2015 Presidency And The Allegation Of Financial Inducement
In a week’s time, Nigerians will exercise their civic responsibilities by voting in the presidential election to choose the president of the country. President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election under the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate and former military Head Of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), are the two major contenders for the position.
Although the election is expected to define the next phase of the country’s leadership, it has further divided Nigerians along religious and tribal lines. Some of those rooting for these presidential candidates are not longer doing so based on altruism and conviction, but financial benefits. Money which has become a common feature of political campaigns in Nigeria has also become a key factor in the division that is being experienced among Nigerians.
Money plays a very important role in Nigerian politics—campaigns, media reach and vote buying.
A report titled, Second campaign finance and use of state administrative resources report in the 2015 presidential election,’ recently released by Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), showed that money pumped into media campaigns by the PDP and APC has ran into billions of Naira.
CSJ Lead Director, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, in the report, put the total amount of money spent as mid-February by PDP and APC and their supporters in advertisements in the print media alone at N1.382 billion.
Onyekpere said: “The total up to February 14, 2015 for the APC presidential candidate is N332.583 million, while the total up to February 14, 2015 for the PDP presidential candidate is N1.049 billion.”
The report further listed N1.057 billion as cost of campaign rallies for PDP, and N595.082 million for APC. According to the report, while PDP has spent N155.13 million for bill boards advertisements, APC has doled out N99.23 million for the same purpose.
It is, however, instructive to know that most of campaign spending is done nocturnally and in a secret manner where it is difficult to track what political actors have doled out.
Even at that, what each political party has spent in the media is more than what is captured Onyekpere’s report. It is well known that the cost of advertising in the broadcast media is more than the cost of advertising done in the print media. In as much as Onyekpere’s report did not mention the cost of political advertising in the broadcast media, the cost is no doubt, huge and frightening, taking into consideration the various political documentaries and advertising that have been churned out by the two major parties in the broadcast media.
Has such advert succeeded in dividing Nigerians? Only social scientists can provide correct answer to such question.
However, even the household of God is not free from the stain of money politics in the forthcoming election. Some Nigerians were no doubt not perturbed when Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State accused Jonathan of secretly bribing the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) with the sum of N6 billion to tarnish the image of Buhari.
As soon as Amaechi made the allegation, the Christian clerics became divided. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Northern State Christian Elders Forum asked Ameachi to name the church leaders, who collected the huge bribe. But few weeks later, a Borno-based pastor, Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, corroborated Amaechi’s allegation, adding that money given to pastors by Jonathan was actually N7 billion as against N6 billion alleged by Amaechi, who is the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation.
Pastor Musa-Dikwa, who is the Executive Director of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement, added that CAN got N7 billion on January 26, this year, and disbursed N3 million to each state chairmen of the CAN across the country.
The allegation was yet to die down when the media reported during last weekend that President Jonathan and his team doled out various amounts of money in dollars to monarchs during his recent visits to the South West. According to the report, some traditional rulers received as high as $250,000 (N50 million) each, while others were given $10,000 (N2.2 million) each.
Similarly, a member of a popular Yoruba group that visited Jonathan in Lagos said his group received $50,000.
It was alleged that huge amount of money-exchanged hands between politicians and the members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for the latter’s role in the ‘Jega Must Go’ protest in Lagos on Monday.
The spending for election campaign is huge but its difficult for anyone, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to track such spendings. Such situation may have been responsible for failure by INEC to reply E-mail inquiry by The Guardian on the total money so far spent for campaigns among political actors.
INEC Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, had stated that the commission would track campaign funds for the 2015 elections. “Now we have been able to put structure in place to track expenditure and we are going to be doing that,” Idowu had said.
“The situation now is that we can only know whether a person has over spent until he or she has spent it. You cannot stop people from spending until the person has spent. What the law anticipates is that we have put ceiling on spending and we will now monitor to know whether we can make a case about it.”
“According to Section 91 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, the maximum expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be N1 billion; for governorship, it is N200 million. The act also placed a campaign ceiling of N40 million and N20 million for senatorial and House of Representatives candidates respectively. It also fixed amount for election expenses in the state assembly and chairmanship election for an area council at N10 million.’’
Critics of the current system of campaign financing argue that the high cost of office-seeking and current ways of meeting those costs not only distract elected officials from their primary task of governance, but leave the door open to the influence of special interests. When a politician is influenced by either the need to solicit contributions from special interests to finance a costly election campaign, or by a sense of obligation to benefactors, these critics argued that the politician might no longer represent the interests of his or her entire constituency.
Furthermore, others believe that the ability to influence electoral outcomes with infusions of cash poses a significant challenge to the idea of equality expressed in the principle of “one man, one vote” upon which democratic government is based. If the outcome of elections can be determined by the amount of money spent on the political campaign, then special interest donors have greater power to influence elections than the average voter, according to this school of thought. They added that such a situation unjustly violates the principle of equality that is fundamental to democratic government.