It has always been said that democracy is expensive. In making that statement, many people tend to look at the cost of maintaining and sustaining democratic structures or, if you will, the various organs of government which, by the way, include the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
It is also likely that those who make that statement speak on the basis of the amount that is usually allocated to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the electoral empire. If I recall correctly, the amount said to have been budgeted for the 2015 elections by INEC was about N75.0bn.
Truly, the cost of sustaining the structures of government is huge. Many Nigerians, for instance are united in their condemnation of the “fat” salaries and allowances earned by members of the National Assembly.
These are the direct costs of democracy that almost every one can point at.
However, now that we have just concluded the 2015 elections, perhaps we could make an attempt to look at some of the cost that may have gone down with the elections. I dare say that it would be near-impossible to quantify this cost.
Where and how does one even begin to count the cost of this election when everything really cannot be expressed in Naira and Kobo? Well, we could try and look at some scenarios.
First, we could look at the time NOT well-spent on official responsibilities by political office holders who ran for or campaigned for those who ran for elective offices in the just concluded elections. It is safe to say that while the campaigns lasted, from the very expensive party primaries right down to the elections proper, many political office holders spent more time on campaigns than in the discharge of the responsibilities of their respective offices. Consider, for instance, the President, serving governors, and serving legislators who ran for election or re-election. These ones are not statutorily required to resign before seeking a revalidation of their mandates. Consider also other public servants who assisted them in their respective campaigns. Work out the time they all spent campaigning. The time NOT SPENT AT WORK will amaze you. In the end, decisions that were not taken at all or that taken late because government officials were on the campaign trail would have cost the economy. How much? I don’t know.
Next, you might want to consider the fact that in an election year, many investors are cautious. They maintain “HOLD” positions in the periods leading to and immediately after elections. As such, decisions that could have benefitted the economy are suspended. A case in point here is the experience of many businesses who are mainly contractors to other companies who were told to “wait till after the elections” by those they do business with. Many of such businesses have not been able to do anything since the beginning of the year. They may have already sustained heavy losses servicing overheads.
The postponement of the election from the original scheduled dates of February 14, and 28 by six weeks to March 28 and April 11 took a toll on businesses. Preparations had already been made. Certain decisions taken, meetings scheduled and re-scheduled and diaries and calendars marked all in preparation for the February 14 date. Then like-play, like-play, we started hearing about possible postponement. And from a distantly possibility, the reality of the postponement dawned on the nation. Appointment had to be cancelled and business decisions put on hold. Monies were lost. How much? I don’t know.
Eventually, the elections came. The nation’s borders were closed for the statutory periods during the two elections. Banks and other institutions closed early to customers on the days before the elections. Many business had to hurriedly close also. Who bears the cost during the period of shutdown?
I know that democracy is expensive to maintain and sustain. The call is, therefore, to find a way not to make it too expensive. Government functionaries and those who take decisions that have impact on the entirety of the country must be mindful of the fact that every decision has a cost. But through proper planning, it is possible to minimize these costs so that businesses are not at the receiving end.
And on a lighter note, it is not only businesses that are affected by such decisions. Individuals are also. A friend shared a joke about a couple who originally planned to have a wedding on February 14, 2015. When their attention was drawn to the fact that elections had been fixed for February 14 and 28, they opted for March 28. By February 7, they started sending out their invitations. Then, boom! Jega announced the postponement. To cut the story short, the guy’s family was then said to have summoned him and tried to impress it on him that maybe, just maybe, God was using the postponement to tell him not to marry the lady. When my friend asked me what I thought about the matter, I coughed lightly, cleared my throat and told him “I DON’T KNOW”!
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