From Aidoghie Paulinus, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Sunday Ani, Chukwudi Nweje and Brown Chimezie
The United Kingdom has decried the vote buying that characterised last Saturday’s Ekiti State governorship election, saying financial inducement of voters has no place in democracy.
It, however, implored any individual or party dissatisfied with the electoral process to seek redress in a peaceful manner and through the appropriate legal channels.
In the gubernatorial poll, All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Biodun Oyebanji secured 187,057 votes to defeat Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who polled 82,211 votes, and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who got 67,457 votes.
The British High Commission, in a statement, yesterday, congratulated the people of Ekiti State for their peaceful and democratic participation in the election, but flayed the commercialisation of votes.
“We are concerned about reports of vote-buying during the election and call on the relevant authorities to hold any persons involved accountable. The buying and selling of votes has no place in a democracy. We encourage INEC to reflect on other potential improvements to the electoral process ahead of general election in 2023, especially the re-distribution and assignment of voters to newly established polling units to reduce queuing times, better awareness and implementation of electoral guidelines by INEC staff and improved accessibility at polling units to help with the participation of persons with disabilities. We urge any party or individual who is dissatisfied with the process to seek redress in a peaceful manner and through the appropriate legal channels.”
The British High commission said being the first major election conducted since the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, civil society partners and all stakeholders deserved commendation for their collective effort in the successful conduct of the poll under a new legal framework.
“Our team of observers on the ground noted commendable improvements in the electoral process, including the timely opening of polls, better functioning of the Biometric Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) devices for accrediting voters, and the transparent and efficient electronic transmission of polling unit results to INEC’s results viewing portal.”
The United Kingdom encouraged people to register and collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and to participate actively in the political process.
“The UK will continue to assist INEC and our partners in their aspiration to support peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Nigeria,” it said.
Meanwhile, Governor-elect of Ekiti State, Biodun Oyebanji, has said neither he nor his party was involved in vote-buying.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after being presented to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Oyebanji said he did not witness any vote-buying in the polling unit where he voted. He said he won the poll based on the performance of the outgoing administration in the state in which he played a prominent role.
The former Secretary to State Government (SSG) said he canvased for votes using the record of performance of the administration and what he had to offer the people going forward.
“I canvassed for votes. I had a manifesto that I unveiled to Ekiti people. And I canvassed based on that manifesto. And I’m part of a that has done so well. Last time I was here, I said that if performance will be an indicator for electoral success then we have nothing to fear. So as far as we are concerned in APC we did not involve in vote buying, but we have done so well and we have a manifesto that pleases our people.”
Regardless, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, an election observer group, Yiaga Africa, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Adewole Adebayo and labour activist, Frank Kokori all joined the UK in condemning the vote-buying that characterised the election.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia said the vote-buying as alleged to have taken place in Ekiti was obnoxious and not in tandem with the tenet of democracy.
“Vote-buying is not part of what democracy is designed to be. It is against the spirit of democracy. It shows that we are still backwards. Ohanaeze condemns it, but unfortunately we don’t have the powers to stop it,” he said.
Speaking for YIAGA Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu said vote-buying was witnessed in a number of polling units that his team visited. He lamented that financial inducement of electorate had gone scientific, and urged the country to do more to curb the ugly trend.
Former Secretary General of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Frank Kokori, also condemned the vote-buying but said there was nothing anybody could do to curtail the menace.
“You can’t curtail it now because the people are poor; they have no jobs. So, in the rural areas, when you give them small money, they will vote for you. It is impossible to stop it now, when we have armed robbers, bandits and kidnappers everywhere. The policeman will not even arrest somebody who you give money to vote for you; the policeman will look away. When you say the EFCC should arrest the people involved, they will only be active in the state capitals and some few voting units. So, forget about that because it is not an issue; it can’t be stopped because the people are hungry and they will always be ready to receive such money from politicians.”
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi said vote buying makes conduct of credible elections in the country difficult.
Executive Director, CISLAC and Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Rafsanjani, said it was unfortunate that a party that claims to be anchored on anti-corruption allowed vote-buying to occur under its watch.
He also berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for going only after the foot soldiers, who were dispensing the monies, while the moneybags who provided the money walked free.
“Voters were given as little as N5,000 to thump-print for particular political parties. If a that is supposed to be leading the fight against corruption has not shown the right example, what do you expect? This is bad and something needs to be done about it.”
Adeboye also alleged that the APC and the PDP competed to out-buy each other at the election. He alleged that while the APC induced voters with N15,000 each, the PDP gave N10,000.
He said the vote buyers had their way because INEC failed to provide secure polling booths where voters could cast their ballots privately.
“Going forward, I think INEC and the security agencies should put adequate measures in place to ensure that whoever engages in vote buying is arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.
•It threatens 2023 polls -OYC
The youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC), expressed concern that the inducement of voters if not curbed, could have dire impact on the 2023 general elections.
In a statement by its President-General, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike and Secretary-General, Obinna Achionye, the group said a situation where political parties tried to outspend one another in order to buy votes pose a threat to the credibility of the 2023 polls.
It urged INEC to do its job of monitoring spendings by political parties.
“Ordinarily, we have no issues with any political party winning an election, but our major concern is the heavy inducement of voters during that exercise. How can one explain a situation where political parties tried to outspend one another in order to buy the votes? What it means is that the politicians have continued with the same fraud with which they conducted primary elections across the country.
“As youths, we declare that this is unacceptable and a big threat to the credibility of the 2023 general elections. We call on the youths to rise up and say no to the mortgaging of their future. Of what value is the sum of N10,000 for a period of four years? What is the credibility of an election that is sold to the highest bidder?”
•Group seeks criminalisation of vote trading
Reacting, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Stop-Violence Against Women in Politics (Stop-VAWIP) called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to criminalise vote trading.
Its Executive Director, Tumininu Adedeji, stated this at the post-election joint media briefing with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Ekiti Command in Ado-Ekiti.
The two organisations reviewed Saturday’s governorship election and how women were treated before, during and after the election. They decried the harassment and intimidation of some women by agents of political parties attempting to buy their votes during the election, saying such act could discourage many women from participating in future election.
She called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to punish anyone involved in vote trading. She said the amendment would sanitise the Nigerian electoral system and make more electorates have confidence in the system.
•Buhari receives Ekiti gov-elect
Notwithstanding the allegations, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, received the governor-elect at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He was led to the event by APC Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, Governors Kayode Fayemi, Atiku Bagudu, Mohammed Badaru of Ekiti, Kebbi and Jigawa, respectively.
The president said he keenly followed the polls and was delighted with its orderly conduct and the way the electorate and security agencies comported themselves.
“I loved how the APC governors mobilised and supported you. I think the party is very lucky, and things are getting better. I congratulate the Chairman, and I pray you sustain it.”
Adamu ascribed all the glory for the election victory to God, and pledged that same would be replicated in Osun State next month.
Chairman of the Campaign Council for Ekiti, Governor Badaru congratulated the president on the successful outing.