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by Nduta Waweru, at 01:00 pm, September 08, 2018, Opinion

How old and worn out African leaders are monetizing politics to stay in power

Sierra Leone Elections. Photo: USAID in Africa

Ahead of every election in Africa, a number of young people are interested to vie for different positions. From governors to presidents, a number of interested and eligible young people have put up their names. Unfortunately, they have met different obstacles, top of which is lack of finances.

Money has become a vital element in elections not only in finding a suitable party but also in campaigning. To be able to traverse a region to woo local leaders and country for national leaders, one must have adequate funds, which must also finance other logistical issues such as public relations.

While many veteran politicians may have the power of the purse, not so many youths enjoy this privilege. It is, therefore, no wonder that many veteran politicians are using this to lock out young people. In Nigeria, political parties have increased the amount of money required to vie for a position in the upcoming elections.

According to local news outlets, the ruling All People’s Party (APC) had asked for $125,000, $63,000, $19,460 and $ 10,570 from presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial and member of assembly aspirants respectively. For the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the same positions go for $33,350, $16,680, $6,950 and $1,670 respectively.

The same is the case in Benin, where the financial deposit for any presidential aspirant has increased from $26,570 to almost half a million dollars. Set by the electoral commission, the changes were adopted by a majority of members of parliament.

These fees are already too high for many young people, some of whom fought hard to have age limits and presidential terms done away with so they could stand a chance to vie for vital political positions.

Dogged by poor systems, unemployment, lack of political godfathers and so on, African youth are forced to look for other means to fund their political campaigns. Some have gone back to the people and asked them to finance their campaigns.

In 2017, Kenya’s Boniface Mwangi’s campaign style was applauded by many. He turned to the electorate to get them to fund his campaign and even run an online funding project on Twitter. He also held a series of events including concerts with the country’s top-notch artists to fundraise.  These were beside his personal funding, which he got from selling his wife’s car. Although he lost, many people still talk about his unconventional fundraising.

The trend of fundraising online has spread to Nigeria as well.  There are a number of aspirants who have set up GoFundMe pages to fund their campaigns.

A report by the London School of Economics indicated that the monetisation of the political environment causes candidates and political parties to engage in unlawful activities. The report says in part:

This may involve exploiting state funds to support daily activities during the electoral campaigns, such as relying on state vehicles to transport candidates, using state institutions’ office equipment or monopolizing state-owned media to become their personal mouthpieces.

Other ways leaders may try to generate more funds to support their campaign endeavors include the use of public funds as they are generated from the manipulation of public procurement processes (i.e. by awarding the implementation of public projects to those willing to return back a portion of the money), from the misappropriation of funds provided for projects that are not actually implemented, or from financial investments that are not actually made in the interest of the public.

In the end, both the youth and the electorate lose out as the moneyed politicians, who are not necessarily qualified or do not carry the needs of the people at heart, take over power.

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