Thursday, April 9, 2015

Vote buying and electoral fortunes in Nigerian politics

The March 28 national elections had come and gone but the echoes are still very loud and clear. The behemoth called Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which had hitherto promised to rule Nigeria for minimum of 60 years and had been in power at the center since 1999 met its waterloo. The party was roundly defeated by its main challenger, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in both the presidential as well as Senate and House of representatives elections. It is a positive political tsunami which is bound to have salutary effect on our democratic culture. It shows that power belongs to the people and an incumbent government, no matter how powerful or influential, can be voted out.

If money is the sole determining factor in the March 28, 2015 polls, APC would not have been able to inflict such incalculable damage on the ruling party. This is because PDP has a sizeable war chest which it puts to use during the electioneering campaigns. It would be recalled that the party on December 20, 2014 held a fundraiser in Abuja where it garnered a princely sum of N21 billion. The party in the course of its campaign organized the most flamboyant political rallies, spent most on advertisement and engaged most in vote buying.

It was reported that the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan gave a whooping N7 billion to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for sharing among the Christian clerics to buy their support for his re-election bid. In a February 19, 2015 edition of The Punch, a Borno-based Pastor, Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, alleged that the CAN got the said money (N7bn) on January 26, 2015 and disbursed N3m to each State Chairmen of the association across the country. Before Musa-Dikwa’s confession, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, had earlier broken the news that President Goodluck Jonathan gave pastors across the country N6bn to vote against the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), in the presidential election.

In another report published by Sunday Punch on March 15, 2015, the newspaper reported that the President and his team doled out various amounts of money in dollars to monarchs from South West geo-political zone during his recent visits to the states in the region. Competent sources allegedly disclosed to the newspaper correspondents that a handful of Obas received as high as $250,000 each, while the least paid were traditional rulers of small towns who were given $10,000 each. Sunday Punch went on to report in the same edition that “The windfall from the President is not limited to traditional rulers alone as groups and individuals have also benefitted hugely from it. The groups, which included market women, students, professional and ethnic groups…. made between $5,000 and $100,000 in Lagos.”

Not done yet The Punch in its March 16, 2015 edition reported the accusation leveled against President Goodluck Jonathan administration by the   All Progressives Congress for sponsoring ethnic militias such as the Oodua Peoples Congress and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra to foment trouble before, during and after the general elections. The APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said N9bn was recently paid out to the OPC, MOSSOB and a few others to scuttle the polls. Indeed, Oodua Peoples Congress on March 16 went on street protest in Lagos in support of President Jonathan’s re-election bid, while at the same time calling for the sack of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. While it cannot be ascertained if OPC and MASSOB received the said amount, it was however on record that the ethnic militias were offered oil pipeline surveillance and protection job by the federal government. It was a multibillion contract which allegedly took effect on March 16, 2015 according to The Nation newspaper of March 12, 2015.

While addressing a press conference on Monday, March 9, 2015, Centre for Social Justice had accused the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress of squandering over N4.96bn on campaigns. The Lead Director, CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said the PDP expended N3.5 billion on publicity between December last year and February this year while the APC spent N1.42 billion during the same period. According to Eze, the APC spent N332 million in the newspapers to campaign for Mr. Buhari and another N1.09 billion in other media outlets. On its part, the PDP spent N1.05 billion in the print media to promote Mr. Jonathan and another N2.5 billion in other media outlets.

The point here is that given the quantum of resources allegedly deployed into the 2015 General Elections by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential standard bearer, Goodluck Jonathan, the party should have won with a landslide. The reverse is however the case as the party lost its leadership of both the executive and legislative arm of government on March 28. This is very instructive. It reveals that vote buying alone is not the magic wand to winning elections in Nigeria. Although money matters, other factors that determines good electoral fortunes include the popularity of the party seeking the votes, the personality of the candidates, primordial sentiments such as ethnicity, religion, economic status, academic qualification, oratorical prowess as well as party manifestoes, state of the economy, security, infrastructure and the ability of the governing party to deliver on its electoral promises.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja.