As the 2023 general election year is fast approaching, the better for the anti-corruption agencies to start early preparations against the excesses of moneybags that deny average Nigerians with legitimate finance to access elective offices for the good of all.
The anti-corruption agencies should be fully prepared to reach out to the 774 local governments in the country to monitor campaigns and elections. Trained Ad-hoc staff through the Election Monitoring Teams can be of tremendous assistance for the success of the operation for the good of all.
No doubt, politics cannot be played without finance. But a situation where money is placed above every other factor including the interest of the electorate is not democracy but sustenance of corruption and theft. It is a move towards plutocracy and dictatorship, where government is in the hands of the corrupt rich class of people in a society bereft of progressive ideas.
This is not the beginning of that trend of politics. We have been on this route of monetization of politics for a long time since the return of democracy in the 2nd Republic in 1979. Instead of politics of ideas, we have been playing politics of money and hero worshipping. This, among other characteristics, has bedeviled our polity and led us to where we are today: corruption, violence, abject poverty, insecurity and political instability spiced with underdevelopment.
It is therefore not surprising hearing the kind of figures mentioned for nomination forms by the two major political parties for aspirants seeking to contest elective offices in the forthcoming general elections.
For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that was hurriedly cobbled in 2014 to change the narrative in governance, the nomination form for presidential aspiration goes for N100million while for the state governor is N50million which is the highest ever in the political history of Nigeria and from a change agents that claims to abhor corruption.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has learnt a bitter lesson from the 2015 general election, it fixed N40million for its presidential nomination form and N21million for the governorship aspiration.
This idea of monetization of politics in the country has been negatively affecting the growth of our polity. The result is that the country has not enjoyed the main ingredients of democracy which include free and fair elections, freedom of association, and right to active participation by citizens by not only voting, but having access to contest for the highest offices in the land, protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law.
It has resulted in a situation where only the corrupt rich can contest or sponsor their hangers-on to contest elective offices. Those who have ideas and the intellectuality and are capable of delivering positive results but lack the financial clout will not be qualified by party standard to contest any election using its platform. In the present circumstances, how many Nigerians with legitimate means of livelihood can afford to purchase APC’s nomination forms without thinking otherwise?
If those who are capable but have no means and are smartly excluded, what will happen is that the forms will be available to only those who are likely to have acquired their resources through illegitimate means. And those who claim to be sponsored for the elective offices will have to pay back their sponsors. To do that, they will be tempted to steal public resources if elected as most federal government sponsored constituency projects and zonal intervention palliatives are diverted or monetized to the benefit of the thieving lawmakers and their collaborating contractors.
This is why politics in the country is regarded as a lucrative commercial venture where the investors recoup their investments while in power. It is a game of winner takes all. To satisfy this end, all manner of tactics including blackmail, mischief, bribery and thuggery are employed. It has been turned a dirty game where the end justifies the means.
It is a game where political actors are made to believe that resources meant for the good of the people belong to them, their families and their allies which they can appropriate the way they like. Politics here is a game where the actors are not held to account for their stewardship by government and the electorate. Why would they be held accountable when they believe they bought rather than they won their seats where they are and those to hold them accountable, are deceived with periodic crocodile gifts as disbursed by the federal government but rebranded for political deceit?
It has entrenched and deepened the level of corruption in the country. According to Transparency International (TI) Report of 2021, Nigeria ranked 154th out of 180 countries listed in the corruption index. Denmark was the least corrupt while South Sudan was the worst.
Besides these vices, monetization of politics does not allow political actors to be loyal to the people or the constitution which they swore by their Holy Books to uphold during tenure. Instead, they are ‘worshipped’ by their comrades in greed and malfeasance and those from the breadlines that have lost hope in anything better life other than through hypocrisy, sycophancy and blackmail.
Their loyalty is to themselves and their sponsors, who are sometimes called godfathers. After all, the people did not assist them to raise finance for nomination forms, bribe delegates, rent a crowd, sponsor campaigns, hire thugs and other abnormalities but forgetting the fact that they were not even invited in the first instance by anyone to come forward to contest an election but offered themselves with fictitious claims of honesty to serve.
This trend of politics has over the years increased the level of poverty in the country. Unlike in the 70s when Nigeria was one of the richest countries in the world, today, we are one of the poorest and touted as the poverty capital of the world.
According to the National Bureau for Statistics, 83million Nigerians were living in abject poverty by 2020. This figure was expected to have risen to 90million by 2021. While the exchange rate of the official currency, Naira to the United States Dollar was 70 kobo to a dollar in the 70s. It is now about N500 to a dollar. While the average salary of a University Graduate could fetch him a brand new car and decent accommodation in a two-bedroom apartment in cities in the 70s, today’s salary of an average graduate cannot fetch him a one-bedroom apartment accommodation anywhere in the cities, not to talk of owning a car or good feeding. Like the situation in the 70s, crude oil export still remains our major source of foreign exchange earnings. There is no serious effort at diversification of the economy but only diversification of stealing of public funds and corruption.
Continuing with this trend means our unemployment rate will continue to rise. As at 2021, the nation’s unemployment rate, according to Augusto & Co, a rating agency was 35 percent. In a country where there is no respect for statistics, this figure may not represent the actual situation. Suffice it to say that while an average secondary school leaver could easily secure a good job in the early 70s, an average university graduate of today does not have any real prospects of getting a job after his National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) programme other than thuggery, cyber crime, banditry, kidnapping for ransom or turned to praise singing of his tormentors in power for possible recognition and consideration for succor.
The high level of poverty and unemployment has escalated the rate of insecurity in the country over the years. While the major crime in the 70s was armed robbery, we are today surrounded by terrorists, bandits, ritualists and kidnappers. Kidnappers are everywhere. Bandits are making inroads into the hitherto sleepy and peaceful localities. They are in the Northern and Southern parts of the country. Nowhere is safe in Nigeria today including the remotest parts of the country where poverty and absence of the basic necessities of life co-exist.
Monetization of politics is the bane of good governance in the country. Instead of good governance as promised by the Change Agents in 2015, we are forced to celebrate non-achievements the likes of building of unsolicited Town Halls to impoverished communities lacking all the basics of good living, two-kilometre roads, repainting and fencing of public schools for deceit, construction of culverts, payment of examination fees to few fortunate students and few scattered mal-functional boreholes with overhead tanks for deceit of performance. Our political actors use those non-achievements as achievements to siphon public resources meant for real developments.
Is it any wonder that out of the 44 Bills recently passed by the 9th National Assembly and transmitted to the State Assemblies, only one dealt with Socio-Economic Rights in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended). That provision is on free and compulsory basic education. The other aspect on education like the provision of free education up to university level was not even discussed. Other Socio-Economic Rights including provision of full employment and housing for the people were ignored.
From their antecedents, the present crop of politicians on the corridors of power, seems not to care about the socio-economic development of the country but on how to perpetuate themselves in power for the juicy part of it not minding the aftermath of their nonchalant attitudes to the welfare of the suffering and marginalized downtrodden, forgetting a maxim that says: “If the poor cannot sleep because they are hungry, the rich can also not sleep because the poor are awake”. That will come to play in 2023 definitely!
Our politicians are in the race of who sends his children to the best schools in Europe and the Americas. They do their medical vacations abroad and, they patronize more of foreign goods including edibles at the expense of local ones. If they, who are the direct beneficiaries of the system, ignore patriotism, what should then be expected from the frustrated deprived and impoverished members of the public in the slums and ghettos? It is the end result we are witnessing through kidnappings, banditry and insurgency.
In civilized democracies, politics is played essentially on the basis of ideological beliefs. It is therefore rare to hear of cross carpeting by political actors. But because over here we are playing politics to acquire wealth not to provide service and politics of ideas, cross carpeting of politicians has become an admired fashion. They are in PDP today, and by noon the following day for not achieving their diabolical interest, they hurriedly defect to Social Democratic Party (SDP) or any of the other parties to realize their selfish interest. That’s pure political prostitution without principle. No politician who believes in the ideology of his or her party will engage in any party defection as it is done shamelessly in our clime and encouraged.
It is the same system of monetization of politics that has kept on discouraging the evolution and growth of political parties in the country.
Until the nation of Nigeria embraces politics of ideas instead of money politics, we will not only worsen the state of poverty, insecurity, political instability and underdevelopment in our dear country but we shall also continue to neglect the primary purpose of government as enshrined in Section 14(b) of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which is the security and welfare of the people.
The albatross of our development is tolerance we have to our thieving incapacitated so called leaders that can hardly be differentiated with wolves in human skin. We either gather the courage to chase some of the present masquerades out of political circulation in 2023 through the ballot box, or we should beat the drums of a revolution to salvage our country from our pretending undertakers. My Take!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues