It is commonly believed in Nigeria that politics is like a business venture where an ‘investor’ recovers the capital he invested and also makes some profit after being elected. However, it seems there has been a turn in the tide since President Muhammadu Buhari took over as many Senators and members of House of Representatives have been finding it difficult to recoup their investments.
Recall that there was a time some members of cabinet in the present administration revealed that they were also experiencing financial hardship. In the same vein, some senators have voiced their frustration over their inability to recover the millions of naira they spent on electioneering campaign, 17 months after their inauguration.
It is generally known that those seeking political offices in Nigeria usually spend far above the amount stipulated by section 91 of the 2010 electoral act which puts elections spending for Senate at N40 million and House of Representatives at N20 million. For the Senate, violators could pay a fine of N600,000 or spend six months in imprisonment or both while for the House of Representatives, the fine is N500,000 or five months imprisonment or both.
According to Daily Trust two senators, one from the South-South, said he spent N1billion during his campaign for the Upper Chamber while the other from the North-Central said he spent N300 million.
These are expenses which were piled up before and during elections, excluding legal fees for those taken to court by their opponents after the election.
Lamenting the challenges faced by members of the National Assembly, Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South), while speaking during the screening of Professor Okechukwu Ibeano as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said senators were drained by the public before, during and after the election.
Mr. Manager who has been at the Senate since 2003 said:
“Calls are coming from all over the places, bring this and bring that even after the election, we are still spending. In the Electoral Act, there is specific amount but in practical terms it is not possible. We borrowed and are still borrowing”.
“A man who contested for one of three senatorial districts of Lagos in 2011 drove to his bank six months after the election. On his way back, he asked his driver to stop, he walked for few minutes and jumped into the lagoon.
“We are in trouble, Professor please how do we resolve this?” He asked Professor Ibeano.
Responding to the question Professor Ibeano answered: “I definitely feel your frustration but my profession is against borrowing for elections. “The only way out is for political parties to go back to the 60s where volunteer party members assist without being paid. As long as you pay for everything, you will continue to spend.”
In his own contribution, the chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North), said the amount stipulated in the electoral act was not realistic. His words:
“We have 120,000 polling units across the country and if a Presidential candidate pays N10, 000 to each agent at each of the polling units, he will spend N1.2billion just for agents on election day.”
Daily Trust further stated that lawmakers, who served during previous assemblies, amassed wealth through deals with MDAs and other government officials. Those who did not cooperate were frustrated.
At the zenith of budget processes last year, heads of MDAs were warned not to lobby for increase in budgetary allocation at the National Assembly. A memo to this effect was issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir David Lawal.
Expressing their frustrations some senators said:
“We are afraid to ask them (MDAs) now and they too are afraid to bring anything. Like now that we’re approaching the end of the year, MDAs would bring a lot of things to us, but last year was totally different, and I’m sure this year too will be the same.”
Another lawmaker who is into transportation business also expressed dismay saying: “I should have concentrated on my business than coming here because now I don’t have enough time for my business, yet I’m not making anything here.”
“Seriously, this is not what I expected. In fact, I can tell you that I was better off as a businessman than a legislator. The story was different before I came here, at least so I was told. Our predecessors enjoyed their stay at the National Assembly, but our own case is different”, said yet another lawmaker
Some of the lawmakers said if things continued like this up to 2019, they might not seek re-election “because the business of legislature appears to be unprofitable.”