As 48 Governorship candidates from 48 political parties jostle for 1,246,915 votes, in the Osun State Gubernatorial election holding on Saturday (today), some of the contestants and their Political Associates, have devised new means and tactics to induce voters, ahead of the poll.
Investigations revealed that representatives of some of the political parties, were using the WhatsApp social media platform to woo Permanent Voters Card holders, who are residents of Osun State, to sell their votes.
This was despite attempts by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to curb vote-buying and selling, especially in the Osun State election.
It was gathered that the Associates of the contestants cleverly hid their identities.
To track the identities of the buyers and the Politicians they were working for, Punch’s Correspondent connected to an online link that in turn linked him with a WhatsApp number, 08120569530, where he was asked a series of questions to ascertain if he actually had a Permanent Voters Card, and if he was an Osun State indigene, the administrator later promised that N10,000 would be deposited into the Correspondent’s account number at 6am on Election Day. The Correspondent was asked to send his account details, age, town, ward and unit to claim the amount.
The administrator said: “You will receive bank alert by 6am on the Election Day. Do not forget to pass this good news to all your friends and family. Make sure you add us to you(r) phone book and do not forget to send this to all your friends and family living in and around Osun State. Expect our call anytime from now.”
It was however difficult, to ascertain the party or Governorship candidate that initiated the payment process. When the Correspondent tried using Truecaller to unmasked the identity of the person, he did not respond.
Almost immediately, the administrator sent a message that the Correspondent would be stopped from enjoying the N10,000 vote-buying price. “Please, no WhatsApp call, and if you keep calling, we will block you”, the administrator wrote.
Meanwhile, one of the contestants was said to have started distributing money to the Ward Leaders, who would identify names of their party members on the voters registers, and pay them ahead of the poll.
A source close to one of the Politicians, disclosed that the money had been moved to where the distribution would be done, in order to pay for the votes.
He said: “There is nothing they can do to stop vote-buying, especially in this election, because Politicians are desperate to outdo one another in their bid to buy votes.
“They have started bringing money out, but this time around, because of the noise over it, they will be more discreet in sharing the money. Money has been given to the Leader of the party in our area, but they are yet to tell us how much.”
It was also gathered that the sponsor of a particular candidate compelled some party Leaders to swear an oath, that they would spend the money he wanted to give them to induce voters, and not pocket them.
Some of the Leaders were said to have agreed, while a few of them were said to have rejected the money, because they could not swear this oath of allegiance.
The same candidate was said to have distributed forms to prospective voters, asking them to fill in their accounts details, to enable them to be credited with the sum of N10,000. The amount is said to be meant for any voter with a PVC.
However, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, traded blames over allegations of vote-buying, on Friday, accusing each other of trying to sway voters, by offering electorates money for their votes.
The PDP accused the ruling party of planning to buy votes with billions of naira, in order to manipulate the people to vote for the ruling party’s candidate, Gboyega Oyetola.
The opposition party denied that its candidate in the election, Ademola Adeleke, was collecting bank details of the electorates through a WhatsApp number, in order to buy their votes.
He said the allegation was a rumour, and that Adeleke would play by the rules of the election.
The PDP Chairman in Osun State, Mr. Soji Adagunodo, who stated this on Friday, at a Press Conference, at the party Secretariat, noted that the party had detected several means through which the APC wanted to rig the election.
Adagunodo stated: “We wish to alert the general public to the planned monetisation of the Osun State Governorship election, especially the voting process, by the APC. Towards this ignoble end, several helicopters loaded with cash were flown into the Government House, between the hours of 4pm and 8pm, on Thursday.
“The money, which we were reliably informed about runs into billions of naira, was contributed by State Governors elected on the platform of the APC, to enable the party to induce voters at various polling units.
“In addition, each of the 67 Local Government Council Development Areas in Osun State, were made to cough up N12.5 million, for the same purpose. The plan of the APC, as gathered from very credible sources, was to buy votes with a sum ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 each, at the polling units.
“It is quite unfortunate that a government which did not find it compelling to pay salaries and allowances of its workforce for 34 months, could resort to attempting to buy the conscience of voters in this election.”
In a swift response, a Chieftain of the APC in Osun State, Sola Fasure, who is also the Media Aide to Governor Rauf Aregbesola, asked the PDP to provide evidence of its allegations.
In defence of the ruling party, Fasure said that the opposition party had started inducing voters ahead of the election, adding that, the PDP raised the allegation as a smokescreen to divert attention from the alleged electoral fraud the party had perfected.
He said: “The PDP and its candidate have been sending messages out to obtain account numbers of the people whose votes they want to buy. They are using this allegation to cover their own heinous and sinister practice of trying to induce voters.
“They are making allegations without evidence, but we have evidence of them trying to induce voters. They are the ones actually sending messages and trying to induce these voters with cash. They have been obtaining bank accounts, and it is all over the State. Everybody knows, but they are using the Press Conference as a means to divert attention from them, so that they can perpetrate that criminal activity of subverting the election and inducing voters.
“We are not giving out money to anybody; anyone who claims to have collected money from us, should come out to the public and say it. We have the strategy of winning elections, by going out to canvass for votes, and they have the strategy of taking shortcuts, by paying to induce voters, and to circumvent the electoral process. They have started inducing voters already, but they will fail woefully.”
Elsewhere, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday, said that the Commission had recently observed increasing voters’ inducement through electronic transfers to influence their choice of voters on the day of the election.
According to a release by INEC on Friday, Yakubu led a team of National Commissioners to the EFCC, on Thursday, to look at further steps that could be taken to address the vote-buying and selling menace.
Yakubu said: “Of immediate concern, is the election we are holding on Saturday, in Osun State, and it is going to be the last major election before the 2019 general elections. We have taken steps as a Commission, but we need the support of the EFCC in this respect. Vote-buying and selling is giving our democracy and elections a bad reputation. Also, Institutions like the EFCC, having the powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute, can help to stem this ugly tide.
“We have also recently observed increasing inducement through electronic transfers, whereby money is transferred into the accounts of some voters, in order to influence their decisions on Election Day. We believe that you have both the law and the capacity on your side to help us in this respect.
“We implore the EFCC to also monitor campaign finances of political parties and their candidates. We do not want the moneybags to determine our democracy. We want the votes of the people to determine who wins in our elections.”