Financing political parties, elections and democracy – Part 1

Nigeria-Election-Voters-Casting-Vote-650x433The bane of Nigeria political system is finance. Nigeria has one of the most expensive political systems in the world. We simply cannot really afford it. There are no laws or culture about how to finance a political party or how much to spend on an election and where the money is coming from. What is the structure of parties and Governance in Nigeria?

There are 774 Local Governments in Nigeria. I want to look at how much it would cost a political party to exist in all these local governments. Each local government will have an average of no less than 15 wards. Each ward will have at least 7 party officials. – headed by the Chairman, Deputy, Secretary etc. Thus the party apparatchik of each local government will be as follows: 7×15= 105 people (ward level). Each local government will have at least 20 officials at the local government headquarters level (i.e. 15 ward Chairman added to 5 others (in reality they are more than) 15+5 but for illustration purposes let’s take 5, i.e. 20 party officials per local government.

Thus, at the local government level plus ward level there are approximately 105+5=110 party officials. Nigeria has 774 Local Government areas: party office holders will then be 774×110 = 85,140. Now add the ex-officio members – all members of the State and National Assemblies plus all Commissioners and Ministers and Members of the Board of Trustees – all of whom may attend the National Convention of the party where the Presidential candidate will be elected.


So how much does a party need to be fully on ground and who pays? As already calculated. – If the South South co-coordinator, for example, was given N600 million i.e. N100 million for each of the 6 states in the South-South. Rivers State has 23 local governments. He would have to give about N4.3 million per Local Government. The party officials in each local government number about 110. How long will N4.3 million last during a campaign? The coordinator still has 5 states unfunded.
There may be other sources of funds – e.g. the Governor and some big party wigs. Conservatively the 6 states in the South-South will need N2.1 billion. Then multiply that by 6 zones = N12.6 billion.

When a thief is caught, it is never a good argument of defence that he is not the only one stealing or that Mr. Smith steals also. The PDP has been caught stealing money with reckless abandon. The sums are seemingly staggering but in reality it is not that much in real terms. Both the APC and the PDP bought thousands of vehicles for the election – no less than about 5 boats. Both parties had access to private jets which they used. How much did that cost? One important reform of our political system is to record the cost of running the parties and the costs of the campaign as is done in all worthwhile democracies. When the President of the United States uses Air force 1, the Presidential plane, for non-official duties, he pays for it. Our Presidential candidates of PDP and APC had use of aircraft- who owned the aircraft and who paid for them?

I have gone into some details to describe the organization of a Nigeria political party. The number of people involved above does not include those leaders of the Party or Governors etc. would classify as security. All political parties have a large retinue of thugs many of whom follow the winning political party into office – e.g. the Nigeria Militants were largely thugs, who, when the PDP swept the South-South and moved into political offices – brushed up their acts and became PAs, Ministers, Members of Board of Parastatals etc. Among these thugs are various occultists who replenish their members as others get promoted into better positions. The North East militants, especially Borno, Adamawa and Kano were breeding and recruiting grounds for later day terrorists as much as the Niger Delta produced militants who later turned out to be recipients of the amnesty largesse. But a system such as existed in the North East and Kano and in the Niger Delta region can never be fair to all; quarrels were frequent and each dispute led to greater militancy from the disaffected and dissatisfied. Even the strong threat of cults and fundamentalism were never sufficient to bind them together. Put succinctly each party had active armed guards and a large reservoir of reservists in a country where youth unemployment was over 60% – 70%.

But returning to our theme. So who funds the parties? Is there a trade-off, in funding and political preferment?

We now know who and how the PDP was funded until recently. Most of the money came from the South – especially where a number of ambitious politicians sought the office of Vice-President after Obasanjo in 2007. During Jonathan’s Presidency funding moved away from the South South (except Rivers and Delta, probably to a lesser extent Akwa Ibom) – the gamble had paid off for Jonathan but can the formula work again? On the face of it this was highly unlikely, but it did not stop the massive funding from some South-South States.

PDP could fund itself also from the Federal purse and did so massively. In all the political parties in Nigeria when you say, for example, PDP was federally funded, you will hear some members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), Board of Trustee (BOT) or officials in the PDP Secretariat claim that they did not see any money that the party was broke.

As the revelations from the series of inquiries into Government Departments and Parastatals continue to show – a lot of money went to PDP. They may not have been distributed fairly but money went there. The party’s electoral machine was mobilized; buses and cars were bought, advertisements were commissioned and money voted for these and other necessary election expenses. The party had a budget of some trillion naira; the President and Vice-President, First Ladies and friends, travelled by air, land and sea to campaign, venues booked for campaigns, uniforms, clothes, bunting, flags etc; were bought special events and rallies were organized, throughout Nigeria, in wards, local government areas, states, Abuja and overseas. Traditional rulers, Labour leaders etc. were canvassed, gifts, food, money flowed freely but a large chunk of these funds did not go to party work but to private pockets.

Parties and politics cost a lot of money none of which is really accountable. As with PDP so with APC- how did APC pay for its party officials, its uniforms, transport, rallies and conventions etc. Members of APC, APGA, Labour etc. are Nigerians not people from Jupiter, or Mars or other planets. We saw their campaigns, their slogans, and the entourage that followed the campaigns. Who paid and how were these paid for? It is trite to say that as the South-South had contributed heavily to the elections in 2003, 2007, 2011. Many states in the North, the West and Lagos were assumed to have footed the bill of the last election. Many of the states have a Nigerian version of the “Super Packs” which are used in the United State to support candidates and political parties. Contracts are given for various projects. Those who won these projects are then approached to make donations to the party.

I am definitely not suggesting that there were pre-arrangements or kick backs, I just do not know. But political entourages do not travel for free, and there is no culture of voluntary service in the cause of a political party in Nigeria. We saw the APC, APGA, Labour party members and leaders hoping in and out of planes, all over Nigeria, ditties, slogans, were sang and played on radio, television and rallies at all levels – wards, local governments, states and Abuja. How were these paid for? Who paid for them?

To be continued tomorrow.

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