A two-day conference on Electoral Integrity in Nigeria: Tackling Corruption in the Country’s Electoral Process opened in Abuja today with the twin-issue of corruption and vote buying taking the center stage. Through the conference, stakeholders are expected to identify and interrogate different dimensions of electoral corruption and how it impacts on electoral integrity in Nigeria.
A two-day conference on Electoral Integrity in Nigeria: Tackling Corruption in the Country’s Electoral Process opened in Abuja today with the twin-issue of corruption and vote buying taking the center stage.
Through the conference, stakeholders are expected to identify and interrogate different dimensions of electoral corruption and how it impacts on electoral integrity in Nigeria.
Organised by the Center for Democracy and Development, the conference will also explore human factors that encourage electoral corruption; examine the role of technology in curtailing or enhancing electoral corruption in Nigeria; and finally, identify strategies to tackling electoral corruption ahead of the 2019 general elections.
As different panelists took turn to discuss the theme, the issue of vote buying and selling clearly dominated the discussion with experts pointing to the dangers they portend to Nigeria’s democracy.
Lead discussant in the opening session, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, a Senior Fellow CDD noted that electoral integrity is an important component for the stability and survival of democracy. He said the lack of electoral integrity in previous elections in history (1963 and 1983) termination of democratic rule in the first and second republics in Nigeria.
He said integrity in electoral process means the outcome of the election process is determined by one person, one vote; removal of processes of manipulation; absence of violence and the candidates have access to the media during the campaigns.
Professor Ibrahim further said the electoral process would be judged credible when there is inclusiveness, there is transparency in the election process, there is accountability whereby rules and laws governing the elections are adhered to and there is competitiveness.
He observed that the growing phenomenon of vote buying poses a danger to the democratic process. “When a person who goes to vote does not do so on the basis of their conscience but on the basis of transaction, since they bought the vote, they may not be obliged to do anything when they get to power”
He posited, however, that improvements observed in the electoral process may have given rise to vote buying because the political parties are now conscious that the voters determine who wins the election and not violence or ballot snatching.
On his part, Dr Abdul Husain of PLAN International said the outrage against vote buying in the country is misplaced if corruption remains endemic in the country. He said Nigerians should question the bigger picture of the context that creates the environment for vote buying.
He said even professional bodies engage in vote buying during their delegates elections as candidates pay for accommodation, feeding and transportation noting that whoever spends money to be elected sees it as an investment and the way to arrest this trend is to deal with the larger issue of corruption.
He said vote buying has now become an issue because more people now know about it through the effect of the social media and other means of modern communication. ”Corruption is at the roots of vote buying and electoral integrity in Nigeria”
To deal with the problem, he said Nigerians should debate it and recognize it as a threat to our democracy; the political parties should be more involved in seeking a solution to the problem while pointing accusing fingers at some Civil Society Organisations for indulgence in acts of corruption and nepotism.
In the second session with the sub-theme: Political Corruption and Elections funding: Impact on Governance, panelists which included Dr. Jide Ojo, Eze onyekpere and Christina Ude noted that election funding is a driver for political corruption.
Panelist observed that as a way forward, there is a need for citizen action, establishment of whistle blowers’ protection law, investigative journalism and legal framework have to be strengthened; there should be public interest litigation.
On the issue of vote buying, it was observed that there are no sinners or saints because all the political parties are involved. Onyekpere said: “When people are improverished so much, it becomes difficult to convince them not to collect money before voting.
Dr Dayo Kusa submitted that the impact of vote buying on governance is humongous as it eliminates good healthcare, quality education and generally eliminate human dignity. She said money that should have been used to enhance the quality of citizens life through social investment, provision of infrastructure, security is spent in buying votes with the consequences that leave everybody hungry.
The third session: Is vote buying a Nigerian political culture, interrogated why people are willing to sell their votes. Vote buying was never part of the Nigerian political culture but a recent introduction. Those who engage in it understand that there is a lacuna in the system which they seek to exploit.
To curb the menace of vote buying, there is need for voter education, institutions that have roles to be played in the electoral process should be strengthened, culprits should be prosecuted. We also have to seek ways of reducing desperation on the part of the politicians by making them to be more accountable in office , make political offices less attractive and perhaps limit the terms of office of political office holders to a single term of four or five years.