By Afolabi Aribigbola
National elections in Nigeria and the just concluded primaries by the major political parties to choose candidates for the forthcoming 2023 general elections revealed that huge sums of money were expended by virtually all the candidates to secure their positions during the exercise. Although it is widely acknowledged that finance is essential and required to prosecute elections in all parts of the world. However, the dimension, source and how the humongous funds committed to the exercise were the source of concern and the consequences of the whole affairs on Nigerian milieu.
One fact that came out in bold relief was that money is now the major determinant of who get what when it comes to seeking elective positions and that no one can achieve or attain any positions without huge spending to ‘settle’ voters.
Ability and capacity to discharge the responsibilities of these offices are no longer relevant in Nigerian context but ability to purchase votes. An unfortunate and sad commentary on Nigeria’s nascent democratic journey. Therefore, from the State Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential primaries we hear of candidates enticing people with huge money to support them and in most cases, the highest bidder takes the day and were elected. Huge sums of money from about five hundred thousand to about twelve million naira or two thousand to over ten thousand dollars were alleged to have been distributed per delegate. No political party was immuned from this malady anyway.
Sad and to the chagrin of Nigerians, some that lost elections have the temerity to request for a refund from those that collected money and other material things such as cars. To stem the nauseating and embarrassing trend, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies were deplored to arrest the situation. Whether they were able to arrest anybody is yet to be ascertained but the media revealed open display of money received by some delegates. The consequences or results of all this is that only the wealthy and super rich individuals can contest and win election in the country. This tendency tends to build governance in the country around the rich, whether from genuine or questionable sources. All that matter is to come with a lot of resources, the person will win election. The country is building the government of the rich at the expense of the poor masses that are in majority. No wonder most of the policies of the government are now introduced to favour the wealthy at the expense of the poor majority wallowing in abject poverty. This has qualified the country to be designated as poverty capital of the world.
The scenarios unravelling in the country as presented above and the potential consequences that it portends has become a source of worry to many Nigerians including this writer. Monetizing the political process is fast moving to a dangerous level that can consume the entire nation if care is not taken to reverse it. Of course, it is not only in politics that money seems to determine everything. Other essential sectors such education is being controlled by ability to pay rather than merit. This explains why someone will score 180 and get admission to a course of his choice in a private university because of ability to pay, whereas, another who scored 250 will not get admission in the same country. The truth is that everything in Nigeria at present is skewed in favour of the rich. In a way, the priviledge elite in government and rich collaborators are manipulating the entire national space to promote plutocracy.
Since it is obvious that the country is inkling towards government of the wealthy or what is generally referred to as plutocracy, it is essential to look at what such tendency or development portends for the country against the global trend where inclusive participatory governance that is sustainable is the acceptance practice. This is what is being promoted everywhere.
This is because it has a wide- and far-reaching consequences on the development of the country, its ultimate health and her persistence as a society over time. The term plutocracy is used to describe a society governed either directly or indirectly by extremely wealthy individuals. One common attributes of this system of government is the enactment of government policies that benefit the rich, often at the detriment of the lower classes in society. It is a type of government that either intentionally or by circumstance allows the wealthy to control most political and economic aspects of the society.
This is what is playing out at present in the country. Plutocracy can be created either directly by enacting economic policies advantageous to the wealthy, like privatization that allow few priviledge persons to take over collective resources, or indirectly by making vital social resources such as education and health care more easily accessible to the wealthy than to the less financially advantaged classes. An observation of development in recent times especially since the beginning of the fourth republic there are increasing privatization and commercialization of state services and enterprises in favour of priviledged Nigerians.
Fostering plutocracy on Nigeria by art of commission or omission has wide and grave consequences especially in the long run. It has the potency of engendering crisis by widening the gap between the rich and the poor creating polarity. This can ultimately engender class struggle in the future as witnessed in the 19th and earlier part of the 20th centuries in some societies if efforts are not made to change the negative narratives of providing only for the wealthy.
It will permit the wealth to continue domination of majority and the perpetuation of their families. Several present leaders are already positioning and promoting their children to take overpower from them. Suffice it to say that revolving governance only around the wealthy is dangerous and repulsive. Indeed, plutocracy has the tendency to neglect the needs, desires as well as the aspirations of the poor majority. This explains why the government of Nigeria since 2009 for instance have tried to decimate the public universities like they did to public primary and secondary schools to promote and enhance the development of the private universities. This is to the detriment of the poor that cannot afford exorbitant fees.
The danger of plutocracy was aptly described by a one time President of United United States of America, President Theodore Roosevelt that, “of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and most vulgar is the tyranny of a plutocracy. This indicate that plutocracy is not good and attempt to institutionalise in Nigeria should be rejected by all. Otherwise, the wealthy ruling class with a lot of resources will soon begin to oppress the masses. The wide inequality and the fact that only those that are very wealthy can attain political positions is a pointer that the country is moving towards plutocracy.
The recent huge spending by politicians is a danger signal to the sustainable development of the country because it will deprive the country of good and capable hands that can contribute positively to the development of the country. Majority of Nigerians don’t really have influence on government policies and those representing them because wealth has taken over. This development must be resisted by Nigerians and security agencies must be alive to checkmate money bags in using the power of money to take over the country.
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