No doubt, vote buying has become a disturbing feature in Nigeria’s democracy with its attendant negative consequences. It has become a major issue in party primaries and other elections. Vote buying has heightened the monetisation 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 N4000 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.
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. It is no longer news that political parties and candidates buy votes at every given elections, in the presence of our law enforcement agencies deployed to monitor the exercise, depending on their capacity.
There is no doubt that vote buying is corrupting the electoral process and throwing up wrong candidates. It is a criminal offence. It affects the sanctity and credibility of the electoral process. With wrong candidates emerging as winners, the country suffers. The electorate should not expect democracy dividends from leaders who emerge through this corrupt practice. These leaders have to recover their investment first before fulfilling their campaign promises.
Vote buying is one of the ugly outcomes of our 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 aimed at punishing the offenders. Let the commission carry along the national and state legislatures in fashioning out necessary legislations against the evil practice.
There is the 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 off 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. The electoral umpire should work with the police to ensure that the vote buyers and sellers are apprehended and brought to book.
Pambegua, Kaduna state