Vote-trading has become a widespread practice in Nigeria, where democracy has struggled to be fully consolidated due to the country’s complex political landscape and its entrenched corrupt political class. Where acute socio-economic hardship persists, vote-selling traps citizens in self-sabotaging, clientelist relationships with political leaders.
Data gathered in 2018, in the second household survey conducted by the Chatham House Africa Programme’s Social Norms and Accountable Governance (SNAG) project, shows that three-quarter of Nigerians believe that it is broadly unacceptable for anyone to exchange their vote for money or a gift. At the same time, they assume that at least half of people in their community would likely sell their vote. Voters are evidently conflicted on the issue. The SNAG research underlines that vote-selling is mostly driven by an individual’s own material circumstances, and highlights the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with how their democracy is not working.
Vote buying is prohibited in Nigeria. Article 130 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, states that:
A person who — (a) corruptly by himself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or (b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraph (a) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
So far, we are pleased that the INEC’s strategies to reduce electoral malfeasance through the use of technology and the reduction of human interference in our electoral administration have yielded some positive results.
In actuality, Nigerians hope that the voter authentication process through the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, will be rendered more efficient for the coming nationwide general elections of February and March 2023.
More importantly, we must devise further means of arresting vote-buying because it increases the amounts that politicians spend to get into office.
The money either comes from public purses or private pockets. Either way, the people will pay dearly for it. Politicians who pay their way into power will feel no obligation towards the people.
They know they can always come back four years later to buy again.
Nigerian politicians have weaponised misrule and poverty to the extent that the masses are too hungry to resist a few thousand naira for their votes. Nigeria can never change if we continue like this.
No leader who genuinely wants to serve the people will part with his hard-earned money to induce voters.
These things would undermine the hard-earned democracy that our forefathers fought for. When patriotism becomes ingrained in our minds, we will never do anything to undermine the hard-won democracy that our forefathers fought for.
Our mindset must change. Elections should not be reduced to a money making venture for the politicians and the voters.
Vote-buying must be tackled and eliminated if we are serious about the dream country we have to build.