Reporter’s Diary: A Day With Political Thugs, Soldiers, And Vote Buyers

A reporter’s account of how political thugs, soldiers and vote buyers had a field day during an election

It was early morning on March 9, the day Nigeriaheld the governorship and State House of Assembly elections. I had visited oneof the polling units, Units 020/021, in Agbado, Ifo Local Government Area ofOgun State, to cover the election. I had expected a peaceful conduct ofelections as witnessed at the same units during the presidential and NationalAssembly elections, which held two weeks earlier. But it was a different ballgame during the governorship elections.

At 6:30am when I got to the polling units, itwas hard to tell whether those at the polls were voters or hoodlums. There wereallegations that the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, invited the hoodlums whomthe military personnel at the units appeared to be working with to stopopposition party agents from getting close to the polling units.

The agents, seeing the situation at hand,appeared unconcerned, as they looked the other way while the hoodlums did theirjob. But a time came when the other party agents could no longer take it. Thatwas when the political thugs managed to bring in some unknown persons to votewith voters cards that did not belong to them. At that point, the other partyagents raised objection and some of them made calls to nearby INEC officials tocome to their aid. INEC responded promptly, and in no distant time, a fullyloaded military van arrived the venue to enforce peace.

On sighting the military van, I brought out myphone to take pictures. Just then, some of the military officers who noticed mymove surrounded me. In a twinkle of an eye, one of them snatched my phone and threatenedthat he was going to dismantle the device if it contained any pictures or videoof military personnel. Luckily for me, he could not find any and that was how Inarrowly escaped.

Though I was lucky to have left the venue untouched,the governorship elections at the units were full of incidentsof voter intimidation and violence as well as money changing hands for votes. Vote buying in mypolling units was an interesting agreement between a voter and a party agent.The party agent would whisper to the hearing of the voter on the queue andpersuade the voter to vote for his party for a certain amount of money.

Thereafter, the party agent will assignsomeone to monitor the voter to know if he/she truly voted for the agreed party.At the end of the exercise they will meet somewhere not far from the pollingunit for monetary reward. The party agents worked in groups. Someone willconvince the voter, another will monitor compliance with the agreement by thevoters, and lastly another person will take care of the compensation.

In a situation where the party agent cannotmonitor the voters while they are casting their vote, there would be somequestions the party agent will ask them to know if they truly voted for theagreed party.

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