Nige­rian can­di­dates fork out mil­lions to contest

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

LA­GOS — Nige­ria’s main po­lit­i­cal par­ties are charg­ing eye-wa­ter­ing fees from elec­tion hope­fuls, in a move con­demned as un­demo­cratic and a breed­ing ground for high-level crony­ism and cor­rup­tion.

Sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan pooled their re­sources to stump up the 22 mil­lion naira (m1.4 mil­lion) to buy his nom­i­na­tion form from the rul­ing Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP).

The main op­po­si­tion All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) is ask­ing for 27.5 mil­lion naira, forc­ing one prospec­tive can­di­date, for­mer mil­i­tary ruler muham­madu Buhari, to take out a bank loan.

For gov­er­nor­ship posts, the PDP is ask­ing for 11 mil­lion naira while the APC wants 10 mil­lion naira — all be­fore any­one is even cho­sen to run at the elec­tions next year.

Can­di­dates for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions are also hav­ing to pay huge sums of cash, far out­strip­ping the fees charged else­where in West Africa.

Po­lit­i­cal and le­gal an­a­lysts say the ex­or­bi­tant rates in Nige­ria are il­le­gal, dis­cour­age popular par­tic­i­pa­tion in the elec­toral process and con­sol­i­date power among the wealthy elite.

“The in­cred­i­ble amount of money charged by po­lit­i­cal par­ties for nom­i­na­tion forms only re­flects the dan­ger­ous con­nec­tion be­tween pol­i­tics and big business and the dis­con­nect it fosters on the silent majority,” said Eneru­vie Enakoko, for­merly of the Tran­si­tion mon­i­tor­ing Group of non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­mot­ing demo­cratic val­ues.

High fees for nom­i­na­tion force as­pir­ing can­di­dates with­out huge fi­nan­cial means to raise money from su­per-rich back­ers, who will then ex­pect pay-back if they are voted in, he added.

“If the can­di­date even­tu­ally gets the nom­i­na­tion and wins the elec­tion, he feels in­debted and ob­li­gated to that tiny per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion and his loy­alty will be to those peo­ple and not to the rest of the pop­u­lace or the silent majority who have no voice,” he told AFP.

“It is a dan­ger­ous and vi­cious cy­cle be­cause the can­di­date after get­ting elected can­not af­ford to for­get where he got the money to bankroll his elec­tion.”

Un­der the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor Ibrahim Ba­bangida (1985-1993), two po­lit­i­cal par­ties were founded and funded by gov­ern­ment, the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion and So­cial Demo­cratic Party.

But since Nige­ria re­turned to civil­ian rule in 1999, the gov­ern­ment has stopped di­rect fund­ing of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, forc­ing them to look for other ways to raise money.

While the nexus of politi­cians, wealthy in­di­vid­u­als and big business is not unique to Nige­ria, the phe­nom­e­non makes it less likely that the coun­try’s cat­a­logue of prob­lems are tack­led.

Nige­ria may be Africa’s big­gest econ­omy and lead­ing oil pro­ducer but it ranks low on the global scale for so­cial de­vel­op­ment in­di­ca­tors such as ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and health­care.

Some 61.2 per­cent of Nige­ri­ans were liv­ing on $1 a day or less in 2009-10, ac­cord­ing to the last avail­able gov­ern­ment fig­ures on liv­ing stan­dards, re­leased in 2012.

Nige­ria is also blighted by en­demic graft, par­tic­u­larly in the huge pub­lic sec­tor, and was ranked 144th out of 177 coun­tries in Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions In­dex 2013.

For Dapo Thomas, of La­gos State Univer­sity, the ex­or­bi­tant fees skew the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, fur­ther­ing a cul­ture of pa­tron­age and keep­ing out poorer, but per­haps more qual­i­fied, ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“It al­lows the money­bags and god­fa­thers to dom­i­nate the po­lit­i­cal scene,” he said. If somebody of Buhari’s cal­i­bre could not af­ford 27.5 mil­lion naira with­out tak­ing a loan from the bank, who else can af­ford it?”

La­gos lawyer Femi Falana said charg­ing for nom­i­na­tion by both Nige­ria’s In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (Inec), which over­sees elec­tions, and po­lit­i­cal par­ties was against the law.

Debo Adeni­ran, of the Coali­tion Against Cor­rupt Lead­ers pres­sure group, de­scribed charg­ing as “un­whole­some” and “un­demo­cratic” but Inec main­tained that it was pow­er­less to act.

The elec­toral body can­not stop par­ties from col­lect­ing elec­tion fees, said INEC spokesper­son Kay­ode Idowu, but ex­pressed con­cern about the trend.

“On no ac­count should el­i­gi­ble Nige­ri­ans be de­nied the rights to par­tic­i­pate in the elec­toral process. Not even money,” he said.

The elec­toral body will con­tinue to mon­i­tor the fi­nances of the par­ties while it had also set lim­its on cam­paign spend­ing, he added.

A pres­i­den­tial can­di­date can­not spend above one bil­lion naira, a gov­er­nor­ship hope­ful 200 mil­lion naira, a politi­cian run­ning for the se­nate 40 mil­lion and 10 mil­lion for the lower House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Par­ties are also not al­lowed to seek ex­ter­nal fund­ing to safe­guard “the sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the na­tion”, said Idowu.

“All th­ese mea­sures are in place to en­sure popular par­tic­i­pa­tion as well as pre­serve the in­tegrity of the elec­toral sys­tem,” he added.

— AFP

A file pho­to­shows a poster pro­mot­ing Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan's 2015 re-elec­tion in 2015 in Abuja.

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