As 48 governorship candidates from 48 political parties jostle for 1,246,915 votes in the Osun State governorship election holding on Saturday (today), some of the contestants and their political associates have devised new means and tactics to induce voters ahead of the poll.
Investigation by Saturday PUNCH revealed that the representatives of at least one of the contestants were using the WhatsApp social media platform to woo Permanent Voter Card holders, who are residents of Osun State, to sell their votes.
This was despite attempts by the Independent National Electoral Commission to curb vote-buying and selling especially in the Osun election.
Checks by our correspondents showed that the associates of the contestants cleverly hid their identities.
To track the identities of the buyers and the politicians they were working for, one of our correspondents connected to an online link that in turn linked him with a WhatsApp number 08120569530, where he was asked a series of questions to ascertain if he actually had a permanent voter card and if he was an Osun State indigene.
The administrator later promised that N10,000 would be deposited into our correspondent’s account number at 6am on Election Day. The correspondent was asked to send his account detail, age, town, ward and unit to claim the amount.
The administrator said, “You’ll receive bank alert 6am on the Election Day. Don’t forget to pass this good news to all your friends and family. Make sure you add us to you(r) phone book and don’t forget to send this to all your friends and family living in and around Osun State. Expect our call anytime from now.”
It was difficult to ascertain the party or governorship candidate that initiated the payment process. When our correspondent tried to call the number, using Truecaller, a mobile app that finds contact details globally, to trace the owner, it did not respond.
Almost immediately, the administrator sent a message that our correspondent would be stopped from enjoying the N10,000 vote-buying price. “Please, no WhatsApp call and if you keep calling, we’ll block you,” the administrator wrote.
Meanwhile, one of the contestants was said to have started distributing money to the ward leaders who would identify names of their party members on the voter registers and pay them ahead of the poll.
A source close to one of the politicians told one of our correspondents on Friday that money had been moved to where the distribution would be done in order to pay for the votes.
He said, “There is nothing they can do to stop vote-buying especially in this election, because politicians are desperate to outdo one another in their bid to buy votes.
“They have started bringing money out but this time round, because of the noise over it, they will be more discreet in sharing the money. Money has been given to the leader of the party in our area but they are yet to tell us how much.”
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the sponsor of a particular candidate compelled some party leaders to swear an oath that they would spend the money he wanted to give them to induce voters and not pocket them.
Some of the leaders were said to have agreed while a few of them were said to have rejected the money because they could not swear this oath of allegiance.
The same candidate was said to have distributed forms to prospective voters, asking them to fill in their accounts details to enable them to be credited with the sum of N10,000. The amount is said to be meant for any voter with a PVC.
APC, PDP trade blames over allegations of vote-buying
But the APC and the PDP trade blames over allegations of vote-buying on Friday, accusing each other of trying to sway voters by offering electorate money for their votes.
The PDP accused the ruling party of planning to buy votes with billions of naira in order to manipulate the people to vote for the ruling party’s candidate, Gboyega Oyetola.
The opposition party denied that its candidate in the election, Ademola Adeleke, was collecting bank details of the electorate through a WhatsApp number in order to buy their votes.
He said the allegation was a rumour and that Adeleke would play by the rules of the election.
The PDP Chairman in Osun State, Mr. Soji Adagunodo, who said this on Friday at a press conference at the party secretariat, noted that the party had detected several means through which the APC wanted to rig the election.
Adagunodo said, “We wish to alert the general public to the planned monetisation of the Osun State governorship election, especially the voting process, by the APC. Towards this ignoble end, several helicopters loaded with cash were flown into the Government House between the hours of 4pm and 8pm on Thursday.
“The money, which we were reliably informed about run into billions of naira, was contributed by state governors elected on the platform of the APC to enable the party to induce voters at various polling units.
“In addition, each of the 67 local government council development areas in Osun State was made to cough up N12.5m for the same purpose. The plan of the APC, as gathered from very credible sources, was to buy votes with a sum ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 each at the polling units.
“It is quite unfortunate that a government which did not find it compelling to pay salaries and allowances of its workforce for 34 months could resort to attempting to buy the conscience of voters in this election.
But, when contacted, a chieftain of the APC in Osun State, Mr. Sola Fasure, who is also the media aide to Governor Rauf Aregbesola, asked the PDP to provide evidence of its allegations.
In defence of the ruling party, Fasure said the opposition party had started inducing voters ahead of the election, adding that the PDP raised the allegation as a smokescreen to divert attention from the alleged electoral fraud the party had perfected.
He said, “The PDP and its candidate have been sending messages out to obtain account numbers of the people whose vote they want to buy. They are using this allegation to cover their own heinous and sinister practice of trying to induce voters.
“They are making allegations without evidence but we have evidence of them trying to induce voters. They are the ones actually sending messages and trying to induce these voters with cash. They have been obtaining bank accounts and it is all over the state. Everybody knows but they are using the press conference as a means to divert attention from them so that they can perpetrate that criminal activity of subverting the election and inducing voters.
“We are not giving out money to anybody; anyone who claims to have collected money from us should come out to the public and say it. We have the strategy of winning elections by going out to canvass for votes and they have the strategy of taking shortcut by paying to induce voters and to circumvent the electoral process. They have started inducing voters already but they will fail woefully.”
Vote-buyers now doing electronic transfers –INEC chair
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday, said the commission had recently observed increasing voters’ inducement through electronic transfers to influence their choice of voters on the day of the election.
According to a release by INEC on Friday, Yakubu led a team of national commissioners to the EFCC on Thursday to look at further steps that could be taken to address the vote-buying and selling menace.
Yakubu said, “Of immediate concern is the election we are holding on Saturday in Osun State and it is going to be the last major election before the 2019 general elections. We have taken steps as a commission, but we need the support of the EFCC in this respect. Vote-buying and selling is giving our democracy and elections a bad reputation. Also, institutions like the EFCC having the powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute can help to stem this ugly tide.
“We have also recently observed increasing inducement through electronic transfers, whereby money is transferred into the accounts of some voters in order to influence their decisions on Election Day. We believe that you have both the law and the capacity on your side to help us in this respect.
“We implore the EFCC to also monitor campaign finances of political parties and their candidates. We don’t want the moneybags to determine our democracy. We want the votes of the people to determine who wins in our elections.”
EFCC begins monitoring of money transfers, banks, vote-buyers
Meanwhile, the EFCC has said it will monitor money transfers, collaborate with banks, arrest and prosecute vote-buyers during the Osun State governorship election on Saturday (today).
The EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, who stated this in Abuja, said the anti-graft agency would use the Osun election as “a test case.” Magu threatened that unrepentant vote buyers and their potential customers would be arrested and prosecuted if they ply their trade in the Osun election.
Magu said, “There is indeed a lot of concern about vote-buying and selling. There is also a lot of concern about the possibility of moneybags trying to derail our democracy and democratic process. We have the mandate to monitor money transfers and we are collaborating with the banks.
“We have the mandate to arrest, investigate and prosecute and we are going to use the Osun governorship election as a test case. We will work with you. We will do our best and we appeal to Nigerians to support the EFCC in the fight against corruption. One way to fight corruption is to stop vote-buying and stop voter inducement in elections so that democracy can survive.”
Candidates, observers seek clampdown on vote buyers as politicians change tactics
Some candidates contesting the governorship election have called on security agents to stop politicians from paying the electorate for votes in order to stop the trend of vote-buying in the country.
Some of the candidates spoke in separate interviews with one of our correspondents ahead of the poll which is being monitored by local and election observers.
The governorship candidate of the Providence People’s Congress, Prof. Ife Adewumi, charged security agents to ensure a clampdown on vote buyers to serve as deterrent to others.
Adewumi, who is a former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities at the Obafemi Awolowo University, said, “We in Providence Peoples’ Congress know that the parties that buy votes have no genuine interest in service to the people whose wealth are bought with peanuts.
“This is made possible by the pervading poverty in which Nigerians have found themselves from years of misrule by both past military and civilian administrations.
“The law enforcement and polling agents should ensure that mobile phone of each voter is left with the polling agents and collected back after the voter has exercised his or her right to choose who will rule them. They must stop politicians from distributing money to voters and this is very important.”
“The PPC is a people-focused party that has well thought-out programmes for every citizen and resident in Nigeria. To us in the PPC, we bring democratic welfarism as panacea to the failed Nigerian state.”
Also, the governorship candidate of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, Mr. Alfred Adegoke, has said that something must be done to stop corrupt politicians from buying their ways into power.
Adegoke, a human rights activist, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday said, “Vote-buying must be stopped but I am not sure that the police and others would do it. Government paid the policemen outrageous amount of money as election duty allowance and I believe that is a way to make them compromise, but we will expose them.”
Also, some election monitoring groups also raised the fear that the process might be compromised by some desperate politicians who were ready to buy votes to emerge victorious.
The Head of Mission, Pan African Women Projects, Dr. Eno Udensi and the Director-General, Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Dr. Gabriel Nwambu, said at a pre-election press conference on Friday that vote-buying had become cancerous and could destroy the nation’s democracy if it was not stopped by all means.
Meanwhile, although there are 48 governorship candidates from 48 political parties contesting in today’s election, five of them are said to be major contenders.
These are candidates of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola; Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ademola Adeleke; Social Democratic Party, Senator Iyiola Omisore; Action Democratic Party, Mr. Moshood Adeoti; and African Democratic Congress, Mr. Fatai Akinbade, who is a former Secretary to the State Government during the administration of former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola.