Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recalled an incident where his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, lost a local government election in Ogun State in 1998.
He revealed that party leaders had suggested allocating money to bribe the police and personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, Obasanjo refused to go along with this proposal, as he believed that INEC officials and policemen were government workers who received regular salaries.
He shared this experience during a high-level consultation event on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa’ in Abeokuta.
He also expressed his discomfort with the phrase ‘Nigerian factor’ and its implications on democracy and development.
“When things go wrong, you said the Nigerian factor. The first thing I learnt in politics was this thing I called 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 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 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.