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Campaign Finance Reform | A Key to Restoring

By: Kurtis Adigba

Money, the legendary California politician Jess Unruh said "is the mother milk of politics".

I agree, but our experience in Nigeria since our democratic voyage shows that our milk has been juiced with steroids — corrupt funds.

Nigeria is not alone on this but what is different is: other countries have made and are still making deliberate efforts to reform campaign finance whilst we are not doing anything.

In the USA, the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Bill was signed into law by President Bush in 2002.

That law was an honest effort to limit the influence of money in politics.

The law did have some impact until the United States Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United States vs Federal Election Commission, set aside some of its very fundamental provisions and again enthroned money as king of politics in America.

It is important to note that the decision in Citizens United, paved the way for the emergence of many super PACS (Political Action Committees).

In Nigeria, money is the name of the game and has kept out of politics very credible people.

From the moment a politician declares an intention to run for any office, the spending starts with visits to godfathers and party leaders.

He or she is expected to do PR (give money) to them and wherever he or she goes, money is required to soften the ground.

To pick the expression of interest form, he or she needs millions of Naira and as we have come to know, the millions are required to show the person is serious (as if money is the sole determinant of a serious candidate).

The primaries are another money guzzling event.

Delegates are literally bought and usually, the biggest payer gets the ticket.

After the primaries, come the real election and this is the peak of all the activities. Through these processes, there is no limit on what an individual can contribute to the campaign funds of a candidate and this is where the moneybags and patrons come in to hijack the process to the detriment of the people.

In our peculiar situation where there is hardly any clear difference between public funds and that of elected officials such as the president and governors, the influence of money on campaigns is devastating. 

The incumbents deploy public funds to their campaigns and even when they pretend to raise funds from friends and colleagues, these are public funds laundered through contracts and other activities.

So, what do we do?

1. Prescribe a limit to the amount of money that an individual can give to the candidate for both primary and general elections and I suggest a maximum limit of #300,000 (three hundred thousand Naira);

Read also: The Problem of National Leadership in Nigeria

2. For the incumbent and the challenger, the government should provide campaign funds and no candidate should be allowed to spend beyond the given amount;

3. In the event that the incumbent declined to take government funds and raise money from the public, the government should give the challenger an equal amount of money raised by the incumbent;

4. The INEC should establish a specialized unit that will monitor campaign funds and how the funds are spent and any candidate in violation of the rules should be disqualified from contesting in the elections;

5. Donations to candidates should be made public and filed with the special unit of INEC.

After all, if a person wants to assume a public trust, he must consider himself as a public property in the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson.

Friends, don't we need to reform campaign finance?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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