By Emeka Oraetoka
Almost two weeks ago, Rtd Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Okiro, warned against selling and buying votes during presidential primaries of registered political parties in Nigeria and general elections in 2023. In a widely publicized programme in Abuja captioned: “Presidential aspirants’ media interactive platform” organised by New Nigeria Dream Initiative (NNDI), Okiro warned of the danger posed by vote buying and selling in our body polity.
Okiro strongly cautioned Nigerians to say “enough is enough” in 2023 by rejecting politicians’ money during the voting process. Further he said “Nigerians will talk about the leadership deficiency, but I say no, that is not enough! It takes two angles! If leaders have deficiency, we have followers’ complacency! Because if leaders are behaving, we just laugh, wave at them, and say walk and go! And they will do the same thing again. He went further by capturing how the situation will be if Nigerians don’t sell their votes thus: ---“But if we say no! Enough is enough, they change! You go, they give you money for votes so that you can vote for somebody whether the person can perform or not! They give you N5, 000 and you look for four years. That means the N5, 000 is your due for four years.
Although some Nigerians have spoken out against vote buying in the past, what made Okiro’s intervention on vote buying and selling interesting, as well as attracted attention was the timing. Before, people talked about vote buying and selling during general elections only, but Okiro warned against it, when political parties, particularly, the two main political parties were preparing to elect candidates into various national and state positions.
As if he is a prophet and read the mood of Nigerians in warning about the evil of vote buying and selling, Nigerians took to various information dissemination outlets to vent their anger at the heavily monetized primary election of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The election was allegedly characterized by vote buying and selling. The election is still generating negative reactions from Nigerians. Had PDP presidential candidates and electorate listened to Okiro’s advice, the damage to the image of the party would have been averted.
The negative consequences have started rearing its ugly head already. Report has it that the son of immediate past Vice President of Nigeria, Adam Namadi, after losing the House of Representatives primary election in Kaduna, despite inducing delegates with money to vote for him, decided to use vigilante group to retrieve his money from those delegates. Supposing there was resistance during the money retrieval mission by the vigilantes, some delegates may lose their lives. Punch newspaper of June 2, 2022, carried a story of one PDP delegate from Kaduna state, Tanko Sabo, who sold his vote for N12m. According to the report, the lucky delegate said he was donating the money to his constituent. Now, as Okiro postulated, Tanko Sabo and his constituents were bought for N12m. They will not have any say on how they are governed, if the buyer of Sabo’s vote wins the 2023 presidential election because he had paid.
The negative reactions trailing the just concluded convention of PDP was taken to a new height when one of the contestants was asked by a popular TV anchor, if he was disappointed that he got only one vote, and his kinsmen from the East did not vote for him, he simply said “Only Few Men remember their surname when Dollars is placed on the table”.
Now, the ruling party All Progressive Congress (APC) is toying with the idea of consensus candidacy to avoid the mess the PDP has found itself in. Expectedly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) are reportedly working cooperatively to fight vote buying in our electoral system. Following Okiro’s advocacy, the immediate past President of Nigeria, GoodluckEbele Jonathan, has condemned the retrogressive practice of vote buying and selling at parties’ conventions. So many prominent Nigerians are delightfully adding their voice, in condemnation of this shameful practice.
Just as well meaning Nigerians are praising Okiro for speaking out against vote buying in all ramifications at the nick of time, those benefiting directly or indirectly from the corrupt practice, have expectedly, taken to social media in support of the practice and called Okiro all sorts of bad names. Those who did not bother to read Okiro’s line of thought on vote buying and selling have also joined the fray. Chief among them is Social Media Presidential Candidate, OmoyeleSowere, whom late James Danbaba and Mike Okiro, declared wanted for cultism and rape in University of Lagos. He reportedly jumped bail and ran away from justice, in the guise of activism. To show that Sowore is using both saharareporters and social media, to tarnish Okiro’s image, just when he was CP of Lagos state, he made sure University of Lagos was rid of cultism of which Sowore was an established capon;; has an issue with Okiro, here is the caption of what saharareporters published on May 28, 2022: EXCLUSIVE: “Each Delegate Of Opposition Party, PDP Gets Over $50,000 Bribe As Atiku, Wike, Others Compete In Corruption –ridden Presidential Primary”. The question here is, what is the difference between Okiro’s sermon against vote buying and selling as reported by many dallies, including online newspapers, but saharareporters, and what Sowore reported on the referenced date?
As a solution to vote selling, Okiro urged Nigerians to jettison voting of political parties and ensure they bring in someone with good track records who can deliver dividends of democracy to them. These are his exact words, “We’re not going to follow bandwagons, we are going to vote for people irrespective of their political parties. It can be A B C D or UAW or whatever party. We will look at individuals. Is he good? “Look at his track records! Look at people who are qualified, not where they come from, irrespective of the party they belong to, to make sure that if they rule us, the dividend of democracy will reach everyone.”
Even before this time Okiro has pleaded with political parties delegates to shelve primordial sentiments in electing candidates. He said this, as reported by many Nigerian dailies on 23/5/2022 in a paper delivered by him as the Chairman Board of Directors Nigeria First Foundation in Abuja and”specifically charged party delegates to be guided by conscience not pecuniary reasons while voting”.
Nigerians can only ignore Sir Mike Okiro’s advice on the way forward, with respect to vote buying and selling to their collective detriment. It will be recalled that as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), between 2007 -2009, Okiro introduced Anti-Bomb Squad in the Police when the country had not even witnessed terrorism, some uninformed Nigerians criticized the introduction. They even accused Okiro of lavishing government money on irrelevant ventures. But today, Okiro is being praised as Nostradamus of our time because of his foresight. Also, during Okiro's tenure, he digitized recruitment in the Police, making the force the first security agency in Nigeria to embrace technology in its recruitment process. Again, forces of retrogression in Nigeria descended on him, saying, Nigeria is not yet ripe for the use of technology in recruitment. Even the National Assembly (NASS) was not left out criticizing the adoption of technology. What do we have today? All the security agencies in Nigeria, have gone digital in their recruitment process. It is on record that Okiro championed an increase in Police salary and got it. When President MuhammaduBuhari came to power in 2015, he gave Mile Okiro, then the Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), marching order to recruit 10,000 Policemen. The recruitment exercise was so successful that there was no complaint of injustice from any section of Nigeria, no visible confrontation between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Police in the recruitment exercise.
It is safe to say that sir Mike Okiro is a man that sees tomorrow and when he lends his voice on any issue in Nigeria, he should be listened to. Politicians and electorate, alike, please, pay heed to Okiro’s on the evil of vote buying and selling, particularly, during the process of selecting candidates for elective positions at party level.
(Oraetoka, an Information Management Consultant & Researcher, wrote from Abuja. E-mail: email@example.com. GSM: 08056031187 09039094636.)