Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has asked Nigerians to let politicians know that can no longer ‘buy’ their way into elective positions by ensuring that the electoral processes are not tampered with.
He said that until the problem of vote-buying is tackled in the country, those in government will remain irresponsible and non-responsive to the aspirations of the people.
Jega said this in Abuja on Friday at an interactive forum organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, to interrogate how African government’s can reconcile procedural democratic practices with substantive democracy.
He noted that the struggle for democracy to survive in Africa has been characterized by frustration because of the failure of governance to satisfy the aspirations and expectations of the people as well as promote stability.
Jega also decried the mode of politics in most parts of Africa which he said excludes a large segment of the population, especially women and youths from the political process.
On the issue of corruption, the erstwhile INEC boss disclosed that reliance of democratic governments in Africa on extractive revenue such as sales of crude oil as opposed to tax-based revenue raised a major challenge to the fight against corruption.
He, however, maintained that despite the frustrations of democracy, militarianism was not an option.
His words: “Unless the people let politicians know that they cannot buy their way into office every four or five years, through the ballot box, they will never be responsible and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people.
“Voters should realize that they are critical stakeholders that deserve to be listened to. Hence, it is imperative they begin to protect the integrity of the electoral process so as to have sufficient moral ground to hold those in governance accountable.
“Relying exclusively on extractive revenue is unhealthy for good governance and democracy. All a public office holder needs to do to loot the treasure is simply to divert funds accruing to government from the extractive sector of the economy.
“However, if the government raises bulk of its revenue by compelling people to pay their taxes, the people will in turn be interested in knowing how the taxes they paid were utilized, and that will reduce the level of the corruption perpetuated by those in government.”
“We need to careful with what the frustrations of democracy can lead us into. Militarianism should never again be an option for us. Democracy may not be the only game but it is a major game in town,” he concluded.