Something has been wrong with politics in Nigeria but we have always managed to get by without destroying the delicate fabric of democracy.
Major political parties now have Nigeria by the throat.
Politicians are no longer just comfortable with seeing Nigeria fail, they will accept its demise in order to get what they want.
They are not just satisifed that more than 90 per cent of its income goes towards debt servicing, they want it bankrupted and liquidated.
When you think it cannot get worse, you see more indifference, impunity and impending collapse. That is why every step taken towards the 2023 general elections now seems like a countdown to apocalypse.
The same old politicians are converging, under the familiar canopy of the two-in-one political party, making no pretensions that the presidency is closed against 99 per cent of the population in a billionaires’ game of power.
The N100 million fee levied by the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for presidential aspirants is one of the most audacious, meanest and conspicuous evidence yet that the ruling elite has lost its sense of location, positioning, morality and decency by putting the highest office up for sale.
Politicians have moved their turf into a stratosphere in which they cannot see the topography of their domain.
For politics to be relevant, it must be realistic, clear, near and pragmatic. And for politicians to have acceptance, they cannot be too far separated from the electorate.
Politicians must be seen to understand the plight of the people and make their styles, actions and activities relevant within the community of electors.
In most countries, aspirants spend time to court the people. Affluence is often a liability because the rich have a more difficult job to convince the voters they understand their daily struggles.
In Nigeria, the contrary is the case – people court the politicians for their money. Strugglers with good ideas are not invited to the party, a trend politicians have capitalized on by robbing us to submission.
Being in the billionaires’ club is the ultimate qualifier for political power.
When author James Hadley Chase wrote, “You are dead without money,” he could have based the novel entirely on Nigeria’s dirty, rotten politics.
Of all the harm that politicians in the major political parties have inflicted on democracy, none is more profound than the commercialization and monetization of politics. Stomach infrastructure and “amala” politics have transformed themselves into an existential threat.
While the APC is selling its presidential ticket for N100 million, the PDP’s N40 million price tag for Aso Rock, though cheaper, is unacceptable. Both are too high too high. It is a desecration of public office to require that anyone who will serve the people to be super rich.
Nigerians have not formally signed off their property in Aso Rock to the highest bidder and the parties are immorally moving the highest office of the land into the property market.
In the same APC, governorship aspirants must fork out N50 million, anyone seeking a senatorial ticket will pay N20 million, a House of Representatives aspirant must have N10 million while anyone with an ambition to serve his state as a legislator must be a Nigerian with more than N2 million to spare on a form.
In the PDP, the story is better but egregiously similar.
To have any chance at being governor, you must have paid N21 million; Senate, N3.5 million; House of Representatives, N2.5 million; and House of Assembly, N600,000.
Not only have many of them settled their families abroad, the PDP frontrunner, Atiku Abubakar, has been living abroad since he lost the last election, without penitence
Showing a great sense of humor, the APC allows persons living with disabilities to pay only for the expression of interest forms, forgetting that any politician ready to pay so much money to serve the people must already have mental disabilities.
Our politicians must be mentally screwed not to observe that they live in an immoral universe.
Their children avoid the education system they messed up. Children of President Mohammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osibajo and APC leader, Bola Tinubu did not attend the broken Nigerian public universities. Instead, they shamelessly shared family portraits of graduation from British and American colleges.
Neither did the children of Atiku Abubakar and many other presidential aspirants taste the ASUU shutdowns of the universities.
Those bidding to become president do not use the public health system, which has been broken for decades. When politicians have a headache or break a leg, they quickly travel abroad. Public officials fall over each other to travel to the UK just for a photo opportunity with a sick colleague.
The Central Bank’s data show that rich Nigerians spent a total of $40 billion on foreign education and healthcare services between 2010 and 2020.
Those rich enough to rent the presidential palace in Aso Rock or occupy the offices of governors and senators have backup if Nigeria collapses.
Not only have many of them settled their families abroad, the PDP frontrunner, Atiku Abubakar, has been living abroad since he lost the last election, without penitence.
If Nigeria breaks, these people who are trying to buy power have a Plan B. Their families will not suffer. They have multiple properties abroad and have money stashed in offshore accounts. Some of our politicians were named in the Pandora Papers by the international consortium of journalists tracking illicit money.
Our politicians are mostly greed kleptocrats who have spent the better part of their careers looting the public treasury.
They have the audacity to collect the highest salaries for any politician anywhere in the world through the front door and steal many times more through the back door.
As the nation gets poorer, so do they get richer. Their wealth is most conspicuously displayed at times like this – during elections.
They can afford what they are asking each other to pay for nomination forms. They know it’s not too much to ask for a 100 million naira.
Politics has become a game played with money. No one can become the president of Nigeria, or a state governor, without being a billionaire.
But the people must understand that anyone paying N100 million to pick a form already knows that it is just a fraction of what the war chest must be – and has stashed away billions more for political battle.
Our politicians are so much adrift from the reality of their voters that they cannot imagine what it would take to honestly work for N1 million, talk less N100 million, to buy a party form.
Anyone who is willing to pay such an amount will not serve the people. Instead, they will serve the interest of the party during the election and themselves when they get to power. If they buy their way into power, they deserve to do anything they want with it.
When the people no longer matter in a political system, then the people become servants. Such a system is more of feudalism than democracy, where Nigerians will become properties of the rich.
Our politicians are telling us by the amounts they have set for party nomination that we, the people, are an afterthought.
But the people must understand that anyone paying N100 million to pick a form already knows that it is just a fraction of what the war chest must be – and has stashed away billions more for political battle
Where the political environment is sane, it is the people who financially support political ambition. Politicians should not be distributing money from bullion vans to those who they should have been asking for support.
In the United States, state party conventions charge anything from zero to a rare $40,000 in South Carolina as organizing fee to be on the ballot.
In 1972, the US Supreme Court ruled that any fee to contest an election was unconstitutional. But here in Nigeria, politics is doing a breakdance.
Anyone who wants to be president, governor or lawmaker should not have to be rich. Such pre-conditions are poisonous to freedom and democracy.
We need ideas, ideology and vision. And none of these can be produced by being rich.
The next election is already doomed. The high price tag on power sounds the death knell for Nigerian democracy.
Except Aso Rock is immediately delisted from the property market.