Vote-Buying and Selling in Nigeria: the challenges and way forward


By Tijani Abdulkabeer

Without proper funding, little to nothing can be done to improve the condition of our electoral processes in Nigeria. Yet, over the years, there have not been many efforts by the government to address the challenges.

Globally, elections are believed to be one of the pillars that supports democracy. It forms important pillars that place the power to govern with the people. It ensures that democratic pillars including the rule of law, ballot secrecy, separation of power, and independence of the judiciary are strengthened.

Photo credit:

However, in developing countries, especially in Africa, the quality of elections still varies widely as elections have been plagued with problems such as ballot fraud, intimidation, multiple voting, snatching of ballot boxes, violence, and more. In Nigeria, vote buying, for instance, did not just start today. It first occurred during the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries held in Jos in 1992, and was one of the justifications for Military President Badamosi Ibrahim Babangida to annul the June 12, 1993, presidential elections. So, you see, just as democratic elections have spread across the globe since the 1970s, so has electoral incentives and buying votes.

The concept took another dimension after the return to democracy in May 1999 and since then have grown to be one of the most disturbing feature in Nigeria’s democracy. The mathematics is simple; politicians invest their money in party politics with the expectations of profiteering. They bank on their financial weight in party structure to control who gets nominated at the delegate level and who emerges at the poll eventually.

A study conducted during the 2015 election campaign in Nigeria found that candidates spent an average of 40 percent of their budget on the distribution of material benefits to voters before the day of the election. There is evidence that the practice continues. For example, in the 2022 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, voters were wooed by party agents with cash ranging from N10,000–N30,000.

And this is even despite existing laws, such as the electoral act 2010 (as amended), that prohibited vote buying and provided punishment for defaulters. But the big question is: why does the act persist?

In a country with a vast number of people living below the poverty line, electoral vote-buying would definitely become rampant. It is the result you get when the government has failed to invest in human capacity.

So, during the distribution of the vote buying incentives, politicians target the poor or less educated among the electorates because it is believed that gifts have more force among the poor. For example, the poor who finds N1000 on the street will be made happier finding it than if a wealthy person does. This is due to diminishing marginal utility of income.

Moreover, unless a voter has an alternative source of income and simply does not need the incentive, it is unlikely that poor voters will therefore be able to resist vote buying incentives.

Solving electoral vote-buying and selling is quite straightforward. The government should introduce strict rules and laws for offences of electoral malpractices but the problem, is adherence to the provision of the laws.

As the 2023 elections draw nearer, there is a need for outreach programs to sensitize members of the public, especially those at the grassroots to desist from collecting vote-buying incentives or food. The need to intensify voter education on how the act undermines good governance and promotes corruption.

The media, civil society groups and even private individuals should advocate and apply pressure for law enforcement agencies to arrest, investigate and properly prosecute those involved in the act of vote trading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *