Political parties on Saturday competed to outdo themselves in attracting voters at polling units in Okene, Okehi Local Government Areas, and other areas in the Kogi State in the ongoing governorship election.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) were observed to be involved in vote buying, offering voters various monetary inducements ranging from N1500 to N3000 to vote for them.
More disturbing is that the vote buying was being done in the full view of security agents, involving police and paramilitary operatives, with no effort being made to stop the malpractice or arrest its perpetrators.
Speaking to Sunday Sun at Okenyi LGA, the home of SDP candidate Natasha Akpoti, a middleaged man who identied himself as an SDP vote canvaser, claimed that people he described as APC thugs descended on him and collected over N280,000 in his custody.
“The APC thugs numbering over 10 had come to the ward where I was canvassing votes for the SDP, walked directly to me and told me to hand over the whole money with me. When the police standing there could not help me, I had no other option than to release the money, which is over N280,000, to them. They the did not only collect the money, but also chased me into the bush,” he told Sunday Sun.
Speaking further, he said: “Before attacking me, they had earlier descended on my brother and three others with guns, knives and other dangerous weapons earlier in the morning. Those attacked are still in the hospital struggling to survive. It is surprising that we have security agenies everywhere yet they cannot confront the APC thugs operating freely,” he said.
Another indegene of Okenyi LGA, who equally spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sunday Sun that the APC had armed voters with cloned voters cards to vote for it, as he chided the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for allowing the malpractice to happen.
“At Central School, Code 01, 02, 03 to 07, fake voters cards were freely used in the presence of the police and INEC staff without anybody questioning such. I can’t even understand why INEC could allow such to happen. I can confidently tell you that thugs have been strategically located to snatch the ballot boxes. We have resigned to fate,” he said.
Meanwhile, at most polling units, it was a case of voters displaying their ballot papers to agents and canvasers, before collecting their money. The positioning of the polling units, at residential houses seems to have adequately aided the observed vote buying as they were done either inside private rooms or at the back of private homes.
The apparent compromise of the voting process was such that political parties deployed canvassers, lobbyists and other agents strategically near polling units to monitor votes cast in their favour.
While there was an observed apathy of voters in certain areas, in other areas it was a free for all fight as thugs tried to outsmart each other.
The voting locality of the SDP candidate in Okenyi seems to be a theatre of conflict, as thugs believed to be deployed by the APC molested perceived supporters of candidate Natasha Akpoti.
Speaking to reporters after voting around 11:30 am, the SDP candidate expressed concern over the election, claiming that security report at her disposal indicates that the APC has connived with the electoral commission to storm collation centres with two different result sheets.