As the clock ticks and each day moves Nigeria closer to the 2023 general elections, history indeed beckons for the most populous black nation on earth. But the question which begs an answer is, can Tinubu drown Peter Obi with his cash game?
The 2023 elections is one with so much importance and potentially a landmark one for the nation. For one, it’s one that will herald the hand over to another civilian and democratically elected president, Another importance is that it is an election that will either see the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) being booted out or re-entrenched as the incumbent president completes his two term tenure as permitted by the constitution.
After years of military rule, Nigeria transitioned to civilian, democratic, and electoral democracy on May 29, 1999. With each successive administration, the drive has been to steer the ship of the nation in the path of success and a proper utilisation of its vast human and natural resources in a bid to restore its lost glory. But that really remains a mirage 20 years on.
Another important aspect is that this is an election that will see a potential third force in the person of Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Nigerians have for long desired a change in the type of leaders the electoral process throws up. This probably has been the reason for a large voter apathy that has been experienced in the past elections.
For the 2023 election, the top two presidential contenders, in addition to Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), and Peter Obi of the Labor Party (LP).
What Are Peter Obi’s Chances of Squaring Up With The Big Spenders
One question this election continually throws up with each passing day is whether Peter Obi and the Labour Party are successfully squaring up with the big spenders in the electioneering process.
Presidential elections in any country are a huge investment; how much more so in a nation of over 200 million people and a land mass of 923,768 km². To put this in context, Nigeria is slightly twice the size of California, or the size of California, Nevada, and Arizona combined.
Cost of Electioneering Campaigns In Nigeria
Election campaigns cost billions to successfully run a presidential election in Africa, even though Nigerian law says spending shouldn’t exceed N5 billion ($11.2m). Basically, election is a hugely capital intensive venture and one for only those with deep pockets.
Tinubu and Atiku have a formidable financial war chest, and as a third force in the entire setup, many are looking up to Peter Obi to give a good showing at the election, but can he really muscle up?
Nigerians are increasingly worried about the prevalence of “dirty money” in politics. This term refers to the illicit activities and excessive spending that politicians can get away with due to their high level of impunity. In other words, they are not held accountable for their actions and can rise to prominence and amass wealth without suffering consequences. This creates an unfair playing field for those not involved in politics who want to achieve success through honest means.
Money plays a crucial role in Nigerian elections, as specified in the 2010 Electoral Act. This act is particular about campaign financing, including how much a politician can spend on their campaign, where the money can come from, how much can be contributed by organisations or individuals, and what role money plays in elections overall.
For example, as specified by law, a presidential candidate in Nigeria is only allowed to spend up to N1 billion, a governorship candidate up to N200 million, a senatorial candidate up to N40 million, a candidate for the House of Representatives up to N20 million, a candidate for the State House of Assembly up to N10 million, a candidate for the local government chairman up to N10 million, and a councillor up to N1 million.
However, it’s unfortunately quite common for these campaign finance laws to be broken during elections in Nigeria.
However, it is unlikely that many contestants will abide by this. Moreover, the electoral law itself is fraught with many loopholes that politicians can exploit to side step this rule.
The ‘Dollarisation’ of the Electioneering Process
A quick look at the antecedents of the individuals gives a good picture of what to expect.
Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential flag bearer, received 1,271 votes during the APC’s presidential primary – easily winning over his 22 rivals. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that he, along with the other 23 candidates, paid a whopping sum of N 100 million to enter the race.
At the same time, the People’s Democratic Party, the main opposition party in Nigeria, from its primaries threw up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its standard flag bearer after defeating 14 other candidates. Each candidate paid the sum of N40 million for the nomination form.
In a sharp contrast, Peter Obi was the only presidential candidate for the Labour Party, and he paid N30 million for the nomination form.
An Electioneering Process For Money Bags
Given the reports of vote buying and ‘dollarisation’ of the primaries of both the APC and the PDP, it’s reasonable to conclude that their presidential nominees have an unfair advantage over someone like Peter Obi, who doesn’t have as much money to spend. This is just one example of how money can often decide who wins and loses in an election.
In Nigeria, the monetization of the campaign financing process voids the existing campaign finance law. Therefore, if you wish to run for office and become a councillor, you must raise money to feed the community months before the primary or election.
To successfully process a presidential campaign in Nigeria, a presidential candidate needs to have a party representative in a total of 176,846 polling units on election day to avoid the vote-buying scandal. These gimmicks need a lot of money to be implemented, so how does Peter Obi hope to overcome these challenges?
Already, the other two candidates have begun doling out the cash and spending heavily to put in place structures that will aid their chances to turn the election result in their favour. With less than 100 days to the election, and Tinubu expanding his network, it remains to be seen just how well Peter Obi will be able to raise and drive his campaign and put in place adequate structures and processes that will deliver the 2023 presidential election in his favour.
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