N40 million for the same office by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. For many Nigerians, this is outrageous in a country that is ranked as the poverty capital of the world and with the national minimum wage pegged at N30,000 a month.

Irked by this development, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, says that the predominance of money politics is threatening democracy in the country. Speaking at a one-day colloquium on “Emerging Issues that will Shape the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria”, organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in collaboration[H1]  with Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, recently in Abuja, Yakubu said that there were three critical challenges to be overcome in the conduct of the 2023 election namely insecurity, fake news and money politics.

“My third area of concern is the influence of money on politics and is becoming more present and the risk is that ours may soon become a plutocracy for the rich rather than a democracy for the people.

“The way money is exchanging hands is a source of concern, yes, we have collaboration with ICPC and the EFCC and only recently we renewed our collaboration with the EFCC, saying that we are going to do something together.

“However, there are two dimensions to it, when you have willing connectors it becomes a bit more difficult to contain the situation.

“On the one hand, you have brilliant examples, we all saw this on the social media in Anambra when there was an attempt to bribe voters and the women refused to accept the money and voted their conscience,” he said.

He said what political parties do is critical to what INEC does because that is what is called the primary election.

This, he said was because the candidates that emerged from the primary elections were the ones that would participate in the secondary election which INEC would conduct.

He said that the commission was working with anti-graft and finance agencies to see how to curb the challenge of money politics.

Speaking in the same vein, Prof. Attahiru Jega, former INEC chairman, said that the use of money in Nigerian politics was a source of concern.

According to Jega, the way money is used, many of us are now saying that we are moving in the direction of becoming a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

“Plutocracy is basically the government of the rich for the rich by the rich.

“Imagine, the National Assembly altered the Electoral Act to increase the threshold of how much a candidate can spend for election finance.

” That is something that we should all have opposed regrettably, we were too busy with the issue of electronic transmission and so on that, we lost focus.

“We did not pay sufficient attention to what they were trying to do because they now smuggled the issue of huge financial outlays required of candidates,” he said.

Jega said that in addition to that, many political parties, especially the so-called big ones, now put huge amounts as nomination fees, which automatically excluded women, young men and people with disability from the contest.

He said that attention has to be focused on money politics for the next cycle of electoral reform to the electoral legal framework.

“There is need for elections to be less and less costly because otherwise marginalised groups will continue to be excluded from the process,” local media reports quoted Jega as saying.

Unfortunately, the reports that the delegates at the recently concluded primaries of the PDP were given thousands of dollars as inducements to get their votes by the contestants and that the votes went to the highest bidders. This again angered some aspirants who withdrew from the race, while some Nigerians have condemned the practice.

Reacting to the conduct of the party primaries for the 2023 polls, former President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the role money is playing in the exercise. According to Jonathan, there have been reports of how aspirants have been inducing delegates to vote for them.

Speaking recently at a book launch titled “Political Party Governance” authored by Mohammed Wakil, a former minister of state, power, Jonathan said it was disgraceful to induce delegates to get their votes and then request for refund after failing to secure tickets.

“These whole primaries going on across the country is a mess. This is not a standard practice. The process has failed. We cannot use the process to elect president, governors, senators and House of Representatives members and others. The process is already failed, which is not good for the country. But we will manage and move on,” Jonathan said.

He lamented what is happening this year and prayed that it will not happen again in this country. He also urged the National Assembly to make laws to criminalise inducement of delegates and electorates.

Before the PDP primary, two prominent aspirants of the party, former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi and a former Managing Director and Chief Executive of FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, withdrew from the presidential race, attributing their decision to the monetization of the process, while Obi resigned from the party and joined the Labour Party.  

In his letter of withdrawal from the contest addressed to the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, Hayatu-Deen said Hayatu-Deen said that he planned to ensure that the great potential that had become the hallmark of Nigeria’s development paradigm should be actualized during his presidency, but that the party primary had been “obscenely monetised”.

“It is, therefore, based on personal principles and with great humility that I have decided after wide consultations to withdraw from this contest which has been obscenely monetized,” he said.

Another issue that was of concern to some Nigerians and members of the PDP is the issue of zoning the presidency to the South or the South-East, which has not produced the president in line with the constitution of the PDP. So the emergence of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, after the conclusion of the party primaries did not go down well with many Nigerians, including some regional groupings and politicians.

For instance, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, who defected recently from the PDP to the APC, has maintained his stand that the presidency should be zoned to Southern Nigeria after the expiration of the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari in office in line with the position of the governors forum.

Ayade explained that the idea of zoning came about to ensure an egalitarian and equitable power sharing in the country. “Zoning is a provision of our Constitution to ensure balancing, it should not be about ethnic or regional domination, but balancing. It’s the turn of Southern Nigeria in 2023,” he said.

 The governor added that the country was in dire need of change and a new way of doing things.

In the same vein, the Southern, Middle Belt leaders have described the declaration of Atiku as the flagbearer of the PDP as an affront to them.

These leaders, under the auspices of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, faulted the PDP for electing a northern presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections. Describing the outcome of the exercise as “an affront” to the people of the South and asked politicians in the region to reject any nomination for the office of the Vice President.

In a communique jointly signed by the leaders of the groups specifically described the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP as a brazing affront on the people of Southern Nigeria by the PDP.

They recalled that following the release of the guidelines for the 2023 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the elders and leaders of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt, under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, made unequivocal proclamations on the need for the presidency to be devolved to Southern Nigeria in 2023, in respect of the time-honoured practice of the rotation and zoning of high political offices between the North and the South by political parties as a way of strengthening national unity, peace and harmony.

“SMBLF further recalls that several engagements were held with various stakeholders across the length and breadth of the country on the subject to foster understanding, mutual respect, and oneness. The 17 Southern Governors also in a declaration after their meeting in Asaba, Delta State, in May 2021, backed the rotation of the presidency to the South in 2023.

“Sadly, it appears the unity and peace of Nigeria mean little or nothing to a segment of the nation’s political elite.

“This was evidenced in the PDP special convention, which was held on Saturday, 28th May 2022, where certain candidates from the North were pressured, coerced, and even intimidated to step down for former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who eventually emerged as the flag bearer of PDP, in utter derision of the established principle of zoning and rotation of power between the north and south.

“Undoubtedly, the singular motive is to perpetuate the hegemony of the North given that President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the North and of Fulani origin will be completing his full tenure of eight years by this time next year.

“SMBLF, therefore, totally REJECTS the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and calls on our people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt as well as all true lovers of peace and unity NOT TO VOTE for him or any other Northerner in the 2023 Presidential election, in the interest of posterity.

“SMBLF further urges all aspirants for the office of President from Southern Nigeria to shun the conceited attitude of individualism and self-confidence, and work collectively to achieve the shared objectives.

“Again, SMBLF calls on all politicians of Southern extraction to refuse the position of a running mate to any Northern Presidential candidate, which will equally be viewed as subjugating their people to political slavery.

The signatories to the communique include Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw (PANDEF/South-South), Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide/South East), Jare Ajayi (Afenifere/South West), Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum), and Ken Robinson, who is the acting coordinator of SMBLF.

Certainly, the APC is expected to hold its presidential primaries before the expiration of the new deadline of June 9, 2022 given by INEC, it is therefore expected that the party does not make the mistake of selecting a northern aspirant as the party’s flagbearer for the 2023 presidential race for the interest of peace, equity and justice.

A.I

First published – June 04, 2022 @ 22:50 GMT |