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Commonwealth & Comparative Politics
ISSN: 1466-2043 (Print) 1743-9094 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/fccp20
Monetisation of electoral politics and the
challenge of political exclusion in Nigeria
Emmanuel Ikechi Onah & Uche Nwali
To cite this article: Emmanuel Ikechi Onah & Uche Nwali (2018): Monetisation of electoral politics
and the challenge of political exclusion in Nigeria, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14662043.2017.1368157
Published online: 23 May 2018.
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Monetisation of electoral politics and the challenge of
political exclusion in Nigeria
Emmanuel Ikechi Onah and Uche Nwali
Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Yaba, Nigeria
This paper argues that money has become the deciding factor in Nigerian
politics. It has served the purposes of consolidating elite rule as well as the
political exclusion of the non-elite. A discernible ‘ritual of money politics’, has
enabled the power elite to remain in power, and new comers to develop the
elite character. This paper concludes that money politics is at the heart of
the general crisis of democracy and governance in Nigeria, and unless this
is mitigated, reforms aimed at bringing about good governance and
curbing other anomalies in the political system may not produce the desired
KEYWORDS Electioneering; elite; governance; money politics; Nigeria; political exclusion
The prevailing lack of good governance in Nigeria is ultimately traceable to the
tendency to exclude a majority of Nigerians from political leadership as well as
others from meaningful participation in politics. The strategy and means of this
political exclusion in recent times seems to be money politics. Money politics is
here defined as the degeneration of politics into a venture in which money
assumes a central role as well as exerts a decisive influence such that it deter-
mines the extent of political participation at all levels of the political process,
particularly electoral contests. It also entails the monetary or material induce-
ment of voters and electoral officials as well as security agents manning elec-
tions and judges handling election cases, by candidates and or political parties.
To be sure, money has always played a major role in politics, especially during
elections, so much so that a prominent American politician was said to have
once mused that three things are important in politics –money, money, and
more money! In Nigeria as in most other places, this is largely true of politics
and elections –money is needed to mobilise party agents at polling booths,
and money is needed for transportation expenses, among many others. This
paper is however concerned with the phenomenon of money politics in
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Emmanuel Ikechi Onah firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS, 2018
Nigeria –a situation whereby money is not just the facilitator of politics, but
money becomes the very essence of politics –politics then approximates
business, and every political value ultimately goes to the highest bidder.
Money politics in Nigeria has involved a discernible ritual –the formal and
informal practice of subjecting political aspirants to prohibitive nomination
fees and campaign financing which compel them to spend their entire life
savings, borrow huge loans (which must be repaid) and enter into unholy alli-
ances (usually sealed with secret oaths which must be ‘fulfilled’) with political
investors in an attempt to meet their campaign expenditures. This ritual has
served as the initiation into politics for the Nigerian elite. The history of
money politics in Nigeria has shown that not many people have succeeded
in going through the ritual. Those who have managed to succeed in the
ritual however, have gone ahead to become leaders at the various levels of
government in the country.
Money politics has however, had a very negative effect on political leader-
ship in the country. Most people who would genuinely want to perform in
office often cannot get into office because they lack resources needed for
the ritual of money politics. This ritual has ultimately made those who have
gone through it to necessarily want to recoup the monies they spent in
getting to power while in office. This is true for even those aspirants with
integrity who are compelled by the rigours of this ritual to abandon their
moral principles while satisfying the demands of money politics in order to
win the party nomination and to advance further and win the main elections.
It has been observed by some political analysts and actors in Nigerian politics
that when credible individuals meet the demands of money politics and get
elected, they usually, like other elite, become vulnerable to material accumu-
lation, which depletes public resources and undermine governance and
development (see Iwu, 2009; Musa as cited in Vanguard, 2017; Simbine as
cited in Punch, 2017; Wabara as cited in Adetula, 2015). This is why
multiparty democracy in Africa [particularly in Nigeria] has been for the affluent
and the powerful, more a game of musical chairs in which various individual
members of the political elite take their turns at the seat of power, but do not
change the music. (Obi, 2008, p. 10)
Those who cannot mobilise the necessary monies are thereby excluded from
meaningful participation in politics. It is this monetisation of politics and elec-
tions in Nigeria and its implication for the exclusion of many from possible lea-
dership positions that this paper attempts to interrogate.
Background to the monetisation of politics in Nigeria
Money is one of the essential ingredients of politics in general and democracy
in particular because without it most political activities (including periodic
2E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
elections that make democracy a popular system of governance) cannot be
carried out (Walecki, 2008). However, money is antithetical to democracy
and good governance when it is used to determine who participates or not
in politics in real terms, through undue influence on electoral outcomes. It
is this centralisation of money in the political process that is here referred
to as money politics. The challenge of money politics has become a universal
phenomenon. Thus, Annan (2012, p. 3) observed that ‘across the world,
uncontrolled political finance threatens to hollow out democracy and rob it
of its unique strengths’. Even in consolidated democracies like the United
States it is common practice for different Political Action Committees and
big corporations to deploy money in elections in a way that indirectly influ-
ences the outcomes in favour of candidates who would protect their
various interests if elected (Berman, 2016).
In Nigeria, money politics usually starts at the party level during candidate
nomination and progresses into election campaign and voting. It also extends
to post-election matters such as the pursuit of electoral victory at the courts.
Money politics poses a greater problem in Africa than in any other region of
the world (Bryan & Baer, 2005). And nowhere in Africa is this more evident
than Nigeria. Over the years, Nigerian politics has been characterised by the
use of too much money by the power elite to influence electoral outcomes.
Most literature on money politics in Nigeria trace the origins to post-indepen-
dence events: the emergence of military rule, the oil boom in the 1970s, the
character of the Second Republic politics and politicians, and the emergence
of ex-military generals in politics (see Davies, 2012; Egwu, 2009; Ojo, 2000).
Historical evidence, however, shows that the monetisation of politics in
Nigeria predates the country’s independence.
The foundation of money politics in Nigeria dates back to the 1922 Clifford
Constitution which introduced the Elective Principle and created four elective
seats (three for Lagos and one for Calabar). Although the Elective Principle
introduced suffrage for the first time in Nigeria, it was an income-based fran-
chise (Jinadu, 2010). The provision of the Elective Principle hinged the exercise
of franchise on financial qualification. It only allowed those with annual
incomes of £100 or more to participate in election. This was happening at a
time when the annual salary of most Nigerians, nay Africans, was less than
£100 (Tamuno, 1966). The implication was that many Nigerians could not
contest or even vote in elections. Hence between 1923 and 1946 only four
Nigerians were elected as members of the Legislative Council by ‘an electo-
rate composed of the wealthier members of the communities’(Coleman,
1963, p. 153).
The limited franchise was a deliberate policy of the colonial government to
circumscribe the quest for political participation in Nigeria which it feared
would ultimately lead to the demise of colonial rule if not restricted. The
idea was to use money as the marker that will determine those that will
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 3
participate meaningfully in politics. The Nigerian nationalists understood the
danger of this policy and tried to resist it. Thus one of the aims of the Nigerian
Youth Movement was the abolition of the property or income-based franchise
and its substitution with universal suffrage (Awolowo, 1960). This aim was
later achieved following the repeal of income-based suffrage and the intro-
duction of universal adult suffrage for the regional elections in the Eastern
and Western Regions in 1954 and 1956, respectively, and adult male suffrage
for the 1959 elections in the Northern Region (Jinadu, 2010, p. 2).
Although in the politics and elections of the First Republic, the influence of
money was minimal, yet, even at this time, party emblems, customised T-
shirts, caps, food and drinks were shared to party supporters at campaign
rallies. There were no attempts to buy votes as such, as ‘appeals to ethnic
and religious sentiments were the most important weapon the political
leaders …deployed to win [or rig] elections’(Davies, 2012, pp. 68–69; Nnoli,
1980). It was in the run-up to the Second Republic that money reared its
ugly head again in Nigerian elections. In fact, the history of money becoming
central to Nigerian politics can be dated to the Second Republic, between
1979 and 1983. Money politics has since continued to define the careers
and fortunes of politicians in the country.
At the start of the Second Republic, it was clear that the list of First Republic
politicians had been depleted and new actors needed to be admitted into the
ranks. Money was eventually the major yardstick that determined entry into
the political cadres of the Second Republic. Those who were recruited
turned out to be products of events that took place between 15th January
1966 when the first military coup occurred which ushered in military rule
and 1979 when the Second Republic began following the exit of the military
from politics and the handing over of power to a democratically elected gov-
ernment. These events were ‘military rule, a civil war and enormous resources
from mineral oil (oil boom)’(Onuoha, 2014, p. 322).
Military rule created retired and wealthy military officers who became an
emergent political power bloc (Adekanye, 1999). The civil war which lasted
between 1967 and 1970 not only eroded traditional values and caused
moral decay in the society, but also created a new crop of elites who made
enormous wealth from the ‘civil war economy’(Onuoha, 2014, p. 329),
notably, supply of weapons and essential commodities (e.g. food) during
the war. Oil resources and the subsequent oil boom left the various military
regimes with enough funds to throw around, and in their attempts to buy
loyalty and weaken resistance to military rule using a carrot and stick
approach, they created new elites who became super rich through their
unholy connection with the military regimes which rewarded them with ques-
tionable oil deals and government contracts (Onuoha, 2014).
It was inevitable that this trio of moneyed elites would venture into politics
and deploy any means possible, including monetary inducements, to capture
4E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
state power by contesting elections themselves or sponsoring their cronies.
Hitherto successful military officials and contractors suddenly became suc-
cessful politicians, and people like Senator Olusola Saraki and Alex
Ekwuemwe, vice-president from 1979 to 1983, general elections were
awash with pecuniary inducements. The major political parties –the National
Party of Nigeria (NPN), the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and the Nigeria
Peoples Party (NPP) that participated in elections were all linked to different
businesses and wealthy government contractors who indulged in different
types of electoral malpractices, particularly the use of money to influence
party primaries, electoral officers and the electorate (Davies, 2012).
As expected, these monetised elections produced a crop of leaders who
siphoned-off government resources to recoup election expenses and make
profits. Thus the prebendalism that characterised the politics of the Second
Republic and which ultimately led to its collapse following the military take-
over in 1983 (Joseph, 1991) was a direct consequence of money politics in
the 1979 and the 1983 general elections. The phenomenon of money politics
was consolidated in the Third Republic when the Military regime of Ibrahim
Babangida introduced the concept of ‘newbreed’politics, which ultimately
only served to hand over political leadership to the crop of new men and
women whose only credential for power was monies they accumulated
under the military era. The presidential election, which the Babangida military
regime conducted in 1993, ostensibly as the culmination of the transition pro-
gramme of the regime, was eventually annulled, because according to Baban-
gida himself at the time:
There are authenticated reports of election malpractices against agents, officials
of the INEC and voters …there are proofs of manipulation, offers and accep-
tance of money and other forms of inducement. Evidence available to the gov-
ernment put the amount of money spent by the Presidential Candidates at over
2.1 billion naira. (Babangida as cited in Ojo, 2000, pp. 11–12)
Money politics and the problem of leadership recruitment: a
That money has become the determining factor of Nigerian politics cannot be
denied. This fact is well recognised in literature though. According to Fogg
(2003), political parties and candidates in both emerging and older democra-
cies are faced with ‘rising costs of campaigning and deepening public mistrust
about the invidious role of money in politics’. Money politics is usually corrupt
political financing, and it manifests in various dimensions among which are:
the use of illicit money to fund political campaign and the use of money by
political parties and candidates and their sponsors to unduly influence elec-
toral outcomes through vote purchase and inducement of electoral officials
(Walecki, 2008). In a study conducted by the National Democratic Institute
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 5
on the role of money in politics in 22 countries (including Nigeria), it was
found that in many instances, political office was for sale to the highest
bidder and that candidates financed by patrons, if elected, may compromise
their integrity and accountability to the benefit of their benefactors (Bryan &
The same applies to political parties when they accept campaign funds
from business interests that intentionally support campaigns as a way of
ensuring lucrative contracts with the state, or for assurances that the state
will turn a blind eye to their illegal business practices (Bryan & Baer, 2005).
So overwhelming is money politics in Nigeria that when an aspirant makes
known his intention to contest in elections, the first question that is usually
asked by his well-wishers is, ‘how much does he have?’(Best, 2008, p. 60).
As a one-time chief electoral officer in the country once said, ‘politicians are
perpetually bidding to buy electoral officers often at sums of money that
could transform a whole town’(Iwu, 2009, p. 11).
The significance of money in Nigerian politics actually derives from the
challenge of leadership recruitment. Electoral politics in every society is
usually faced with the challenge of who will participate and at what levels
and in which patterns. For instance, what are the criteria for determining
who will lead? The different criteria that have been variously used in leader-
ship selection in different countries have turned politics and electoral contests
in almost all countries into an elite affair. According to the elite theory, the
elite are the rulers of society, and consist of the best and most successful
persons who rise to the top at every level of endeavour in the society
(Varma, 1975). The theory argues that the elite possess some qualities necess-
ary for their accession to political power, namely, consciousness, coherence,
conspiracy and organisation. Members of the elite are thus not only aware
of their status, but work determinedly to protect it.
It then follows that the use of exclusionary factors in leadership recruitment
might be after all, an elite strategy. In other words, the use of deliberate exclu-
sionary strategies and factors has ensured that in most countries, elections in
particular and politics in general, are not an all-comers affair. Ultimately, it is
only those who best meet the set qualification criteria that qualify to
contest elections. In many countries, especially the advanced Western
countries, ideology has served as the major denominator, and it is only
those who best approximate the ideology and manifesto of the party that
end up as the party’s candidates. In Nigeria, there has been a dearth of ideol-
ogy in politics (Omotola, 2009), and parties without ideology have found it dif-
ficult deciding between candidates that will fly their flags.
By the time of the Second Republic, money filled the vacuum and assumed
the decisive marker of political recruitment in the parties. From this time,
money became the factor that determined who could contest elections or
not, at least in any meaningful way. Party nominations could theoretically
6E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
be contested by any party member, but in reality, only those who could buy
the nomination form and probably make additional donations to the party
would stand as candidates. Even as the nomination exercise is going on,
party leaders would be projecting the candidate among the pack who
would be able to stand against the candidate of the other parties. It is ulti-
mately the candidate who has the best prospects of mobilising the most
funds that eventually receives the nomination.
Money is therefore not just the criterion for choosing party candidates, it is
also the criterion for recruiting party leaders. At the end of the nomination
exercise, even some of those who lost would have succeeded in imprinting
their names in the party books by the sheer volume of funds they displayed
or spent. From this time onwards, they become party stakeholders and would
subsequently feature in the echelons of the party. Money thus, becomes the
means for the circulation of the elite in politics. From time to time, those who
have become capable of mobilising political funds join the party elite. Those
who have fallen into incapacity fade away, and those who ultimately win elec-
tions become leaders. Money politics is thus, also a strategy for political exclu-
sion. Those who cannot (and do not) mobilise monies for political activity
remain at the level of ordinary members and can at the very best, only
work for the party or vote at elections for the preferred candidates of the
Money politics, both as a means of the circulation of the elite and as a strat-
egy for political exclusion, help the elite to remain in power and for new
entrants into the elite category to be able to develop the elite character.
This is done by initiating them into the ritual of money politics which first
compels them to spend their entire life savings on an election, then borrow
huge loans from banks and or political patrons (usually referred to as god-
fathers) and sometimes enter into unholy alliances with them, in order to
have enough funding for their election campaigns. The unholy patron-client
alliance is usually sealed with oaths, often depriving the contestants of their
honour and integrity. Usually, these rituals force the contestants to become
desperate and try to win at all costs having sacrificed everything. It is now
inescapable that any candidate who wants to win an election in Nigeria
must somehow pass through the ritual of money politics.
Since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the entire electoral
system, from party nomination to the election proper and even post-election
issues (e.g. election petition), has been monetised. This has implications for
good governance. Such a society of money politics will be bereft of good
leaders and its leadership will always be dominated by charlatans, ‘money-
bags’and political investors, who see politics as investment that must at all
times yield surplus value. This could produce the situation which Huntington
(as cited in Adejumobi, 2010, p. 5) envisaged when he observed that
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 7
threats to the third wave democracies are likely to come not from generals and
revolutionaries who have nothing but contempt for democracy, but rather from
participants in the democratic process. These are political leaders and groups
who win elections, take power and then manipulate the mechanisms of democ-
racy to curtail or destroy democracy.
In fact, the danger of money politics in Nigeria is that it undermines political
participation, public policy and good governance.
Electoral violence in the country is equally a consequence of money politics
since politicians who have spent a fortune on elections deploy every means
including violence to ensure they win (Adetula, 2015). The high cost of electio-
neering also tends to hinder women’s inclusion and participation in politics due
to their low income power which makes it difficult for them to compete success-
fully in a monetised election (Ballington, 2003; Best, 2008). But the exclusion
impact of money politics in Nigeria cuts across gender. It affects all non-
moneyed elite irrespective of gender. Money politics further encourages politi-
cal corruption, as elected political office holders try to recoup election expenses
(Ojo, 2008). In fact,money politics makes it impossible for electoral outcomes to
reflect the popular will. Thus it cannot guarantee democracy, accountability and
good governance (Egwu, 2009, p. 41; International IDEA, 2001).
The role of money in party politics and elections in the fourth
republic and the economics of power in Nigeria
Party politics and electioneering are essential ingredients of democracy.
While party politics entails interest articulation and aggregation as well as
recruitment of candidates by political parties for elections, electioneering
serves as a mechanism for presenting party manifesto and candidates
recruited for a given election to the people and at the same time persuading
the electorate to vote for the party and its candidates based on their excep-
tional qualities and soundness of the programmes in the party manifesto
(Cross & Katz, 2013; Hazan & Rahat, 2010; International IDEA, 2003). Party
politics and electioneering are, as seen above, inseparable elements of
democracy which Schumpeter (1947, p. 269) described as ‘that institutional
arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire
the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples’
Efficient party politics can improve elections, and robust campaigning can
improve party politics (Afrobarometer, 2008). In recent times however, party
politics and electioneering in Nigeria have been marred by the unbridled
influence of money, such that both cannot effectively create the symbiosis
that would have lifted the society. This influence of money is very negative,
and is actually much of the reason why, rather than ‘democratising’, Nigeria
is ‘de-democratising’(Momoh, 2006).
8E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
The Fourth Republic was ushered in by the 1999 general elections. Given
the negative role of money in the elections of the Second and Third Republics,
it was expected that adequate measures would be put in place to preempt the
influence of money politics from repeating itself in future elections. This was
not the case as the governing elite who ‘midwifed’the 1999 election did not
do much to forestall the repeat of history.
The 1999 general elections were thus, characterised by money politics.
Sub-section (2) of Section 225 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) required
political parties to maintain and submit to the Nigeria’s electoral management
body –the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) audited annual
reports of their finances, while sub-section (3) circumscribed political parties
from foreign funding of any kind. Apart from the above provisions, there
were no other measures taken to regulate and mitigate the negative role of
money in the elections. There were no limits for campaign donations to pol-
itical parties and candidates or their campaign expenditures. The implication
was that moneyed elites hijacked the elections and installed themselves or
their cronies in power. In one instance of the use of money in that election,
Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (Rtd.) admitted that he spent 7 million dollars on Obasan-
jo’s presidential campaign in 1999 (Adetula, 2009, p. 23). It is against this back-
drop that Suberu (2001) lamented that the use of money in the 1999 general
election was open and shameless.
A similar trend of excessive use of money to influence voters and electoral
outcomes was observed in the 2003 general election. In fact, money was the
major determinant of who won and who lost in that election. Convinced that
civilian rule had come to stay after four years of democracy in the country,
those with money came out in their numbers to participate in the 2003
general elections. The primaries of most political parties were characterised
by ‘widespread bribery of delegates with sacks stuffed with money to influ-
ence their votes’(Transition Monitoring Group as cited in Adetula, 2009,
p. 35). Money politics was so prevalent in the 2003 elections that it attracted
condemnation from even President Obasanjo, himself a prime beneficiary of
the ugly phenomenon:
…The greatest losers (in Nigerian elections) are the ordinary people, those
voters whose faith and investment in the system are hijacked and subverted
because money, not their will, is made the determining factor in elections.
Can we not move from politics of money and materialism to politics of ideas,
issues and development? (Obasanjo as cited in INEC, 2005,p.5)
But this was only elite double-talk, as the use of money in the 2007 general
election, which took place after the 2003 elections and still under President
Obasanjo’s watch, proved to be even worse. Money politics degenerated
into a more frightening dimension in the elections as it was made part of
Nigeria’s electoral tradition. President Obasanjo had attempted to elongate
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 9
his tenure (Campbell, 2011) but when that attempt failed, he made sure that
he installed his successor –Umar Musa Yar’Adua, against all known good elec-
toral practices. To achieve this, he used as his tool, the monetary inducement
of party delegates, voters, electoral officers and security agents to rig the 2007
general election (Okolie, 2010). Other major political parties and their candi-
dates equally engaged in these unwholesome practices –but were less
In another dimension, the nomination fees of the major political parties
that participated in the election was so exorbitant that only very wealthy
aspirants could afford them. For the ruling PDP, the fees ranged from
N500,000 for the State House of Assembly candidates, to N1,000,000 and
N2,000,000, respectively, for candidates for the Federal House of Representa-
tives and for the Senate, while the Governorship position and the Presidency
each attracted N3,000,000 and N5,000,000 nomination fees, respectively.
Other parties had similar high nomination fees (Thisday, 2006). For the 2011
general election, the amount of money the major political parties charged
for nomination forms were more than double the amount they charged in
the preceding general elections (Abati, 2010). The nomination fees of the pol-
itical parties that participated in the 2015 general election were similarly astro-
nomically high (Olorunmola, 2016).
When the nomination fees for all the general elections are compared, it is
logical to conclude that in all of them, party nomination was meant for the
super-rich, especially in respect of the contest for office of the president
and governor. Each election in Nigeria since 1999 has followed the pattern
of money politics set in the previous elections. All the elections were a
game for those with money. From party nomination to election campaigning
to voting and who won at the Election Petition Tribunals –it was all about
money and who could bribe more. Candidates who had money and offered
more of it as a bribe or inducement, won, even if they had received less of
the votes cast in the election; whereas candidates who had money but
offered a smaller bribe, lost, even if they had won a majority of the votes
cast. Those who had no money were excluded with prohibitive party nomina-
tion fees even before the elections took place, and if they ever managed to
contest (using smaller parties), lost outright irrespective of whether they
had the support of the people or not.
Similar acts of monetary/material inducements also characterised the
general election. For example, to support the re-election bid of President
Jonathan in 2015, a fund raising campaign was organised in which over 21
billion naira was collected by friends and some corporate organisations. The
chair of the initiative made a donation of 2 billion naira. Some governors of
the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), donated 50 million
naira each (Olorunmola, 2016). While most of the donations from individual
donors surpassed the 1 million naira benchmark permissible under the
10 E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
amended Electoral Act 2010 (EU Election Observation Mission, 2015), the
donations from corporate organisations were against the provisions of
Company and Allied Matters Act [CAMA], 1990. Section 38 sub-section (2) of
the Act forbids corporate bodies from making donations to political parties
for any political purpose. The language and intention of these laws are unam-
biguously clear. While the intention of the restrictions by the Electoral Act is to
preempt those with money from hijacking the electoral process and under-
mining the integrity of elections and governance thereafter, the prohibition
by CAMA is aimed at preventing companies within and outside Nigeria
from forming unholy alliances with any political party and influencing the
electoral outcomes, with the possibility of being rewarded with undue patron-
age in the award and execution of government contracts after elections.
These laws could mitigate the undue influence of money on elections.
However, the enforcement institutions, such as the INEC and the police,
have weak capacity. The laws limiting campaign donations are thus, rarely
Beyond these donations, President Jonathan of the PDP was known to
have diverted several billion of government funds to finance his campaign
(Encomium, 2015). The All Progressive Congress (APC) also embarked on a
fund raising exercise to generate funds for the candidature and campaign
of Mohammad Buhari in 2015. For example, the former Vice President –
Atiku Abubakar not only contributed 50 million naira, but also donated an Air-
craft and 12 Land Cruiser Jeeps to Buhari’s election bid. APC also planned to
raise 10 billion naira from ordinary party members and Buhari sympathisers
and another 40 billion naira from party members holding elected positions
at federal and state levels. The ex-governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, and
Cibuike Amaechi, ex-governor of Rivers State, were believed to have made
huge contributions running into several billions of naira to the Buhari cam-
paign (Adetula, 2015; Olorunmola, 2016).
With these kind of campaign donations to candidates and political parties
for the election, it was not surprising that party politics and electioneering
were reduced to a money-show in which candidates and their parties tried
to outspend their opponents. Even the candidate of the APC, Mohammad
Buhari, decried the high cost of nomination forms as he had to take loans
from the bank before he could buy the nomination form of his party (Van-
guard, 2014). Moreover, after passing the hurdle of prohibitive nomination
fees, candidates had to also induce party delegates with money in order to
get their votes. Traditional rulers, religious leaders and other opinion
leaders were not left out of the inducement largesse (Omotola & Nyuykonge,
2015). Militant groups in the Niger Delta and even Boko Haram elements were
not left out as they had demonstrated an ability to unleash violence against
party supporters or to disrupt the elections. Monetary inducement was
equally extended to leaders of some of the ethnic affiliated socio-cultural
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 11
organisations such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative
Forum, Oodua People’s Congress and others.
The election campaign was also characterised by crowd renting for party
rallies which cost between N500 to N3000 per head, as well as the use of
different types of treats, including foodstuffs to entice voters (Olorunmola,
2016). The elites and their political parties turned campaign grounds into plat-
forms where they displayed their posh cars and other ill-gotten wealth to the
admiration of their rented supporters.
There were even cases of successful attempts made by some desperate
politicians or those working for them to buy the Permanent Voter Card
from voters (EU Election Observation Mission, 2015). In fact, by the time of
the 2015 elections, the various aspects of electoral politics in Nigeria had
been so monetised that it was possible to talk about the economics of
power in the country. It is actually possible to make a rough calculation of
how much it would take to contest and win elections in Nigeria. When such
a mental calculation is made, it even helps us comprehend how what
usually seems insignificant and immaterial (500 or 1000 naira inducement
per voter) in a given election can cumulatively translate into millions or bil-
lions of naira and become prohibitive. The calculation is however, hampered
by the fact that the economics of power in Nigeria depends largely on the
type of election, what is at stake, and the actors involved.
The electoral contest in Nigeria usually starts with the party nomination. To
secure a party nomination under the monetised system in Nigeria, an aspirant
is expected to first buy over the party delegates. Depending on the party and
type of election, such inducement could cost 200,000 naira or more per del-
egate for the presidential nomination and 100,000 naira or more per delegate
for the gubernatorial nomination. In some instances dollars are used for the
inducement of the party delegates as was the case in APC presidential pri-
maries for 2015 election where each delegate was alleged to have received
an inducement of US$2000 from the Atiku Abubakar group and another US
$3000 from the Mohammed Buhari group (Onyekpere, 2015). A total
number of 7214 delegates participated in those primaries in which Buhari
scored 3430 votes to defeat Atiku who polled 954 votes (Premium Times,
Assuming 10 per cent (about 722) of the delegates were serving governors
and members of the National Assembly at the time and who ordinarily may
not partake in collecting the inducement, there would be 6492 delegates
left, a majority of whom, if not all, received inducement from the presidential
aspirants. Assuming also that each of the presidential aspirants wanted to
corner a majority of the delegates, Buhari must have needed a budget of
over 11 million dollars (i.e. 3679 delegates × 3000 dollars) while Atiku would
have needed to keep over 7 million dollars (i.e. 3679 delegates × 2000
dollars). If an estimate is made based on the number of delegates who cast
12 E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
their votes for each presidential candidate, Buhari would have spent over 10
million dollars (i.e. 3430 votes × 3000 dollars) while Atiku would have spent
close to 2 million dollars (i.e. 954 votes × 2000 dollars), on the party nomina-
After securing the party nomination, a candidate standing for election in
Nigeria is also expected to run a monetised election campaign. Media propa-
ganda is one of the things for which a candidate needs a budget. Lacking ster-
ling attributes that would endear them to the electorate (Davies, 2012),
candidates resort to campaign posters which are designed to meet certain
specifications intended to bamboozle the gullible electorate and damage
the reputation of their opponents. The posters come in different shapes,
sizes and colours and are graphically photo-shopped such that they would
rebrand a frail septuagenarian politician to look very youthful, radiating
strength, hope and optimism or transform a-hungry-poor-looking politician
to look ebullient, wealthy and successful. Media and poster politicking
usually cost each candidate millions of naira. In the 2015 general elections,
it was reported that the two leading political parties –PDP and APC and
their candidates spent 8.7 and 2.9 billion naira, respectively, on political cam-
paign adverts (Centre for Social Justice cited in Olorunmola, 2016). These
amounts were far more than the 1 billion naira legal limits permissible
under the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) for the entire presidential cam-
paign. The inability of INEC and Nigerian police to arrest and prosecute
those who breached the campaign spending limits is not only an indication
that they have weak enforcement capacity, but also, that the enforcement
institutions are corrupt. Most Nigerian politicians are usually ready to
breach the laws knowing full well that they can bribe their way out if they
Vote buying was also among the monetary inducements in the election
and this took place in most polling units across the country, though with
varying degrees of intensity. For example, in some local government areas
of Anambra State, voters were induced with amounts ranging from 1000 to
5000 naira (Nwanegbo, 2015). Similar incidents were spotted in Delta State
where vote buying cost between 1000 and 1500 per vote (SDN, 2015). Indu-
cement of voters using money and other material gifts was observed across
the states of federation. Although it is known that not all the votes secured
by a candidate in every polling unit is paid for (and there are many reasons
for this), usually the inducement budget is made based on the statistics of
each election, and the monies budgeted are shared out to party leaders
across the country some days before the election. It is these party leaders
that will then deliver the monies to the respective polling booths. Party
leaders at the booths are usually free to distribute (or redistribute) the
monies to voters according to the numbers of voters that are on the
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 13
ground on voting day or according to any other exigent factors such as the
intensity of the fight between the parties for available votes.
In the presidential election, a candidate would need to budget for at least
half of the total registered voters in the country, being aware of the consti-
tutional requirement of the minimum of 25 per cent votes in 2/3 of the
states of the federation. Going by the 2015 National Voters Register, there
were about 67 million registered voters for general election that year (INEC,
2015). Assuming that each major presidential candidate prepared an induce-
ment budget for half of the registered voters at 1000 naira per voter, that
would amount to 33.5 billion naira (i.e. 33.5 million voters × 1000 naira per
voter), just for vote buying only. Even if we are to base the budget on the
number of votes that each leading presidential candidate got in the election,
then Buhari would have spent at least 15 billion naira (i.e. 15 million votes ×
1000 naira), while Jonathan might have spent at least 12 billion naira (i.e. 12
million votes × 1000 naira).
Paying party agents to keep watch on the various polling units on election
day to ensure that the party is not short-changed, or even inducing the agents
of other parties with money to turn a blind eye when voting and election
results are being manipulated, is also part of the economics of power in
Nigeria. The budget for this is normally prepared for one agent each according
to the number of polling booths in the constituency. In 2015, each agent of
the major parties got around N1000. For the presidential election, this will
give 1000 × (the number of polling booths in the country). Bribing electoral
officers and security agents manning elections is also an inevitable aspect
of money politics. The late President Yar’Adua acknowledged this fault-line
in 2008 during the inauguration of the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee,
when he said
if we must be honest with ourselves we know how we rig elections in this
country. We compromise the security agencies, we pay electoral officials and
party agents while on the eve of the election we merely distribute logistics all
designed to buy the votes. (Yar’Adua as cited in Adeniyi, 2011, p. 116)
In 2015, electoral officers were about three in a polling station, comprising of
the polling officer and two polling clerks, each of whom got between N40000
and N20000, while there were usually two policemen for each voting area
(that could comprise between one and three polling stations), each of
whom got between N10000 and N20000. The election process does not
often end with voting and the announcement of results. Many a time, the
results are disputed. In that case, a candidate has to hire lawyers for the result-
ing court cases. Hiring lawyers for cases that may arise from the elections and
bribing judges handling such election cases in order to obtain favourable jud-
gements are other aspects of the economics of power in Nigeria. Lawyers are
known to now charge around N200,000,000 to N500,000,000 to defend a top
14 E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
presidential candidate at the election tribunal. For the governorship tribunals,
lawyers now charge a minimum of N200,000,000 for defending a sitting Gov-
ernor and between N50,000,000 and N100,000,000 for others.
The foregoing shows that money politics in Nigeria is a huge outlay and the
economics of power is very prohibitive. Hence Obasanjo observed that in
…we prepare for elections as if we are going to war …the parties and candi-
dates together spent during the last elections more than would have been
needed to fight a successful war …(Obasanjo as cited in INEC, 2005,p.5)
This view may be very correct going by the recent report by INEC that
between $1.5 billion and $2 billion was spent on the 2015 general election
by the political parties and their candidates (Vanguard, 2017).
Money politics, political corruption and the exclusion of non-
elite from political leadership in Nigeria
Nigerian politicians are always willing and ready to spend so much on elections
because of what politics offers in return –wealth, influence and security. Politics
has become so lucrative that it guarantees more than a 100 per cent return
within one year. No other business in Nigeria offers that magnitude of profit
(Agbu, 2016). Also, in the absence of a developed productive base, most if not
all lucrative businesses in Nigeria, from oil and gas to export and import,
depend on political patronage to survive and thrive. Hence those who engage
in politics do so because it makes not only political sense, but business sense
too. Unfortunately, this turning of politics into business has constrained the fran-
chise of Nigerians. One of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians enshrined
in the 1999 Constitution is the right to vote and to be voted for in elections.
Whereas the right to vote can still be technically exercised by all Nigerians
who are of age, the right to be voted for has now become exclusive to those
who can go through the ritual of money politics. By making the electoral
process so monetised, it is now only the rich who can afford to participate.
In fact, although the people are technically allowed to vote for the candidate
of their choice during elections, such choice has actually been limited to can-
didates already chosen by the elite through monetised party primaries, during
which candidates that could have been better but are less moneyed would
have fallen by the wayside. In other words, the actual power of choosing
who occupies whatever office in Nigeria now resides in the hands of the
moneyed elites. Even when such credible candidates decide to contest elec-
tion in other, minor political parties, many a time they cannot make it, because
the main elections are equally heavily monetised.
For the election proper, a candidate who has won the nomination must
take a number of steps if he/she hopes to ever win. First, he/she must lay
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 15
out an arsenal of campaign paraphernalia, including exotic cars, gorgeous
dresses and engage a number of musical bands, celebrities and public
orators. He/she will also hire an army of thugs and equip them with sophisti-
cated weapons like AK47 rifles, for his personal security, otherwise he may be
killed by the opponents in the course of the election. The 2006 assassination
of Funso Williams, a principled popular gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State is
a typical example. Second, such candidates must share gifts of money and
foodstuffs at the various campaign rallies, and treat the organisers and
party officials to luncheons and buffets at every turn. He must pay courtesy
visits to power brokers and influential traditional rulers and religious leaders
whose support could only be given in exchange for money and/or promise
of juicy appointments or government contracts.
On the Election Day, provision must be made for the party agents to move
around with bags and cartons of money in cash, to settle whatever exigencies
that may arise, on the spot. He will even have a ready crowd to celebrate his
victory or defend it once the results are declared. Even after the declaration of
the results, the winning candidate must keep money ready either to placate
his opponent immediately so as to forestall the matter moving to the
courts, or if it does, to use the money in preventing the opponent from
having access to the needed evidence. Any aspirant therefore, who wants
to win an election in Nigeria must pass through this ritual. When aspirants
who have been subjected to the ritual of money politics win an election,
their preoccupation on assuming power is to recoup election expenses, and
also to accumulate much material resources with which to fund future elec-
tions and remain politically relevant (Adetula, 2015; Davies, 2012; International
More often than not, the quest to recoup election expenses and to
accumulate wealth for future elections is so corrupting and overwhelming
that everything else, including campaign promises and governance, is put
aside. White-elephant projects are created, but only as conduit pipes to
siphon-off public resources. Fictitious contracts are awarded and contract
costs are inflated. Significant portions of budgetary allocations for capital pro-
jects and even recurrent expenditure is embezzled. Primitive accumulation of
votes is a trigger for primitive accumulation of wealth (Ibeanu, 2007), and it is
money politics that sustains the trigger. Having imbibed the elite mind-set
through the ritual of money politics, Nigerian leaders’quest for material
wealth has become incurable. Even the few who were in the past believed
to have integrity seemed to have lost it after they contested and won
elected office, or were given political appointments.
This is largely why those with money who fund the election of political
office holders are given juicy political appointments, as reward for their cam-
paign contributions. After the 1999 presidential election was won by General
Obasanjo (Rtd.), he promptly appointed General Danjuma (Rtd) his Defence
16 E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
Minister. President Buhari handed over the Vice President slot to Senator Bola
Tinubu who then nominated Professor Yemi Osinbajo into the position. It is
partly in this way that the monetisation of politics in Nigeria has become
the major factor of corruption in the country. The worst manners of graft
are now being perpetrated by political office holders and for the reasons of
accumulating funds for different purposes.
There are four major types of such accumulation. The first type is accumu-
lation to recoup election expenses and pay back to the sponsors their princi-
pal sums and interests. The second is accumulation to fund re-election or
second term bids (see Adetula, 2008,2009,2015; Bryan & Baer, 2005;
Davies, 2012; Egwu, 2009; International IDEA, 2001; Ojo, 2008; Walecki,
2008). The third type is accumulation to fund the election of the future succes-
sor. The fourth is accumulation aimed at being very wealthy when out of
power so as to have financial security and become a permanent member of
the elite class. Such status enables the holder to enjoy the accompanying
social, political and economic benefits, including the ability to hire the best
legal team to defend him/her usually by delaying or buying judgement in
any criminal case that may arise from cases of graft committed while in
power, assuming his/her successor or government anti-graft agencies
decide to probe their affairs.
With the significant outlay that these politicians have for corrupt activities,
it is logical that not much is left to provide democracy dividends for the
people. It is believed that a large percentage of the annual budget is actually
spent on recurrent expenditures of the government, with corruption taking a
large chunk of this, while only a small part is left for capital projects and other
developmental purposes (Okonjo-Iweala, 2012). Some of the incidents of cor-
ruption include the diversion of huge sums meant for payment of salaries of
workers into ‘ghost worker’accounts. In 2016 alone, the Federal Government
of Nigeria discovered about 23,000 ghost workers on its payroll, amounting to
2.29 billion naira each month (Adeosun as cited in Daily Trust, 2016). Other
forms of corruption in Nigeria include budget ‘padding’(smuggling new
and unapproved items into the budget), and inflation of the budget estimates
by the National Assembly (Adewole as cited in Premium Times, 2016; Jibrin as
cited in Punch, 2016).
This is true for the federating units, which explains why, despite the differ-
ences in federal allocations to the different states and local governments, the
level of development remains essentially the same among them. In all the
states and local governments across the country, only a very small percentage
of the federal allocations are utilised in providing real development while the
major part of the revenue go into the private pockets of the officials of gov-
ernment. According to Acemoglu and Robinson (2013, p. 3), African countries
(such as Nigeria) are poor and failing not because they lack natural resources,
but because ‘political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been
COMMONWEALTH & COMPARATIVE POLITICS 17
used to create great wealth for those who possess it –the narrow elite who
have organized society for their own benefits at the expense of the vast
mass of people’.
As a result of this corruption of the political and electoral process, the
benefits that should have come from more than a decade and a half of
democracy and significant earnings accrued from crude oil exports have
not materialised. Instead the country continues to suffer from poverty and
underdevelopment, while the political elite keep siphoning the common-
wealth, living in affluence, and controlling politics for their own narrow self-
Recommendations and conclusion
From the foregoing analysis, it could be seen that money politics has made
electoral politics unaffordable and unresponsive to the people. It has there-
fore become the exclusive reserve of the rich. The implication of this high
cost of electoral politics in Nigeria is that it has enabled the power elite to
not only exclude the majority of people from electoral contests and by exten-
sion, positions of power, but also reinforced their grip on power and political
leadership. It is therefore not surprising that for more than three decades now
Nigeria has been lacking good leaders, as a parasitic cadre of the elite has con-
tinued to gain power and dominate the country’s political leadership. An
enduring solution to money politics in Nigeria would be to make it easier
for candidates with significant merit to participate in electoral contests, and
that would require reforming the prohibitive nomination process (high fees
for expressions of interest/nomination forms, and the monetary inducement
of party delegates).
This can be achieved by benchmarking the maximum nomination fee of all
political parties in Nigeria on the prevailing national minimum wage at the
time of election(s), and also by banning party delegates from receiving gifts
either in cash or in kind from aspirants vying for party nominations. To
prevent party delegates from being susceptible to inducement of any kind,
political parties should broaden and increase their membership base so as
to generate more funds from party membership registration fees and dues,
and from such funds, cater for the transport and accommodation allowances
of delegates rather than allow aspirants to do so. Further, there should be a
commitment that integrity rather than money forms the basis for nominating
a party candidate; parties should start the nomination process with a clear-
ance process for those who have purchased nomination forms. This should
be done at every level of the party by committees comprised of eminent
elders, whereby only aspirants with excellent qualities and not necessarily
money will be cleared to participate further in the nomination exercise. The
nomination fees will thereafter be subsidised for the cleared candidates.
18 E. I. ONAH AND U. NWALI
In addition, the laws that criminalise monetary and material inducement of
any form should be enforced. Enforcement of such laws should ensure that
both the politician who gives out money to induce and the voter who takes
the money are liable. It is recommended that an enforcement agency
should be created specifically for electoral laws different from INEC. The
alternative is that the enforcement arm of INEC should be strengthened to
make it possible for that body to ensure effective compliance. There is the
need to strengthen the capacity of INEC to enable it to monitor and prosecute
voters, candidates and political parties, who breach electoral law, especially
campaign funding regulations. Also, paid campaign airtime or media cam-
paign adverts should be regulated to ensure that candidates do not spend
too much money on campaign adverts.
It is equally important that the electoral management body undertakes a
cost survey to determine the actual campaign cost for each political office
at each election assuming there is no monetary or material inducements. Esti-
mates from such cost survey can then form the basis for limiting campaign
funding for political parties and candidates. The current campaign spending
limits of a maximum of 1 billion naira (for Presidential), 200 million naira
(for Governorship), 40 million naira (for Senatorial), 20 million naira (House
of Representatives) and 10 million naira (for State House of Assembly and
Local Government Chairmanship) candidates, as contained in Section 91 of
2010 Electoral Act (as amended), are clearly unrealistic and seem to be pro-
moting money politics rather than mitigating it.
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