Vote-buying and forthcoming 2019 General Elections; Problems and prospect By Opeyemi Oladimeji
Just like the topic depicts, I will be discussing on the topic that becomes a cankerworm recently in our political space, and that is the menace of VOTE-BUYING. I have structured this to centre on “Vote-buying and forthcoming 2019 General Elections; Problems and prospect”.
Before we got into topic proper, let’s take an overview of the prime word “Vote-Buying”
In a survey conducted by Afro Barometer, nearly 80% of voters from 36 African countries believe voters are bribed – sometimes, often or always. This is a particularly chronic problem in Nigeria as well. Money has become a dominant, determinant factor in Nigeria’s politics.
The poor are likely to be victimized by vote buying because their limited means makes them susceptible to material inducements, including offers of basic commodities or modest amounts of money. Vote buying, in its literal sense, is a simple economic exchange – candidates ‘buy’ and electorates ‘sell’ votes, as they buy and sell goods and services.
One major slur on elections and indeed the democratic process in Nigeria is the practice of vote buying. It has become a recurring decimal in the nation’s elections, to the chagrin of right-thinking Nigerians and the international community. And not even the shadowy and powerful forces behind the uncouth practice can predict just how devastating its impact can be.
It will be recalled that disturbed by the monumental subversion of the electoral process that thrust him into office, a humbled President Umaru Yar’Adua had initiated some far-reaching electoral reforms. The quantum of litigations arising from competitive electoral contests, with some of the cases still pending in court since 2011, equally underscores the challenges posed by the worrisome trend.
In recent times, the impunity has graduated from what politicians call pre-paid to post-paid (vote buying), whereby voters are coerced to compromise their conscience and rights under the law. Before now, prospective voters were monetarily induced or settled, to use the common parlance, under oath, by opulent and influential politicians using stooges, surrogates and other categories of political jobbers, before casting their votes.
This set of politicians and their gangs, in their inordinate ambition and desire to dominate the political space and strangulate democracy, have however upgraded their game, as voters now get paid only after having done their unpatriotic bidding. The political godfathers and demagogues are having a jolly good time at the expense of our nation’s democracy.
This latest strategy for undermining the secrecy of balloting requires that the voter display the ballot paper that (s)he has thumb printed in favour of a particular party, so that the party agent standing strategically nearby can monitor, see and confirm compliance with the unholy contract as (s)he emerges from the cubicle at the polling unit.
Having pleased the agent, the voter walks past the ballot box. Thereafter, (s)he is compensated in cash and kind, either immediately or at the close of balloting at an agreed spot and time, even before the result of the election is officially announced.
The practice, which is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy and the global standards, has added to the political lexicon of the country, such weird expressions as dibo ko se’be (Vote and cook a pot of soup) and cash-and-noodle, bordering on predatory and prebendal politics.
This is a disservice to the less perceptible voter and, by implication, the electoral process. As such, we insist that major stakeholders must use the current opportunity provided by the National Assembly to raise the bar in terms of the rules of engagement in the electoral process. This is a crucial step in saving the system and protecting the long-term interests of the voter and facilitating good governance and democracy.
Ekiti and Osun state election had come and gone. The winner had been declared and losers will be licking their wounds by now. The loser’s huge financial commitment had yielded no result. No wonder we have occasional situation where politicians commit suicide after losing the election.
But which way for the 2019 general elections, is this how we will continue to condone thus horrible menace?
We must all note that vote-buying does not only happen in the wee hours of the election day. It started from the party’s primaries. At the ward level, the amount may be minimal ranging from buying snacks and soft drinks. But as the party primary moves towards the election of local government party executive, local government chairmanship aspirants and on to state executive; and then national assembly as well as national executive positions, the stake goes higher. Only the so-called big boys can play at this level.
The uneducated and uninformed voters, who are always in the majority, see their voter’s cards as a means to an end. Politicians, on the other hand, are always on the standby. Many of these poverty-stricken voters, do not understand the risks associated with this act. At the end of this dark tunnel is cruel under development because the future is already traded for a morsel.
Where do we go from here? Is hope totally lost? I dare to say No. Since we know the challenge facing our nation, what we only need is the will-power to face it headlong. The solution will not be offered by our leaders alone. Every hand must be on the desk.
Can we move from money-driven election to a value-based one? Reorientation must start from the family, which is the smallest unit in our nation. In my own estimation, I stand to be corrected, many female sex hawkers result in using what they have to get what they want because of wrong information or belief system.
Until this mindset is changed, the external display of their ware at the red light street cannot stop. We must move this advocacy to our basic schools and ensure children are empowered to confront their parents on the evil of ‘money exchange hand’ Politics. If we win at this level, we must move to post basic schools as well as all the tertiary institutions. Values we cherish must be known to all.
Our regulatory institutions, especially the one with oversight functions must be strengthened. Independence and power to bite without fear or favour must be given to these institutions. The police force should be strengthened and empowered more.
This process can be a long way to freedom, but if we commit to it from now, who knows by 2019, 2023 or 2027 we will be singing a new song.
I thank you so much for your time.