• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Funding of political parties in Nigeria

APC-PDP

About two weeks ago, the leadership of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) held a closed door meeting with President Mohammed Buhari where they reportedly briefed the President on the critical state of the Party’s finances and urging him and other elected party members to assist in funding the operations of the party.  According to a national daily,

“Buhari declined from making any financial commitment. He rather reminded the APC NWC members of how the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) messed themselves up by dipping their hands into public funds to run the party campaigns. He said he would not want APC to be seen as behaving in the same manner, moreso now that it is running a corrective government. Since its victory at the 2015 presidential polls in which it secured majority support based on its change mantra, the APC have been very careful to avoid the some of the pitfalls of the PDP.”

This naturally raised the issue of party financing in Nigeria. Where should political parties get their funding from or rather, who should finance political parties? The answer to these questions should be simple and should follow the normal textbook prescription – that every party should draw its funding from its member. But this is Nigeria where global and textbook cases do not usually apply or are not allowed to work.

In other climes like the United States of America from where Nigeria borrowed its brand of presidential democracy, since political parties are formed based on strong ideological leanings, is it easy to get committed party members and other individuals and groups who share the party’s ideologies to fund the party. Also, discipline, organisation and commitment are ensured in the party due to the shared ideology. In fact, it is on that basis that the party field candidates for elections. Parties sell their candidates to the electorate on the basis of their ideologies. The electorate vote mainly by judging and choosing between competing ideologies and hardly between individuals or personalities. So, when elections are conducted and a party wins, it means the electorate accepts its ideologies. However, when a party looses, it moves on with persistence and hope for a better luck next time in selling its ideologies to the people. In such cases, the state or the electoral commission helps to fund political parties to reduce excessive pressures for funds on the parties and to prevent their capture by special interests and groups.

However, in Nigeria, political parties are less about ideologies and more about vehicles for the capture of political power. Political parties are therefore, despite postulations to the contrary, not easily distinguishable on the basis of ideology. Therefore, politicians move in and out of political parties in Nigeria desperately looking for platforms with which to capture power or further their political ambitions. Consequently, it is easy for money bags and the richest politicians to capture political parties by becoming the main financiers of the parties.

Also, as a result of the above, some greedy and dubious people come together to form political parties not based on any ideology or intention of really competing for elections or pursuing any special interest, but with the sole intention of using it as bait to attract money bags and consequently, big money to the party.

In the same vein, when the Nigerian law allows the electoral commission to fund political parties, we have seen parties being formed and existing only to access such statutory funds. Such parties go to sleep the moment they get the funds and become active again only when until the next set of fund is due.

Due to the above therefore, parties in Nigeria are not able to draw their funding from committed members and special interests. Their main source of funding remains elected officials on their platforms. The now famous or infamous Dasukigate revelations have shed light on how ruling parties use public sources to fund parties.

It is time the National Assembly, the electoral commission and even political parties begin to think through the problem so as to come up with legal and sustainable ways of funding political parties in Nigeria.  One way to achieve that if by prohibiting cross carpeting and rash decamping and changing of parties at will. If not, we will keep recording more Dasukigates and our democracy will continually be at risk.