Tag Archives: INEC

3 quick thoughts on Buhari’s ‘loan’

This from the Vanguard is generating quite a bit of discussion:

Buhari meanwhile, yesterday procured the party’s N27.5 million expression of interest and nomination forms at the national secretariat.

Lamenting that the costs of the forms were high, he said that it took the understanding of his bankers in Kaduna and Abuja to raise the money.

“It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be put down  as in the case of ladies and the disabled that intend to participate. I always looked left and right in our meetings but I could not read sympathy, so I kept my trap.

“But I felt heavily sorry for myself because I don’t want to go and ask somebody to pay for my nomination forms, because I always try to pay myself, at least for the nomination.

“N27 million is a big sum, thankfully I have personal relationship with the manager of my bank in Kaduna and early this morning, I put an early call (and) I told him that very soon the forms are coming, so, whether I am on red, or green or even black please honour it, otherwise I may lose the nomination.

“I was about to go to Kaduna this morning and I told the Chairman (John Odigie-Oyegun) but he said in that case, you better pick your form and keep a straight face. That means there is no excuse,” Buhari said.

Responding after handing over the forms to Buhari, the national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun explained that the N27.5m was carefully chosen to “separate men from the boys”.

“Let me say that the N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys. It is quite clear. We know you. I don’t expect you have N27m under your bed. But I expected that there are Nigerians who will vouch for you any day and who are ready to stand for you any day and that is the result that we have obtained today”, he said.

There are a number of issues here:

1. The cost of nomination forms is clearly too high, and has been for a long time. The nomination form for the PDP, for instance, is N10 million. It creates a barrier for entry and along with an absence of independent candidacy, these are two of the most serious obstacles to get better candidates, especially at lower levels of governance, which are just as important as the Presidency, if not more so. This needs to change, and it will be a better use of our time than seeking a percentage of political positions for young people.

2. It is unclear what game Buhari was trying to play here, if any. The quotes above indicate that he did not have the cash on hand, for whatever reason, at the time, hence the need for a facility from the bank. In  addition, from the quotes above, there is no mention of the word ‘loan’. Any number of reasons could have led to a situation where he had to call his bankers. The bottom line, of course, is that he wanted the form, and he got the form. No matter the cost.

3. The APC is barely a year old, competing with a party in power for 15 years, along with all the advantages that come with that position. They need to raise funds for a national campaign. A lot of funds. The presence of campaign finance regulations and their enforcement by INEC would have levelled the playing field somewhat, but that has no chance of happening soon. So, it is an arms race that accounts for the high cost of the forms. To those who bother with these things, it is a worrying sign. But most do not. So there.

Time to enforce campaign finance laws

Image‘There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is’ – Mark Hanna.

With the just concluded merger of opposition parties and reaction to the development sure to dominate political commentary for some time, it is safe to say that the 2015 election season has unofficially begun. 

As we once again contemplate elections, it is worth remembering that elections cost money. Democracy costs money. Campaigns cost money. Lots of it. Anyone who knows anything about the way politics is done in Nigeria, knows the huge cost of a campaign for public office. This cost is so high as to be prohibitive to all but the richest men, or those who have rich benefactors, or those who have their hands in public funds.

The figures are truly shocking. In the PDP, for example, to pick a nomination form for the State House of Assembly, you must part with the princely sum of N1m. Yes, N1m. For a form. If you wanted to be a House of Representatives candidate, you part with N2.5 million. For the Senate, N3m. Governorship, N5m. And for the Presidency, it is N10m. This is not counting other fees like the ‘expression of interest’, ‘formalisation of intent’, administrative charges, and all such levies which combine to make elections a game won by the highest bidder.

It can therefore not be surprising that after being elected, a public official’s first port of call could be to recoup all the investments made in his campaign, replenishing both his own funds, and those of his benefactors. The prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria, is a major reason why corruption continues to thrive.

This cost is actually enshrined in our laws. The Electoral Act in 2010 doubled the campaign spending limits in the 2006 Act. Someone running for the Presidency can spend up to N1 billion, a Governor can spend up to N200 million, N40 million for Senate, 20m for House of Representatives, N10 million for State House of Assembly and local government, and N1 million for ward councillor. Even with these limits, there is no enforcement of them from INEC, which has powers to monitor campaign finance, audit the accounts of political parties, and make that information available to the public, as enshrined in Section 153 of the Constitution, as well as Part 1 of the Third Schedule.

The lack of attention paid to this crucial area is of grave concern, because the unchecked influx of money into politics will produce governance that has been captured by a tiny minority, to the detriment of a majority. The result is a political process captured by special interests, resulting in an undue influence on government policy, distortion of political discourse, and a reduction in political participation. Whenever a waiver is granted, or foreign goods are banned, it is often to pay back a generous donor and wet the ground for the next cycle.

Another of the main dangers in money politics is that it becomes an arms race. The other party is doing it, so you have to do it too, or risk falling behind. In the run up to the last US elections, Barack Obama initially rejected donations from SuperPACs, groups who were recently allowed to use unlimited funds in support of a presidential candidate by the US Supreme Court, but he later accepted their support because Mitt Romney, his challenger, was already profiting from the organisations which backed him.

With just over 2 years to go till the next general elections, civil society groups need to impress on INEC the urgency of putting in place measures to track campaign expenditure in all political parties, at all levels, and enforcing the spending limits contained in Section 91 of the 2011 Electoral Act. Limits should also be placed on how much any one person can donate to a candidate, and information on donors to political parties should be in the public domain.

There is little hope of stemming the tide of corruption, while the stakes for public office in Nigeria remain so high. In the end, it will not matter whether an election is free and fair or not. He who plays the piper dictates the tune. If only those who are rich or have rich benefactors can run for office, the electorate is deprived of new faces and fresh ideas. That cannot be a good thing.