As weeks give way to days to the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has told Nigerians that the electoral unpire was working out the details with security agencies on how to check vote buying during the elections.
By way of definition, vote buying refers to monetary or material inducement of the electorates by political actors in exchange for their votes. This strategy, though not new appears to hold great attraction to political actors because of the introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation Machines, an electronic device designed to read Personal Voter’s Cards and also authenticate the voters.
This electronic system flatly nullifies the old systems of rigging, including ballot stuffing and carting away of results by hired hoodlums.
Realising that votes will count in the 2023 elections, courtesy of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s commitment to improving Nigeria’s electoral process, politicians have since deviced some ingenius ways and means of securing certain number of votes per voting point.
They are rumoured to have gone ahead to be discretely paying some persons on their list, and encouraging the payees to reach out to others in the name of house to house campaigns, with money and material gifts, some before, and, others during the elections.
For the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, therefore, to tell Nigerians that they are consulting with security agencies on how to check vote buying so late in the day, after the votes have been allegedly mortgaged, leaves one wondering if they are referring to the elections where machinery for vote buying have since been activated.
Besides, there are also fears that the limited number of security officials vis-a-vis the spread of the voting points nation wide would make effective coverage unrealistic. However, in case the coverage, is possible, we suggest, that efforts be made towards ensuring that every polling point is manned by at least three armed security operatives, who will ensure that there are no interferences in the voting process.
If the INEC and security agencies can match their words with action by providing enabling environment for peope to vote freely for candidates of their choice, then the elections will be free and fair and Nigerians may have no reason to doubt the outcome as a fair reflection of the wish of the people.
However, if the system is allowed to be porous as usual, and in some extreme cases, security officials themselves taking sides, then the electoral process may not be different from what we are used to, and with the introduction of BVAs technoligy, we may end up creating more problems than we set out to solve.