Vote selling and vote buying: A new dimension in Nigeria’s politics

It is every politician’s desire to win election. Likewise, it is a party’s desire to win election. Winning is important to both sides. It is based on this importance attached to winning that politicians and indeed political parties engage in several activities they employ to undermine each other in order to win. Of course, to win is a joyous thing.

Voters have been played by these interests that they have lost all hope in the renaissance of the polity, casting any belief in the upgrade of the system by the political parties and politicians aside to take what they see and grab what they are offered.

Because of these, voters are no longer confident to securing a leadership that will work for them, parties that will pursue development and growth that will benefit them and their generations. They have resorted to pursuing those who can dole out money and buy their votes.

Ideas do not rule in election and in vote seeking. It is about how much a politician can share. It is to the extent that a person of ideas does not have retinue of praise singers because there is nothing much coming out of his pocket.

This encouragement for money politics which starts from declaring intent for elective post; how much one spends on the party to buy form, spends to secure the nod of the “king makers” and spends on the cause of the campaign and on the primary day. Delegates and party hierarchy favour more of those they are sure can dole out money against those who have ideas to governance but have no deep pocket. It is a money politics! This is the reason ideas and policies have taken flight from our nation’s electioneering system, leaving behind what we now have as vote-selling and vote-buying.

As bad as the people have encouraged money politics ahead of ideas based electioneering, it has now become difficult to control. People are feeling the brunt of this encouragement but are neck deep into the abnormality. Because, they have lost all trust in the system. They trust they can now sell their votes to the higher bidder who offers them peanuts.

Voting is about freely choosing a leader who, based on individual’s convictions through the advertising of the candidate’s policies and ideas, makes the free choice. By selling these votes, it is no longer a free choice but rather a coercion or a business. Voters do not know their votes are their power to elect a person of choice and their power to unseat a person of their choice. This knowledge is yet not lost in the voters but due to the poverty entrenched by the politicians who have overtime neglected the system and have allowed it to rot, they use the same poverty to coerce the voters into selling their power in other to receive peanuts while they win elections.

Brookings Institution stated that the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty is about 87 million people which they said, increase by six people every minute.

The report said: “According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor people in early 2018…”.
“At the end of May 2018, our trajectories show that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall”.

It is because of the reliance on the buying of votes, politicians no longer believe in keeping the little unfounded promises they make during election because they believe, money can buy them votes. This leads to more corruption and endangers the system which the voters in turn have lost confidence in.
In looking for solution, there is a need to first of all acknowledge vote selling and buying as a problem. The chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakub, in February 2018, as quoted, He submitted that the country’s democracy should be determined by the citizen through their votes and not through the highest bidder.

His said: “INEC is worried by the recent trend of open vote buying at polling stations. Some candidates have started to go to voting units with sack of money to induce votes.

“Votes of citizens should determine who win in an election. Our democracy must never be on sale in an open market. It is the will of the people that should determine who wins. Our democracy is never on sale and will never be on Sale”

Nigeria Electoral Act 2010 provides that a person who, “ being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period (of election) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.”

The electoral Act also places limit as to amount parties and individuals can spend and also the amount friends of candidates can contribute in any election.

The law is clear on this issue but one big issue is that the law enforcements are also neck deep in this that instead of enforcing the law and arresting the law breakers, they aid them or pretend not seeing them. They have become partisan and as well are bought.

It only means the system is bad and needs total overhauling starting from the mindset of the voter, the politician and the strengthening of the institutions by applying and enforcing the law.

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