Nigerians contemplate the price of democracy

MONEY talks in Nigeria, and never more so than during the campaigns that have led up to today's first round of presidential primaries to decide which two candidates will contest the 5 December elections for the right to lead the country after a return to civilian rule next January.

Twenty candidates have entered the primaries, to be held each Saturday over the next six weeks, in the quest for nomination by Nigeria's only two legal parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), both created and funded by President Ibrahim Babangida's seven-year- old military government.

While vote-buying has traditionally tarnished Nigerian elections since independence from Britain 32 years ago, many observers argue that spending on this year's campaign is unprecedented. One SDP candidate, a multi-millionaire businessman, Arthur Nzeribe, has said he has pounds 25m in his war chest. At rallies, presidential hopefuls are expected to pay the crowds who turn out, local government officials, dancers, and often the journalists covering the event.

'This could lead to a moneytocracy . . . a government of moneymen for more money for themselves and for those who paid their initial bill for their elections,' General Olusegun Obasanjo, head of state in 1975-79, said in a recent lecture.

The two parties also got into the act by imposing levies of pounds 10,000 to pounds 13,000 on each candidate, ostensibly to reduce the number of contestants from the original more than 60. 'The moneybags have hijacked the parties,' Segun Ogundimu, who withdrew from the race, told the independent Lagos newspaper, The Guardian. 'I was under the impression that the government was keen on creating a new political culture. It was as if the presidency is for sale.'

The leading candidates for the NRC, whose political base runs from the Hausa-Fulani people of the north-west to the Ibos of the east, are a former minister of industries, Adamu Ciroma, a former intelligence chief, Umaru Shinkafi, and a newspaper publisher, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. Frontrunners in the SDP, which is dominated by the Yoruba people of the south-west and minority ethnic groups in central and north-eastern Nigeria, include a former finance minister, Olu Falae, a former army chief of staff, Shehu Musa Yar'adua, and ex- Senate leader Sola Saraki.

The sources of the candidates' campaign funds and their past behaviour have been investigated by the State Security Service (SSS), but the National Electoral Commission said on Thursday that it would not exercise its right to ban candidates without explanation until after the primaries.

Some human rights activists have charged that such bannings could create enough instability to allow Gen Babangida to fulfil what they allege is his 'secret agenda' - to stay in power. Despite the President's repeated vow to leave office next January, the past month has seen increased calls from pro-government groups for the military to remain. 'We believe that their leaving now would amount to abdication of authority to imminent future chaos and disorder,' a group known as the Third Eye said in a recent two- page newspaper advertisement. 'The anarchists must not have their way to divide our nation.'

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law