Ridding Nigeria’s electoral system from the menace of vote buying
By Zakari U. Mijinyawa
During the last two off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, there were widespread cases of vote buying. Even on social media, there were pictures and videos of the major candidates and political parties outspending one another in a bid to ensure victory. Votes were commodified in such a way that they went to the highest bidder.
Vote buying is actually when a political party or candidate distributes money or other materials to a voter in an upcoming election with the expectation that the voter will vote for the person handing out monetary or other material rewards. Vote buying is also in the range of an economic or transactional exchange in which the voter sells his or her vote for an opportunity, say a contract or other forms of gratification.
Many people on both ends of the transaction – the candidate vying for an elective position and the electorate – actually know that vote buying is a fraudulent electoral practice prohibited by law, but are often passive about what actually constitutes vote buying and its consequences for the electoral system and the credibility of a representative democracy like Nigeria.
Perhaps, it is in this context that Frederic Schaffer, Professor of Political Science at Harvard University, pointed out that the term vote buying could mean different things to different people. He posited that looking at vote buying solely as a market transaction between politicians and the electorate makes the concept oversimplified. “The choice of offer strategies made by candidates and the meanings attached to offers by voters are shaped by their institutional, socio-economic, and organisational contexts,” he said.
Section 117 of the Electoral Act 2022 states that: “Any person who a) being entitled to a voters card, gives it to some other person for use at an election other than an officer appointed and acting in the course of his or her duty under this Act, b) not being an officer acting in the course of his or her duty under this Act, receives any voters card in the name of some other person or persons for use at an election uses it fraudulently, c) without lawful excuse has in his possession more than one voters card, or d) buys, sells, procures or deals, with a voters card otherwise than as provided in this Act, commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a minimum of fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.”
Section VIII (e) of the 2018 Revised Code of Conduct for Political Parties presents a wider range of what constitutes vote buying by stating that: “…all political parties and their agents shall not engage in the following practice: buying of votes or offer any bribe, gift, reward, gratification or any other monetary or material considerations or allurement to voters and electoral officials.”
Vote buying, as part of overall electoral fraud, has been part of Nigeria’s electoral system for many years and, in fact, is not limited to Nigeria. One research said 80 per cent of voters from 36 African countries believe that voters are induced with money and other material things.
Schaffer mentioned three ends political candidates use the means of vote buying the achieve: instrumental compliance, normative compliance and coercive compliance. The first implies that voters sell their votes simply for tangible and often immediate rewards. The second, normative compliance, implies that a candidate who buys voters’ votes is regarded as a worthy person to win the election due to their display of generosity. Coercive compliance, according to Schaffer, is when voters fear that, if they don’t accept to sell their votes, they could be in danger.
It is unfortunate that the three scenarios prominently play out in Nigeria’s electoral system.
In some cases, electoral stakeholders are also involved in vote buying, either as intermediaries or influencers. Yet, vote buying is an aberration which violates the tenets of democracy and good governance. And this ugly trend is not limited to inter-party elections alone. As witnessed during the last party primaries ahead of the 2023 general elections, even within the various political parties, vote buying dominated the process of choosing who would fly party flags. At various levels, candidates emerged through a ‘bidding process’ between those candidates and party delegates. In most cases, the highest bidders won.
However, voters need to realise that once election outcomes are determined by the deepest pockets and how much voters are willing to exchange their votes for, quality leadership and accountability in governance take the back seat.
With the strengthening of the electoral law and further deployment of technology, which have eliminated many methods of electoral fraud, politicians are more determined than ever to entice voters with money and other inducements. Therefore, key stakeholders responsible for public enlightenment and advocacy, electoral security and community engagement should redouble efforts to making vote buying difficult.
The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), in collaboration with security agents, should identify and punish politicians, voters and party agents involved in vote buying and selling to serve as deterrent to others. The media, civil society organisations and citizens should report cases of vote buying to the appropriate quarters during election, in addition to embarking on mass sensitisation and awareness about the ills of electorate selling their votes.
When it comes to the issue of vote buying, likeminded associates should be committed to working with all stakeholders to rid Nigeria’s electoral system of the menace.
Zakari U. Mijinyawa
Writes from Abuja
Kidnapped School ChildrenYauri FGC Students, Kebbi
652 days 17 hours 53 minutes 22 seconds,
Baptist School Students, Kaduna
634 days 19 hours 34 minutes 47 seconds
Tegina Islamiya Pupils, Niger (Freed)
Report By: PRNigeria.com