In continuation of the illegal practice of vote-buying that has characterised elections in the country, many political parties participating in today’s governorship election in Osun State have devised new strategies to induce voters, findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed.
Our correspondents gathered that in spite of serial denials by the parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have concluded plans to pay between N2,000 and N10,000 per vote. It was also learnt that the parties had since Tuesday distributed the money to the wards and polling units to avoid being stopped by security agencies.
The PDP, it was learnt, planned to give N2,000 to any willing voter in neutral and friendly areas while the amount to be shared to each voter in hostile and very competitive areas could be as much as N5,000.
The “friendly” areas for the PDP are Ede North, Ede South, Oriade, Obokun, Boluwaduro and Orolu Local Government Areas.
A party stalwart and mobiliser for the PDP in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the party had no choice but to make such provisions so it wouldn’t be outplayed by the APC. “You know the APC is in power at the centre and in the state and the party has more governors than the PDP, so they naturally would have more funds from donations. So, we can’t go to bed as if they won’t induce voters,” the source said.
Another source in Osogbo, the state capital, told one of our correspondents, “We have mobilised since early in the week so the security agencies, who may be loyal to the APC, don’t humiliate us.”
Similarly, the APC, it was learnt, may spend up to N10,000 per vote and had voted about N2m per polling unit. A chieftain of the party, who didn’t want his name mentioned, said the election would be keenly contested and that it would be insulting for the party to lose the election.
The source added, “Osun is a state we cannot lose, so we have to do what is necessary. It will be an embarrassment if we lose the election. APC is Osun and Osun is APC. So, we have made provision for voters to be rewarded for voting for us.”
When reminded that the security agencies and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission were on the lookout for such illegal transactions, he said, “We took care of that already, since early in the week.”
On how the money would be disbursed, findings by correspondents revealed that in a bid to avoid the prying eyes of security and anti-graft agents, those in charge of disbursing the funds are expected to stay in nearby residential buildings. However, other foot soldiers, who would pose as normal voters, would be around the polling units, especially the voting cubicle, to identify those who vote for their respective parties. The foot soldiers would then give signal to one another and would notify the paymaster for the voter to be paid.
Apart from the two major parties, Accord Party and Labour Party, both of which are top contenders, are also said to be planning to ‘reward’ voters, though with lesser amount.
Some reliable party sources, who confirmed that money had been shared to the units, however said the funds distributed to the units were meant for logistics.
The PDP also raised the alarm on Friday of an alleged plot by the APC to bribe INEC officials and the police in a bid to rig the election.
PDP, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said, “Our party has information on how two prominent APC governors from the Southwest, a former APC National Chairman from the Southsouth, a certain minister and a particular member of the House of Assembly from Lagos State are coordinating the release of billions of naira to bribe electoral and security officials as well as fund heavily armed thugs imported from Lagos, Ondo, Ogun and other South-West states to unleash violence and help the APC to rig the election.”
The Director of Media and Publicity for the PDP in the state, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said it did not have any plan to induce voters, adding that the party would not indulge in vote-buying with the massive support it was enjoying.
Oluwabamiji said, “With what we have on ground, we don’t need to buy votes. We can’t descend so low trying to do what APC is trying to do. We believe in the massive support of our people.
“We believe in the support of the Almighty God that this time, PDP must lead the state. We can’t be begging to do that. Whoever is saying PDP is also buying votes is being mischievous.”
Similarly, the media assistant to Osun APC chairman, Kola Olabisi, said claims that the ruling party was planning to induce voters were not true.
He added, “That claim is baseless and unfounded. It is a mere fabrication orchestrated by PDP elements who are all out to give a dog a bad name and hang it. It is obvious they are losing the election that is why they are coming up with various allegations.
“If they claim APC is buying votes, let them supply the proof. There is no element of truth in it. Claims that we are voting N2m to each unit is news to me and I can only comment on what I know. But it is not true.”
Also, an aide to the Accord Party’s candidate in the poll, Stephen Owolabi, said the party’s candidate, Akin Ogunbiyi, is a businessman that made his money through his sweat and would not buy votes.
“We have been telling people to vote for us according to their conscience. Those who want to buy votes are those that have been in government, who have got enough money to steal. Our candidate is a businessman, who got his money by his sweat.
“He was not helped by anybody. Those who want to buy votes are those who have nothing to do here and they have come. Those who want to buy votes have imported all manners of people, governors and others who came here with bullion vans.”
The governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Lasun Yusuff, could not be reached for comment as calls to his line did not go through. A text message sent to him had yet to be replied as of the time of filing this report.