2015: Checking Excessive Spending

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The issue of spending at electioneering has
always been a challenge even in the ad
vanced democracies. This is more so because when the
electoral process is excessively monetised, not only would the ordinary man not be able to vote according to his conscience, but the entire system would be endangered.
All over the advanced democracies, great care is taken to regulate where donations to parties can come from, how much can be allowed from a single donor and how it is spent. Not only are there legislations backing them, the authorities take time to monitor the process.
Interestingly, Nigeria also has aspects of this legislation under the Electoral Act, but even when its enforcement has been a problem, some politicians are kicking against the ceiling on electoral spending. Sadly, even President Goodluck Jonathan says the sum allowed is too inadequate.
According to the Electoral Act, a presidential candidate can only spend a maximum of Nl billion naira, while a governorship candidate is to spend N200 million, a Senate candidate to spend N40m and a House of Representatives candidate should not spend more than N20 million.
Similarly, those aspiring for the State Houses of Assembly are allowed to spend Nl0 million, Local Government Chairman is to spend Nl0 million, while councillors are to spend Nl million. Of course, there are also sanctions for contravening the law ranging from fines to jail terms.
While these provisions have been flouted severally by nearly all the parties, even at the elections held recently, there is no record of any party  or politician that has been sanctioned. But why the issue had to come up at the current review of the Electoral Act is what the average Nige- rian will need to know.
Perhaps, it should be put on record again that one of the reasons advanced for the advocacy for a one tenure term for the office of the President and State Governor was the scandalous cost of running elections every four years. To turn around to say that the ceiling stipulated by the Electoral Act was too small is capable of confusing the polity.
The truth of the matter is that elections are too expensive in Nigeria and should be condemned.
The situation clearly rules out persons who may be very equipped with character, fear of God and zeal to serve because they cannot afford the mil-
lions required. This, on its own, promotes the political godfather syndrome that had become the bane of governance of the country.
Often, the ones that can afford such sums are political business-men who invest any sum and get into office and take back their money with a self determined interest from the public purse.
Till date, nobody has been able to convince such political jobbers that what they are doing amounts to corruption, criminality and betrayal of public trust.
Clearly, if the system makes it look like the offices are for sale, not much can change for this country. Incidentally, the emphasis on money begins from the political parties that sell candidates form to as many persons as possible at such outrageous sums. Then the electorates openly demand to be paid to vote with the mindset that the candidate would go into office and steal any way.
The Tide thinks that it is high time the situation changed. According to a writer, it is only a mentally retarded fellow that would continue to do something the same way every time and expect different result. Nigerians must stop the emphasis on money in all spheres of our national life.
In the first place we cannot understand why Nigeria should continue to give electoral grants to political parties who have so much money to spend. It is no longer secret that Nigeria has about 60 registered political parties because of the huge sums paid to them every election year.
Meanwhile, only four parties are visible, while the rest fail to grab even a councillorship seat across the country.
We think that because too much money is brought to the scene, the old and time valued political campaigns are lost. Instead, what we have is a do or die approach that results in the arming of jobless youths to kill fellow Nigerians over political offices that are here today and gone tomorrow. Of course, the reason is that “I cannot spend all that money and fail.”
That is why the National Assembly must put the interest of the nation first as they review the Electoral Act. They must stop grants to parties and bring down the number of parties, reduce the ceiling on spending and insist on empowering INEC to sanction any and all defauters.