While the All Progressives Congress-led federal government has made the anti-corruption war a priority, the conduct of the party’s members in Ondo shows a lot still needs to be done to sensitise Nigerians on the malaise.
The way money was shared by aspirants and their agents to the hundreds of delegates at the venue of the congress, a common scenario in Nigerian polity, arguably demonstrates the endemic corruption in the nation’s political system.
One of the 24 governorship aspirants of the party, Tunji Ariyomo, believes corruption is systemic and not necessarily the character of the average Nigerian.
Mr. Ariyomo said the buying of votes in the Nigerian political system will continue regardless of which political party is in power. He said the corruption will continue as long as the present electoral system, where delegates and not the people choose their representatives, continues.
He argued that the only way President Muhammadu Buhari can build on the electoral reforms of the past administration is to abolish the delegates system and adopt the open system of primaries where citizens can have the opportunity to choose their candidates.
Mr. Ariyomo lamented the situation where the delegates were virtually camped away by some contenders making it difficult for other competitors to woo them legitimately.
“The primary election here appears transparent as you can see, but the process needs to be changed so that the people can decide, rather than use the delegates system,” he said.
According to him, he did not spend any money on any delegate as that would contradict his belief on an equitable process.
“There is yet to be an equitable process, even though everyone seems to be on an equal platform,” the aspirant said.
Other aspirants spoke on how the primary helped some delegates make money off different candidates.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that some major aspirants gave delegates between N150,000 and N200,000 to secure their votes.
Other less wealthy aspirants gave between N25,000 and N100,000 to each delegate.
The only female aspirant, Jumoke Ajasin Anifowose, said she was not prepared to pay money for votes, as it appeared the highest bidder would win the day.
“I did not pay money to anybody, ” she said.
Some delegates, who confirmed how much they were given, spoke on how they were treated.
According to them, each aspirant brought his loyal delegates into Akure and lodged them in a hotel beyond the reach of rivals. The aspirant then ensured that none of them went out until the morning of accreditation and voting.
“We were lodged in the hotel by our aspirant. And if you lodge in the hotel you will be given money, ” a delegate from Owo, who did not want his name mentioned, said.
He said he was given N100, 000 by his preferred candidate before he cast his vote.
Another delegate, who only provided his first name as Fatai, said he only got N20,000 as “pocket money,” from his candidate.
“What I got was N20,000 and it was given to me as pocket money,” Fatai said.
“I voted for the aspirant because I love him and not because of money.”
The primary election was conducted by the Governor of Jigawa State, Mohammed Abubakar, who pledged to uphold fairness and transparency during the exercise.
About 2774 delegates were accredited for the election from the three senatorial districts of the state.
Rotimi Ogunleye, a media aide to Olusola Oke, one of the front runners in the primaries, said cash was not the determining factor in the support and votes garnered by his boss.
He admitted that money was spent, but noted that it was not about the cash.
“While I do not rule out the fact that running a political structure requires money, especially issues of logistics; political support is not based on cash,” he said.
“It is about coagulating interest, creating and sustaining relationship. It is not about cash.”
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that some aspirants made double payments after the delegates list was amended on the night before the election.
According to a source within the party, some of the aspirants had to “recharge their barrels” to chase the new delegates who were later included in the list.
“That means spending additional funds,” he said. “You can imagine after giving out N100million, what are you going to do when the list of delegates was suddenly changed and you did not have access to it until about 10 p.m. on Friday.”
But speaking on the development, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ondo, Omo’oba Adesanya, said giving money to delegates was a form of allowance and not necessarily bribery or buying of votes.
He said the delegates left their homes for two days or more and should be properly taken care of or the aspirants would not be fair to them.
Mr. Adesanya, who was also a delegate at the primary, noted that the funds were privately sourced and not from public funds, and so could not be described as corruption.
“The delegates deserve some form of allowances for bringing them out from their homes and comfort to Akure for two days,” he argued.
“Even government officials, governors and other persons, including the security agencies that participated in the primaries received some form of allowances. So I don’t see any problem with the aspirants providing allowances for the delegates.
“What they got is not outrageous because some of them came from very far away. Some from the creeks and riverine areas; so it is not out of place to ensure that they were taken care of.”
Mr. Adesanya said the election, which eventually produced a lawyer, Rotimi Akeredolu, as winner and APC candidate, was peaceful, credible and transparent.
He said all the aspirants would come together to ensure the party emerged victorious in November.