According to INEC, anyone in breach of any of the provisions in the Electoral Act is liable to being arrested and charged to court and prosecuted by INEC after investigation by the relevant Security Agencies. And as I stated in the last edition of this column, collecting bribe to vote or giving the same attracts stiff sanctions as provided for by the electoral act.
What is therefore lacking in the matter of prosecuting vote buying and selling in this country is the will power. The security operatives are competent enough to know the plans of politicians as they are hatching it. They can gather evidence, they can offer plea bargain to offenders to give more information about those backing them.
They need to call a press conference before elections and reveal the vote buying plan of the politicians to the public and lay down the legal repercussions of that. Let it be known far and wide that vote buying and selling in this country are grievous offences that the people and government take serious, irrespective of who flouts the relevant laws.
We are coming close to the major election next year, we therefore need to urgently sanitise the system before then.
We need to rise up and say no to the evil of vote buying and selling as a people. It should be repugnant to us. We need to wake up and take responsibility for doing the right thing. All the tools at our disposal should be deployed to make vote buying and selling history in this country.
We have no other country to call our own. We therefore need to come together and purge ourselves of this evil before the country goes to the dogs. The time is now and not tomorrow. Those in the various position of responsibility should wake up to arrest this evil.
We need to go on the streets and protest, carry placards to declare that we hate this evil trend. People should be mobilised. We should not just watch as the country goes to the dogs. This issue should not just be swept under the carpet until the next election.
We need to say that though we don’t have money, our conscience would not be monetised.
We cannot hold the political class accountable when we have sold our conscience to them, monetised our right, sold ourselves so cheaply. How can we in good conscience question the activities of the government, when we have sold ourselves so cheaply?
It’s like Esau selling his birthright for a meal. You have been surviving before money was offered to buy your votes and you will survive afterwards, so the temptation of having our votes bought by any political party is not worth yielding to. They are inadvertently treating you like Jacob treated Esau. It was an error that Esau could not take back.
It’s actually a sorry state of affairs to have a people so demoralised to the extent of mortgaging their right to challenge government for pittance, for an amount of money that is not enough to feed a family for a week.
Poverty is rife in this nation and all facets of government needs to be geared towards rolling it back.
If it is just about the highest bidder getting the highest votes, we could be voting in rogues and charlatans into office who will come and plunge the whole system into even more darkness.
We need a radical change. The ball is in our court. We need a reorientation as a people. If we are still wondering about how we are as a people, we don’t need to look for further evidence than the fact that we sell our votes in this country, collecting money to vote for certain candidates and political parties.
There is therefore work to be done. The traditional institution headed by that various traditional rulers have work to do. The traditional rulers need to speak to their subjects, show them that there is something more than the pittance the politicians can give them. They have work to do to rebuild the moral walls that have broken down in this nation. But that is if they themselves have not been compromised.
We need to know the evil of selling ourselves so cheaply, selling our right to speak up for ourselves when it is needed.
This development is also an opportunity to examine the need to put in place some form of social safety net, which one hopes would make more people immune to the vote buying ploys of politicians.
This saying is right: it is until we change that the politicians will change. How can we speak against corruption, when the number one person that is corrupt is the voter himself? It’s is clear to me that we won’t move forward as a nation until we put this evil to rest.
We need to call a spade a spade. “Vote buying and selling” is a stain on us as a people and we must do everything in our power to make sure it is completely erased. If we need to set up new laws or revise and strengthen the existing ones, let’s do that. Everything should be done so that the last incident of vote buying and selling will be the last.
The good step in that direction is to arrest a few, charge them to court and see to their judicious prosecution.
Offences that go unprosecuted are bound to multiply. We should not just talk about herdsmen menace in the middle belt, the vote buying and selling is equally a serious issue that should attract a similar high level government attention, institutional initiative and people engagement. Enough is enough.
Democracy is famously defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, but with this “see and buy”, “cash and carry” vote buying and selling era, it could as well be defined as government of the highest bidder, for the highest bidder and by the highest bidder. This is truly a sad development.
Investigative reporters should dig deep into this matter, exposing the evil and the players for all to see.
Public affairs analysts should not stop hammering on it, musicians should make it a theme for their music, movie creators should do the same. We should continue to hammer on this matter. They should not stop until the matter of vote buying and selling becomes a thing of the past in the nation, until our national consciousness is awakened to reject this evil that is crawling upon us.
Parents should speak of this to their children, helping to educate them towards becoming people whose conscience cannot be bought, who will refuse to sell their votes, jingles should be created to drum this into us. Non Government Organisations should take this up as a cause. We need immediate remediation of this menace before it goes completely out of hand.