By Bello Shehu Sunni, Sokoto.
Ahead of 2023 general election, politics of vote buying have been a nationwide sing song across the length and breadth of the country.
Vote buying has taken the center stage in political activities.
This is because parties and candidates have shown, by their conduct during political campaigns, that good party manifestoes and the integrity of candidates are no longer sufficient to guarantee electoral success. Thus, they resort to vote buying.
On the other hand, the voters too have demonstrated cynical behaviour by their readiness to sell their votes to the highest bidder.
This uncharitable behaviour or practice constitutes a blemish on the electoral process. In fact, it portends danger to the democratic process of electing officers and preventing good governance.
It is quite doubtful that money politics and vote_buying can be totally eradicated in Nigeria. However, there should be at least some mechanisms by which its negative consequences on good governance can be minimized.
The best solution is to try to reduce the level of hunger in our society. People are not ready to think about tomorrow because of what they will eat today.
As long as the electoral system remains porous and unpopular, vote-buying will continue because candidates who are not sure they will win know that the only way they can have it is to buy the votes. This is what has led to poor governance in some countries in Africa.
Those who got into office through vote-buying will not serve the people. I think the government should be more serious about tackling this menace.
It is important for voters to know that giving away their votes for cash does not help in the long run. That is very important.
The Electoral Act stipulates some punishment for such practices.
The way to go in stopping the monetisation of votes is to ensure compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act that touched on vote buying by punishing the offenders, the giver and the taker.
The authorities at all levels of governance must be above board.
They must not be found indulging in such practices or even condoning such acts.
The police must also shun partisanship and be empowered to carry out their duties without fear or favour.
The failure to sanction those who indulge in this open bribery will only give rise to the normalisation of this abnormality.
Unfortunately, political parties have also failed in their responsibility to sensitise their followers and this has promoted this irresponsible behaviour which is undermining the credibility and legitimacy of electoral outcomes.
So, the political parties must begin to educate and sensitise the general public on the need to shun this unwholesome act.
It is also important that the National Orientation Agency, political parties, the Civil Society and the media should as a matter of urgency begin awareness campaign of educating the people to stop this culture of vote-buying.
But more importantly, every Nigerian must ensure that who is qualified to vote and be voted for, should have the interest of Nigeria at heart.
The moment patriotism is grounded in our minds; we would never do things to undermine the hard-earned democracy that our forefathers fought for.
Our mindset must change. Election should not be reduced to a money making venture for the politicians and the voters.
Finally, the Nigerian economy must be improved to empower the people economically. This is because when poverty is reduced to the barest minimum; the electorates can then make independent electoral decisions in voting for credible politicians rather than incompetent and money bags politicians.