One of my Facebook friends took me to task on Thursday by asking me to explain how a presidential aspirant would recoup the N27.5m he paid for his nomination form. Since the legitimate income of a Nigerian president is less than N5m per year, he reminded me, the aspirant, if he won, would earn less than N20m in four years.
In defence of this aspirant whom I considered honest and incorruptible, I gave my friend an answer I considered appropriate in a democracy: After the primaries, each of 40million members of the aspirant’s party would contribute N100 for the campaigns; N4billion would be realised. By this answer, I overcame the temptation, but it got me thinking.
It is clear that government in Nigeria is one huge fraud – public funds sustain almost everyone. Those who claim to be party leaders still rely on public funds for building their parties. They are not touched because laws are made for the poor and the impoverished alone. Though they are the biggest criminals, the rich never go to jail.
Ostensibly, there is a law on campaign funding. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) even prescribes the ceiling for campaign spending. But the same INEC has kept quiet as the PDP and the APC extract N22m and N27.5m from each of their presidential aspirants. The EFCC has suddenly gone blind and dumb. The ICPC has looked away.
Even before they purchased nomination forms, the presidential aspirants had been wasting enormous amounts during “consultations” with stakeholders. That is to say that, for anyone to run for president, he must have set aside a minimum of N5billion.
The answer I gave my friend is a lie, of course. The money raised by parties is money diverted from the public treasury or received from oil block owners and government contractors. Opposition parties do not survive in Nigeria because incumbent officeholders always try hard to block the sources of their funding while helping themselves to the public treasury. No one wins a contract or gets an oil block unless he belongs to the ruling party.
So, why do we lie to ourselves? Why do we perform this four-year ritual only to entrench kleptocracy and ruin our country? What we have is clearly not a democracy; it’s a kleptocracy – government by stealing. To worsen matters, the thieves in government get National Honours awards, do contracts through their fronts, are awarded oil blocks, and contest elections. We have just watched the House of Representatives pass a bill awarding life pensions to their leaders; that is different from the gratuities each legislator carts home every four years; that is different from the N15-40m each takes every month for shouting “nay” or “aye” once a fortnight and for doing nothing for three-quarters of the legislative period.
As an aside, I hereby commend President Jonathan for coming clean on his aspiration in 2015. I also congratulate members of his declaration committee on their appointments: Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed, Ken Nnamani, Anyim Pius Anyim, Professor Rufa’I Ahmed Alkali, Julius Imagwe, Dr Barka Sani, Liyel Imoke, Dr Theodore Orji, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Dr Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, Ibrahim Shema, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Hosea Agbola, Ahmed Makarfi, Bitrus Kaze, Salmas Badru, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Abduljelil Adesiyan, Zainab Maina, Bala Mohammed, Prince Uche Secondus, Emmanuel Egbo, Dr Kema Chikwe, Ibrahim Kazaure, Stella Umo, Walid Jibrin, Ibrahim Bunu. Rev. Jolly Nyame, Aneta Okon, Peter Obi, Remi Adiukwu, Gen. AB Mamman, Barrister Halima Alfa, Dr Nimota Nihinlola Akanbi, Micah Jiba and Sam Ikon.
No less important are members of the president’s fundraising committee: Professor Jerry Gana, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Godswill Akpabio, Sule Lamido, Gabriel Suswan, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Mike Onolememen, Jumoke Akinjide, Kashim Bukar, Idris Umar, Osita Chidoka, Hassan Tukur, Funso Lawal, Bola Shagaya, Tunde Ayeni, Hope Uzodinma, and Bolaji Anani.
If these distinguished men and women – academics, governors, senators, chiefs, ministers, clerics and business people – could queue behind one candidate, who could oppose him? And who would raise more money than those with access to juicy ministries, departments and agencies? The election is as good as concluded!
But no. INEC is waiting with its bills. Contracts for the printing of ballot papers, ink, biros, pencils, boxes and forms of every description have to be awarded. Makeshift polling booths have to be constructed too. Then, the voters have to be sensitised to the importance of voting. Security agents will be mobilised and young people will be discouraged from snatching ballot boxes. At least N500billion may be approved for all these.
When the inevitable happens, let the people of northern Nigeria know those sabotaging the north’s interests. It is not Goodluck Jonathan who is merely responding to pressure from eminent Nigerians, especially those who say the country could not exist without him as president. When things go the wrong way in February, let urchins not attack Igbo traders or their shops. The north’s enemy is in the north itself.
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Ou est les Chibok femmes? I’m forced to ask this question in French because I have done so several times in English without getting a response. The euphoria sparked by a dubious truce announced penultimate week has died down. Boko Haram has responded by kidnapping 60 more women and girls from a border village (Madagali) in Adamawa State.
Who are those that negotiated with the group? How much were they given?
This game is getting ludicrous – and annoying. People in government always tell us they know those sponsoring Boko Haram. Indeed, they know them; that’s why they hold talks with them. But the negotiators don’t seem to be in a hurry to cut any deal. Reason: only the poor villagers are being killed, kidnapped and displaced. The quick response to the Ebola menace came because everyone would have been affected.
The parents or other relations of all the girls kidnapped so far should consider relocating to government houses. They should force their way into their state government houses or Aso Villa and remain there until their girls are released. They could also procure weapons from any source and confront the marauders in their dens. They can only die once.