By Peter Claver Oparah
After the Ekiti governorship election, where it was bested by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) raised a terse allegation that it was outdone in that election by vote buying by its conqueror. The noise was so pervasive that it soon became a national anthem. Yea, Vote buying has become a new demon riddling the country’s electoral system and the survival of the country’s democracy was rested on crippling this anomie! Yea, it sounded good as that frenzy trended! Sure, the PDP must find a convenient alibi for its failure. It couldn’t fault the transparent manner the election was conducted. It couldn’t compare the election with the notorious brigandage it did in Ekiti in 2014 whose noxious trails still ricochet today. It can’t even see the similarity between the election and what PDP had been dishing to Nigerians as elections when its dubious reign lasted. So vote-buying suddenly ceased to be one of the ageless acrid tools in PDP’s multifarious election-rigging archive. It became a new invention and the entire country suddenly started belching hot airs against vote buying and efforts were made to pin the life of the country on it.
But then, days before the Ekiti election, visual images of PDP supporters and faithful queuing up in Ekiti government house and other public places to receive handouts to vote for the defeated PDP candidate were all over the social media. More gruesomely, several Ekiti indigenes advertised the transfer of cash to their bank accounts to sway them to vote for the PDP candidate and these were very prominent reportages leading to the conduct of the election on July 14. No one asked the PDP how it managed through these indicting evidence to start a fresh campaign against alleged vote buying to which it put no verifiable indexes to prove that its opponents were more culpable than it in that allegation. But an impressionable citizenry eagerly queued up to this claptrap and a frenzy of outbursts against vote buying started.
Again, it was in the same Ekiti where quite bizarre forms of inducements were used in 2014 to justify PDP’s outright ventilation of the state governorship election. It was then we added ‘stomach infrastructure’ to the rich lexicon of Nigerian electoral contests. This refers to the multifarious inducements the PDP unleashed on citizens of Ekiti so as to justify a farcical removal of a hard-working governor and installing of an alternative that excelled in his acerbic and corrosive values. This anomie was christened stomach infrastructure and the impression was created that all a candidate needs to do during the election is to deploy cash, rice, salt, clothes and other such freebies to get voters to his side. Pray, what else is vote buying?
Added to these, in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, no party had been more complicit in employing all manners of subterfuge to buy and cajole Nigerians to patronize it during elections than PDP. The bizarre monetization of the 2015 elections trumps all known plots to buy and seduce Nigerian electorates during elections. It got so bad that an incumbent president had to directly share foreign currencies and all manners of privileges to Nigerians on the streets so as to get their votes. The 2015 elections remain one of the most monetized elections in world electoral history and PDP revelled in this indecent lasciviousness as it lasted. It was a period corruption was unabashedly laundered for purposes of swaying voters and it was as tolerable to PDP mandarins and supporters as it lasted.
So how come PDP suddenly harped on ‘vote-buying’ as soon as it lost Ekiti election? Why was it that Nigerians pretended they never knew about this malaise even with the notorious 2015 case until the PDP started that deliberate hoax after it was trounced in Ekiti? How come many Nigerians displayed such hypocritical mien that shows they were just knowing what vote buying is as well as its bad impact on the country’s election?
Last weekend, PDP conducted its presidential primary in Port Harcourt Rivers State and what was most prominent in the reportage of that even was the indecent unleashing of United States dollars by the contending aspirants to buy delegates that voted in that primary. Several mainstream and social media platforms reported the dollar spree with glee and how open trading happened in a bid by the contending aspirants to outdo each other and secure PDP’s presidential ticket. With the antecedents of the contending aspirants, it was not difficult to trace this wholesome dollar splash to our purloined treasury that was raided down to the last kobo during the period the PDP was in power. But that is not the subject of this report. The main issue is that none of those that developed a sudden rush of adrenalin over vote-buying immediately PDP lost the Ekiti election, has seen anything wrong with the indecorous dollar spree at PDP convention as to raise his or her voice in protest. Pray, what else is vote-buying? Can the indecent dollar trading for delegates be removed from the cancerous vote-buying phenomenon the PDP fully promoted while in power and which it now rails against?
Let’s face the fact and give PDP the benefit of being rightly concerned by vote buying despite its own putrid past as the most notorious culprit in vote buying, can the party defend its late stance on vote buying while its own internal selection process is riddled with very demeaning acts of trading delegates for dollars? Can PDP straight-facedly come out again and talk about vote buying while it had laid a notorious precedent in trading votes to the highest bidder even in its own internal selection process?
Going further, where are those Nigerians and groups that latched unto PDP’s wolf-crying after the Ekiti defeat to position vote-buying as the biggest problem the country’s electoral system faces? Why are they mute in the face of the hideous trading that happened at PDP’s convention? Even if we forgive their pretence of not knowing that vote-buying was one of the greatest factors that kept PDP in power for sixteen years, why have they gone conspiratorially quiet on the dirty transactions that marked PDP’s selection of its presidential candidate? Are they of the belief that such selective campaigns as they did on Ekiti election will deceive Nigerians on their mercenary roles in tolerating more hideous cases of vote buying when PDP was in power and now crying wolf when PDP loses in an election? Even if they deceived us of their roles during the PDP days vis-à-vis their role when PDP got its back to the wall, do they think it will be so afflicted not to notice when they pretend not to know the negative role of the deprecating and sordid acts of vote buying that happened during the PDP presidential primary?
The bottom line is that nothing will be achieved when we choose to invest on a selective pursuit of justice just because we fall victim to an act we not only initiated but deepened when we are privileged to so do. Yes, vote buying is condemnable but dealing with it must be weaned off the bland hypocrisy with which PDP and its allies who deepened this malaise are approaching the issue. It demands a value-free holistic approach that digs back to where cancer started and the turns and twists it had taken to this day. Pretending the negative ennui just started because PDP, its principal projector, procures it as a convenient alibi to its dwindling electoral fortunes will not make a dent on the issue. If the PDP can conveniently agree with the maniacal trading that happened in its presidential primary, then it should quit raising laughable complaints about vote-buying which is an age-old tactic it used to keep itself in power for sixteen years.
Peter Claver Oparah writes in from Lagos and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org