By Olabisi Salis
As the wind of democracy keeps blowing across Nigeria, one needs to take a critical look of what democracy as a word stands for.
According to one-time American President Abraham Lincoln, democracy is simply “a government of the people, by the people and for the people. However, the definition has, of recent, charged to a “government off the people, buy the people and force the people”.
It is however important to stress that vote-buying did not start today. It has always been part of the Nigerian political process.
In the past, political parties always bribed voters with gifts such as food items, clothing materials, etc. while, at the party level, delegates were induced with money during primaries.
Speaking on this ugly trend, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Matimood Yakubu, in a newspaper interview, described the votes-buying as a “cancer” to the Nigerian electoral process.
For quite some time now, card reader machines had dramatically reduced election rigging until the monster called vote-buying reared its ugly head. To this end, ordinary Nigerians, predominantly women, who are mostly artisans, traders, farmers, house wives etc, are of voting-buying as a result of poverty which makes them susceptible to material inducement. Over the years and in elections, the percentage of women, whether voters or those contesting for elective positions, have gradually increased.
As pathetic as the vote-buying has become, some state governments have resorted to paying backlog of salaries owed their workers just only days before elections. This is simply aimed at luring voters in their favor.
It is quite disheartening that during pre-election rallies and campaigns, market women and women groups are massively mobilized by ruling parties or the opposition. In some cases, the ruling parties use their power of incumbency to ensure that markets in the state are closed while women leader serve as the agents of the ruling parties and even the opposition.
However, it is so disheartening that once the ruling or opposition parties achieve win elections, women that voted massively for them are neglected, ignored or empowered with menial programmes.
To ensure that this ugly scenario ends, women should endeavor to as the general elections approach turn out en-masse as this will discourage the political contractors who have cashed on low turn out of voters to buy votes.
Furthermore, they should realize that selling their votes simply implies that they are mortgaging the future of generations un-born and the country in general. Considering the economic situation on ground in the country, women should turn out en-masse for the election and ensure they say no to vote buying as it will destroy the future of the nation. Long live federal republic of Nigeria.
- Salis, a former senatorial aspirant in Lagos State, is a business woman.