There is nothing worse than trying to convince someone to vote for a particular candidate. Despite facts and figures, they have their mind set on a particular candidate. It is not always for the reasons, which one might think (such as superior proposals). Rather, it could be something as little as race and ethnic bond or direct benefits to be enjoyed in the moment. This is the case of most African elections. To elaborate on this, it is important to assess case studies where elections which is the bane of democracy, has become a ground for sharing the daily bread of the average citizen.
There have been recorded cases of financial inducement of electorates in Nigeria during the just concluded governorship elections in states like Ekiti (South Western Nigeria) and Anambra (South Eastern Nigeria). In Anambra, for instance, the various political parties were sharing between N1,000 and N5,000 (£2 and £10) to each person voting, with the belief that the individual will vote their party. 8 months later, in Ekiti state, voters were given between N3,000 and N10, 000 (£6 and £20) to vote for the winning party.
The Nigerian general elections are around the corner and with the gale of defections from the ruling party to the opposition party and vice versa, it is evident that money will be a major factor in deciding who will win the elections.
It is also clear why money is a deciding factor. The people are poor. Over 87 million of the 198 million Nigerians live below poverty line. That is more than half the population of the country. The basic amenities are not taken care of by the government, thus; people are so poor that during the election season, people are not truly interested in ideologies or how to ensure that they elect the right candidate. Most people only care about the present. It is a scary trend that is placing its foot solidly on Nigeria’s democracy.
But, this trend is not only noticed in Nigeria. In Zimbabwe, the ruling party, Zanu PF had been accused of vote buying during their elections. It had greatly affected the outcome of results and thus, played a huge role in determining how the presidential elections would go.
The impact of vote buying in a country is such that people need to be kept poor so that at the right time their votes can be bought with pennies. It also means that politicians would become more corrupt because they have to gather enough money to be able to buy votes. The highest bidder often wins the elections. This leads to African leaders underperforming as a result of the desire to pay back those who helped fund their election as well as recouping the money that they themselves had spent in the course of the electoral exercise.
The citizens later feel the impact of their actions. There are other actors in the action of vote buying. The electoral officers themselves play a huge role in the success of vote buying. Further, international and local observers often receive $10,000 and above just to ensure that they agree that elections were free and fair.
While there are serious legal implications for vote buying, the judiciary in both Nigeria and Zimbabwe are highly unlikely to intervene. Elections are no longer about upholding the best placed candidate, but about the highest paying. It is no longer about upholding democratic ideals, but about getting our daily bread, today.