THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has been acclaimed for the seemingly seamless conduct of the November 18, 2007, governorship election in Anambra State.
Perhaps reflective of that approval, majority of the candidates resolved not to contest its outcome and have grudgingly congratulated the winner of the election, Governor Willie Obiano.
However, beyond the general acclaim, the level of commercialisation of the vote was an eyesore to our democracy. The Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, in its assessment of the election condemned the widespread vote-buying by agents of the candidates. Mr. Clement Nwankwo, the Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, NCSSR, in his interim report, flayed the commercialisation of the process.
“This emerging impunity of vote-buying appears to be a dangerous trend in our elections and needs to be addressed urgently,” Nwankwo’s group deposed as it portrayed the Anambra governorship election as one of the worst electoral bazaars since our return to democracy in 1999.
Dr. Chima Amadi, the executive director of the Independent Service Delivery Group, ISDMG, while presenting the group’s interim report on the election, spoke in the same tone saying: “Reports from our observers in the field on the widespread open selling of votes by citizens cast a major slur on the integrity of the votes. The trend of vote-buying which has become a major feature of recent elections sadly repeated itself in Anambra.”
Inducements are as old as elections in Nigeria. Sadly, rather than outgrowing it, the Anambra poll signposted the fact that it appears to be getting worse. This does not augur well for our democracy. It shows that efforts to reduce malfeasance in our electoral process have always been neutralised by the onslaught of political desperados.
Indeed, what happened in Anambra was a depressing commentary on the desperation of politicians to capture power by hook or crook. It was also a sad annotation to the willingness of the electorate to mortgage their future to filthy lucre. Voters who sell their votes do not have any moral right to expect good stewardship from those who purchase their mandates.
Even more lamentable was the fact that the buying and selling of votes took place in the full glare of security men and election officials. It was simply a bazaar in which the election officials and security agencies were undoubtedly incorporated complicit.
As we look forward to other impending elections in Ekiti and Osun states as well as the general election of 2019, Nigerians must desist from further mortgaging their consciences and mandates to politicians. Buying and selling of votes is a major factor in the brazen refusal of political leaders to pay the salaries of workers and pensions of retirees.
We must see our votes as our passport to good governance.