Nothing matters to Nigerians nowadays than registering to vote in 2019 elections. This is a welcome development and if I have my way, I will make failure to register a “mortal sin” in my Church. This is because, in democracies, election is the only way we choose the right persons to govern us.
But registering to vote and in fact actually voting may not provide us the opportunity to choose the right persons to govern us in 2019. This is because you can only vote for those on the general election ballots. This is something that many Nigerians have not given a thought and according to INEC calendar, those that we must vote for, if we must vote, will be determined before the end of October 2018. If we can only vote for those on the general election ballots, then ensuring that the right people are on the ballots becomes the most important step we must take.
Unfortunately, the process of determining those to be on the general election ballots in Nigeria makes it hardest, if not, impossible for the right people that deserve our votes to be on the ballots. I have read the PDP guidelines on primary elections. Apparently, other parties will have similar guidelines. Basically, you pick the expensive ticket to run for the primaries having satisfied a few criteria which an average Nigerian would easily satisfy. Then you face others interested in same office in a primary election. Unless the independent candidacy bill is approved by 24 states before then, this is where we shall, as usual, loose it.
Those who vote at the primary elections are mainly party leaders at all levels and a few party members elected at various levels by party members. These people decide who will be on the general election ballots and the rest of us must either vote for them or not. The problem is that the people that decide who will be on the general election ballots are corrupt and can be bribed easily. These people make a lot of money from candidates who want to be on the general election ballots. It is alleged that in 2015, most of the voters received huge sums of money from candidates.
Tell me how your choice candidate without this kind of money can get on the general elections ballot. To me these people that receive bribes to put the wrong people that we all must vote for on the ballot are the real enemies of Nigeria. As I write, I am sure they must have already laid out plans on how to make the most money from candidates in 2018.
The challenge then is: How do we get these people to vote for the right candidates? The solution, of course, is not to tell them not to take bribes. Even if Christ tells them that, they are too gullible to resist the allure of money. May be the political parties should consider letting all party members vote in the primary elections. While this may not elimate bribery completely, it will reduce it because it would be harder for the candidates to bribe every party member. Even where they attempt to do so, the amount of money each person will receive in bribery would be insignificant to influence some people to vote for them. Whereas the lump sum that the candidates offer to the few primary voters are too alluring to resist.
A whistle blowing law could also be put in place to protect candidates who expose those that take bribes from them. I see the possibility of a candidate who loses to expose those that took bribes from him or her. If they do, they should not be punished. I am not in any way condoning the evil of giving bribe, but I see that the problem here is with the voters not with the candidates. While it is not right to give bribes, we can make one giving bribes look stupid by not accepting his or her bribe. This power lies with the voters.