This is an election year. In fact, the general election s barely one month away. Yes, by February 16, Nigerians will troop out to the polls to elect a President that will take charge of the fate of the 200 million Nigerians for the next four years. That same day, they will elect members to the country’s National Assembly. Two weeks later, Nigerians will elect state governors and members of state assemblies across the states of the federation. But then, you can hardly believe that an election, indeed a general election is just by the doorsteps. Sure, there is enough cacophony of disparate political noises here and there but then all the features that had previously marked elections in Nigeria are not there. And these are features Nigerians in their arcane understanding of politics usually look for every election period. The trailer-loads of political parties at play in Nigeria have struggled through various processes of primary election and have selected motley crowd of candidates for the various posts. The usual heightened claims, promises, boasts and promises that usually follow an election are here but many decisive features of Nigerian elections are missing.
You may be wondering what really Is the heart of my narrative. You don’t need to so do. Simply flash back to four years ago when we last had a general election. You are not still connecting with my positions that the real features that mark Nigerian politics are missing? Okay, let me help my readers. By this time four years ago, monies, real monies were flying around. Yes, by this time four years ago, the party that was in power then, the PDP had opened the national vaults and money was flowing in all known currencies. Contractors, political chieftains, apex leaders, and various forms of political predators were smiling home with huge sums of monies for election purposes. Yes, it was an election year and who cared if Nigeria was bankrupted for the ruling party to remain in power? By this time in 2015, the Nigerian space was reeking so heavily with the money unleashed for the purpose of securing continuity for the ruling party! This was when humongous tranches of money were moved from the country’s treasury to procure continuity for a sitting government. This was the source from which the infamous Dasuki bazaar involving a hefty sum of $2.1 billion was placed under the custody of the then National Security Adviser to do as he deigns best, as reports from investigations from that sordid case showed.
By this time four years ago, sundry politicians were smiling to the bank. Yes, election was around the corner and the feeling of the party in power was that everything humanly possible must be done to stay in power. By this time four years ago, various interests were being seduced and patronized with money salted from the commonwealth to lend support to the party in power. Traditional rulers were subjected to such huge inducements as to sell their support for money. By this time four years ago, the media was awash with stolen fund and with the feeling that it had never been so good, they offered their spaces for perhaps the most absurd abuse the fourth estate of the realm had ever been subjected to. The ubiquitous social media was even trapped in this miasma as the aficionados of the party in power tracked this elusive and new section of the media and unleashed byzantine monetary influence on it to bow to their bottomless influence. By this time four year ago, the print and electronic media had completely surrendered to the firepower of the huge chunk of our national resources that was deployed to procure continuity for the then sitting government. They sold off their spaces to bizarre partisan interests that were ready to offer any sum for such spaces and the media became central in the forging, marketing and sustenance of a hugely corrupt message that failed to seduce Nigerians in the long run but sowed enough hatred, intolerance, bad blood that outlived that ghoulish period.
By this time last four years, majority of the nation’s human rights and political activists, social pundits and hitherto acknowledged voices of reason have successfully been recruited to promote the corrupt gospel of lucre as a basis for electoral support. These armies of converted activists became evangelizers of base messages of hate and division along religious and ethnic lines and became zealous disciples of the desperate efforts of the party that was then in power to secure continuity. Sure, the resources unleashed on then were so irresistible that most of them went extra miles to embrace self-immolation and self-denial of the causes they had pretended to fight for decades. It was as astonishing as it was revealing!
By this time last four years, various ethnic groups, socio-cultural groups and interests have been recruited through huge monetary deployment to champion the cause of the continuity of the then government. Their leaders and promoters had, by this time four years ago, been so heavily pampered with money salted from the country’s treasury that they became dangerous purveyors of threats to those that refused to join their gravy train. By this time last four years, pseudo contracts and multi-billion Naira inducements have been provided to various illegal militias and violent ethnic groups to supply the illegal force the erstwhile regime needed to stay in power. It was so bad that by this time last four years, these ethnic groups were carrying violent street actions to force the postponement of the 2015 general election on the fear that their efforts were not moving Nigerians to approve a fresh term for their patronizing regime. By this time last four years, the national space was awash with diets of threats by various monetized violent groups against Nigerians should they vote against the regime in power then.
By this time last four years, various degrees of leaders of the PDP were being allocated huge sums direct from the nation’s coffers. The Central Bank doors had been latched open for all manners of freeloaders that promised PDP continuity, the directive principles of state police had, by this time last four years, been directed exclusively to satiating all interests that promote PDP’s continued stay in power. By this time last four years, all leaders of PDP had ben armed with raw cash to go to the streets and buy off voters in a manner that jangled all that was decent and normal in the Nigerian society. It was so bad that even the then President relocated to some parts of the country where he was directly dishing out cash to voters for the purpose of buying them for his re-election.
By this time last four years, all manners of phantom contracts, where monies were paid upfront and jobs never done, were being given to PDP leaders all over the country for the purpose of the 2015 election. This criminal act was to ensure that money for election were provided sufficiently for party leaders to ensure they deliver their respective areas to the then ruling party.
So it is now easy to catch my drift on why this year’s election seems abnormal. Money has dried up. A Pharaoh who knows no Joseph and who brooks no stealing of public funds for the purpose of securing re-election is on the throne. What more, every kobo is channeled into a closely-guarded national treasury where they are disbursed for critical national spending. We have a President that has warned his appointees that they would be fired and prosecuted if they as much as channel public money towards his campaigns. We have a President whose campaign suffers from dearth of resources and who draws from voluntary massive support he enjoys from the masses and not the state resources he unleashes to continue in office. Sure, the old order has changed; yielding place to the new and the new does not tolerate the past prebendal order where state resources were wholesomely deployed to finance the election of an incumbent. This is what is making the 2019 election so dour, uninteresting and uninspiring in a country where election is all about opening the national treasury to ensure that an incumbent remains in power. Indeed, Nigeria has never been the same with the advent of President Buhari and politics in Nigeria will never be the same with Buhari in power! Money is what is not happening in 2019 because the incumbent is averse to using money to bribe or entice voters. What more, the opposition that is in possession of huge tranches of stolen Nigerian resources cannot spend freely because the eagle-eyed anti-corruption agencies are awake and watching. This scorched earth regime of electioneering is not what Nigerians are used to but they must endure it because a regime that believes that stealing is corruption is in charge.
So, with the government in power not ready to spend public resources to procure re-election, Nigerians are being forced to see politics in different and vastly improved light and this will greatly re-shape our politics along the proper and rightful course in the years to come. There is no doubt that as Buhari’s prudent means have so annoyed many citizens of a country where corruptly living off the state is norm, so will his tight-fisted approach to politics so annoy most Nigerians who look up to election year to make kills. It is not in doubt that both Buhari’s political foes and supporters are peeved by this scorched-earth resolve but we have no choice than to re-direct our putrid ways and perspectives of politics and election vis-à-vis their relationship with the public purse.
Sure, this is an election year with a difference. The monies are not flying around. State influences are not peddled and flaunted around. We see more of saber rattling and noisome boasts but no huge movement of cash to buy voters. Nigerians will do well to imbibe this new culture as best for our country and its citizens.
Peter Claver Oparah
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