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 Communique 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 Nigeria and on the conscience of many political merchants.

How did Nigeria get to this point? The problem of unregulated use of money in politics did not begin today. There are antecedents in the history of modern Nigeria, beginning with the politics of nationalism in the 1950s, similar to rent-seeking behaviours of parties, politicians and voters. For example, the absence of strict legislation to regulate party finance made it possible for politicians and political parties to engage in illegal party financing and corruption in the Nigeria’s First Republic.

The electoral laws under which elections were conducted in the 1950s and 1960s were derived from the provision of the British Representation of the Peoples Act of 1948/9 and its regulations. The 1959 elections were conducted under the provision of the Nigeria (Electoral Provisions) Order-in-Council, LN 117 of 1958 enacted by the British Parliament. During this period, there was no clearly defined regulatory framework on party finance and political party funding was primarily carried out through private parties since candidates were responsible for election expenses.

Two cases of corruption involving political parties were judicially investigated. In 1956, the Foster Sutton Tribunal of Enquiry investigated allegation of impropriety in the conduct of some politicians from the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) with business interests in the African Continental Bank (ACB). Similarly in 1962 the Coker Commission of Inquiry was set up to look into the affairs of six Western Nigeria public corporations allegedly involved in corruption with the leadership of the ActionGroup.

During Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979 -1983), a combination of private and public funding was used for the first time. Political parties occupied the central position in politics of the Second Republic. The 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly stated, “No association other than a political party [was allowed to] canvas for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.

” The 1979 Constitution in Section 205 empowers the National Assembly to make laws “for an annual grant to the Federal Electoral Commission from disbursement to political parties on a fair and equitable basis to assist them in the discharge of their function. ” The government rendered financial assistance to political parties by way of subventions. In addition, private funding, except from outside Nigeria, was allowed, according to Section 205 of the 1979 Constitution.

There was no limit on how many corporate bodies and individuals could contribute to political parties. Apart from the ban on political parties receiving external funds as in Section 205 of the 1979 Constitution, and the prohibition of associations other than political parties from making contribution to the funds of political parties or the election of any candidates at any election, as in Section 201 of the 1979 Constitution, there were no stricter constitutional or statutory regulations on the use of party financing such as those of disclosure of donations.

The result was illegal use of money to influence decision making in political parties and the political process in general. Although the 1979 Constitution provided some form of check especially with respect to external control of political parties, but even that was not achieved in the 1979-1983 elections. The loopholes were exploited by the financially and politically ambitious few who were able to use their wealth to hijack political parties of their choice. With unbridled use of money, little or no attention was paid to political mobilization by those seeking elective positions.

Politicians attached much importance to money which they used to buy the votes of the electorates. One example was the occasion in Lagos in 1982 where ten members of a political party donated N5 million at a fund-raising ceremony. The experiences of the 1979 and 1983 elections were such that political parties and politicians had unrestricted freedom to use money from both legal and illegal sources to finance their campaigns and other activities associated with their election expenses.

During the Second Republic, the role and activities of ‘contractors’ in government and political parties and other cases of political ‘patronage’ became very rampant. The reports of the various special tribunals that tried politicians and office holders revealed gross abuse of public office and impropriety in dealing with political parties. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria basically reproduced the 1979 Constitution with some substantive amendments.

Under the 1999 Constitution, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has constitutional responsibility to monitor the finances of political parties, conduct an annual examination and audit of the funds of political parties and publish a report for public information. Section 228(c) of the 1999 Constitution gives power to the National Assembly to provide for an annual grant to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for disbursement to political parties on a fair and equitable basis to assist them with their functions.

Accordingly, the National Assembly approved a N600 million budget for the 30 registered parties in the April 2003 general elections. INEC disbursed N180 million to all political parties at N6 million each in accordance with Section 80(2)(a) of the 2002 Electoral Act: “30% of the grant shall be shared among the political parties participation in respect of a general elections for the grant has been made.

” In accordance with Section 80(2)(b) of the 2002 Electoral Act,N420 million was disbursed by INEC to seven political parties which include: the Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives’ Grand Alliance, (APGA) , National Democratic Party (NDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and United Nigeria People’s Party (UNPP). The responsibility to monitor the use of money in campaign activities of politicians and their parties poses some challenges for the Commission.

For instance, during the 1999 elections there were complaints and allegations by civic group about large donations by influential political figures and businessmen to some parties. The Transition Monitoring Group – a coalition of civil society organizations, in a statement on the conduct of the PDP, ANPP, UNPP, and NDP primaries in January 2003, complained, “there was widespread bribery of delegates with sacks stuffed with money to influence their votes. ” Also, Sarah Jibril, one of the presidential candidates in the 2003 elections petitioned the leadership of her party over alleged misappropriation of funds.

The Commission was able to investigate some of the reported cases and even monitored party finances to some extent. For instance, following the reported allegation of mismanagement of funds released to political parties by INEC, the Commission in September 2003 ordered an audit on four political parties. But for very long time INEC was unable to perform audits or issue reports on the finance of political parties due mainly to a lack of cooperation from most of the political parties. Reliable data on the costs of election campaigns and other related activities in Nigeria is difficult to obtain.

Research in the area of party finance is underdeveloped in the country; hence, advocacy for policy change are rarely based on adequate information and good knowledge of the various dimensions of the problem. These notwithstanding, there are growing concerns about high costs of election campaigns and other related activities and the implications for political corruption in the country. This publication is one of the pioneering efforts to bridge the gap in knowledge production and best practice in advocacy around the theme of money and politics, party finance and political corruption in Nigeria.

Different aspects of the problem in Nigeria are addressed in this book. Marcin Walecki’s contribution-“Political Money and Corruption: Limiting Corruption in Political Finance”- conceptually introduces corrupt and illegal political finance and frames a checklist of initiatives to limit corruption in political finance. The issues raised in most of the other contributions can be viewed against this checklist which was derived from experiences elsewhere. The all-embracing issue of political finance reform is addressed by Victor Adetula in his contribution “Electoral Act 2006, Civil Society Engagement and the Prospect

of Political Finance Reform in Nigeria. ” This chapter analyzes the ravaging effects of money and the salvaging efforts of civil society. Unfortunately, much needed reforms are too slow to arrive and party funding still remains confused and problematic. In Nigeria, money-bags own political parties and deploy them at will. They donate party secretariats and huge funds and in return dominate the party decision process. The independence and supremacy of the party is compromised. A definition of ‘godfathers’ is given in the contribution by John Ayoade – “Godfather Politics in Nigeria.

” The chapter indicates the negative and pernicious role and effect of ‘godfathers’ in Nigerian politics. Reading through the contribution, it is easy to see how ‘godfathers’ strangulate democracies. ‘Godfathers’ are, among other things, merchants of violence andn fear. They operate private military armies and obstruct good governance. The chapter by Emmanuel Aiyede – “The Role of INEC, ICPC and EFCC in Combating Political Corruption” reviews the performance of the newly inaugurated institutions in Nigeria for combating corruption and proving two things.

First, corruption persists not for lack of efforts and second it persists because good laws and/or intentions are not enough as deterrents. The efficacy of any law lies in its enforcement. Culprits are never known to enforce any law against them. The contribution by Ezekiel Adeyi -“Funding of Political Parties and Candidates in Nigeria: Analysis of the Past and Present”- examines the problem of illicit party funding in the political history of Nigeria. It is indeed useful to see the parallels and common elements that cut across different historical periods.

The contribution by Kachollon Best “Gender, Money and Politics in Nigeria” examines the financial and political handicap affecting women in Nigeria. Other pathologies like vote buying and violence are also addressed in the book. This volume is a modest wake-up call for Nigeria to address a monster preventing democracy from taking root. That awareness is a ‘sine qua non’ tothe solution in order to prevent the whispers of discomfort from cumulating into arrears of anger in search of a pay day. CONCLUSIONS Corrupt political funding undermines the democratic system.

Together with other forms of political corruption, it leads to a compromising of democratic ideals, the growth of political apathy among voters and mistrust of the authorities, as well as the consolidation of authoritarian tendencies in the state. The public interprets irregularities in party and campaign finance in a broader context, leading to distrust of the institutions and processes of politics. A large number of voters think that parties respond primarily to organized, special interests and that politicians are not concerned about ordinary citizens.

Thus, the financing of political parties is generally perceived by public opinion as corrupt. It is worth bearing in mind that even the best contemporary Western political finance systems are themselves far from ideal. In many democratic regimes, new restrictions and substantial state subsidies have been introduced as a response to financial scandals and public pressure, to prevent corruption by limiting undesirable and disproportionate influence over parties and candidates. These measures include 1) Bans on certain types of donation 2) Contribution limits

3) Public subsidies 4) Indirect public funding and subsidies-in-kind (including regulations concerning political broadcasting), 5) Spending limits for political parties and presidential candidates, 6) Comprehensive disclosure and reporting regulations, and 7) Severe penalties. Some experts have argued that political finance regulations have brought increased probity, transparency, and a degree of equity to the monetary aspects of politics in established democracies. The funding of political parties in most democratic regimes is more transparent than a decade ago.

But some regimes have to begin to enforce existing regulations, or to search for a better system of regulating money in politics and improve their practices. Improvement in political finance systems both in and across countries will be a long process. What is to be done? The electoral laws should set a workable regulation on campaign expenses for all elections. Political parties should outlaw separate campaign office by aspirants and candidates. Such practice usually weakens party supremacy, and promotes corruption.

Financial support for election should be limited to registered party members. Fund raising dinner, where contractors were invited, is an open invitation to abuse of public office and misappropriation. Proper auditing of party account on yearly basis would encourage transparency and accountability. Financial aid to parties should not only come before the election, but should be reasonable enough to meet basic electioneering needs. Nomination fees for candidates should be removed, to allow free contest for all citizens.

REFERENCES Victor A. O Adetula & Dung Pam Sha “Sectarian Conflicts in Nigeria and their Implications for electoral Violence. Lip set, Seymour M. and Gabriel S. Lenz. 2000. ‘Corruption, Culture and Markets’, in. Lawrence E. Harrison Samuel P. Huntington, eds. Culture Matters. New York: Basic Books. Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. New York: Anchor Books. Tanzi, Vito. 1998. Corruption Around the World: Causes, Consequences, Scope, and Curses. IMF Working Walecki, Marcin n. d. ‘Political Money and Corruption’.

IFES Political Finance White Paper Series. Federal Republic of Nigeria (FGN) 2000. Corruption and other Related Offences Act. Abuja: Government Printer; Akanbi, M. M. A. 2004. Corruption and the Challenges of Good Governance in Nigeria. Lagos: Faculty of the Social Sciences, Distinguished Guest Lecture Series. Dudely, Bill. 1973. Instability and Political Order: Politics and Crisis in Nigeria. Ibadan: Macmillan Press; Dudley, B. 1982. An Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics. Ibadan: Macmillan Press; Federal.