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Opinions of Thursday, 12 July 2018

Columnist: Rev. Fr. Stephen Kofi Sakpaku

One vote, one bus: Vote buying inimical to development

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I have witnessed with admiration how people dole out money and other material items to be elected into political positions. And I asked the following: where did these individuals get those monies from? And what do they hope to achieve? How much are they paid? Why will an individual dole out millions of cedis for a position that would give him a peanut? Is it just for service to nation or party or there is something bigger anticipated? If it is just for service to nation or party why do people go to court when they lose elections? Is that practice not vote buying or it is just being generous?

Just at the recently ended New Patriotic Party (NPP) delegates’ conference in Koforidua, it was reported that an individual bought 275 buses for each constituency in order that he is voted for. It was also reported that others were also given money and other material items or in the name of winning votes. Waoow people can be ‘generous’ paaa! I need one of the buses for my school please!

Do people have to occupy political positions before they can alleviate the plights of the suffering masses? Why should we monetise our electoral system like that? Is there no law banning vote buying and if there is what are we doing about it?

Vote buying or distribution of material things to electorate in exchange of vote is detrimental to our development as a nation and needed to be condemned in vehemently. This practice is now dominating our electoral processes these days. It is only the few rich individuals who benefit from this practice whiles the majority poor remains impoverished. With this practice, people are no more elected base on merit or competence but based on the amount of money they can dole out. It is pathetic find political parties in opposition to condemn this practice but they repeat the same thing they condemned, when they get the chance to govern. Is that hypocrisy in the highest order or change of perception?

I see this practice of distributing material things to solicit for vote as a corrupt election practice and a threat to the conduct of free and fair elections. Allowing vote buying means that if one does not have the financial resources, one cannot hold political power in the country. And that mean elections would only be competed by the rich and not those with ideas to solve the problems of the nation. Also, elections would no more be a ‘battle of ideas’ but a ‘battle of opulence and extravagance’. This practice destroys the spirit of competition and needed to be nipped in the bud.

Vote buying should not be entertained in our electioneering processes because, it has the tendency of allowing selfish corrupt people and surreptitious thieves to occupy leadership position in the country who would create, loot and share our wealth. When people dole out money and other material things to win elections, they have to plough back what they have invested. If they took loans from banks or friends, they have to pay back. Where are they going to get the money from? Will their salaries and allowances be enough to feed them and pay for their loans? They could only get the money through inflating cost of projects, receiving bribes, and other dubious means. That is why this practice should be made illegal and punishable.

Furthermore, vote buying or inducing people with material things to vote, make people become poorer and underdeveloped. People’s lots are not enhanced with a piece of GTP cloth, cutlasses, cups, T-shirts, hoes, bicycles or even buses. How many people would even get the chance to join the bus? How long would a person spend ¢100.00? Instead of thinking of good developmental projects that would improve the lives of people, you are giving them what they will eat or need today so that you can exploit them tomorrow. And unfortunately, most people who are induced with these material things are poor and find it hard to make ends meet, so they are also happy and jubilate when they receive those items. People who present themselves for election must rise above board and comprehend the needs of their electorates and not to “laka laka” them with money or other material things for votes.

Another, negative effect of vote buying is that the autonomy or the independence of the electorates is undermined, their integrity insulted and their dignity is abused. Since getting paid for their votes generates a form of income that they may need to support themselves or their families, they have no autonomy to cast the vote that they truly want. I remember in the 2016 elections people were even made to swear before a fetish priest before they took their money. So that if you took the money and voted otherwise you were killed by the gods. Where lies the independent and the freedom of these innocent poor people? We sell our consciences when we collect money or other material things to vote for a particular candidate. The danger of this practice is that we perpetuate unending cycle of corruption in the system because we end up voting for the same corrupt malicious self-seeking politicians whose interest remain and they dictate how things are to be done.

In addition, the electorates cannot hold elected candidates responsible or accountable for their tenure of office if vote buying is encouraged. And the electorates again cannot criticise elected officers for failure of carrying out their responsibilities because if they dare, they will lose their nokofio. If you have received a bicycle to vote and your candidate is misbehaving can you criticise him or her? If you dare open your mouth you won’t even get charleyw?te mpo again.

It also makes politicians amass wealth whiles in office in order to win the next elections. Since our electoral system has been monetised, people only think of how to make money in other to stay in power than to think of how to solve problems of the nation. They are looking for means to sign contracts to get some percentages to secure votes in the next elections. You see them do all kinds of kululu to get money at all cost. This does not augur well for our nation.

Lastly, distribution of material things for votes, creates acrimony, bitters, and unhealthy rivalry among politicians and their supporters. Because some of candidates see elections as businesses so they invest their money into it by buying votes. When it turns out that they lose the elections, they begin to point accusing figures and think that they have been cheated. This sometimes leads to bloody confrontations, murder and legal battles.

In conclusion political parties were formed to compete ideas on how to solve the problems of the nation using the best means possible. In fulfilling those ideas, people with the competence and good moral aptitudes canvassed for votes by selling out their ideas to the electorates. Unfortunately, it is now becoming a common practice to see people distributing material things to lure people to vote for them. Any reward given to a person for voting in a particular way or for not voting is a corrupt election practice and needed to be discouraged. There are several negative consequences that arise when we allow the practice of vote buying to thrive in our country. The practice of vote buying is an affront to the dignity of those who engage in it and poses a threat to democracy itself. The earlier we did some about it, the better.

Rev. Fr. Stephen Kofi Sakpaku

Donkorkrom Apostolic Vicariate