On Saturday October 10, residents of Ondo State, South West Nigeria, went to the polls to elect its governor for the next four years.
Although 17 political parties fielded candidates for the election conducted by INEC, it was predicted to be a three-horse race.
Three candidates – Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) – stood out because they were considered to have strong structures in the 3,009 polling units of 203 wards in the state to deliver victory to them.
The election was won by Mr Akeredolu, who will end his second term in office in 2004.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that despite the rain, voters turned out en masse to cast their votes in the election.
However, the election was characterised by vote buying.
At various polling units, agents of some of the political parties were seen using different means to engage in buying votes.
Security operatives influence vote-buying
In some instances, the party agents distributed money openly while security officials looked away and in other instances, money was distributed in hidden places with the ‘support’ of security operatives.
This newspaper on Saturday reported how residents of Ugbo, Ude-Ugbonla, Mahin, and Igbokoda axis in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo South Senatorial District accused police officers of coordinating vote buying in different polling units.
Our correspondent spotted an agent of the ruling APC sharing money to voters in Polling unit 8, ward 2 in Ugbo at Ilaje.
Some voters alleged that the police coordinated the vote buying processes.
At unit 1, ward 3 in Ondo East, observers reported that five security operatives were present while money was being shared to voters but turned a blind eye.
Agents in some units visited by our correspondents and observers also shared cash to voters on a queue.
At ward 5, unit 5, Iboje Akoko southwest, PREMIUM TIMES correspondent who covered the polling unit saw a lawmaker giving cash gifts to security operatives and other electorates.
Olawale Fagun, a voter in Irele Local Government Area, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, lamented the spate of vote-buying in the governorship election.
Mr Fagun, who voted at polling unit 3, ward 4, described the action of the beneficiaries as one that affects their future and that of their children negatively.
“What is going on now is that they are selling their votes for N5,000. They are selling their future. They are selling their children’s future. That means there is another four years of suffering,” he said.
In ward 6, polling unit 6 in Idanre Local Government Areas, a fight broke out when voters challenged a party agent who was sharing N5,000 to each person on the queue. He was subsequently rescued by the police.
Voters in ward 03, polling unit 016, Igboroko II in Owo Local Government Area, were directed to a classroom within the neighbourhood to receive money after voting.
At polling unit 004, ward 2 in Kiribo, Ese-Odo Local Government Area where the candidate of the ZLP, Mr Ajayi, voted, operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) chased reporters and observers away from the polling unit.
“At the polling unit, money exchanged hands”, an observer alleged.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) observers also reported a similar incidence of vote buying at Odigbo LGA, a party agent was escorted by security officials to an uncompleted building share N2,000 to each person who voted for their candidate at ward 03, polling unit 9.
In addition, CDD, in its preliminary report, said political parties allocated between N150,000 and N600,000 for vote buying per polling unit.
“We observed a consistent pattern of vote buying, wherein those engaged in this electoral offence adopted tactics to induce voters, while evading the watch of security officials and election observers.”
“Other vote buying trends as highlighted in the preliminary report include earmarking of bulk sums ranging from N150,000 to N600,000 for each polling unit across the local government area. The group said during the election, the monies were distributed to popular figures, especially leaders of youth groups to share to voters in their areas”, the group said
Vote buying is one of the characteristics of elections in Nigeria. The country has a history of vote buying and it has steadily grown in scale and brazenness.
At various instances, videos and images of politicians sharing food and valuable items among the electorates were sent online during recent elections.
Political analysts have described this trend as a grave danger for Nigeria’s democracy.
CDD director, Idayat Hassan, said at a news conference in Akure on Saturday evening that “unlike in the past when the money was shared around the polling units, the parties for this election assigned a neutral person to lead voters discreetly to an outpost to be paid.”
She said vote buying had become a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Also, a public affairs analyst and right activist, Hassan Soweto, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday says the only way out of vote-buying is having a third force party of the masses.
“What played out in Ondo State was a repeat of what has been obtainable over the years in the Nigeria elections. The elites with money refused to back out from their ways of electoral robbery. They knew the only way they could win was through buying votes and that was what played out.
“In Ondo State, it was not the ruling party alone that bought votes. The other two major oppositions also did. This is because they lack credence and they also have the same political philosophy.
“The greatest losers are the people and the only way out of this mess is building a conscious political party that is workers oriented. With this, we speak about a way out of vote-buying.”