I lived in Poland for almost 25 years. I contested for 8 elections in those years and won elections ranging being a district councillor to deputy chairman of my district to being a two time city councillor and two time Member of the Polish National Parliament.
But I have also lost elections as mayor of my city and Member of the European Parliament. After living and serving in Poland – I decided to come back to NIGERIA to invest and to help in nation building. The negative experiences I have had as an investor motivated me to get involved in Nigerian
politics- to help solve some of these anomalies. Initially I wanted to contest for the presidency. I declared my aspirations in February 2021. After one year – I stepped down from that to support Peter Obi or Yemi Osinbajo.
I decided alternatively to contest for Senate. I chose the African Democratic Congress ADC as the political platform. The elections have since been over for about 6 months. Here is my attempt at debriefing and sharing my experiences with you. Please note that these are my experiences and as such may not show the full picture or real depth of the issue being discussed.
The following are what I discovered.
1. Political Parties collect large sums of money from candidates as candidate nomination form. For senate – Depending on political party the amount ranged from 2.5 million to 25 million for the forms. Candidates for Governorship and Presidency paid between 12 million and 100 million: Just to become an aspirant.
2. The party primaries are opportunities to exploit the aspirants. Aspirants are forced to make donations to the party. Party leadership at all levels expect the aspirants to visit them and leave large sums of money and to fund their meetings. Aspirants are expected to fund delegates during party primaries.
3. Most party members in reality are uninterested in whether the candidate wins or not. Only very few percentage are interested in the victory of their candidate. Many of the people belonging to these political parties are there for what they will gain. Election year is their year of harvest!
4. Many support groups seek the audience of candidates any of such support groups are in reality political hustling structures of their leaders which are used to extort money from candidates. They will tell you about meetings and the need for you to fund these meetings. The funny thing is that you are not the only one they are milking. They make same proposals to your opponents.
5. Many of the aspirants and candidates are not interested in the election. Many of them are there as opportunities to trade it off for monetary remuneration or positions.
6. Most of the electorate is not ready for good and competent leadership. Many of the voters even said before my face that unless I give them money now – they will not vote for me. The unfortunate part was that many of them were doing this sincerely because that’s what they are used to. Each time I saw this – It broke my heart.
7. Campaign debate are not issue based. Campaigns are simply money based. As long as you are bringing out money, sharing money and showing your financial capacity- you are a good candidate. You are ready for elections. And The amount of money spent on campaigns are outrageous and unjustifiable if the candidate is going there to serve.
How can you explain that you are going to serve your people while you spend 2 billion naira to do election campaign. It doesn’t make sense. The only reason someone will do that is because he knows when he goes in there he will get his money back and much more. And this is what fueling corruption. This is why politics is a do or die affair for many.
8. Volunteers do not understand the concept of volunteerism. I had about 150 volunteers. Only about 20% of them were active. Many of the volunteers saw volunteering as an opportunity to earn money from the candidate. When you are not meeting their expectations- they withdraw. I want to thank those few who stood with me to the end.
9. You have to depend on your own funds to sponsor your campign. Only about 10% of my funding came as donations from friends and supporters. And I am so grateful to these ones who believed in me.
10. The final discovery was how difficult it was to trust anyone. Nothing is as it seems on the surface. Many party members and associates will betray you if they had the opportunity. Many will sing your praises in your presence but speak ill of you and play against you behind you.
My venturing into Nigerian politics has been a very educative one. There were many negative experiences but I am very glad that I experienced this first hand. As a people – we have a very long way to go. The change we need will have to start with each and everyone of us.
Dr John Abraham Godson, FIAM, BENE MERITO, DMA
Email: [email protected]