Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finding funding for campaigns

Solomonsydelle, writing in the blog Nigerian Curiosity takes a shot at explaining some of the inconsistencies of electoral politics in Nigeria. Some things sound familiar, but he might also be voicing the concerns of a generation eager to take some of the reins of power.

He also offers some good examples of how and why politics in Nigeria is such a high stakes "game." (It's good to think about that aspect when listening to arguments about "zoning" the presidency.)

He also suggests, as did Chinua Achebe in Man of the People that things will change when the people have seen enough.

No matter where in the world, being a politician is expensive business. In Nigeria, politicians are expected to not just explain their campaign pledges and commit to addressing issues, but to feed potential voters as well. For this reason, politicians spend a lot of money, some of it public funds at times, wining and dining those they hope will vote on their behalf. Some say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. But, Nigerian politicians understand that the way to a voter's heart and mind is through his or her stomach.

So it was no surprise when I learned that to run for a seat in Nigeria's National Assembly, an individual would need upwards of N100 million (approximately $662,000 USD). And, that amount is actually a conservative estimate. In a country with a wide gap between the haves and have nots, the financial needs of a campaign automatically isolate many who may have good ideas but not the money or support from Godfathers that many incumbents and older Nigerians automatically have. As a consequence, the poor (not wealthy) and the young are overwhelmingly excluded by default from using politics on a national level as a platform to effect change…

In addition to the money needed to campaign, that politicians make a lot of money once they win their hard-fought seat, be it legally or illegally, adds to 'do or die' mentality…

At some point, Nigerians themselves will have to realize that the current way of doing things is advantageous to too few a number to be reasonable. If and when that happens, citizens from all socioeconomic levels will have to work together, hopefully, peacefully, to make the changes necessary for a Nigeria where many will have the opportunity to play a role in improving the nation. Until that day comes, there will continue to be impediments that prevent full participation in the Nigeria's democracy, such as the fact that many with the right intentions for a country have little chance of raising the capital needed to share their political ideas and potentially transform Nigeria.

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