Election as Battle of Billionaires

The two major political parties in Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have just released guidelines for the purchase of their nomination forms. PDP demands N22million from each presidential aspirant; APC wants N27.5million. This says nothing about the actual electioneering expenses: chartering aircraft to convey supporters to important towns and cities across the country, food and drinks for thousands of supporters almost on a daily basis, printing of posters and billboards of every description to be mounted all over the country, mass media advertisements, bribe money for important personalities to be “consulted”, and bribe money for party delegates.

To emerge as a party’s candidate in Nigeria, one must therefore be a multi-billionaire with enough cash to spare. Only those who plunder or plundered the public treasury – the main source of illicit wealth in the country – would have such money to waste. By their actions, therefore, the political parties encourage only corrupt people to step forward for their nomination forms. The umpire, INEC, equally demands money from politicians.

When people say that corruption has been institutionalised in Nigeria, this is what they mean: the system makes it impossible for a decent person to emerge as a leader. Only the filthy rich but morally corrupt people get a chance.  And once he enters office, his first duty is to recoup all his “investments” through overinflated contracts or outright theft.

The only course open to the poor, the unemployed and the persecuted Nigerians is to unite. The lawyers among them could sue both the parties and INEC to demand their fundamental right to vote and be voted for. With political consciousness, the poor and the impoverished could join hands and form a party of their own and select decent people to be their candidates.

But for the late Gani Fawehinmi, only a few parties funded by moneybags would have been registered in 1998 and thereafter. Such pressure should be stepped up now in all the parties that demand millions for nomination forms. It would also be necessary, during the campaigns, to ask the billionaire-candidates how they sourced the billions they would be throwing away, or how they hoped to recover their money if they got into office. The cycle of looting in government will continue until the masses rise against their oppressors.

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