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2019 Elections: Concerns as vote buying takes precedence over PVCs

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INEC ad hoc staff heading to the polling booths

Since 1999 when the current democratic experiment began in Nigeria, elections have always been characterised by irregularities such as violence, rigging, ballot box snatching, thuggery, forgery, thumb printing and manipulation of voter register and others.

For example, in the 2007 Ondo State governorship case between Olusegun Agagu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party (LP), it was discovered by the court that some strange names like that of famous world boxer, Mike Tyson, former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and others were registered as voters in the state.

It was to curb this kind of irregularities in the electoral process that technological innovation was embraced which paved way for the introduction of Permanent Voter Card (PVC) with secure unique features that will guarantee the authenticity of the voter in an election.

This development drastically reduced the problem of rigging, ballot snatching and thumb printing during elections.

Many Nigerians hailed the PVC introduction and its effectiveness in elections. Nigerians who have initially lost confidence in the electoral process regained confidence again with PVC.

Ahead of the 2019 elections, activities that characterised the recent governorship election in Ekiti State have once again raised questions on the essence and place of PVC in ensuring that votes count and the choice of voters as regards preferred candidate is upheld.

Prevalence in Ekiti during the election was financial inducement and vote buying; an act that made majority of the voters in the election to exchange their PVCs for financial benefits that influenced their choice of voting.

This happened, allegedly, in the presence of security agents and INEC personnel, despite the fact that 2011 Electoral Act as amended had provisions for penalties for financial inducement in election.

According to 2011 Electoral Act as amended Section 124 subsection (a) states that paying money to any other person for bribery at any election attracts conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.

Subsection (b) says that receiving any money or gift, for voting or to refrain from voting at any election attracts a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.

It was expected that with these laws coupled with the power of the PVCs, financial inducement or vote buying in election will be a thing of the past, but events in the Ekiti election have proved otherwise.

The law is very clear and unambiguous, but the problem is who will bell the cat.

The security personnel that is neither here nor there or the INEC personnel or the voters that are busy looking to get their own fair share of Naira bazaar.

Ahead of 2019 elections, Nigerians have expressed worry that considering what happened in Ekiti election in terms of vote buying, that 2019 polls might be compromised.

Echoes From Ekiti Governorship Election

Aladeyeru (not real name) family considered themselves one of the luckiest families in Ekiti State that got maximum cash their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) can attract at the last Saturday governorship election.

The head of the family works in Ado local council, while Mrs Aladeyeru is a staff of one of the government agencies inside the Old Governor’s office also in the state capital.

The family of six has two children and two cousins that graduated recently, but were still in search of gainful employment.

Mrs Aladeyeru lamented that life has not been easy for the family and she has become a laughing stock, because of her indebtedness to some food vendors in Okesa area of the state capital.

Both the husband and wife have not received salary this year, because of the inability of the state government to pay as at when due.

She said her family had hope to pay their creditors during the election, because of the promise by the outgoing Governor Ayodele Fayose that he would pay at least two months of their salaries before the election.

At that period of expectancy, both husband and wife received alert of N3,000 from their bank accounts from the state government.

She said: “I was shocked and confused when I received alert on Thursday evening.

I was expecting at least two months salary out of seven months government owes us, I called a colleague in our office who told me the money was to mobilise us to vote for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Kolapo Olusola.

My husband also received alert of N3,000. Also my husband cousins who had picked employment forms from the state government also received N1500 alert.”

On Friday, most civil servants did not go to the office even when government did not declare holiday, Mrs Aladeyeru and her family were in their compound when they got information that the state government was sharing N4,000 to anybody with PVC and ready to vote for Olusola.

She said: “I put off the cooking stove and rushed to the Old Governor’s office, where my ward was getting the money with our relations and collected N4,000 each.

We filled a form where they got our PVC numbers. I called my husband to inform him not to miss the largesse but surprisingly he also collected.

I convinced the two boys staying with us to drop that money with me to clear some debts and they gladly did so”.

But unknown to them the cash bazaar was not over as they were treated to another round of financial inducement by the All progressives Congress (APC) that did not adopt “pre-paid method” of the PDP.

She said: “On Saturday I was at Okesa polling unit as early as 6.45 am.

I met a long queue. A neighbor pointed at APC agent who had promised to give us N5,000 if we can show him our ballot paper that we voted for his party.

I promised him and told my relatives not to make mistake of missing the N5,000.

I don’t have to tell my husband, because I know he is an APC apologist. APC agent kept his promise after I cast my vote around 10.30am.

“So if you calculate how much our PVCs fetched us between Thursday and Saturday, we got N45,000.

You know I got N12,000 from both parties, so also my husband and our two siblings received N10, 500 each.

It’s a great relief for us because we have paid some of our food vendors and bought some food stuff now.”

When asked if she knows the implications of selling her votes, Mrs Aladeyeru retorted, “I am not an illiterate, I am a university graduate, so also my husband.

We collected the money and that did not change our sentiment, but I had fear for my husband cousins who might have voted PDP because of the employment promised them by Fayose but we know it was a scam. We have no regret. We must survive.”

The story of Mr Kareem Adeyagba, a primary school teacher in Iworoko was not too different from that of Aladeyeru’s family who said some of the voters found it difficult to resist the temptation of inducement from both the two major political parties.

He said: “It is not easy to turn your back to easy money at this critical period of the economy.

More so that the security agents at the polling units closed their eyes to what was happening behind the polling unit where the money was being shared.

I collected from both the PDP and APC, because we see it as government money.”

Adeyagba said he did not regret collecting money from the political parties to vote because of the way some of them had been impoverished by the government that did not pay them.

He said: “It is easy for those who are comfortable to criticise us for collecting money, but they should put themselves in our shoes and feel hunger for a day. Which party does not vote money for mobilisation during election?

If we did not collect it, politicians and party agents will just pocket the money.”

However, it was a game of wit between PDP and APC agents at most polling units at Iworoko, Ikere, Ifaki and Oye where agents of both parties had enough cash to woo voters.

It was gathered that some PDP leaders in some wards did not obey the “pre-paid method” of their party but took their cash to the polling units where they gave APC a stiff competition.

The agents of both parties engaged in “see and buy” mode of payment and some voters with high bargaining power got as much as N10,000 each.

But Chukwuemeka Ikoh who sells spare parts in Ado denied collecting money from any of the agents.

He said he was interested in the party that will enhance his business activities.

He said: “We Igbo spare part dealers met and reviewed the activities of both the PDP and APC.

We all agreed to vote for a party that will enhance our business activities in the state.

We want to make more sales and we know the party that will achieve that for us. So I don’t need this peanuts being shared.”

Chukwuemeka, who refused to disclose the party he voted for said he was aware of many Ekiti State residents who refused to be induced by the politicians and voted according to their conscience.

Condemning the level of inducement, the Accord Party candidate, Mr Abiodun Aluko, who said he was also a beneficiary of the financial inducement said, “Funny enough,

I am a pensioner and I received an alert to go and vote for the PDP.

My wife is also a pensioner and she received an alert from the state government to vote for the PDP.

“Right here, now, they have agents: APC is distributing N5, 000 and PDP is distributing N4, 000 right now on this field. We are making a mockery of democracy.”

He continued: “When I received the alert, I thought they have reduced my pension to N3,000 and I have to call the pension office only to be told that the money was a mobilisation from the governor to vote for the PDP.”

Aluko, a former deputy governor in the state who cast his vote at St John’s Anglican Primary School, Unit 1, Ward 9, Ikere Ekiti, Ikere Local Council lamented that whoever voted for any party because of N4, 000 or N5, 000 had sold his or her conscience and should be prepared for the consequences in the next four years.

A chieftain of PDP who pleaded for anonymity said the PDP adopted “pre-paid” method which some party chieftains kicked against because of the fear that the APC might use the federal might to stop their agents from sharing money at the polling units.

He said, “most electorates that collected money from us voted for the APC to collect their N5,000.

When I approached one of them at Okesa polling unit 4 she said, ‘would the money she received from government made up for the agony of not receiving salary in the last eight months?

However, a coalition of local and foreign observers have condemned the level of inducement and faulted the deployment of 30,000 policemen, insisting that such development and conduct of some of the security operatives largely marred the electoral process.

The observers therefore hold that the July 14 poll cannot be recommended as a template for the forthcoming 2019 general elections as it falls short of global standards and spells doom for the nation if the lapses noted were not addressed and a reorientation exercise across board is not put in place.

Speaking on behalf of the domestic observers, Gabriel Nwambu of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Abuja, said: “Modern democracy guarantees freedom of electorate to determine who to vote, anything against this is a usurpation of democratic right.

“Polls also should comply with globally accepted standards hence observers’ job is to access the level of compliance of electoral umpire to constitutional regulations which serve as a way to give direction for future exercise.”

“The exercise witnessed a high level of unprecedented electoral related challenges and such abuse will remain contentious until justice prevails, especially in the areas of cash inducement, arrests of political stalwarts by security agents and snatching of electoral materials by political thugs among other abuses.”

Also speaking, one of the International observers, Mrs. Virginia Marumoa-Gae, of the International Republican Institute (IRIS) in South Africa, noted that accreditation and voting began simultaneously as early as 6am on Saturday, July 14 with large numbers of electorates who arrived earlier than scheduled ‪8am‬‬‬.

She said but trouble began ‪at 11am‬‬‬ when “see and buy” started and this caused chaos across all the wards and polling units.

She said: “Voters showed their ballot papers to party agents to collect money, thugs disrupted voting process by shooting, but the police and other attaching security agents did well by establishing their presence at the polling units as stipulated by the constitution. We also noted that INEC has improved on card readers this time,” she submitted.

For Mrs. Yemisi Ige of the Patriotic Women Foundation, a human rights organisation based in Abuja, she noted that while INEC did its best within the framework of electoral regulations, conspicuous lapses in security caused many of the anomalies that greeted the poll.

Discordant Tunes Over Exchange Of PVCs For Financial Gains

Gabriel Okewale, a communicator told The Guardian that he does not have a voter’s card yet nor has he ever owned one.

“I might still get one before INEC stops issuing it in August, just that the process is very discouraging and cumbersome.

However, when I do, I won’t be exchanging it for money because it is not worth it.

When you do this, you cannot ask questions from the person that gave you money and when others are complaining, you have no moral justification to complain.

When you vote, you can curse whoever is not doing their job well and the curses will have effect on them.

In fact, by virtue of standing in line to vote honourably, the curses will take effect immediately.

It is sad that most of us don’t care anymore because when the candidate is voted in, they become next to useless and renege on all promises they made during campaigns, so most people believe they should ‘grab’ all they can, while they still can.

Flora Onwudiwe on her part says she can sell her vote if she is offered the right amount of money.

“In Nigeria of today, whether you vote or not, they will rig their way in, so it is better to make money from it.

I don’t blame those taking money as there is so much hunger in the land, nothing is working and we are getting poorer everyday and the masses are the ones bearing the brunt.

Most of us are at the mercy of God and the hunger and poverty is why there is killings, rituals and robbery everywhere, things are going from bad to worse and it is clear we need a revolution in this country.

If this present government comes back next year, we are doomed. We need to remove this government and look for another alternative,” she said.

Daniel Adeyeye, a journalist said he has never thought of collecting cash to vote for any candidate, as that would be akin to selling his conscience.

“My PVC is my conscience so I cant sell it. No matter how much is given to you, it would finish one day and then, what next?

You have no say in how things are being done and are stuck with a bad government.

People selling their votes for money are doing it out of ignorance and don’t know the long term effect of this act.”

As for Bilikis Abdul-Raheem Lawal, a radio producer, she said she would love to exercise her franchise and as such would never think of exchanging her PVC for cash.

“We all need to vote candidates that will take Nigeria to greater heights because one vote can make a world of difference.”

A photographer Victoria Tomisin, says she is yet to get a PVC because of the challenges associated with the process.

“I have been trying to get one for months with no luck and I hope the date is extended.

However, if I manage to get mine, I wouldn’t be selling it. Why go through all the stress of getting it and selling it for peanuts?

I am too educated to do that and I strongly believe it is poverty that makes people sell their birthright.

“The temptation to take money is strong I know, but we all want a better Nigeria and we have to start somewhere.

However, we must realize that most people are poor, so they would rather get the cash than depend on promises that would never be fulfilled.

Poverty makes a person do anything.”

To Bunmi Yekini, her PVC is her birthright and she would never exchange it for all the gold in the world.

“Any candidate that offers cash for votes is the wrong person and has nothing to offer so wants to use cash to deceive you; when he is voted in, he will do nothing.

If I sell my PVC, I wont forgive myself if the person I was bribed to vote for messes up the country even more.

Ayano Ayomide says selling his PVC is tantamount to selling his right for a bowl of porridge. “When the money finishes, regret will immediately set in.

my PVC is my right as a Nigerian and I wont sell it for any amount of money.

Who knows, my single vote might put the right candidate in governance that will change things around.

As for Ijeoma Uche, a journalist said selling her vote for cash would most likely jeopardise her and her generation’s future for a ‘paltry sum that cannot even cook soup’.

For Olukoya Toluwase, it is not even possible. “I know the kind of government we run in Nigeria is ‘money for hand, back for ground’ but this is because most of us are gullible.

It doesn’t matter whether my vote counts or not, I would still vote for my preferred candidate and satisfy my conscience.”

Opeyemi Agbaje is unsure if he can sell his PVC or not.

“Yes, my PVC is my right but we all know our votes don’t count as rigging is the order of the day. I want to play my part for a better Nigeria but if I see money, I would be tempted to take it.”

Olumide Oguntola, a presenter says he won’t sell his PVC as doing that will be like selling his future.

“It is in our power to choose who leads us and no amount is worth this. Selling our votes simply means we are giving the buyer the opportunity to loot our commonwealth as he has to recoup the money spent to deceive voters, so we all suffer.”

Margaret Bolaji, the youth program advisor for the National Urban and Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) says since she is interested in change and a new Nigeria, she wont be selling her vote to anyone.

“I know I’m just one person, but if we all decide to do the right thing, we would get the change we desire,” she said.

However for Chisom Ikenna, a businesswoman, she will sell her vote to the highest bidder.

“Please show me the money, let me vote.

Whether you vote or not, they have perfected the act of rigging, so let me get what I can from them.

They will make promises they know they have no intention of fulfilling, even if you don’t take money, you cannot challenge our leaders, they will send police and army after you so what is the point?

They are all wicked and heartless, get what you can, while you can,” she said bitterly.

Also a petty trader in Ayobo area of Lagos, Kafilat Abdukareem said she can sell her vote for money if it can provide for her immediate needs.


“My husband is a plumber whose job isn’t regular and at such, stays home weeks without contributing a dime to the upkeep of the family, leaving me to shoulder all the responsibility with the little income from my petty business.

“So, if someone is giving me as much as five thousand naira to vote for them, why not? I will gladly take and do as I’m told.

“ After all, in this country, whether or not I vote, politicians will always manipulate their way to offices.


“My vote never count but the money I get for voting them would count for my family.

I can cook with five thousand and add up the balance to my petty business, so it’s not a loss but a win for me,” she said.

Speaking to Deji Igbekele, an automobile mechanic in Ayobo Ipaja, who said, although it is absolutely wrong to sell one’s vote for cash, he would not hesitate to do so if the cash is enough for good use.


“For me, I make enough income on daily basis to survive so a small token will not do it for me, but if offered as much as 50K or more, I would gladly sell my PVC and vote for my cash subscriber.

“No second thought, I will give it away for that amount or more.

In fact, I will mobilise people to follow suit if given extra cash to do so.


“Why wouldn’t I? We have been on the same circle of politics and politicians for decades, what has changed, with or without my vote?
“

Besides, there is no single politician in this country with right motive, they are all looters who only want positions for selfish interest.


“So trust me on this one, it doesn’t really matter who I vote, they are all the same so I should be smart enough to get what I can from them too,” he said.

Mrs. Chinyere Ogadinma, a banker, is of the view that it is impossible to do right as a citizen without hitting the rock.


“What’s the point of voting a choice candidate when all the candidates are compromised?


Perhaps I wouldn’t take the cash but I might not bother voting come 2019 either.


I got my PVC for other official reasons, not necessarily because I want to vote with it.

“Give me a new Nigeria devoid of corrupt politicians and aspiring candidates and we can have this conversation on a different level.


“We are in serious crisis and what is more disappointing is the fact that we don’t even know that these leaders and aspirants are our problems,” she said.

Francis Osemudia also opined that until the present set of leaders in Nigeria is completely wiped out, PVC or the voting exercise is a total waste of time, effort and resources.


“Tell me how any candidate who buys vote is right for leadership. All the candidates are guilty of the trade by barter.

The only difference is, the highest bidder always wins.
 Look at Ekiti election, the emerged winner as far as I’m concerned, is as bad as the person currently on seat and the opposition candidate who lost, the only difference from the viral video clips we’ve seen, is the fact that the other man who lost, lack strong backup.

“So in the end, Ekiti might be back to square one or even worse unless God actually intervenes for them and Nigeria as a whole,” he said.

Similarly a student Kenechukwu Chukwudi, said: I got my PVC about two years ago but I applied for change of polling booth due to my current location in order to allow me vote.

Honestly, I am willing to sell my vote for any cost, because in this country you become a criminal by whichever way to survive but I won’t collect bigger money to vote for a party or a candidate of my choice.

The reasons are obvious. Why will I not collect the money, when they win what’s my benefit, I only collect to vote for my candidate who might make a little or no impact.

Onyinye Nnachetta said: “Yes I have gotten my PVC and selling my PVC is more like selling my right.

I am not willing to sell the future of my unborn generation.

We have to vote wisely and as a good citizen we need to be mindful of whom we vote because they are our mouthpiece or voice.”

I wouldn’t blame those who are into such illicit act because poverty has a way of reprogramming the mind of individuals.

According to her, “My PVC is my world, my PVC is the future of my children, my PVC is a better Nigeria, and my PVC is everything to me.

She further urged Nigerians to say no to sale of their PVCs because it plays a major role in resurrecting the nation.

Gbenga Ojoronmi said: “Yes I have my PVC but the situation of the country has pushed the youths to participate actively in anti-social activities, which has turned out to be an eyesore.


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