Deputies, Monetization of Politics and Danger to Nigerian Democracy

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May 29 (THEWILL) – There is a clear danger in Nigeria’s primary electoral process that could rob the country of quality leaders, if left unchecked. Millions of people have seen videos circulating on social media or read how large sums of money were distributed to delegates to buy their votes ahead of primary elections organized by political parties across the country.

Unfortunately, the money is now used to determine who gets votes from party delegates. This is a very worrying trend against which we must collectively denounce.

The main culprits are politicians from the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

As well-meaning citizens of that country sought a way out of the slump the country had found itself in and hoped that the next administration would begin the process of pulling Nigeria from the brink of total disintegration, the delegates charged with the sole responsibility to choose candidates who will make this possible, had other things in mind.

What Nigerians have seen among these delegates has instead been a tendency to abuse this sacred responsibility by indulging in the age-old political ritual known as cash for votes. This tradition has taken Nigeria nowhere in the past. It won’t help move the needle to progress today. It will only make the future look bleaker than it already looks.

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, recently warned the nation of the danger of this style of politics. Speaking at a one-day stakeholder colloquium organized by the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), on the theme “Emerging issues that would shape Nigeria’s 2023 General Elections” and held on Wednesday, May 25, Yakubu expressed concern over the monetization of the national electoral process by politicians seeking favors from party delegates.

He said that, if left unchecked, the sordid ritual of money for votes has the potential to drag the nation into plutocracy or government by an elite or ruling class that derives its power from the wealth of its members.

Considering what it costs to even show interest in political office in Nigeria, it can be argued that there is a plutocratic tension already inherent in the country’s prevailing political system. Reflecting on the matter, Yakubu’s predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, accused the political class of undermining the integrity of elections, as the use of bribes had worsened over time.

Yet the cautious voice of these past and present INEC Chairs was by no means the solitary notes of warning against the monetary inducement of delegates to buy their conscience. Former President Goodluck Jonathan denounced the preeminent value placed on bribes beyond the value of the candidates delegates voted for. At the same stakeholder colloquium, Jonathan bluntly admitted, more than once, that the system had failed.

He had said: “The primaries that are happening across the country are a mess. This is not common practice. The process failed. We cannot use the process to elect a president, governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives and others. Failure of the process is not good for the country. But we will manage and move on. We pray for good people to come. I hope that what happened this year will not happen again in this country.

What is very clear from the charade of a democratic process that unfolded in the recent primaries is that as a practicing democracy we are still a long way from having in place the kind of system which will produce individuals capable of mobilizing the human abundance and natural resources with which the country is blessed and enabling us to take our rightful place in the community of nations.

It is undeniable that each political party reserves the right to determine the emergence of its candidates, according to its ideology and its prerogatives, but this right cannot go without the equally important responsibility that it owes to the country to present men and women of irreproachable character. , exemplary leadership, inspiring lives and remarkable traits, who will be responsible for leading the country to progress and making their home parties proud.

This lofty nature of the ideal roles of party delegates has not been viewed with the immaculate sanctity it deserves by the political class in Nigeria. The most egregious examples of this blind disregard were on display in the primaries organized by the APC and the PDP.

Delegates from both political parties saw it as their chance to be wooed by politicians of all stripes seeking to fly their party flags in the 2023 general election. These delegates were willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder and mostly by foreign currency.

The need for Forex to sweeten the palates of delegates has made the US dollar scarce, driving up the value in the money market. It was a racket that cared little or nothing about ideals and principles, values, accountability, representative leadership and good governance. Only one goal mattered for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of these delegates: To make as much money as possible.

This skewed focus on selfish ends was the reason for such embarrassing reports following the announcement of the results of some of the primaries, as was the case of an unnamed House of Representatives contender in Kaduna State.

After losing in the primaries, the candidate used the chilling and coercive powers of local hunters and vigilantes to successfully claw back around 100 million naira, which he used to unsuccessfully lobby some People’s Democratic Party delegates.

There was also the shameless admission of Adam Namadi, the son of former Vice President Namadi Sambo, who did not hesitate to confess that he had demanded the reimbursement of the sum of 76 million naira , which he offered as bribes to help him secure the PDP. ticket for the 2023 National Assembly election in the Kaduna North Federal Constituency after his failed primary bid.

Also in Ondo State, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, who failed to win the party ticket to return as the Ondo Central Senatorial District representative, immediately collected two vehicles given to some leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and demanded a refund of the money (in US dollars) that he shared with the delegates.

By now it must be obvious that there is nothing positive that Nigeria can take from this system. We need to find an alternative to a situation where, having bought their place in political office, politicians do not feel accountable to anyone and are busy trying to recoup their investment in elections.

For a system where the public official is accountable to the people, as democracy truly stipulates, it is absolutely necessary to strip the system of this delegated bypass and evolve an open participatory system that will foster representative local politics and cut that money carcinogenic. poisoned.

I urge political parties, for the purpose of selecting their flag bearers, to create a database of their registered members who actively participate in regular constituency activities and who have taken their time to listen to the class of candidates in their party to elected positions and interacted with them to highlight their local concerns.

It is this body of members who will be given the power to choose the candidate who best reflects the person to address their concerns, if elected at the general election.

This process will also help the party determine the popularity of its candidates with the grassroots internally ahead of the general election and give it insight into areas where it can make adjustments to its campaign to give it a better chance against the opposition. . This open system is more efficient, cost effective and useful for the party, its voters and the candidates themselves. This will bring value to the system and encourage people who can provide the numbers the party will need to win the general election.

In the final analysis, the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government will need to be involved to steer the country away from this embarrassing slide into a free-for-all-bags-of-money syndrome. All kinds of monetary inducements during the election campaign in the form of bribes must be criminalized and the penalties that apply must be strictly enforced and implemented to the letter, if we are really going to start introducing some common sense in the electoral system. This is something that should have been introduced a long time ago. Now it is a necessity for the good of our democracy and the progress and development that the country needs.

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