By Sunmola Olowookere
In the history of elections in all the four republics that we have had in Nigeria, the last elections might be adjudged as the most dramatic. As expected by the originators of the policy, the new cashless policy wrought the beginning of the miracle which Nigerians had waited for since the menace of vote buying made a debut on our political landscape.
The miracle is to erase from our electoral processes the ugly face of vote buying which undermine the credibility of any leader that emerges during the election.
Prior to the election, there had been several projections made by individuals and groups with many of these projections tilting towards the negative side. The most alarming of it all was that the election would not hold amidst other unprintable ones.
However, the pessimists were proved wrong as many of their projections failed. The election held and it is steadily moving forward a logical conclusion.
Clergymen were not left out of this group of doomsayers. Many of them unbecomingly bandied myriads of “prophecies” that were capable of giving off the wrong signal and heating up the polity. Thank providence that an unseen hand has undertaken a mission of mercy over Nigeria’s case and we will yet smile again.
In this election, it was a scene to behold as vote buying as an election malpractice suffered a major setback. For one, there was paucity of funds to be shared and there was no vote buying at some poling units at all. Some resorted to sharing dollars while others made transfers. It was not business as usual as the network was so unfriendly as it had been for a while.
Many agents reportedly collected voter’s account details with promises of crediting their accounts later. Till date, some of the greedy voters spoken to by The Hope said that they have not been credited
Before now, people believe that vote buying had come to stay and could not be ousted however, it is evident that it’s foundation is being shaken and it might be uhuru yet for our electoral process.
For a while now, it became the usual practice that whenever election approached, it was no longer a case of “may the best man win” but a case of political party candidates weighing in on their financial muscles to clear their way to power. Idealists had begun to lose hope of having credible elections
Till date, all political parties are reported to be involved in vote buying and the token offered by each party depends on their financial strength. None of the political parties fielding candidates is innocent of this charge.
However, with the recent economic stunt pulled by the outgoing President Buhari’s administration, which left vote buyers flummoxed, despite their last minute’s scramble to devise other means of inducing voters, the end to vote buying might just be in sight.
The Federal Government recently, through the Central Bank of Nigeria reviewed its cash withdrawal limits for individuals and corporations; a policy that followed the redesign of the N200, N500 and N1,000 notes.
While introducing the policy, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, lamented that there was too much money in circulation. Specifically, he said as of October 2022, the currency in circulation was N3.23tn, out of which N2.7tn was out of the banking system.
Speaking on the importance of the policy, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said, “Nigeria must go cashless. It is a global policy, checking insecurity and fighting corruption.”
Despite the masses’ impatience and the censure from many stakeholders such as the legislature among others, Emefiele had stood his ground as he maintained uncompromising stance despite a desperate clamour for relaxation of the new policy by the masses and the elites as well.
Also, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, AbdulRasheed Bawa, said that the naira redesign policy would curb vote-buying during the general election.
He added, “we will continue to do what we have to do, we are trying to ensure that illegitimate funds are not finding their way into our electoral processes.”
Indeed, Bawa, true to his words, pulled out all stops in his mission of blocking such illegitimate funds, as there were several agents of the commission that were sent out as undercovers to ferret out vote buyers during the election. According to media reports, many unscrupulous party agents were caught trying to induce the electorate despite the paucity of funds.
Vote buying did not start recently in Nigeria. Premium Times once quoted the Executive Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Miss Idayat Hassan as saying that the parties that took part in the 1993 general elections spent between N120 million and N1 billion in vote-buying during primaries.
The CDD boss said, “When we talk about the 1993 elections, we tend to talk about it as being the freest and fairest. But evidence showed that between N120 million and N1 billion was spent during the primaries in that 1993 elections, raising issues on how we should define vote-buying.
“In the fourth republic, between 2003 and 2007, the value of vote-buying ranged from N1, 750 to N2, 250. In 2019, the value of vote-buying ranged from N250 to N14000,” Ms Hassan said.
Similarly, a Nigerian tabloid reported that vote buying occurred during the Social Democratic Party presidential primary held in Jos in 1992. It was alleged as one of the justifications used by former Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to annul the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Vote-buying took a frightening turn since the return to democracy in 1999 when the electorate carelessly took pictures and made videos of themselves as they collected money and food from party candidates, and without shame solicit for inducement before voting.
Over the years, the menace has grown from bad to worse. In the recently concluded primary elections of major political parties in Nigeria, there were allegations of aspirants bribing delegates with huge amounts of money, including hard currencies in some cases.
In a dramatic twist, son of former Vice President Namadi Sambo, Adam Namadi, at a time reportedly demanded for a refund of the N2 million he gave each delegate after he lost the primary election of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives for Kaduna North Federal Constituency.
He was said to have gotten the least votes among the three contenders; an outcome which irked him. Although he had promised the delegates he would give each of them additional N1.5 million after the exercise, he failed woefully.
According to media reports, Mr Namadi had thrown caution to the winds and hired vigilantes and local hunters to help retrieve his money from the delegates.
Vote buying is a societal ill which would break our nationhood eventually if allowed to continue unchecked. The seed of counterattack against it has been sowed, it is the duty of the coming administration to ensure that the germination of the idea is consolidated upon.
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