A former governor of Delta State, Mr Emmanuel Uduaghan, has weighed in on the issue of vote-buying in Nigeria’s political process, saying the people tend to lose when they sell their votes to politicians during elections.
Uduaghan acknowledged that the just concluded general election in Nigeria was characterised by vote buying.
“When a people are bought with money, then they lose the right to complain,” Uduaghan said on Tuesday in a lecture he presented at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
The people must “bear considerable responsibility” as far as vote-buying is concerned, Uduaghan said.
Uduaghan said the federal government must invest “heavily” in political education, especially at the grassroots.
“The awareness of the people may have improved but awareness without commensurate political education can only go so far.
“The greatest empowerment the people need today is political education,” the former governor said.
“Overall it does appear that the voters may not always understand what their best interests are and how to ensure that their best interests reflect in the election.
“With a more informed electorate, the rising culture of solicitation and vote buying would not have been so prevalent as we find today during elections.
“The argument that voters sell their votes because of hunger does not hold water. Eventually how much does each get? Pittance.
“An enlightened electorate will not readily sell their votes; because to do so means you are forgoing your right to demand prudent and accountable government. The real democracy dividend.
“And when a politician is buying votes, he has calculated that in entering this bargain, he is going to devote considering amount of his time in office recouping what he has spent. And be prepared for the next election and repeat the same thing.”
Continuing, the former governor said, “It is a vicious game, with no end in sight.
“INEC, the election regulator, had introduced several measures to contain this problem in conjunction with security agencies but it is unclear how much effect this had in the election.
“If we go by the news in the media and various other reports, it appears very little was achieved to curb this creeping menace of vote buying.
“And so I am calling for an intensification of voter education. Unless there is voter education that makes people aware of the self-harm in bargaining and selling their votes, we won’t be making as much progress as I think and believe we should.
“I should also say that when votes are sold and bought, the people are outrightly forgoing opportunities for jobs to be created, for infrastructure to be built and for a solid economy to be developed. Vote buying corrupts and distorts the most elementary part of electoral politics.”
Questionable quality of politicians
Uduaghan questioned the quality of politicians vying for elections in Nigeria.
“I am questioning the content of our democracy. I am questioning the quality of people who offer to serve and who are not sufficiently scrutinized and accepted into the leadership, people whose values are suspect.
“Some of these people, because of access to money - sometimes questionable sources - buy their way into power and with the power of money compromise everything, including state institutions.
“I am saying there should be rigorous oversight by all. The intrusion and damaging effect of money politics is the root of what is harming the growth of our electoral politics. And it starts by the sort of people elected into offices, what are their values?”
The former governor also questioned the performance of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of elections in the country, even though he somehow gave some kudos to the commission.
“Is INEC truly independent and capable, not just in Abuja but across the various states, local government, and wards?
“If I am being fair, I have to state that INEC standard has not always been kept across the states, local governments, and wards. In those places that came short, I call on INEC to closely reset its team on the ground.
“In INEC, one can also retrospectively recall the significant improvement in INEC over the years.
“There was a time elections in this country were such that the voters didn’t vote, yet results were declared. Winners emerged.
“Then INEC introduced technology, which was aimed at determining that we move to a cleaner and credible election. The card reader technology was a revolution. In 2015 despite glitches, it worked. For example, election results where the process is not interfered with, you find the margins are tighter.
“In 2019 some desperate politicians appear to have found a way to undermine this technology. Reports abound where card reader was bypassed in the conduct of elections. Over-voting occurred. Under-counting also occurred. Fake polling units, thuggery, fake results were announced.
“Collusion between INEC staffers and political agents and operatives were rife. In short, all sorts of malfeasance happened in 2019 to discredit the election.
“Security agencies are accused of being used to suppress and intimidate voters; some of these were captured on camera. In spite of all this, the 2019 elections are still acceptable. Our elections are still ‘work in progress’,” he said.