THEWILL Editorial: Criminalize Vote Buying To Save Nigeria’s Democracy

BEVERLY HILLS, August 07 (THEWILL) – The recent governorship election in Ekiti State between Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Professor Kolapo Olusola, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where vote buying was taken to a ridiculous level, has come as a grave concern to lovers of democracy.

The election, which ought to have been free, fair and credible, turned out to be some sort of bazaar where money was used to induce voters to sell their cards and of course the highest bidder naturally carried the day.

While acknowledging that financial inducement had always played a part in the country’s elections, it had mainly been used to mobilize voters during electioneering periods.

It is however worrisome that vote buying, which first became noticeable in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State, was stepped up in Ondo and Anambra governorship elections, but so brazenly displayed in Ekiti State.

This is despite the fact that sections 117 and 131 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) criminalises giving or accepting of bribes, or any financial gratification during election.

THEWILL finds it ridiculous and absurd that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security operatives tolerated this despicable act, even though it was done in the full glare of officials.

With the general elections just about 180 days away, this shame must not be allowed to repeat itself and destroy the democratic process.

Nigeria must take urgent steps to pass strong legislation that will criminalize vote buying and prescribe harsh deterrents for offenders.

Unless the Federal Government gives the issue the urgent attention that it requires, vote buying could degenerate to a level where it would replace the regular campaigns by candidates vying for positions.

THEWILL fears that unpopular leaders would continue to be imposed on the people at great peril to the country’s development and good governance, if no regulation is specifically made to stop the trend.

The integrity of Nigeria’s democracy and the voting process must be preserved at all cost.

This is a clarion call on the APC-led Executive and the National Assembly to expedite action on the pending Bill on Nigerian Electoral Offences Commission, so that those found guilty of vote buying or other electoral offences in future polls can be severely punished.

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