FIC Report (Edo State) – “People that buy votes and those that sell their votes do not mean well for this country.” That was what an old politician, Mr. Peter Adoghe said during my discussion with him on political matters in Benin City recently. “Why did you say so?” I asked the 80 year old man.
The old man began to tell me the reasons for elections, how elections should be conducted and what he hates about elections in Nigeria.
Election, as we all know, is an aspect of any democratic process. It is a process that is originally meant to pick the best sets of leaders to lead members of a group or community. In a democratic setting like that of Nigeria, elections are supposed to be means of getting the best leaders to occupy different elective offices in the country.
Unfortunately in Nigeria, elections have been trailed by different types of allegations of malpractices which have resulted to electing mediocre to occupy elective offices like those of the President of the country, Governors, local government Chairmen and Legislators.
One of the malpractices that has always militated against electing capable hands at elections to run the affairs of Nigeria is buying and selling of votes. This illegal act is also one of the reasons why some fraudulent people have been wrongly elected into political offices.
In most cases, some electorates having interrogated the character and antecedents of different candidates vying for different elective positions make up their minds at home on who to vote for . Unfortunately, most of such voters end up voting for different candidates when they get to the polling booths . Even when they know that such new choice of candidates are not good enough to deliver the much needed dividend of democracy they just vote for them because of the money they will receive from political agents or vote canvassers at the polling centres.
Any voter whose choice of candidates in election is influenced by money, who eventually vote fraudulent people or mediocre into political offices, has ultimately sold out his or her future and that of his or her children.
Vote buying and selling at elections in Nigeria has been condemned by many well meaning Nigerians and by now it ought to have abated. Unfortunately, it has not abated. It has become an all elections occurrence. The illegal electoral act seems to have come to stay, considering the innovations displayed in the act by political vote canvassers.
Why has the act not been brought under control, one may ask. The answer is not far fetched. The main factor that has made the act to persist is the fact that authorities saddled with the responsibility of checking the illegal act of vote buying and selling seem to have compromised. The authorities have failed in their responsibility. If they have sincerely carried out their duties by punishing offenders, the act should have been a thing of the past or drastically reduced by now.
It’s important to demonstrate here how the act of vote buying takes place. In some cases, money is given to the electorates before getting to the polling arena, at any agreed location. In some cases promises of different forms of rewards like appointments to office(s), award of contract(s) or monetary gift (s) are made to the electorates. In this case, one may not blame security agents and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for negligence in terms of checking vote buying.
However, the most pronounced and most effective pattern of vote buying and selling is the one that takes place at the polling booths on the day of the elections.
First, before the accreditation of voters begins, agent of political parties release some money to heads of the organization’s that are saddled with the responsibility of checking the act of vote buying.
As the voters are on queue, vote canvassers are seen moving from one voter on the queue to the other, advertising their candidates to them, with promises of getting some amount of money in return. The canvassers don’t hold money, the cash is usually held by another set of people. Any voter that agrees with the term will have to cleverly display his/her tomb printed ballot paper to the canvassers before dropping it in the ballot box. The canvasser stands at a position where he or she can easily see the ballot paper to confirm that the voter has voted for his/her candidate. After that, the voter’s name will be written and directed to the group who are in possession of cash. That is where the voter receives his or her cash.
The interesting questions are, why are the canvassers allowed by the security personnel to move from voters to voters on the queue? Why are the canvassers allowed to stand close to the ballot boxes where they can see tomb printed ballot papers? Why have political party agents that pay money to voters to influence their voting choice not been arrested and punished? Will the security agents drafted to monitor the electoral process at the voting arena say they don’t usually know when money is being exchanged for votes by voters and political party agents or vote canvassers?
That vote buying has wrecked a lot of havoc to Nigeria’s electoral process and the development of the country is not disputable. In fact it has contributed to ruining the speed of development of the country as it has contributed to electing some fraudulent and unproductive candidates to occupy administrative/managerial offices in the country.
Even the electoral law of Nigeria is against buying and selling of votes. The act is a criminal offence that should be discouraged by all well meaning Nigerians.
The monitoring authorities which includes the Police, Civil Defence Corps, INEC and in some rare cases the Army, saddled with the responsibility of checking the menace should carry out their responsibility.
Nigerians should realize that vote buying is detrimental to the development of the country and do away with it. The government should continuously sensitize the electorates about the evils of vote buying or vote selling.
The media organizations should also carry out campaigns to condemn the act of vote buying. They should as part of their corporate responsibility sensitize Nigerians about the evils of vote buying and why it should be discouraged.
By STELLA DAVID ADU.
FIC, BENIN CITY