2023: Behold, Nigeria’s Most Expensive Election …Why Atiku, Tinubu will empty their billions-laden vaults to win the coveted presidential seat
The die is cast. The road to Aso Rock will be expensive and exhausting. Becoming a candidate is only the beginning of the election process. Dark money is about to rule, reign, and run rampant. Slated for February 2023, the presidential election, a straight fight between two old war horses; the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and the All Progressives Congress, APC’s Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will be an outlier.
Spending on Steroids!
Presidential races are generally won by the highest spender and both gladiators are known and revered for their mammoth wealth and vast network of well-heeled associates, mentees, and protégés. In their different capacities over the years, they have created billionaires who would naturally aspire to greater affluence and influence with their principal as president. Thus, Atiku and Tinubu and their cronies will plumb into the depth of their reserves to grab the coveted seat that they had individually aspired to for decades. Conversely, the 2023 election is effectively going to end one of the two’s political life. Safe to say this is going to be a do-or-die affair. So, no amount of money will be too much to claim victory.
This election is a battle of two redoubtable billionaires. But personal money would never be enough. Thankfully, they have eager associates to help in the imminent money war. Political analysts have estimated that spending in this election would be in trillions. The media will get a sizeable chunk of this through heavy radio jingles, TV, online, outdoor, and print ads. Just as electoral agents and party stakeholders. The electorate would also get its share willy-nilly – don’t forget the Ekiti debacle of 2018 where voters were induced with N5, 000 each. For the presidential election, the money would almost quadruple. Security agents would also need some motivation to defend the sanctity of votes.
Instructively, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, rules officially prohibit corporate bodies from donating to campaigns and restrict individual contributions to N1million. Further, the rules restrict the amount of money a presidential candidate may spend on their campaign to N1bn; N200m for a gubernatorial candidate; N40m for a senatorial candidate; N10m for a House of Representatives candidate; and a House of Assembly candidate to N10m. However, these rules are only on paper. The N1billion is not even enough to secure a presidential ticket in today’s Nigeria.
The Perennial Billionaire Aspirant
Atiku, a former Vice President (1999 – 2007) is a multi-billionaire with interests in numerous lucrative sectors including maritime, media, education, agriculture, and telecommunications among others. Only a man with his boundless wealth would have contested the presidential election the number of times that he had. He has been on the ballot since 2007 when he ran on the platform of the Action Congress, AC.
He contested the presidential primaries of the PDP during the 2011 presidential election losing out to Goodluck Jonathan. In 2014, he joined the APC ahead of the 2015 presidential election and contested the primaries losing to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Like a rolling stone, he returned to the PDP in 2017 and was the party’s presidential candidate during the 2019 election. The Adamawa-born Septuagenarian is back again on the ballot.
Will Wike’s Wealth Prove the Difference?
That Atiku successfully snatched the ticket from the grasp of the rambunctious but stupendously wealthy Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who was scarily coasting home to victory, testifies unequivocally to his huge spending power. Wike, a former local government chairman, Secretary to the State Government, Minister, and currently in his second term as governor of the oil-rich Rivers State, is widely described as a roughneck with a deep pocket. He had traversed the length and breadth of the country, spending millions of dollars to propagate his presidential aspiration, and reportedly gave $25, 000 to each delegate at the PDP presidential primaries. But for the Northern block of the party aligning when it mattered the most, money, good money, not blazing ideology or brilliant message, would have bought Wike the PDP presidential ticket.
Atiku’s money will not be enough to win him the election. That is why he is still ambivalent as to who his running mate should be. Public affairs analysts contend that overlooking Wike would be at his peril. His unabashed brusqueness and boorishness aside, Wike’s massive war chest is needed to prosecute the election. No other state governor can outspend him and this was evident during the last PDP convention. The nation awaits Atiku’s choice of a running mate!
Tinubu and the Pursuit of a Lifelong Ambition
For the former two-term governor of Lagos State, the 2023 election is his swansong, the culmination of a ‘lifelong ambition’, as he put it when he first declared to run in January. That he even clinched the ticket despite the robust opposition mounted against him signifies clearly that billions of naira had been expended. In the run-up to the party primaries held this week in Abuja, Tinubu went barnstorming around the country, flying private jets with his large entourage. Before visiting with the political class, he had first gone around traditional rulers.
Of course, he never went anywhere empty-handed. In March, news broke that traditional rulers in Ondo State were at loggerheads because the N30million allocated to them per senatorial district was disproportionately shared between A-Class and B-Class kings. That is a total of N90million in one state, aside from the huge cost of his logistics! Thus, a conservative estimate of visiting each state would be around N200million. He would later visit all the states meeting with delegates and party leaders. Tinubu’s landslide victory is, therefore, a testament to his spending power. And this is without prejudice to his proven political sagacity and long sustenance of the APC structure.
Lagos’ Debt of Gratitude
Lagos is Nigeria’s biggest economy and richest in terms of Internal Generated Revenue, IGR. Tinubu is the godfather of Lagos politics. He laid the template for the prosperity of Lagos State and shored up its IGR from N600million to the N51billion per month that it is today. He has had the state in his kitty since becoming governor in 1999. Despite leaving office in 2007, he has unilaterally handpicked every Lagos State governor. Similarly, everybody who matters in the Lagos State apparatus –executive, legislature, and judiciary – is beholden to him.
Expectedly, the Lagos State government will do any and everything to ensure that it forbear achieves his ambition! (The Capital NG)