Of Political Parties, Primaries and Influence of Money

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As a child growing up in Aba, my parents started drumming into my ears the evil of money and how it had led many peo­ple astray. They told me a particular blood-chilling story of a boy who con­spired with two of his friends to sell his brother for ritual in order to make money. Ever since they told me the story – over 50 years ago – and having read other frightening stories about how far, no matter how bizarre, people can go to make money, I started treat­ing money with caution.

I know money is good (if it is made in the proper way), because it helps you meet your goals in life, but what people do to make money makes me feel sick. It has got to the point that our society is constantly threatened by the inordinate at­titudes of some of our citizens to money. The political class is right now neck-deep into the business of making sleazy money.

In our clime, money has always been at the centre of the many evils troubling it. It is the cause of many rifts between hus­band and wife, brother and sister, among friends and associates. The situation is more preponderant in the business circle where deals sometimes go awry.

Because of the mortal love some people have for money they can go to any length to get it; often sacrificing their integrity and self-worth. The love of money, which I refer to as corruption in the official cir­cle, has crept into our political system to such a point that it is threatening the very foundation on which our political heritage was built.

To my consternation, the depth corrup­tion has eaten into the foundation of our democracy is worse than I had ever im­agined. When I used to hear of the nega­tive influence of money on political actors I thought it was a fairy-tale, especially when you consider the calibre of individ­uals engaged in it. I would not ordinarily have believed that people you hold in high esteem could stoop so low to do arbitrary things for the sake of money, until I wit­nessed it.

Truly speaking, Nigeria’s politics has amazingly sunk into a horrible base level. The way things are going, it is no longer in doubt that our democracy is in peril. The just- concluded primaries of the various political parties have exposed the rot in the system and the threats that lay ahead. Where have integrity and good conscience gone, if I may ask? Where has good name gone? Why is it that people no longer feel any qualms about the things they do? All they care about are them­selves, and nobody else.

Imagine this: you would agree with somebody over a matter in a gentlemanly manner, only for the other person to re­nege overnight. Even friendship does no longer matter to some individuals, espe­cially where it is a matter of money. All that matters is kwudi, ego, kala (money). What kind of life is that?

Do people who behave in this man­ner have any name to protect? There is something in a name. It is the most pre­cious property any individual can possess. Nothing can therefore compare to good name. This is why some people prefer to die rather than tarnish their good name. But painfully, many of our fellow citizens no longer care about good name. All they care about is money. ‘Bring the money, it does not matter how it is made’ is now the refrain among the political class.

It is for the same reason that some peo­ple seek elective or appointive offices – to make money, not to offer selfless service. The whole thing is nauseating indeed! Some politicians, particularly those in control of political power, had boasted they were going to win the primaries into any position they so wished. And it came to pass. From where cometh their confi­dence if not from their filthy lucre!

What transpired during the primaries, as I indicated earlier, was better seen than imagined. We have read all kinds of sto­ries in the national dailies and on the in­ternet about how some unnamed persons ferriedGhana-must-go bags containing assorted currencies to different destina­tions across the country in search of ‘tick­ets’ for themselves or their cronies. They did all this in full glare of the public.

Curiously in all these stories no arrests were made. Even where the media gave lead to detect the culprits, nobody cared to do anything to checkmate the debasement of our national consciousness. So, does it mean everybody is involved? I wouldn’t want to believe so. I think there are still men and women of good conscience out there who can sacrifice anything to main­tain their good name. Sadly, their number is limited. During voting their voices are drowned. And so evil continues to thrive.

The audacity of some of our serving po­litical office holders is unnerving, and the length they can go to meet their vaulted aspirations enervating. The implosion that is going to hit some of the political parties in Nigeria in the foreseeable future will make many hearts sink. What would any right-thinking person expect after all the naked rape of the democratic processes?

The amount of money that went into the execution of the primaries was mind­boggling. It was enough to meet the em­ployment needs of our teeming youth. Yet politicians had the mind to squander it just to undo one another.

I am yet to come to grips with the rea­son party leaders compromised their posi­tions for a mess of portage. Do these men have any modicum of conscience? Why did they not think about the consequences of their actions on the wider society? How long do they think the evil money they made would last?

For some of the answers, they need to look back at history to know how those who committed similar acts ended. Evil, as far as I am concerned, does not endure forever. Its expiry date is nigh. And when evil expires many other things expire along with it.

Looking at the situation generally, it does not hold any hope for our democ­racy. It underpins the urgent need for us to do something fast or watch our hard-earned democracy die.

With what transpired at the primaries how then will the elections proper be? I foresee doom if care is not taken. Let me ask: what happens if everybody takes measures to protect his or her own inter­est? Definitely, there will be anarchy. This is why we need to do something urgently to put a stop to this arbitrariness. There is no way we can develop as a nation if we fail to imbibe the right culture and values as bequeathed to us by our forbears.

The United States and other developed countries have got it right in election man­agement. When are we going to be count­ed among these successful nations? The various electoral reforms undertaken by different administrations between 1990 and now have not produced any tangible impact on our overall behavioural pat­terns. We still do things the old, untidy way – the dog-eats-dog style.

We need to be seen to make progress far beyond the ongoing rhetoric. Did INEC and other agencies not supervise many of the flawed primaries? I am aware that in most cases their real reports are ei­ther killed or doctored to suit the idiosyn­crasies of some powerful persons.

There was never a time in the annals of this country when primaries of political parties had been manipulated as was the case in the last primaries. The fear is that we will be courting trouble if we are to go into elections proper with these tainted and controversial primary results. Apart from the implosions that will hit the par­ties the polity will also be overheated.

The ominous signs are everywhere. Those aggrieved have either defected to other political parties where their interests will be better served or have sought re­dress in courts. Whichever way the matter is viewed it portends danger for our fledg­ling democracy.

The best option is to revisit some of these primaries to make necessary amends before we discuss the way forward after the elections. But left to me, I will advo­cate the outright cancellation of the entire process and begin afresh. I feel this way, because we will face harder times in the next Republic if we just railroad every­body into elective offices only for the na­tion and its people to suffer the brunt.

I regret to state here, that I do not see any hope in what is going on. If what poli­ticians had planned pull through then we are in for a serious trouble. We are going to have another four years of retrogres­sion and uneasiness. I wonder the qual­ity of legislation we should expect from somebody who found his way into the hallowed chambers of the state or Nation­al Assembly through the back door.

The state or national assembly should be occupied by honest, hard working, credible, sound, law-abiding and God-fearing persons whose integrity is without reproach. And for goodness sake, these men and women are supposed to be law­makers, not lawbreakers. And such qual­ity legislators can never be produced by a compromised process as was the case in the primaries.

It is sad that for you to win an elec­tion in Nigeria, beginning from the party primaries to the election proper, you will have to empty your bank account. What hope then does the system hold for those who are qualified but have no money to prosecute their ambition? Should they go borrowing? If they should take this option then their constituents should be ready to go a-sorrowing.

Most of the crises besetting this coun­try are caused by the kind of leadership foisted on us and the monetization of our politics. Since the emphasis is on money, people are ready to spend it and recoup when they find themselves in the saddle of power. This is why political office holders pay more attention to what they can get than serving the people who elected them.

What we need to restore hope in the electoral process at all levels is a surgical operation. Forget the daily sermonizing by the political class. Our nation is still in deep mess. We need to review our laws to deal with the latitude given to political parties to conduct primaries, the jurisdic­tion of courts to entertain cases concern­ing internal affairs of political parties, the process of selecting candidates for elec­tions, the influence of money in politics, and the role INEC can play to ensure more effective primaries.

Regrettably, reports of some of the panels set up in the past to suggest the way forward have not been made public. They are gathering dust in shelves and cupboards in government ministries and agencies. The proper thing to do is to dust up these reports, write white papers on them and put them into immediate use. It makes no sense to spend billions of naira on such reports and have them abandoned.

As I have always said official corrup­tion is the bane of our development as a nation. Unless we destroy corruption all efforts at reform will hit the rocks. The audacity with which party officials and top government brasses take bribes is alarming. They do it without any remorse and as if it is part of our national life.

They behave this way, because it seems nobody can do anything to stop them. Ask the politicians and they will tell you it is an internal party affair. For how long shall we hide under the veil of political party autonomy to foment trouble and shortch­ange one another? I have asked this ques­tion because everything looks as if cor­ruption has come to stay with us.

Corruption as a hydra-headed monster is not something to be treated with lev­ity. It should be dealt with ferociously and with clinical finishing.

The decentralization of power in the hierarchy of political parties has now be­come expedient. This will whittle down their influence and give more voice to those in the lower rudder of the power chain. We need to give more roles to party members in the selection of candidates for elections. To assign this role to a cabal at the party headquarters smacks of augury and crass impunity.

In any case, those who made the rules for the operations of most of our political parties did so to benefit themselves. The rules do not show any character of having been made for the common good. Prob­ably, this accounts for the bloody fights some people can put up to be elected into the national executive of a political party.

Those who collude with the party of­ficials to rape our democracy should bear in mind the incalculable harm they have done to our nation and quit their evil ways. They must make restitution for their actions and inactions and subject themselves to spiritual cleansing to fore­stall the righteous anger of God that is to come.

To those who lost at the primaries God will console you and give you the courage and strength to live and fight on. To all Ni­gerians, I urge us to remain vigilant, shun money politics and defend our rights. We should not wait for God to come down from heaven to help us. Our destiny is in our hands. We must therefore guard it jealously.

As we march to 2015 the horizon looks bleak. But by the grace of God who made the universe and all that is in it we shall come out victorious and our nation stronger.