BlogColumnsNigeriaOpinionPoliticsNigeria’s 2023 Elections: The Vote-Buying Malady

Every Election has three phases, namely: Public Campagn, Vote Casting and Court Litigation. Each phase is crucial. And, for any Election to be credible, a candidate MUST win all three phases. He or she must win at the People’s Parliament, get majority of the votes cast and successfully defend his or her mandate in Court, if necessary.

Of these three Phases, Vote Casting is the most critical and most problematic because it is subject to a lot of factors such as Voters turn-out and bad influences of Politicians and INEC staff that are difficult to police. This phase is where INEC and corrupt politicians usually make mockery of even the most well-intended Election Laws.

This mini presentation, therefore, will focus on Vote Casting problems and needed improvements that will significantly improve future elections.

First, the Vote Casting Area (VCA) must be reformatted in line with the “Secret Ballot” intent of 2022 Electoral Act.

In the just concluded State House of Assembly Election in Nnewi North, as the LP Local Government Collation Officer, I visited eleven (11) Voting Centres during voting hours. And, in all the Voting Centres visited, without one exception, all the Vote Casting Areas were intentionally compromised by INEC and corrupt politicians in such a way that willing Voters were very easily displaying their Thumb Printed Ballot Papers (like President Buhari did during Presidential Election) to unscrupulous Party Agents for 5 cups of rice or 5 packs of Indomie. In some cases, Voters were paid N5,000 per person via Bank POS Mchines in plain view for such unwholesome display of the Party they voted for. Folks, the Vote Casting Areas were literally turned into Market Places where votes were freely bought and sold with active approval of INEC staff and tacit support of Law Enforcement officials.

In my humble opinion, if the Vote Casting Area is arranged by INEC staff in a way that promotes Secret Balloting, Vote-Buying by corrupt politicians will be greatly minimised. And this, in of itself, will significantly improve our battered and non credible Election Results that fuel Court Litigation and judicial bonanza.

Second, the Ballot Paper Design needs improvement. Most voters and INEC staff agree that the Ballot Paper Thumb Printing Space is too small for an average voter to thumb print without invalidating his or her vote. In a particular incident that went viral during the Presidential Election, an incumbent senator and ex-governor was gleefully displaying his badly thumb printed and invalid Ballot Paper. If a Distinguished Senator cannot get it right, what about an average Grandma that spent three (3) hours standng in blazing sun to cast her vote? Oh My God!!! What have I done!!! Please pardon me for calling him a distinguished senator because I shouldn’t have, for a good reason. A Senator is NOT distinguished just because he is in the Senate; rather, a senator is distinguished because he is distinguished in a chosen “legitimate” endeavour that propelled him to Senate.

Third, but not the least, a “Paperless-Voting” already in existence in some African countries is the way forward. This technology is readily available in Nigeria because if Party Agents can buy votes at the Pooling Centres with Bank POS Machines, Voters Card (PVC) can as well be modified to perform same function as Bank Card and voting done digitally outside the piercing and menacing eyes of Party Agents and corrupt INEC staff.

A popular argument against Digital Voting in Nigeria is that our electorate is not educated and sophisticated enough. I disagree. If digitally challenged individuals can use GSM and Bank ATM/POS, am pretty sure that they can vote digitally with minimal voter education by INEC and National Orientation Agency.

Be that as it may, we’re done with Phases 1 & 2 of 2023 Election. We are now in final phase and, Nigeria is on a thin ice!!!

♦ Okey (Oduma) Chidolue, Esq. writes from Nnewi, Anambra State

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