Feelers emanating from preparations for the November gubernatorial poll in Anambra State point to the fact that old habits die hard. Politicians claim to be operating in a democratic environment. But their desperation and the win- at- all- cost mentality will not let democracy flower as it should. Already, all the candidates and their parties have decided not to leave anything to chance as they embark on a shopping spree for the all- important voter’s card that holds the key to victory and defeat in that and any election.
Reports indicate that for as low as N5, 000, prospective voters are willing to mortgage their future and those of their children. In some areas, it was also reported that the card can be sold and bought for N7, 000 or N10, 000 for hard bargainers. It is not as if the trend is new, it is just that we thought that Nigerian voters, after almost 16 years of misrule, must have learnt a few lessons on how not to sell their consciences to the highest bidder. From what is currently going on in Anambra State, it is obvious that nothing has changed. Well, something has actually changed. Voter’s card used to go for some cups of rice, loaves of bread or, for those who prefer to be monetised, N500. That they are demanding for N5, 000 is, indeed, an improvement. Shameful and despicable as it is.
The explanation has always been that the voters are ignorant, poor or both. But instead of selling their cards, they should also ask themselves why they are poor or even ignorant. Part of the reason is that they choose to live for the moment as tomorrow, when it comes, in their mind, will take care of itself. That tomorrow must come with bad governance, corruption, fraud and embezzlement of public fund. Schools will not be built, health facilities will not be provided for, roads will not be constructed and salaries will not be paid. Worse, the people will not have the moral courage or effrontery to confront the leaders to ask questions. Because they sold that right when they sold their cards.
For the politicians who go all out to hoodwink the prospective voters, take undue advantage of their lowly circumstances and disenfranchise them, service is considered only to the extent that it will provide an opportunity for them to line their pockets with ill-gotten wealth, indulge in self-aggrandisement and enrich their generations yet unborn. In doing this, the first thing that goes is their conscience if it ever existed. The politicians and their agents who bought them are not Santa Claus, Father Christmas. For them, it is an investment that must be recouped at a later date when the election is over and they achieve victory.
In our opinion, from what is going on now in Anambra State, it is glaring that the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) still has plenty of work to do. Education of the electorate on such matters, if it has started, may not have scratched the surface yet. Public enlightenment campaigns must not wait until the eve of the election when it would have been too late. The National Orientation Agency (NOA), on its part, must get off its butts and do the needful to let the voters know that their power over office seekers is the voter’s card that has the capability to stop bad politicians from getting close to the offices the dream of and even throw them out when they manage to smuggle themselves in through the back door. There has been suggestions that the police should move in and arrest culprits. This is possible only when a voter complains that his or her card has been stolen and the thief can be identified. What is going in Anambra State is strictly business. It is consensual. The seller and the buyer are doing business. Only moral suasion can bring about a change of heart. And that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
What is going on in that state, in our view, draws attention, in a forceful way, to the miserable economic situation the people find themselves. It is our conjecture that, in most cases, the voter who is about to sell his card, knows that what he is doing is wrong. The politician himself, even as he shuts down the humanity in him, deep down suffers the pangs of betrayal of trust, of expectation no matter how much he tries to suppress it. The problem can only be solved through a joint effort of the governments at all levels, INEC, the media and of course the security agencies. They owe posterity greater commitment to nurturing the ideals of democracy which we all crave for.