How to Effectively Tackle Vote-Buying in Nigerian and African Politics


Prior to the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, an opinion poll conducted by NOIPolls revealed that 26 percent of registered voters expressed their willingness to sell their votes for material gains during the elections. This translates to 7.3 percent of the registered voters, which is significant to give victory to a particular candidate. 

In the Nigerian political system for now, you can’t discuss government and politics without talking about vote-buying. The issuehas become a significant challenge that undermines the democratic process. 

Vote-buying involves the practice of politicians offering money or gifts to voters in exchange for their votes, often leading to the distortion of election outcomes and the disenfranchisement of citizens. So, how can this problem be addressed and curbed to ensure free and fair elections in Nigeria?

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Understanding the Root Causes of Vote-Buying

To effectively tackle the issue of vote-buying, it is crucial to understand the root causes behind this practice which are: 

1: Lack of Accountability

One of the main reasons why politicians engage in vote-buying is the lack of accountability and transparency in political financing. Without strict regulations and enforcement mechanisms in place, politicians can easily exploit the system to buy votes and secure their positions of power.

2: High Rate of Poverty 

Additionally, poverty and economic hardship among the populace make voters more susceptible to the allure of quick cash or gifts in exchange for their votes. This creates a vicious cycle where politicians continue to engage in vote-buying to manipulate electoral outcomes, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and corruption in the political system.

3: Desperation of Politicians 

Desperation and propensity to corruption by the politicians seeking elections for the first time or those seeking re-election are two of the major factors driving vote-buying in Nigeria. Many politicians see public offices as a means to “make money” and enrich themselves, at the detriment of millions of taxpayers. They don’t see the office as a service to humanity, as it is being done in many democratic states across the world. 

Some of the politicians are seen doling out money openly and brazenly to voters during primary and general elections. They want to rule by all means being that state and politics go together in a democratic society. 

The desperation of the political class is one of the cankerworms that give room for “pay before I vote for you” syndrome in Nigeria’s political system. 

The desperation goes to the extent that some politicians are accused of offering bribes to judges to secure favorable judgments after the election. One of the anti-graft agencies known as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, a body set up by the central government to fight corruption, claimed in one of its reports that about 9.4 billion naira ($26 million) were given as bribes to judges to get desired judgments in cases related to elections between between 2018 and 2020 alone. 

The way politicians spend money wastefully on election-related issues is well known to the people. In view of this murky reality, the voters too are desperate to demand their own share of the ‘cake’ during the election day at the polling unit. I had the opportunity to speak to one of the voters in my polling unit in Lagos in the last presidential election. I noticed he and other voters just sat down as eligible voters were casting their votes. In my bid to know why they expressed lukewarm attitudes towards the voting exercise, I decided to have a talk with them. They told me that they were expecting a politician from a particular political party to come and’settle them with some cash’ as usual before they vote as usual.

When I asked them the reason why they were demanding money before voting, one of them told me that they were doing so because of irresponsible acts by the politicians. “My brother, it’s only during elections that we see these politicians, because that’s when they need the votes of the people, but after the election, we won’t see them again. That’s why we also want to seize the opportunity to get our share from them now that we can see them.”

Allegations of vote buying in the 2022 and 2023 elections in Nigeria 

The 2022 presidential primaries and off-season governorship elections made the issue of vote-buying more popular among Nigerians. It was reported by some observers that delegates of the major political parties were given several thousand dollars to vote for some particular candidates. This was a significant issue in the electoral victories of most candidates in the primary elections. 

During the 2022 governorship elections in Osun State and Ekiti States, there were reports that some candidates were doling out cash within the range of N10,000 to N5,000 for voters to buy their votes.

For instance, a group known as the Centre for Democracy and Development, a non-profit organization,  documented 41 cases of bribery in six local government areas of the state. It was observed by CDD that in Edo and Benue states, voters were induced with  N1,000 or 2,000 in many polling units.

Due to the scarcity of cash during that period, some voters were given ‘I-owe-you-vouchers’, food items, clothes, toiletries, and so on. Voters were asked by party agents to show proof of their votes on their phones before being paid. 

According to reports by CDD and other groups that observed the elections, the voters were more focused on the material things they would get from the candidates instead of voting based on ideologies, as is done in advanced countries. The high rate of poverty has been identified as one of the factors responsible for vote-buying in Nigeria.

CDD’s report further said that 25.3 percent of its observers noted many cases of vote-buying at many polling units they visited across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The highest figures of vote-buying were recorded in the southeast (41.4 percent). The Northwest has the second highest number of vote-buyers (35.4 percent).

The Impact of Vote-Buying in Nigerian Politics

Vote-buying is a phenomenon that distorts the will of the people by influencing them to vote based on financial gain rather than on the merit of the candidates or their policies. This practice not only undermines the credibility of the electoral process but also perpetuates corruption within the political system. It leads to a situation where elected officials are more accountable to those who funded their campaigns than to the electorate as a whole.

Law Criminalizing Vote-Buying in Nigeria 

Section 127 of the Electoral Act 2022 says that any person who directly or indirectly gives money to another person with the purpose of influencing that person to vote for a particular person or refrains from voting in an election is guilty of a conviction of 12 months imprisonment, a fine of N100,000, or both.

Also, the section of the law says that any voter who corruptly accepts money or any other inducement during the period of an election is liable for conviction of the same punishment. This unequivocally means that both the giver and the receiver are both liable for conviction. 

Efforts Made By EFCC

The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been making efforts to implement this law in recent days. For example, during the 2022 governorship election in Osun State, the officials of the anti-graft commission went to some local governments, moving from one polling booth to another with a view to apprehending anybody involved in this ignoble act.

After the 2023 general elections, the EFCC said that it succeeded in arresting 65 people across the country over the issue of vote-buying. The agency’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC, announced that the operatives of the anti-graft agency strictly monitored the elections across the country.

Giving the breakdown of the arrests, he revealed that 20 of the suspects were arrested in Kwara, while 13 were apprehended in Kaduna. He added that other suspects were arrested in Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River States. 

Ways to Stop Vote-Buying in Nigeria. 

1: Implementing Strong Legal and Regulatory Frameworks

One of the key steps to curbing the challenge of vote-buying in Nigerian politics is to implement strong legal and regulatory frameworks that deter this practice. This includes enacting laws that explicitly prohibit vote-buying and impose severe penalties on offenders, such as disqualification from running for office or jail time.

Furthermore, regulatory bodies such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should have the authority and resources to monitor and enforce compliance with these laws. By conducting thorough investigations and prosecuting those found guilty of vote-buying, the government can send a strong message that electoral fraud will not be tolerated.

2: Fostering civic education and awareness

Another crucial aspect of addressing the issue of vote-buying is to foster civic education and awareness among the Nigerian populace. By educating citizens about their rights and responsibilities in the electoral process, voters can become more informed and empowered to resist the temptations of vote-buying. Nigeria needs to learn from the politics of the United States as regards political awareness. 

Moreover, civil society organizations and the media play a vital role in raising awareness about the dangers of vote-buying and holding politicians accountable for their actions. Through grassroots campaigns, town hall meetings, and public debates, these stakeholders can mobilize communities to reject vote-buying and demand transparency and integrity in the electoral process.

Citizen Empowerment: Empowering citizens to report instances of vote-buying through confidential hotlines or online platforms can help authorities investigate and prosecute offenders effectively. By encouraging active citizen participation in the electoral process, individuals can become agents of change in promoting clean and transparent elections.

3: Leveraging technology for transparency

In the digital age, technology can be a powerful tool for promoting transparency and accountability in the electoral process. This is where Nigeria needs to learn from the US political system. 

Platforms such as social media and mobile apps can be used to track and report incidents of vote-buying in real-time, providing valuable evidence to support investigations and prosecutions.

Furthermore, the use of electronic voting systems and biometric registration can help prevent multiple votes and other forms of electoral fraud. By leveraging technology to enhance the integrity of elections, the government can build trust and confidence in the electoral process among both voters and candidates.

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In conclusion, the challenge of vote-buying in Nigerian politics is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach to address effectively. 

By implementing strong legal and regulatory frameworks, fostering civic education and awareness, and leveraging technology for transparency, the government can curb the practice of vote-buying and ensure free and fair elections for all citizens. 

It is imperative that all stakeholders work together to uphold the principles of democracy and safeguard the integrity of the electoral process in Nigeria. Political science and government activities must be well understood very well by all sundry 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vote-buying?

Vote-buying refers to the act of offering money or other incentives to voters in exchange for their votes during an election. This practice undermines the democratic process by compromising the principles of free and fair elections.

Why do politicians engage in vote-buying?

Unlike Political parties in America And other developed democracies, Politicians in Africa engage in vote-buying as a means to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents and secure victory in elections. By offering money or other incentives to voters, politicians aim to influence their vote and ensure their loyalty.

What are the implications of vote-buying?

Vote-buying has severe consequences for the democratic process and the political landscape of Nigeria. It erodes the integrity of elections, undermines the credibility of elected officials, and perpetuates corruption within the political system.

Is vote-buying illegal in Nigeria?

Yes, vote-buying is illegal under Nigerian law. The Electoral Act of 2022 prohibits the practice of vote-buying and considers it an electoral offense punishable by law. The EFCC has been trying in this aspect.

What can be done to combat vote-buying?

To combat vote-buying, there is a need for strong enforcement of electoral laws and regulations. Political parties, civil society organizations, and the electoral commission must work together to create awareness about the negative impact of vote-buying and hold perpetrators accountable.

How can voters resist vote-buying?

Voters can resist vote-buying by educating themselves about their rights and responsibilities during elections. By being informed and vigilant, voters can refuse to accept any form of inducement or incentive in exchange for their votes, thereby upholding the integrity of the electoral process.

Author: pqrmedia
I am a professional journalists with years of experience. My aim in life is to educate people through well researched contents

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