Political historians usually associate periods in a country’s political history with a certain brand of politics and Nigeria is not an exception to this. At present, it is the politics of money that dominates Nigerian politics.
What exactly do I mean by politics of money? It is that kind of politics whereby members of a political party offer money and other things in order to win support from certain individual or communities during an election campaign. In the last election campaign, it was not uncommon to hear of instances where people were given money, rice, stockfish, salt and cloths. In return, the recipient would cast their votes for a specified political party. At the end of the day, they realised that they sold their right which is their vote to a wrong party.
This is the right time, the electorate have to be educated on free and fair electioneering, now that the 2011 general election is around the corner. The public should be well instructed on the conduct of elections. In 2007, some people were not fully informed on voting procedures. As a result, many votes were lost through invalidation. The thumb impression were not properly made on the ballot papers. The masses ought to know the importance of a democratic election. They ought to know that an election provides simultaneously the opportunity to choose a party that will form the next government and the opportunity to oust the party in office whose records have been bad. The people should know that their votes can be instrumental in bringing about a change of government for the betterment of the country, thus they need to be informed and educated.
They ought to know that their votes are powerful weapons in making the party in office identify with their socio-economic goals. They should know that their votes are not to be bought with money or gifts. Rather their votes should be used to choose the right persons to represent them. That is what political democracy is all about.
Because the politics of money is against the interests of political democracy. It is associated with unfair elections. Rigging elections voting in another name, casting more than one ballot, manipulating the electorate to vote against their choice, using the security agencies to intimidate voters, brutalising of journalists, the watchdog of the society and damaging of their equipment in order not to expose their evil act, miscounting ballots or losing entire ballot boxes in rival political quarters – is the malpractice characteristics of the politics of money. Once a political party comes to power through foul means, the politicians holding office disparately try to recover electoral expenses through more malpractice such as corruption and squandering of public funds which is not beneficial to the country.
The politics of money, then is counter-productive. The electorate should endeavour to be incorruptible. The constitutional rights should not be sold for money, otherwise they will be like Esau in the Bible, who sold his birthright for mere food. The next time these budding politicians offer presents or money refuse them, and if you must, accept them but during the elections, vote for the party of your choice. The secret ballot provides security against intimidation and repercussion.
Finally, as 2011 general elections draw nearer, when the prospective politicians fail nomination, they will realise what a waste of time it is to bribe the people. The future of· this country depends on us, only when we vote for the right person and party of your choice will we have democracy, what we have today is selection and imposition of candidates on us.
Essien resides in Port Harcourt.