How desperate Nigerian politicians rig elections [Topnewstv Explainer]
As the 2023 general elections approach, Topnewstv presents you with all the rigging strategies in the books of Nigeria’s desperate politicians.
Credible, free and fair elections are rare in Nigeria, no thanks to politicians who have mastered the art of rigging them.
Electing leaders for political office via the ballots ideally allows citizens to remove underperformers and replace them with candidates voters presume can get the job done. But this is not how the politicians in Nigeria’s corridors of power see elections.
To remain in power for as long as they desire, Nigerian politicians have devised several means of interfering with the electoral process for their own gain. These illegal interventions happen before, during and after voting takes place.
As the 2023 general elections approach, Pulse presents you with all the rigging strategies in the books of Nigeria’s desperate politicians.
Militarisation of opponent’s stronghold
Deploying military personnel to certain areas in the guise of security is one of the tested means of rigging elections and can only be done by a government already in power.
The heavy presence of military personnel especially in the stronghold of an opposition candidate could instill fear in the minds of the voters in the area and discourage them from exercising their constitutional rights.
Oftentimes, the fear of soldiers roaming the streets causes tension and voter apathy which in turn reduces the chances of the opposition candidates in the area.
Vote buying is the most common election rigging practice in Nigeria. It involves politicians or their agents dashing money or food items to the electorate in exchange for their votes, especially on election day.
This practice subsists primarily because most of the electorate who sell their votes, especially in rural communities, are handicapped by multidimensional poverty, which in turn drives their lack of trust in the electoral system.
Snatching of ballot boxes
Ballot box theft is like the grandfather of all electoral malpractices in Nigeria — it’s probably the first election rigging strategy known to Nigerians.
Snatching ballot boxes involves using thugs to disrupt the election process in polling units in a rival candidate’s stronghold.
The goal of the sponsors of the thugs is to ensure the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancels the votes of their opponents in such areas.
Thugs are not only useful for stealing ballot boxes during elections. Sometimes, they are hired to scare the electorate in the area of their sponsor’s opponents by causing chaos.
To ensure no vote is recorded for their master’s rival in certain areas, the thugs may attack the polling units in the area, destroy election materials and chase voters as well as INEC officials away.
Money plays a significant role in electoral manipulations and this is not even a Nigerian phenomenon.
In order to have the results go their way, desperate politicians usually offer money and sometimes properties to electoral officials. They may also go as far as bribing security operatives and corps members whom INEC deploy as ad-hoc staff for elections.
Manipulation of results
Another common means of rigging elections in Nigeria is the manipulation of the figures collated from wards by compromised INEC staff in connivance with party agents.
This arrangement is a bit difficult to execute especially if the electorate at ward levels keeps records of the votes.
However, if the compromised INEC official succeeds in manipulating the figures, the rigging may stand. This kind of manipulation is harder to pull off these days with the introduction of technology like the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS).
Intimidation of INEC officials
Rigging elections is very easy for top politicians in strong political parties, especially if the rigger is a sitting governor or lawmaker. The rigger may threaten or intimidate INEC staff to declare him/her the winner of the election.
This played out in the 2019 general elections when a returning officer, Ibeabuchi Innocent, claimed he was forced to declare the outgoing governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, as the winner of the Imo West senatorial election.
These are various means by which Nigerian politicians rig elections and force themselves on the people.
But as the 2023 general elections approach, Nigerians hope the conduct of the polls will be clean, transparent, and free from all the irregularities they have witnessed in the previous elections.