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Vote Buying And Future Of Democracy In Nigeria
Published Mar 08, 2023 IN Editorial,
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THERE is no doubt that in modern democracy, vote buying has no place as it remains an anathema that can only be reserved for the rubbish heap of history.

Where it once existed, it has since become anachronistic and irredeemably bad, hence abandoned.

For instance, United Kingdom, America, former Soviet Union, Latin American countries, which, in their primitive days, patronised vote buying, dumped the practice from1856, when Australia brought to humanity the virtue of secret balloting.

Britain and America initially resisted this but embraced same it 1872 and 1892, respectively. The simple reason for this was/is the fact that vote buying is incompatible with the tenets of democracy and global best practices.

Indeed, vote buying remains a criminal offence punishable under the relevant laws of the society. In Nigeria, for instance, vote-buying is a criminal offence punishable under the Electoral Act, 2022.

For the avoidance of doubt, Section 121 (2) of the Act stipulates that a “ voter commits an offence of bribery where, before, or during an election, directly or indirectly, by his or herself, or by any other person, on his or her behalf, receives, agrees, or contracts for any money, gift, loan, or valuable consideration, office, place of employment, for his or herself, or any other person, for voting or agreeing to vote, or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting at any such election”.

Despite this clear and unambiguous provision, bribery manifesting in vote buying, and other forms of inducements to voters by unscrupulous politicians and their cohorts have continued to ravage our political process with reckless abandon.

Rather than abating, vote buying and thuggery appear to be rising to a worrisome dimension nationwide with little or nothing recorded by way of deterrence to the vicious cycle.

For instance, of about 870,000 and 900,000 of these cases recorded in the 2011 and 2015 general elections, respectively, not many got prosecuted in each electoral cycle let alone being convicted.

Even at the off season gubernatorial polls in Ekiti and Osun states, allegations of vote buying were rife and hardly was any perpetrator made to face the long arm of the law.

As if this harm inflicted on our electoral process was not enough, the virulent vice reared its evil head again in the just concluded presidential and National Assembly polls as the anti-graft agency, Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reportedly made a haul of arrests nationwide of persons with huge sums of money around polling centres purportedly for vote buying.

We are visibly worried about this evil of vote buying. It is demonic, wicked, preposterous and totally unacceptable.

So disturbing and notoriously devastating is the fact that some of the people involved are persons who ought to have served as role model and moral compass for the society.

What really could have motivated a lecturer, for instance, to be flaunting huge sums of money on election day around a polling centre especially when the masses are traumatised, pauperised and forced to wallow in abject poverty?

This must not continue and something drastic has to be done to act as deterrent to others. All the perpetrators, their sponsors and privies to the dastardly acts should be brought to book.

Until we learn and accept to operate within the ambit of the law and global best practices, the future political landscape and the democracy highway will remain bumpy and serpentine.

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