The political price of becoming visible | Dailytrust

The political price of becoming visible

A few years ago, I was fascinated by the ambition of a serial-contesting politician who never stood a chance of winning that I had to ask if it was worth the stress. He’s not running to win, he said. He’s running to stay relevant. He took his time to explain how such a political presence had inflated his profile and expanded his social networks, and it made sense that he invested that much of his resources and time to be visible and find a seat among the political elite. Nigeria is a status-crazed country. 

If one had not known Nigerians or had been away for too long, it would’ve been easy to be fooled by the current declaration charade among political aspirants emerging almost every second. It seems as though the entire adults in the country are running for offices, and, in the past days, the circus has been more pronounced around the characters who have picked the N100 million presidential nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But, for most of them, they know, based on their glaring lack of structure or support base, that they stand no chance of winning the election. It is an expensive stunt to boost their social status and be seen by the power-sharing board of Nigeria PLC. 

APC’s reason for hiking the prices of its declaration of interest and nomination forms across all elective positions is to dispel this circus, the party claimed.  The party executives know theirs is the bride of the moment and the favourite platform of status-seeking political pretenders, so they rushed to announce the prices of their nomination forms at prices no decent-earning person can afford without compromising on their values. With N50 million for governorship forms, N20 million for Senate, N10 million for House of Representatives, and N2 million for State House of Assembly, the rage of “disenfranchised” politicians and even bystanders who call the process a glorified money-laundering scheme is graspable. 

For APC’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, “If a presidential aspirant cannot mobilise at least ten thousand supporters to raise such amount that person is not a serious contestant”. This logic is a self-ridiculing excuse by someone who ought to be the party’s prime salesperson. Popularity may be a charm in politics, but this counts against outstanding aspirants who have functioned excellently in careers or businesses that deprived them of publicity or interactions with the public. It’s also a mockery of the country in which Senator Adamu has had the chance to govern a state. Over 50% of the population of Nasarawa State, which he managed for eight years before his election to represent a district at the Senate, languish in poverty. The party chairman couldn’t have been unaware of the economics and psychological topography of the country they are being reluctantly forced to hand over by biology, the one wrecked by this extent of multidimensional poverty and distrust for politicians. 

The sieve being used by Senator Adamu isn’t helping to dispel the unserious, it’ is creating a haven for government officials occupying plum offices to advertise and emphasize their status. The caliber of politicians who’ve bought the N100 million forms so far, which are elected government officials and political appointees, suggests that the pricing has only separated those with access to public funds from those unwilling to gamble their savings on an uncertain project. It’s only unrestricted access to a public fund that justifies purchases of the  N100 million status forms by, say, Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, a lackluster politician with an unstimulating track record, or Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment who’s been a cruel gaffe-machine and a pariah to Nigeria’s influential trade unions. 

It’s also amusing how political offices demystify even those once seen as the hope of the nation. Adams Oshiomhole of the Obasanjo era, for instance, would’ve been an appealing candidate for the masses. But the man he’s become under a decade in politics is a caricature of that fire-spitting champion of the people he used to be. Perhaps some of these promising public figures only show their true colour when they get elected or appointed. Governor Rochas Okorocha’s chances of becoming a president too are now slimmer than they were before he was elected to govern Imo State, where he unmade himself in the most dramatic fashion.

Senator Adamu too knows that the aspirants who’ve deposited N100 million in APC’s bank accounts cannot mobilize 10,000 supporters to donate N10,000 each to their campaign. They do so easily because of their access to public funds, and we must be honest in telling ourselves that a system where government officials in sensitive positions get to participate in such multi-million Naira gambling show without having to resign is a dangerous one. The height of this dystopian transgression of the elite is the involvement of a serving Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in this partisan quest for status. 

The scariest bit of this elite circus is the thought of the millions these serving public office-holders must’ve set aside to settle delegates to gain their votes at the primaries. In the end, this expensive business is going to eat deep into the treasury or reflect in the inflated contracts from which kickbacks are expected by the governors, ministers, and other executive heads of MDAs in the race. This is either the most expensive channel to pursue status or just a grand strategy to mobilize campaign funds ahead of the elections. 

When one of the party’s youngest presidential aspirants took to social media to protest the price of the form, he was wildly mocked. He still went on to do as Senator Adamu advised—asked his supporters to donate to his campaign. This only intensified the mockery with some advising him to probably run under the banner of a political party he can afford. When APC was formed ahead of the 2015 elections to give Buhari his most realistic ticket to Aso Rock, the presidential nomination form was N25m, the expression of the interest form N2.5m, and even as a former holder of the highest office in the country during the military era, he had to bank on the bullion vans of the very characters he was elected to fight to win the election. One would have expected that to inspire a reform to de-commercialize running for political offices. At the state level, aspirants are also feeling ostracized by the N50 million governorship form, with some leaving the party to try their luck elsewhere. 

That public office-holders who have had it rough are at the forefront of the race for president, a challenge to carry a load tens of million times heavier than what they had, tells you how far they are willing to go in paying their dues to remain in the big boys’ club. Almost all former political office-holders in Nigeria claim they sacrificed everything to serve Nigeria. Ironically, all of them left office visibly richer than they were before making such a “huge sacrifice” for the nation. Some governors served as though compelled to be in the office, and seemed eager to get to the end of their disastrous second tenure, only to find them rushing to pick up a nomination form to run for President or Senate. Indeed, nobody wants to drop off the social radar in a status-worshipping country.

Dear Reader,
Every day, we work hard to provide readers such as you with the most accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive information. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Your support means that Daily Trust can keep offering journalism to everyone in the world. Sign up for as little as N1,000 to become a member. Learn more about our membership here

Bank transfers can be made to:
Zenith Bank
Media Trust Ltd

Please send details of your bank transfer to the email or Whatsapp number below so that we can contact you.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Whatsapp: +234 806 990 3410