I Didn’t Know It Was Criminal To Induce Voters Until I Observed Foreign Elections, Says Jonathan

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Former President Goodluck Jonathan has berated politicians who indulge in inducing the electorate during campaigns, stating that such actions are criminalised in international quarters.

Speaking on the occasion of his 61st birthday and the launch of his book, ‘My Transition Hours’, held in Abuja on Tuesday, Jonathan admitted that he didn’t know that such actions by politicians were criminal, until he observed elections in foreign climes.

He said he made the comments on the electoral process in the country in order to pave the way for improvement that can be adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Speaking on his inspiration for the book, he said: “People ask me, ‘why did you write such a book?’ Because the tradition is that when many people leave office, they write their autobiographies. However, this is not my biography. Definitely, there are some statements about my beginning, primary school, secondary school, among others, because, of course, the journey started somewhere. And also my activities in government.

“There are certain issues in the government that were used against me during the election. The issue of Boko Haram and the Chibok girls; in fact, some people said I had brought Boko Haram to reduce the voting population of the North, so that I would win the election. So, I commented on the Chibok girls.

Also, the fuel subsidy that was really used by the politicians. Of course, politicians must have smelt opportunities, so I don’t blame them. Even if it’s myself, I would probably do the same thing, but I needed to explain certain things as to why we took that decision. On the issue of corruption, I made some suggestions on how we should go about it.

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“I also used this opportunity to make a little suggestion in terms of our elections. The issue of vote buying is becoming scandalous in Nigeria. We know that there is this concept of inducing the electorate, which most countries control. For all the countries I’ve gone to observe elections, ordinary inducement of the electorate is criminalised. But here in Nigeria, we take inducement of the electorate as a part of the electoral process.

What I mean by inducing the electorate is that during campaign, we’ll package rice, salt, photograph of the candidate and the logo of the party and distribute to the people. That is wrong by all international standards. I did not know until I got involved in observing elections.

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“But those are still being considered as not serious offences. In all the countries I’ve gone to observe elections, even at the rallies, nobody will give you a pen with a candidate’s name on it. All what the candidate and the parties will do is the T-Shirt, face-caps and the fliers and banners of the party; nobody gives any gift.”

Coming back to the Nigerian setting, he continued: “It graduated from inducing the electorate to outright pricing and buying of votes. INEC must do everything to stop that. We should take a cue from some African countries. In all the countries I’ve gone to observe elections, nobody builds polling booths.

We have polling centres, public buildings such as schools. One school will have many polling units and it’s easier for the Police to police these polling units together and it’ll be difficult for someone who is in the classroom to show you the ballot paper.

“If you design the electoral process in a way that you cannot see the ballot paper, then the issue of outright vote buying will be addressed.”

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He also noted that the name of Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was “mentioned in two places in that book”, and he asked him to “go and read about it”.

Jonathan also revealed that the foundation launched in his name has enjoyed the support of all governors under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as some governors under the All Progressives Congres (APC).

He extended special regards to his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, and expressd the possibility of appearing on national television to reveal more about the book, should the occasion permit. He also thanked those who had honoured him by gracing the occasion.

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