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Chinua Achebe is a renowned Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His works highlight the clash of Western and traditional African values. His style reflects Igbo oral tradition. The narration is peppered with folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. Among his many works, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘Arrow of God’ is very popular. His works highlight the clash of Western and traditional African values. Here in the story “The Voter” we see how the democratic exercise of the west corrupts the innocent Igbo people. Marcus Ibe was a Mission school teacher.
He plunged into politics and won the election. The people of Umuofia elected him without any monetary demands. He became the Minister of Culture in the PAP government. Politics had changed his life phenomenally: he gained wealth, titles, and honours. On the opening ceremony of his new house, he had arranged a great feast for his villagers. The people realized the magic of politics. They did not want to vote for him in the next election for free. Roof was a loyal follower of Marcus Ibe and very popular in his village. He understood the pulse of the people very well. He vehemently campaigned for Marcus even striking a bargain of 4 shilling with the villagers.
However, on the night of the election, the leader of the POP campaign team met Roof and offered him 5 pounds to vote for Maduka. He accepted the offer swearing on Iyi hoping that his one vote would not make any difference. On the voting day, he was in a dilemma. He came up with an idea. He tore the ballot paper into two pieces and put one half in each box and came out as happily as ever.
Roof returns to his village to help the illiterate people
Roof (Rufus Okeke) is an educated person who returns to his village in order to help the illiterate people in his own way. He had worked as a bicycle repairer’s apprentice in Port Harcourt but out of a free will, he gave up his brighter future and returned to the village to help his people. However, their village Umuofia had already produced a minister of Culture Chief the honourable Marcus Ibe in the outgoing government and was now running for another election with his party ‘People’s Alliance Party’ (PAP).
It was at the time of the elections that he involved himself completely both to meet his selfish needs and a bit of social concern. Roof was the perfect adviser for Hon. Marcus during the elections as he required a person of Roof’s nature to act as the Campaign manager. We are further told that;
The villagers had had five years in which to see how quickly and plentifully politics brought wealth, chieftaincy titles, doctorate degrees, and other honours. They kept wondering how politics makes people very rich in a short time because Marcus had been a mission school teacher before he joined the politics that came to their village. In a short time, he had become Chief the Honourable with two big cars, and had built himself the biggest house ever in that area and christened it “Umuofia Mansion” in honour of his village. However, he is credited that despite his success he was still devoted to his people. At times he left the good things of the city and returned to his village which had neither running water nor electricity. He had just installed a private plant to supply the electricity in his new house.
Marcus throws a feast for the villagers
On the day it was opened by the archbishop, he had slaughtered five bulls and countless goats to entertain the village people. They all praise him but after the feasting, they become aware of how they had underrated the power of the ballot paper. Marcus was prepared for satisfying his voters this time around. He had drawn five months’ worth of salary in advance and changed a few hundred pounds into shillings and gave the money to his campaign boys so that he could meet the expenditures. Roof we are told was the most trusted of these campaigners.
The hectic day right before the voting day was when Roof met five elders from the village in the house of Ogbuefi Ezenwa and gave them 2 shillings each hoping that it would make them support Marcus. He reminds them that Marcus is a son from their own village and his part that is in power has promised them pipe-borne water. They inform him that it is true what he tells them but it would be shameful to take two shillings from Marcus because he is no longer poor. He is now rich and does his things like a great man. They give him a proverb that
“But today is our day; we have climbed the iroko tree today and would be foolish not to take down all the firewood we need”
Roof bribe the villagers to support Marcus
He understood what they meant by “firewood” because he too has been benefiting from the firewood from Marcus. So, he added one shilling for each but they still objected and finally, he gave each man another shilling. He said if they don’t like then they may go and vote for the enemy, referring to the Progressive Organisation Party (POP). This was formed by the tribes down the coast to save themselves from total political, cultural, social, and religious annihilation. It was said that the party had let loose so much money in Umuofia just for buying votes.
On that same night, Marcus received a strange visit. A few of the POP campaign boys entered Roof’s house and tempted him with five ponds and ask him to vote for Maduka. He takes the money then they ask him to swear by the local deity “Iyi” from Mbata. He was left with no other alternative but to obey.
Roof split his vote into two
On the day of the election, Roof watched the reaction of Marcus quite often because he did not want Marcus to suspect him. Marcus sat in his car shaking hands of the people who came to congratulate him in advance. Roof and other organizers gave the last-minute instructions to the voters. He tells them that if they vote for the car they will one day ride in it. Although he was expected to win Marcus never wanted to lose any vote after all had cast their votes, he asked his campaign boys to go for voting starting with Roof. When Roof was asked to cast his vote, he did not know what to do. He did not want to betray Marcus even in secret. He thought of returning the five pounds but it was too much money to turn down just like that.
All of a sudden, a grand idea struck him. Without a second thought, he tore the ballot paper into two halves and put the first half into Maduka’s box, and verbally proclaimed that he has first voted for Maduka and put another half in Marcus’s box and moved out.
The story gives the message to most African countries and people who do not conduct free and fair elections. In most African countries, politicians bribe the voters so that they can win. The author, therefore, intends to correct these vices and injustices done by the political leaders during campaigns, elections, and when they are in power. “The Voter ”is a beautiful story symbolic of the entry of a new system of governance into the innocent settlements of native people in Africa. It shows how Igbo people fall prey to the snares of the western systems. The story also depicts how the democratic exercise of the west introduced in Africa corrupts the innocent Igbo folks.