Your vote for cash



Uba Group

The Ondo State gubernatorial election, the last in the series of elections for year 2016, has come and gone, and a winner declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission. But the sour experiences the election left will take a while to fade.

One of such is the alleged monetisation of the electoral process by virtually all the leading political parties that took part in the process. So pronounced was the ignominious practice during the just-concluded elections that it might have gone down in history, perhaps, as Nigeria’s most monetised gubernatorial election.

It is an open secret that money had always played a major role in our electioneering process, especially, against the background of the pervasive and endemic poverty in the land, which has made voting a cash-andcarry business for many Nigerians.

Many observers had said that the November 26 Ondo State gubernatorial election was one where the highest spender allegedly carried the day. The Point gathered that almost all the major candidates tried to entice voters with money. One of the parties, it was said, gave out as much as N5,000 to each voter who cast the ballot in favour of its candidate.

Specifically, in a vote-and-show process, each interested voter only had to thumbprint and then raise the ballot paper well enough for the particular party’s agents to sight, to earn the largesse.

This is no news as some reporters had witnessed this, first hand, in past elections. It was alleged, and many witnesses attested to the fact, that most of the votes for the candidate that eventually emerged winner in the election, attracted a gratification of N5,000! From all indications, the quantum of what might have been expended in monetary terms by the leading candidates in the election to woo the electorate is better imagined.

But who suffers the effect of this anomaly in our electoral process? It is, of course, the teeming masses, who have remained perpetually impoverished by the actions and inactions of past and present political leaders who have been produced by the same system.

Whether by himself or by proxy, it is simple logic to deduce that when a candidate induces voters with money to get their votes, he would surely map out plans to recoup his investment, first and foremost, when he assumes the mantle of leadership. And when that happens, the hapless masses, who out of the desperation to survive, had sold their votes for porridge, would also be at the receiving end of policies of government designed to, first, take care of the costs of electing the winner.

Little wonder, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in the Ondo election, Chief Olusola Oke, described the monetisation of the election as being worse than looting government treasury.

He said, “The open and free use of money to purchase votes during the election by the APC and PDP remains a sad commentary on our electoral process. This requires urgent intervention, if the much publicised anticorruption agenda of the Federal Government must have meaning to Nigerians.

“Offer of money for votes is worse than looting government treasury. Apart from compromising the dignity of the people, it provides a fertile training ground for future looters of government treasury.” We agree no less with Oke that the “resultant effect” of failed policies of government, especially in Ondo State, “is the debilitating poverty that had made the people so vulnerable.

Therefore, trading away dignity in the face of excruciating hunger during electioneering process requires little or no considerations for morals and values that define us as a people.”

Another eye witness to the monetisation of the Ondo gubernatorial election, Mr. Deji Adeyanju, said that he witnessed the distribution of money and even accused a serving minister of the Federal Republic of culpability in the show of shame. What happened in Ondo State has not only put a question mark on the future of the sunshine state, but the entire country. It has also raised a big question mark on the anti-corruption toga of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

For the sake of the masses, who have always remained at the receiving end of bad government policies, and in the interest of the nation’s nascent democracy, we advocate the enactment and/or enforcement of statutory regulations to guide against a repeat of what allegedly transpired during the gubernatorial election last Saturday in future elections in Nigeria.

This is important as attention shifts to the Anambra State gubernatorial election scheduled to hold in the first quarter of 2017. Unless this is done, the electioneering process and, indeed, Nigeria’s democracy may be heading for doom.