Thursday, April 28, 2011

Campaign Finance and Nigeria’s 2011 Elections

Nigeria is at the threshold of breaking the jinx of her election debacle. With the elections already held and adjudged by local and international observer groups as largely free, fair and credible. Majority of Nigerians have also endorsed the credibility of the polls. It is not yet a perfect election but the verdicts of compatriots and foreign observers on 2011 General Elections are indeed heartwarming. In spite of the positive reactions on the about to be concluded elections, two major challenges still need to be surmounted. The first being the pockets of election related violence in some parts of the country. The second is that of enforcement of campaign finance regulations as contained in different legal frameworks viz. 1999 Constitution as amended; Electoral Act 2010 as amended; Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 and Political Finance Manual and Handbook 2011.

Some of the frontline candidates, in a bid to escape the breach of the various electoral codes, resorted to third party spending. Few of the presidential candidates deeply involved in third party spending are: President-elect Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Gen. Mohammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). For instance, most of the jingles and adverts of Candidate Goodluck Jonathan were credited to groups such as Neighbor to Neighbor for Transformation, One Nigeria Coalition, Voice of the Electorates (VOTE), PDP Integrity Vanguard, Mass Interest Project and Nigerian Progress Forum. Given the very robust campaigns ran by these big four presidential candidates, there is every likelihood that they may have overshot the N1 billion ceiling placed on presidential campaign finance by section 91 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.

Even for the gubernatorial elections, the governors of Lagos, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Imo States have been spending humongous amount on their re-election bid. Of the lot, Governor Babatunde Fashola is the biggest spender. Major television networks, radio, newspapers and bill-boards are filled with adverts and jingles of the amiable Lagos State Governor. If the aforementioned 4 governors could spend so much on adverts and jingles alone, one wonders how much they have spent on their campaign rallies some of which were transmitted live on T.V networks. It will be hard to believe that they are still within the N200 million threshold stipulated as the ceiling for governorship candidates in section 91(3) of Electoral Act 2010. Of course, many of these governors, like their colleagues that contested the presidency, engaged in third party spending. For instance, some of Governor Fashola’s adverts were allegedly sponsored by Committee for Better Lagos and The Achievers Collective.

Besides, there have also been all manner of unsubstantiated allegations of vote buying particularly in Adamawa, Kwara and many of the south-east states. For example, Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd.) the CPC candidate for the governorship election in Adamawa State alleged in the Daily Trust of February 15 that “The Adamawa State government is buying up voters’ cards at very ridiculous prizes as low as N100, N200 and so on. But it does not end there, to the surprise of many, these cards are being destroyed”. Desperate politicians are also inducing some electoral officials to manipulate election results in their favour. One of such instances was that of Paul Uwugiaren, an INEC collation officer in Ugbogui Ward 8 of Ovia federal constituency of Edo State who allegedly admitted to have been given N5 million to falsify result of the parliamentary elections held on April 9, 2011.

Moreover, many incumbent political office holders have been using state and administrative resources for their campaigns. Government aircrafts, vehicles, personnel, media and money are often used to oil their campaigns. For example, ex- Governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo State threatened to petition the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) when the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) consistently rejected his political advertisements. The good news is that the NBC had sanctioned a total of 33 broadcasting stations for breaching section 101 (1) of Electoral Act 2010 as amended by airing political advertisement 24 hours to election. It is hoped that the Independent National Electoral Commission will start enforcing political finance regulations in Nigeria.