Nigeria's 2019 Elections Campaign Financing: Matters Arising! -Ishola Adebayo

November 2, 2018

Campaign financing refers to all funds raised to promote candidates, political parties, or policy initiatives. Political parties, charitable organizations, and political action committees are vehicles used in aggregating funds to keep campaigns alive. Elections campaign financing therefore refers to funds used to promote the interest of political parties and candidates.

In Nigeria, the framework governing political campaign finance is the Electoral Act. According to Section 91(2) and 91(3) of the Electoral Act, the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential and governorship election shall be one billion Naira only and two hundred million Naira only respectively.

Also, Section 91(4) of the Electoral Act states that the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate for a Senatorial and House of Representatives election shall be forty million Naira only and twenty million Naira only respectively. Independent political campaign finance experts have frequently noted that Nigeria’s president, governors, senators and members of the house of representatives spent much more than the amount allowed by the Electoral Act.

Elections cost money. The political party has to set up a party secretariat in virtually every ward, state, and at the national level, pay staff, promote its brand and its agenda, organize meetings, pay sitting allowances, support candidates, run media advertisements, arrange receptions and entertainment, pay for logistics, buy vehicles, pay for air travels and road transportation, the organization of rallies and campaigns, reserve some tidy sum for lobbying at all levels including the lobbying of the media and other groups in civil society.

Win or lose eventually, every political party be it in Africa, Europe, America, or Asia knows that money drives the game of politics. This is no rocket science, no matter how unfortunate the implications may be. It is nonetheless for this reason that political parties write into their constitutions, means of raising funds. These include membership subscriptions, payment for expression of interest in elective positions, donations, fund raising activities, and support from friends and the corporate sector.

This commercialization of the political process is a universal dilemma and part of the crisis of what seems to be the perceived end of liberal democracy. If money makes all the difference, and politicians have to acquire and repay monetary IOUs, then where does that leave the big, liberal, ideas about choice, sovereignty and the power of the majority? Where really, are the people in the entire democratic equation?

Before the 2019 elections, on election-day and even after, the electorates in states across the country, expect to be paid in cash and kind with the resultant vote-buying syndrome experienced in Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and more recently in Osun State. The people are encouraged to embrace democracy with cash, they are induced to vote in the same manner and their loyalty is maintained only when it is procured. Worse still, the leaders themselves do not give a hoot. In short, they brazenly encourage the violation of the campaign laws. Nations where democracy still seems to be putative or uncertain are the worst hit and many of them are in Africa with particular interest in Nigeria as we march forward to the 2019 general elections.

The Nigeria’s Electoral Act is explicit on campaign finance. Very importantly, the Act contains relative consequences for violations. Interestingly, even as the candidates openly violate the campaign finance laws, including spending without limitation and open buying and selling of votes; none of the agencies entrusted with enforcement of electoral laws seem to care. Whatever happens, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can make all the difference by choosing to be independent and effective in the discharge of its monitoring and sanction powers as contained in the Constitution and the Electoral Act.