BY ADEMOLA YAYA
EVERY man/woman on the street knows the definition of democracy as the government of the majority. All over the world, democracy is the most popularly acceptable system of government, as it allows the majority of the people in the society to determine, via their votes, who governs them with the expectation of reaping democracy dividends from the constituted government. These dividends like good road networks, employment and enabling environment for businesses, affordable portable water and electricity, quality education, housing and health care among others are what will make life better for the majority. Simply put, democracy is embraced as the best system of government because it is built on the majority and beneficial to the majority in the society. In a democracy, wishes of the majority of the populace are the material factors.
However, the beauty of democracy is its weakness. If the majority who are to elect the leaders are fools, those who will emerge as leaders in government should be very clear to discerning minds. Hence, the general saying, “in a democracy, people deserve the type of government they have”.
Since return to an uninterrupted civil rule in 1999, ordinarily, one would have expected political growth especially from the electorate whose votes determine who rules. On the contrary, they have continued to degenerate. Instead of using their voting power to bargain for better living conditions from the politicians who seek their votes, they sell their bargaining power for stipends on elections day. Pre-elections day, the politicians who have been messing up and holding us to ransom will distribute handout in form of food items (Rice, Beans, Noodles, Garri) to induce the poor voters which will culminate to actual votes buying on election day.
This is the exact scenario playing out in Osun as we move closer to the governorship election, which is exactly in a week. Intelligence gathered shows that the leading political parties are poised to spend between N10,000 and N15,000 to buying a single vote at polling unit. Majority of the voters who find it difficult to survive are prepared to sell their votes and collect the money. As far as they are concerned, they expect nothing from the politicians vis-a-vis improvement in their lives. The bribe and inducement at the polling unit is interpreted as their own share of our collective stolen wealth by these politicians. According to them, whether the politicians buy their votes or not, they will always manipulate their way to win and they have always demonstrated irresponsibility in doing nothing to improve their lives. Refusal to collect the bribe in terms of selling their votes does not, therefore, make sense to them. This is the bottom line.
But vote sellers are threat to Nigeria’s democracy and good governance. One, selling their votes makes an unpopular candidate emerge as the most popular against the spirit and letters of democracy. Two, having invested on votes buying and inducement, the rogue politician will recoup his/her money with massive interest. Hence, for the duration of four years term in office, he/she does not owe citizens and society genuine developmental programmes and policies. Any project he does is targeted at making money for himself/herself at the expense of citizen welfare and societal development. In any society where this comes to play, development will elude it; poverty will overwhelm mass majority of the people; misery and penury will be the portion of majority.
There is no solution to mass poverty in prayer centres, Jerusalem or Mecca. It is in the hands of the disciplined citizens who could call the bluff of the rogue politicians and vote for credibility, good programmes and principle. If abject poverty makes it difficult for you to bluntly refuse money at the polling unit, collect it but vote for better candidate based on credibility, good programmes and principle. However, that is not encouraged at all. If you allow money to determine who you vote for, and people like you are in majority, poverty, misery and penury will continue to swell in our land while the rogue politicians with their thugs will continue to live in prosperity and abundance.
Although vote buying is illegal, the stakeholders – politicians, police, electorate, INEC – have refused to do the needful to criminalise it and make scapegoat of its perpetrators. If the truth must be said, politicians will always engage in any activities, legal and illegal, to subvert electoral processes to win election at all cost. Interestingly, there is no fundamental ideological difference between the ruling and opposition parties. That informs why one can be PDP stalwart in the morning and crisscross to APC in the afternoon and back to PDP in the evening. It is that bad. Only the voters in their collective can stamp out vote buying and other subversions of electoral processes. It is when the voters are conscious of this and are prepared to sacrifice for genuine democracy that prosperity and development can come our way.