October 1, 2023

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Who Wants To Sell Their Votes?

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According to the timetable made public by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC for the conduct of the 2023 general elections, the electorate will on February 25th, 2023, go to their various polling units to elect a new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and new Senators as well as members of the House of Representatives in the National Assembly.




In a similar vein, the voters will return to the polls on March eleven for the gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections. Although, states like Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo will have their governorship election on November eleven, 2023.
Over time, the Nigerian electioneering processes has been fraught with all forms of irregularities ranging from political violence such as sporadic shooting at polling units, ballot box stalking, over voting and bribing of electoral officers, among other possible ways of beating the electoral system by fraudulent political actors.


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However, since the introduction of technology such as the smart card reader and now, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, into the system by the electoral umpire, INEC, politicians have equally transposed their fraudulent modules operandi to vote buying.
The BVAS is an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voters Cards and authenticate voters, using the voters fingerprints in order to prove if they are eligible to vote in a particular polling unit.




According to the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yabuku, the BVAS was intended to achieve two major objectives. First is the verification of the genuineness of the PVCs or the fingerprints or facial authentication of voters during accreditation. Secondly, the BVAS is to replace the Z-Pard for uploading the polling unit results to the INEC results viewing center in real-time, on Election Day.
From the above explanations, it becomes an effort in futility for any sane politician to continue to bank on secret and multiple thumb printing of ballots during elections hence the resort to the condemnable act of vote buying.


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Most political candidates and parties adopt the vote buying method of beating the electoral system because of their unpopularity based on their dismal antecedents.
The 2022 presidential, gubernatorial, national and state houses of assembly primary elections in Nigeria brought to the fore, the reality of vote buying.




According to news reports, delegates to the primary elections of the two major political parties were paid thousands of dollars to induce them to vote for certain candidates.
Indeed, vote buying and selling had been an important determinant of electoral victory in the primaries as well as general elections in Nigeria.


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Although, vote buying has been part of Nigeria’s electoral history, especially since the return of democracy in 1999. But the ugly trend has assumed a more glaring dimension in the recent elections.
One factor behind this shift is the increased effectiveness of the INEC. The use of digital technology has made it more difficult to manipulate election results. This, no doubt, has put electoral power back in the hands of voters.




According to a concept developed by politics professor, Richard Joseph, vote buying involves a self-serving elite using state power to accumulate resources, a phenomenon known as elite capture of democracy. Vote buying compromises the quality of public leadership by putting mediocre people and rogues into power.


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One of the brazen ways vote buying has been perfected in previous elections, as observed, was that the voters would show the party agents their votes for confirmation after which they would pick a paper and go to a preconceived location to get paid.
Vote buying comes in different forms. It could be pre or post-election payment method.




In whichever ways it is perpetrated, vote buying negates the principles of free, fair and credible election. It tempers with the consciences of the voters and therefore affects the true outcome of the polls.
While commending INEC for rekindling the hope of the electorate that their votes can actually count through the digitization of the electoral system, it is important for them not to be complacent.



INEC must remain independent as its name implies and ensure that it does not fall to external intimidation or inducement of any sort to compromise the electoral system.
It will be difficult for vote buyers and sellers to succeed if INEC puts proper check on their activities before, during and after the elections.
The electoral umpire should work in collaboration with the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies in tracking the nefarious activities of vote buyers and sellers.




The eagle eyes of the electoral body should scan through indirect vote buying such as sharing of pieces of wrapper, sachets of salt, maggi cubes and other foodstuffs by political parties to entice prospective voters against their real sense of judgement ahead of the elections.
To this end, the Nigerian Police and other security agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring a free and globally accepted electoral system must be above board in all their dealings.


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The time has come for the police to rebuild its image among Nigerians by deploying all intelligence apparatus to monitor and arrest all electoral offenders especially vote buyers and sellers.
Also, the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission EFCC, the Independent Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Commission ICPC and other anti-graft agencies must be on top of their duties and work hand in gloves to conquer the monster of vote buying which is making mockery of our fledging democracy.




The EFCC and the ICPC, working in concert with the banking institutions, should monitor cash transfer from politicians to individuals and groups of persons whose reason for such transfer is questionable.
Political office holders should be more concerned about delivering the dividends of democracy to those who elected them rather than pilfering into public funds and use same to procure victory during elections.



Above all, the electorate who have earlier been involved in the illicit business of vote buying should have a rethink this time.
The pertinent poser that is still begging for answer over the years is, to what extent has the peanuts received from politicians to buy your conscience helped in tackling your social challenges?

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