Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey said in 1983 that if he saw N1million he would faint. He was chairman of Federal Electoral Commission, more conveniently called FEDECO at the time. He spoke amidst charges of corruptive influences caging his commission, and the predictable attendant controversies. He said he had never seen N1million in his life. If he were to behold it, he would simply collapse. He departed earthly life in year 2012. How I wished he were still with us. I wonder what he would do seeing what N100million has become in his beloved country he served brandishing his armour of integrity, glittering without stain. Come with me to Abuja where our national currency has been unconscionably scandalized and political gladiators jostle to demonstrate to us that N100million can no longer be held in intrinsic awe. It cannot command that awe that is its due any more than N10, 000 would. They fall over themselves and open their wallets to pay N100million for a form as an expression of interest in the most coveted crown in the land in the ardent longing to serve! At the last count, 23 persons had each paid N100million to collect the form as an expression of interest.
This is in an environment in which N200.00 means the whole world to some families. For a great many, it is a rescue sum between life and death. The story was told of a lady who flagged down a neighbour of hers to ask for N200.00 to have something to eat for that moment. The Good Samaritan gave her N1, 500. She was so overwhelmed that later in the evening of that day she went with two daughters to express heart-felt gratitude for the gesture of earlier in the day. The man’s wife gave them half a bag of rice to go home with. A lady who was another neighbour who heard about her plight got her interested in the sale of kerosene in the neighbourhood. She set her up. I am told the business is doing well, coming as it did when the price of gas was getting out of reach for many average families. The story is narrated to show the level of deprivation in the land.
As I was saying last week…as a reminder: Whoever wants to fly his party’s flag to serve his people or Nigeria at the highest level of the Presidency, a form just for the expression of interest alone is costing the moon. And the money so paid is not refundable by his party should he lose the nomination bid. Thus the profligate life of Nigerians is proven to be not only in marriage ceremonies and burial rites but in political activities and quest for political offices as well. To go for Presidency, waving or brandishing the APC flag you fork out N100, 000, 000million; for Governorship, the price is N50million; for the Senate, N20million; for House of Representatives, N10million; House of Assembly, N2million. In PDP, to go for the presidency, it costs N40million to give effect to the dream of applying to fly the party flag; if interested in the governorship, to pick the form it costs N21million; Senate, N3.5million; House of Representatives, N2.5million and House of Assembly N500, 000.
In NNPP, the nomination forms cost as follows: For President, N30million; Governorship, N11million: Senate N3million; and House of Representatives, N1.2million. In YPP, the prices for the forms are: for the President, N20million; Governorship, N10million; Senate, N3milllion; House of Reps, N2million; State House of Assembly, N400, 000. SDP, form as an indication of interest in the office of president: N35million; Governorship, N16million, Senate, N3million; House of Representatives, N1.7million, and State House of Assembly, N500, 000.
As I did state, the party that goes by the name AAC says its forms are free. All that is required for anyone to express interest in being nominated is to pay party membership fee, and if the person likes, he may make donation to it as well.
The humongous sum of money does not include what you spend on air tickets—flying up and down to all corners and crannies of the land to make consultation or simply to show yourself, nor does it include wrapped gifts for chiefs in attendance, for the city fathers, opinion makers and stakeholders and for the chief host himself. These exclude the costs of warming up and rehearsing, distribution of materials for comestibles such as rice, beans, millet, corn, palm oil and groundnut oil—N50million here and there to wipe away tears and bring succour to the battered in one form or the other, and victims of one tragedy or the other. What of costs of campaign trips!
Ordinarily, in a democracy, to secure elective offices is expensive. In old and large democracies donations are made by interest groups such as companies determined to protect the economy and pristine societal values. The groups look for candidates that will best articulate their interests. The Republicans in the United States will, for example, look for a candidate who believes ardently in free market economy and who, upon assumption of office, will seek out conservative jurists who are pro-life to go to appellate courts, including the Supreme Court. The financial burden is not so much on the candidates themselves as it is on interest groups. Such was the situation that big business rooted for Mr. Trump, Mr. George Bush and Mr. Reagan and the liberals for Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Mr. Jimmy Carter and Hilary Clinton. Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer came from such obscurity that practically all who heard the name their would-be president asked: Jimmy who?
In the book titled “The Miracle of Jimmy Carter” by Howard Norton and Bob Slosser, it is said: “Into that scene strode the confident aide, Hamilton Jordan, then 28 years old, armed with the memo he had been instructed to prepare on why the governor should run for the Presidential nomination in 1976. The 70-page document, he had prepared, which was examined in detail during that holiday at the seashore, turned out to be prophetic in many respects. One significant point in the memo fits Carter to perfection. It was that voters were looking first for integrity…They were looking for someone to believe in, and that’s where Carter stood out most strongly. Furthermore … the voters wanted competence, and Governor Carter had a strong record in reorganizing and running the government of Georgia and before that the building of his own successful business. Then, the “not-from Washington” theme was popular and spreading in many parts of the country. That theme lent itself to some first-rate sloganeering, backed up by the other themes of “honesty,” “competence,” “no-ties-to-the-establishment, and the like.”
According to his wife, Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, “There wasn’t anyone day that he called the family together and said, ‘I ‘m going to run for president.'” Carter himself was to speak on what motivated him to seek office: “…the feeling that the government, as we presently knew it, was not measuring up to the honesty, integrity, the idealism, the compassion, the love, and expectations of the American people.” That is leadership recruitment in other lands. It was not through filth and debasement of values.
At the end of his tenure, Bill Clinton was so broke and in debt. Hillary Clinton said of the situation to Diane Sawyer of ABC: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt, We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for a house, for Chelsea’s education. You know it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard—and it’s been amazing to me—he’s worked very hard. First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which were, you know, he had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and the then pay off the debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.”
Were we to be in an efficient system, the source of N100million, N50million, N40million paid by prospective candidates would be investigated. Who were the donors if any and what do they do for a living? How much did they pay in tax? There is no way the commercialization of our elective offices will not harm the overall health of the country. Candidates emerging in the middle class but bubbling with robust spirit of service and others desirous of rendering genuine and beneficial service who have no such huge sum of money are automatically schemed out of contestation. The figures are in such bad taste and insensitive. Criminals would believe it is so easy to make money and throw it away in the name of seeking elective or even appointive offices. The cut-throat contestation will be further heightened, tension would mount and the country would be at the nadir of dishonesty and corruption with the scramble to recoup the money spent to get elected. Any hope of reducing the absurd emoluments of Senators once revealed to total N29 million a month must be regarded as forlorn in an economy professors are paid not more than N450, 000, Indeed N416, 000 a month according to UNILAG ASUU chairman, and vice-chancellors N1.2million, even then only for the period they hold office as helmsmen.
The field of politicians queuing up to secure their party nod to fly their party flags is congested with no fewer than 300 struggling for space and be counted. The congestion is not novel. What is new is the disgraceful sum of money being asked the applicants to cough out. In 1991, we had a similar situation to which I reacted as follows in the column captioned “The Presidential applicants”: It reads in part: “There we go again. The list of prospective presidential contenders, NEC permitting, has grown by leaps. If the date for contenders to signify their intention had not closed, Nigerians, never known to demonstrate any sense of shame in these matters, would still have been thronging the NEC offices. At the last count, some 300 men and women had come forward for the coveted crown of the office of the President of the Federal Republic. There is hardly any face that has never been paraded before public glare in one office or the other, in one sphere of influence or the other…The issue of crowded tracks is sufficiently worrying…”
Waste not, want not is an age-long admonition in many societies. He who wastes will be in want sooner or later. Many a wealthy man may cast a glance at his account and assets and smiling, finds that his account is ever green and his assets inexhaustibly vast. Then he says to himself that the age-long axiom does not apply to him. That may be so but only on the surface. The saying is not just an axiom, but the outworking effect of an immutable Law of Nature which requires that in all activities of a man, he must maintain balance. It is the inexorable Law of Balance which ensures harmony in the world. He who takes more than he has put in will have his debit account presented to him some day to settle. Jim Ovia and Segun Agbaje are wont to say it is an overdraft which must be paid back.
A genuinely rich man is one who has been permitted the endowments through his past goodness which fetched him a relatively higher level of inner maturity. In this maturity are abilities, wading unhindered through currents, surging and heaving, to move closer to the Table of the Lord, the Creator of all the worlds. He takes in accordance with his ability which accounts for the varied levels of richness itself among the so endowed people. The table is open to all. With less burden a man is able to tap ideas flowing through Creation. It is the unfolding consistent with the polish of his spirit which dictates the level of the inner maturity. Those with fewer burdens must then have the greater capacity for the Grace of the Creator brought about by the unfolding and warmth of their refined inner state. There is no injustice in it. A rich man thus takes from the Table of the Creator in trust. What he takes is to be used for the well-being and upliftment of the world. He is expected to put it to noble use, such as providing employment opportunities so that those who may be permitted to cross his path can through work know joy and satisfy their material yearnings. With the material needs settled, they can devote their lives to the spiritual which is the sole purpose of existence as human beings, for every human being is a spirit.
When a man out of ignorance does not know that his wealth is to ennoble, wastes his vast blessings, he burdens himself with guilt. With every act of guilt, his inner radiance dims and he loses connection with the Throne of Grace. With this we can find validity in the scriptural warning that we cannot live in sin and expect Grace to abound. Drawing from this infallible truism, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, while launching his presidential campaign in December 1982 at Tafawa Balewa Square said: “A nation whose leadership is corrupt can never receive the touch of Grace.”
In the higher knowledge available on earth today, we are permitted to know that, with every guilt a person burdens himself the more tenuous his connection with help becomes. At the end of the day, he will have succeeded in dragging himself down, thus distancing himself from the ever-richly laden Table. It is the gap between us and that Table that manifests in what we call poverty, even of ideas. If the fall is not apparent now it does not mean its consequences will not come in later life, in another earth life. When a man dies he does not cease to exist, and as they say, his works follow him. The threads he has woven for himself forming his carpet of fate do not cease connection with him simply because he has discarded his physical vessel, the body.
The foregoing explains why seemingly good people experience one tribulation or the other. His neighbours are perplexed because they only see today, they are unable to see his yesterday. They have no way of surveying his entire existence. Is it not instructive that many a man works day in, day out, but his material condition is that of abject poverty and to boot, sometimes infirmity? We learn that at every moment, we stand in the reactions of our past activities and at every moment we give cause to fateful consequences in the future!
He who wastes today will be in want tomorrow. Philanthropy for self-aggrandizement and public acknowledgement counts for nothing. A man who uses his wealth to oppress others and drag the values of life down, will find himself shut out of recognizing the intrinsic and extrinsic values of life and will himself be the servant of those he once ill-treated. The Laws are perfect, self-enforcing, just and unswerving, unchangeable. They do not take account of public opinions, ignorance or cleverness, and convenience. They permit of no excuses. They are driven by the Power of the Almighty God, manifesting His Will. And so adamantine is the Law: Waste not, want not. It is an unyielding admonition to individuals as it is to nations.