The menace of vote buying

anambra, electionTHE July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State brought to the fore the daunting challenge of vote buying in the country’s electoral process. It left in its wake, an indelible scar on the election outcome.  The monetisation of votes is a dangerous trend that has more or less become a recurring decimal in the last four staggered governorship elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral  Commission (INEC). And it is unsettling that the perpetrators seem to have become more and more daring with each successive election. The elections in Ondo and Ekiti states, in particular, were hugely marred by vote buying, not necessarily because of the value of the votes bought but owing to the brazen display of indiscretions by vote buyers. The perpetrators went about the electoral offence as if they had immunity or had been assured of impunity.

The danger is that vote buying is fast becoming a template and, indeed, a strategy that unscrupulous politicians are deploying to win elections. It is, therefore, a veritable threat to democracy, especially in a clime where the prime condition that permits vote buying to thrive, poverty, still subsists. This sordid state of affairs is hardly helped by the possibility that the beneficiaries of vote buying may deliberately create or refuse to alleviate the condition of the wretchedness of the citizenry in order to continue to have a field day. This is most unfortunate because the average thirsty person will most probably accept water to quench his or her thirst irrespective of the source and potential cost of the water.

To be sure, monetary or material inducement as a means of swaying voters to decide one way or the other has always been an ignoble part of the electoral process in the country. Bu the distinction between the past and now is that in the past, it was possible for voters to accept cash or material inducement and still go ahead to exercise their civic duties based on the dictates of their conscience. But that is hardly possible today as vote buyers have designed an elaborate scheme that they deploy to ensure that whoever they incentivise votes for their candidates. It is strictly ‘see and buy’.  To achieve the ignoble objective, they corrupt virtually all the election officials and their own agents that are involved in elections. That accounts for why security agencies oftentimes look the other way while agents of political parties engage in vote buying.  It is as bad as that.

There is no gainsaying the fact that vote buying is a variant of electoral corruption which is, perhaps, even worse than other forms of electoral malfeasance such as  thuggery, ballot snatching and so on. The buyers puchase the conscience and future of the voters for peanuts compared to the dividends of democracy unwittingly forfeited. The voting public  are, unarguably, in need of voter education and enlightenment campaigns. INEC and the civil society organisations are enjoined to up the ante in this regard.  It is imperative that voters realise the worth of their votes. They need to know that their votes are a weapon they can use  to call their leaders to account periodically and that the potency of the instrument is dependent on the uninfluenced choice they make while exercising  their franchise. It is axiomatic that when politicians pay their way into power, there is no moral hold on them to deliver the dividends of democracy. Excellent performance is by no means a matter of obligation any more, because they believe they had paid the people in advance. This tendency must not be allowed to burgeon.

The Federal Government should not, and indeed cannot afford to, be indifferent to vote buying, if only because of its negative  implications on people’s perception of  its anti-graft policy. Going by the account of local and international  election observers, two political parties, the All progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in that order are the worse culprits in the practice of vote buying. The Federal Government should brace up and ensure more effective  enforcement of the electoral law. Apart from tarnishing the image of the country in the international community, vote buying is a monstrous corruption enterprise.  The reason is simple:  vote buying is not cheap. It involves  huge financial outlay, such that resources acquired by breaking sweat can hardly  be applied to it.

In essence, funds that are channelled to vote purchase are mostly proceeds of corruption or rent that must be recouped in multiples by further acts of corruption. The foregoing intricate linkages inevitably engeder an endless cycle of sleaze.  And like other forms of official corruption, the consequences of election-induced sleaze on the masses are legion: poverty, misery, squalor, violent crimes and generally deplorable quality of life. Yes, these are the  experiences of the  vast majority of the populace today but they sure will exacerbate if the spate of vote buying is not checked.

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