The ties that bind big business & politics: Who's really in charge?


Within 48 hours of being confirmed as Nigeria’s president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Muhammadu Buhari was pictured in the company of the country’s leading billionaires.

The proximity of big business and rich personalities to Buhari demonstrates how easy it is for rich people and big business to influence the political direction of an economy.

(READ MORE: Elections a positive outcome for Africa’s biggest economy)

The politics and big business nexus has been one of the master strokes undermining the concept of electoral democracy, where the masses are relegated to the fringes of decision making once elections are over.

Analysts argue that due to high levels of corruption in the region, big business finds it easy to bribe political actors in order to get huge tenders.

“In Africa resources, such as access to money, is often abused by the rich and powerful to corrupt the political leadership and even the poor,” said political analyst Rashweat Mukundu.

Mukundu added that money plays a huge role in the political manipulation of the masses, especially in perpetuating violence.

“Violence in elections is perpetrated mostly by the poor [who are] bought by the rich, and the rich who corrupt the leadership to get deals or tenders,” Mukundu said.

He lamented that money is not given its true value and role as a development facilitator but often enhances divisions, be they political or economic, and is at the root of many problems in Africa.

African Democratic Institute researcher Meluleki Mthembu concured with Mukundu, adding that politics is synonymous with economics.

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“Loyalty is bought, that’s why corruption is rampant because when a leader comes in, he has to pay the people who sponsored him,” he said. 

Hong Kong based political analyst Obert Hodzi said there is a close interlink between controlling political power and wealth accumulation.

“Political power is essential for wealth accumulation but is also dependent on controlling productive relations,” stated Hodzi.

“So it is not surprising that changes in holders of political power activate the need for realigning relations between the new political leaders and business people, who rely on their political patrons for more business deals.”

Hodzi added, “The unhealthy relationship between political leaders and business elites in African countries like Nigeria – that lack strong accountability institutions – cannot be cured by just changing the president.”