16 July 2018

Nigeria: How 'See and Buy' Strategy Outsmarted 'Stomach Infrastructure' in Ekiti

Ado-Ekiti — Although last Saturday's gubernatorial election in Ekiti State might have been won and lost, it has added another dimension to the country's electoral process.No doubt, it will have a direct or indirect influence in the conduct of next year's general election.

Political parties in the state appear to be in the forefront of introducing new innovations and political strategies to win the hearts of the electorate, in ensuring victory at the poll. In 2014, for instance, the outgoing Governor, Ayodele Fayose, introduced 'Stomach Infrastructure', which was perfectly deployed to unseat the former governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who emerged the governor-elect on Saturday.

What the All Progressives Congress (APC) adopted on Saturday, 'See And Buy' was a more advanced form of 'Stomach Infrastructure' strategy that was re-enacted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), although it couldn't save it from defeat.

The Guardian confirmed widespread voters inducement, from the two major political parties. But, while PDP shared the money at the eve of the election to the next day, what the APC did was to see evidence that they have been voted for, before getting the N5, 000.

This development has not only attracted wide criticism, it has also ridiculed the country in the eyes of foreign observers, who watched helplessly as bails of money were shared openly at Polling Units.

A civil society organisation, YIAGA AFRICA, which monitored the election through its Watching The Vote (WTV), strongly frowned against the development, which it claims undermines political legitimacy and makes mockery of the country's democracy.

The group said: "We need to shut the industry of vote buying. This growing trend needs to be abated ahead of subsequent elections. INEC should take intentional steps to protect the secrecy of the ballot to enforcing her electoral guidelines. The security agencies should devise new strategies for detecting and apprehending individuals or groups involved in vote buying and selling during elections.

"There is need for openness and transparency in the deployment of security personnel for elections. This will boost confidence in electoral stakeholders and citizens. The membership of the inter agency Committee on Election Security (ICCES) needs to be reviewed to mainstream other stakeholders like civil society,"

For Women Arise for Change, which also reacted, the development negates tenets of democracy, anti-corruption, which really exposed the country to ridicule, both locally and internationally.

Its Senior Programme Officer, Olufemi Lawson, who spoke with The Guardian in Ado-Ekiti said: "Unfortunately, for us as a people, while INEC did creditably well to conduct a credible election, security agencies did not help matters, as they were looking at party agents, who were sharing money, while buying of votes were being done openly. It is something that gave negative impression about our electoral system."

Even, the Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN), which lent its voice on the development, described voters' inducement as a rape of democracy.The party's governorship candidate, Bisi Omoyeni, while demanding the poll cancellation, said: "They have killed democracy in Nigeria. If democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, what happened yesterday shouldn't have happened. We are practising secret voting system, but the election was open everywhere. What we saw was 'see and buy, like a Bazaar.'

"There are two types of monetising election, the one adopted on Saturday was-show me who you vote and get paid. It's unfortunate for Nigeria's democracy. It is a Bazaar."If PDP is issuing N5, 000 to voters, APC will issue N10, 000. INEC and observers were looking at them as the voter inducement went on. They told us they were there just to observe as observers. This is not good for Nigeria," he said.

In all, the electoral umpire appeared to have got its acts right, as distribution of materials and other issues that question its integrity in the past were properly addressed. YIAGA AFRICA, told journalists that official results released by INEC reflect the ballot cast at the polling units.

The body recommends INEC and other stakeholders to undertake robust voter education to enlighten voters and stakeholders on the new innovations.Lawson of Women Arise for Change said INEC performed credibly well in the discharge of its mandate. "As early as 8:00am materials and personnel were on ground in about 80 per cent of the voting centre. Unlike in previous elections, the card readers were functional. "The incident of last Saturday has necessitated the call again for us to restructure this country, because if we continue like this, it will be disastrous."

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