THE Ekiti State governorship election that held penultimate Saturday was not just a national disaster; it was also an international shame. It was everything an election should not be. Politicians were unabashedly dishing out money to electorate who unashamedly collected same to do the bidding of the politicians while security operatives conveniently looked the other way.
No less a medium than the BBC reported how Ekiti citizens scampered like chased hares to a particular place the Friday before the election to collect money meant to sway them to vote for a particular candidate. There were also reports of party agents paying voters who provided proofs of voting for their candidates. The two leading political parties in the contest; the PDP and the APC, were particularly guilty of this charade. So, the Ekiti election was not a superiority fight of ideas on how to improve the lot of the people, neither was it a contest of visions to make Ekiti better. It was not also a contest between good and evil, it was simply a contest between evil and evil; it was a street fight between state and federal money.
How did we arrive at this sorry pass as a nation? How did we find ourselves in such a deplorable situation that electorate would gleefully sell their power to the highest bidder? What has happened to our pride as a people? While I know and concede that democracy is ultimately about gratification through its dividends, why do we as a people equate instant gratification with democratic dividends? When did we start seeing casting a vote as a meal ticket? When did we start seeing moneybags as our democratic saviours?
Methinks the ugly incidence in Ekiti State happened because politicians were goaded by desperation for power; they wanted power at any cost for its sake, while the electorate were driven by frustration fuelled by deprivation and poverty. Where the two hold sway, decency takes flight, rationality goes on vacation and the implausible is embraced. When desperation meets frustration the common people become the victims because while the politicians eventually get what they want one way or the other, the people are left in the lurch to nurse their wounds and count their woes. This is because where prebendalism and pedestrianism are elevated to high heavens development is arrested and progress is only possible in the reverse.
Now, will an Aliko Dangote who has labored to build his business empire throw away his money like that because he wants political power? Will a Tony Elumelu, who knows what he had to go through to get to where he is, throw away his hard-earned money like the Ekiti politicians did just because he wants to win a political contest? The import of this is that our democracy will only throw up the worst amongst us as leaders and for as long as that is the situation, our glorious days shall always remain in the past. What else can be expected in a country overseen by men of primordial greed? If we reduce our electoral contests to mercantilism, what stops drug barons, kidnap kingpins and armed robbers who have stockpiled money to team up and take over the government? Anyone who thinks that is farfetched may as well believe that Laos is the same thing as Lagos.
This slide should be arrested before it degenerates any further. We cannot just fold our arms as a people and allow men of uncontrollable lust for power to ruin our common patrimony. Every person of good conscience must speak against the unconscionable raid and rape that happened in Ekiti State. According to our laws, vote buying is a criminal offence. So, why is no one taking any step to bring those affected to book, given the available evidence? Why is this conspiracy of silence? According to Professor Wole Soyinka, the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny. Has the man died in every one of us? Are we so used to illegality that our sensibilities are no longer offended by brazen crimes? Or are we thinking that the pervasiveness of the electoral crime perpetrated by both the PDP and the APC legitimized it?
I think the first step in correcting this anomaly and checking it from spreading to other states is for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the election instead of chest-thumping and ‘self-congratulations,’ and disqualify the parties involved in voters’ inducement from a rescheduled election to serve as deterrent to others. Section 124 of Electoral Act (2010) stipulates that paying money to voters at any election attracts a fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. The same section prescribes the same penalty for anyone who gets paid to vote one way or the other. This is an opportunity to try the efficacy of this provision. If we shut our eyes to this infraction, the leadership of our country would fall into wrong hands and we shall wake up one day to find out that we no longer have a country that is worth the name.
Posterity will not be kind to anyone who can do something about this situation but fails to do it. This is the time to arise and save Nigeria from imminent collapse. This is not the time for political correctness. Delay is dangerous.
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