7 Days To Polls: PVC Now Sells For N10,000

By Olalekan Osiade, Emmanuel Ifeanyi, Ali Garba, Okegwo Kenechukwu, Dominic Adewole, Daniel Atori, Muhammad Kabir, Pauline Onyibe, Emmanuel Marsha, Onyekachi Eze, Johnchuks Onuanyim

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 organise 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 are all in-volved; 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.

Abia voters confirm

The
rumours making round about the buying of Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC)
seems to hold waters in Abia State as most voters confirmed that they
were actually called to sell theirs for N10, 000. Some of the voters
however said the buying took place within the end of last year and added
that they had not been offered such since the New Year. A voter, among
many others residents that confirmed in Umukalika in Obingwa LGA of Abia
State told Saturday Telegraph that his brothers sold theirs and that if
he had one, he would have done same because he is not going to vote for
anybody. The tricycle rider whose name was withheld at his request said
it was better for him to have sold his card than to keep it for
nothing. A voter who identified himself simply as Pascal and is residing
in Aba South said he is looking for the buyers because he wants to sell
his own PVC. He said that he had no use for it because he didn’t see
anybody qualified to earn his votes. “Who should I vote for? Ikpeazu,
Ogah or Otti? Buhari or Atiku? I don’t care about these people. They
don’t know me; I don’t know them and I got the PVC because I don’t want
to have problems with bank issue. “But now that I’ve seen that no bank
is asking me for it, I want to sell it. Ten thousand is not much as I
have heard they’re buying, but I rather take it and let them do their
things which they will also do whether I vote or not.”

Poverty forcing us to sell, say Bauchi electorate

Ahead
of the elections, politicians in Bauchi have deviced another method of
winning elections which is through the purchase of PVCs In Bauchi, a
source within the state INEC confirmed that the commission was under
intense pressure from politicians to sell PVCs to them at any cost, but
checks by our correspondent reveal that in the rural communities, the
story is different. Rather than politicians seeking PVCs to buying, it
is the electorate that are luring politicians to buy their PVCs, no
matter how ridiculous the amount is. According to a respondent, “the
reason most of these youths engage in the selling of PVCs is that they
don’t believe in politicians, they don’t know who to trust because many
have failed them. Poverty is the main factor for us selling our PCVS”.
He said people are ready to sell their PVCs between N10, 000 and 20,000,
depending on the location and who is buying.

Anambra voters say its business

Some
eligible voters in Anambra State have refused to put a price tag on
their cards but noted that they are now making brisk business from the
buying of votes as most of those involved confirmed that they have
thrown patriotism and conscience to the wind. Most of those interviewed
by our reporter are of the opinion that it would turn better for them to
collect money and vote for the highest bidder than to vote and their
votes do not count. A chieftain of one of the major political parties,
Hon John Egbue, contended that votes cast in Nigerian elections do not
count. “I have been in this game for more than 40 years and had also
keenly contested for LG chairmanship and had come to realise that what
is done is selection and not election. “It does not also not make sense
for one to risk one’s life to vote for someone who after being declared
winner of an election would turn his back on electorate only to come
back to share bags of rice, salt, his or her branded cloth to canvas for
yet another vote. A sales girl, Miss chioma Ndumadu, told our reporter
that her vote is for the highest bidder. According to her, she had voted
several times, but each time, the candidate elected would not be
declared winner. “What you will hear is that they have gone to court and
at the end, the highest bidder will carry the day. It is better I
collect the one I see than waiting for unfulfilled promises of
politicians.

Delta PVCs for highest bidder

In Delta
State, PVCs are now essential commodities in ‘marketplaces’ as political
parties and supporters jostle according to their purchasing powers. A
chieftain of the APC in Ughelli North axis of Delta Central Senatorial
District said he was approached with N10 million for 100 PVCs, which are
expected to come from his supporters.”The deal is that aside the cost
of my defection, which the emissaries have not disclosed, N100, 000 each
has been dedicated to buy the votes of the first one hundred supporters
that will defect with me.” While the chieftain did not mention the
party that struck the deal with him, the presidential spokesperson for
APC in the state, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, however accused the PDP-led
administration in the state of planting votebuyers in every ward under
the disguise of special assistants, and thereby using them to stockpile
PVCs for the elections. But the state PDP chairman, Barr. Kingsley
Esiso, denied the allegation, saying, “unprogressive change agents” in
the APC are junketing round the country, and have infiltrated Delta
State in their desperate bid to snatch the state. “We are aware of their
extravagant trips. They are sharing N10, 000 to unsuspecting voters to
buy their PVCs. We see them on television, on the pages of newspapers
and hear them o the radio stations. “Their door-to-door buying and
selling of PVCs is known to us. The good news is that, the voters are
wise; they are going to keep Governor Okowa till 2023”, Esiso said. A
voter, who hails from Abraka in Ethiope East council area, who
identified herself simply as Ngozi, said she received N10, 000 from an
undisclosed political party. “What is the essence of holding on to a PVC
when hunger is staring at me. I better sell it for economic advantage,
instead of waiting for my vote not to be counted.”

Niger monarch: Politicians use syndicate to buy PVCs

In
Niger State, a top traditional ruler, the Emir of Lapai, Alhaji Umar
Mohammad Bago, confirmed that buying and selling of PVCs occur in his
domain, saying that the selling and buying of the card is real. The
monarch confirmed this in a message to the Stakeholders Consultative
Forum organised for royal fathers in the state by INEC. The monarch who
was represented by the Maiyakin Lapai, Alhaji Abubakar Sulaiman said
politicians were using surrogates to purchase the PVCs at N10, 000. “The
syndicate move from ward to ward in the emirate and they buy each PVC
for as low as N10, 000 and in some cases N5000. In Umaru Majigi A Ward
of Bida Local Government Area, an eligible voter who identified himself
as Bologi Mohammed, said: “When the APC visited us, they asked us to
gather at our polling units. After some time they were requesting for
our PVCs, saying it is only those with PVCs that will get the money, it
is N10, 000 for men and N5, 000 for women. “We waited but we started
asking who is in charge of paying the money because they wanted to
collect our cards first but we said no, we needed to be sure whether it
is real. “When the gate was opened, our people refused to submit their
PVCs unless we are given the money”.

Osun voters hide under house-to-house campaign

In
Osun, a cross-section of politicians had been able to penetrate
prospective voters by hoodwinking them to exchange their PVCs for as
much as N10, 000. Saturday telegraph investigations revealed that, the
desperate politicians now embark on house-to-house political evangelism
to recruit fake voters who had been bought over to perpetrate electoral
fraud. The recruitment exercises which was said to have cut across all
the major political parties in the state but got pronounced within the
All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
political camps, is now being x-rayed by different political analysts
who express their divergent views on the move. A politician, Chief
Mufutau Lasisi, said there was nothing bad in selling his PVC to another
person if it would bring food on his table. He argued that, with the
abject poverty in the country, he could go to any length to make money
so far it would allow him take good care of his family members. When
asked of the consequence, Lasisi said: ” I am the owner of my PVC and I
can do anything with it. I don’t care about the consequence because,
untold hardship has taken over the land. “In fact, I am anxiously
waiting for whosoever that may want to buy or exchange my PVC for money.

Kano politicians buy to resell

In Kano, Saturday
Telegraph’s checks revealed that politicians go into areas where the
residents are of low-level awareness to buy PVCs at N10, 000 and
sometimes above. It was also gathered that even some of the newly
registered parties who have no structures in most places as required by
INEC are involved in the purchase of the PVCs and further sell to bigger
parties. Politicians that engage in the purchase of the PVCs were
buying at N10, 000 from the voters only to resell but the resident have
quickly increased the money to N20, 000, having realised that
politicians are in need of it. The major parties are said to have
identified hundreds of hamlets were they stormed to purchases the
materials. A villager in one of the remote areas said; “it is true
people from the city come to purchases the PVCs although many people,
despite their low level awareness refuse to sell. “In fact, one of the
politician that comes to purchases the PVCs, was shown hell because he
received the beatings of his life, and since then, we have not witness
any other person coming to buy the PVCs “.

We are ready to sell, say Bayelsa voters

In
Bayelsa State, the 2019 campaign is different, as candidates of the
major parties have decided not to spend money on campaigns believing
that there will still be buying of votes as it was done in 2015. In 2015
elections in the Bayelsa State, the highest bidders had the votes
between the political parties. A journalist, John Odeh, who spoke with
Saturday Telegraph said: “When you say they planned it, it is just
stating the obvious because it is something we have seen. Nigerians have
witnessed it and it has been happening. “The most recent elections,
which were held at Ekiti and Osun states, they didn’t pretend about it,
they bought votes. A resident, Francis Dufugha, said: “Vote buying,
inasmuch as I know, is unlawful but whether we like it or not, people
will still sell their votes because the poverty level is so high, to the
extent that they have known the antics of the politicians. “And they
believe that whether the politicians give them money or not, they will
not still deliver the dividend of democracy to them. Even if it is now
they want to start the sensitisation of selling or not selling their
votes, it might not stop vote buying because Nigerians are so wise. They
will be devising different means to buy the vote”, he said. Another
respondent, Tony Amgbare, said: “if they are ready to pay for the votes,
I am willing to take the money and sell. “For me I’m looking for money.
I will go to my village because money will come out.

Even if it
is N10, 000 or N15, 000, I will collect because whether I collect or
not, they are the same people.” Another voter, Shade Bankole, a trader,
who admitted having her PVC said: “If they sell the vote, I will collect
money. What brought me to Yenagoa”? Another trader, Joy Emmanuel, who
plies his trade in Swali Market said; “If I have the opportunity of
selling my votes, I will sell it to the highest bidder because it might
be the only thing I will benefit from this government. “It is not a
question of voting my conscience. Right now, nobody has conscience in
this country. There is no moral in politics. My vote goes to the highest
bidder. I will wait patiently until I see the person that will give me
what I will be satisfied with. “If it is 20,000 or 50,000 it depends on
what is happening in the polling unit where I am going to vote. I will
sell my vote and collect my money. A visibly angry respondent Ebi Ozegbe
told Saturday Telegraph that vote-buying had become a common occurrence
and nothing new in the state. Ozegbe said: ”Government has refused to
make things easy for the people. Government has deliberately improvished
the people. People are in penury. They are in pains. People can’t take
two square meals in a day. “Vote-buying is a normal thing every governor
must send money to different wards to enable some people to go and
vote. Vote-buying is a normal thing that should be done. “Government
must take care of the people. When there are good programmes in place,
vote buying won’t even come in but deliberately they have succeeded in
in making things so difficult for the masses. If I see N100, 000, I will
collect. Government should make things right to abolish vote buying”.

Rivers: Non-indigenes used as puns

In
Rivers State, some voters interviewed said that payment ranges from N1,
000 to N5000 and that voters are mobilised long before the election.
“If this is not done early enough, a voter might end up voting for
another party,” said a trader, who disclosed that his younger brother
had been handing out cash to people with PVCs in the Waterlines area of
Port Harcourt. The main targets in the state are non-indigenes, who are
approached through their leaders. Almost the entire country’s tribes
have groups that are invited to political rallies and meetings where
they were promised appointments. ”The most organised group in the state
is the ‘Non- Indigenes Without Borders.” According to one Musa Maina,
who brings in foodstuffs into Rivers from the North, some politicians
had approached them for votes. “Some have negotiated N2000 with some of
our leaders, but we want it to be N5000 for each voter. I will only vote
for the party that gives me more cash. I don’t really care what our
leaders say,” he said. Another voter, who said that he got his PVC on
the last day before the extension of INEC’s deadline, noted that he
initially didn’t want to do anything with his PVC, but he changed his
mind when a friend told him that he could get some cash during
elections. “Yes, I attended a political meeting where they shared N2,
000 to those present. I am praying that I get N5, 000 for my vote during
election. But I have not been approached by any politician yet,” he
said.