Key stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral process said on Friday that weak punitive sanctions against those involved in vote trading and growing poverty in the country were derailing the fight against vote buying and selling.
Stakeholders raised their concerns during a policy dialogue titled “Tackling Vote Trading in Nigeria from Global Comparative Experiences” organized by the Electoral Forum in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the MacArthur Foundation.
Speaking, the Vice-President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, lamented that the exchange of votes is an unusual democratic experiment, which hinders the wheel of free choice. and democracy.
Noting that the threat has become a common occurrence in the Nigerian political system, which he said has had negative consequences on the country’s electoral system, he observed that vote-trading only guarantees limited and related benefits. in elections for the few, while jeopardizing the long-term fortunes of the majority.
Omo-Agege, who was represented by his chief of staff, Dr Otive Igbuzor, called for stronger punitive sanctions against the perpetrators and for sustained information campaigns, community action and locally enforceable public commitments to collectively fight the threat.
He said: “To stem ugly behavior everyone should be involved, both voters and candidates. It needs sustained information campaigns, community action and locally enforceable public commitments to collectively avoid vote buying.
“Punitive sanctions strategies are more likely to succeed than moralizing pleas. Political actors who buy votes should face severe consequences. Reforming political finance and guaranteeing election security and the secrecy of the vote are also essential to combat the sale of votes. Most of this has been taken care of in the new electoral law of 2022 passed by the National Assembly and approved by the President.
INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said that the speedy passage of the National Election Offenses Commission and the Tribunal Bill by the National Assembly will lead to vote buying by checkmate.
Represented by the National Commissioner, May Agbamuche-Mbu, the INEC boss admitted that poverty was largely responsible for the threat.
He, however, expresses his confidence that the tide would change as soon as Nigerians begin to trust the electoral process.
He said, “We will step up voter education and make people more aware of vote buying. People also talked about poverty. Yes, we all know it’s poverty. But I also think that as soon as people start to have confidence in the electoral process, they will start to see the power they have over the candidates. And I believe that very soon history will change and power will return to the people.”
The President of the Electoral Forum, Professor Bayo Olukoshi, noted that there was a global consensus that seeking to eliminate the use of money in politics is nearly impossible and a waste of time as politicians would find ways to integrate the use of money into the political equation.
He observed that democracies around the world have moved from eliminating to regulating the use of money in politics, so as to ensure that the use of money does not corrupt the integrity of the electoral process. .
Olukoshi said, “So money in politics is a global challenge, especially criminal money which is unaccounted for and very difficult to trace. However, in our context, the debate around the question of money in politics is again not an entirely new debate for those who are old enough to know the politics of the 2nd Republic where one saw more in addition the important role of money as opposed to the issues and ideas entering the Nigerian political space.
“But what happened in the 2nd Republic will seem like child’s play compared to what we’re dealing with today, where it’s quite clear that if you don’t have a Godfather well oiled who sponsors you, or that you do not have the resources of your own to oil your political apparatus, you are not susceptible, no matter how beautiful your ideologies or your record of personal integrity and achievement , you are probably not in a position to make a dent in our political system.
“Much more than that is the fact that the use of money has gone beyond simply capturing political parties and structures to infiltrate the wider electorate.”
Speaking on the “Socio-political Paradox of Vote Swapping in Nigeria: Focus on the Political Party Primaries and the Recent Governorship Elections of Ekiti and Osun, the State of Immediate Outgoing Residents Electoral Commission Rivers, Obi Effanga said the vote-trading malaise requires the involvement of a multiplicity of stakeholders, agencies and groups to address it.
He traced the root of the threat to economic imbalance and inequality in Nigeria, which being fixed, he said, would greatly reduce the “number of poor people whose vulnerability is currently such that they can easily be swayed a pittance in exchange for their vote”
Effanga lamented that vote trading is also aided and abetted by voting unit security officials, adding that it could happen either through the failure to secure adequate provisions to ensure the secrecy of the vote, or by the inability to take action to prevent those who attempt to violate the rules.
“Law enforcement, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), must take appropriate action to contain or respond to vote-trading incidents, before, during and after each election. I’m not sure we’ve yet registered anyone picked or investigated for vote-trading in all political party primaries this year.
“However, it is also a paradox that those who have the responsibility of fixing the economy are also the main beneficiaries of vote trading – the politicians. Therefore, it would seem that it serves their purpose of keeping the economy going. ruin, in order to support the momentum of the vote trading market,” he said.
On his part, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, warned that vote buying tends to frustrate and undermine the war on corruption in Nigeria.
Represented by the provost of the anti-corruption academy, Professor Olatunde Babawale, the ICPC said the commission was working with INEC to tackle the threat.