2023: Fraudulent Year of Democracy, By Bello Shehu Maude

2023: Fraudulent Year of Democracy, By Bello Shehu Maude

AREWA AGENDA – As the year 2023 approaches, Nigerians go to the polls to decide who takes the country to the Promised Land. It remains undisputable that our election and democracy are too cost which makes the component unit of our politics unbearable for the low-class individuals to participate in competing with the high class in seeking positions and representations in the country.

It is not unarguably to compare the level of hyperinflation in 2019 and the 2023 forthcoming elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission is billed to spend almost N305 billion for the 2023 General elections. The story is not different at the level of Political Parties where aspirants are made to spend huge amount of money in respect of Nomination Forms and the so-called Expression of Interest Forms at the expense of countrymen despite economic hardship bedeviling the country.

Anyone who knows anything about the way politics is played in Nigeria knows the huge cost of campaign for public office. The cost is so high such that it becomes prohibitive to all but either to the richest of men, or those who have rich benefactors, or even to those who have their hands in public funds. Therefore, little wonder that after being elected into a public office, the first port of call is to recoup all the investments devoted to the campaign, replenishing both his own funds, and those of his benefactors with expected interest. As a result of prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria, the magnitude of corruption continues to thrive in our brain.

With respect to the aforesaid, politicians skillfully manipulate figures while in public office or attract the attention of political entrepreneurs who are interested in their candidature.

As a criterion in the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) for example, to pick a Nomination Form for the Presidency, one must part with a princely sum of N100 million with compulsion to sign Letter 18 attached to the form (Letter of Voluntarily Withdrawal); Governorship, N50 million; Senate, N20 million; House of Representatives, N10 million; and State House of Assembly, N2 million respectively. This set aside the pro masses policy which paved way for APC to send PDP out of the corridors of power in 2015.

Nonetheless, the leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), pegged N40 million as the cost for Presidential Nomination Forms; N21 million, Governorship; N3.5 million, Senate; N2.5 million, House of Representatives; and N1.5 million for State House of Assembly.

It is worthy to note that records have it that the ruling party becomes the most expensive political party to join and contest for a public office in the 2023 forthcoming General elections. Most probably, the National Leadership of the ruling party pegged the funds intentionally to disenfranchise the average Nigerian from participating in the contest. As the Chairman noted, “if you don’t have N100m, you have no business with becoming president”.

“And another thing is [sic] our party is the ruling party, if we fix the amount less, the same opposition can sponsor some people to come and participate before you know, court cases will arise everywhere. Let’s see if any devil can pay N100m to sponsor some.” the APC Chairman restated.

The APC criterion to run for the Presidency gave me an anaphoric thought of the promulgation of the 1922 Clifford Constitution Franchise, which introduced four elected seats to the Legislative Council, three for Lagos and one for Calabar. The franchise was restricted to men aged 21 or over who were British subjects or a native of Nigeria who had lived in their municipal area for 12 consecutive months prior to the election. Above all, they must have earned at least £100 in the previous calendar year.

While making a comparative analysis of the hyperinflation of the duo parties’ cost of Nomination Forms, Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, argued that “If inflation is the supposed basis for the increment in the cost of Nomination Forms, the cost of APC forms in 2022 should be N59.8 million, not N100m. For the PDP, the cost of the nomination form for 2022 should be N15.96 million, not N40m. Based on the logic of inflation, the cost of APC and PDP presidential forms in 2019 using the change in inflation from 2015 would have been N36.56 million and N29.26 million, respectively.”

Perhaps, the high cost of forms made some aspirants use their social media followers as smoke screen to donate to the course of their dream aspiration without recourse to accountability and transparency.

It is worrisome again for individuals to take fraudulent acts for granted by pasting account details on the new media outlets seeking for fund for their aspirations without organizing a fund raising committee to give report of what was incurred in respect of the contributions sent to the aspirant. A player in the 2023 scamming team, after posting his Account Details and claimed to have incurred N1,457,794.70 in an online donation with a whooping sum of N81,750.00 in what he referred to as private donation, respectively with anonymity of some donors.

As opposed to the United States of America, where Nigeria improvised its brand of democracy, discipline exists; individuals and groups form parties based on very strong ideological framework and go all out to talk to people and organisations who share their beliefs and passion. In turn, they contribute financially to support the operations of their preferred candidate directly by fund his aspirations to hold public office.

Lo and behold! In Nigeria, individual and political parties are seen as the winning team to be sponsored without proper binding document guiding the party or individuals to deliver the winners of any given election. Few party benefactors and individual’s supporters raised funds and invest to secure the mandate of politicians with the expectation of blind loyalty. This is usually in the name of godfatherism coupled with taking much interest in what is believed as business with the highest shareholder thus, controlling the administration to the detriment of the citizens of the country.

New variant of buying of Expression of Interest and Nomination form came to the fore with distortion of the country’s political discourse. The proxies used to obtain nomination forms is alarming. The deceitful proxies were not only running away from anti-graft agencies’ investigation, but to also manipulate and deceive the general public in their action. They also tend to convince Nigerians that they supported the aspirations of their favorite suitors to vie for the seat out of their faith. For example, the Fulani Herdsmen as popularly called pejoratively, bought the nomination form for the Former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan while a group of Senators secured the nomination form for the incumbent Senate President. In another development, a claimed group of associates paid N100 million to drag the Central Bank Governor into the Presidential Bid.

Not only the Presidential aspiration is deceitful, claims of buying nomination forms to the gubernatorial as well as house of Representative and Senate aspirants also followed. In Kano State, N-Power Beneficiaries, CSO’s were reported to have raised N20 million for a serving Federal Lawmaker to contest the governorship seat in the state. Furthermore, in a ridiculous deceptive move, 17 children of a Kaduna State aspirant contributed N50million to secure Governorship Nomination form for their father in the All Progressive Congress Party.

Despite these manipulations, parties employ dubious tactics in candidates selection and nomination process. Hence, the so called conventions, primaries and congresses are mere pretexts to celebrate the appointment of the anointed candidate. Often, because of the relationship between incumbents, party cabals and candidate selection/ nomination; financial donors, stakeholders (godfathers) of the parties take over and hijack the democratic procedures of selecting the right candidate.

For the interest of the general public and benefactors of the 2023 General Elections, I am delightfully sharing the limitation cost of election expenses as enshrined in our laws. Section 81 (1) of the Electoral Act of 2022 asserts that: “Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsection (2) – (7).” Someone running for the Presidency can spend a maximum of N5 billion; Governorship, N1 billion; Senatorial and House of Representatives seats, N100 million and N70million respectively. As in the case of House of Assembly election, expenses shall not exceed N30 million

In addition, the same Section 88 (8) posits that, “No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N500 million.” Notation of this provision attracts a fine of 1% of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure or imprisonment for a term not more than 12 months or both. Any individual who contravenes the aforementioned Section knowingly, is liable to a fine of N500, 000 or 9 months imprisonment or both.

Also, Section 90 of the Electoral Act, condemns the anonymity of monetary contributions, gifts or properties from any source and the section equally asserts that: “No party can accept or keep monetary contributions of more than N50 million unless it can identify the source of the money and must keep records of all donations over N1 million.”

INEC and EFCC should undertake an examination and audit of the accounts of the political parties and look after the amount of contributions which individuals or cooperate agencies made to the individual candidate and political parties in the course of fund raising. Individuals and all political parties should have the records of all contributions incurred from the beginning of their campaign for the purpose of accountability and transparency.

With just few months to go to the polls, civil society groups need to impress on INEC the urgency of putting in place measures to track campaign expenditure in all political parties, at all levels, and enforcing the spending limits contained in Sections 88 and 90 of the 2022 Electoral Act. Limits should also be placed on how much any person can donate to a candidate, and information on donors to political parties should be in the public domain.

It is imperative also to educate Nigerians on the legal restrictions on campaign finance; damaging effects of political corruption as well as the need to demand accountability and transparency from their political parties and candidates. Political parties should be true to their Code of Conduct as contained in the sections on each party’s Political Finance.
Above, with coupled of attitudinal change will reduce the corruptive influence of money which is currently damaging Nigeria’s politics and good governance.

In sum, it will not matter whether an election is free and fair or not. He who pays the piper, calls the tune. If only those who are rich or have rich benefactors can run for offices, the electorates are merely in nightmare of development and deprived of new faces and fresh ideas to drive the country’s ark into the promised land.

 

Bello Shehu Maude is a Developmental Journalist, Public Policy Analyst, Advocate of Good Governance and Youth Inclusiveness in Politics. [email protected]

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives

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