Nigeria – 2023: Money politics and its catastrophic consequences

By Prof. M.K Othman

2023 is an election year and a special year for the country, and the whole of Africa. Nigerians will have another democratic opportunity to elect leaders who will govern the nation at the states and federal levels for another period of four years.

Democratically, Nigeria has spent two decades plus operating the presidential system of government in which people are ideally free to elect their leaders under a free, fair, and equitable environment. The system provides checks and balances with electorates having the last saying; elect, reelect, reject, or even recall the elected officers when they fail to meet people’s expectations.

The system was first tested in the second republic when the politicians enjoyed the sweetness of the American type of democracy. The then-president and his men had executive power and an unlimited manipulative tendency to do as they like without accountability as the electorates were ignorant of their power.

The politicians were so powerful and boastful. I remember the boast of a top-ranking politician when Chief MKO Abiola failed to secure the ticket of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to contest the presidential election and was leaving the party. He boasted, “Chief Abiola is a millionaire, but I can pick any person on the street and make him a millionaire by awarding him a contract to make millions of Naira profit”. Despite this isolated incident, the second republic was more refined as some conscientious and trustworthy politicians could not betray the trust of their offices. Today, the level of aggrandizement skyrocketed to high heaven.

In 1983, the military junta struck to “save” the nation and spent 16 solid years in power working with the same set of politicians who were earlier accused of destroying the nation. The military leaders became retired and joined the politicians in power grasp. Since 1999, the joint civilians, and retired military personnel have fully occupied the political landscape and continued to recycle themselves into different elective and appointed positions. While this has been going on, the nation and the citizenry loom into the abyss of anarchy due to insecurity, economic crisis, infrastructural dysfunction, and the threat of disintegration.

The nation achieved the infamous position of the world headquarters of poverty in 2019. The presidential system of government has been so bastardized making people regret having this so-called democracy. This is because two keywords; accountability and performance are aliens to our type of democracy. If performance is a yardstick for electing or reelecting the politicians in Nigeria, Nigerians would have recalled over 80% of the leaders occupying the different elective positions today.

The politicians know they have failed Nigerians and they are not creating a good future for our unborn children, and yet, they want to remain in power, hook, or crook. Their performances as leaders have been disappointedly poor but they must maintain the status quo ante. They are ideologically bankrupt without personal principles, which makes them change political parties at will.

Their only and sole concern is how to get power and have unlimited access to public treasury and influence. It is their only means of survival with security assurance. How will they survive in 2023 and beyond? Therefore, the game of Nigeria-2023 started immediately after the 2019 election. They are so determined to manipulate the 2023 election in their favour before the votes are cast and a simple way is upscale “money politics” to exclude others from contesting. With unrestricted access to public funds, politicians can perfectly play “money politics” at any level.

That is why the two major parties reviewed the costs of their nomination forms to prohibitable levels. A presidential aspirant vying to contest under the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) must pay a whooping sum of N100 million and already over 20 Aspirants have fully purchased the forms. As of Thursday, 5th May 2022, the sum of N19,940,000,000, approximately N20 billion was generated for the APC from the sales of forms to the intending contestants. Among the contestants are serving governors, ex-governors, ministers, etc who have been or are still in government.

One wonders about the type of magic wand they possess to address the Nigerian problems in 2023.
As stated by Guardian Newspaper on 28th April 2023 “Given the dark socio-economic background of Nigeria which, according to the data from the World Poverty Clock as of March 2022, has over 70 million people currently living in extreme poverty, representing 33 per cent of the country’s population, the costs of nomination forms are a direct affront and insult on the sensibilities of the long-suffering Nigerians”.

The cost of the nomination form is one among a series of other costs, the candidate must incur. Campaign expenses that cover transportation, refund to contestants to withdraw their candidature, transportation and accommodation of delegates and several others, which the candidates are expected to bear. This means that before the election, the politicians must heavily invest huge sums of money to reap bountifully, by way of fat pay packages, spurious allowances and inflated contracts.

With all these firmly in place can that intelligent, patriotic but poor citizen ever aspire to the pedestal of political power in Nigeria?

In the past elections, there were serious allegations that money was illegally used to buy votes and permanent voters’ cards. State administrative resources were used by incumbent officials to facilitate party activities. This mentality of winning at all costs is injurious to the health of the Nigerian economy. Obviously in Nigeria, Money Politics and Vote Buying have taken the centre stage in our political activities. What are the disastrous consequences of money politics?

First, money politics has replaced good party manifestos and the integrity of candidates used during political campaigns. The credibility of the candidates is no longer sufficient to guarantee electoral success. Second, those who sold their votes cannot demand accountability from the elected leaders nor can they demand service. Third, money politics portends dangers to the democratic process of electing officers and in turn, prevents good Governance. Fourth, youth, vulnerable and other patriotic Nigerians are completely excluded from contesting elective posts and those with unrestricted access to public funds will continue to occupy these posts unhindered. I hope the politicians will deeply reflect to avoid the looming tragedy related to Money politics, may God save Nigeria.

Othman, a professor of soil and water engineering NAERLS, writes from ABU Zaria.


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