This piece was inspired by a video on the social media where a young semi-literate person was emphatic that his vote would go for the highest bidder. He named one of the presidential candidates as the one he hoped would give him the money. He noted that the said candidate was in the habit of doling out money during elections, and he was eagerly awaiting the gale of cash for vote. Another respondent in the poll said he would collect the money and go ahead to still vote his conscience. The point being made is that vote-buying is fast entrenching itself as a political culture in our clime. Some elite hardly go to cast their votes for fear of being insulted by vote-buying who front for their candidates or those who want to deliver their polling booths.
When you hear about ‘political structure’ it simply translates to avenues for dispensing cash at elections in order to ‘deliver’ wards and polling booths.
The governorship election in Ekiti State weeks ago has shown that the culture has not gone away. It was just as well that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did what looked like efforts to stop it. It was grossly inadequate. Those who collect money to vote for the candidate who paid for it and those who take the money and vote their so-called conscience are two sides of the same coin. If you collect money, your conscience, at the time, ought to prick you. You have collected money for a service and you are duty-bound to perform the service. The way out is to see the act as anathema and stay away from it in order to keep true to your conscience.
The greatest change that this regime has brought to Nigeria in a positive way is not the hyperinflation or the hydra-headed insecurity across the land. The most positive change is in the electoral process. Winners are no longer those who have perfected their rigging tactics, but those whose votes put them ahead. The electoral reform may be the greatest legacy this regime would bequeath Nigeria. It would mean that votes now count. Votes indeed now count, otherwise the rush for permanent voter’s card (PVC) would amount to waiting for Godot, an Eldorado nowhere in sight but awaited eagerly. That votes now count is a clear indication the electoral umpire has discharged its duty creditably, in spite of the inadequacies. Ironically, as that progress reduces rigging, it encourages vote-buying, which is why EFCC, and other security agencies should be on the matter, not just on account of being an election crime but also to stop people from selling good governance for a pittance.
Peter Obi’s emergence on the scene has brought fresh consciousness to the menace. He holds that you do not pay people to work for them. Any candidate who pays for vote has ulterior motives. The people you work for ought to pay you, not the reverse. Perhaps the Nigerian politician has postured as a master and not a servant, which is why the people expect a pay check, as it were, from him. The matter came to the fore once again during the last gubernatorial election on Ekiti State. Politicians were said to have paid between N3,000 and N10,000 for votes in their desperation to win at all costs.
The emphasis on ‘structure’ comes to the fore in political permutations when avenues for vote-buying or other forms of voter inducement are discussed. When a supporter or politician is mandated to ‘deliver’ any ward or area, it is a euphemism to do all it takes, including vote-buying, to get victory for their principal. But the Obi phenomenon is a battle cry to the electorate to ignore the money or collect it and vote their conscience. My opinion is for voters to shun the money and vote their conscience. If you collect the money, your conscience is already bound by the cash or whatever other inducement. The Nigerian politician seem to have perfected the practice of inducing rural people with money tucked inside loaves of bread, and other strategies. In an election monitoring team about 10 years ago, to a state I would not mention, we ran into a state commissioner who got a message that his party seemed to be at the receiving end in a ward he was apparently mandated to deliver. In panic and oblivious of the presence of election monitors, he asked that those who gave him the news should proceed to his house and tell his wife to give them a certain amount in cash, with which they should go to the unit and turn things around. He sent money on an errand for the election. It worked, given that his party won.
The Peter Obi movement has come to put a stop to vote-buying, but attack dogs have been unleashed on the movement and its symbol. The old war horses in the game do not seem to know how else to proceed with the next election in the clear and present threat of a different way of doing things. Young people, who are in the majority, have largely thrown their support behind Obi and have popularizes the slogan, “We no dey give shishi,” the battle cry for the movement. It denigrates vote-buying, which is the stock in trade of the old war horses in the race. It is the same reason they say Peter Obi has no structure, a euphemism for avenues for sharing vote-buying inducement. No one knows how far the current campaign would go but it would certainly do damage to vote-buying. When the votes are bought, the politician cedes his allegiance to the people. He has bought their mandate and thus owes no allegiance to them. He would recoup his expenditure at the expense of improving infrastructure, security and welfare of the people. Vote-buying is a huge deficit in Nigeria’s electoral process, and we must all repent from the menace.