by crossriverwatch admin
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice. But there must never be a time when we fail to protest”
I wish this great scholar had my dear beloved Cross Riverians in mind when he made this statement, the present political dimension in the state as we count down to the 2015 election where some supposed political heavyweights are trying to redefine our political history by massively trying to intimidate Cross Riverians with money rather than showing us their intellectual substance and what they have to offer the state is a casualty waiting to happen.
This is the time to resist and protest against this setback, the emphasis on money as a benchmark in defining the quality of the next governor of Cross River state is something all well-meaning Cross Riverians must rise against, the state now needs a leader and not a ‘king of the boys’ or a ‘matchless guy’ who is defined from the billions he had illegally acquired.
The state has gone beyond such parochial and myopic drama where some elements who have no business history but the wealth to stamp on our faces as a result of their service in government.
Cross Riverians are saying no to this sad development. Our dear state cannot be transformed to another Anambra state. It appears that Cross Riverians are docile on this danger waiting to happen or are just waiting for the right time to tell this supposed money man he is not the kind of governor they desire and Cross Riverians should insist that they deserve more than they are getting.
Leadership is an extremely important factor, if we are going to build a nation. Unless and until we have leaders with ability, integrity, commitment and vision, we cannot succeed by leadership that is not functional.
It is in our hands to choose and to change the leadership, Nigerians must begin to insist that they deserve better than they are getting. We believe that Nigeria of our dream is Nigeria with leaders who are not only consistent, transparent but also passionate about our country and state.
Can we say that the crop of leadership at various level are passionate about us as a people? The predominance of money in Nigerian politics has been of concern to many stakeholders as it has negatively impacted
on our polity.
From 1999 to date, the phenomenon of money politics and vote-buying has become a norm in the country. Money has become a central factor in that many electorates tended not to listen to politicians canvassing for votes unless cash is shared or pu
t on the table.
Although, the Electoral Act has frowned at this practice, it has continued unabated and unfortunately as our democracy grows, the use of money in politics seems to be on the rise. It should be noted, however, that although politicians were known to distribute T-Shirt, Caps and badges with party emblems, some food stuff and sundry items, to voters at political rallies, there was no huge spending by individual candidates to win elections as obtains currently in the political activities of candidates.
There is so much display of affluence and use of money by the wealthy contractors and the mercantile class that those who emerge victorious in the conventions and the primaries of some of the political parties belong to the business-managerial group.
Section 225(3) of the 1999 constitution prohibits any political party to (a) retain any funds or assets remitted or sent to it from outside Nigeria. The requirement that political parties prepare and submit audited account to the electoral body is only intended to ensure transparency and accountability.
However, there is no law that puts any limit to the amount candidates can spend in elections while the National Assembly is yet to issue guidelines to regulate the activities of lobbyists and other political action groups who operate, formally or informally, buying the votes of legislators for their causes in the legislature.
Money politics and vote-buying escalated to greater dimensions during the second republic which started in 1979. This was a period, presidential candidates and political parties bought hundreds of thousands of vehicles and distributed to supporters and loyalists. It was perhaps, encouraged by some wealthy Nigerians who made their money during the Nigerian civil war.
So, as soon as the military signaled the commencement of competitive politics, these people ventured into politics or sponsored candidates for elective office. The situation was even worse in 1993 as the act of money politics and vote-buying took very firm roots in the political activities of contestants.
This was because the political campaigns for the conduct of the 1993 election demonstrated excessive use of money during the party primaries and the presidential elections, despite the fact that the elections were conducted under the watchful eyes of the military.
The rich had actually hijacked the two political parties decreed into existence by the military, namely the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). At the primaries for example, the use of money to win party nomination was pervasive while complaints of bribery trailed the results.
There was also excessive use of money during the 1993 presidential election, which was ostensibly adduced by President Ibrahim Babangida to annul the election. In annulling the 1993 election, he declared that “there were authenticated reports of election malpractice against agents, officials of the NEC and voters… there were proof of manipulation, offers and acceptance of money and other forms of bribery. The amount of money spent by the presidential candidates was over 2.1 million naira”
However, money politics assumed a frightening dimension in the elections that brought in the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 and the civilian-civilian transition elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011.
It was therefore not surprising that former President Obasanjo, who was a beneficiary of the sordid act in the two elections, admitted though, belatedly that: “With so much resources being deployed to capture elective offices, it is not difficult to see the correlation between politics and the potential for high level corruption.
The greatest losers are the ordinary people, those voters whose faith and investment in the system are hijacked and subverted because money, not their will, is made the determining factor in elections. Can we not move from politics of money materialism to politics of ideas, issues and development?”
From the foregoing, it is clear that the use of money in Nigerian politics is unbridled and the polity is characterized by this reckless use of money to buy votes and even conscience. The politicians are ready to channel their financial and material resources to secure electoral victory at the polls or at the tribunals.
Causes of money politics:
So many reasons can be adduced as being responsible for the incidence of money politics and vote-buying in Nigeria. Some of these factors include ignorance, on the part of the electorate, apathy, and poverty as well as, deceit by the politicians. There is also attitudinal problem on the part of the people involved in both buying and selling.
Our attitude towards politics is not right, because most politicians view it as a call to investment from which huge profit is expected and not as call to serve humanity. They electorates on their part see politics especially during election, as an opportunity to sell their votes to represent their own share of the national cake since they do not have access to where the national cake is being shared.
The inability of many political parties and the contestants to put in place comprehensible manifestoes for scrutiny by the voters also leads to use of money. Instead of clear-cut manifestoes that would enable the electorate to make a rational political choice, meaningless slogans, demagogic and rabblerousing speeches are made.
Such speeches either overestimate or underestimate the political perception of the voters, but are rarely educative and convincing. Many voters seem to be unimpressed by all the tricks the Parties and the candidates employ, hence the need to bribe them for their votes.
Again, political cynicism on the part of the voters who believe that political office holders are incurably corrupt, self-seeking and incompetent, that politics is a dirty game, that the whole political process is a fraud and a betrayal of the public trust is a potential reason.
This cynical view of politics is further accentuated by unfulfilled promises made by winners of past elections. Thus, asking for a pay-off, another way by which the people receive their own share of the national cake. On the other hand, the candidates who gave money to voters probably believe that they are investing against electoral failure.
Similarly, focusing on personalities rather than on issues is another cause. By the mode of their campaign, most candidates draw the attention of the electorate away from the political parties to themselves. The consequence of this is that the political parties and their message become less important to the electorate. The candidates then take the centre stage and would therefore need to spend more money than their parties could afford in order to mobilize support for themselves.
Another cause is the do-or-die affair politicking where politicians strive to win elections, even at the party primary level, at all cost, makes desperate contestants to engage in all sort of malpractices including offering financial and material inducements to voters.
Working on the poverty of the people, Nigerian politicians have been known to distribute food stuff and other consumable materials to voters shortly before the elections and sometime on Election Day, contrary to the provision of the extant electoral law that prohibits such practice.
Instances abound too, when candidates threw some money into the air during campaign rallies, making people to scramble for it and getting injured in the process.
Dangers of money politics:
It is axiomatic that money politics impacts negatively on the polity and Nigeria has not been spared as the nation has suffered greatly from this political absurdity. Money politics compromises moral standards, competence and accountability. People who use their money to get power are not accountable to anybody.
In other words, money politics creates problems for good governance. For example, commenting on the high use of money in Nigerian politics the Guardian of May 31st, 2008 has this to say: “In a country where money politics is very high, the opposition candidates are in disadvantaged position before the polls. The fact that a politician is out of power, having lost patronage easily loses followership makes matter worst. And because most politicians of today cannot look beyond their nose, they soon become orphaned”
Again, spending money beyond what is ordinarily required to defray legitimate campaign expenses by directly or indirectly bribing voters is definitely an electoral malpractice and the favourable electoral results emanating from that would not represent the true wishes of voters i.e. their actual political preference minus the intervention of money.
Money Politics has also made election results to have little or nothing to do with the performance in office of politicians. Precisely because performance is not a critical factor in electoral outcome, the incentive to perform is very weak. And because vote-buying is very effective in achieving electoral victory the resort to it is very high.
Consequently, elected public office holders who spent huge sums of money to secure victory at the polls would usually have a greater propensity to pursue their private business and financial interest and sometimes those of their corporate sponsors or mentors and financiers, euphemistically referred to in Nigeria as political god-fathers.
In this situation, public interest takes the back seat in the calculation, thus degrading the responsibilities of the elected officials to the people.
Emmanuel Ulayi is Executive Director of Civic Duties Awareness Initiative, CIDAI and wrote from Calabar
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