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Tinubu, Atiku, Obi, where will multibillion campaign funds come from? By Festus Adebayo

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February 2023 election. It is a season to witness the ascendancy of a massive, multi-billion Naira campaign industry that rivals the national budget. So, how will Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and presidential candidates of other political parties in Nigeria fare in the rat race to outspend one another? Where does each of them hope to secure this breathtaking campaign funding?

Campaign funding or financing is a major and important part of the electoral process. It is the how, when and where political parties and individuals vying for elective offices will raise and spend money with which they will influence political votes in their favour. In developed democracies, campaign financing is a big issue that the state is interested in. This is because it involves major ethical issues that can compromise the integrity of the electoral process.

All over the world, election campaigning is not a tea party. Because money is both spirit and human, money has a mouth, talks, and is a major voice in electoral politics. Elections require considerably huge expenditure. Between the years 2000 and 2012, it was estimated that the total spending in American presidential elections almost doubled from $3.1 billion to $5.8 billion.

To safeguard the integrity of the electoral process, laws are enacted to guide and guard the infiltration of “bad money” into elections. In America and other democracies, violations of these laws carry strict penalties. While private funding of political candidates and political parties by individuals looks harmless enough, it is most times an innocuous channel of funneling drug proceeds and slush funds into the system. Many a time as well, it provides opportunities for individuals and corporations to hold governments by their esophagus. This they do by donating huge amounts of money to candidates and political parties during electioneering and wringing commitments off them for favours of state commitments in policy and funding when elected.

Not lacking in-laws to curtail the infiltration of “bad money” into the electoral process, Nigeria is however acutely lax in implementing these laws. A combination of a political culture that has accepted gifts as normal and a porous banking system that is easily the funnel of unsieved funds are the Achilles’ heel of this menace. Thus, poisonous money is injected into the electioneering process, with very serious implications for the results of elections and the candidates who ultimately become representatives of the people.

For instance, the new Electoral Act 2022 contains very robust sections on campaign financing, ceilings, and penalties for violations of the law. To curb bad money from meandering into campaign financing, Section 90(3) stipulates that “a political party shall not accept any monetary or other contribution which is more than N50,000,000 unless it can identify the source of the money or other contribution to the Commission.”

While in western democracies, the fear is that big corporation and wealthy individuals could wangle their ways into the state purse by stealth and corrupt its system, in Nigeria, the reality is that stolen government money constitutes, at a conservative estimate, 95 percent of funds used to campaign for political offices. The Nigerian system is aware of this, accepts it as fait accompli, and closes its eyes to the numbing reality.

The kind of massive corruption that goes into campaign funding should be an issue of interest to Nigerians. It is the reason why we must be bothered about where Tinubu, Atiku, and Obi, the three major presidential contenders and governors in Nigeria, will secure the multibillion Naira funds they need for the February 2023 election.

From their first day in office, governments in Nigeria begin to ferret the nooks and crannies of the government purses for funds to prosecute their re-election campaigns. In the run-up to the 2015 election, the $2 billion arms deal money, an arms procurement deal of the Nigerian government, eventually morphed into the Dasukigate, a widespread embezzlement ring perpetrated through the office of the National Security Adviser. Officially christened as a fund budgeted for procurement of arms to fight insurgency, it was however an underhand fund for the 2015 elections. Jonathan’s opponent, Major General MuhammaduBuhari confessed his financial incapability and Nigerians applauded him. It should however be written in the Guinness Book of Records that a man who confessed to owning 150 cows could, in the same breath, fund a multibillion Naira election that ensured his win. Later revelations came out that funds used for the campaigns were siphoned from state governments’ purses, as well as from questionable characters in society, to actualize this dream.

During the political party, primaries held a few months back, a top presidential contender was said to have demanded and got the sum of half a billion Naira from a state government for every state he visited to solicit delegates’ support. Kickbacks from contractors, secured through hyperinflation of costs of projects and stolen monies kept in the hands of proxies, find their way into campaign funds immediately after the electioneering process kicks off. Though there is a policy and law backing up a cashless economy that Nigeria claims to be running, the country is still steeped in a Ghana-Must-Go bag economy. Politicians have consistently frustrated the cashless economy policy. This they do by compromising and colluding with bank executives to get out physical cash to prosecute their nocturnal spending. One of its offshoots was a bullion van loaded with cash suddenly appearing in the Lagos home of a leading political baron. Politicians approximate the state.

This is why we must be interested in where the money to be used in prosecuting the 2023 presidential election comes from. A departure from the culture of depending on slush funds from state or federal government to fund campaigns is being devised by Peter Obi of the Labour Party, the man who goes by the sobriquet “he no dey give shishi!” According to the media report, in a bid to raise the sum of $150 million in the Diaspora and N100 billion in Nigeria,, LP has embarked on a tour of Canada and Germany and seven cities in the US, with the aim of raising this campaign fund.

While it is not in the public domain how he wants to source his own fund as well, the candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), OmoyeleSowore is said to be banking on crowd funding from Nigerians and aides from foreign agencies to sustain his campaign financing. The dilemmas both Obi and Sowore would face are, first, that laws forbid foreign donations to campaigns. In America, federal law prohibits “contributions, donations, expenditures, and disbursements solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals” in connection to any federal, state, or local election. Section 225 (3 and 4) of the Nigerian constitution is similarly provided. Again, there is the fear that the lax monitoring of the campaign funds system in Nigeria may allow a huge percentage of these funds to go into personal pockets.

While Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) has been flaunting his octopodal business empire with ease, he has not for once mentioned whether it is from this huge purse that his campaign funds will come. It is however public knowledge that the bulk of his campaign funds will come from government money given to him by his loyalist state governors, as well as former and present occupiers of government positions. These monies are federal and state monies funneled out by stealth. Atiku himself has waffled through the sources of his borderless wealth which many allege is linked to the subversion of public financing rules and boring holes into the national till, with pipes fixed to his belly, while he was in public service.

The same goes for the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Bola Tinubu. On Friday, the Atiku Campaign Office attacked Tinubu by calling him a billionaire without a known business. This is a euphemism similar to what Americans mean when they say, we have seen the bucks, where is the shop? What is being alluded to is the theft of public patrimony for sustenance. To date, though the humongous wealth of Tinubu has kept tongues wagging, no one can say precisely what is its source. Like Atiku, it is said that the bulk of his campaign funds will come from governors in charge of public money in Nigeria, especially those in his APC and individuals who hold cash cow positions in federal and state-owned agencies and corporations.

As the presidential campaigns begin this month, Nigerians must begin to ask their candidates specific questions about how they will finance the elections and specifics of accountability in campaign financing. In developed democracies, a trackable account is opened and a certified accountant is put in charge of the campaign office account. Every penny, whether secured through crowdfunding, or public or private funds, so far it goes into this account and is periodically subjected to the accounting scrutiny of auditing. Not doing this same thing with our candidates and political parties vying for offices in 2023 is akin to opening the doors of Nigeria’s decision-making offices to the god of Mammon. It will also amount to a triumph of the whims of evil forces in society.

Drug monies, laundered funds, and all manner of illicit funds easily find their way into election funds and this constitutes what Yoruba call the kandaninuiresi– the pebbles trapped in a bowl of rice – of electoral politics. It is a pollutant that has spiritual implications of fouling up and contaminating the whole process. As we go into the campaign exercise, valid questions of where, when, and how of campaign funds must be asked and satisfactorily answered.

 

Strictly Personal

Independence, Whose Independence? By Festus Adebayo

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Yesterday, it was 62 years since Nigeria got her independence from colonial Britain. While some countrymen say the October 1 celebration rituals are worthy of flinging the cymbals, some others say it is a day to drench ourselves in sack clothes and ashes reminiscent of mourning moments for biblical Israelites. For decades, until the October 1 saturnalia began to lose its savour, successive governments made a good job of conflating the frills of the rituals as a representation of our national joy and unity. Children looked forward to the symphony or National Day orchestra, the perfect chemistry of matching feet at stadia across the country, and the arresting drums of police bands.

A musical rendition of this October 1 ritual that succinctly captures its mesmerizing glee is in the 1971 recorded vinyl of Ligali Mukaiba, Yoruba Apala musician. Mukaiba, widely known as Baba L’Epe, having been born in the riverine Epe area of Lagos, was a musical petrel of the 1960s, through 1980s. Mukaiba had a mellifluous and almost effeminate voice that singled him out among his peers. He was a social crusader, commentator and musical prodigy, serenading Nigerian fans and the west coast with his very sublime, penetrating Apala music. I am yet to listen to a more penetrating account of the Midas touch, arresting power, and talismanic power of the female gender as evocatively delivered by Mukaiba in the track he entitled Kurukere. He sang that when a woman enters the head of a man – bo ba nwuni, to ba njaraba eni, he called it, she destabilizes all his organs of reasoning and he begins to act in dissonance to his actual person. Sorry, I digressed.

In his song entitled Eyi Yato (This is different) wherein he had the particular track, Ominira – independence, Mukaiba narrated what transpired on October 1, 1971, at the Race Course. It was where the Union Jack was lowered and was eventually named the Tafawa Balewa Square, after the murder of Nigeria’s mercurial first Prime Minister.

October 1 celebrations, which have become perennial rituals in Nigeria, respect for the Nigerian flag, the national anthem, and many more, are some of the totems that successive governments use as objects of nation-building.

Nigeria’s fragile togetherness has since worsened. Two very instructive fables speak to what led us to the precipice we are in today in Nigeria. In those fables, we are covertly told that when more than one people come together, with recognized differences, there must be mutual respect for one another, equity, and a sense of rightness. The absence of these factors has led Nigeria’s disparate peoples to go their separate ways in spirit. The two fables got promoted in the songs of Ibadan-born Awurebe music singer, Dauda Akanmu Adeeyo, popularly known as Epo Akara.

The first fable, as narrated by Epo Akara, happened in the animal kingdom where both the Partridge, a bird which the Yoruba call Aparo, and the Crab, Alakan or Akan, held occupied territories, with each controlling his own resources. While each was doing well in his own sphere, they both reckoned that there was the need to forge togetherness so that their lots could be better catered for and they could grow stronger in shared resources. The Aparo superintended over a government bountiful in yam resources and the Alakan’s government had abundant water resources. Hitherto, each and their children required what the other had.

Coalescing their thoughts, one day, they held a conference of the two nationalities. Aparo and Alakan sat on the table to discuss theirs and the futures of their offspring unborn. Aparo spoke first. He recognized that each of them had limitations in resources. After consuming the barn of yams located within his borders, Aparo said, he would need water to wash down the meal. Could Alakan open up his borders for him and his children to have access to his aquatic territory while he too would open his barns for his children to have easy access to yams?

They both saw the shared opportunities in this coming together. The deal was sealed and delivered, the next day, Aparo flew into the Alakan territory with his children and they fetched gallons of water. They did this for weeks. However, in the third week, Alakan sent his children to go to Aparo’s farm to harvest yams for the family’s consumption. At the farm, Alakan’s children shouted his name and he replied garrulously, in the words of Epo Akara, “Ta ni np’Aparo?” – who is calling Aparo? And those ones replied, “Omo Akan ni” – we are the children of Alakan. Then Aparo flew into a rage, calling their father unprintable names. Alakan, in the expletives from Aparo, was unevenly shaped by the Creator, with hands and legs shaped like pincers, a boulder for chest, deceptive strides such that he walks awkwardly – “O s’oju hati-hati, o s’ese hati-hati, ab’apata laya, owo meji bi emu…”

Incensed by this sudden flouting of relational terms of agreement by Aparo, Alakan’s children went back to their father and reported their encounter with him. Convinced that they had misrepresented what transpired, Aparo himself left the river bank where he was busy with some aquatic assignments and went into the forest to meet with Aparo. The partridge repeated the same excoriation. In anger, Alakan and his children came back home and that was the end of this attempt to forge a nationality from their disparate territorial leanings.

The other allegory as told by Epo Akara in another song was the consort of four animals who came together in mutual understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. They were Lion, Hyena, Cobra, and Tortoise. At the conference they held, each confessed his weakness to the others. The Lion was the first to speak. “If I am in the forest hunting, no one must dare behold my face,” he charged. Anyone who dared this, said the Lion, would have died as recompense – “enikeni to ba dan wo, Asalailu ni o si mon lo,” said Epo Akara.

For Hyena, no one must spill sand on his sacred body. The Cobra cleared his throat and said, “You could step on my head and I will keep mute; step on my back with no blowback but anyone who steps on my tail will die.” The Tortoise on his own told his fellow conferees that backbiting was his major put-off. Anyone who does this to him provokes the beast in him.

For decades, they lived in amity and hunted games collectively. However, one day, they sent Tortoise on an errand. Assuming he was without hearing the shot, the Hyena cleared his throat and began to speak. He bemoaned the Tortoise’s self-righteousness, stating, in that deep Yoruba aphorism, that everyone could haggle with the launderer but not an Ato’le – one stricken by incontinence of bedwetting.

The next day, as they were hunting in the forest, Tortoise then provoked discord. He looked straight into Lion’s face. Enraged, Lion spurted sand up which hit the Hyena and who in turn stepped on the Cobra’s tail, with the serpent spraying his lethal poison on all of them, leading to their mutual deaths.

The two Epo Akara fables speak to the Nigerian so-called togetherness. While our colonial heritage is the bane of our overall crises, there has been an internal re-colonialism of our own people by our own people. As foremost Political Science scholar, Prof Eghosa Osaghae said, the colonial heritage of states soldered together by force bequeathed on them a contested state. Africa is a good example. Flakes that naturally flow from this forced togetherness are the crises of corruption, violence, terrorism, economic dysfunction, and many more that we face today.

Today, what can bring Nigeria back from the brink of collapse is for her rulers to stop seeing Nigeria as an ethnic commodity, a conquered territory of the feudal North. In place of this, they must start empathizing with the people under their watch because transiting from statehood no nationhood can only be actualized when people start perceiving their president as the president of Nigeria and not the President of Fulani people.  To proceed from here, Nigeria has to re-negotiate her foundation. Proceeding from here is not about throwing saturnalia on October 1 and wriggling like maggots inside the sewer of celebration that Ligali Mukaiba painted in that 1971 vinyl.

We must first acknowledge that the independence we got from Britain in 1960 is pseudo independence, which has failed calamitously. The second is for us to begin to put in place the machinery for a Second Independence, as canvassed by Prof Osaghae. We must begin to decolonize our minds, preparatory to giving ourselves authentic Independence.

If Rwanda, a country riven by ethnic crises, could rise to become what it is today, Nigeria, with good leadership, can rise from the ashes of this hopelessness.  Like the animals in Epo Akara’s fables, the nations that makeup Nigeria have differences. Let’s recognize them. The northern part of Nigeria has over the decade behaved like the Aparo. Moving forward, let us come to a discussion table and agree on how we want to proceed from here.

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The likes of Dadis issue orders that people dare not oppose by Jenerali Uliwengu

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Captain Moussa Dadis Camara — remember him?—is back in Conakry, Guinea, claiming that he has chosen to come back to “clear my name which has been dragged through the mud.”

Does this kind of action depict a man so full of bravado that he can come back to a place that is literally his crime scene and claim innocence, or does he want to tell us something we have not been told as yet?

Three years ago when Dadis was head of the military junta ruling over Guinea, hundreds of men and women gathered in that stadium in Conakry at a rally protesting military rule that has plagued the country since the founding president of that country, Ahmed Seku Ture, was overthrown after his death in 1989.

Yes, I am saying that on purpose, for Ture had been such a terror to his people that they had to wait until he was taken sick and then flown to Morocco where he died, and his people could now overthrow him! That is how a military coup d’etat was carried out on a dead president!

Relinquish power

Now, this Dadis had come to power courtesy of another military coup and had shown no sign he was planning to relinquish power any time soon, and his people had gathered in the stadium to tell him he had to leave.

Instead, he ordered his soldiers to open fire, and a bloodbath ensued; more than 150 unarmed civilians lost their lives. Apart from the deaths — themselves horrendous enough—the soldiers unleashed a raping spree in which tens of young women and girls were gang-raped, tortured, and maimed — many dying on the spot or shortly thereafter, succumbing to the ordeals they had suffered.

According to many eyewitness accounts by even people who had become inured to the barbarousness of West African military thugs, that day had not been experienced before.

After that horrific incident, Dadis fled to neighbouring Mali, where he has been living in soft-cushioned exile until he decided to come back home “to clear my name”.

It certainly will be interesting to hear what he has to say in his defence, and it will certainly be a riveting story as prosecutors lay down the charges and call to the stand as eyewitnesses those who saw and experienced the massacres and the rapes first-hand.

We all know what a bloodbath looks like, or we think we do. We have recollections of Sharpeville in 1961 and Marikana in 2012, for instance, two incidents in one country, perpetrated by forces supposedly diametrically opposed but unfortunately bound together by a shared callousness where black lives come into collision with the interests of capitalism.

Onto the bloodbath in the Conakry case, add the scenes of mass rape, and a scene emerges that is hard to visualize.

Some of the women who have gone on record have shared stories of untold brutality and suffering which have had repercussions on their reproductive health ever since, heart-rending narratives that would make a brute monster break down and cry bitter tears.

Law and order

I am intrigued and want to know what this Didas will want to say in his defence.

Was it a case of trying to re-establish ‘law and order’ as we hear our rulers say so often, that people were threatening to sow chaos and disrupt normal lives? Had the military junta at that time received intelligence suggesting the protesters were enemy agents sent to bring their (itself illegitimate) government down?

Hardly. Neither of these feeble excuses would hold water, because there is no evidence to suggest there was interference from outside, and clearly indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians and rape is no way to establish “law and order”.

But Dadis could benefit from an unstated defence that would be understood in some quarters, even if not spelled out. That he gave orders to shoot because he saw a threat represented by the demonstrators in the stadium as an attempt to reinstate so-called civilian regimes are in fact all military except in name.

Any time

They have given up any attempt to persuade their people to approve their policies, of which they actually have none; they have ruled by issuing orders that their people dare not oppose; all too often when their people showed signs of wanting to rebel, they were kept in check by the same brute military force that the likes of Dadis and others are now using. Morally, there is no justification for castigating Dadis and his boys.

But all that does not explain the overkill in civilian body counts, and the rapes. Dadis will still be up shit-creek without a paddle.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

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