THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF VOTE BUYING, MONEY POLITICS AND STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE IN NIGERIA.

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- BOLUWATIFE ONATADE, Bsc Political Science and international relations Osun State University, Osogbo.

“Economic need is man’s most fundamental need. Man must eat before he can do anything else – before he can worship, pursue culture or participate in elections”. – Claude Ake, 1981.

Nigeria is arguably the most socio-economically unequal society in the world. The fact that the top two richest persons in Africa are Nigerians, boasting a combined net worth of 19.5 billion dollars, which is more than 50 percent of the total net worth of the top five richest in Africa, while at the same time 86.9 million Nigerians representing nearly 50 percent of its estimated 180 million population live in extreme poverty, overtaking India as the poverty capital of the world, aptly underlines the depth of this inequality in wealth distribution. The concern that poverty and economic inequality pose an existential threat to the Nigerian democracy has persisted and has even taken on a new urgency in recent years. It is these extremes of wealth and poverty that explains why the wealthy seeks to buy political influence and the poor are all too willing to sell their votes.

Lobbying for votes through the distribution of money, food and household items such as rice, beans, bread, kerosene, onions and so on by politicians to the electorate in exchange for their votes has historically been a feature of the electioneering process in Nigeria. However, its pervasiveness in the fourth republic means that since 1999, there has not been any election without reported cases of vote buying in Nigeria. Most recently in the Anambra (2017), Osun (2018) and Ekiti (2018) states gubernatorial elections, votes were openly sold and bought. Voters after voting showed their ballots to waiting party agents who then paid the agreed fees in full glare of everyone.

Ayodele Fayose’s comprehensive victory in the 2014 Ekiti state gubernatorial elections in South–West Nigeria popularized the philosophy of ‘Stomach infrastructure’ – an idea which suggests that the stomach is the route to the mind, particularly for the hungry, as a tried and trusted strategy for winning elections in Nigeria. And is further evidence that voters prioritize instant gratification and rewards over whatever benefits that might accrue from long term government planning.

The fundamental question therefore is; can poor people constantly preoccupied with providing for their subsistence be full and effective citizens?

On the 16th of February 2019, the Nigerian electorate would return to the polls to choose for themselves, those who would be in charge of the machinery of the state at different levels for the next four years. Sadly, political education and sensitization on the evils of selling and buying of votes is incapable of causing a significant behavioral change among the poverty stricken electorate. The only way to sustain a robust and high quality democracy in Nigeria is to create a socio -economic profile that is predominantly middle class with few people on either end of the economic spectrum, and this is a cause whoever emerge victorious at the polls must aggressively pursue. But can the economic privileged act consciously, towards dismantling the existing social order upon which their economic privilege is predicated?   

14 COMMENTS

  1. Since the major aim of virtually everybody firstly is survival and the major things which ensure survival are what the politicians use to buy the people over, it will be hard to change social order of the country, but it’s not impossible though

  2. Great work man. Keep it up. The elite class over the years have mastered the act of keeping the lower class in perpetual decency and stomach infrastructure will always come to the rescue of the elite class. The middle class that could break this on the other hand chose to be non partisan and only wants to enjoy their crude comforts. Political education and sensitization of the lower class seems to be the only solution.

  3. I believe there can be a change,the problem most people who vote are illiterate, who are dont know the actual implication of voting the wrong leader until the deed is done, they are after their survival first, so they will sell their votes to survive, the conscious have to wake the unconscious for this change to occur

    • Comment:Illiterate people will continue to vote in as much the educated one decide not to. On the day of election, illiterate people will move to the polling unit by 7:30am even before the Inec official arrived to decide their fate and too know educated one will crossed leg in front of T.V set to analyse politics.

  4. What an apt way to see through our problem but the issue I have with the piece on the stomach infrastructure line. Stomach infrastructure came to play as a manifesto by Fayose which was actualised when he got to power not as a means to getting votes from the people.

    • After fayose’s flawless victory in 2014. He went around boasting he won the election because he knew and did what the people wanted.(to fill their stomachs). He also described fayemi as not being sensitive.
      Ironically, fayemi beat him at his own game, Winning back the gubernatorial seat with the same strategy against which he lost in 2014.
      The 2014 elections introduced the concept of stomach infrastructure into popular consciousness in Nigeria

  5. Micheal, Dolapo, are there empirical antecedents of nations who were faced with this kind of problem and who eventually solved it. If there are, Nigeria could adopt their strategy.

  6. After fayose’s flawless victory in 2014. He went around boasting he won the election because he knew and did what the people wanted.(to fill their stomachs). He also described fayemi as not being sensitive.
    Ironically, fayemi beat him at his own game, Winning back the gubernatorial seat with the same strategy against which he lost in 2014.
    The 2014 elections introduced the concept of stomach infrastructure into popular consciousness in Nigeria.

  7. After fayose’s flawless victory in 2014. He went around boasting he won the election because he knew and did what the people wanted.(to fill their stomachs). He also described fayemi as not being sensitive.
    Ironically, in 2018, fayemi beat him at his own game, Winning back the gubernatorial seat with the same strategy against which he lost in 2014.
    The 2014 elections introduced the concept of stomach infrastructure into popular consciousness in Nigeria

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