It’s almost two months to the 2023 election, and the desperation as well as the win at all cost syndrome of politicians across political party lines in all the states, continue to intensify.
Aside from attacks on offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission across the country, political party offices and members, by suspected sponsored hoodlums, the more rampant but non-violent pre-election illegal activity going on unabated by politicians across board, is vote-buying.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu had repeatedly made it clear that there is no way the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System can be manipulated and that unregistered and ineligible voters would not vote, and nobody can use another person’s Permanent Voters Card to vote.
However, activities of party agents and candidates demanding for PVCs or the identification number in it from voters, in exchange for financial or other gratification in different parts of the country, continue to get into the news.
Some alleged that the PVCs are being collected from unsuspecting voters who they feel may not vote for their candidate on election day. They prevent them from doing so, in the hope that they will have more voters for their principal. Others however alleged that the agents collect the numbers on voters’ PVCs for reasons which still seems to be a mystery, even to INEC.
Although just a few agents, supporters and hoodlums have been apprehended for being in possession of huge numbers of PVCs, no major arrest has been made. It is obvious that the few already arrested and those continuing the act unabated, are working for politicians who are desperate to get into power “by hook or by crook.”
According to Worldometer, as at 12:00am on December 16, 2022, Nigeria’s population was estimated to be 219,465,670, while the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on November 17, estimated that no fewer than 133 million Nigerians, representing well over 60 per cent of the population, are currently living in multi-dimensional poverty.
Unknown to many, the continual increase in the country’s number of multidimensionally poor people is good news to these desperate politicians, as it is usually extremely helpful before and during elections because most poor people are usually more concerned about what and where their next meal would coming from, rather than who they will elect to better their lives and that of their children, in the long term.
These opportunists, in their desperate bid to actualise their political aspirations, use poor peoples’ conditions against them and take advantage of it, by giving them money, food items, clothing. They are always successful at this, not only because authorities responsible for curbing this always look away, but also because the unsuspecting voters, the easily swayed and the ignorant population among this huge poverty figure, already feel defeated in their different conditions and don’t even think twice before lying down for the cover.
Sadly, the mentality of some sets of voters is that the politicians giving them these gifts right before the elections is a sign that they will do more, when they win the election. Other sets of these negligent voters, don’t just care, as long as their present feeding and financial needs are met.
Rumours of party agents seeking for PVCs from traders in some markets in Lagos were first heard, but nobody was able to confirm this categorically. INEC however, finally later raised the alarm that voters in various parts of the country were actually giving up their PVCs for different amounts.
The nation’s electoral umpire however proposed a life ban for any politician or political party caught in the act of buying. The police also warned that they will launch a manhunt for politicians who procure PVCs for the purpose of rigging the 2023 election.
These threats however, are of no effect to the defiant politicians, as they continue to send their agents to keep inducing voters for their PVCs. Just days after INEC raised the alarm, findings by at least two other independent bodies confirmed the development.
The Northern Elders Forum, in a statement on Wednesday, cried out, alleging that some politicians, working for different parties, and targeting communities where their candidates have comparative advantages or disadvantages, are buying PVCs from voters for N2,000 in the North.
“Thousands, or possibly even millions of Northern voters, particularly women, are being made to surrender their PVCs for a pittance, in most instances not more than N2,000 Naira. In some instances, they are told their cards will be returned to them after they are processed for additional payments as poverty relief. No cards are returned,” Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, NEF Spokesman revealed.
“Our relative poverty now is no excuse to surrender the opportunity to improve our future,” Baba-Ahmed further advised.
In another revelation, The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), in a pre-election observation report released yesterday, raised similar alarm over the inducement of potential voters and purchase of voter cards from voters by politicians ahead of the 2023 election.
The statement signed by the Executive Director of the Civil Society Organisation, Samson Itodo revealed that they deployed a total of 822 long-term observers to monitor pre-election events in the 774 local government areas of the country and made their findings known through its Watching The Vote (WTV) project.
Part of the statement read, “Though voter inducement was reported in 33 states, it was more prevalent in the following states: Abia, Bauchi, Borno, Delta, Katsina, Kano, Niger, Oyo and Sokoto.
“Specifically, buying of PVCs was reported in Ugwuachara, Echiaba Ward, in Ebonyi LGA by APC supporters. WTV observers reported that APC supporters went around the LGA giving citizens N10,000 in exchange for the voter identification number on their PCs,” Yiaga revealed.
“The supporters went house to house offering the citizens money and food items (Rice) the APC term empowerment. Some people were happy and collected the money while others refused to sell their votes.
“Similarly, the report alleged that Kwara state, Baruten LGA, APC agents were said to have allocated and alerted APC party supporters to assemble and come with their details to access state government grants,” Yiaga added.
It also disclosed that, “The same was noticed in Itakudimo, Ilorin west where PDP agents were seen sharing N500 to residents and passersby to gain support after their meeting.
“In Oroke Onuoha, Achiaba Ward, Ebonyi LGA/Ebonyi State, supporters of APC were seen distributing food items to citizens while canvassing for votes.
“Also, in Bunkure LGA of Kano, party supporters were seen buying PVCs from citizens and giving out N5,000 and fertilizer,” the civil society body added.
INEC, Nigerian security agencies, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and other relevant agencies, should graduate from giving empty threats, to actually wielding the hammer on erring politicians, not only their agents, even if they are members of the ruling party, to serve as a deterrent to others alike, as the activities of such people are a threat to next year’s election and the country’s fragile democracy.