2019: Checking vote buying for credible elections

EDITORS in  mainstream Nigeria news media houses held their 14th All Nigeria Editors Conference, under the umbrella of Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), in Asaba, Delta State. Rising from the forum, they decried the increasing rate of vote buying in general elections held recently in the country and urged political parties, politicians, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the electorate to guard against the scourge during the 2019 polls.

THE editors, in a communiqué issued at the end of the conference under the signature of the NGE President, Funke Egbemode and General Secretary, Victoria Ibanga, commended various political parties in the country for the maturity displayed during the party primaries, but frowned at the trend of vote buying which has become a subtle but worrisome way of institutionalising corruption.

THEY observed that elections in Nigeria are not built on truth and urged INEC to strive to be independent in its practice by allowing citizens’ votes to count while calling on politicians and security agencies to shun all forms of intimidation of the electorate to enable them make their choices to ensure true democracy.

JUST as the editors rightly observed, elections in Nigeria since independence, have been characterised by irregularities such as violence, vote rigging, ballot box snatching, forgery, thuggery, thumb printing and manipulation of voters register, among others.

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IT WAS to curb such irregularities during elections that technological innovations like the use of card readers and permanent voter cards (PVCs) were introduced with some unique features that have helped to drastically reduce the problem of ballot box snatching, illegal thumb printing, among others. The changes were aimed at bringing back the confidence of many disenchanted Nigerians in the electoral process.

ATTENTION has often been turned to addressing institutional factors like ineffective resource management, poor preparation, collusion among politicians and election officials to cheat, as well as such issues as electoral violence, intimidation by contending groups and use of security agents.

HOWEVER, amid the monotony of post-election complaints, which always dwell on the roles of INEC, not enough has been said or done about the politicians and voters who contaminate the electoral process through such acts as voter inducement until the recent election in Ekiti, Edo and Ondo States. Those gubernatorial polls presented another serious challenge  to the electoral process as voters openly and boldly struck deals with political party agents willing to pay the highest price in the presence of security and electoral agents.

VOTE buying is an act where majority of voters in an election  exchange their voter cards for financial benefits that influence their choice of voting. However, vote buying cannot be said to be new in Nigeria’s electoral process as politicians have always tried to induce voters with gifts but it had never been done so openly as witnessed in recent elections in various parts of the country.

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THE closest thing to election day vote buying is what happens during party primary elections and conventions where delegates are bribed even at the venue, to vote the desperate bidder.

THE incident of vote buying and gratification became so open during the Ekiti governorship election that both the National Democratic Institution (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) of the United States warned that it may constitute a threat to the 2019 general elections.

THIS portends danger not only to the electoral process but to Nigeria’s democracy. It simply means that the choice of leadership is no longer based on programs and party manifesto but the highest bidder on election day no matter how incompetent.

PAYMENT for votes, especially spending a huge sum to get elected, pushes up the cost of election and the natural tendency of the elected one to loot once he is elected into office. It dehumanises both the buyer and the seller, and mortgages the future of the society and generations unborn, apart from making the land debased in the eyes of the world.

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WE UNDERSTAND that the level of poverty in Nigeria has contributed in reprogramming the minds of individuals but there is need to ensure that the right people are voted into power instead of mortgaging our future.,

NATIONAL Light expects that the provisions of section 124 sub section A and B of the 2011 Electoral Act, which holds that anybody paying money to any person for bribery in any election attracts a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both while anybody receiving money or gift for voting or to refrain from voting at any election attracts same punishment, should be applied against those indicted in allegations of vote buying to serve as deterrent to others, especially as we are getting  closer to the 2019 general elections.

IT IS our view that INEC and political parties’ budget should focus more, within the few remaining months to the 2019 general elections, on citizen’s electoral education. Our people need to be re-oriented to appreciate the consequences of selling their votes while politicians, no matter how highly placed, should be made to bear the full consequence of what they do.

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