Since 1999 when the current Nigerian political dispensation came into being, the system has gone through many processes. At the beginning, just as it has always been experienced in the nation’s political past, elections were more or less war situation in the country, when tension in the land rise to high heavens because of the uncertainty and possibilities at elections.
It was a time when ballot boxes were snatched at gun point from polling stations, stuffed with ballot papers and returned to the voting centres in commando style and the electoral officers seemed helpless and at the end of the day it is those with more thugs or with better shooting prowess that emerged winners at election.
Because of the situation, many electorate were not eager to vote, because as far as they were concerned, their votes will never count and indeed it never counted.
But things took a drastic turn when in the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Prof. Atttahiru Jega introduced the Permanent Voters Card (PVC).
With the PVC came the electronic voters register and electronic accreditation of voters at elections.
This process meant that it became more difficult to snatch ballot boxes and the votes from that polling unit will still be counted, as it was most likely going to be at variance with the number of accredited voters.
The introduction of PVC and other systems that came with it gradually made it more difficult to rig elections and manipulate the electoral process while election was gradually becoming more credible and Nigerians from all walks of life then began to agitate that the process should be taken a step further by introducing electronic voting.
Though the INEC has not acceded to the agitation for electronic voting, perhaps because of the legislative challenges it is already having with the efforts it is making in sanitising the system, it however also introduced electronic transmission of results, which also means that it will become more difficult to tamper with the election results along the line of transmitting results from the polling booths to the collation centres.
But undeterred by the efforts of the electoral umpire to sanitise the system, politicians also daily devise new ways to circumvent the system and one of the ways it found out was vote buying.
Though vote buying has always been part of Nigeria’s electoral system, it however was done discreetly, as politicians send gifts of different shades and types to electorate, including money, foodstuffs and other such items, but that practice went out of hand during the Edo, Anambra, Kogi and Ekiti states governorship elections and also at the just concluded Osun State election.
The process of vote buying in the country which first was seen as stomach infrastructure in some quarters has now gone from being discreet to open business as many uninformed voters, either educated or not, who are always in the majority, see their voter’s cards as a means to an end.
Because of the poverty in the land which is mostly a result of bad governance, it is now being exploited by politicians who are always on standby, to cash in on the vulnerable poverty – stricken voters, who like sex hawkers, do not understand the risks associated with the act.
Vote buying does not only happen in the wee hours of the Election Day, it starts from the party’s primaries. At the ward level, the amount may be minimal. But as the party primary moves towards election of local government party executive, local government chairmanship aspirants and on to state executive; and then National Assembly as well as national executive positions, the stake goes higher.
The danger posed by this practice is not only to our electoral process, but also to democracy as a whole.
It will simply mean that the choice of leadership will no longer be on the basis of programmes or party manifestos but rather, the highest bidder on election days, no matter how incompetent.
It also means that whoever wins an election through this process does not really have a pact with the people, as it was his money, rather than the legitimate votes of the people that puts him in office.
We submit that as we approach 2019 polls, Nigerians must understand that the moment they sell their votes for any amount, they have lost the right to complain about lack of good governance, lack of portable water, quality health care, and general good condition of living for the next four years.
This is so because it will be immoral of anyone to expect to see development from anyone who invested his hard earned money to purchase votes that puts him in office, because once he buys the votes that put him in office, it has simply become a business transaction from which the investor expects to make profit.
We are of the opinion that Nigerians must know that the cure for bad governance, the cure to poor electric power supply and lack of basic social amenities in the country starts with credible electoral process, where those who aspire to political offices are elected based on their programmes and vision for the people rather how much money they have to offer.