As Nigerians gear towards putting down a thumbprint on the ballot, their decision will determine the trajectory of macroeconomic parameters like inflation, money supply, unemployment, security, and corruption, among other human capital development indices.
Vote buying and selling have become a hydra-headed monster that continues to plague the electoral process in Nigeria.
Doubtless, the consequences of vote buying are enormous, but citizens continue to sell their votes for paltry sums, as seen in past elections. During some of the most recent elections in Nigeria, reports alleged that votes were traded between the margin of N4,000 to N10,000.
In contrast, on the front of the political primaries, votes were bought for humongous amounts.
What is vote buying?
Vote buying is usually viewed as a purely economic exchange in which the voter sells his or her vote to the highest bidder. The International Idea Institute for Democracy Electoral Assitance says vote buying is an electoral campaign violation that occurs in many countries, which undermines the integrity of elections and is detrimental to democratic governance.
Why do citizens sell their votes?
Most times, when the conversations around the menace of vote buying are brought to the table, there is a lot of curiosity about why voters trade their votes. Speaking with a cross-section of Nigerians on this phenomenon, we discovered the economic situation was a major factor.
For Emmanuel Ikenna, an entrepreneur in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja, a good number of Nigerians sell their votes because of the economic hardship facing citizens. He further says that some households find it difficult to afford three square meals a day; little wonder they jump on the offer no matter how little the amount is.
On the other hand, Nuel Samson, an Abuja respondent, puts the blame of persistent vote buying marring electoral processes in Nigeria on the shoulders of the political class.
He posits that “politicians have weaponized poverty as a tool during the electioneering season and utilize this tool efficiently during campaigns. This leaves many struggling Nigerians with little or no choice but to trade their votes.”
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmud Yakubu, in a report, equally attributed the menace to poverty as largely responsible for the thriving of this menace.
What are the sanctions for vote trading?
According to the Electoral Act, receiving any money or gift for voting or refraining from voting at any election is an electoral offence. Vote selling is punishable (if convicted) by a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
How can vote trading be stopped during elections?
To end this menace that has persistently marred the electoral process in democracies globally, there is no silver bullet.
Jide Ojo, Development Consultant and Public Affairs analyst, says prosecution of offenders will help reduce voting trading incidents in more ways than one. He also called on relevant agencies to fight vote trading covertly instead of business as usual.
He urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the electoral offences commission bill to help address this challenge.
Mukhtar Imam, a political economist, asserts that buying and selling votes is a moral and attitudinal issue in Nigeria. He adds that indiscipline and lack of patriotism fuel these inadequacies. To end vote trading, income inequality, unequal distribution of wealth, and the wide gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ must be bridged.
Imam says technological innovations like the BVAs will help, although not directly, to nip this in the bud.
In a few days, the outcome of the 2023 general election will determine the socioeconomic development levels of the nation. Buying and selling votes is tantamount to citizens mortgaging their future for immediate gains that, most times, are short-lived.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Summitpost News to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.