Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the electoral process has been plagued by the trend towards monetization. Nigeria has been struggling with the bad luck of having responsible leaders. In a democracy, politicians are expected to respect people equally, regardless of their status..
In Nigeria, as in many countries around the world, free and fair elections are the central factor in ensuring democratic survival. In the case of Nigeria, money plays an important role in choosing who becomes the leader. The politics of money has become a common feature in Africa, arising from poverty, apathy, close competition on party manifestos, among others.
Vote buying and selling are consistent with the continued materialization and commercialization of political parties. Those with lower income status fall prey to vote-buying political parties, though the wealthy aren’t left out of the loot either.
The 2022 primaries and off-season gubernatorial elections in Nigeria brought to light the reality of vote buying. Delegates to the primaries of the two major parties were paid thousands of dollars to induce them to vote for one candidate or the other. This was a major factor in the electoral victory of most of the candidates in the primaries.
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In addition, the handling of ballots has gradually given way to material or cash incentives and the sale of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and its corresponding Voter Identification Number (VIN). This could be seen in the 2022 gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, where voters were swayed by party agents with incentive offers ranging from N3,000 and above.
In 2015 and 2019, vote buying was carried out negligently by political parties and, in most cases, with the active participation of election officials and security agents. These electoral commitments have led to people losing their lives along with their property.
The Electoral Law stipulates some form of sanction for such electoral malpractices. But is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) willing to prosecute offenders? For example, Section 121 (2) of the Election Act 2022 states that a: “The voter commits a bribery offense when, before or during an election, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person, in his name, receives, agrees or contracts for any money, gift, loan or valuable consideration, position, place of employment, for himself or any other person, to vote or agree to vote, or to abstain or agree to abstain from voting in said election” .
Therefore, the government must take steps, in collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs), to reform Nigeria’s electoral system and make it more difficult for monetary influences and other bad practices. Any meaningful attempt to stop voter fraud in Nigeria must consider the vast gap between rich and poor. There is no doubt that poverty has negatively impacted voting behavior in Nigeria, as it encourages vote buying and selling by the electorate, in addition to other bad practices.
Fatima Dauda Salihu is a student of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano (BUK).