By Kayode Crown
All eyes are on Osun State this week as the people will troop out to elect the replacement of the colourful incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
The journey to that day has not been without drama and theatrics which has marked Nigeria’s democratic processes over the years.
But beyond the political dramatis personae are questions that the institutions in Nigeria, saddled with ensuring electioneering are free and fair in the most populous black nation on the earth, need to answer.
The Police are to provide security which is nonnegotiable. They should not be seen favouring one group over the other. And they should not wait to be “hit in the head” before arresting those who want to constitute themselves into a clog in the wheel of democratic progress in the country, whichever party divide they belong to.
This includes those who have chosen to go the path of buying votes, among other issues.
The matter of vote buying came to a head in Ekiti State as the main political parties reportedly went for broke and turned the cash lose on unsuspecting public which have been impoverished and could use that N3000 and N5000 they were being offered to vote for some candidates.
Now, in the coming election’s both INEC and police do not have any excuse to be flat-footed as they were in the Ekiti election.
Rather than just hope for the best, the police are meant to be proactive. And one way they can do that is to read the riot act to those planning vote-buying and tell them what awaits them.
Anything short of that would mean both INEC and police are complicit. They should be able to do all in their power to defend the integrity of our electoral system.
If police is still claiming blindness to this misdemeanor, INEC, which regularly meets with security operatives, needs to spell it out for them.
The era of INEC hiding behind one finger, saying that they are not responsible for making arrests is over. They need to wake up and wake those who are supposed to make the arrest up.
And if the duty on election day is too much for the police, who have been deployed in their thousands, then let NSCDC take up the challenge. Let them make arrest of all who want to buy votes to clean up our electoral process which was brought to a new low with the pervasiveness of vote buying which took place in the Fountain of Knowledge.
So that INEC would also not hide behind the excuse that they are maxed out in their prosecution department and so are slack in taking on more prosecutorial responsibilities, let the lawyers rise up to offer their services to the election body pro bono. All of us need to pitch in towards moving Nigeria away from the precipice of political anarchy.
Politicians should devote their energy towards convincing the people of that their own version of developmental plan is more believable, actionable and tends more favorably towards the advancement of the people.
The people should not be treated like dogs who are thrown bones and asked to jump high. To take the people for granted like this as if we are unreasoning animals is preparing the ground a for revolt. You can only push a goat so hard towards the wall before he turns back to face you.
The people should also wake up and defend the sanctity of the electoral system. They cannot take the “siddon look” approach.
However, some have even gone further to say they will actively seek out and vote for the highest bidder. They are not hiding this and are saying it to everyone who cares to listen that since there is nothing the government will do for them (as they believe) they’ll take the money being offered for their votes.
Since they are not in the political class and have nothing to gain personally from voting for any of the candidates (or so they thought), then they feel that they better cut their losses and take the cash on offer.
We thought things could not get worse, now it has. We thought the moral compass of the nation has gone to the dogs. What should we call this now? What should we call the apparent disposition of the people to get all they can on the election day, selling their votes to the candidates?
They see the politicians as corrupt and the day of election as they day they would get their cut of the stolen funds. It’s such a depressing thought.
So who should we blame? Should we blame the politicians who are ready to buy your conscience with money gotten illegally or the people who are at their wits end and completely disillusioned about their Nigerian-ness?
This kind of mental corruption on all sides begs the question of where do we go from here?
We have only ourselves to blame for the state of things. But it’s not too late to take a turn for the better and that is the opportunity that this weekend election in Osun State affords.
I want to go a little bit more philosophical. Osun State is nick named Land of virtue. How ironic it will be if on Saturday, in the Land of virtue, we find the unvirtuous act of vote buying and selling. Osun should live up to it’s name and help Nigeria recover our virtue.
We can’t say that vote buying gives room for the will of the people to be expressed on the election day. And if that does not happen, it means the whole basis of our democracy is called to question.
If the will of the people is undermined through monetary exchange at polling booths, then what we call an election is a merely a charade, it’s merely a show, and a disgusting show at that. We would be making a mess of the meaning of democracy.
We then need to call what we have money-cracy, not democracy. Or better still let us borrow a line from late Fela, who alliterates democracy into “demonstration of craze”.
One wonders the kind of song he would sing if he sees vote buying taking place on election day? He may actually give us something like “money crazy; money has turned us into crazies; and the crazies are ruling since they are moneyed.”
With vote buying, we cannot have free and fair elections regardless of the absence of ballot snatching or even violence on election day.
It cannot be free, if it involves financial inducement and it also cannot be fair, since not all candidates would have the kind of cash needed to get the evil deed done.
Osun people have a date with destiny on Saturday. One only hopes that the election makes Osun worthy of being called Land of Virtue. All hands should be on deck to make sure we have a virtuous elections all round in Osun State on Saturday.
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