There are electoral laws regulating such practice. But these provisions are not sufficiently enforced. Our elections ought not to be a product of conspiracy defined by cash-and-carry democracy. We should let the popular will to be fully expressed. The monetisation of the process is not only contrary to the democratic tradition but also contravenes the relevant established statutory provisions on spending limit. Most times, the spending limit is breached by politicians.
To address buying of votes, we can apply criminal law provisions as contained in the Criminal Code and Penal Code. When you offer money to people in return for their votes, it means you are bribing them. Apart from the criminal law that can be exploited to prosecute those who are involved, there are also sufficient provisions in our Electoral Act for solving such an unhealthy practice. What is required is political will to apply and enforce these provisions.
The other way is to resort to the mechanism of political education so that voters are aware of their rights and that their votes are the power they have to elect the leaders of their choice. They need to be enlightened that such power should not be up for sale. They need to be told that selling their votes means selling their future as well as their posterity. So, there should be sufficient political education by the Independent National Electoral Commission and various agencies charged with that responsibility, including the media.
Poverty and hunger are the realities pervading the land. But, these should not constitute excuses for committing crimes. If people want poverty to be reduced to the barest minimum, the vehicle they could use to effect such is the power of their votes. • Wahab Shittu (A lawyer)
Buying of votes is not an issue we can address overnight because the culture has come and it is staying with us. It has become the ritual especially in the rural areas, suburbs and other places that are difficult for government officials and agencies to monitor. Some (politicians) give cash; some give materials.
We need to fight poverty. There is poverty everywhere. So, how do we fight poverty, which has been our bane, overnight? However, some people are not really poor but they are greedy. How do we also make somebody without the fear of God to have it overnight?
INEC and other government agencies cannot tackle the problem of buying votes alone. It is a question of time and good leadership. We need our leaders and political elite to lead exemplary lifestyles of not giving bribes. If money is not available to buy votes, people will vote according to their choice. Buying votes is bribery. For me, it is a tall dream to solve this overnight.
However, we have to be preaching against it. People should be able to choose their leaders based on their ability and capacity and not based on primordial factors like money. When leaders are elected, people no longer have access to them except in public functions or when they are passing by.
So, voters, especially the lowly, believe selling their votes is the only opportunity for them to get their pound of flesh from the leaders.
Another way to fight buying of votes is to seriously criminalise it such that anybody found – both the buyer and the seller – should be arrested and prosecuted. If it is a candidate himself, that should be a ground for disqualification.
If it is done by an agent of the candidate with the consent of the candidate, it should also attract some kind of punishment or disqualification. All hands must be on deck to stop buying of votes. • Chief Mike Ozekhome (Senior Advocate of Nigeria)
Buying of votes during an election is an electoral offence and every electoral offence has a penalty under the Electoral Act. The challenge has been lack of investigation of electoral offences and imposition of sanctions regarding those offences. When offences are committed and the law has prescribed punishments for those offences but they are not enforced, a culture of impunity reigns supreme. People boldly and defiantly transgress the law.
In my view, Nigeria can curb buying of votes by insisting that the law should be enforced. The law has envisaged vote buying, inducing voters, perpetrating violence, ballot box snatching and ballot stuffing. The law has prescribed how to deal with these. Failure of enforcement is what has given free reign to vote buying. The police, the party officials and INEC officials are there, but they will not do anything. If so called 26,000 policemen are mobilised to a state apart from other security agents, and votes are being bought openly and policemen cannot enforce the law, is it journalists or those who are monitoring an election that will enforce the law?
What prevents a person from exhibiting animal instincts is not only self-restraint, moral armament, or their beliefs, it is because such individual knows that if he does something wrong, there will be a consequence. That is enforcement. There is no electoral offence that is not captured in the electoral act or criminal law, but enforcement agents turn the other eye. Advocacy does not solve a problem; it can only bring attention to it. What will solve the problem is enforcement. Unfortunately, this government has failed in that respect. If like 2,000 persons are arrested and sent to jail for six months, people will stop selling votes. There are potential offenders in every society; what keeps them in check is law enforcement. •Jiti Ogunye (A human rights lawyer)
Voter inducement is entirely evil. Those people (voters) collecting money do not know the meaning of democracy. That is why we still need massive education of the people. That is why if about two million people are registered, only 10 per cent will vote because those are the ones they can pay. I think everything should be done to stop and destroy that attitude.
What I recommend is that nobody should come into polling unit with money. There should be a garrison of about 300 metres. Any person going there should drop his money there and after voting he can retrieve it. It is destroying INEC’s credibility and the sustainability of democracy.
I think it should be added to the terms of reference of the election (petition) tribunals that any person found should face the tribunal, not the ordinary court because that will take a long process. Any person who commits an electoral offence should be tried at the tribunal and not the ordinary court.
Election in Nigeria these days is cash and carry; it is those who have money that win. That is why corruption should be pursued realistically because the money they (politicians) are spending is not their money; it is public money. So, what is happening is very sad. •Col. Paul Ogbebor (retd.) (Convener, Concerned Edo Leaders of Thought)
The best way to stop this problem is good governance. People who stand out in their various areas of endeavours and choose to run for elective positions are already known because of their philanthropic and altruistic activities. If you live such an exemplary lifestyle, you don’t need to buy anybody’s vote. But if you are not grounded and you’re not a grass-roots politician and you want to run for an elective position, of course you will need to do more than just campaigning because people don’t know you and you don’t have any antecedent. You will do that because you are unpopular and unqualified. In other words, collecting money and voting for a candidate is an admission that the candidate is unpopular.
The way to stop the money-for-vote syndrome is to alleviate poverty to such a degree that people will have self-esteem. When people are hungry, they will take money from politicians to vote for them. We need to diversify the economy. We need to create more employment opportunities.
Another way to stop the syndrome is to legislate and make it a very serious crime that anybody caught receiving or giving money for voting will have some terms of imprisonment. And that law should be enforced. •Spurgeon Ataene (A lawyer)
For me, I believe it is not possible to buy somebody’s vote. But people may choose to sell their consciences because of greed and when they do that and vote for people that are not right, they are only selling their future. This will consequently bring a lot problems because by the time the person they voted for go wrong, they will not be able to say anything. And this is because they have already sold their rights.
The real problem is that people are not enlightened. If people can be well enlightened to know the consequences of their actions, they may not do them again. Poverty is also a contributory factor. People don’t have what to eat and they think selling their votes will help them. But if you have a good conscience, no matter the situation, you will not mortgage your future for financial gains.
Barnabas Otoibhi (A cleric)
Compiled by Samson Folarin, Afeez Hanafi and Alexander Okere
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
The post How can Nigeria curb buying of votes during elections? appeared first on Punch Newspapers.