No doubt, voting buying has become a disturbing feature in Nigeria’s nascent democratic experiment with its attendant negative consequences. It has become a major issue in party primaries and other elections. Vote buying has heightened the monetization of the electoral process where the highest bidder gets the trophy.
There were allegations that the just concluded Ekiti State governorship election was marred by vote-buying as agents of political parties were sighted negotiating with voters on the prices of their votes. In the election, money ranging from N4,000 to N10,000 was offered to voters, depending on the location and prediction of the likely outcomes. The voters’ financial inducement did not start in Ekiti and will not end there. In all the political parties’ primaries conducted recently, there were allegations of vote-buying and inducement of delegates with few political parties exonerated from the obscene practice.
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For instance, in the recent presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the influence of money in the exercise was reportedly overwhelming. The money bazaar was so pervasive and nauseating that some notable aspirants withdrew from the exercise. In the same vein, the primaries conducted by the All-Progressives Congress (APC) and other political parties for various offices were also tainted by vote-buying and other electoral malpractices.
There is no doubt that vote-buying tends to corrupt the electoral process and throw up the wrong candidates. It is a criminal offence, which affects the sanctity and credibility of the electoral process. With wrong candidates emerging as winners, the country suffers. Electorates should not expect democracy dividends from Leaders that emerged through these corrupt practices. These leaders have to recover their investment first before fulfilling their campaign promises.
Vote-buying is one of the ugly outcomes of our new democracy. INEC should therefore not look back in liaising with security agencies to stop the criminal act. However, beyond working with the anti-graft agencies such as ICPC and EFCC, INEC should go further by invoking relevant legislations against the inimical electoral practice to punish the offenders. Let the commission carry along with the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly in fashioning out necessary legislation against the evil practice. There is a need to educate the electorate on the dangers of selling their votes. Let them be made to understand that selling their votes amounts to trading of their rights to choose who governs or represents them. The political education department of the commission and other relevant organs charged with public enlightenment need to rise up to the occasion, as part of the preparations for the 2023 elections.
Ibrahim Mustapha Pambegua writes from Kaduna State