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Nexus between campaign finance and corruption in Nigeria – Punch Newspaper

By Jide Ojo

Campaign finance is a sub-set of party finance. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics’’, according to a devotee of politics and power, Jesse Unruh. Tell me, what is done for free in politics? You’re expected to pay membership dues, levies, or fees as may be charged by your political party from time to time. If you’re going to contest for any political office within the party structure or general elections, during the party primaries, you’re expected to pay ‘Expression of Interest and Nomination’ Fees which in some political parties, especially the dominant ones, run into millions of naira. No serious contender in an electoral contest goes to see party delegates empty-handed. You have to give them ‘kola’, which may be millions or naira or even foreign currencies, as was witnessed in the lead-up to the 2023 General Elections.

Party stalwarts, especially members of the board, National Executive Committee and National Working Committee, have to be “settled” if you want them to endorse your candidacy. I have come to realise that the National Organising Secretary position is a powerful one as he or she constitutes the electoral committees that will conduct the party primaries across the states. The national chairman and national secretary of the party will be the one to sign the nomination forms of all the candidates being sponsored by the party, and as such many aspirants lobby them to endorse their candidature. This is because several courts have ruled that it is whoever the political party sponsored as the candidate that the Independent National Electoral Commission will accept, irrespective of any act of indiscretion.  On a few occasions, the courts have nullified the nominations of the party.

Enormous expenses are also incurred on courtesy visits in search of endorsements to the party women’s wing, youth wing, party elders and leaders. Visits to traditional rulers, religious leaders, and opinion moulders are also at a huge cost to the candidates. Funds are also expended to get media endorsement and carry out favourable opinion surveys. Enormous financial resources are also expended on organising campaign rallies, political advertorials, billboards, radio jingles, social media messaging, bulk SMS, logistics and security. Don’t forget that many serious contenders usually have separate campaign offices that are well-resourced with staff and equipment. This is independent of their party secretariats.  Candidates, most times, are also the ones that pay for polling or party agents.

Mention must be made of a huge financial layout that has to be earmarked for pre-election and post-election litigations. This is because, win or lose, many party primaries end up at the court for adjudication on the legitimate winner. Likewise, when a candidate wins at the polls, any of his or her co-contestants or their party is at liberty to challenge the electoral outcome. It is noteworthy that Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party was able to wrestle her mandate from the All Progressives Congress candidate at the Court of Appeal before she could be sworn in as a member of the 10th Senate. Thus, what notable politicians contesting for election spend on their election project is simply gargantuan! That is why politics in Nigeria is not for someone with low or average income. You must have a huge financial ‘war chest’ to win elections in Nigeria.

It is noteworthy that there are laws guiding election expenses in Nigeria, even though many politicians flout this with impunity.  Electoral Act 2022 stated as follows:

Section 88. (1) Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsections (2)-( 7). (2) The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall not exceed N5,000,000,000.  (3) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of the governorship election shall not exceed N1,000,000,000. (4) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of Senatorial and House of Representatives seats shall not exceed N100,000,000 and N70,000,000, respectively. (5)  In the case of a state Assembly election, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30,000,000.

Subsection 88 (6) says, “In the case of a chairmanship election to an Area Council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30,000,000. (7) In the case of councillorship election to an Area Council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N5,000,000. (8) No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N50,000,000.”

There are penalties for the breach of the aforementioned campaign finance provisions. Section 88 (9) of the Electoral Act 2022 says, “A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or imprisonment for a term not more than 12 months or both.”

Subsection (10) says, “Any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both.” Lastly, subsection (11) of the Act says, “An accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the contravention of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N3,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.”

Worth flagging is also the provision of S. 95 (2) of the Electoral Act, which says, “State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.” This is being widely disobeyed by many incumbent governors who do everything possible to run out and frustrate opposition candidates in their respective states. Recently, the Labour Party candidate for the forthcoming September 21, 2024 Edo State governorship election, Olumide Akpata (SAN), lamented how his billboards were being destroyed. It is noteworthy that Kimpact Development Initiative, an Abuja-based NGO, is at present tracking campaign finance ahead of the 2024 Edo and Ondo State governorship elections and hopes to publish the report of its findings for public education and future advocacy.

What, then, is the nexus between campaign finance and corruption? Given the mind-blowing amount needed to contest elections in Nigeria, some serious contenders empty their savings and even sell off their property to defray the cost of their electoral contest. Those who do not have personal savings and assets to dispose of reach out to political godfathers who are mostly shylocks and will demand ‘arm’ and ‘leg’ to get them to bankroll their elections. Either way, once the contestant wins at the poll and is sworn into office, his or her primary focus will be on how to recoup the political investments made with super profit to boot.

Since their legitimate earnings cannot repay the huge debts incurred to win the elections, many of the elected political officeholders resort to corrupt practices, to make ends meet. Thus, campaign promises and development agenda take a back seat for self-aggrandisement. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the constituents, too, will be troubling and pressuring the elected politicians for the proverbial daily bread and stomach infrastructure! And the vicious circle continues!

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