Today, I was invited as a guest at The Electoral Forum’s Dialogue on “Addressing Vote Trading in Nigeria”.
In making my intervention to the discussion, I made two radical argument and solutions to Vote Trading.
1. Candidates have no power to canvass for votes under the Law. So section section 88(2) – (8) of Electoral Act is an anomaly, for the purpose of candidate campaign.
A major way to curb vote buying is to ensure that there is an effective audit by INEC on Electoral spending.
Section 225 and 226 of 1999 Constitution ensures that expenses of political party should be submitted to INEC. This means INEC can audited and scrutinise same.
Section 89 and 90 of Electoral Act also ensures that Political parties submit their expenditure to INEC.
Take note that no place (both in the Constitution and Electoral Act) did it provide that expenses of candidates should be submitted. Meaning that INEC cannot scrutinise or audited it.
The Supreme Court has held numerous times that Votes belongs to political parties ( Ameachi v. INEC &Ors) the reason for this is because section 221 of the 1999 Constitution which expressly provides that
” No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”
The issue of campaigning for Vote is expressly at the jealous preserve of Political parties, under our Laws.
In line with the above argument, a major way that perpetuate Vote Trading (buying) are candidates who flush the system with legitimate and illegitimate funds in the name of Campaigning by buying votes. A Campaign expense that cannot be audited by INEC.
Culture here does not mean ethnic culture, rather it refers to wide spread accepted practice. Currently, we have an endemic culture of Vote Trading in Nigeria.
The culture of a Nation is the Character of such Nation.
Recently, we have attempted to combat this menace by enacting strict laws against vote trading, but it is not enough.
The field of Law and Development is an emerging scholarship area advocated by the likes of Prof. David Trubek that holds that when you fix Law and rule of Law the economy of a Country comes into place, but critics such as Prof. Erik Jensen from Stanford University has counter argued that Law and rule of Law in themselves and alone are not enough in solving a National problem.
In the same light, putting in place strict laws are not enough to combat Vote Trading in Nigeria.
Culture will eat up Law for breakfast.
Any Law however beautifully conceived and enacted will be eaten raw by a widespread culture. We must make efforts to influence the Culture of Vote Trading itself. The system of Vote Trading is a culture that must stop.
This doesn’t mean that Law doesn’t have it rightful place in curbing Vote Trading, but it is not enough.
Opatola Victor Esq.