TOPIC 4(B) : LITERATURE ANALYSIS(PLAY) – THE VOTER – english notes form three pdf download
By Chinua Achebe
The Voter is a short by a Nigerian poet and novelist, Chinua Achebe.
This story is about the main character that has to choose between the modern culture and the traditional culture and this has to be through his political campaigns and elections.
Chinua Achebe planned to study medicine, but love of literature and his country’s nationalist movement forever changed his plans. As a student, he came to realize the destructive effects of colonialism and dedicated himself to redefining Africa, to telling Africans’ true story, including their achievements and failures.
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 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…” (p.10)
They keep 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 long 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 electricity in his new house.
On the day it was opened by the Archbishop he 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 canvass for 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 its 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 as 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”
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.
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 organisers gave the last-minute instructions to the voters. For example the author says;
Do not forget”, he said to a group of illiterate women who seemed ready to burst with enthusiasm and good humour, ‘our sign is the motor car’ “Like the one Marcus is sitting inside” discrediting the other part he says “Don’t look at the other with the man’s head: it is for those whose heads are not correct”
He tell 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 box and moved out.
The Title of the Story
“The Voter” is a short story written by Chinua Achebe where he highlights the entire election scenario in his home country Nigeria in the society of Umuofia. The voter is none other than Rufus Okeke popularly known as “Roof”. He is a person, considered to be knowledgeable and successful in politics but he fails to exercise his loyalty to his friend Marcus after receiving a bribe of five pounds from Maduka. He remains in a dilemma in the ballot booth until he gets an idea of splitting the ballot paper into two halves and puts each peace in each box rendering his vote spoilt.
The story is set in Umuofia society in Nigeria featuring a post-colonial Nigeria and the challenges of corruption and superstition that dominate the post-independence politics in most African states.
- Point of view. The story is told from a third person omniscient point of view in which the author is the narrator of the story. He seems to know everything in the plot of the story even the thoughts of Characters like Roof.
- Dialogue or Conversation is used to bring the characters and events to life. For example the dialogue between Maduka’s campaign boys and Roof;
‘You Know I work for Marcus,’ he said feebly. ‘It will be very bad…’
‘Marcus will not be there when you put in your paper. We have plenty of work to do tonight; are you taking this or not?’
It will not be heard outside this room?’ asked Roof.
‘We are after votes not gossip’
‘All right,’ said Roof in English. (p.13)
Ø He is corrupt. He is used by Marcus Ibe as his campaign manager but he uses corruption to bribe the voters to be canvass for Marcus. He also takes corruption from the campaign boys of Maduka to vote for him. As a result he ends up spoiling his vote.
Ø He is a betrayer. Rufus Okeke betrays his friend Marcus Ibe by taking bribes from the campaign leader of the POP. The author explains this by saying, “no words were wasted. He placed five pounds on the floor before and said, we want your vote”
Ø He is an active politician and a member of PAP. Rufus is a successful politician who knows how to exploit the ignorance of the masses for his benefit. On the election day for example he says to the women ““Do not forget”, he said to a group of illiterate women who seemed ready to burst with enthusiasm and good humour, ‘our sign is the motor car’ “Like the one Marcus is sitting inside”
Ø He has a strong convincing power. It is said of him that he had become a real expert in election campaigns at all levels – village, local government or national. He uses tricks to convince people to vote for Marcus saying that those who will vote for the head are the ones whose heads are not correct.
Ø He was a bicycle repairer’s apprentice. He is cited as a good man who returned to the village to help his people unlike his fellows who abandoned the village to seek any work in town. For him he worked for two years as a bicycle repairer at Port Harcourt then gave up this brighter future and returned to the village.
Ø He is not trustworthy and has no stand. Rufus has no stand because he convinces others to vote for Marcus who by the way has helped him in many things including winning a land case, he finally betrays him. Again in the ballot booth he failed to vote for Maduka thus spoiling his vote..
Ø He is a member of PAP. Marcus is a member of the People’s Alliance Party which is not in power and is running for another election representing his Party.
Ø He is a corrupt leader. He uses his money to bribe people to vote for him. Since he was the minister he should have helped the people to a point that he had no need of giving corruption.
Ø He is an irresponsible leader. We are informed that he is a minister of culture but his village Umuofia has neither electricity nor running water. He is still asking for re-election promising to supply pipe-borne water to the village.
Ø He is selfish. We are informed that his village has neither running water nor electricity but he owns two long cars and has built himself a very large house and installed a private plant to supply electricity in his own house.
Ø He is a minister of Culture. We are informed that already Umuofia was lucky to have Chief the Honourable Marcus Ibe who was a Minister of Culture in the outgoing government and he had no strong opposition for being re-elected.
Ø He is professionally a teacher. Marcus was a poor mission school teacher but he quitted teaching and joined the politics under the People’s Alliance Party and became a minister.
Ø He is a rich politician. Marcus was once a poor teacher but since he joined politics he has become rich over-night. That’s why the elders refuse his two shillings he offers to buy their votes. They say “If Marcus were a poor man – which our ancestors forbid – I should be the first to give him my paper free, as i did before. But today Marcus is a great man and does his things like a great man” (p.12)
Ø He is corrupt. Like his competitor Maduka uses corruption to buy the votes from the voters. He gives a lot of money to his campaign boys to buy the voters including Roof himself.
Ø He is a member of POP. He is a member of the Progressive Organisation Party formed by the tribes down the coast to fight against PAP.
Ø He is superstitious. He instructs his men to carry ‘iyi’ with them so that those who take his money may swear to vote for him or else ‘iyi’ will take notes.
Ø He is rich. He uses a lot of money to bribe the voters to the point that the author says “No one knew for certain how much money POP had let loose in Umuofia but it was said to be very considerable. Their local campaigners would end up very rich, no doubt”.
- Then bent down like a priest distributing the host… (p.12)
- Quick as lightning a thought leapt into Roof’s mind (p.16)
- Opposition to him was like the proverbial fly trying to move a dunghill. (p.10)
- Chief the Honourable Marcus Ibe was not unprepared. (meaning he was actually prepared) (p.11)
- Roof’s heart nearly flew out when he saw the iyi. (p.13)
- Outside beyond the fastened door, the moon kept a straight face. (p.11)
- We have climbed the iroko tree today and we would be foolish not to take down all the firewood we need. (p.12)
- Rufus Okeke betrays his friend Marcus Ibe by taking bribes from the campaign leader of the POP. The author explains this by saying, “no words were wasted. He placed five pounds on the floor before and said, we want your vote”
- They then made him swear before the iyi that he will vote for Maduka. If he failed them he will receive his punishment from the iyi. So on the Election Day Roof tore the ballot paper into two pieces and put one for Maduka and another for Marcus. Nevertheless his vote was a spoilt one.
- The author says “Quick as lightning a thought leapt into Roof’s mind. He folded the paper, tore it into two along the crease and put one half in each box.”
- Additionally, Marcus betrays his voters. As a minister for culture he would have helped his people to solve most of the problems in his province of Umuofia. However he uses the funds to enrich himself and invest in different places. The author says “Anyhow, these honours had come so readily to the man they had given their votes to, free of charge five years ago that they were now ready to think again”.
- Marcus Ibe from People’s Alliance Party (PAP) bribes the people to vote for him through his campaign manager Rufus Okeke (Roof). This is very common in African politics especially for those leaders who betray the people and only come back to them during elections. After receiving the money they say “Tell Marcus he has our papers, and our wives’ papers too. But what we do say is that two shillings is shameful”.
- Maduka from Progressive Organization Party (POP) also uses bribes to buy peoples votes. The author says “No one knew for certain how much money POP had let loose in Umuofia but it was said to be very considerable. Their local campaigners would end up very rich, no doubt”.
- The whole society is also corrupt. They have come to a point where they cannot vote for someone unless he bribes them. This is very dangerous because it makes them get irresponsible, corrupt and incompetent leaders who cannot bring them the desired development.
- They say “We did not ask him for money, yesterday; we shall not ask him tomorrow. 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”
- Marcus is one of those irresponsible leaders who don’t fulfil their promises to their voters. He has been given votes by the villagers but he abandoned them and only returned to them after five years to ask for their votes. Although he is the minister of culture, he has done nothing to his people. His village has neither water nor electricity but he installed the electricity only in his own house. This is highest level of irresponsibility. He only returns to the village occasionally. The author says;
“Whenever, he could, he left the good things of the capital and returned to his village which had neither running water, nor electricity, although he had lately installed a private plant to supply electricity to his new house.”
There are two major classes in this society. The high (rich) class represented by Marcus and Maduka and the lower class represented by poor villagers. The people from high class use their money to buy votes from ignorant villagers who also take the election time as their proper time to earn their living. As a result they end up getting leaders who are neither competent nor committed to their voters. The voters say;
“If Marcus were a poor man – which our ancestors forbid – I should be the first to give him my paper free, as i did before. But today Marcus is a great man and does his things like a great man. We did not ask him for money yesterday; we shall not ask him tomorrow. 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.
EMBEZZLEMENT OF PUBLIC FUNDS
- Most leaders who are poor enrich themselves when they get political positions by embezzling public funds. We are told that Marcus was a mere school teacher but when he became Chief the Honourable Minister of Culture he has become a wealthy man just in five years. This shows that most leaders embezzle the public funds to become rich suddenly. The author says;
“The villagers had had five years in which to see how quickly and plentifully politics brought wealth, chieftaincy titles, doctorate degrees and other honours…”
- This proves that leaders misuse the public funds for their benefits. Marcus who was once a poor man now drives expensive cars and has built himself a house named “Umuofia Mansion” and slaughters five bulls and countless goats to entertain people on the day it is opened. The author says:
“Today he was chief the Honourable; he had two long cars and had just built himself the biggest house anyone had seen in these parts”.
- Marcus uses the villagers’ ignorance to fool them. When he is opening his big house called Umuofia mansion he prepares a very big banquet and he slaughters some animals for people to eat. This is done partly as an election campaign. They praise him and comment that he is a good man.
“Everyone was full of praise for him, one old man said; ‘our son is a good man; he is not like the mortar which as soon as food comes its way turns its back on the ground’”.
- Roof uses the ignorance of the masse to convince them to vote for Marcus on the Election Day. POP was using the sign of the head while PAP was using the sign of the car. Now says Roof;
“Do not forget”, he said to a group of illiterate women who seemed ready to burst with enthusiasm and good humour, ‘our sign is the motor car’ “Like the one Marcus is sitting inside” discrediting the other part he says “Don’t look at the other with the man’s head: it is for those whose heads are not correct”
- We should fight against Corruption.
- We should not betray those who have trusted us.
- Leaders who are irresponsible are obstacles to development.
- We should discourage classes in our societies.
- Ignorance is an obstacle to building the future.
- Embezzlement of public funds makes the majority live a poor life.
- In our society most leaders use corruption to win the election and when they get power and political positions they forget their voters completely.
- Many politicians climb the leadership ladders while they are poor as Marcus was but very soon indeed they become petty bourgeoisies by embezzling the public funds.
- There are classes of rich people and poor people in our societies. The rich use the ignorance of the poor to keep exploiting them.