On 18th March, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), conducted gubernatorial and state houses of assembly elections. Like the Presidential and National Assembly polls, voter apathy reared its ugly head or indeed, became worse. There were reported cases of violence and votes buying which marred the exercise across the country. Though some politicians have been arrested by operatives of anti-graft agency (EFCC), for alleged votes buying, the elections could be described as huge joke taking too far. In the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, Nigerians did not experience voters’ inducement due to cash scarcity. The naira redesign policy was a big blow to moneybag politicians. There was no cash to induce voters. The measure had helped greatly towards conducting free and fair elections.
The cash-swap policy has adversely or negatively affected the lives of Nigerians in different ways. But implementing it at the eve of the elections has reduced the menace of votes buying especially in the presidential elections. Regrettably, the supreme Court ruling which compelled CBN to extend the validity of old currencies until 31 December has provided an ample opportunity for desperate politicians to use their stashed currencies for votes buying during the guber polls. The glaring and annoying votes buying across the polling units have eroded the gains recorded by INEC in the last elections. Votes buying has mocked our democracy. It has further monetised our elections. Politicians with high stakes count themselves as potential winners. However, INEC should not be blamed for this mess. Our poverty- stricken electorate should take the blame for selling their votes to the highest bidders. It is reported that in many polling units, voters were induced with little token. Some voters collected as little as N200 or one packet of spaghetti to vote. This is a sad!
The electorate have never paused for a minute to ask themselves a simple question on what will be their fate if they sell their votes for peanuts. These desperate politicians are ready to invest their last kobo in other to win elections. After winning the poll, one should expect them to work for the common man. They have to first recoup their investment along with their profit before dropping crumbs to the electorate. While votes buying is a serious electoral offense punishable by law, Nigerians are yet to see any offender facing the full weight of the law. Unless we strengthen our laws to prosecute those who engage in election malpractice, including votes buying, Nigerian elections will continue to be problematic.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State