The monetisation of the electoral process portends danger to our democracy. We deplore the brazen and unconscionable buying of votes that trailed the poll
Even though the Ekiti State gubernatorial election has come and gone, there are issues arising from it that should be interrogated. Despite the assurance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it will conduct a free, fair and credible gubernatorial poll in Ekiti, the outcome of the July 14 exercise left much to be desired.
Although the winner of the election, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has received his Certificate of Return from the electoral umpire, the electoral process was characterised by massive vote-buying and other infractions. The electoral perfidy, known in local parlance as “see and buy,” was said to have been perpetrated by the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This was confirmed by local and international observers.
The open vote-buying by major parties is condemnable. In the exercise, a vote was reportedly sold as low as N3,000 and as high as N5,000 or even more. It is disturbing that the vote-buying bazaar happened in the presence of security agents and INEC officials. No doubt, the role of money and the deployment of federal might seriously tainted the Ekiti poll. The monetisation of the electoral process portends danger to our democracy. We deplore the brazen and unconscionable buying of votes that trailed the poll and call on the electoral umpire and security agents to forestall such infractions in future elections. Although vote-buying featured in the recent gubernatorial polls in Ondo, Anambra and Edo states, it was intensified in Ekiti poll.
The “see and buy” syndrome is a desecration of the secret ballot policy and should be stopped forthwith. Both the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) condemned the vote-buying during the election. The Regional Director, Europe, of IRI, Jan Surotchak, said that “vote-buying is an electoral offence; it also undermines and weakens representative democracy. Mr. Gabriel Nwambu, of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Abuja, who spoke for local observers said that the “conduct of some security operatives and unwholesome practices of vote-buying, where voters surreptitiously showed which party they voted to party agents who went behind to settle them, largely marred the electoral process.”
Nwambu also said that “the election was characterised by ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings and driving away of party agents as well as intimidation, oppression and forceful influence of electorate’s free will among others.” Both local and international observers unanimously concluded that “the July 14 poll could not be recommended as a template for the forthcoming 2019 general election as it fell short of global standards and spelt doom.”
Two of the leading parties engaged in acts that impinge on Sections 124 and 125 of the Electoral Act 2010. Specifically, Section 124 (4) states that “any person who commits the offence of bribery is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”
We agree with the poll observers that Ekiti poll cannot be the template for the 2019 general election because of its lapses. Since the card reader had always malfunctioned in every election since its introduction, INEC must do something to improve that electoral innovation. Ballot snatching is another feature of our electoral system that requires urgent solution.
Let the electoral umpire embark on voter education in preparation for the Osun governorship poll and the 2019 general election. We are convinced that the Ekiti exercise is antithetical to what democracy stands for in all ramifications. Election should be by secret ballot and nobody should see the party a voter voted for. Since the buying of votes is statutorily prohibited, one wonders why the many security agents deployed for the poll could not stop such electoral crime.
INEC should learn from the lapses of Ekiti poll and improve on them in subsequent elections. Those who committed electoral infractions in Ekiti poll should be arrested and prosecuted. The Electoral Offences Bill, which is before the National Assembly, should be passed expeditiously.