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Money, corruption, politics, democracy: Enugu State faces grave threats

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Mr Peter Mbah

All over the world, there is a constant fear of the corrupting influence of money over politics and the threat that poses to democracy. The idea that citizens should have equal voting power on the basis of one-man-one-vote is naturally threatened by the fact that men do not have equal economic power. Few are rich and many are poor. The few rich people could threaten the majority that are poor, if we allow the few to use their money to buy political power. That will be the end of democracy. And for that reason, every civilized society tries to restrict the influence of money on politics.

Hamilton (2013) captured the danger of money on politics and democracy in the following words: “Political corruption undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in the legislature reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; and corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law. For republics, it violates a basic principle of republicanism regarding the centrality of civic virtue”.

Today, we have seen how Enugu State has been gripped by the corrupting influence of money and that has placed the people of the state in grave danger of losing their birthrights. In the recently concluded elections for the office of the governor, the candidate of the then ruling party, Mr. Peter Mbah, outspent all his opponents combined by a margin of ten to one. We estimate that Peter Mbah spent 20 billion naira in his campaign to be the governor of Enugu. You may wonder what justified such huge expense or what did he stand to gain from being the governor that would justify such gargantuan expenditure?

First, reliable information indicates that the former Governor demanded huge amount of money in the neighborhood of two billion naira from anyone that would want his endorsement, and the Govenor’s endorsement was a guaranteed victory, as had been the case in Enugu for the past 20 years. Mbah bought the Governor’s endorsement, which led to the last minute under-the-table deal that selected Mbah as the candidate for PDP.

Second, Mbah realizing that he was not popular, had to engage in saturation and carpet-bombing technique for his campaign. He poured in money to ensure that his posters and gifts spread as wide and possible.

Thirdly, Mbah knew that all his expenses for the election would be wasted if he could not win. So, he was willing to pay INEC officials for that last-minute abracadabra in Nkanu East electoral precinct which that turned daylight into night with votes doubling the number of accredited voters and number of registered voters.

But it did not end there. The man that was robbed of the victory he won at the polls went to court to challenge the hocus-pocus and the work of the INEC shenanigans. Hence the petition to the tribunal, which is under way. At the petition, Mbah, knowing how bad his case is, decided to use the only weapon he understands – money. Though we don’t have the figures, it is estimated that Mbah offered over five billion naira to NYSC officials for them to cover up the forgery of his NYSC certificate. And this was where Mbah received the first shock of his life. He did not expect to meet officials of government in Nigeria that would refuse his money. And it is indeed very rare. But the NYSC Director-General refused every inducement. He and his staff insisted on standing by the truth. And they showed up to testify and to give evidence at the tribunal. This was a critical turning point for Mbah. For the first time in this whole journey, his money was not the currency of transaction. NYSC elevated truth, honor and integrity over and above money. Once his money could not buy people, Mbah became like a fish out of water. He began to run out of oxygen so rapidly.

There is yet the final stage where Mbah intends to deploy money to work for him. That is in trying to use money to induce the judges at the tribunal. Looking at his history and pattern of buying people, it is fair to assume that Mbah must have set aside billions just for the purpose of buying the judges. But again, Mbah will receive the same treatment he received from the NYSC. The judges live in the society. They are not unaware of what is going on. They will resist Mbah’s money. We have strong faith and confidence in the impartiality of these judges at this tribunal. They will not be moved by money. They understand that the stake is much higher than money. They will turn their back to money just the way the NYSC management turned its back to Mbah’s money.

Many may wonder: how did Mbah get all this money? That is a story for another day. But to cut it short, Mbah has been a front for Chimaroke for years, whom he served as Commissioner for Finance and who was charged along with him for fraud by the EFCC. The people of Enugu have a good idea where Mbah’s Pinnacle Oil money came from. But in addition to that, because Mbah was the favorite, the heir apparent to the PDP Governorship, people assumed he must win the election. They poured money out on him, buying influence and assets of Enugu people in advance. Many big money people from Anambra State who have Enugu as their main home jostled for influence in the next government. They wanted a governor that would be beholding to them, who would give them Enugu land free of charge. So, they poured huge money to support Mbah. Every past Governor of Enugu State since 1999 poured in money to ensure that Mbah would win so no one might ask questions about what happened in Enugu since the past twenty-four years. They funded Mbah in order to protect themselves from any investigation from a successor they did not pick. In fact, the interest of Enugu had been sold and bought to finance Mbah’s campaign and victory at all cost.

However, the people of Enugu have shown that money is not everything. They resisted Mbah’s money. They resisted Mbah’s godfathers and delivered their votes to his opponent. With more people resisting the influence of money, democracy will no doubt return to Enugu Stage soon. The judges are right now the final gatekeepers to ensure that democracy is not defeated by money in Enugu State.

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