“I voted for APC and collected N10000, other parties like SDP paid N5,000, some were lesser,” the motorcyclist who conveyed my partner and me around Emure Local government confirmed that votes were exchanged for a few tokens at where he voted, Ward 06 (Oke Emure 2) PU 009 (Oge Primary School/Igbooge).
I travelled all the way from Lagos state to observe the election, an opportunity provided by the Centre for Journalism Innovation & Development, to contribute my quarter to the growth of our country’s democracy. I knew my task as an observer was important and was committed to ensuring I didnot get mixed up in the corrupt practices that come with the electioneering process.
My partner, Zainab, and I stepped out of our hotel by 7:00 am on Saturday to meet with our motorcyclist, who was waiting a few kilometres away from our location to avoid arrest by soldiers who mounted roadblocks, restricting vehicular movements. Even for observers, the registered observer’s tag wasn’t enough to get you through that route, so we had to trek.
We started our day properly, after going to different wards and Polling units, I got to Ward 07 (Idamudu 1) PU 003 (Osunkoti). Voting started quite early but not without illegality, and vote-buying. At 8:30 am, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) agent, was seen engaging in discussion with supposed supporters. A few hours later, I noticed a woman writing down the names of people who voted, this woman was also a PDP member.
I observed closely and understood that electorates after voting, get a sum of money from the woman writing down names. Money was been shared in this PU in exchange for votes. This is just one of many polling units.
Vote-buying, a new normal in elections
Vote-buying has become a new normal in the Nigerian political space, the corrupt practices have existed long before this election. In the past three elections, I observed; Edo state (2020), Ondo state (2020), and Anambra state (2021), vote-buying was present. Our politicians have leveraged the poor state of the country and used it as a tool in winning elections. The richest take it all.
2023 in view and way out of this menace
As the 2023 general election approaches, questions as to how the election can be free, fair, and a true reflection of the people’s voice come into mind. This is a major concern for right-thinking Nigerians, especially as the country’s economy keeps deteriorating and poverty keeps increasing, patriot of the root cause of the major issue presently rocking the country is insecurity.
A deliberate sensitisation of voters across the country will make them aware of the dangers embedded in engaging in vote-buying and selling. Voters need to be aware that when votes are been sold, it can mar the future of the country and restrict visible developments as incapable but rich hands will claim power. Increase voter literacy.
Also, vote-buying should be criminalised and penalties enforced. This would send fear and reduce vote-buying.
Security agencies and even poll officials should be educated and strengthened to report electoral illegality. Most times, police officers are complicit in this activity, they look away when votes are been sold, this should be corrected if we are serious about bringing changes. A government institution cannot promote crime and expect it not to be encouraged and supported by poll officials and political parties.
Ending vote-buying requires critical actions and that we must do as a good electioneering process in the bedrock of national development and sustenance of true democracy.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
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