Come Saturday, November 6, 2021, the people of Anambra State will come out in mass to vote for the candidate of their choice as the governor of that state.
Voting is a fundamental ingredient of democracy. In a democracy, voting is the right of all eligible citizens. It is the main pillar of democracy and remains the only means through which any leader is chosen. It is the most important duty of citizens to elect officeholders who will exercise the caretaker of the polity.
Voting in an election shows citizens’ commitment and care about their communities. Voting is the best way to influence the local government, state, or nation in which we live. The votes of the citizens hold the local, state, and national leaders responsible for the decisions they make.
As Anambra people head to the polls on Saturday, they should endeavor to vote for credible people or candidates as this would determine the fate and direction of the state for the next four years. Those who sell their votes will surely get what they voted for. They will get corrupt and inept leadership that will regard government as his property since he got in through purchased votes.
Given the importance of voting in a democracy, no effort should be spared to ensure that Anambra people enjoy the right to vote for the governor of their choice. This has become imperative given the level of insecurity in the South East in general and Anambra State in particular.
People have expressed apprehension about the voter turnout for the election especially given that the election will be held within the period that the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had threatened to enforce a sit-at-home order, from November 4 to 10th November. However, IPOB has said it was not targeting to disrupt or stop people from voting in Anambra election. This is even as the South East Council of Traditional
Rulers and the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, have urged IPOB not to do anything that would hinder or be seen to be hindering the smooth running of the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. They have urged for the cancellation of any sit-at-home orders, as these have already caused untold hardship for
the people. The monarchs and clerics also called on all the candidates in the forthcoming governorship election to eschew violence and commit to a free, fair, and credible election.
Government is also not taking chances to ensure that the people of Anambra State come out to vote on Saturday. Already, ahead of the governorship poll, the Inspector-General of Police, Baba Usman, has ordered a major overhaul of the security architecture in the state. He had consequently dispatched the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Force Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, Joseph Egbunike as the coordinator of the election security in the state.
Egbunike will be assisted by ‘seasoned strategic commanders’ from the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police and above for effective supervision of security personnel and operations in the elections.
In the past, the militarization of elections had resulted in very low voter turnouts. With the huge number of security personnel expected to be in Anambra, one believes that many voters will be too scared to come out of their homes on election day. However, such a huge deployment is necessary in view of the threats of violence on those who come out to vote. The police and the military as well as other security agencies deployed to Anambra should ensure that voters enjoy their right to vote while preventing non-state actors from disrupting this all-important election.
No effort should be spared to ensure a free and fair election in Anambra State because failure to have a credible election will be seen internationally and locally as a failure of Nigerian democracy!
The importance of free and fair elections cannot be overemphasized. Free and fair elections are important because with a vote comes a voice. When citizens cannot speak freely or are banned from elections, whole groups of people become disenfranchised, then, their rights and interests are ignored. When the opposition is suppressed, citizens cannot elect leaders that will work to assuage their grievances.
Free and fair elections are an important step toward economic empowerment. USAID states that “Critical development efforts cannot succeed without a legitimate and democratically elected government that is responsive and accountable to its citizens.”
To ensure a free and fair election on Saturday the security agents should curb vote-buying, a phenomenon that is now corrupting our electoral system. Like a typical marketplace, the politicians, political parties, and party agents are the vote buyers while prospective voters are the sellers. The commodity on sale is the vote while the medium of exchange is monetary and non-monetary. The market force that determines the value or price of a vote is the level of desperation of politicians to win in a locality.
Although money and other valuables can be used to effectuate vote buying, political actors have adopted two main approaches to buying votes on Election Day. The first is the Cash for Vote approach. It involves giving or promising the prospective voter some agreed amount of money well before the individual casts his or her vote at the polling station. The payment is done before the actual voting and could be within the vicinity of the polling station or farther away.
The ‘settlement’ is made secretly or in the open. Often, the vote buyers demanded evidence of ownership of a voter’s card and assurance that the voter will vote for their party before offering the money. In this approach, trust is key to the contract. It is also known as the pre-paid method of vote-buying.
The second approach is the Vote for Cash. It involves giving or rewarding the voter with the agreed amount of money or material compensation after the individual has shown evidence that he or she voted for the party. There are several ways the voter can prove to the vote buyer that he or she voted for the agreed candidate. One method is where the voter shrewdly displays the ballot paper that (s)he has thumb printed in favour of a particular party so that the party agent standing strategically nearby can confirm compliance. Another method is for the voter to photograph the thumb-printed ballot paper to show as evidence. Thereafter, compensation in cash and/or kind can occur either immediately or at the close of balloting, and may take place within the precinct of the polling station or at an agreed place. In this approach, evidence is key to the consummation of the contract. This approach is also known as the “see and buy” or the post-paid method.
The vote-buying practice, which is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy, has become a common feature of party primaries and general elections conducted in recent years in Nigeria.
The reason this column is exposing these processes of vote-buying ahead of the Anambra election is to remind security agents and stakeholders what to look out for to stop the practice and thus, ensure free and fair elections.
It is also important to note that vote-buying and selling is a crime under our laws, so perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. The election in Anambra must not only be free and fair but it must also be seen to be so. Therefore, the security agents and the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be impartial to ensure that whoever emerges, as the next governor of Anambra State is the choice of the people.