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Poverty reduction only solution to vote buying, says Ex-REC

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief)
15 August 2022   |   1:31 pm
The immediate past Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State, Obo Effanga, has stated that it is only an improved economy that can guarantee the total eradication of vote buying during the electioneering period in Nigeria.

Vote Buying PHOTO: freepik/Guardian Nigeria

The immediate past Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State, Obo Effanga, has stated that it is only an improved economy that can guarantee the total eradication of vote buying during the electioneering period in Nigeria.

Effanga stated this at an event organised by Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network at the weekend in Abuja.

According to him, the menace of vote buying is a societal problem and a reflection of Nigeria’s level of development and the introduction of technologies into the electoral system has made it difficult for politicians to rig elections through other means.

He said: ” If people are buying votes it means votes are important and they can only win on the basis of the votes.

“Because votes now count, politicians are going after the votes by whatever means. They find out that perhaps, the easiest means to get the votes is to pay the people to vote for them. And that is what is happening.

“On the part of INEC, our interest is that anybody who is qualified to vote is given an unfettered access to vote and when the person has voted the vote is counted and results are declared on the basis of the counted votes.

“The issue of vote buying has now become a national malaise. It now becomes the responsibility of everyone who is interested in strengthening democracy to ensure that we reduce vote buying.

“How do we do that? Information and communication. We need to let the voters know why they should not sell their votes. Because when they do, they cheapen the votes based on the amount they collect and they say to them ‘you can go ahead and do whatever you want to do we me and my future, economy and everything.”

Speaking on what INEC is doing to reduce the menace, he stated that the Commission has ensured that at the polling unit, the cubicle is kept at a distance from the preening eyes of members of the public who are around there.

“As much as possible, we are trying to do that, depending also on the space we have in the polling unit. Sometimes, when you go to these polling units it is mostly in a congested area because these are communities where you have a lot of facilities.

It could be by their market, school and square. So, the space is limited to the number of people in the polling unit. Now, we also need to talk to the voters themselves. We need to talk to the political parties that they should try and win on the basis of how they have sold their plans and programmes to the electorate. But there is another point about vote buying that I will like to raise. I think that too often people lay emphasis on what I refer to as the retail part of vote buying.

“There are different levels of vote buying and selling. There is a wholesale one; where long before the election, the aspirants are going around meeting the elites; big men and women like themselves, political leaders, and sometimes, religious and community leaders and making promises to them and offering them things. These people, in return, endorse them to the extend that something has been exchanged. We hardly talk about that.

“There is the middleman level of vote buying which happens at party primaries. Suddenly we now talk of delegates who have become super rich. That is also vote buying.

“But the elites do not talk about it because they are the ones involved. On election day, the person now opens his or her retail shop to sell votes. That is the one everybody talks about.

“If we are committed to stopping it then we should talk about it all through. It is a societal problem and a reflection of our level of development. So if people are unable to access the good things of life they give their votes for any amount of money. But by the time our economy improves those things would be a thing of the past”, he stated.

Effanga added that INEC was working to ensure that the issue of Diaspora voting is laid to rest once and for all, staying “any Nigerian in any part of the world should be able to vote because the person is a Nigerian and what happens in Nigeria is of concern to the person”

He said. “Even if he is not affected directly, the relations are affected. So, if the person is willing to vote should be given the opportunity to vote. For now the only way the person can vote is to come and vote physically in Nigeria because the law so far makes it that way. We do not have a provision for polling units outside the country. Even when that comes, we, also, have to be careful. It is something that has to be done. It will be done eventually. Some of the technologies INEC is using now we even had it.”

The President, Zespronet, Emeka Orji, stated that the organisation has concluded plans to embark on two huge projects both in Abia State University and Imo State University respectively.

Aside from that, Orji said the organisation would also in the next few years have an impactful project in each state university in South Eastern Nigeria.

“Most importantly that the Governors of the South Eastern states in Nigeria will seek us out to partner with us in the coming years in bringing the best practices not just in the educational sector but other sectors of the economy.

“Our think tank group has designed blueprints on how to potentiate the huge economic base in South East Nigeria into reality by encouraging all the State Governors to work together for the collective good of the people irrespective of party differences

“For instance, we have the knowledge base to encourage the Governors into focusing and pushing for interconnectivity of the gas pipelines from Abia State through Imo State to the major business centers of Aba, Nnewi, Onitsha, Enugu and Abakaliki that will bring businesses back to these cities, increase Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and reduce reliance on the monthly allocations from the Federal Government”, he said.