Barely 24 hours to the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, observations by a civil society organisation, YIAGA Africa Watching The Vote (WTV), has revealed that money politics may determine the outcome of the elections as players compete to outdo each other in buying of votes ahead of the polls. RUTH TENE NATSA presents the issues.
That money politics has become a major game changer in the nation’s political arena remains a fact that needs to be taken seriously and also nipped in the bud before the nation’s electoral process is totally undermined.
Voters have been known to sell their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for as low as N500 and as high as N2,000 and in some cases for a few bottles of drink. Sadly, this is the politics that seems to be playing out presently in Kogi and Bayelsa politics as there have been accusations and counter-accusations by parties hiring political urchins into the states during campaigns and paying supporters to chant, attack and disrupt rival party’s gatherings or destruction of their party/camapign offices and for voting using cloned PVCs.
While the campaigns in Kogi state have recorded violence across the state, there is also no doubt that money politics has taken over and is fast eroding the credibility of tomorrow’s elections.
Lamenting on the spate of violence across Kogi state, the state chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mouktar Atima, confirmed the burning down of the party’s secretariat, alleging that “the ruling party APC had released their boys to unleash terror on our party.”
Atima said the development was a confirmation of the several threats received recently by the party’s governorship candidate, Barrister Natasha Akpoti.
The spokesman of the APC campaign in the state, Kingsley Fanwo, however debunked the allegations that his party sponsored hoodlums that burnt down the SDP secretariat in Lokoja, saying that the APC and its candidate were busy campaigning around the state and had no time for irrelevant issues.
On the other hand, the APC deputy national chairman had raised the alarm that the APC had uncovered an alleged plot by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led government in Bayelsa to lure voters with N20,000 each, deploy fake police, military personnel and cloned PVCs.
The APC chieftain in a statement issued on Monday claimed that “Governor Seriake Dickson recently ordered the secret release of 100 inmates, awaiting trial from Okaka prison in the state capital, Yenagoa, to work for the PDP during the Saturday’s elections”.
Meanwhile, the 3rd pre-election report by YIAGA Africa Watching The Vote has been released and ot focussed on key issues in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections, including indicators of violence, violation of electoral codes, and activities of INEC and political parties.
This reporting phase also captured the plight of voters in some flooded communities and the issue of where they will vote on the election day.
In addition, is the issue of the threat of the likelihood for politicians to weaponise the elections. For Bayelsa, it may be a case of those who control the water taking the election.
The report revealed that PVCs will go to the highest bidder and voter inducement wil continues. It insists that trading of PVCs and voter details, and other forms of voter inducement through distribution of money still prevails.
WTV findings specifically disclosed ongoing buying and selling of PVCs in Southern Ijaw and Ogbia in Bayelsa state and Okehi, Ankpa, and Idah in Kogi state and distribution of money or gift items in all the LGAs in Bayelsa except for Kolokuma/Sagbama,Ekeremor.
In Kogi State, there were no reports of voter inducement in Okene, Ankpa, Dekina, Igalamela/Odolu, Ofu, Olamaboro, Omala, Ijamu, Mopa Moro and Yagba East LGA.
The Report observed political campaigns and rallies trailed by violence. It stated that “In this reporting phase, political campaigns and rallies were trailed with insecurity and other election violence in both Kogi and Bayelsa States.
WTV LTOs reported “Violent physical attacks on rallies/meetings or campaign trails in Southern Ijaw (Bayelsa state) and Dekina LGA (Kogi state); verbal violence on rallies/meetings or campaign trails in Brass, Nembe and Southern Ijaw (in Bayelsa) and in Yaba West in Kogi state; and intimidation of candidate/supporters in Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw in Bayelsa state and in Ankpa, Dekina, Idah and Ofu, in Kogi state.
The WTV project noted sustained levels of dissemination of key electoral information by INEC and CSOs. The WTV pre-election findings in Bayelsa reveals ongoing voter information dissemination activities by INEC and CSOs in all the LGAs and by NOA in 7 LGAs. In Kogi state, voter information dissemination was carried out by INEC and CSOs in 13 LGAs and by NOA in 8 LGAs.
It however, noted that Political parties in Bayelsa state engaged more in political campaigns than in Kogi state. The findings from Bayelsa state revealed that: APC did not hold any rally in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA.
The Reports highlighted the challenge of voters in flooded communities that threatened their rights to vote. Some possible polling units affected according to the Report include locations in Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor, Sagbama, Yenagoa LGAs.
In Kogi states, polling units affected are located in communities within Ibaji, Kogi Koton Karfe, Lokoja, Ofu, Ajaokuta, Omala and Idah LGAs. Ibaji appears to be the most severely affected LGA. Communities in Onyedega, Unale, Ojila, Odeke, Ejule, Ayah, Analo and Akpanyo ward are specifically affected.
The Report in its recommendations which noted the increase in the purchase of PVC and voter details called for an immediate action from INEC to develop an oversight mechanism on Election Day to prevent manipulation of the voter accreditation process. In addition, INEC should in collaboration with the police commence arrest of politicians going about requesting for PVC and voter details.
It stressed the need for INEC to intensify its voter education as the election got closer especially with respect to voting procedures and messages on INECs plan to ensure credible election to build citizens’ confidence in the process.
“INEC needs to ensure proper coordination with the security agencies to guarantee the security of polling officials and INEC staff especially the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to be deployed on election day,” it said.
It added that “INEC needs to properly communicate its plans to ensure that voters in polling units affected by flood can vote. This should include information on where and how these voters in the affected polling units will vote.”
The Report also stressed the need for better inter-agency collaboration and cooperation between both the security agencies towards the elections especially on election day in hot spots already identified in riverine areas in Bayelsa and LGAs identified in Kogi states, while also urging that Security agencies working on the elections should ensure that all personnel deployed are properly trained.
The Report further called on Political parties and candidates to desist and refrain from recruiting thugs, militants, cultists, criminals, etc. to deploy violence and also promote issues-based campaigns and conduct voter education as part of their role in building our electoral democracy.
It further called on the electorate to guard their PVCs and voter details because the PVC is the only identity card that guarantees their right to vote on election. It also called on Citizens to work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence.