By Saheed Olanrewaju Ganiyu
“Talk is cheap, voting is free; take it to the polls.” – Nanette L. Avery
All over the world, elections are held to avert tyranny and anarchy and chiefly for the people to avail themselves of the opportunity to choose their desired representatives to represent them in government.
In conformity to the norms, the popularity of candidates in Nigeria is put to test through elections.
As a mechanism for democratic rule, citizens speak with their votes in support of a candidate of their choice and go against any candidate whom they feel cannot take them to the promised land. Thus, the will of the people as expressed by their votes and the power belongs to them under democratic rule.
Unlike the monarchy system, the people are presented with the opportunity to choose their leaders through free, fair, and periodic elections and this is no doubt a system that gives the people a sense of belonging as it showcases the principle of a republic nation.
Ordinarily, the mandate of political leaders in any society is to work for the betterment of such a society without being driven by egocentric thinking to amass public wealth. This set of politicians is patriotic. i.e they have the love of their country at heart, they are visionary, ready to work and place the needs of the masses over theirs.
Moreover, they understand what society desires before they dabble in politics. Therefore, they see it as a way to serve humanity.
Obviously, this has been the status quo in Nigeria before the present-day crop of politicians who believe that victory in a race is worth dying for to dominate the field. This set of desperate political leaders has in their Machiavellian approach, commercialized governance. And the people too, as a result of impunity on the part of government and certain policies to impoverish the masses believe in this commercialism.
Unarguably, the mindset of voters in the twenty-first century is quite different from that of the voters of those days.
In the old days, the people used to cast their votes for candidates who knew the meaning of dividends of democracy and what leadership was all about. But the reverse is the case nowadays.
While the current situation portrays the people as someone who is lacking in political education, it is logical for anyone who is living in abject poverty caused by the politicians to exchange their votes for cash and any other available paucity of food items to survive hunger till the next day.
However, there is an imminent danger of socio-political abnormalities in a country where this aberrant behavior has become a usual practice.
It leaves one flabbergasted why voters in this age of democracy have to push their way through the throng to get incentives from politicians before they can cast their votes for the candidate of their choice —– one that brings them cash and other stuff to get votes.
Meanwhile, the situation was not as shocking as it is nowadays, the people used to vote for politicians to bring development and to be represented in government without having any vested interest.
Comparatively, there had been a number of selfless politicians who would think of sustainable development for their people in Northern and Southern Nigeria before the society started producing the present-day political leaders who believe that all roads lead to government offices to make capital out of representing people in government.
As things continue to go unchecked, impunity surfaces and the politicians feel that they can do all sorts of inappropriate things especially those that the constitution failed to criminalize like soliciting votes with cash and much other electoral fraud.
Voters started requesting cash and other ephemeral materials soon after the caliber of people who contribute immensely towards Nigeria’s independence and others who are patriotic to a fault were out of politics.
Apparently, there are indications that voters no longer put their trust in any politician as many of them have robbed the democracy in the name of representing the people.
If the narrative does not result in political apathy, the ‘Dibo K’osebe’ syndrome will no doubt become the order of the day in a country where there is no limit to the lust for the materialism of those entrusted with political power.
The politicians in question are always ready to go to the ends of the, they don’t give a damn what they make the people go through. They are only interested in winning the race; hence they resort to giving out cash, four yards of fabric, a tuber of yam, one kilogramme of rice, beans, cassava granules, and a fistful of groundnut snack (Kulikuli), etc, each foodstuff material for each voter.
Vote becomes a commodity when politicians are not willing to deliver on their campaign promises after getting elected. And the voters too are not willing to vote for free again. They both agree to exchange cash for votes to the detriment of their country’s future.
This reprehensible act by the political actors has finally escalated to what someone cannot even think could be happening in this modern age to the extent that cash is given out to voters right at the polling booth in the presence of security personnel and officials of the electoral umpire. They compel beneficiaries of their offers to swear by the “god of iron” that evil shall befall them if they failed to vote for them.
These beneficiaries are not doing so out of gullibility, they think their votes should not go for anything since it is not easy to come by a credible candidate to fight their corner in government.
Interestingly, ‘Dibo K’osebe’, a Yoruba phrase coined by the people of the South-West geo-political zone in Nigeria to describe the present-day election that is characterized by all manners of hanky-panky between the politicians and the voters.
The phrase connotatively suggests the practice of giving out cash to voters usually by the politicians to solicit votes.
This usually plays out at the polling booths while elections are in progress.
On a final note, this practice is a social problem that those at the helm should frown upon and make legislations to make such an act a criminal offense in order to put things right as this is not typical of a sovereign nation where people who are politically savvy inhabit.
The syndrome cannot in any way help the people of Nigeria. Therefore, the government should put on the front burner measures and discussion against this social problem to be on the verge of extinction.
Ganiyu writes from Accra, Ghana