Major parties wield money power, daze voters with cash, security agencies look the other way

EKITI

ABIODUN NEJO examines happenings in Saturday’s Ekiti governorship election and reports that it was full of unexpected developments

Happenings in many polling centres in Ekiti State on Saturday corroborated stories as seen on the news and viral videos on social media across towns indicating that most voters in the state went for the highest bidders in the money inducement that went on with the electoral exercise.

The candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Dr Wole Oluyede, who voted at Ikere Ekiti, said there was brazen vote-buying allegedly perpetrated by the All Progressives Congress in his community, saying, “The election on Saturday shows that we are not ready for democracy. The election did not reflect good governance and the wishes of the people.”

Oluyede, who came fourth in the governorship election with 5,597 votes, said, “People called me that morning asking for the money with which I will buy votes, I said, no, I am not buying any vote, I worked hard for my money.

“I was surprised when I got to the polling unit, I discovered that there was no amount the vote-buyers could not have paid to get votes and deprive the people of choosing right,” Oluyede said.

Similarly, the candidate of the Action Democratic Party, Mrs Kemi Elebute-Halle, who voted at Odo Ayedun in the Ikole Local Government area, lamented vote inducement, which she said did not make the election credible.

Elebute-Halle, who came fifth in the election with 3,495 votes, alleged, “In my polling unit, the APC gave N10,000, PDP gave N5,000 while SDP gave N3,000 per vote as vote inducement. The whole world is watching.”

Also, the SDP candidate, Segun Oni, also alleged vote-buying but the APC candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, exonerated himself and his party of vote-buying, saying Ekiti voters “freely voted for their preferred candidates and parties” in the peacefully conducted election.

However, it was as if political parties in the election, which had embarked mainly on house-to-house campaigns in the build-up to the election, had all along prepared for vote-buying using the style as means of contact.

The security and anti-graft agencies that were deployed in the state for the election made some arrests.

It was gathered that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested some party agents over alleged vote-buying at a polling station in Ado Ekiti, while the director, Public Relations, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Olusola Odumosu, said the NSCDC operatives arrested two persons in the state capital for alleged thuggery and vote-buying.

Also, the Police Public Relations, Ekiti State Command, Sunday Abutu, said policemen nabbed no fewer than four persons over the alleged disruption of the electoral process in some polling units in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, saying they were being investigated by the police.

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Elebute-Halle, whose headache on the Election Day began with the information that she had withdrawn from the race for a particular candidate, said, “It is a lie concocted by those afraid of my rising profile. Having come this far, it would be cowardly of me to back out.”

Also, a letter of purported resignation of the SDP candidate, Oni, was targeted at throwing the party into confusion but the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation’s Director of Media, Jackson Adebayo, who said Oni’s signature in the letter was forged, said, “We want to say categorically that the release is complete falsehood and forgery which the APC people are known for.”

Since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress have rotated the position of Ekiti governor as well as first and second positions in the different governorship elections.

History was rewritten in Saturday’s election as APC candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, scored 187,057 votes to win the election to succeed the sitting APC governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, just as SDP standard-bearer, Oni, who scored 82,211 votes dislodged PDP from the second position as the PDP candidate, Bisi Kolawole, got 64,457 votes to settle for the third position.

Of note was the fact that parties such as the SDP, the ADC and the ADP erstwhile seen as underdogs sprang surprises in the election with the SDP coming from obscurity to give the ruling APC and major opposition , the PDP, a hot chase and emerged second.

Before the election, the APC and the PDP members believed only their parties were in the race and that the Oni’s four months in the SDP could not make any difference for a party believed not to have structures in the state.

However, SDP, banking on what it called “people’s support and the feeling in town,” was before the election full of confidence that it was the party to beat in the election.

Establishing vote-buying evidence, Bola, a clerk at a restaurant in Ado Ekiti, claimed that a day like Saturday when the Ekiti State governorship election was held was a good one as she said she made N12,000 in less than two hours that she spent at her polling unit.

The lady, who said she went to the polling booth to vote for a particular candidate in appreciation of what she once benefitted from the candidate, said she capitulated when N10,000 was dangled before her to vote for the standard-bearer of another party.

She said, “I had wanted to appreciate a candidate who gave me free tea and eggs when I was in primary school but that could not happen. Some people told me that they had N10,000 for me if I voted for them.

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“I will not give names but you know what I am saying. I have no regret; many people did the same thing. Although I had wanted to vote for my benefactor, I changed my mind because naturally, votes don’t count. After the voting, N10,000 was handed over to me. Then one guy called me back and added N2,000 to it, saying he liked my spirit.”

Meanwhile, the violence that crept into Ekiti in the build-up to the governorship election and the various alarms raised particularly by the SDP, gave the world the impression that the election would be a war zone.

This is especially going by the attack at Efon Ekiti on Oni’s campaign train; an attack on the SDP deputy governorship candidate, Ladi Owolabi, in Ado Ekiti; the clash between the APC and the SDP at the Itaji Ekiti in Oye Local Government area leading to the death of an APC supporter and the reprisal the following day in Ado Ekiti raising tension in the state capital and indeed the state.

Consequently, when the police announced the deployment of 17,374 personnel; the NSCDC sent in 9,747 men and officers including 160 armed female squad; men of the Nigerian Army; Ekiti Amotekun operatives on the alert just as the Federal Fire service brought in men and fire fighting trucks for election duty, tensions lowered as the feeling was that they would be up to the task.

However, when Election Day came and people went out to vote, the poll was generally peaceful throughout the state except for some few and far in-between cases of violence and attempt at ballot box snatching which the security agencies put under check and restored normalcy.

Some people, however, said the success of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System technology employed by INEC for the election played a large role in the peaceful conduct of Saturday’s election in Ekiti State.

Election stakeholders in Ekiti State including Ekiti State Governor,  Kayode Fayemi; APC candidate (now governor-elect), Oyebanji; the PDP candidate, Kolawole; and former Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Prof Kolapo Olusola-Eleka; hailed INEC for the BVAS, saying it had improved the efficiency of the poll.

Post-election reports

An election observational and monitoring team, Yiaga Africa, praised INEC for the marked improvement in logistics management and the deployment of BVAS for the (Ekiti) election.

Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, said, “The retinue of national commissioners and resident national electoral commissioners deployed for the election improved the quality of oversight and fast-tracked escalation and response to election.”

Itodo said, “Yiaga Africa observed the deployment of the BVAS to all polling units. In 92 per cent of the polling units, the BVAS functioned properly. However, in eight per cent of the polling units, the BVAS malfunctioned and it was fixed.”

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However, the Nigerian Civil Societies Situation Room, Co-convener, James Ugochukwu, said that although security officials arrived at the polling units on time and were civil in their conduct, “the impact of their presence was not felt in voters’ coordination at most of the polling units. Also, the police failed to halt the apparent vote-buying witnessed by observers in virtually all the polling units.”

Ugochukwu said, “We wish to remind the police authority of their responsibilities to halt and apprehend those involved in voters’ inducement and maintain law and order throughout the process and beyond. Situation Room calls on INEC to ensure that the ongoing process is concluded transparently and credibly.”

Also, the Executive Director of Balm in Gilead Foundation for Sustainable Development, Mrs Tumininu Adedeji, the implementer of the Stop Violence against Women in Politics initiative, said, “Priority voting was not given to pregnant women and nursing mothers in all polling units.”

BIGIF, which was in partnership with the NSCDC, said, “The Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) does not empower the security agencies to expressly arrest and prosecute electoral offences. There is a need to amend the Electoral Act to fully criminalise vote trading (vote selling and buying).”

“Women were coerced as both agents of vote-buying and selling with few cases tracked and reported. There is a need to step up the orientation and sensitisation programmes to discourage voters from vote trading.

“NSCDC should conduct more public enlightenment on the availability and use of the N-alert application. Agencies should promote increased inter-agency synergy to curb vote-trading, including a service directory for election administrators and security agencies,” Adedeji said.

NSCDC Public Relations Officer in Ekiti State, Tolulope Afolabi, said the N-alert application, the alert system, devised to facilitate response to incidents of violence, as deployed in Ekiti State by Stop-VAWIP, was successful and would also be deployed in the Osun State governorship election holding on July 16.

Recall that INEC Returning Officer for Ekiti election, Prof Kayode Adebowale, who is the Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, returned the APC candidate, Oyebanji, winner of the election having scored the highest number of votes and met the requirements of the law in the election contested by 16 parties.

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