In a veiled reference to the campaign cars of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Oloye Bayo Adelabu, that were driven round Ibadan, the state capital, recently, candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Sen. Olufemi Lanlehin, has described it as unnecessary, selfish and inhuman.
Lanlehin, who spoke yesterday at the 2018 annual press week of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, explained that “When a governorship candidate parades the streets with a fleet of hundred empty branded vehicles, in a state where hunger and deprivation stares everyone in the face, the message sent across is that if this is about money, then we’re ready!”
Represented by his media aide, ‘Damola Adeoye, Lanlehin went on to express sadness, saying “integrity, intelligence, charisma and pro-people affections have been relegated to the background. Today’s politics is now that of the highest bidder. No wonder billionaires and moneybags have found a home in many political parties, and are even given consideration by party headquarters, ahead of others, who though genuinely minded, are shoved aside. Party lists arrived at, at congresses, are changed at will by party headquarters to favour moneybags and their preferred candidates.”
MONETIZATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESS AND THE IMPERATIVE OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTION IN 2019
BEING THE TEXT OF A SPEECH DELIVERED BY SENATOR OLUFEMI LANLEHIN (SOLAN), OYO ADC GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATE, AT THE 2018 ANNUAL PRESS WEEK OF THE NIGERIAN UNION OF JOURNALISTS (CORRESPONDENTS CHAPEL)
HRM Oba (Dr) Sen Lekan Balogun, Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland,
The Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Oyo State,
Other invited guests,
Chairman and members of the Correspondents’ Chapel,
Gentlemen of the press,
Ladies and gentlemen.
In less than two months, activities and events in our nation’s electoral calendar will culminate in the 2019 general polls. To this end, no topic would be most suited than today’s, and no speaker, than myself; being an active player and a firsthand witness. As a governorship candidate of a major political party, I believe I am well placed to speak on such a very important topic, and I greatly appreciate the Correspondents’ Chapel for finding me worthy.
That our electoral system has been heavily monetized is no longer news, what is baffling actually, is the scale, which keeps expanding every election cycle. According to Itaobong Etim, in a piece titled “Monetization of the electoral process” published in the Sun Newspaper of 3 August, 2018, and citing a report released by Compliance and Competence Monitoring Limited, it was disclosed that towards the 2015 elections, both the PDP and APC spent a whooping N3.3 billion on election campaign advertisements alone. This figure excluded other unreported election expenditures. That is further corroborated by the INEC report which concluded that about One Trillion Naira was spent on that election by all active participants. Spending such humongous amount of money in 2015 with an annual national budget of a little over N4.5 Trillion is truly appalling.
With current realities in our political space, whatever humongous amount spent in 2015 is now child’s play. The fangs of monetization reared its head early enough this election cycle, with the huge amounts set by political parties, especially the APC and the PDP as nomination and expression of interest fees. For the presidency, while the APC charged N45 Million (Expression of Interest N5 Million and Nomination N40 Million), PDP charged N12 Million (Expression of Interest N2 Million and Nomination N10 Million). For governorship, APC collected N22.5 Million (N2.5 Million Expression of Interest and N20 Million Nomination), while the PDP charged N6 Million. Our party, the ADC, similarly charged N6 Million for governorship nomination forms. These figures, as mind boggling as they are, excludes other ancillary expenses spent during consultations in the period leading to party primaries, and no doubt intentionally excludes the poor and the middle class, making it practically impossible for them to participate as candidates in the coming elections.
With an almost disappearing middle class, and a polarization into the rich and poor social stratum, monetization of politics leads to an undue manipulation of the poor, making them mere observers of a process they should ordinarily drive. The current singsong in our political space is the stomach, advertised widely in the recent Ekiti and Ondo governorship elections, and derogatorily termed “dibo ko s’ebe” (sell your vote, get paid and prepare soup) and “dibo ko r’ale” (sell your vote, get paid and buy land). Nothing can be worse off. This derision of our people is made possible due to the poverty in the land, which politicians have now taken undue advantage of, and now displayed in the distribution of money and other edibles like a few cups of rice at campaign grounds, rallies and and events. These days, people care less about ideology, manifesto or blueprint. All people now want is money, money and money. One cannot really blame anyone, as that’s what the ruling class has conditioned them to. It is even sadder to see the government in power distributing money to curry votes. One can only wonder what they’ve been doing in the years leading to the polls!
One pertinent question every candidate is asked, whether publicly or privately is that of financial muscle. Supporters and loyalists want to know how prepared a candidate is, albeit financially, before committing headlong to his or her cause. While this is not entirely bad, as politics and elections the world over is somewhat expensive, the disadvantage here is that candidates, in a bid to outdo one another, display opulence and extravagance, aiming to show their opponent they’re ready financially. When a governorship candidate parades the streets with a fleet of hundred empty branded vehicles, in a state where hunger and deprivation stares everyone in the face, the message sent across is that if this is about money, then we’re ready! Sadly, integrity, intelligence, charisma and pro-people affections have been relegated to the background. Today’s politics is now that of the highest bidder. No wonder billionaires and moneybags have found a home in many political parties, and are even given consideration by party headquarters, ahead of others, who though genuinely minded, are shoved aside. Party lists arrived at, at congresses, are changed at will by party headquarters to favour moneybags and their preferred candidates.
The heavy monetization of our elections, if unchecked, has grave consequences for the Nigerian political project, and indeed the forthcoming 2019 polls. Of a truth, the first grave consequence is the population of the political space by the rich and connected, to the exclusion of the poor and not too rich. Unfortunately, this excluded set may have the best of intentions, and be the ones to deliver true dividends of democracy to our people had they been allowed to get to office. Unlike what obtained in the past, especially during the Action Group era when persons of integrity and character were entrusted with political assignments, irrespective of their financial standing, the richest and the most connected now get tickets and political support. What mattered then, unlike now, was integrity and character. For instance, my dad, Chief Samuel Owoola Lanlehin as parliamentarian and later National Treasurer of the Action Group lived in our Nalende house, in the midst of his people. The fad then, unlike now, was the identification of persons of character and modest achievements to be supported by the party as candidates. He or she is then handed the party’s manifesto, which is faithfully implemented.
Further to the exclusion of persons of noble character from the political space is the damaging effect on free, fair and credible elections. This is because when the field is only open to the highest bidder, flight is taken of credibility, character and performance, to the detriment of the people, who bear the brunt of rulership in the four or eight years of their governance or misgovernance, as is applicable. Elections cannot be credible when the field is segregated, and when vote buying, as witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun elections is a possibility. As we speak, while some of us are knocking on doors, visiting hamlets, villages, towns and cities, during the day and in the night, selling our candidature, presenting our ideas and celebrating our precedents, some of our opponents are in the comforts of their houses and night clubs enjoying the luxuries of life, waiting for Election Day to do as they usually do – buy votes!
Though the National Assembly’s step of placing spending limits on campaign financing is highly commendable, President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the amended electoral act may be the clog in the wheel of that lofty idea. Truth is, with a ceiling of N5 billion, N1 billion, N500 million and N250 million on presidential, governorship, senatorial and House of Reparesentatives campaign spending, though still a long shot, some form of decorum would be introduced to the whole process. One therefore calls on Mr President to rise above every partisan considerations, and sign the amended electoral act.
In conclusion, while there’s no controversy in the fact that the heavy monetization of our electoral process has grave dangers for our politics, and indeed the credibility of the 2019 elections, it is important to note that INEC, security agencies, civil society and indeed, journalists, who are the fourth estate of the realm, have important roles to play in the monitoring of electoral expenses and the exposure of sums deemed outrageous, for the sanity of our political system and the credibility of our polls. The task of getting our elections right in 2019 is a joint one, and it begins by downplaying heavy financing, and advertising credibility, intelligence and precedence.
Thank you for listening, and God bless you all.