By Oluwagbenga Oyebanji
Hyper partisanship in politics undermines the development of democracy. Election campaign funding in the third world countries is a strong issue. Campaign funding in democracy is like blood to the heart, if we don’t get the campaign funding right we will never get democracy right. Nigeria is a divinely positioned country to lead the third world in Africa to the Promised Land. Campaign funding in democracy is a concerned issue in the developed democracy, it’s not taken for granted, and it lingers after elections. Donald Trump challenges today can be linked to campaign funding because the laws of America’s campaign funding are constitutionally clear.
Thomas Paine introduce ‘Common Sense’ as a catchphrase into American political lexicon, January 10 1776, arguing that Americans must rise up and fight for their independence from the British monarch. Later same year they got their independence July 4th. Nigeria’s political history had mixed tradition around campaign funding; Chief Obafemi Awolowo the founder of Action Group organized farmers into functional cooperative movements to fund campaigns. The grassroots believed in what he stood for, they connected with his vision and mission. Awolowo’s political anthem was defined by policy flexibilities, in core areas of education, employment, health, agriculture, infrastructural development, and a procedural public service.
In 1952, Action Group’s government had a total of 170,000 pupils enrolled in primary school which was the first in Africa, two years after it had increased to 394,000 pupils. The people of the grassroots understood the good of Action Group; they were ready to fund the campaign ensuring that the party becomes victorious. The programs of the party became the peoples’ program, which was how Chief Awolowo built the most successful political party in the history of Nigeria’s politics. It is common sense to know that politics goes beyond party, it is about the electorate, they are not fools, and they have needs, wants and desires. Voting for a political party is about the electorate, they have bestowed their constitutional rights on you to govern them for a certain period of time based on the constitution.
The fallibility of Electoral Act is visible and needs reforms, Section 91(2) and 91(3) of the Electoral Act states that the maximum expenses to be incurred by a candidate at presidential and governorship election shall be one billion naira and 200 million naira respectively. Section 91 (4) of the Electoral Act states that the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate for a senatorial and House of Representatives shall be 40 million naira and 20 million naira respectively. The provisions of the law is parallel to our political realities. Everybody knows that the garments of desperation worn by politicians during elections is sown by the tailor of campaign funding. The desperation to win elections is proportional to expenses incurred during campaign, which is emotionally uncontrollable. Ballot box snatching was a penalty kick during the last election, our politicians don’t understand the difference between power and influence, they don’t understand the difference between tenure and legacy. Party and campaign funding is an issue that has been really underestimated in Nigeria’s politics.
Democracy is a borrowed culture of governance, and the common sense is to learn from the colonial countries. Barack Obama raised almost $1Billion for his 2008 and 2012 elections using the power of technology to appeal to voters. He used social media presence and data analytics to understand voters’ preference, using it to connect to undecided voters, and unlocking the shell of voter apathy. Our politicians have to learn about dignity and respect in playing politics. The fourth republic brought militocratic mindset to politics, and a huge deficit regarding political innovators. Politicians should think outside the box, we need politicians with Political DNA of Chief Awolowo and Barack Obama, that loves their people and their political binoculars can see beyond amassing wealth. Politicians that will live for legacy and posterity, not using state’s allocation to fund parties’ operations.
2019’s elections had 91 political parties and 72 presidential candidates; this is political charade at its peak. Politics is about consensus and coalitions; the seat of the presidency is not the chairman of an NGO. It must be taking seriously; it is the identity of the nation constitutionally, mentally, spiritually and socially. Our political heritage should not be forgotten, the labor of our political progenitors must be guided with courage, determination and patriotism.
The Nigerian youths have to know their history, they must know about Anthony Enahoro that moved the motion for independence at the age of 30 years. We need voters’ education and educating our young people about our rich political history. Nigeria, the soul of Africa, the strength and power of the continent, though our tongues may differ tribally and religiously, our anthem is our resolve. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we are on a long walk to freedom. “The labor of our heroes’ past shall never be in vain.” God bless Nigeria.
Oluwagbenga Oyebanji is an entrepreneur/motivational speaker