Nigeria: Not Too Young, but Too Poor to Run?

11 September 2018

Once again Nigerians are gearing up to "elect" democratic leaders in line with an imposed Constitution. That the Military Decree Governing Civilian Administration commonly referred to as the 1999 Constitution is fraudulent, poorly thought through, and basically incapable of leading the nation to prosperity and progress is no longer news. The main motivation behind it was to allow the failed Military to disengage, keep their ill-gotten loot and prevent any possibility of being called to account for their failures, illegalities, and unconstitutional actions. As a result, the distorted truth and current narrative is now that sixteen years of PDP rule are responsible for all the nation's woes rather than the thirty odd years of military imposition.

Retired military rulers with no democratic credentials are free to occupy elective positions and continue assaulting civil liberties and the rule of law. The only saving grace is that this group are ageing and nature will take its course. Until then the majority of aspirants claim they are a viable alternative to an old ailing President whose leadership style is characterized more by hesitancy than the urgency required in this time of crisis. The problem is that in this digital world, practically all aspirants are rehashed "analogue" individuals. In spite of the passage of the so called "Not too young to run" Bill, the high cost of expression of interest and nomination forms disqualifies all honest young people from contesting and makes it clear that young people have no place in our political system.

A young person earning N250,000 per month which is over ten times the minimum wage would not be considered a failure in life. But they would require approximately 15 years' salary in order to purchase an All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential nomination form! This would only be the beginning of their expenses. The reality is that Political parties who should ordinarily take responsibility for sponsoring elections look for people with the deepest pockets to finance their own elections. As a result, candidates for political office are not young people who have true commitment, ability and patriotism, but recycled people who have been in office before and accumulated a war chest. President Buhari himself has been embarrassed by the cost of APC nomination forms.

The price tags are in themselves corruption personified because they are the most expensive of any party in the land. It makes no sense to expect politicians to avoid corrupt practices when the cost of the form is more than the salary they will collect if successful. Politics in Nigeria has become an investment rather than a service. Civil society groups and opposition parties are united in asking President Buhari to reject the N45 million forms bought for him by a shadowy group called Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN). Their position is that it contravenes Section 91(10) (a) of the Electoral Law which limits donations to candidates. The defence that President Buhari is currently only an "aspirant" and not yet a "candidate" is disingenuous. A feeling of disillusionment is spreading amongst Nigerian youth in the belief that with no new blood being injected into the political system life is only going to get worse. Those in power seem pre-occupied with retaining their privileges rather than widening the political space. The best brains, and the most qualified and able, stand little or no chance of occupying political office. Whether at Local, State or Federal level the same old players are in control and continue to recycle themselves directly or through agents and proxies.

Nigeria is fast becoming a chattel, leasehold interest or property subject to inheritance in which the same people keep occupying political positions as of right. They tend to succeed because Nigerians have long since abandoned the idea of taking principled positions so boot-licking sycophancy has become the order of the day. Despite their inability to get things right our leaders have a love for the trappings of office and most of them spend the best part of their lives living off the nation. Nigeria is becoming similar to the spouse who is constantly and repeatedly abused by their partner to the extent that over time the abuse becomes normal.

With the economy showing no signs of real recovery and the absence of any well-articulated strategy for relaxing the nation's dependence on oil, Nigerians who want to become rich are reduced to a choice between engaging in various types of high-risk financial fraud, or relatively low risk political fraud. The first option is open to the youths and they have embraced it with open arms. The second is closed because Imposition and selection by godfathers killed nomination a long time ago and now self-imposition and self-selection reigns. Regrettably although they may not be too young to run, the youth are definitely too poor!

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