The just-concluded Nigeria general elections were described by many local and foreign observers as largely free, fair and credible. In the history of Nigeria, it comes second to the June 12, 1993 election which was annulled. But the April 2011 polls were not perfect. An area that interested me was the buying and selling of votes. Some purchases were made before the day of the election; some right as voters walked to their polling booths; others right on the grounds on the polling centre. Individual votes were sold; block votes were also sold—such monies being offered to community leaders who promise to ‘deliver’ their community. How much really was a vote worth?
A market woman in Saki, Oyo State: "They gave us N500 each (about $2). The first time, we got the money before we voted...and then we did not vote for them. This time, they showed us the money and said 'Go and vote for us first'".
A driver in Oyo, Oyo State: “They gave us N200 and said we must swear that Ogun [fiery god of iron] should kill us if we did not vote for them. I said because of only N200?”
A plumber in Ibadan: "PDP people gave N500 but ACN said they had no money but good plan for our future. We then took PDP money. I voted for ACCORD. My friends, I don't know whose they did, but we did not vote for PDP. But ACN too gave money, maybe N200".
A housewife in Eruwa, Oyo State: "They gave us coal pot [Worth about $3] and matches"
A female librarian in Ibadan, Oyo State: "They gave me gele" [Head tie, worth about $4]
A civil servant in Makurdi, Benue State: "PDP gave a module of rice, three cubes of maggi (seasoning)."
A retired driver in Igboora, Oyo State: “PDP brought 30 Bajaj to Igboora for ward leaders” [A Bajaj is a made-in-China motorcycle, worth about $700]
A university student in Ibadan: “They gave our Hall a flat-screen plasma TV set, a decoder. But people said you want us to fail exams; that’s why you’re bringing these now. Too late. We won’t vote for you”
How much was a vote worth? It depended on who was buying the vote. PDP offered the highest in most places. This should not surprise anyone—PDP has unlimited access to state resources. It also depended on whose vote is being bought ... community rulers got much more money than ordinary citizens! Student leaders got more than students. Halls of residence got more than human beings! Well, Nigerians have become different—maybe wiser. They take the money from everyone and vote for the person of their choice. Some turned down the money. A student hall of residence refused the gifts outright.