Accepted Paper:

Do Nigerian voters welcome vote-buying?   

Author:

Sa'eed Husaini (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Through analysing practices observed in a 2014 Nigerian state-level election, I reassess both a view of vote buying as the literal selling of votes to the highest-bidding candidate, and clear-cut distinctions between strategies of electoral mobilisation based on programs, personality, or patronage.

Paper long abstract:

The 2014 governorship election held in the southwest Nigerian state of Ekiti produced a startling result. The challenger, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, a previously impeached governor, decisively defeated the sitting governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, despite the latter's incumbent advantage and his reputation as a reformer. Popular explanations of the results emphasized that cash and other gifts items had been exchanged to an unprecedented degree even for the typical Nigerian election, in which the giving of cash and gifts to voters is considered a norm of political behavior, as Bratton has argued.

The challenger had, in this view, simply offered more inducements than had the incumbent, who was rather all-too focused on making programmatic appeals. These accounts, moreover, chimed with scholarly depictions of vote buying as both indispensable for electoral victory and more convincing to African electorates than policy appeals.

This paper draws on data gathered among day laborers and party activists in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, to assess the perceptions of a poor urban constituency regarding the relationship between candidates' programs, policies, and personality. Drawing on existing scholarship problematizing the ontology of vote-buying I argue that candidate's varied approaches to gift-giving were understood by poor voters in Ekiti not as financial bids for their votes but rather as 'signs of virtue'. Personalities and gift-exchanges were thus understood as symbolic of the rival policy preferences of the main challengers, a proposition that complicates clear distinctions in comparative politics between personality, patronage, and programmatic based mobilisation strategies.

Panel P034
The changing face of electoral manipulation in Africa