By Sunday Egbowon

Through the years, electing politicians into public office in Nigeria has posed a serious challenge as many Nigerians have lost confidence in the candidates, as well as the flawed electoral process. The Nigerian electoral system has turned out to be a case of the battle of the biggest spenders. The money bags win the elections.

Nigeria is a place where the divide between the rich and the poor is very wide. However, during the electioneering process and the election proper, you discover that chasm closes up nearly overnight. It is at times like these that you see presidential candidates walking the streets, relating with masses they have neglected for the four years they were in office and only remember as elections approach. You will also find that boreholes are being sunk overnight to meet the water demand of the people; a demand that has lingered for more than three to four years. Likewise, roads get patched overnight. Why do they do this? Well, the answer is not farfetched.

One reason is that they know that returning to that office again or going there for the first time requires the people’s votes. Anyone who nurtures a political ambition in Nigeria, must be prepared to break the bank before making their intention to vie for any political office known because vote buying appears to be the order of the day. In the Nigeria of today, political ambitions are not gentlemanly handled; you must be prepared for war because of the incentives that are available. Our political system has now given relevance to thuggery and hooliganism making their adventure an interesting one.

To win an election in Nigeria, you must be able to pay by hiring thugs and hooligans to disrupt the process.  Our electoral processes are faulty; election is marred with various irregularities, and incumbency power has become a machinery in the hands of people, or party as against the wish and mandate of the people.

The political madness and insanity of so-called politicians are set loose during elections. Nigerian politicians become dancers at the gates of the common man, either begging for votes or buying votes. The drama is beyond the expression of mouth as many turn comedians on the streets.

During the campaign period of the just concluded presidential election, the popular slogan was, ‘if you are not Atikulating, you are on track for the next level’. Our case can surely be best described as suffering and smiling.

There were two forms of vote buying I observed during the just concluded presidential report. One, politicians who became Father Christmas few months, weeks, or days by doling out cash to market women and others, is a form of indirect vote buying which I call the primary vote buying. The second one is what is called Pay As You Go, which is the secondary type. This is the way it works: take and vote for me or my party.

My worry is, how do we hold these people accountable in their failure to deliver the deliverables? Well, if you are one of those who received money to cast your vote, your service has been paid for, because you cannot expect a “thank you” from a customer after payment has been made on goods purchased. Nigeria election is now a buyer-seller relationship. Political office seekers are buyers while the electorates are the sellers and we know in the business language, the highest bidder gets the shot.

Nigerians should be more concerned about breaking the cycle of political hardship, but alas, the reverse is the case as many are Atikulating while others are chanting the Next Level. Political offices have unfortunately become business ventures with contestants unable to clearly spell out their manifestoes. Other nations in the world are on the watchlist for technological advancement while Nigeria ‘develops’ election rigging mechanisms. We have developed innovative ways of buying votes, snatching ballot boxes, and even deliberate, calculated disenfranchisement of voters. Above all these, money remains the pied piper, dictating election results.

Egbowon is a political scientist, academic consultant and social commentator currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Ibadan. He can be reached at egbowonsunday@gmail.com

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