The electoral act makes vote-buying a crime but the real question is does this provision really tackle this voting-buying stench?
Vote-Buying in Nigeria is not a new sport. Just like the court of law is the last hope of the common man since the inception of democracy vote-buying has been the last hope of political parties who prey on the ignorance of the voters by exchanging laughable sums of money for votes that have the power to dictate how their future for the next four years would be.
Vote-buying is not a new skill adopted by the politicians. The only reason why it has become more glaring in the eyes of Nigerians is because of the ICT age that we are in currently. It’s been a stench we have all ignored.
In previous administrations, we have experienced so many incidents of vote-buying. In the past, we have seen political parties bribing voters with gifts such as bags of rice, cheap wrappers and bags of poorly manufactured salt.
The voters are blamed for accepting these light weight gifts but honestly how can you blame a frustrated man for his choices? Even the Good Book which is the Bible said in Proverbs 6:30 “do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.”
It’s obvious that the common man has lost faith in the government. To them believing in the common man is like believing in unicorns. But sadly they have to live with the consequences of their action for the next four years and suffer the same hardship they collected such intangible gifts to avoid. Even that same book of Proverb 6:31 further stated that “yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold he may have to give up all the substance of his house.”
This simply means that vote sellers must live with the consequences of their actions when they get an incompetent and self-centered individual and political party into power.
The bottom line here is how can we curb this menace because no matter how hard we play the blame game the selling of votes by these guys affect the fairness of the electoral process and when these vote buyers win their selfish agendas affect the entire population at large. They prevent the well-meaning politicians who don’t have sufficient funds from winning the election. So instead of may the best man win, it becomes may the financial buoyant win.
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I share the idea of the INEC chairman who called for the establishment of electoral offences commission that will sit as a tribunal to try and convict electoral offences. Section 130 of the electoral Act 2010 which states that:
A person who
(a) corruptly by himself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or
(b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraph (a) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of NIOO,OOO or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
This section of the electoral act makes vote-buying a crime but the real question is does this provision really tackle this voting-buying stench?
Personally, I feel it doesn’t really deter or tackle this problem. Applying the literal meaning of law here, it’s the individual caught buying votes that will be persecuted. Obviously, politicians will not be seen on that day paying for votes rather they have thugs or jobless youths walking around doing their forbidden bidding for them. So, these are the individuals that will be caught, tried and convicted for this crime.
The law should be more strict or clear on this issue. It is clear that in Nigeria we practice the party system so therefore it is not the individual that is elected into power but it is the party. The elected individual is the party representative. So, when someone is caught carrying out vote-buying, the party that he was marketing and carrying out their immoral bidding should be disqualified from participating in the election and also banned from participating in the next election that comes after four years.
This is the only way such hideous act can be pruned.Secondly Section 137 of the Electoral Act states that:
(1) An election petition may be presented by one or more of the Following persons:
(a) a candidate in an election;
(b) a political party which participated in the election; The sad implication of this is that only political parties and individuals that participated in an election can bring a petition of misconduct. What if as a concerned citizen I have strong evidence of vote-buying? This provision clearly removes the locus standi of an ordinary citizen who observed the election closely and was fortunate to lay hands on concrete evidence of vote-buying that occurred in that election.
Because in an election more than one political parties can participate in the vote-buying process because they are strong financially.
This provision should be amended so that tragedy in our political system can be curbed and halted.
Strict provisions like these are needed to eliminate this stench that has been hurting our political system.