International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
Vote -buying, Voting Behavior and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria

Abstract


Nigeria's democracy is under threat following growing trend of vote buying and selling in elections. Capacity, competence and character are not parameters for assessing electoral candidates. Cash-for-vote or 'see and buy' is emerging as the major determinant of electoral choice. Besides being illegal as explicitly stated in Nigeria's electoral laws, vote buying also has a tendency to aggravate corruption in public offices as those who hold public mandates are made to seek corrupt means of enriching themselves towards future elections. Vote buying, in its literal sense, is a simple economic exchange. Candidates “buy” and citizens/electorate “sell” votes, as they buy and sell apples, shoes, or television sets. The act of vote buying by this view is a contract, or perhaps an auction in which voters sell their votes to the highest bidder. This is why money bags venture into politics with ultimate ambition of capturing power with ease. Public offices have become chattels with rich politicians becoming mercantile too. This menace is undermining electoral choices and could imperil Nigeria's democracy if not abated. It is on this note, the paper critically examine the concepts of vote-buying and voting behavior, and its negative effects or challenges it reposed on the electoral and democratic consolidation in Nigeria using qualitative method of data collection. The study revealed that vote buying politics has a great setback on voting behavior and democratic governance in Nigeria. The paper posited that vote buying is consistent with the continued materialization and commercialization of party politics in prebendal Nigeria wherein electioneering and partisan relations are commodified in a manner that translates to economic exchange. Elections provide citizens with a say in the decisions that affect their everyday lives and provide governments with a legitimate authority to govern. However, only when elections are free, fair and credible can they help promote democracy, human rights and security. When elections are fraudulent and subject to vote rigging, they have the potential to trigger political instability and violence.  It is also revealed that effective governance, virile democratic institutions and citizenship rights are achievable only when undue interferences are avoided.  The paper further revealed that any polity where voters are not completely or as much as possible insulated from outside pressure most especially, they cannot choose freely. It notes that if power and money influence take the centre stage of determining the elector choices, the very essence of constitutional rights of the citizens to freely exercise their freedom of choice and equality in the democratic society may be called to question while such good governance and development will remain a mirage. The study contends that resolving the issue and reversing the trend may involve general economic empowerment of voters (citizens), far more than and beyond casual tinkering with modalities of voting and improving balloting secrecy by the authorities. It will take good governance, legal enforcement, prioritisation of employment generation, restoration of ideological base for political parties, holistic war on corruption, and effective poverty reduction as policy options towards reversing and remedying the ugly trend.