By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
They fight tooth and nail. Someone told me that to prosecute an effective governorship election in Imo that about 5 billion naira could be needed. It will sound outrageous until you start. You will start with notice me philanthropy and mid-night meetings.
Those who come to the meetings will have to go back with something. This early stage of warming up to small gods costs quite a bit.
Then when the time comes you may have to buy the ticket of a good party. You saw what happened in Port harcourt in 2019. A newcomer with loads of money can stage an ambush, on the eve of the primaries, and mop up all the delegates. So you have to be alive to small things like booking and seizing hotels and bureau de change facilities.
After you have captured a good ticket, you have to resurrect and renovate the structures of the party in the state. If you have an existing godfather then your job is not daunting, you are a baby being carried on the back. Structures of opposition parties in many states have seasonal lives. They go into hibernation after elections and have to be resurrected.
The god-fatherless, after buying his ticket, must keep money to fight off hyenas who will come to make clams to it. Sometimes he will pay ransoms and let sleeping dogs lie. Some other times he will have to fight the fight in court. At every stage , at every turn, he is hemorrhaging money.
When campaigns get underway, he will discover that everybody around him will become a mercenary. His bishop, his cousins, his bosom friends. They will all want to be paid for running errands and for praying for him. He will need thugs to strengthen the security already purchased from the police. He will have to hire the boys. That is the way it works.
He will go from church to church seeing priests, ‘collecting’ prayers and blessing their pockets. It’s all quid pro quo. Everywhere he goes, he will be expected to drop something and promise something. The traditional rulers will want his gifts. And that tribe that loves long robes, has large eyes.
When he sends money to people, half of the money will get lost in transit. He will never know because receipts are never issued. He will discover after the elections that many of the seeds he sowed, fell by the way side, and were eaten by hungry birds.
When he has his rallies, he will get some people free, but he may have to hire others. There are agents that furnish crowds. And there are all kinds of crowds. Those who remain come rain or shine cost much more. There are the vociferous ones but they have no endurance. So he must know what he wants. He will have to pay to prevent others from scattering his crowds. That’s the way it works. You pay to fetch the crowd. You pay to protect it . Sometimes, you pay to get value, some other times you pay to prevent sabotage. They go hand in hand. You pay rain doctors to stop rain. Then you pay some other rain doctors who come frowning, not to bring rain.
While campaigning, he will have to keep an eye over his shoulders. He can’t afford to sleep or lose concentration. Because his name can go missing from his party’s list, anytime. So he will keep in touch with his party’s secretariat, nursing their moods and greasing their palms.
But he must not be deceived. The eve of the elections is critical. He will have to keep money for the election eve. Election gifts expire quickly in Nigeria. So he will start recharging the gifts he had given earlier, two-three days to the election.
On election day, money has to reach his agents. Those who have run successful elections will tell you that money has to reach many other institutions and actors too. You can name them. These govt institutions collect theirs in hundreds of millions naira. Those transactions are too filthy to be mentioned here. But every agency that takes part in elections expects gratifications. They collect in bulk and share to their officers.
The ground game on election day is very important. If his agents are infiltrated, they can sign fake result sheets and sell him off. So he must keep a tight leash on his network. After the counting of votes, he must stay awake and police his results. And it’s no easy task. Money will chase the result sheets from all angles, so he must be on ground to use money and prevent evil.
If he wins and is announced winner then he is lucky. He can take a deep breath before resuming his fasting and prayers.
Many of the winners would have borrowed from friends and strangers. Many governors get into office with debts running into billions of naira. That is why when they lose, it’s truly a tragedy.
When they win they begin the process of repayment from state coffers. But often times, the cases go to court and the sleeplessness is prolonged. And because the lawyers know what is at stake, some of these lawyers have smartly branded themselves election petitions experts. And they demand hundreds of millions of naira in fees. Behind the scenes some of the senior lawyers will tout their closeness to the judges and to convince a party to an election case to cough out humongous sums. So our friend who has just won his election but who is troubled by a sore loser may be asked to make provisions for some judges by his lawyers. This is the country. That is why judges love election tribunals.
Consequently, a winner of a governorship election who travels all the way to the supreme court would have to cough out so much money in legal fees. Someone once said the desperate ones could spend up to a billion running helter skelter.
So imagine a man of ordinary means who borrows billions and wins, and borrows a billion to defend his victory, only to lose at the Supreme Court. He will be in all kinds of trouble. He might have taken one of two new chieftaincy titles he would not know what to do with again. He might have asked one or two relations to leave certain jobs in or outside the country to come and chop. He might have promised his former headmaster a new house. He might have sent one girl friend to the state liaison house in Abuja. All the appointments he made for which he has collected accolades and gratitude will all be reversed.
Election losses are especially difficult to take when one has been through seven seas and managed to sit on the throne for seven months. One might have bought secondhand tractors and established a new construction firm under a new name and awarded all roads contracts to that company. One might have dusted up a former governor friend and placed him to chop in the state’s refuse collection agency where nothing can be tracked and two hundred million naira can be siphoned monthly.
If only we could sanitize our electoral processes. And put a tight legal lid on electoral expenses. And conclude all litigations before elected official are sworn in.