As political parties prepare for the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the start of political campaigns, political parties and their candidates have been scouring the country and the diaspora for support and assistance. There is nothing unusual about this, as political parties are required by law to finance their activities from sources authorized only by law. For national security reasons, restrictions are imposed on certain categories of donations. This article is relevant in light of the Labor Party candidate’s recent efforts to seek diaspora crowdfunding for his political campaign.
Section 85(a) of the 2022 Elections Act appears to prohibit diffuse funding of political parties. Further, a combined reading of the provisions of Section 225(2)(3)(4)(a)(b) & (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that each political party shall submit to the INEC a detailed annual statement and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets, together with a statement of its expenditures in such form as the INEC may require; the provision referred to specifically provides that no political party shall hold or possess funds or other assets outside Nigeria or have the right to retain funds or assets remitted or sent to it from outside Nigeria. There have been differing opinions on the legality and appropriateness of Peter Obi’s Diaspora crowdfunding effort and not on their candidates. In other words, funds donated to political party candidates by foreign interests should not be prohibited. Therefore, Peter Obi, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar and other candidates are free to travel to Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, Mexico or anywhere in the world to seek foreign financial support for their political campaigns to occupy office number one in Nigeria. . What a convenient argument! However, I don’t buy it.
Some prominent jurists have expressed their opposition to foreign crowdfunding. Oluseun Abimbola, SAN, former Oyo State Attorney General, aptly put it when he said, “How desirable is that? For presidential candidates to have their campaigns funded by outside interests or even rogue nations seeking wiggle room. I don’t think we should expose our democracy to a nation like North Korea, for example, to start blackmailing our C in C. I think we should strongly oppose such a practice for any candidate, and aim higher values if we are to grow our democracy. Anthony Malik, SAN, without mincing words, rightly said that “political parties and candidates coincide. They are one and the same. Thus, what touches, concerns or affects one also affects the other. This is true given the provisions of Articles 221 and 229 of the Constitution which prohibit the contribution of the diaspora to the electoral expenses of any candidate in an election and also define an “association” as comprising an organization “without legal personality which agrees to act together for any common purpose.”
No matter how legal puritans or straitjacket scholars may look at it or twist the argument, there’s a huge danger to our nation’s homeland security when we give an open check to candidates and politicians (or to their agents) to go around the world soliciting donations from foreign interests. The entire security apparatus in the United States of America had to go along with Donald Trump on the allegation that he received support from Russia during his campaign to become President of the United States of America. Furthermore, money laundering is a serious crime as it has been repeatedly linked to international terrorism. We would be doing a great disservice to Nigeria, our country, if we continue to be too legalistic on matters of national security and the integrity of our country. Patriots should go beyond inelegance in legal drafting to actually discover the true intent of legislators in making law.
If the intent of the law is to prohibit political parties from seeking, obtaining and/or retaining any form of foreign support, it does not seem logical that political party candidates should be allowed to do what their parties policies were prohibited from doing . Political parties do not exist in a vacuum. It is the candidates and members of political parties who run, direct, organize and dictate what their political parties do.
In conclusion, no political party, candidate or member of a political party or group of persons purporting to organize crowdfunding for a political campaign of a candidate would act within the law if the source of its funding is related to foreign interests.
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