Journalism of Courage

2023 polls: Money politics: Nigeria inching toward plutocracy, government of the rich and for the rich — INEC Chairman

…says it may greatly endanger nation’s democracy

With the overwhelming influence of money on Nigeria’s politics, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has expressed the fear that the current democracy may soon become a plutocracy – government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

Unlike the real democracy, government of the people, by the people and for the people, Yakubu said money politics and insecurity constitute major threats to the nation’s democracy.

Persecondnews reports that party delegates across the political parties have been smiling to the banks as aspirants induce them to vote for them.

Son of a former Vice-President Nanadi Sambo, Adam, Kaduna House of Representatives aspirant had demanded a refund of the N2 million he gave to each of the delegates, who failed to vote for him on Tuesday at the PDP primary.

But Yakubu, who expressed worry about the current “cash and carry’’ politics, urged a collaboration with the anti-graft agencies — ICPC and the EFCC – to arrest the situation.

`There are three critical challenges to overcome in the conduct of the 2023 elections namely; insecurity, fake news and money politics.”

“My third area of concern is the influence of money on politics and is becoming more present and the risk is that ours may soon become a plutocracy for the rich rather than a democracy for the people.

“The way money is exchanging hands is a source of concern. Yes, we have collaboration with ICPC and the EFCC and only recently we renewed our collaboration with the EFCC….we are going to do something together.

“However, there are two dimensions to it: when you have willing connectors it becomes a bit more difficult to contain the situation.

“On the one hand, you have brilliant examples, we all saw this on the social media in Anambra when there was an attempt to bribe voters and the women refused to accept the money and voted their conscience,” he said.

He spoke at a one-day colloquium on “Emerging issues that will shape the 2023 general elections in Nigeria’’, organized by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in Abuja.

The INEC boss also identified the challenges of fake news as another potential threat to the current democratic process.

“What political parties do is critical to what INEC does because that is what is called the primary election.

“Because the candidates that emerge from the primary elections are the ones that would participate in the secondary election which INEC will conduct,’’ he also said.

On insecurity, Yakubu said the commission has been meeting with security agencies to tackle the challenge, promising that the commission will strive to be transparent during the forthcoming elections in order not to give room for fake news.

In his remarks, Prof. Attahiru Jega, a former INEC chairman, said the use of money in Nigerian politics has become a source of concern.

“Frankly speaking, the way money is used, many of us are now saying that we are moving in the direction of becoming a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

“Plutocracy is basically the government of the rich for the rich by the rich. Imagine, the National Assembly altered the Electoral Act to increase the threshold of how much a candidate can spend for election finance.

“That is something that we should all have opposed; regrettably, we were too busy with the issue of electronic transmission and so on that we lost focus.

“We did not pay sufficient attention to what they were trying to do because they now smuggled the issue of huge financial outlays required of candidates,” he said.

Jega criticised the political parties, especially the so-called big ones, for fixing huge sums of money (N100 million, N40 million respectively) for nomination forms which has automatically excluded women, young men and people with disability from the contest.

He said attention should be focused on money politics for the next round of electoral reforms to the nation’s electoral law.

Mr Yabagi Sani, the Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), complained that INEC did not carry political parties along before releasing the election timetable which has caused some problems in the polity.

“This is why the parties are calling for extension of time for the conduct of their primaries to allow for a thorough job.’’

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