Competition is an undisputed pillar of any democracy, and every four years, Nigerian politicians compete for a limited number of seats. 

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

And just like in most competitions, there are hard and fast rules that apply to elections when politicians apply for political office.

Persuading voters is an essential part of a political campaign and this is how candidates attempt to convince voters to win their votes. In typical Nigerian fashion, electoral candidates make promises to deliver heaven on earth, turn water into wine and remove fuel subsidy

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

Candidates also get to push their campaigns through adverts, theme songs and TikTok videos just to connect with the voters. The road to pulling this off is long and exhausting and has an unclear guarantee of success, so Nigerian politicians found a shortcut called vote-buying.

What’s vote-buying?

Vote-buying is an illegal transaction between representatives of a candidate and voters. These representatives show up at polling units on election day and use monetary inducements to secure their votes. Even though the rewards range between a measly ₦5,000 and ₦20,000, vote-buying is effective in Nigeria because agents target the most vulnerable communities in a country with millions of extremely poor people.

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

Section 121 of the Electoral Act 2022 defines vote-buying as “bribery and conspiracy” which means anyone who directly or indirectly offers to buy votes is guilty. Voters that accept this bribery are also guilty according to the law, and both parties in the transaction are liable to pay a maximum fine of ₦500,000, 12 months imprisonment or both.

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

The Electoral Act’s definition and much of the vote-buying conversations in Nigeria focus on the buying and selling that inevitably happens on election day. But there are other types of vote-buying that occur before election day that are also quite common without receiving the same level of scrutiny.

Stomach infrastructure

Stomach infrastructure is one of the most prominent building blocks of political campaigns in Nigeria. Candidates try to curry favour with voters by providing them basic food items in exchange for their votes at the polls.

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

While critics usually consider stomach infrastructure as just another silly thing Nigerian politicians do, it’s vote-buying. Stomach infrastructure is captured by the definition of “bribery and conspiracy” in Section 121 which stipulates that the inducement can happen “before or during an election”.

Providing free services

Nigerian candidates also tend to do things like this:

It’s not text-book vote-buying and the police won’t arrest anyone for it, but it falls within the realm of the definition of “bribery and conspiracy” defined by the Electoral Act 2022. 

Any offer of reward designed to alter the electoral behaviour of voters before and during an election is vote-buying. And we’ve seen enough to know Nigerian politicians don’t care.

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

As 2023 elections campaigns kick off…

On September 28th, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fired the starting gun for candidates to officially start campaigning for the 2023 general elections. 

On your mark…

Many things are going to start happening: more campaign drama, more campaign promises and a dash of vote-buying here and there.

As campaigns start, it’s your responsibility to pay attention to the real tangibles that matter for an election and pass that education on to everyone else around you. Allow good ideas to lead, not stomach infrastructure that can land you in prison. 

Vote-buying weakens electoral discipline and fosters a culture of the most undeserving sneaking into important public positions. The only way a candidate should be buying your vote is by presenting their best ideas on how they’ll solve problems that are most important to you.

Politicians that buy your vote will compromise your integrity and won’t act for the common good if they win. Say no to vote-buying.

Vote-buying is a problem in Nigeria

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