With an intense atmosphere of election readiness from ward to ward, local government areas to local government areas and from states to states by respective Presidential candidates, it is no longer news that the 2019 election is just a day ahead of us. Over 88 million people constitute the electorate out of the total population of close to 200 million Nigerians who have collected their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), and are going to exercise their franchise by electing the leader that will oversee the affairs of our great nation for the next four years.
According to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 42,938,458 youths between ages 18-35 partook in the voters registration to obtain their PVCs, occupying 51.11% of the total population of 84,004,084 people that are qualified to vote in 2019 elections . INEC also claimed that over 20 million registered voters are students out of the 42 million population. This depicts the fact that the youths are major stakeholders and constitute a greater part of the electorate. Hence we are powerful, influential and can be considered a major deciding factor of the fate of this country, come tomorrow February 16th and on March 2nd. The future of our dear country, therefore, rests on us.
Unfortunately, in times past and now, the youths have sadly been the tool used by political actors to achieve their selfish interests. Whenever it’s time for election they usually come to us with vain and unachievable promises to entice us, so as to gain power for themselves. At times, some of us are used as thugs or bandits to ambush the opponents of the oppressor, beat up people, snatch ballot boxes, and so on. However, as the story goes, our fate is dashed once they assume power. We become rejected, dejected, frustrated and cast away. We begin to bleat about underdevelopment, unemployment, insecurity and other social vices and maladies that pervade our society. They totally forget that we contributed to their, it was our efforts, whether bad or good, that put them in that seat.
As the elections are almost here, we the electorate (especially youths) must understand the power of our votes when choosing who to vote for. We must ensure to conduct an integrity check on all candidates to ascertain if they have the kind of value system that we can imbibe and will promote our nation to the next level, before we select our choice candidates.
Elections time is not the time for us to be used by the old wagons, but rather it is a time that the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people” should be actualised. Sadly, many of us ask candidates aspiring for several positions what they will offer us and forget to ask the candidates what they will not do. In knowing what they can’t do or are not willing to do, we will be able to discern if they will truly fulfil their campaign promises.
Vote buying has now become the order of the day. The Ekiti and Osun State 2018 gubernatorial elections witnessed widespread vote buying in Nigeria history, where voters were induced with money by desperate politicians and some were seen selling their conscience for a token amount that couldn’t even last for a month. “Vote buying is rarely an isolated action, and it perpetuates corruption throughout the entire political system. When a candidate chooses to pay for support, rather than compete fairly for votes, they show a disregard for democratic norms and a willingness to use illegal means,” Uwamahoro said. According to an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA, Frederic Schaffer, “vote-buying is giving reward to a person for voting in a particular way”. In his piece, ‘Poverty, Democracy, and Clientelism: The Political Economy of Vote Buying’, Schaffer noted that “vote-buying, in its literal sense, is a simple economic exchange, wherein voters sell their votes to candidates, sometimes to the highest bidder, in an election”.
According to the Electoral Act 2010, Article 130, “A person who – (a) corruptly by himself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or (b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraph (a) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both”. Imagine that you collected N5, 000 from a candidate to vote him/her into power, that means you have sold your franchise for N104 per month for 4 good years, which is quite hilarious and sarcastic. Why should you stoop so low to sell your vote for such an outrageous amount of money. Your vote is your power; it’s a tool to change our country from underdevelopment to development, if well utilized and maximized.
Imagine if all youths in Nigeria decide not to defile themselves with the proverbial kings meat (vote buying), the same way Daniel and his peers did in the Holy Bible in Daniel 1:8, and after 10 days they appeared better and fatter than all young men who ate the portion of the King’s delicacies, then we all as youths will appear better and stronger because we know their gimmicks and schemes and refuse to fall for it. This will create a consciousness in the hearts of our leaders that we are not after their money but what they have to offer us when they assume power.
It is pertinent to note that as youths, the 2019 general elections is the last hurdle for us to take our country and future back. In modern countries, youths are at the helm of affairs and power, but it’s ironical that in Nigeria, we the youths are being used as thugs and induced with money by politicians, to serve their will.
It’s high time we come back to our senses and understand the power our vote carries in this coming elections, which is a determinant for the future of our country. Let us all agree with one mind, voice and soul and elect the people that will serve our will and not theirs. The greatest obstacle and calamity that can befall us in this election is not to show up at the polls thinking that our votes don’t matter, but trust me it matters because the youths will decide the outcome of the 2019 elections.
The French Revolution was a watershed event in modern European history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Therefore as citizens (especially youths) in this country, let us lead a revolution that will raze our political system, redesign our country and uproot centuries-old institutions that have been a stumbling block to our advancement as a nation.
In conclusion, let us shun thuggery, vote buying etc, and decide the fate of our country for the next four years, by entrusting it in the hands of the right leader through the power of our vote. And together we can make Nigeria a better place.
ENL Ajala Samuel Akindele