Despite the huge campaign against vote-buying by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA), some Nigerians, across political party divides, are yet to desist from the illegal act, checks by Saturday Telegraph have revealed.
However, those involved in the dastardly act are no longer going by direct vote buying as witnessed in the previous elections. This time, the new method adopted is through the purchase of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) from individuals willing to sell.
Though the method is not entirely new, as it had been used before, it is not as open and notorious as the direct system of vote-buying. In the open system, a voter is directly paid at the polling unit after voting for the party paying the fee, while the indirect system allows a voter to sell off his right to vote before the Election Day.
With this new system, a voter is clandestinely disenfranchised while the beneficiary of the purchase will use the card to favour the party picking the bills.
This is usually in connivance with polling agents and the INEC ad-hoc staff, who must have been bought over, for the illegal permutations to be perfected. A scenario witnessed by some of our correspondents in Ikeja and Agege areas of Lagos during the 2015 election shows how the fraudulent system works.
In a chat with a beneficiary of the fraud who corroborated what our correspondents witnessed, a female politician narrated how the operation of the illegal system was simplified to fit into a normal electoral process.
“Once the PVCs had been collected, those behind the purchase will go a step further to organize people that would use the card and assemble them in one place on the eve of the election.
“In most cases, we use people of northern extraction who we call ‘mola’, and they must be at a designated place before the day of voting, so that they won’t be caught napping with the restriction of movement order, which is always in place.
“They are the ones that will line up and do the voting on behalf of the real owners. The INEC staff, the police and the polling agents of political parties is all involved; they always look the other way, having greased their palm.
“But it is only possible in places where you are popular and you have an edge, it is a bit difficult if the area that is not your stronghold”, she explained. Asked why the need to go through such harrowing and risky experience since the party in question is already popular in the area, she simply responded thus: “it is a way to shore up votes because what you have in one area can make up for your loss in other areas, when the total figures are collated.
“As a party leader, if my party can pull all the votes in my area, numbering over half-a-million, it would be to my advantage, because it is possible that we may not have up to 10 per cent of that in the strong hold of our opponents.
“It is the huge number we have here that we will use to augment the loss from other areas. It is like a game of football competition, if you are able to score many goals during the group stages, it will help you on the long run when determining who will qualify for the finals.
“Let me give you an example; in the last election, we lost some areas including Oshodi because of the attitude of our brothers and sisters from the South East. You know how big and populated Oshodi is, but we were able to make up the overall figure from what we had here and our other strongholds”, she explained.