By Deshi Munkuwe
As a seasoned politician, how can you describe the current train of ‘Votes Buying’ during elections in Nigeria?
Let me start by pointing out that democracy is the best system of government where the citizens have the right and opportunity to decide who leads them with specification of a period or tenure. Nigeria as a country has benefited from this system and of course since 1999 till date have experienced an uninterrupted democracy for more than two decades.
Being that voting by ballots is the process through which leaders are elected, that remains the paramount tool in the hands of the masses to decide who rules them.
Apparently, one can imagine when these rights are sold for money, even monies that cannot take the receiver anywhere or pays his or her minor bills.
I can tell you the issue of vote buying is gradually becoming a norm during our elections and it is indeed a course for worry and concern that all Nigerians must say no to it and discourage it in its totality.
Why do you think politicians prefer using money to buy votes against the presentation of convincing manifestos?
The politicians involved in vote buying are doing that on the basis of incompetence and lack of credibility. And those bad eggs in the political field have nothing good in their manifestos to convince the masses that is why they have to look for ways to steal the mandates of the common people by presenting little cash to them.
So, since they have nothing to show in terms of qualification, they will prefer using what they have to get what they want which is detrimental to our democracy and growth as a nation.
Some scholars are of the opinion that lack of voter’s education is one major cause of vote buying. If you agree or disagree with that, give reasons?
Yes, I agree with that opinion absolutely. Our electoral stakeholders have not done enough in educating the masses on basics and the vitality of their voting rights. As in our case, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and likes have not done enough in educating the electorate in understanding that no amount of money is worth their votes.
When the majority of the masses are informed of the implications of selling their votes which is equally selling their rights to social amenities and the future, it will do a lot in discouraging these bad acts during our elections.
What other factors are responsible for vote buying in Nigeria’s politics?
Other factors causing vote buying apart from lack of voters’ education is poverty. Most of our leaders have failed in their responsibilities and that has affected the wellbeing of the masses, making them have the choice of selling their vote to survive.
Also, the electorates may decide to sell their votes when they see that their votes even when cast don’t count. It is obvious in Nigeria to see unpopular people emerging winners in elections and occupying positions of power.
How has vote buying affected the discharge of duties by those voted into power?
The leaders that occupy positions by vote buying are likely to fail in the discharge of their duties because at first they lack credibility before buying votes. Secondly, they take politics as business where one invests money during elections in order to recover what they invest even with much interest while in the office.
More so, those that got to positions of power by vote buying are not expected to be accountable to the masses. And by that there would be abuse of power and absolute failure in discharge of their duties.
In an act of discouraging vote buying, what do you have to tell both vote sellers and buyers?
Vote buying is undemocratic and definitely an ill in our electoral process that must be hated and discouraged by both contestants and electorates.
Anambra state governor election is fast approaching, what do you have to tell the electorates and contestants?
The electorates should get their PVCs ready and come out in mass to vote based on credibility and nothing more. Electorates must also vote peacefully and protect their vote equally in a peaceful manner. The Anambra people must see the forthcoming election as an opportunity to decide for their next four years.
On the part of the contestants, the election is not and shouldn’t be seen as a do or die affair. Campaigns should be done peacefully and all contestants must know that in an election, there must be a winner and a loser. And also failing one election at a time doesn’t mean that is the end of life. Elections come in seasons, so there will always be another opportunity to contest and even win.
And my words for both electorates and contestants, let there be no selling or buying of votes as that is unhealthy for our electoral system and democracy at large.
How best do you think the government and other stakeholders can do in sensitizing electorates against voting bad leaders?
Let there be more voter education campaigns by the government through its media agencies and INEC should do more in sensitizing the public on their civic rights, the right to vote is of most importance and shouldn’t be compromised for whatever reason.
The government and private institutions must ensure that the campaigns were taken to both rural and urban areas in an aim to educate all credible voters on their rights and how to go about exercising those rights.
As the National President of Almushahid Initiative for Transparency and Accountability (AITA), tell us what your organization is doing in sensitizing the public on political activities?
AITA as an anti-corruption NGO is responsible to create awareness amongst Nigeria to ensure sanity in the process of leadership and fellowship towards having transparent dealings in both public and private establishments, a task we have been doing and will continue to do until our society gets better.
Our NGO is sensitive to issues that have to do with elections because that is when leaders are chosen and if good leaders with integrity are elected, fighting corruption would be easier.
So, sensitizing the masses on key issues like voters’ education is who we are doing will do more now that elections are approaching.