Electing leaders to political office through the ballot ideally allows citizens to weed out underperformers and replace them with candidates voters assume can get the job done. But this is not how the politicians in the corridors of power in Nigeria view the elections.
In order to stay in power for as long as they want, Nigerian politicians have devised various means to interfere in the electoral process for their own benefit. These illegal interventions occur before, during and after the vote.
As the 2023 general election approaches, Legumes introduces you to all the manipulation strategies on the books of Nigeria’s desperate politicians.
Militarization of the opponent’s fortress
The deployment of military personnel to certain areas under the guise of security is one of the proven means of rigging elections and can only be done by a government already in power.
The heavy presence of military personnel, especially in the stronghold of an opposition candidate, could strike fear into the minds of voters in the area and discourage them from exercising their constitutional rights.
Often, fear of soldiers roaming the streets causes voter tension and apathy, which in turn reduces the chances of opposition candidates in the area.
Vote buying is the most common electoral manipulation practice in Nigeria. It involves politicians or their agents giving money or food to the electorate in exchange for their votes, especially on election day.
This practice persists mainly because the majority of voters who sell their votes, especially in rural communities, suffer from multidimensional poverty, which in turn drives their lack of confidence in the electoral system.
ballot box theft
Ballot box stealing is like the granddaddy of all electoral malpractices in Nigeria: it is probably the first known voter fraud strategy for Nigerians.
Ballot box theft involves the use of thugs to disrupt the electoral process at voting units in the stronghold of a rival candidate.
The goal of the bully sponsors is to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancels the votes of their opponents in such areas.
Thugs aren’t just useful for stealing ballot boxes during elections. Sometimes, they are hired to scare the electorate in the area of their sponsor’s opponents into chaos.
To ensure that no vote is recorded for their master’s rival in certain areas, thugs can attack voting units in the area, destroy election materials, and scare away voters and INEC officials.
Money plays a big role in election rigging and this is not even a Nigerian phenomenon.
To get the results to go their way, desperate politicians often offer money and sometimes property to election officials. They can also bribe security agents and members of the body that the INEC deploys as ad-hoc personnel for the elections.
Another common means of manipulating elections in Nigeria is the manipulation of figures collected from districts by compromised INEC staff in collusion with party agents.
This arrangement is somewhat difficult to execute, especially if the electorate at the district level keeps records of the votes.
However, if the compromised INEC official manages to manipulate the figures, the manipulation can continue. This type of manipulation is more difficult to achieve these days with the introduction of technology like the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS).
Intimidation of INEC officials
Manipulating elections is very easy for top politicians from strong political parties, especially if the manipulator is a sitting governor or legislator. The rigger can threaten or intimidate INEC staff to declare him the winner of the election.
This played out in the 2019 general election when a teller, innocent ibeabuchiclaimed he was forced to testify the outgoing governor of the state, Rochas Okorochaas the winner of the Imo West Senate election.
These are various means by which Nigerian politicians rig the elections and impose themselves on the people.
But as the 2023 general election approaches, Nigerians are hoping that the conduct of the polls will be fair, transparent and free of all the irregularities they have witnessed in previous elections.