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 Nigeria held the governorship and State House of Assembly elections. I had visited one of the polling units, Units 020/021, in Agbado, Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, to cover the election. I had expected a peaceful conduct of elections as witnessed at the same units during the presidential and National Assembly elections, which held two weeks earlier. But it was a different ball game during the governorship elections.

At 6:30am when I got to the polling units, it was hard to tell whether those at the polls were voters or hoodlums. There were allegations that the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, invited the hoodlums whom the military personnel at the units appeared to be working with to stop opposition 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 their job. But a time came when the other party agents could no longer take it. That was when the political thugs managed to bring in some unknown persons to vote with voters cards that did not belong to them. At that point, the other party agents raised objection and some of them made calls to nearby INEC officials to come to their aid. INEC responded promptly, and in no distant time, a fully loaded military van arrived the venue to enforce peace.

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

Though I was lucky to have left the venue untouched, the governorship elections at the units were full of incidents of voter intimidation and violence as well as money changing hands for votes. Vote buying in my polling 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 and persuade the voter to vote for his party for a certain amount of money.

Thereafter, the party agent will assign someone 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 polling unit for monetary reward. The party agents worked in groups. Someone will convince the voter, another will monitor compliance with the agreement by the voters, and lastly another person will take care of the compensation.

In a situation where the party agent cannot monitor the voters while they are casting their vote, there would be some questions the party agent will ask them to know if they truly voted for the agreed party.

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