Transparency and Integrity


2023 : Too Many Declarers Few Repairers


Presidential Circus: A Case Of ‘Many Declarers, Few Repairers’? 

– Avenue To Raise Election Funds For Parties?

Are There Aspirants That Can Redeem Nigeria?

– Appetite To Wield Presidential Power For The Sake Of Doing So.


The indices are very scary and hope of redemption or renewal in the immediate pretty thin. The fault lines have become more visible. The union appears greatly cracked if not badly broken. Mending it will take time… a long time, as embers of ethnic and religious suspicions across the land have become red hot.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) as of February this year projected that 92.6 per cent of accruable revenue to the country in 2022 will be spent servicing accumulated debts [paying interests on loans and not repaying the principal].  By September last year, it stood at 76 per cent, which meant every 76 kobo of every one naira realised by government in the year went into payment of interests on loans.

IMF also released a gloomy forecast that public debt will grow in 2022 by 117.8 per cent on a year-to-year basis with inflation projected to average 14.3 per cent. At the moment, the total debt stock of Nigeria is projected by the Debt Management Office (DMO) as recently as March 2022 to rise from N39.55 trillion, that is by December 2021, to N45 trillion, following plans to borrow N6.39 trillion to finance deficit in this year’s budget.

Travelling within the country has become a taboo, particularly in some northern parts of the country. Whether by train or road, kidnappers and blood-sucking terrorists are on the prowl. The list of scary statistics is longer than has been presented above.

In spite of the frightening situations and a fast deteriorating economy, as many as 40 politicians are crowding the presidential race track in both the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A few others in smaller parties are equally sprinting to replace President Muhammadu Buhari whose job expires on May 29 next year.

With the gloom that stares the citizens and future of the country in terms of revenue generation, what then is the attraction for these presidential athletes? Is it a case of lust for office without commensurate commitment to the responsibilities attached to the office or genuine intention to repair the badly damaged environment and psyche of the mass impoveroshed Nigerians?

Appetite to wield presidential power for the sake of doing so?

Watchers of happenings in the polity have strongly debated how the borrowed presidential system of government makes whoever is the president of the country a dictator. This, observers say, might be one of the factors inducing the unbridled appetite in joining the presidential race.

In fact, one common censure against Nigeria’s presidential democracy is not just its expensiveness on account of needlessly duplicated bureaucracies, but also the fact that it gives whoever is the president the opportunity to wield the power of life and death over the various aspects of national life.

Of course, this is aided by the 1999 Constitution which donates 68 awesome powers to the president in the Exclusive List, making the Federal Government the only federating unit that takes decisions on the items listed therein. The pseudo-federal structure also makes the operation of the system awkward in Nigeria when compared to the political realities in India or the United States where presidentialism was borrowed.

Appraising the presidential system which the country first operated between 1979 and 1983, a former Minister of Education and ex-Ambassador to Germany, Professor Tunde Adeniran, then a senior lecture at the Political Science Department in the University of Ibadan, in a paper entitled Four Years of Presidential Democracy in Nigeria, said:

“…by adopting the presidential system of democracy, Nigeria has thus added the challenge of operating an untested presidential system to the task of running a federal system of government. The rapidity of events, the bewildering array of political realities, socio-economic paradoxes, and, indeed, the actors, forces and pressures on the Nigerian scene are rather intriguing and challenging.”

Also speaking on why the presidential system is not suitable for Nigeria, an Associate Professor in the Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Adetunji Ogunyemi, listed four major inherent demerits of the system.

“Regardless of the historionics of the presidential system of government and the comparative advantage between it and the parliamentary system, I posit that four different debilities, if you like, demerits of the model do not recommend presidentialism to the Nigerian environment.

“The first is that it is utterly expensive. I don’t need to stress that. The second one is that it makes the president almost like a dictator. He is in charge of virtually all the powers, particularly appointive power, by which if the president becomes nepotistic as we have today in Nigeria, the country can either go into implosion or atrophy as a result of that nepotistic disposition.

“I give you an example. Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution created 14 federal executive bodies. These bodies are the ones in charge of the country. There is no aspect of the Nigeria life that can escape these bodies. Without deference to anybody or even to the state from where they come, it is the president that appoints members of these bodies.

“These bodies are: the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Council of State, the Federal Character Commission, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the National Defence Council, the National Economic Council, the National Judicial Council (NJC) and so on.

“One single human being [the president] appoints people into these bodies. I have calculated it. When you put all the appointees of the president in the country alone together, they are 6,111.  Only the president alone appoints this much without anybody filtering. What happens when such awesome power falls into the hand of a nepotistic president as we have now? The country is going to go into an implosion or there will be such division and hate that the country will almost atrophy.

“The third thing about demerit of Nigeria’s presidential system is that it tends to emasculate the governors. The use of the armed forces and the suppressive apparatus of the state is also part of the reasons why the presidential system of government should not be used in Nigeria.

“One of Nigeria’s highly celebrated historians, J.S Cookey, in 1982, highlighted the disadvantages of the presidential system and warned that except the country practices rotational presidency, there was no way the idea of presidentialism won’t lead to nepotism in an ethnically charged country like Nigeria. When a single person seizes the jugular of the power centre in the country and he is a nepotistic person, God will help such a country.”

Avenue to raise election funds for parties?

With nomination and expression of interest forms for presidential aspirants sold at N40m and N100m respectively in PDP and APC, the parties are in for a bounty cash harvest to prosecute the 2023 elections. Newspaper reports have put the interim amount realised by the two major parties from forms at about N50b.

This has also fuelled speculations about the possibility of the parties and their chiftains masking their spending on the elections under the guise of purchasing forms with a view to circumventing the financial limit set in the new Electoral Act. Although some APC chieftains have justified the whopping N100m for forms as a strategy to separate pretenders from contenders, the weight of the argument against such defence has been too strong to demolish.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would deploy technology and work in concert with strategic partners to monitor closely what candidates spend at election and see to the compliance of the provisions of the Electoral Act.

From N1bn limit in the former law, campaign spending limit for presidential candidate has been raised to N5b, just as that of governorship candidate has gone up from N200m to N1b. The same 500 per cent increase applies to other offices. 

Despite this increase, critical commentators feel the new limits are not realistic in view of how heavily monetised the electoral processes are becoming and the current value of the naira.

According to Ogunyemi, “The limits set are not realistic and completely not in sync with the value of the naira and the reality of the economy. If anybody wants to contest in Nigeria, he will need to be relevant in 774 sub-units of the country, that is, 768 local government and six area councils in FCT.

“It is practically impossible for a presidential candidate not to print 30 million posters and each poster, with colour separation, is about N37, but even if it is N30. And he will print such posters in Igbo, Hausa, Kanuri, Yoruba attires, meaning it will be in at least 27 attires of the major ethnic groups in the country. When you multiply that by 30million, it is already more than N2billion for posters alone.

“The candidate will do an advertising brief of about four months and aired about seven times on radio and on television with one exposure being between N75, 000 and N150, 000. That is another N3billion for advertising alone.

“There are people who are called footsoldiers, such as party agents and even agents against agents because your agents can collaborate with the agents of other parties to rob you. So, there will be provision for a policeman for a policeman and at least three agents per polling booth. If you pay your agents N40,000 and the opposition is paying them N100,000, do you think they will support you?

“For anybody to contest as president of the country, the fellow will need a minimum of N30billion. Over the years, candidates have found ways to short-circuit the law by permitting their political parties to spend the extras for them. Political parties can spend an unrestricted amount of money on their candidates, but it is only the candidate that is prevented from spending more than N5billion for a presidential election. They will just divert what they have into the spending of their parties and claim they are not the ones doing the spending. After, the parties will be doing the spending on behalf of the candidates.

“So, the provisions on spending limit can easily be circumvented and, of course, they have been circumventing the law. They said nobody can donate more than N10million. What if the person donates through his proxies N10m in 1,000 places? So, that law is not implementable. It is part of the utopia in our system. INEC should concentrate more on the veracity, authenticity and the veracity of election results, rather than nosing into how much a candidate should spend or not spend.”

Giving his own perspective on the attraction for the 40 presidential hopefuls jostling for one position, chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Monday Ubani, said “The attraction is too much. They know that as president, there will be too much money at their disposal and there are no checks and balances in the system.

“And as long as there are no checks and there is unhindered access to the treasury, we will not be able to get it right in our political system. The moment they get there, the passion is how to grab as much as they can, not about performing in the interest of the people which they are not interested in.

“A system that does not check what a governor or a president takes out of the system is a very faulty system. This is why we will keep on having desperation in the political system. You will see how the political class will mess up the new Electoral Act in 2023 because of desperation and what they can get. The unfortunate thing is that we are not addressing this area.

“You are asking a candidate to pay N100m in order to pick a form. He probably goes a-borrowing or he steals. Tell me how many aspirants who genuinely want to change things in Nigeria that will easily raise N100m and everything about that person is legitimate and is not a thief and has not held any public office before. To ask a legitimate business man who wants to change the country to pick just form alone for N100m and we are not talking about campaign where people will be demanding money from him.

“You will find out that our system is a very corrupt system which the system itself encourages. We may not have the best at the end of the day. What we will have as people who will be in charge are clear armed robbers who will see N100m as chicken change and will just pay it and probably get back into the system to steal more from the poor. So, it is a useless system we are running.”


Claims expensive forms were bought by friends, groups

Not a few of the aspirants have claimed that the cost of the forms was borne by either their friends or associates or groups who identify with their aspiration and have faith in their capacity to govern the country better.

But Ubani thinks otherwise. “If not that God is a very merciful God, the moment they open their mouths to tell those lies, God will just strike them dead. They are the ones providing the money and telling us that it is their friends that are raising the money. They think that we are fools who can be deceived. If not that God is very kind, immediately they open their mouth to tell such lies, God will strike them dead. But God is merciful. He allows liars and the righteous to thrive until the final Judgment Day.”


Are there some of these aspirants that can redeem Nigeria?

While Nigerians are not enamoured of many of those offering themselves as presidential materials, some of them have enjoyed positive reviews from the various segments of the Nigerian society. Even for those in that category, the challenges, according to observers, are daunting.

To Ubani, one two of the motley lot possess the qualities Nigerians want in the next president. He said “From among those who are parading themselves now and I don’t know who is coming tomorrow, if you ask me, I have only two people from those who have actually indicated interest- one in APC and one in PDP- who, if you give them power, they will be able to change the system. I won’t name these individuals. All others are just joining the crowd.”

The elections next year

Questions have been raised on whether there will be a change in the voting among the common people. Apart from the 1998/1999 elections which ushered in the current Fourth Republic with a record turnout of 69.1 per cent, subsequent elections have witnessed a persistent drop in the voter turnout. But will there be a change in next year’s transitional election?  Will voters realise that poverty has been weaponised by the political class and consequently shun the money-bait of the politicians and vote their conscience? Will INEC live up to its billing of making the election, backed by a new Electoral Act which favours e-transmission of results, a watershed in the history of the country?

The NBA chairman explains how change can come about in the elections. “The history of changes is dependent on the people. If Nigerians want real change, you will see what they will do.” He, however, fears the new election law would be circumvented by the political class.


Restructuring as a task for next president

Many stakeholders, including various ethnic nationality groups and the very senior lawyer, Chief Afe Babalola, have called for the postponement of the electionns to pave way for a transition government that will midwife the process for a new government, after the extant wobbly structure must have been cured of its glaring defects through restructuring.

Asked if there is a prelude to the restructuring being clamoured for, especially with the current efforts at amending the 1999 Constitution, Ubani agrees with those who described the step as mere tokenism.

“What they are doing is a patch-patch method. We need a new people’s constitution. Yes, they patch-patch they are doing can bring about some changes, but the changes won’t be fundamental because the 1999 Constitution is faulty. Even if you make corrections to some sections of the constitution, there are many other sections that are very flawed and give so much power to certain places where power is not supposed to be given.

“So, we need a people-oriented constitution, a constitution that people will really sit down and give themselves and some of the things that are wrong will be corrected. The local government system for instance is clearly flawed. We have more local government councils which collect so much money from the system. If you go to the North, they have more local government areas, yet development is not reaching down to the grass roots. They just collect their allocation and share them . We need to restructure the system to stop that practice where the local government councils are taking so much and there is no accountability.

“So, the patch-patch stuff will not take us far. We need a holistic system change and only a people’s constitution can bring it about and enhance the functionality of the system. I am not ignorant of some of the minor changes that they are making now. We can’t make gargantuan progress with such patch-patch method.”


Many declarers, few repairers – Ogunye

Celebrated Ikare Akoko-born legal icon and human rights activist, Ibukun Olajinbiti Ogunye, popularly known as Jiti Ogunye, contributed to the debate on his Facebook page where he described the increasing number of presidential aspirants as a tragedy and injury to democracy.

“Declaration malady, tragedy of electoral politics and devaluation of democracy in Nigeria. Declarers, many. Repairers few. Desperation to rule, different form passion to serve. Eager they are to declare to run for office, reluctant they would be to openly declare their assets. Pestilential declarations!”

Also X-raying the high number of presidential hopefuls and the antecedents of most of the as former governors as a comedy on the country’s democracy, a young Nigerian, Adetula Segun, likened the situation to be akin to a popular reality TV show in the country, saying, “They have turned the office of the president to a BB Naija show contest….”

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