Vote Buying and Election Integrity | The Guardian Nigeria News

The gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, in which Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party became governor-elect, was not the best election a democratic Nigeria could arrange. Although widely seen as an improvement on previous elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it was nonetheless not above board, having been plagued with allegations of vote selling and buying by unscrupulous politicians.

Election observers, including the 70-NGO Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room and the British High Commission, praised the commission. The situation room noted “a significant improvement in INEC’s logistics and electoral administration, particularly with the early arrival of electoral agents and equipment at polling stations, resulting in the early opening of polling stations. voting”; that Bimodal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) machines were working properly “in at least 76% of polling stations”, and that election organizers were sensitive enough to pay due attention to the condition during the process people with disabilities. disability. For its part, the British High Commission commended the INEC for “the improvements made to the electoral process, including the opening of polling stations in a timely manner, better functioning of the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) ) for voter accreditation and the transparent and efficient electronic transmission of ballots and results on INEC’s results viewing portal These are encouraging remarks in the still difficult course of elections in Nigeria.

On the other hand, the British High Commission expressed concern about reports of vote buying during the election and called on the relevant authorities to hold those involved accountable, pointing out that “the buying and sale of votes have no place in a democracy”. The Center for Democracy and Development reported that “one of the observable patterns of vote buying was the collection of cash in brown envelopes, which aimed to conceal the contents of the envelopes to avoid being stopped by anti-corruption agencies”. The group also noted an instance of fake news and acts of disinformation intended to confuse voters, citing “SDP candidate Segun Oni’s alleged withdrawal letter” and his alleged endorsement of the PDP candidate. , which has been circulating on social media. This claim was later confirmed as “false”. Situation Room noted that vote buying was widespread despite the heavy presence of law enforcement officers and strongly condemns “this flagrant violation of election law.” The group also condemned the location of voting booths in private residences.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said “reports of vote buying, undue influence, intimidation, ballot box theft and other electoral crimes by the three major political parties” in the election are grounds to challenge INEC to “prosecute promptly and effectively those arrested and bring to justice anyone who sponsored, aided and abetted them”.

Certainly, the credibility of an electoral process is fundamental to the integrity of the whole structure of democracy. Thomas Rye (2003) has written that “(democratic) government is ‘government by consent of the governed’ (and that) elections give practical meaning to this notion of ‘consent’ (by allowing) people to choose among competing candidates and parties. and to decide who will hold public office”.

The 1999 Constitution, in provisions such as Articles 65, 76, 131-136 and 177-181, lays great emphasis on the fundamental need to be ‘elected’ and to be ‘duly elected’ to hold public office. Therefore, the holders of specified public offices must derive their just mandate from the will of the electorate in accordance with the rules laid down in this constitution and in any other law of the National Assembly. A compromised election can only generate a defective, dubious and non-credible mandate of the “elected”. Buying votes, rigging, stealing ballots, intimidating voters, in fact any form of act that impedes a free and fair choice by the voter undermines the credibility of the process and the claim of the winner to a fair mandate.

Vote buying is a criminal offense under the Elections Act 2022. Sections 22, 121 and 122 are clear on this and the penalty due. For example, section 121(2) states that a “voter commits a bribery offense when, before or during an election, directly or indirectly, by himself or any other person, on his behalf, receives, accepts or contracts for money, gift, loan or consideration of value, office, place of employment, for himself or any other person, to vote or agree to vote, or to abstain or agree to abstain from voting at any such election”.

Despite the “improvements” in the elections in Ekiti, it is understandable that Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Segun Oni has vowed to challenge it in court. His proposed action is a civilized and legally backed step to seeking redress.

INEC can do better in the next elections in Osun. Security officials also need to be much more aware of their responsibilities than at Ekiti. It is a welcome move that the Chairman of the Traditional Religion Worshipers (TRWA) in Osun State, Oluseyi Atanda, has expressed his intention to pledge his members to take an oath against the sale of their votes, and he advised leaders of other religious bodies to engage in the same way. supporters of a clean electoral process.

Much of the electoral malfeasance stems from the dishonest intentions of political actors who facilitate these despicable acts through their loyalists and supporters. For better elections, therefore, politicians must change their ways of seeking public office as men of good character, not as desperate crooks. Nothing can be more comforting than elections that reflect the real choices of the electorate and bring into government people armed with that fact, with a “political mandate” from the people. To confer respect on the government and ensure the integrity of elections, the process must be based on a transparent, free, fair and credible election.

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