Vote buying have long assumed a monstrous dimension in Nigeria politics, that, if it is not killed, it would kill and bury our democracy and ultimately push us to an institutionalized kakistocracy. As it is now, we are not far from being on that lane with political parties continuously being entangled with transactional politics that keeps paving way for the unfit in our lots.
Nature is so deep and far from the fullness of human comprehensions. It specializes in giving back what is inputted in a different form; every input begets output, popularly referred to as sowing and reaping. It is a clear case of actions and reactions or consequences, and the results surely spiral back in due course of time. Such outcomes are either positive or negative, depending on what actions were at play. When negativities begin to trail actions, they become what is often referred to as nemesis. Unfortunately, nemeses are believed to be beyond human control when it begins to unfold. To this effect, one can only hope that actions be weighed thoroughly before being embarked on.
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Indeed, certain actions carry very strong, painful and long life consequences, much more than ever imaginable. In order words, the dimension of the consequential outcomes of such actions are so mind blowing and eternally regrettable. The dimension, that is, the measurable extent of a particular kind, such as length, breadth, depth, or height often seem hidden until the fullness of time, with emerging manifestations. And off course, in reality, such manifestations are never greeted with pleasantness. They come about as offers or attractive deals hastily accepted, but perhaps unknowingly, with hidden charges that are not easily seeing, thought out or considered until sealed. In other instances, they may result from the usual human proclivity of being complacent, often in the belief that nothing much would matter in the long run.
It seems quite an auspicious time now, more than ever before, to reminisce actions and consequences of actions as we go to the polls to elect those upon whom the governance of our nation shall be entrusted. As a nation, we have been quite unlucky with leadership, as successive ones always seems worse than the one before it. Looking back at the massive gang up against the then Goodluck Jonathan, one expected the succeeding regime to be heralded by very well thought out interventionist programs laced with needed succour. However, and very unfortunately, after nearly eights years, it is clear that we went from a bad to worse situation. While one may not categorically describe the president as a weakling, it is however uneasy to extricate him from been a captor in the web of a cabal controlled mechanism. The bottom line of the fact of his undeserved return back for a second term lies chiefly on two factors, namely; the apathy and complacency of the citizens towards elections, and very painfully, the plethora of election malfeasances, now typified by vote buying.
Vote buying have long assumed a monstrous dimension in Nigeria politics, that, if it is not killed, it would kill and bury our democracy and ultimately push us to an institutionalized kakistocracy. As it is now, we are not far from being on that lane with political parties continuously being entangled with transactional politics that keeps paving way for the unfit in our lots. Way back in history, there used to be intense campaigns, accompanied by inducements especially on party members. That was a way of setting them on the path of ensured participations. However, since this fourth republic, there has been a new twist whereby votes are out rightly bought. This happens by either buying the voters card off people or paying them cash on election days. As absurd as this appears to have been, it was even often done in the full knowledge and view of law enforcement agencies, notably the Police. As a matter of fact, there have been clear evidences that the law enforcement agencies themselves are aids to such electoral criminality. What a shame!!!
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A former Returning Electoral Commissioner (REC) in AkwaIbom State, Mike Igini lamented deeply on the menace of vote buying, saying that it has “assumed the level of an epidemic and it is the greatest thing that we need to deal with.” The understanding from his lamentations gives two very deep implications of vote buying. The first implication is that, it is going to remove performance politics. Normally, the opportunity is that when an incumbent has performed well, in the next election for instance, the fellow should be rewarded on account of that performance. But because of vote buying, if not dealt with right away, there will be no performance anymore, because all that was needed is to keep money to buy votes. Secondly, vote buying, if not stopped, reinforces inequality in the society because it would be the case of only the rich and the wealthy winning elections. He said, “It will also lead to what is called class bias politics. There is what is called the quality of voting of all citizens but when you allow vote buying to thrive, you are going to flood the society with inequality of public franchise.” There are no doubts, some huge nemesis awaits the perpetrators, especially those who sell their votes. They are the Esaus of the land, having sold their birthrights. As Nigerians, our birthright is to enjoy our God’s given resources, and to resist elements against such enjoyments.
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But come to think of it, why would someone sell his or her vote? Some persons have alluded to the fact that it is because of the enticement, poverty, greed, or ignorance. Any of the above may pass for the reasons. However, whatever the reason may be, one could only concede to the fact that it can only be a matter of total ignorance, because ignorance itself is the basis for the others. The vote buying situation brings to remembrance, Esau’s loss of his birthright, patrimony and heritage. What manner of hunger could have made somebody trade his destiny with a plate of porridge? What an irony to arrogate destination for destiny. Eating porridge to satisfy immediate hunger could not have amounted to eradicating future hunger. So, why the inability to resist a seemingly enticing but temporarily satisfactory offer in lieu of a long life heritage? Why yield to the waiting hands of those lurking around and awaiting to set you on the retrogressive path wherein redemption is unassured? When Esau threaded this path of impatience and foolishness, he paid the prize dearly, and though he sought redemption, it became impossible. This is not the road we should allow people get us through again.
As a way of enlightenment, a recent calculation of the real cost of vote selling was done, and the result translates to mean that beyond ignorance, whoever sells vote may have been under curse. The highest we have heard of as the cost of buying a vote was ten thousand naira per vote. Even if we raise it by as much as 500% to become fifty thousand naira, what still does it worth to the person selling? Work it out to discover for yourself, that either ways, vote selling is cancer worm that has no good outcome in anyway. I choose to emphasize on the selling more than the buying because there would always be desperate politicians and agents who would always be ready to buy. There’s no point in time that evil would not rare up itself. Winning the war against evil tendencies is always best achieved by reason of their resistance. Vote buying is the current electoral evil that needs be resisted, and squarely too. The vile of the ignominy of vote buying is so much that a popular pastor recently pronounced curses on all who would get involved.
Reminiscences of Esau’s debacle makes it very important to warn extensively, that unless we are all decisive and take the bull by the horn, we may truly be heading for the worst. The intentions of the politicians are not hidden, and that is, their readiness to buy votes at all costs. Knowing this, attempts have been made to checkmate same, notably through the currency redesigns. Yet, the resistance against it have been to high heavens, with some state Governors capitalizing on their immunity status to delve into what some describes as treasonable. What is the desperation of seeking to buy votes other than the fact that bad, unsellable products are being paraded to the electorates? There’s no doubts in our minds concerning their preparedness, because their ambitions have been life long. They have been preparing, have gathered the might, feel absolutely entitled, hence they say it loud that it is their turn. They are also quick to point out, that they have paid their dues, apparently in the form of their shameless jumping from party to party. Can anything good ever come out from anyone who buys votes? Your answer is good as mine.
Nigeria’s Electoral body, INEC may have taken steps to eradicate vote buying, which is an obvious national. But, how much would it achieve in a situation where corrupt tendencies are so highly endemic? And, given the fact too, that those waiting to execute the usual plot had long been prepared, it would only take the collective guts of the general public to fight the war. This is much so that there has always been compromises by the various long planted moles in the electoral body and security agencies. All hands must therefore be on deck to disallow the plot from being executed. One way to achieve this would first be to agree to see it as the evil that it is, and to see anyone and everyone hoping to, and indulging in it as such too. Being a two way act of giving and taking, the perpetrators on both sides of the coin should be seen and treated like lepers. Enough is enough on leadership choice complacency as it has been and remains the biggest threat to our collective well-being, growth and development as a nation. Time to change the situation remains now!!!
Clement Uwayah, a public affairs commentator writes from Edo State.