Opinion

Opinion: Nigeria, From Democracy To Plutocracy

By Idang Alibi

When a few days ago the APC presidential aspirant, General Muhhammadu Buhari, complained loudly about the sum of 27.5 million fee he and other of his party’s presidential aspirants were required to pay for nomination form, many turned the matter into a joke. Unfortunately for me, among those who treated this very serious issue in a jocular manner was the APC Chairman himself, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, a man who among Tony Momoh, Ogbonnaya Onu, Peter Obi, Kayode Fayemi and Sokoto Deputy Governor, Muktari Shagari, I consider the most principled and consistent politicians this dispensation has thrown up. They come across to me as decent democrats, self-respecting, thoughtful and patriotic Nigerians most deserving of respect and who other of our politicians ought to emulate if we do not want our experiment with democracy to continue to look like a circus show.

I burned with righteous indignation when the next day after Buhari’s complaint, some listeners to the popular AIT Raypower radio programme Political Platform wrote letters which were aired which more or less lampooned General Buhari. The substance of their reaction was why a ‘poor’ man like Buhari should think of aspiring to be president at all. They sarcastically asked if Buhari was complaining about a ‘mere’ nomination fee of 27 million Naira, where will he get the money with which to wage the main campaign for the presidency? I have never been as shocked as I am over this sort of reasoning as I have been to all our acts of national foolishness combined. A people’s collective national destiny is being casually and cynically traded for mammon and some citizens are too blind to see and are reacting like this? Where has our collective sense of national outrage gone? The sale of forms is good business for the parties and bad politics for the
country.

This is a nation that boasts of several ‘’activists’’ whose job schedule is to rile against everything on planet earth. Tell me, where are they now that some fat cats in the secretariat of the nation’s two leading political parties have subtly rewritten the rules of our democratic leadership recruitment process? What can be more threating to our democracy than the fact that Nigeria will now be ruled by rich men and women irrespective of their ability and character? This country has paid such a high price for mediocrity. Are we now to pay an even higher price for banality? We are now asking all comers who have made money by fair and foul means to come govern us. How shall we fare with this type of dangerous mortgaging of leadership to the rich?

What we are being ushered into is plutocracy– government of the rich by the rich and for the rich. And no one is shouting loudly enough? This is government of a clique and how is this better than military rule? Is it not the same robbery of the people of their right to vote and be voted for which democracy claims it possess and is therefore superior to all other forms of rule? Let me tell my complacent compatriots this truth: if we do not rise up to fight this and make access to political power financially democratic enough, we are not just transiting from democracy to plutocracy we shall move from plutocracy to something worse. For it is a fact of human nature that when a people leave one outrage unchallenged, they will be visited by an even greater one. From what some of us are seeing now we shall move from plutocracy to cultocracy, government of cult members by cult members and for cult members. Make no mistake about it, some of the many succession
battles ragging in some states of the federation today have to do with the fact that some cultic governors desperately want to transfer powers to cult minions with whom they feel more comfortable to protect them while they dismount the saddle.

What the PDP and the APC are saying in effect is that we are bidding farewell to service and hosting a banner fully welcoming politics as business. Now, only the rich can aspire to elective offices in the land. And it promises to be a very lucrative business for the two parties, especially the ruling one. By some calculation, the ruling party, the PDP, is expected to rake in over 3 billion Naira from the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms. It is right to state that PDP Nigeria Limited has in the first two months of the last quarter of 2014 business/trading year, realized a revenue that is 2000 per cent over all the revenues it earned for the last four years of its business operations. Surely, its shareholders will smile all their way to the banks and are certain to pass a vote of confidence on its board of directors and move for their re-election to the board while the consumers will be gnashing their teeth.

Apart from the sin of mediocrity, our politicians have now turned into jesters and believe that we all are so gullible and can be fooled by any type of deceit. They tell us that they have been serving us so selflessly, so excellently, so commendably and so corrupt-free that it is their constituents, friends and well- wishers who now contribute money to pay the astronomical nomination form fee for them to come back and serve us yet more sacrificially. Lucky them. But the question is: what about those unknown, ‘unrich’ and uninfluential aspiring politicians who do not yet have an established constituency and who have no admiring rich and influential friends to buy forms for them?. Are they now being told to perish with their ambitions?

We have learnt to live with all manner of outrageous things that people in some inconsequential countries will pour onto the streets to demonstrate against. But the matter of this astronomical charge for expression of interest and nomination forms should not be one we should put up with. If we do, it means that we have silently acquiesced to the monetization of our political leadership recruitment process. We must not agree with some people that if you have money you can become a leader and if you are not so rich, perish the dream of aspiring to leadership. We should not agree that it does not matter whether you are a thief, a vagabond, a mediocre and an armed robber; that all that matters is money. Politics is not a cash and carry business deal between a political party and aspiring contestants. It is primarily about the people: how they want to be governed and by what type of persons.

The latest rule by the PDP and the APC means that the poor have been technically cut off from participating actively in election. They are left with an abstract, theoretical or paper right to participate as contestants. The people of Nigeria must rise up to restore the right of full participation of every eligible citizen in the governance of our country. What is happening now is a travesty of democracy. More established democracies are trying to stop money politics. We who have just started should, from the word go, discourage and outlaw the monetisation of politics because of the danger inherent in it for society.

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Article written by Idang Alibi

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