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Obasanjo Flags Election Corruption as Major Threat to Nigeria’s Democratic Fabric

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Former President Olusegun Obasanjo voiced a stern warning about the structural challenges undermining Nigeria’s democracy during a speech on Saturday, August 12, 2023, asserting that corruption sits at the very foundation of the nation’s elections.

Speaking as a guest at the Gospel Faith Mission convention on the topic of the church’s role in nation-building in today’s challenging times, Obasanjo didn’t mince words.

“The foundation of elections in Nigeria is corruption, and you cannot make corruption the foundation of anything for it to be good,” he declared.

Drawing from personal experiences, the former President recounted troubling incidents from the 1999 elections.

Obasanjo described his dismay after the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, was rejected during the local government elections that year.

“The two first sad and bad experiences that I had were during the local government election in 1999,” Obasanjo reminisced.

He spoke of being confronted with demands for funds to support the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the police, and the Department of State Services, DSS, in the days leading up to the election.

Standing his ground on principles, he refrained from providing the money, believing that government agencies should already have the necessary resources to perform their duties.

The fallout from that decision was palpable. “We went to elections; we did not have one candidate. All our candidates failed, I felt bad,” Obasanjo reflected.

His insistence on avoiding the traditional, corrupt funding practices was met with resistance.

“They came to me, [saying] ‘if you had allowed us to do it the way we have been doing it, the results would have been different,’” he recalled.

However, the results remained consistent with the previous local government election outcomes even after distancing himself from the subsequent state assembly election.

Obasanjo emphasized that in 1999, the PDP was “totally rejected” in the southwest, a reality that he attributes to entrenched corruption within the electoral system.

Obasanjo’s candid remarks serve as a powerful reminder of the country’s structural challenges in its quest for a transparent and functional democracy.

His take-home message was clear: as long as corruption remains at the heart of Nigeria’s electoral process, true progress and representation will remain out of reach.

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