The speaker of the poem addresses a voter, urging them to consider the weight of their vote and the impact it will have on the future. The speaker warns the voter that their vote is not just a personal decision, but that it also has social and political implications. Read more 2nd PUC English Summaries.
The Voter Summary
The Voter Summary in English
In this short story, Achebe offers a satirical picture of how politics and elections generally work in modern African countries like Nigeria.
The protagonist of the story is Rufus Okeke – Roof for short. The majority of the Igbo people in the village are illiterate, backward, and poor. Though the administration of the town is in the hands of a democratic government comprising elected representatives of the people, the people have not yet realized the value of their mandate and are also not yet aware of their rights. It is election time now.
The ruling party PAP (People’s Alliance Party) is seeking re-election. There is hardly any other party to obstruct or prevent the re-election of the existing government. One important aspect of this election is the re-election of Marcus Ibe, who is Minister of Culture in the outgoing government. The only other party, which appears to be a non-entity until now, is the POP – Progressive Organisation Party, and Maduka is its representative. The POP is making a strong attempt to garner some votes in its favour.
The focus of the author seems to be to capture the human drama in which a poor, pathetically innocent and naive people make a brave attempt to derive some monetary benefit during the election from a prospective candidate using the mediatory strategies of a literate young man of their town in when they have reposed a great deal of trust.
However, the crux of the plot is how this very same trusted representative of the people manages to strike a rich bargain with the opposition party as well and yet remain loyal to both the parties.
When the story opens, we are introduced to Rufus Okeke. He is a very popular man in the village. His popularity is due to the fact that unlike people of his age, Roof has not abandoned his village seeking work in the towns. Secondly, he is also not a village lout. People like him because they believe that he has given up a bright future and come back to their village on his own after spending two years as a bicycle repairer’s apprentice in Port Harcourt with the intention of guiding the people of the village.
In the next stage, the author tells us about the voters and the government. We learn that the whole village had voted en masse in favour of the People’s Alliance Party and elected Honourable Marcus Ibe of their village, who had become Minister of Culture in the outgoing government. The author tells us in a satirical tone that Marcus Ibe was sure to be re-elected because there was hardly any other opposition party worth considering. From this situation, the reader can infer the predicament of the innocent people pitted against greedy and power-thirsty politicians. In a tone veiled in mild satire, the author says that Roof, the trusted representative of the people of Umuofia, was working as the election campaign manager for the Honourable Minister Marcus Ibe, who was seeking re-election from Umuofia.
The roof was more intelligent and cleverer than the common people of Umuofia. He had become a real expert in election campaigning at all levels – village, local government or national, that is why he was able to gauge the mood and temper of the electorate at any given time. This time, he has been intelligent enough to warn Marcus Ibe that a radical change has come into the thinking of the people in Umuofia since the last election. Thus he kindles the interest of the reader.
The villagers had come to realize that in five years, politics had brought wealth, chieftaincy titles, doctorate degrees and other honours readily to the man whom they had given their votes free of charge five years ago. It is also a paradox that the people who had empowered a person to enjoy such benefits themselves remained poor and ignorant. They did not even know that a doctorate degree holder is not a medical doctor. Anyhow, the people were now ready to try the value of their votes in a different way.
The author then narrates the expectations of the people in Umuofia. The people had now witnessed the ‘good’ things done by politics to their own elected representative Marcus Ibe. Before getting elected, he was only a fairly successful mission school teacher and was on the verge of getting dismissed on the basis of a female teacher’s complaint. Just at that moment, politics had come to their village and at that opportune moment Marcus Ibe had wisely joined up. By doing so he had escaped dismissal.
Secondly, he got elected and became ‘Chief the Honourable’ in the government. Consequently, he got two long cars and had built himself the biggest house in that village. But, he remained a devoted leader of his people. In a satirical tone, the author says that whenever he could, he left the good things of the capital and returned to his village which had neither running water nor electricity, but he had lately installed a private plant to supply electricity to his new house in the village. The writer comments that Marcus knew the source of his good fortune hinting that it is the people of Umuofia who are responsible for his prosperity.
Marcus Ibe had christened his new house ‘Umuofia Mansions’ in honour of his village and on the day the house was opened, he had hosted a grand lunch to his people slaughtering five bulls and countless goats. Moreover, the house was opened by the Archbishop. Thus the writer gives a rosy picture of the eminence and prosperity of Marcus which politics had bestowed on him.
The author describes the reactions of the people of Umuofia after they had enjoyed Marcus’s hospitality. There is subtle irony in the description. The people are full of praise for Marcus’ hospitality. But, they also know that Marcus owes his riches to his getting elected and joining the government. We can perceive a tone of regret when the people conclude after the feasting was over that they had underrated the power of the ballot paper earlier and that they should not do it again. This is the radical change in people’s attitude towards casting their ballot paper in an election free of charge without expecting any benefits.
Since Roof had already warned Marcus Ibe about it, Marcus had also taken suitable measures to meet the expectations of the people. “He had drawn five months’ salary in advance and changed a few hundred pounds into shining shillings and had armed his campaign boys with eloquent little jute bags”. Having sensed that the people of Umuofia will not cast their ballot paper in his favour, free of cost, Marcus had sent money to bribe and persuade the voters to vote for him. The contesting candidate would make his speeches in the morning and at night his expert election managers would conduct their whispering campaign.
Here ‘whispering campaign’ refers to the way election managers visit voters’ houses in the evening after sunset and tell the voters about the prospect of their candidate becoming minister. Thereby they appeal to people’s self-esteem and the honour that is going to be bestowed on their town and finally bribe them into casting their vote in favour of their political party.
We see how the radical change in people brings about a change in the nature of the election process and affects the sanctity of the people’s mandate.
We witness a whispering campaign conducted by Roof in the house of Ogbuefi Ezenwa, a man of the high traditional title. Roof addresses a group of elders and tells them that his party PAP has made a man of their village a minister in the outgoing government. Roof tries to argue that it is a great honour for one of their sons to be singled out for this honour. Then he tells them that PAP leaders look upon Umuofia with a favourable attitude and whether they cast their vote in his favour or not, PAP will form the government. He also tries to hint at the promise made by PAP to the people of Umuofia that they will give pipe-borne water to their village.
After Roof had finished talking, Ogbuefi Ezenwa spoke to Roof. He tells him that they believe as true every word he has said and every one of them would cast his vote for Marcus. He also promises to get their wives’ votes too in his favour. But, he then tells him straightaway that it is shameful to accept two shillings for their vote. He then says that if Marcus were a poor man they would give their vote free as they had done it before. Then the old leader argues that Marcus is a great man and does his things like a great man. Then he tells Roof that they did not demand money before and they will not ask him in future.
The writer also uses the same language to mock at Roof. He says that Roof had also lately been taking down a ‘lot of firewood’ from Marcus. The previous day, he had taken a rich robe from Marcus. Moreover, Marcus himself had rebuked his wife when she objected to Roof taking his fifth bottle of beer from the refrigerator. Furthermore, Roof had been chauffeur-driven to the disputed site, about a land case which he won. Having enjoyed all such benefits from Marcus, Roof understood the demands of the elders.
Therefore, he finally drops two more shillings in front of each one of them and tells them in a tone of finality that he is through with it, and pretends to be defiant. Then he ends his campaign with the sentence, “Cast your paper for the enemy if you like!” The elders quickly calm him down with a placatory speech agreeing to vote for Marcus, and pick up the coins on the floor, with a feeling that they have not lost their decorum and dignity in the bargain.
The author has until now introduced the reader to the existing situation. Now he is going to talk about the opposition party. The author here satirises how opposition parties come into being and how sincere they are in their objectives and in their fighting strategies.
In his ‘whispering campaign’, Roof had asked the elders, in the end, to give their vote to the enemy. The enemy of PAP was a new party called the Progressive Organisation Party (POP). It had been formed by the tribes down the coast. The founders of the party claimed that they had founded the party to save themselves from “totally political, cultural, social and religious annihilation”. The party organizers (of POP) knew that they had no chance of winning against the PAP, yet they had taken the plunge for a straight fight with PAP. They had provided cars and loudspeakers to a few rascals and thugs to go around and make a lot of noise. The author hints that they had also spent a lot of money in Umuofia. The writer comments that such money will only make the local campaigners very rich.
The action now reaches the climax. The writer tells the reader that as the election day was approaching nearer, for Roof “everything was moving as planned”.
One evening the leader of the POP campaign team comes to visit Roof. Although they were well known to each other, his visit is cold and businesslike. He places five pounds on the floor before Roof and tells him that they want his vote. Roof immediately gets up from his chair, closes the outside door carefully and comes back to his chair. Within that short time Roof has weighed the proposition. Roof tries to give a reason to the other person for not accepting his proposition. Roof tells him that he was working for Marcus and it would be very bad to accept it. But the other person had come prepared for such an answer. So he tells him that Marcus would not be there when Roof puts his ballot paper in the box. Then, in a dismissive tone, he tells Roof that they have plenty of work to do that night, and asks him whether he is going to accept it or not.
Roof asks him whether anyone would talk about it outside. The other man tells him categorically that they wanted votes and not gossip. Roof accepts the money. Then they get Roof to swear that he would vote for Maduka in front of a little object called ‘iyi’, which had been brought from Mbanta. However, Roof does not hesitate but says aloud that he would cast his vote for Maduka, failing which the ‘iyi’ will take note. The other man is satisfied and leaves. Before he leaves Roof tells him that Maduka has no chance of winning against Marcus. But the other person tells him that it would be enough if he gets a few votes that time, and he “would get more in the following election. All that they wanted was to make the people know that Maduka will give pounds and not shillings”.
The narrator describes the town and the mood of the people. We learn that Chief the Honourable Marcus Ibe was doing things in grand style. He hires a highlife band from Umuru and stations it at a distance considered lawful. Many villagers dance to the music before proceeding to the booths. Some people shake hands with the great man ‘Marcus’ and congratulate him in advance. Roof and his campaign boys give last-minute advice to the people and try to win Marcus’ appreciation. The writer then tells us that Marcus was a stickler for details. He wants to ensure that not a single vote goes to the other party. Therefore, as soon as the first rush of voters is over, he promptly asks his campaign boys to go one at a time and put in their ballot papers. He asks Roof to go first.
Roof dashes off towards the booths without any hesitation. After the electoral officer has explained to him about the two boxes, he goes in and sees the two boxes one of which has the picture of the car and the other, the head. Roof brings out his ballot paper and looks at it. He does not like to betray Marcus even in secret. For a few seconds, he feels like going back to the other man and returning his five pounds. Then he realizes that it is impossible because he has sworn on that ‘iyi’. Then he recalls the red five-pound notes.
Roof’s mind works quick as lightning. He folds the paper, tears it in two along the crease and puts one half in each box. He puts the first half into Maduka’s box and says to himself aloud, “I vote for Maduka”, and comes out. The election officials mark his thumb with indelible purple ink and he walks out of the booth as jauntily as he has gone in.
In conclusion, “The Voter” by Chinua Achebe serves as a powerful commentary on the disillusionment and moral dilemmas faced by individuals in a political landscape marked by corruption and manipulation. Marcus Ibe’s internal struggle and eventual decision to vote against his conscience highlight the challenges of maintaining integrity in the face of systemic corruption