Vote-buying has always taken the forefront in every election in Nigeria, and the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State was no different. Interestingly, it was taken a notch higher in the just concluded Ekiti State governorship election.
The election was contested among 16 candidates, however, it was a three-horse race among Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Biodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Before the election, Civil Society Organisations, police and anti-graft agencies issued a stern warning to electorates and political parties to shun vote-buying or risk arrest and prosecution. Rather than heed the warning to rid the electoral system of money-politics, candidates and party agents devised new means to carry out transactional voting.
Also, to ensure a smooth transaction, party agents at different polling units bribed security personnel dispatched to various polling units to look the other way while the transaction is going on.
APC Allegedly Outspends PDP, SDP
Election monitoring done in different polling units across the state revealed widespread vote-buying carried out by the top three contenders in the election.
In areas like Efon, Iyin and Ifaki, party members and some voters were paid a day before the election to reduce suspicion by security operatives, election observers and the media.
Also, designated locations for money sharing were strategically located away from the polling units, while party agents were placed in different polling units to monitor who electorates voted for.
At Ward 6, Ikogosi, the hometown of Oyebanji, some party agents designated to monitor votes were seen interfering with the voting process by guiding voters on where to vote. The APC subsequently won the ward with a landslide victory.
At Polling Unit 009, Ward 02 of Ikere Local Government Area, voters were seen going into an apartment located behind Oisa Alada Hall. It was later discovered that APC agents were stationed in the house, sharing N7,000 to voters who were required to present their Permanent Voter Cards and evidence showing they voted for the party.
At Polling Unit 002, Ward 2, Sabo area in Ijero Local Government Area of the state, two women raised the alarm about not being paid despite voting for the APC candidate. The women said they were left out of the money sharing by the party agent.
They accused the APC of deception and corruption by not fulfilling their agreement of paying for votes cast for the party.
The outcry prompted an APC agent at the unit to send a man, identified as Lapo, to attend to them and pay them.
In Ipoti Ward A, party agents from PDP and SDP were also seen bribing voters in the presence of security personnel.
Similarly, at C.A.C Grammar School, Ola Oluwa II with PU code 014 in Ado-Ekiti, APC and PDP party agents were giving N5,000 to voters who confirmed they had voted for the party.
Corroborating the claim, Kemi Elebute-Halle, governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the election claimed that the APC gave voters N10,000 while the
PDP and the SDP induced voters with N5,000, and N3,000 respectively.
The candidate of the SDP, Oni, also confirmed that voters were being induced by the PDP and APC. He said, “I have been told that selling and buying of votes are going on in Ado and Oye. This is not allowed by the law.”
He urged security operatives to ensure the arrest and prosecution of those indicted in the act.
On his part, Kolawole denied his party engaged in vote-buying. He said, as an opposition, his party does not have the resources to engage in vote-buying.
Few Arrests Made
In a bid to curb vote-buying in the Ekiti, security operatives were able to arrest some party agents involved in buying votes. No fewer than three arrests were made during the election.
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested a party agent as the governorship election commenced.
He was arrested with a bag of cash as he was sharing the money to voters.
In another operation, EFCC operatives stormed a building where money was being shared to voters.
The suspects were caught with nylon bags containing money and a list of names of people who had allegedly voted.
Those arrested were paraded at the Oke Ori Omi Area Division of the Nigerian Police Force.
Also, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) seized a huge parcel of money which was meant to buy votes at Polling Unit 09, Ward 10, Ikere LGA.
CSOs have reacted to the rampant cases of vote-buying in the Ekiti governorship election.
The CSOs hailed security operatives for the arrests made and demanded that those arrested should be prosecuted.
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) led the call for the police authority to prosecute those it arrested
Also, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, called on the officials of EFCC deployed to ensure full prosecution of individuals caught in the act of vote-buying.
“We commend the EFCC for the arrests made of people buying votes. We call on the officials of EFCC deployed to ensure full prosecution of individuals caught in the act of vote-buying/voter inducement,” Itodo said.