In Nigeria, Some Ballots Are For Sale

At a poll in Araromi, Nigerians came out and waited in the hot sun to vote. (Festus Iyorah/YJI)
Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria – Voting continued Sunday in the Nigerian presidential election – a close contest that could see the unseating of the incumbent leader.
Besides the technical glitches that added a second day to the balloting, the election has been marred by murder, thievery and corruption.
For some voters, Election Day is a chance to make money off their ballot.

When her own party officials didn’t pass along money for her vote, Sukurat Sherifat took a bribe from another party. (Festus Iyorah/YJI)

At a polling booth in the Akufo area of Ibadan, local voters trooped out to vote for monetary gains more than candidates.

Wads of naira, the Nigerian currency, were distributed to party agents who would in turn distribute the naira to some preferred voters.

Among them is Sukurat Sherifat.

“I’m not voting until I get my own share of cash given to our party agents,” Sherifat said.
When asked if she can forfeit the naira notes by voting rightly without being bribed, the 29-year-old Sherifat revealed, “Our party leaders have collected the bribe money from the party secretariat but they have refused to give us our own share. “
According to Sherifat, she collected a bribe from another party instead.
In Akufo – a remote area about 15 miles from the city – bribery of voters is celebrated. Some people believe that elections are a time to make money rather than to vote.

Even young people like Samuel Omoluabi agree with the practice.

At this polling place in Akufo, some people celebrate the practice of selling votes. (Festus Iyorah/YJI)

“This is the time to make money with my permanent voter’s card,” said Omoluabi, adding that voters sell their votes to lucrative buyers.

On Saturday, when the election began, roads were deserted and shop and offices were clamped down as people came out in droves to vote for their desired candidates.
President Goodluck Jonathan is fighting off a challenge from General Muhammadu Buhari, who led the nation under military rule for about 18 months in the mid-1980s.
This year’s presidential election is seen as the first election in which has a serious chance to unseat the incumbent and some analyst are even predicting a photo finish.  The winner will lead the country for the next four years. 

Election Delays

Samuel Omoluabi agrees with the practice of paying people for their votes. (Festus Iyorah/YJI)

Though the Independent National Electoral Commission scheduled to begin checking voters in during the morning and begin voting in the afternoon, in some parts of the country, officials came late and the process went at a snail’s pace.

Some of the delay no doubt came from the high tech biometric card readers, introduced this year to prevent the vote-rigging that has affected previous election in Nigeria.
The BBC reported that the technical problem affected Jonathan as the president tried to register for almost an hour.
In the Araromi area of Ibadan, voters experienced the same challenge – technical issues slowed down the electoral process and voters patiently thronged under the scorching sun for
a chance to vote for their desired candidates.

John Arogbo, a 26-year-old accountant, waited patiently for about four hours for his turn.

John Arogbo, a 26-year-old accountant, waited for hours to vote, then stayed to watch the counting. (Festus Iyorah/YJI)

“The slowness in the electoral process is a normal thing,” said Arogbo. “This is the first time we are using the card reader and we should expect the challenges that comes with it.”
Even with the hurdles besetting the electoral process, Adeshina Oladeinde, an editor of the Saturday Tribune, a national newspaper in Nigeria, said he believes that God would provide a candidate with a genuine love for the country.
“Although we have heard a lot of propaganda going on, but I believe that Nigerians would use their head rather than any other thing to vote for the right person that will steer the affairs of this country,” Oladeinde said.
Vote selling and technical troubles were minor in comparison to the violence association with the election. The BBC reported that in the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt, unidentified gunmen forcefully took away ballot boxes and even worse, that unknown gunmen killed 20 people in attacks in the northern part of the nation.
Despite the problems, at least some Nigerians were satisfied with the election process.
“The election was free and fair,” said Arogbo who stayed to witness the counting of the votes after waiting so long to cast his ballot. “Scores of people waited to count their votes after the elections and there was no form of manipulation.”
Student journalist Victor Ejechi, who was at a polling place in Edo state in the southern part of Nigeria, agreed with Arogbo.
In a telephone interview, Ejechi said the election was free and fair at his polling place.
Another observer, Iruoma Kelechukwu, also said in phone interview that elections were free and fair in his own polling center in Nigeria’s large city of Lagos, in the southwestern part of the country.
“People stay back and counted their votes,” Kelechukwu said, alongside the election officials.
Festus Iyorah is a Senior Reporter in Nigeria for Youth Journalism International.


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