Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has recalled how a political party, the Peoples Democratic Party he belonged to in 1998 lost a local government election in Ogun State because he rejected plans to bribe the police and personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Obasanjo said party leaders had told him that there should be money allocated for the police and INEC, saying he rejected the proposal on the belief that INEC officials and policemen are government workers earning salaries monthly.
The former President spoke in Abeokuta on Monday at a high-level consultation he organised on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa’.
The African leader had told politicians and professors at the debate that he is not always comfortable with the phrase, ‘Nigerian factor’, when discussing democracy and other issues affecting development.
According to him, he came across the ‘Nigerian factor’ slang when the nation held the first local government election and his party lost because politicians said be refused to take cognisance of the Nigerian factor while planning for the election.
“When things go wrong, you said the Nigerian factor. The first thing I learnt in politics was this thing called the Nigerian factor.
“In 1998, we had the first local government election. We had parties, and here in Abeokuta, we met in my office and they came up and said, ‘look, this is money for INEC, money for police.’ At a stage I said, ‘what nonsense! Is the police not being paid, and INEC too?’
“They said ‘that’s how we do it. I said ‘you cannot do that.’ So, they didn’t do that. And of course, we lost all the local governments. We lost all. And then they came to me and said, ‘Baba, you see? If you had allowed us to do it the way we used to do it, we would have won’. And I felt guilty.
“During the next election, which was the State Assembly, I just stayed in my house. I said ‘well, do whatever you want to do, I will not be part of it’. So, I didn’t even go. But, the result was the same. One of the people who got money didn’t even distribute it to where he was supposed to distribute it,” Obasanjo recounted.
The octogenarian emphasised that the Western liberal democracy being practised in Africa has not really taken human nature and the African situation into full account.
While saying it is time to be realistic, the Balogun of Owu said a hungry person will sell his vote for just N1000.
“When you are hungry, whatever anybody tells you cannot go in. Poverty is a great enemy of democracy. Ignorance or lack of education is a great enemy of democracy. And we seem to be deliberately fomenting poverty and lack of education,” he stated.