OSUN POLL: NOT ANOTHER BAZAAR, PLEASE
The electorate should be allowed to determine the outcome of the election
Come Saturday, the people of Osun State will go to the poll to elect a new governor for another four years. It is yet another litmus test for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies and other stakeholders given what transpired in the Ekiti State gubernatorial election held in June. The summary of the report of observers was that the election was fundamentally flawed and indeed fell short of global standards. While financial inducement is not a new development in Nigeria, the entrepreneurs of vote-buying became so brazen that they transacted their nefarious business in the open.
As we have said repeatedly on this page, the use of money to manipulate electoral outcomes is not only a violation of the law, it constitutes an abuse of the constitutional right of the people to choose their leaders in a free, fair and credible manner. Unfortunately, one of the observers during the Ekiti polls, Mrs. Virginia Marumoa-Gae of the United States’ International Republican Institute (IRI) painted a disgraceful picture of how the slogan, “see and buy” was used to lure voters to show their thumb printed ballot papers in exchange for money.
We are delighted that INEC is not living in denial about this ugly development that is making a mockery of democracy as contestants engage one another in financial shoot-outs to secure power at all costs. The resident electoral commissioner for Osun State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje said last week that the commission would do all within its powers to checkmate vote-buying this Saturday. “It is not an easy thing to prepare for an election and then some people will come on election day with bags of money very close to where you are having your polling units to see how they can pay voters for a particular candidate”, said Agbaje who promised that INEC would rearrange the voting cubicles in such a way that it would be difficult to display ballot paper after voting.
While we support INEC and hope all the stakeholders will help in the bid to demonetise elections in the country, the federal government does not seem to be getting the message. In what was clearly an error of judgment, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo last week launched the ‘TraderMoni’ scheme, an empowerment programme for 30,000 petty traders in Osun State. Ordinarily, safety net as a social welfare policy aimed at alleviating and reducing poverty in the society by way of deliberate actions is not wrong. However, questions are being asked as to why the programme was launched in Osun State on the eve of a crucial gubernatorial election. For an administration that claims to be fighting corruption, it is to say the least indefensible.
In the last two years, Nigeria’s global credibility ratings on issues of transparency and accountability have continued to dwindle. A recent Carnegie report said despite the much-touted anti-corruption drive of the current government, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is as corrupt as the PDP it replaced. That should worry President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. The issues of vote buying, financial inducement, and the general deployment of cash to game the electoral process are very serious infractions for which all critical stakeholders must come together to find a solution. When elections become a zero sum game in which dirty money has to be deployed for victory at all costs, then democracy is endangered.
As the people of Osun State therefore go to the poll on Saturday to elect their next governor, it is our hope that the electorate will be allowed to make their choices in a free and fair process devoid of intimidation or any form of financial inducement.
May the best candidate win!