The drumbeats over the 2023 General elections is one of Nigeria’s most interesting topics at the moment. Several attributes are known to be associated with election and its conduct in the Country. Issues of violence, money-politics, ballot-snatching, among other uncivil posture reflective of a do-or-die syndrome have not been far from the process of election in Nigeria. These factors, among others, are frequent features of the evaluation report of election monitoring groups, which largely form the straws of deformities that, more often than not, colour elections in the Country with defects that distance them from the standard of “free, fair, and credible,” profile.
Vote-buying which is a wing of the expression of money-politics, has been rife over time. While desperate politicians and their delegates stand to influence voters by offering a token for cheap scores, unenlightened voters have been found at the edge of selling their votes for a token. Disposition of politicians wanting to resort to vote buying has remained a feature of a poor democratic culture, while the fragility and susceptibility of voters to inducement of selling their votes so cheaply for pecuniary offers have been condemnable. The argument that poor voters are susceptible to inducement as an easy course to get impulsive appeals to meet immediate needs, which cannot be satisfying, have not been justifiable and irreconcilable with the plight voters have had to suffer from money-bags who, upon assumptions of office, see their money as what secured their victory for the election, and hence, not liable to public responsibility and responsiveness, as the duties and oath of office rightly demand.
Hence, the impact on both sides of vote buying and selling have been a contributory factor to the woes of bad governance which has dealt jungle blow not only on the masses, but has made money-bags to see reasons why they would not have to be responsive to popular agenda as governance really would demand. In fact, it cannot be disputed that one of the foremost agenda of money-bags in office, is how to recuperate their large sum expanded for buying elections, upon assuming office.
The Country in the long run has over the years suffered from the strings of these defective political syndrome. The scourge of underdevelopment which could be partly linked to this, has been the foundation for poverty which has constituted the sprouting wings of various socio-economic deficiencies informing myriads of threats and insecurity, presently leaving not even the political money-bags a sacred cow.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday, 31st, May, 2022, disclosed it will partner anti-graft agencies in the Country to foreclose vote buying in the June 18, 2022 governorship election in Ekiti. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, during a meeting with traditional rulers in Ado-Ekiti, the State capital, ahead of the election in the State, said the commission would work with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure that voters are not induced by candidates or political parties. He assured that the commission would not condone vote buying in the coming election in Ekiti as it has been observed in some primaries conducted by some political parties in the Country recently. Although Yakubu agreed the only important condition for a worthwhile election is for it to be free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful, it is important to work towards same. In response, the Alabi of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Ajibade who urged INEC to continue upholding the ideals of a credible election, charged against monetisation of the election process in the Country arguing, “people don’t need to be money bags before they can rule the Country.”
It is no doubt that the role of INEC, the electoral management body, as the umpire guiding the conduct of election in the Country, holds bearing to curbing the ills of money politics and it’s various forms of expression, among which vote buying and selling has been a top subject of concern. While the body has given clue to the course, it is significant to make such more elaborate and encompassing. Giving due diligence to the course beyond mere lip service is sacrosanct, just as building strategic structures with linkage parameters of checks is paramount. Beyond the phase of vote-buying during voting exercise, various expressions of money-politics in the pre-election process do abound, thus demanding checks with stringent measures. For instance, the opulent charge of the prices of expression of interest and nomination forms of political parties have brought into expression, nothing but a contest which is driven by money-politics. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had placed its presidential form at N100million. That the election under this atmosphere would not assume a do-or-die pattern is inconceivable.
The need for INEC to expand its scope to eliminate, or as would be said minimise to the bearest minimum through systemic measures, the perversion of money-politics which vote buying is one expression of, is pertinent.
Of utmost significance is the need for voters’ education and enlightenment. It has become necessary for citizens to become enlightened, moving from the cheap vote selling syndrome with petty inducement, to making their vote count by conscience and integrity of intelligence to choose their preferred candidates of choice wisely. It would remain that as long as there would be sellers of votes (citizens), there would be willing buyers of vote (politicians). It is rational for thought that those given to vote-buying are desperate money-bags and power-seekers who have no good intentions, but rather driven by subterranean motives which, in incongruity,would largely counteract general public interests.
The role of INEC in such enlightenment cannot be overemphasised, as one of its cardinal duty is voters’ education. However, as much as INEC should carry on a crusade against vote-buying, the citizens, themselves, hold the obligation to oblige the civil demands of democratic culture to form a government by popular will, informed by veritable choices of credible candidates and not money-bags. The role of civil society organisations, religious and community based organisations, the media, among other gafekeeping stakeholders remain sacrosanct for the crusade to thrive for an ideological revolution.