By Adedotun Ajayi
In Nigeria, electoral malpractices (vote buying) have taken the spotlight in our political activities. This is because parties and candidates have shown by their conduct during political campaigns, that good party manifestoes and integrity of candidates jostling for public offices are no longer sufficient to guarantee electoral success, thus, the resort to vote-buying.
On the other hand, the electorate too have obviously demonstrated cynical electoral behaviour by the readiness to sell their votes to the highest bidder.
Today, politicians and their parties appear to have adopted vote-buying as a way to compromise the electoral process and achieve victory; no credible selling point, just money.
Electoral malpractices are now regular features in Nigeria’s elections, and take place in the full glare of security agents. Though, political watchers say that the lack of punishment for offenders and culpability of security agencies had fuelled the trend.
Electoral malpractice generally refers to an instance where acceptable norms and principles that confer credibility on elections are desecrated; and in their place duplicity, falsehood, manipulation and cheating by any means are deployed to sway the outcome of elections.
Although electoral fraud has been in the country for many years, observers say that it is increasingly getting worse. It is believed that political office holders deliberately deny the people good governance and the fabled democracy dividends, waiting to buy their way into office on election day, latching onto the unfortunate level of poverty in the country.
The problem is money politics or the excessive use of money in the electoral process leads to the emergence of selfish leaders who use their positions to enrich themselves and personalize public property for their own private advantage.
Money is an important ingredient for democracy because many activities in democracy cannot simply occur without it. Political finance is one of the scandalous means of the excessive use of money for electoral purpose because money is raised and used from disreputable and other illicit means by politicians in return for contracts and other favours. Political financing can lead to criminal activities and corruption from the part of the politicians in developing democracies like Nigeria’s where the mechanisms for enforcement of legal regime is very weak.
Many reasons can be adduced as being responsible for money politics and vote-buying in Nigeria.
A political analyst, Joseph Oyebanji in a chat with The Hope said some of the factors responsible for electoral malpractices include ignorance on the part of the electorate, apathy, poverty and as well as deceit by the politicians.
He believed that there is also attitudinal problem on the part of the people involved in both buying and selling.
“Our attitude towards politics is not right, because most politicians view it as a call to investment from which huge profit is expected and not as call to serve humanity. The electorate on their part see politics especially during election, as an opportunity to sell their votes to represent their own share of the national cake since they do not have access to where the national cake is being shared.
Ayo Olupona, a political scientist said In Nigeria today, elections are now “give and take” as voters no longer wait to see their votes counted, once they have being paid they leave the premises immediately after voting.
Over the years, vote-buying was not new in Nigeria, however, the trend has escalated in recent times largely due to desperation to win election at all cost by politicians and the high poverty rate among Nigerians and the electorate.
According to a recent report by The World Poverty Clock, Nigeria not only has a very large number of poor people, it also has the largest number of extremely poor people in the world. Specifically, about 70 percent of the population is said to be poor, the majority of them being categorised as extremely poor. According to The World Poverty Clock, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria is approaching 90 million, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the population. Poverty have been weaponized just to win elections in Nigeria, this practice portends dangers to the democratic process of electing officers and in turn prevents good governance,” he said.
In the words of Bayo Ogundele, a political scientist said everybody is guilty of political malpractices, both the sellers and buyers of votes and the major reasons are greed, lack of understanding and awareness about the power of every single vote are some of the reasons but the most important one is distrust of citizens for the system of governance.
“Electoral malpractices are undoubtedly impediment to the democratisation process. This is especially true in countries that have scaled the hurdle of transitioning from military dictatorship to democratic rule and are navigating the political contour of transitioning to a consolidated democracy. Having gone through the bitter experience of electoral corruption since 1999, there are a number of ways Nigeria has been affected or will be affected by the problems created by the conduct of elections devoid of transparency. First, electoral malpractices tend to accelerate the level of voter apathy. People refrain from voting in subsequent elections if previous or current polls are ‘won’ through vile means like rigging, false declaration of losers as winners, and bribing of electoral officials,” he added.
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