Nigeria-2023: Money politics and theft of democracy, by Prof. MK Othman
Deep Thoughts with Othman
A hopeless future is the greatest tragedy of life. Hope develops aspiration and makes life going with a dream of a brighter future. In all the previous presidential elections of the 4th republic from 1999 to 2019, Nigerians went to the polls with hope for a prosperous future. In the 1999 election, Nigerians were too tired of the socio-economic and diplomatic upheavals brought by the misgovernance of the military era. The internal and external forces made the military junta haphazardly and hurriedly organize the 1999 election and handed power on 29th May 1999 instead of the historic day of 1st October 1999.
The pressure was so assertive that the military leadership under General Abdusalam Abubakar might not have survived it beyond May 1999. In a frantic move to find a nationally acceptable leader, the nation fished out General Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) who was in Yola prison and handed the presidency to him. Even OBJ was taken aback as he was reported saying “how many presidents do you want to make out of me?” but being a patriotic nationalist who gallantly fought a civil war to keep Nigeria one in the 1970s, accepted the offer of the presidency, albeit reluctantly. Then, the pressure on the junta resulted from the grave and consequential annulment of June 12th the presidential election presumed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory.
From 1999 to 2015, PDP ruled the country for 16 years. In the initial years, there was a new dawn in Nigeria as the country was steadily making progress in all facets of development until the politicians realize the juicy side of power and the weakness of the electorates. The hurriedness of power transition to civilians created major electorates’ weakness as there was no comprehensive electorates education. Then and even now, Nigerians were not educative about the nation’s constitution, their power of demanding accountability, or recalling elected politicians. Politicians work tirelessly to occupy political offices through appointments or elections because of unhindered access to financial resources, weak accountability, unlimited privileges, and propensity to use and abuse public funds. This is compounded by the near-impossible procedure to amend Nigeria’s constitution, which will address the anomalies and provide watertight transparency on the use of public funds. Thus, politicians work assiduously to acquire political offices and remain in power by hook or crook. This is more for what the power provides than the opportunity to serve the motherland.
With the astronomical increase in population, use and misuse of political power, and aggrandizement of public funds by some politicians, the livelihoods of people deteriorated. Nigerians were charged and democratically snatched the power from PDP and handed it over to APC in 2015.
Nigerian politicians being what they are, with acute determination to remain in power, some changed their membership from PDP to APC. The game of holding on to power, by all means, continued unabated, and so also, did the deterioration of people’s livelihoods. Consequently, Nigeria became a highly indebted nation, life expectancy became low, 55.44 years, among the lowest in Africa, poverty spread like wildfire and the nation became the poverty headquarters of the world.
Now, another election is on the corner, without a clear strategy for arresting the poverty trend. The politicians are oblivion of the taunting developmental challenges such as economic meltdown, overpowering insecurity, destruction of the educational system, dysfunctional infrastructure, and massive devaluation of local currency. They have mastered the game of dubious power graft and they have blocked the new entrants like technocrats, youths, academia, labour leaders, etc as the game has been turned into money politics. The price for mere aspiration to contest an election became prohibitive. A staggering sum of N100 million is required to be a presidential aspirant under the APC. Why should someone pay this large sum of money to contest for the job of presidency, which legitimately earns the person less than N60 million annually?
Another innovation is the introduction of a variant called “delegates” in the political power-graft equation during the primary election of the aspirants at the party level of PDP and APC, the two major parties in Nigeria.
As said in this column, theoretically, Nigeria operates a multi-party system but in reality, we operate a 2-party system, – PDP and APC. The difference between APC and PDP is the difference between PDP and APC, and it is the difference between six and half of a dozen. So, the only difference is their party names. The way things were designed and made to be, in the next foreseeable future, Aso Rock occupants can only come from either PDP or APC. The other political parties are relatively unknown, unnoticed, and unsung in the political landscape. They are indeed political featherweights compared to the two parties.
Back to the party delegates, APC had a total of 2,322 ad hoc delegates at 3 delegates per local government area but 2,203 voted and elected the party’s presidential candidate. Similarly, PDP had 774 ad hoc delegates at one delegate per LGA but 752 voted. This means that 2,955 delegates produced the two candidates, one of whom will be the president of Nigeria, come May 29th, 2023. It was an open secret that huge financial resources in billions of naira were expended by the aspirants that brought the two flag bearers. Money was the main and only issue of consideration while integrity, competency, experience, exposure, skill, and other important considerations were relegated to the background. Is it not theft of democracy? Democracy is the government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Here, we redefined democracy as the government of the people, for the political parties, and elected by the delegates. The way things are, Nigerians have a very limited choice of one among the two candidates to be their president in 2023. How can the nation’s mounting and pressing challenges of insecurity and socio-economy be addressed? How can Nigeria address its heavy internal and external debts, recover the economy, and be placed on steady growth and ease the suffering of people? The lack of answers to these questions is making Nigerians lose hope as the 2023 election approaches.
However, the two major contenders for the 2023 presidential elections; Tinubu and Atiku, are both wealthy, have nursed long-term ambitions to be president and have wealth of experience with international connections and influence, and are capable of taking the country out of the woods. Both men are detribalised but were previously accused of corruption and they are above 70 years of age. Will they restore hopes to Nigerians? Time will tell.
Last note, the generality of Nigerians should be keenly interested in how Nigeria is being governed, and be knowledgeable of the constitution, roles, and responsibilities of the electorates so that they can checkmate the excesses of the politicians. Better still, academia, technocrats, activists, and other patriotic Nigerians should venture into partisan politics to save the country from total collapse. May God prevent it.