Why We Must Down Play Money In Our Body Polity

BY Yusufu Shehu USMAN, mni

Politics in Nigeria today, is radically different from the kind of politics played pre Independence and in the first Republic under the Republican Constitution

In the days of yore, the most prominent politicians were mostly teachers, lawyers and doctors who lay little claim to wealth but were trusted by the people on account of their professional services and selfless manner in which they used their professions to better the lot of the population they lived in

They were recognized as the “vanguard and conscience of the people’ and their main objective in joining politics was to fight for the Rights of the poor, the vulnerable, the down trodden and the less privileged members of the society

They hardly amassed material wealth for themselves or the immediate members of their families. They were more concerned about the positive impacts they could make in uplifting the lives of the people and the legacies they would leave behind for others to enjoy

That was when we had politicians of worth, value and integrity in the class of Chiefs Awolowo, Azikiwe, the Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa and Aminu Kano, all of blessed memories

The military truncated democracy and ended civil rule when they struck and ended constitutional democracy. The soldiers murdered the key political leaders of the time who fought for our independence from the colonial rule of the then Great Britain

The era of the Military rule was a watershed in Nigerian political history. The military pushed the nation to a tortuous civil war which claimed millions of lives, destroyed our national unity and polarised us as a people.

We were still suffering from the hang over of the civil war when the nation was returned to civil rule, under a totally different political arrangement that the West Minister system of Parliamentary government which was shot down in the wake of the military coup de tat of 1966

The nation adopted the American version of Presidential democracy in 1979 and by my reckoning, that was when our present political travails really started

The Presidential system is a heavily monetised system at all levels of it’s implementation and in addition, it established a proliferation of socio -political structures that not only constitute a huge drain on our meagre national resources but also ushered in the syndrome of money politics in a scale hitherto unprecedented

Under our peculiar presidential system of government, the greatest chunk of our national budget is dedicated to recurrent expenditure and very little is left for the execution of capital projects from which the citizens would benefit from the dividends of democracy

In this dispensation, winning election to any any elective office became an automatic licence to instant wealth.

Once you get elected into any office in the legislature or the Executive branch of government or favoured with a political appointment in any of these two arms, you are instantly placed in a position to become rich and powerful and as it were, you have been lifted out of poverty

The very weak system of internal control has encouraged corruption in a mass scale and destroyed accountability, probity and integrity in the operations of government

It has therefore become very easy for those put in positions of leadership and trust, to loot the public treasure at will and with reckless abandon.

Nobody is called to account and the public officers account to nobody. The judicial system is also not left behind in the scramble to benefit from the proceeds of corruption

It is not uncommon to find Judicial officers conniving with corrupt politicians to pervert the course of justice by freeing suspects accused of corruption or theft of public funds or dishing ridiculously light sentences for convicted looters

In this very permissive political environment, politics becomes a matter of life or death and politicians can spend what ever it takes to win election to public office, because it is akin to a financial investment

The monetisation of politics has become very attractive and will be difficult to stem, because it is a sure ticket to amass illicit wealth to the utter detriment of the generality of the citizens

Politicians invest in political offices with the sole objective of recouping their investment with homongous return on their investments

Our system pays the highest salaries and allowances for elected and appointed officers in the Executive and Legislative offices than most democratic nations of the world

And as if this scandalous though “legitimate” earnings are not enough, our bureaucracy encourages unbridled corruption and abuse of public trust virtually without consequences

In this scenario, how can we stop vote buying, how can we sanitise the political environment from the evils of corruption and abuse of public trust?

Money rules our politics and this a fact, though sad and unfortunate it may be

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