MONEY AND POLITICS IN NIGERIA
Since the return to electoral politics in 1999, and particularly after the 2003 general elections, Nigeria's political parties have been criticized by the media, academics, observers and the electorate for corrupt and unbridled use of money in politics. The anti-corruption initiatives of the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo provided a suitable environment for some civil society groups to engage governments and other stakeholders on the issue of corruption and its effect on governance. There exists an awakened consciousness in Nigeria about the danger of political corruption including political finance malpractices. However, the question remains whether the rise in consciousness translates into new social values and attitudes for stakeholder’s government, election management bodies, political parties, civil society in the electoral process and in the way they interact with money and politics. Surveys conducted by IFES in 2007 reveal public perceptions on “Corruption in the realm of politics.” The report reveals that a majority of Nigerians think it is wrong for an ordinary person to sell a vote in return for goods or money. However, more than a third of the sampled population thinks it is understandable to do so. Furthermore, “most think it is wrong for political parties to offer money to people in return for their vote, but a third think it is understandable for them to do so. A quarter of Nigerian adults admit someone tried to offer them a reward or gift to vote for certain candidates in the election.” Today in Nigeria, money politics, vote buying, godfatherism and “share the money” are regular household phrases and slogans portraying moral decadence of politicians. These usages adequately describe rent-seeking behaviour of politicians, political parties and voters. Such practices include accepting bribes from patrons and distributing money to buy votes. This has implications for good governance processes, including political participation. A portion of the Communiqué issued by the Nigerian Political Science Association at the end of a one-day round-table on “Understanding the Electoral Process in Nigeria” in 1 February 2007 states: “The role of money in politics is strong. 'Godfathers,' 'money bags' and incumbents use police orderlies and state security paraphernalia to intimidate voters and undermine elections.” Money politics is quickly shrinking the political space, becoming a key variable in determining who participates in electoral politics and how. For example, nomination fees for party members seeking elective positions have become so high that only the rich and daring “political entrepreneurs” can participate in party primaries. In 1992, for example, presidential hopefuls spent over one billion naira during the primaries while other not-so-rich contenders had about 120 million naira as a budget for primaries. Although the reckless ‘abiku’ political transition programme of General Ibrahin Babangida's administration was aborted, this trend of unrestrained use of money for political influence persists to date. Women and youth are the most vulnerable in this situation because of their little or lack of access to wealth. Today, money drowns votes and voices in Nigeria as ‘godfathers’ openly confess about shady deals, funding or sponsoring elections for 'godsons' and purchasing electoral victory. Businessmen and women are not left out in this illegitimate and illicit use of money for political influence. In a recent interview General T.Y Danjuma admitted, “I helped to finance his (President Olusegun Obasanjo) first term election. I raised $7 million. Slightly more than half of it came from my business associates.” General Danjuma also added, “Not once did he (Obasanjo) find out from me where this money came from. Was it from me, from my business associates, whether l stole it or whatever he didn't ask me!” There are many such as the aforementioned in the political apocrypha of...
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