By Godwin Etakibuebu

THIS year’s general elections will have as the first baptism of fire the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 16, 2019. The second layer of that baptismal will be the  Governorship, State Houses of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory,  FCT Area Council elections which hold on March 2, 2019.

These are less than 40 days from today. Forty days for Nigerians to shout Hosanna or 40 days for us to arrive the political battle ground of Armageddon?

The whole country is in a frenzy, indeed an anxiety about the future on account of what may happen during and after the elections. There are genuine reasons for all patriots to remain on edge about the forthcoming elections. For some, there are more noises of drums of war being heard about the elections than melodious sound of celebrations.

For others, they are seeing re-emergence of politics of “do or die” as propagated by a former president and a late “Garrison Commander” in Ibadan politics.

And yet, there are some that suspect the resurrection of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, type of “landslide and moon-slide” victory of 1983, which precipated the eclipse and demise of the Second Republic when a certain Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and his men struck and dismantled every democratic structure.

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Everyone has his or her fear factor about this coming election. I have mine also. For sake of clarity, I will take responsibility by categorising the three fear factors capable of undermining the freeness and fairness of the elections: buying and selling of votes, under-aged voters and foreigners’ participation in the voting process. Permit me to elaborate on them briefly.

Buying and selling of votes:

The Punch of December 28, 2018, quoted the Oyo State Resident Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mutui Olaleke Agboke, as alerting the country on how politicians have approached him with the sole aim of buying the uncollected permanent voters cards, PVCs, in the state, which he said were 914,529.

“They are looking for PVCs to buy. They are looking for what is not available because they know that these things are not available. This is the security report at my disposal. Tell those who are looking for PVCs to buy that there is none to buy in Oyo State. I can assure you that no INEC employee will sell PVCs to any politician. I can assure you that the process will be free and fair in Oyo State.

“Those who are looking for PVCs to buy, l won’t give you their names. I don’t have their names. That is the security report l got and the report did not specify the party and the individuals…  involved. They want us to give them PVCs but we can’t give  to them. They want to buy PVCs but there is none to sell in Oyo State,” Mutui Olaleke Agboke was quoted as saying.

What Mutui Olaleke Agboke narrated was not limited to Oyo State but is happening all over the country. Every state, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, has its own leftover of uncollected PVCs. It can only be safe to come to the conclusion, in the light of Agboke’s revelation, that the market place of selling and buying votes, which is black market of course, is booming with patronage. This is the first evidence that the game of selling and buying of votes; which is a common trademark of our politicians across board, of course, stands to mar the elections.

In my weekly review of topical issues at the Lagos Talk 91.3 FM (a programme that l host from 9:30-11am every Monday) of Monday December 31, 2018, I made bold to agree with the Oyo State REC that selling and buying of vote is a problem that could jeopardise free and fair election in Nigeria, by drawing attention to what happened in the governorship election that took place in Osun State most recently. INEC declared the election inconclusive after the first round of voting and a date was fixed for a rerun in few places. This declared rerun made the two most contending political parties (the PDP and APC) to launch aggressively into the “market place of deciding votes.”

Both political parties met with Senator Iyiola Omisore in Ile-Ife to solicit for the votes of his followers in the Social Democratic Party, knowing that whichever party got those votes would win the election. Omisore decided on behalf of his people and the outcome of that negotiation for vote gathering is now history. Suffice to say, in my candid judgement, that both parties went to negotiate for vote – it is as simple as selling and buying of votes. Let us take this as the second evidence that selling and buying of votes could torpedo the forthcoming elections.

Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos. Twitter: @godwin_buebu


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