In continuation of the illegal practice of vote-buying that has characterised elections in the country, many political parties participating in today’s governorship election in Osun State have devised new strategies to induce voters, findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed.
Our correspondents gathered that in spite of serial denials by the parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have concluded plans to pay between N2,000 and N10,000 per vote. It was also learnt that the parties had since Tuesday distributed the money to the wards and polling units to avoid being stopped by security agencies.
The PDP, it was learnt, planned to give N2,000 to any willing voter in neutral and friendly areas while the amount to be shared to each voter in hostile and very competitive areas could be as much as N5,000.
The “friendly” areas for the PDP are Ede North, Ede South, Oriade, Obokun, Boluwaduro and Orolu Local Government Areas
A party stalwart and mobiliser for the PDP in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the party had no choice but to make such provisions so it wouldn’t be outplayed by the APC. “You know the APC is in power at the centre and in the state and the party has more governors than the PDP, so they naturally would have more funds from donations. So, we can’t go to bed as if they won’t induce voters,” the source said.
Another source in Osogbo, the state capital, told one of our correspondents, “We have mobilised since early in the week so the security agencies, who may be loyal to the APC, don’t humiliate us.”
Similarly, the APC, it was learnt, may spend up to N10,000 per vote and had voted about N2m per polling unit. A chieftain of the party, who didn’t want his name mentioned, said the election would be keenly contested and that it would be insulting for the party to lose the election.
The source added, “Osun is a state we cannot lose, so we have to do what is necessary. It will be an embarrassment if we lose the election. APC is Osun and Osun is APC. So, we have made provision for voters to be rewarded for voting for us.”
When reminded that the security agencies and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were on the lookout for such illegal transactions, he said, “We took care of that already, since early in the week.”
On how the money would be disbursed, findings by correspondents revealed that in a bid to avoid the prying eyes of security and anti-graft agents, those in charge of disbursing the funds are expected to stay in nearby residential buildings. However, other foot soldiers, who would pose as normal voters, would be around the polling units, especially the voting cubicle, to identify those who vote for their respective parties. The foot soldiers would then give signal to one another and would notify the paymaster for the voter to be paid.
Apart from the two major parties, Accord Party and Labour Party, both of which are top contenders, are also said to be planning to ‘reward’ voters, though with lesser amount.
Some reliable party sources, who confirmed that money had been shared to the units, however said the funds distributed to the units were meant for logistics.
The PDP also raised the alarm on Friday of an alleged plot by the APC to bribe INEC officials and the police in a bid to rig the election.
PDP, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said, “Our party has information on how two prominent APC governors from the South-West, a former APC National Chairman from the South-South, a certain minister and a particular member of the House of Assembly from Lagos State are coordinating the release of billions of naira to bribe electoral and security officials as well as fund heavily armed thugs imported from Lagos, Ondo, Ogun and other South-West states to unleash violence and help the APC to rig the election.”
The Director of Media and Publicity for the PDP in the state, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said it did not have any plan to induce voters, adding that the party would not indulge in vote-buying with the massive support it was enjoying.
Oluwabamiji said, “With what we have on ground, we don’t need to buy votes. We can’t descend so low trying to do what APC is trying to do. We believe in the massive support of our people.
“We believe in the support of the Almighty God that this time, PDP must lead the state. We can’t be begging to do that. Whoever is saying PDP is also buying votes is being mischievous.”
Similarly, the media assistant to Osun APC chairman, Kola Olabisi, said claims that the ruling party was planning to induce voters were not true.
He added, “That claim is baseless and unfounded. It is a mere fabrication orchestrated by PDP elements who are all out to give a dog a bad name and hang it. It is obvious they are losing the election that is why they are coming up with various allegations.
“If they claim APC is buying votes, let them supply the proof. There is no element of truth in it. Claims that we are voting N2m to each unit is news to me and I can only comment on what I know. But it is not true.”
Also, an aide to the Accord Party’s candidate in the poll, Stephen Owolabi, said the party’s candidate, Akin Ogunbiyi, is a businessman that made his money through his sweat and would not buy votes.
“We have been telling people to vote for us according to their conscience. Those who want to buy votes are those that have been in government, who have got enough money to steal. Our candidate is a businessman, who got his money by his sweat.
“He was not helped by anybody. Those who want to buy votes are those who have nothing to do here and they have come. Those who want to buy votes have imported all manners of people, governors and others who came here with bullion vans.”
The governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Lasun Yusuff, could not be reached for comment as calls to his line did not go through. A text message sent to him had yet to be replied as of the time of filing this report.
‘Revealing ballot punishable’
Osun State Residents Electoral Commissioner, Prof Abdulganiyu Raji, has warned voters against revealing their ballot papers.
Speaking during the Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday night, he stated that anyone caught would be arrested.
He added, “Our regulation stipulates that you have to fold your ballot paper about three or four folds before coming out to put into the box, where that is not done, it is an offence and the presiding officer has the right to hand over the person to the security agents that are present.
“If a person is trying to expose the person he has voted for, the next thing is for him to be arrested before he will even drop the ballot paper in the box. A paper that has not been dropped in the box is automatically invalid.”
Police deploy choppers
Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Osun election, Johnson Kokumo, said three surveillance helicopters and 37 units with a unit having about 63 men would be on duty during the poll.
Speaking during a radio programme on Fresh FM in Osogbo, Kokumo, who urged residents not to panic when they observe the helicopters flying around, said maximum security would be provided during and after the poll.
He said about 2,231 riot policemen were also said to have been deployed for the election, in addition to the 21,000 policemen deployed for the exercise.
“The Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, has done really well for Osun State. He sent three helicopters for surveillance. They have been flying around the state for security purposes.
“Also, we have 37 units of 63 riot policemen. Our mind is at peace and we are using this medium to urge people not to engage in any act that can disrupt the peace of the state. Whoever is found engaging in an act capable of disrupting peace will be arrested and prosecuted.”
One of our correspondents also observed on Friday that the Marine Police had deployed some gunboats to the riverine areas of the state. The gunboats and the motorised boats were seen being transported to Illie, which is the major community in the area, on Friday.
The DIG also said in an interview on on the Channels TV programme that 15 cult members had been arrested by the police.
In a related development, Kokumo reiterated that curfew would begin at 12am and would last till 6pm.
NSCDC on corpers
Also, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has assured the National Youth Service Corps members deployed for the election of their safety.
The Deputy Commandant-General in charge of Operations, Dauda Mungadi, gave the assurance while receiving the NYSC Director-General, Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Fada, on Friday at the NSCDC Command headquarters in Osogbo.
Mungadi said, “Giving them the security that they deserve is not doing them a favour, it is our statutory responsibility as a law enforcement agency to provide the much needed security. NYSC members are among the most important variables in the election administration of Nigeria.”
The NYSC DG thanked the NSCDC for its service to the nation and by extension the corps members. He added, “We partnered in Ekiti (State election) to ensure a hitch-free election and I am confident that Osun will not make a difference.
“This can only be achieved with the synergy, cooperation and commitment of officers and men of the corps and other security agencies.”
The NSCDC in a separate statement by its Public Relations Officer, Olusola Odumosu, said it had established a squad to curb vote trading in the election. It added that the squad would work in collaboration with other anti-graft agencies during the election.
The statement partly read, “NSCDC on Friday unveiled a situation room at the command headquarters in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations and Anti-Vote Buying Squad to work in synergy with other anti-fraud agencies.”
The statement quoted the Commandant General of the NSCDC, Dr Ahmed Audi, represented by Mungadi, as saying, “Let me sound a note of warning to all political thugs, hoodlums, ballot box snatchers and vote buyers. Anyone planning to destabilise the peaceful process of the election should relocate out of Osun State or face the full wrath of the law as the NSCDC will not condone any breach of peace during the election.”
Also, a non-governmental organisation, the stop Violence Against Women in Politics and the Justice Development and Peace Maker Commission, which is partnering the NSCDC on monitoring vote-buying, said it deployed 88 community mobilisers for the election.
The representative of VAWIP at the programme, Veronica Ene, said the organisation was out to promote and enhance the women participation in politics, particularly in the election.
INEC warns staff
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday warned the staff members of the commission and ad hoc staff to resist unethical behaviour during the election. He asked them not to give any political party or candidate any advantage over the other.
In his charge to the staff participating in the poll, Yakubi said, “I have assured our stakeholders and the people of Osun State that the commission will not do anything to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. The security agencies have assured us of safety and the people of Osun State and Nigerians will understandably hold us to our promise.
“They will particularly observe our management of the election results and measure the extent of our adherence to the extant laws through every stage of the electoral process.
“I appeal to you to uphold our Code of Conduct, display your usual sense of commitment and professionalism, remain above board and firmly resist any unethical behaviour. You must also stick to the Oath of Neutrality to which we have all subscribed. I have confidence in your ability.”
Methodist Prelate speaks
Also, the Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr Samuel Kanu-Uche, has urged Nigerians not to vote for any candidate that shares money during elections but should rather vote for competence and character.
The Prelate made the call on Friday in Enugu at the Graduation Ceremony of 160 members of the Church drawn from the Enugu Diocese and trained on various vocational skills.
He added, “I know that most of the candidates have nothing to offer but any presidential candidate that shares money will not receive my vote. Only those who have no money to share but offer themselves for service will get my vote.”
Reject inducement – Okei-Odumakin
The President, Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, on Friday urged the electorate in the state to reject any form of inducement by politicians during the election.
Okei-Odumakin told journalists in Osogbo that her organisation had employed, trained and would deploy many of its observers across the 30 local government areas.
She added, “As we all look forward to the election, we cannot but alert Nigerians to the fact that the act of voter inducement and vote-buying is gaining ground in our elections. We are therefore using this medium to urge Osun State voters to reject any form of inducement by politicians.”
A group, Inclusive Friends Association, has commended INEC for the deployment of 35 persons with disabilities as ad hoc staff for the election.
The Executive Director IFA, Grace Jerry, in a statement in Abuja also lauded the commission on its open-door policy with PWDs.
Jerry added, “We commend the commission for subscribing to an open-door policy. Indeed, INEC is setting the pace, closing the gaps and propelling inclusive practices in Nigeria.”
In a related development, the Kimpact Development Initiative has said that vote-trading is one of the factors responsible for the increasing number of invalid votes.
The Senior Programme Manager, John Adebayo, said this at the pre-election briefing on Friday.
Also, election monitoring and observation groups, HEDA Resource Centre and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, on Friday expressed satisfaction with the assurances by security and anti-graft agencies to stem the tide of vote-buying in the election.
The Chairman, HEDA Resource Center, Olanrewaju Suraju, and WARDC Executive Director, Dr Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, who spoke at a press conference in Osogbo, said, “The issue of vote-buying remains about the biggest threat to a credible election in Nigeria and it remains a leading cause for concern as the country edges close to the 2023 general elections.”
They renewed calls on the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies not to stop at arresting and prosecuting party agents involved in vote-buying but should also ensure to shine the spotlight on their sponsors.
‘Amotekun won’t deploy’
The Field Commander, Osun State Security Network, codenamed Amotekun Corps, Amitolu Shittu, said on Friday that the corps would not deploy its operatives for the state governorship election.
Shittu told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the development followed a court order. He added, “We (Amotekun) have received a court order in that regard. We are law-abiding, we will not deploy our men for the election”.
A Federal High Court, Osogbo Division, had ordered Amotekun Corps to sit out the election.
The court, presided over by Justice Ayo Emmanuel, also mandated INEC not to make use of Amotekun Corps as part of security agents for the election.