Money politics and the Nigerian economy

Money politics

What many don’t know is that the man with money can still be a slave, so long as he remains enslaved by a poverty mentality

Money is a vital component for any activity in an economy because nothing can be done without money; therefore, it is safe to say that political activities cannot be executed without money.

However, when money becomes superior to quality leadership, this can lead to a breeding ground for corruption. Money politics is a political system in which a politician is being supported by its party members in return for financial support.

All over the world, money is an essential component of any political system as it is necessary for funding political campaigns, and participations.

One major issue with money politics as regards Nigeria is the fact that money politics as a means of funding political activities and participation has now turned to a case of the highest bidder, where only people who can spend are considered the best candidate(s). The capacity to deliver quality governance is now being determined by how much a candidate can spend on an election.

Recently, the media space revealed the extent to which politicians now go in order to win an election. Reports have it that in preparation for the primary elections, many of the party delegates and party members were paid in dollars.

It therefore becomes imperative to ask why delegates should be paid in foreign currencies, especially at such a time where the nation’s exchange rate system is on a free fall against the dollar – a situation that can best be described as the ‘dollarisation of the Nigerian economy’.

For some of Nigeria’s political parties, each presidential aspirant was reported to have paid the delegates nothing less than $10,000 while some delegates were even paid double. This is apart from the huge sum of money that will be paid to obtain the presidential form.

Bearing in mind that each local government is to be represented, this by implication means that even if each presidential aspirant spent at most 6 million on each delegate, each of the presidential aspirants would have spent nothing less than N4.6 billion in total, bearing in mind that Nigeria has 774 local governments.

This is apart from the money that would be given to the dignitaries of each state they visit for campaign; this does not also include the campaign expenses that would be incurred during their campaigns nor does it include the popular ‘stomach infrastructure,’ which is often reserved for the lower class.

Indeed, vying for a political position in Nigeria is something huge. It seems to be that the race for Nigeria’s electoral positions have always been determined by the amount of money each politician can spend rather than on merit or competence.

This by implication means that anybody can now be elected into power even if they are not qualified, so far they have the money to spend. Little wonder its leaders fail to carry out their campaign promises once they occupy the position of power. To them, being in the position of power has become a call to be served rather than a call to serve.

One thing about politics is that it cannot be treated in isolation from economic realities because political factors always affect economic development. This position therefore makes it more important to reveal how Nigeria’s political system, which is largely driven by money, will affect the nation’s economy, especially at a time like this.

Exchange rate:

The duo of high inflation rate and high exchange rate has delivered a double blow that is currently hitting the nation’s economy. Apart from the failure to diversify, one major reason why the naira keeps sliding against the dollar is because of the increase in demand of the dollar as Nigeria’s election year draws nearer.

It is no longer news that some of Nigeria’s political bigwigs got paid in dollars by interested aspirants of various parties in a bid to secure a seat in the political space.

For instance, a report by Bloomberg revealed that “politicians stocking up on dollars before Nigeria’s primary elections start over the weekend are helping to drive the local currency to new lows”, while another report by the UK’s The Guardian noted that “elections in Nigeria translates to heavy spending to secure seats or pay off rivals”.

Presently, it has been reported that the value of naira to dollar has fallen to an all-time low of N600 per dollar while there are fears that the value might even fall up to N1,000 per dollar as the election year approaches. One thing is sure: those that will benefit from the free fall of naira are the same set of politicians that led the country into its current state.

These people definitely belong to the caucus of the high and mighty who have stashed both local and foreign investment for themselves; therefore, devaluation of the naira would be a plus for them. However, bearing in mind that Nigeria imports the bulk of its goods using the dollar currency, therefore as the naira decreases in value against the dollar, inflationary pressure will become inevitable.

This implies that the poor, whose only source of livelihood revolves around the naira, would be at the receiving end of this dilemma because the more the naira falls, the more the level of inflation and the higher would be the vulnerability to poverty and hunger.

Increased rate of corruption: Undoubtedly, corruption and poor economic management still remains a big issue in Nigeria. According to a report by the PricewaterhouseCoopers, corruption could cost Nigeria up to 37 percent of its GDP by the year 2030 while an independent research report by French Institute of International Relations described Nigeria as “a textbook case of the damaging effects of corruption in Africa”.

Another report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed how its unscrupulous leaders continue to pilfer the national coffers and keep billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts while those that have been found culpable of corrupt practices continue to get released.

According to this report, the amount of money Nigeria has lost through the endemic issue of corruption, if joined end to end, would be enough to make 75 round trips to the moon.

We don’t need a prophet to tell us that a leader that has spent the bulk of his wealth to convince people to vote for him would first see a call to leadership as a means of gathering back the large chunk of funds he has spent.

Little wonder Nigeria’s infrastructural index has a poor global ranking while some of its state governments still struggle to implement their fiscal budgets.

Increased inequality: Nigeria’s inequality index currently ranks among the worst in the world. For instance, a research report by Oxfam, a charity organisation located in the UK, revealed that Nigeria ranks second after Swaziland in its inequality index ranking.

Another report by Oxfam that measures a country’s commitment to inequality reduction revealed that Nigeria has the lowest ranking as far as effort made to reduce inequality is concerned.

According to a report by Oxfam, poverty and inequality in Nigeria have continued to increase not because the country is poor in economic resources but because of corruption and gross economic mismanagement.

Furthermore, the United Nations publications in 2017 said: “Five of Nigeria’s wealthiest people have a combined wealth of $29.9 billion, more than the country’s entire budget as about 60 percent of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 per day, the threshold of poverty.”

Many economic experts are of the opinion that one of the major reasons why Nigeria continues to find itself within the cycle of debt trap, inequality and poverty is because of how the country continues to run an expensive system of government where the success of a political party largely lies on its ability to settle those believed to be the political cabals.

Presently, the current minimum wage in Nigeria is N30,000, which some states are still struggling to pay. It should be noted that as at 2019 when the figure was approved, inflation rate was 11.40 percent; however, the last statistical data released on consumer price index reveals that Nigeria’s inflation rate currently stands at 16.82 percent, yet there’s no tendency that Nigeria will consider an upward review of its minimum wage standard.

It is disheartening that the same system that finds it difficult to implement the full minimum wage as stipulated by the law finds it easy to distribute national wealth amongst its politicians.

Infrastructural trade off: One major issue about Nigeria’s money politics is its tendency to be a breeding ground for the embezzlement of public funds. This is because the more a politician spends, the more he or she is likely to see a leadership position as an avenue to amass the wealth he has spent over time.

In fact, one of the major reasons why infrastructures continue to be in a poor state is because the allocations have been embezzled or commissioned to another political ally who remits a fraction of it to those entrusted to lead the country.

Presently, Nigeria has 12,522MW of installed capacity and about 85 million Nigerians do not have access to power as at 2021. According to the African Infrastructure Development Index of the African Development Bank, Nigeria ranks 24 out of the 54 African countries under consideration.

Despite the huge allocation of budget for its capital expenditure, it still appears a mystery how the state of infrastructural development still remains a major concern for the giant of Africa. For instance, Nigeria’s Ajaokuta steel remains a dead project today after several reports of privatisation while none of its refineries have refused to function despite billions of allocation.

The only explainable reason for this is because the allocated budget for these projects only ends up in the pockets of private individuals. Without any iota of doubt, leadership is an important element of economic development as nations don’t develop by the quality of natural resources they have but by the quality of human resources that control their economies.

Over time however, the country has encouraged poor development trajectory by rewarding the same set of people who denied the country of its true greatness which has cost it its deserved growth as the youths have been deprived of jobs; infrastructure remains largely poor while the country continues to struggle for global respect.

Indeed, Nigeria’s leadership and political landscape has been shaped by more self-seeking individuals than nationalists since the country gained independence. It therefore didn’t come as a surprise when the Chandler Good Government Index, an annual index computed to measure the effectiveness and capability of 104 countries globally, ranked Nigeria as the country with the third-worst governance system after Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

As Nigeria approaches its 2023 general elections, the country needs to vote for the 21st-century think-tanks that can provide opportunities for progressive growth and whose core values would be focused on how to lift the bulk of the nation’s populace out of the “peculiar mess” of poverty, corruption and insecurity.

Toun Ogunbiyi Jun 7, 2022


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