October 2, 2022

Punch Newspapers
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Sheriffdeen Tella
Recent happenings with the price of nomination forms advertised by the two major parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, have shown that Nigerian politics is all about wielding power to control the national purse for self-aggrandisement rather than for national development. When the APC was campaigning for the second term with “Next Level” as its catchphrase or election slogan in 2019, nobody asked which level and for whom? Next level downward or upward? Next level for the party or for the citizens.
The direction is very clear today. Next level downward for the citizens and upward for the party shareholders. Every supposedly north-bound socio-economic indicators like security, improved employment, manufacturing and agricultural output, exchange rate and external reserves are pointing southward and the government seems unable to cope. As the fundamentals of these socioeconomic factors worsened, the foreign and domestic accounts of party members were looking better. Party members understood better the direction of the party towards the next election. It seemed a clear directive that they should get prepared for the next election as the cost of forms, electioneering and winning the elections will be at the next level. Or how can we explain the price of a party’s presidential nomination form that rose from less than N50 million in 2018 to N100 million in 2022, with other levels following the same trend, and party members are rushing to buy? Of course, that of the PDP was N18 million in 2018 but now N40 million and the same trend is noticed. The two parties understood their slogan of “next level.”
As it were, holding political office in Nigeria seemed to be an avenue for personal enrichment. From the first day to one year, the elected official has to start working towards offsetting the debts incurred in buying nomination forms, campaign expenses and ‘washing’ the victory. The second-year would be used to restock wardrobe, while from the third year one has to start thinking of accumulating funds and working out the strategy for winning the next election. There is really no time to think about the country and its development.  It is very clear from what is happening now. The only ministers still working are those who are not interested in contesting for positions. The Minister for Labour has abandoned his office for politics. One of the ministers in the Ministry of Education has also abandoned office for politics. So, universities can close until after the election in 2023, the government is not concerned. The president can understand because they are working together to ensure the success of the party, not the nation. Each member should be supported to prepare for the next election; the next level The country needs to wait, as it does not matter much. We shall return to this later.
There is the need to query the sources of money people invest in politics in terms of what the politicians do for a living and their worth before joining politics. Anyone who can mobilise the huge sums of money being invested must be of good standing financially. What kind of private business was he or she running before venturing into politics? How many employees or how much employment has he/she been able to create over the years? How much tax has he/she been paying to the government? Is the business still functional? Did he/she acquire property from parents? Was property tax paid as at when due? How much has the candidate contributed in terms of development to the lives and physical infrastructure of the community and state being represented by the candidate? But do we really care to ask questions or are we trained to inquire or investigate people representing us? In many cases, some of them have no address in the areas they are representing but are imposed by one big man in the state capital. It is all part of the high level of illiteracy and underdevelopment.

The Nigerian politics and political space give no room for the country’s development but for individual economic aggrandisement and enhancement. There have even been reports by some politicians claiming to have sold off their property, including offshore houses, to contest elections at different political levels in the country. This implies that election processes are erected on fraud from the beginning. Why would anyone want to deny himself a property in order to serve his people? Such action is carried out in anticipation of getting the opportunity to get to the position and recover more than the lost property. For those in the legislature, humongous constituency allowance and setting up of phoney businesses for contracts are in order. Why would you expect politicians to serve the nation first instead of themselves?
Another part of the fraud is that people are deceived to believe that those paying huge sums of money for the form will lose their funds if they fail election at the primary. Nobody gambles with N40 million or N100 million like that. It is an investment in recognition. The first level will be compensated with ministerial positions, commissionerships or contracts in multiples of the amount. Alternatively, if nothing comes from these positions or contracts, there will be refunds because taking the action alone, the candidate has contributed money into the party’s purse for administrative expenses of the party and the officers. Such a refund comes from the federal or state’s overblown budget. Even then, the compensation cut across party lines. Those in opposition parties are also compensated because it could be their turn tomorrow. We are the pawns in their game of chess.

The concern here is that a solution must be found to the problems of the humongous cost of elections and governance if we desire to have development. Results of empirical studies on governance in developing countries like Nigeria have shown that all the people need for a good living condition is the provision of basic needs of life. These include good education, health services, roads, shelter, potable water and electricity. If governments can provide these, the private sector will key in providing jobs for both skilled and unskilled labour through investments in various sectors. When people are employed and start earning income, they will be ready to pay for some of these basic needs in addition to normal consumption of goods and services. Consumption itself results in more production and greater employment with multiplier effects that generate incomes for the government through taxation.

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There must be a law in the Independent National Electoral Commission books that can limit parties’ expenses for elections, aside from individual expenses. If there is none, and the legislature being part of the game may not bring up such laws, some NGOs or a coalition of non-state actors can sponsor bills to limit all these atrocious expenses, beginning with the cost of nomination forms to campaign expenses and to the assumption of duty. Many of the politicians who are eager to declare their assets at the first assumption of position hardly do the same when they begin the second term, mainly because of illegal baggage at the expense of the nation. The second term is usually disastrous for the country, the state and the citizens. More so when there would be no declaration at the exit.
If the country is to develop, if the politicians are to concentrate on the work of managing the economy properly, we must collectively solve their personal problems of heavy burden of debt incurred during the election processes. We need to find a law to protect them or to protect us from their exploitation. We must think about the next level where our currency will stop the free fall, inflation will be tamed to a single digit, production in all sectors will grow and the unemployment rate will go down. Politicians cannot do it alone. So, all those who can assist should offer appropriate solutions.
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