Of recent, vote buying has become a major factor deciding who wins an elective position in the country. SOLOMON ODENIYI writes on the multiplier effects and the stand of the law ahead of the forthcoming Osun gubernatorial election
The issue of vote buying and selling have dominated the polity having marred recent elections conducted in the country.
Perhaps, not a new trend in the country, occurrences which played out in Kogi, Anambra, Ondo and Ekiti gubernatorial elections give Nigerians a lot to talk about.
In Ondo state for instance, it was brandished “Dibo Ko Sebe”. It got another name in the just concluded Ekiti gubernatorial election. It was “see and buy”. It was reported how voters who sold their votes got between N3,000 and N5,000. Another saddening story told of the election was how the security agents on ground did not only watch, but aided and abetted those perpetrating the act.
Though, Osun is yet to go to the poll, but already it has “vote and buy land” as its slogan. It keeps assuming different nomenclature, but, the issue remains condemnable and as such, the practice must be discontinued.
However, many political commentators have heaped a larger chunk of the blame on major political parties in the country for the fertility of the scourge, but as expected none has owned up. Others have passed theirs on the table of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The electorates have also not been absolved.
On the heels of this, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, vowed not to condone such act, saying he would do everything to prevent vote buying during the September 22 governorship election in the state at several forum he has had the privilege to speak. The Hope for Family Development Initiative’s and violence against women campaign organisation and the Stakeholders meeting INEC had with candidates, running mates and party leaders were few of such events.
“We won’t allow people to go to the polling booths with their telephones”, he began, “there won’t be anything to show that this is the candidate who they cast their votes for. We have security agents and they will not allow that. You will see our plan to curb this during the election.
“They said it was ‘vote and cook soup’ during Ekiti election, but they have changed it to ‘vote and buy land’ in Osun; but we won’t allow this. If you want to buy land, it won’t be from the money you will make during this election. You will need to look for other means to source money to buy the land.
“That is why we want you all candidates and party leaders to talk to your people to stop this. If you see anybody giving money to people during election, alert security agents,” Agbaje said.
Agbaje was the REC that conducted the August 2014 governorship election in the state before he was transferred to Ondo State and brought back to Osun.
With the trend in Ekiti uncloaking the vote buying scenario, an election which many perceived as a dress rehearsal to the Osun September 22 election, averting such in the Osun poll which pundits described as a litmus test for the 2019 general elections is the way to go.
A lot of job is required to have this stopped as a handful of electorate still see nothing wrong in getting money from politicians to cast their votes.
One of them is Oyeboade Kehinde who is in her late 20s, she said, “Not selling my vote does not determine a good leader, our votes do not count. So, I can sell my vote if I get good buyer”
Also, Babatunde Adeoye sees it as a way of getting his share of the looted money meant to better the lots of the people.
Rashidat Olaniwu said she would get the money and vote for candidate of her choice.
Eniola Fatogun Said, “I will not sell for the millions in the world. I will not vote instead. If he wins through that means fine! I am aware of its implications. Posterity will vindicate me. But if the person is the one I had in mind, I will take it and go ahead. That’s not buying it is compensation”.
Renowned public affairs analyst, Barrister Jide Ologun said poverty mentality would make anyone sells his or her vote, adding that politicians who understand what the minds of the poor persons think will deliberately create a situation where votes could be sold.
”A typical Nigerian politician knows that when the people are hungry and he brings food, for that moment the electorate will forget about his future and attend to that immediate need just like Esau who traded his birth right for a plate of food.
“You would have noticed that the people only become relevant in the scheme of politicians anytime election approaches, the moment they win, they care less about them. That’s why they are not providing the necessary amenities that will make lives meaningful for the people”, he said.
Barrister Niyi Owolade, who described vote buying and selling as illegal noted that it implies desperation on the part of the electorates who could not afford a square meal and also the buyers who are the money bag politicians seeking power at all cost.
Also, Adebomi Idowu blamed the excruciating positions some electorates find themselves which, he said would made them cave in to any form of inducement. He said, “From my observations in the recent Ekiti election, buying of votes is becoming a threat to Nigeria’s Democracy, no doubt, but governments irrespective of their political parties made sure the populaces are starved of social amenities i.e. food, shelter and health.
“A beggar they say has no choice. A voter driven to a tight corner by hunger and poverty will have no choice than to use the opportunity to make whatever dividend in order to make up for the past years of anguish and suffering”.
Vindicating the electorate from the spread of the menace, Adebomi said, the moneybag politics practiced in the country by politicians was responsible, adding that they resort to vote buying having lost the people’s trust.
“Money bag politicians are to be blamed having known that they have failed and as a result lost the popular support of the people. They and their political parties see vote buying as last resort to get back the lost trust.
”Also, I will exonerate the electorates from this menace because whether they collect the money or not, that won’t stop the election from being rigged in favour of a particular candidate.
“In order not to lose on both sides, they swoop on political parties offering cash to them which they considered as their own share of the National cake.
“In all, you don’t give what you don’t have, if cash is not involved in elections, electorates won’t have option than to vote according to their conscience”.
Barrister Ologun, rather than trading blames on who should be held liable, attributed the menace to the gross underdevelopment of the country despite all democratic efforts in Nigeria, saying, “We have been shifting blames, but the task to make Nigeria great lies with us like the case in other countries of the world. I just came back from Canada and the U.S. I was in Kenya recently, they are making progress. Politicians are as endangered as the electorate they are cajoling to vote.
“Whether you are buying or selling anything, it hinders the development of the country. For instance, a politician was shot dead in Ekiti, meaning, it will always come to hurt them too. The government has the role of creating an enabling environment and if they fail to deliver, they should know that there is no regime that will be in office forever.”
No doubt, the law is not silent in the case of buying and selling of votes but it has not been allowed to take it full course. For instance, Section 124 of the 2010 electoral act makes vote buying and selling a criminal offence with a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both on conviction, but little or no conviction has been reported.
This is why Adebomi believes that the menace is beyond the buyers who are politicians and electorate who sells, indicting the security operatives attached to various polling units during elections of compromise, just as he noted, “Security personnel are also not helping matters, I saw police officers looking unconcerned when some agents were bribing voters with cash and even to the extent of writing down names and phone numbers.
“Were the security agents alive to their duties by arresting and prosecuting offenders during elections, such practice will drastically reduce”.
Barrister Ologun also shares in this view, saying, “We have seen the incidence of manipulating the institution to favour politicians. We have seen how security agencies have been dragged into politics. Can we trust the agencies to help curtail this? Looking at our narratives, I don’t think so”.
Owolade however, suggest three ways electoral trading could be curbed, warning that not until they are done, the menace would continue to fester.
“INEC must make sure nobody takes his or her phone to polling units. They should work towards getting extra security that will ensure that after being given ballot papers, no voter is allowed to take a shot of who he voted for. That was what had been happening.
“Secondly, INEC must make sure that after giving ballot papers, the voters must not be allowed to show whom he has voted for to anybody. In other words, the voters must not be allowed to see anybody around the polling units. And I think that the security men who are stopping somebody from selling vote can also stop someone from displaying his paper to the agents of those buying votes and lastly there must be sanctions.
“It’s very important that both the person buying and selling votes must face the full wrath of the law. Most of the problems we have in the country is because we do not sanction those who flout the law. If the buyers and sellers are aware that there is a sanction, the likelihood that they won’t attempt this is very high.
Barrister Ologun is of the view that having invested so much in electioneering processes, if the system is allowed to run, there would be free and fair elections devoid of fraud as well as unnecessary interference or political invasion by any individual or government.
The convener, Youth Movement for Good Governance, Kolawole Folarin suggested that one way vote buying and selling could be curtailed in the Osun state September 22 gubernatorial election was that only those who have PVC should be permitted to stay around the polling units, exempting duly accredited observers.
He added that through increased sensitisation of voters, just as his organization is doing, some electorates would shun the act just as they are doing with snatching of ballot boxes.
Reacting, Prince Ayodeji Eniola-Oni the flag bearer of the Democratic Peoples Party absolved the small parties of vote buying. He said, if vote selling and buying syndrome must end, searchlight should be beamed on candidates of major political parties, saying it started with them, it is thriving because they are involved and would only end with them.
He is pessimistic that no matter the strategies put in place, they would always devise several means to continue the menace.
“Buying and selling is a money matter which started with and ends with those contesting under the so called major parties. It is so unfortunate they are taking undue advantage of those whose handiwork rendered disadvantaged. I have severally said it that let’s go to the field without inducement, this major aspirants will be floored”, he added.
Also, the flag bearer of the Alliance of Democracy, Gbenga Akintola said the electorate must resist all temptations that come with selling of votes, so as not to delay development in the state. He warned that the money being used to induce voters comes from somewhere and the person will have to firstly recoup it when he gets to power.
INEC nipping this in the bud in Osun will go a long way to help come against this ugly trend in 2019.