Lee Kuan Yew said in his book ‘From Third World to First’ that “A precondition for an honest Government is that candidates must not need large sums of money to get elected, or it must trigger off the cycle of corruption”.
In Nigeria today, Elections have been so monetized that it’s beginning to lose its integrity. Highly Monetized Elections will always ursher in highly corrupt Leaders.
Money politics is one single element that undermine the legitimacy of Electoral process and a nation’s democracy.
What do I mean by money politics?
It is when some candidates vying for higher positions are offering bribes and gifts to delegates in exchange for votes. This was what led to the downfall of many Communist nations, even China and Vietnam. Yet this is almost a norm in Nigeria, that is why we’re referred to as a failed State.
Although a growing democracy, the ninth national Assembly is doing much to Improve our Electoral laws.
However, The purpose of putting my pen on paper is to raise alarm over the implication of the inclusion of this new provisions.
I’m referring to the proposed new section 87 and Amendment to Section 91 of the Electoral Act Repeal and Re-enactment Bill, 2020.
Nomination of Candidates
This section seeks to guarantee Inclusiveness, enhance internal democracy and reduce the arbitrary fees imposed by parties in candidates to open up space for political Participation.
“New provisions prohibit political parties from imposing arbitrary fees on political aspirants and prescribes limits for each elective
office as follows:
•N150,000 for a Ward
Councillorship aspirant in the FCT;
•N250,000 for an Area Council
Chairmanship aspirant in the FCT;
•N500,000 for a House of Assembly aspirant;
•N1,000,000 for a House of Representatives aspirant;
•N2,000,000 for a Senatorial aspirant;
•N5,000,000 for a Governorship aspirant; and
•N10, 000,000 for a Presidential
Now this is a very interesting provision. As the aim is to limit the arbitrary fees on political aspirants. However, as novel and pleasant as this new provision is, I still consider it to be averse to Young Nigerians nursing political ambitions, relying on the ‘Not to Young to Rule’ support provisions. It is my singular opinion that In a state with such low GDP as Nigeria, this law should be further adjusted and the amount reduced.
Else, the system will encourage godfatherism and we’d be right back from where we left. A state that has its Youths as about 60% of it’s populace should do that not just for the youths, but for it’s future.
The second and most interesting is
Limitation on Election Expenses
This proposes the maximum limit on
election expenses that can be incurred
by candidates as follows:
(Five Billion Naira);
Governorship election –
•N1,000,000,000 (One Billion Naira);
Senatorial seat at an election to National
Hundred Million Naira);
Federal House of Reps- •N70,000,000
(Seventy Million Naira);
State Assembly Election •N30,000,000
(Thirty Million Naira);
Chairmanship election to an Area Council •N30,000,000 (Thirty Million Naira);
Councillorship election to an Area Council
•N5,000,000 (Five Million Naira).
The implication of these figures have far reaching consequences on our Elections and democracy at Large. This is because the new law increases the amounts for each office stated above astronomically by nearly 300% to the previous amount before now. This is no doubt money politics. An aggravated One to so mention.
The bane of Nigeria’s democracy has been it’s Elections. Having spent a lot to get elected, winners must recover their cost and also accumulate funds for the next elections. The system is self perpetuating.
For instance, a National Assembly Candidate will spend an average of N80m. This is a stupendous amount for a citizen to spend only to be given the opportunity to serve his own people.
Sadly, Once elected in such a system, they have to recoup and prepare for the next round by using their influence with government ministers and officials to get contract awarded, or to convert land use from agricultural to industrial or urban development. This won’t get us going forward as a State. Infact, it undermine the very meaning of Public Service, which is why they were even elected in the first place
A former Thailand minister describes it as “Commercial Democracy, The Purchased mandate”.
Furthermore, In the last Elections, 2019, INEC reveals that about N182,511,012,224 (N182.5bn) was spent on election by the Federal Government alone. That is #2,249 ($6.24) on each voter.
If so much on Elections by Government, and the new law wants to even increase amounts to be spent, then we’d have high cash flow in Election years. And this could lead to inflation in our economy. And continuous inflation will always lead to Recession since there’s more liquid flow of money than there is Quality goods produced and service rendered. This may mean we will face Recession at least once in four years, just because of Election. This sad narrative must be abated.
The laws also makes it clear that It prohibits any individual or entity from donating more than N10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira) in the proposed Section 91(9).
This is an increase from extant provisions which puts a limit of N1,000,000 (One Million Naira).
This mind blowing figures in an underdeveloped state like Nigeria staggers my sanity and I believe that of any principled conscience.
This kind of laws will only produce and multiply ATM politicians. This law may breach the precondition for an honest Government. And Our troubles with corruption may have just begun.
How many educated, men of integrity with competence can afford this in this repressive economy or can think to spare that to serve his nation? Perhaps, only a politician with ulterior motive will spare so much, because of his interest, which often times are not the interest of the people he ought to serve in the first place.
Making politicians and candidates spend so much in Elections is both unfair to them and the people they want to govern. If they afford it, it could make them monsters.
They wouldn’t see public service as a position to serve anymore, but merely as a profit business, an investment opportunity. Where they put in money, and within four years, receive ROI just like Elon Musk or Bezos would. That’s why we have so many Leaders and yet so little leadership.
We have a failed leadership in Nigeria, and we must admit it. And with many opportunist around the corridor of power, we’d be sailing on dangerous waters.
Although the Lawmakers may think it’s a solution to increase political Participation and monitor liquid flow during Elections, I do not think it’s the most viable.
I’ll take my points further by profering better options. Having researched many world leaders and their Successes, Lee Kuan Yew’s exploit in Singapore can be emulated.
Singapore avoided the use of money politics to win Elections. Instead they enacted laws making it compulsory for all adults to vote.
They also made laws to prevent all candidate from gifting voters both at primary Elections and general Elections. They got people to vote for them by building, hospitals, schools, provision of jobs, making laws that benefit people in all facets and making most of their citizens own their houses.
When this is done, parties will not need to replenish their coffers with public funds after they win Elections. Opposition parties will not need money to defeat ruling parties, they will on merit, if the ruling party is incompetent. New Parties with societal solutions will have a chance, unlike what we presently have in Nigeria. And these will put more pressure on the ruling party to perform or give in to more concessions of the public by Voting in other parties.
Singapore has shown that a system of No money Elections can help to preserve an honest Government. Nigeria can do similar too. Nigeria will only be clean from these commercial politics that litters the fabric of our democracy if honest and able men are willing to contest Elections and assume office. In the words of Lee Kuan Yew “Ostentatious egalitarianism is good business.”
Finally, Each of These outrageous amounts should be reduced by 600% and another Commission should be established to monitor politicians and political parties who beat the laws and sanction them as well, since INEC is obviously over stretched with it’s enormous duties and unending court cases.
I’m hopeful that if the law Makers consider this, before enacting the law, we’ll be on safe waters.
Final Year Student
Faculty of Law
12th January, 2020