Chief of Staff to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Dr Gbade Ojo has bemoaned that the nation’s electoral process continued to be ridden with vote buying and various forms of voters’ inducement, noting that the highest bidder won the February 23 polls across various states in the country.
According to Ojo, in a conversation with Tribune Online, the pattern of voting in the past election showed that despite campaigns, candidates of political parties still had to influence voters with money to get people’s votes.
Ojo decried that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not vocal about manifestations of vote buying and other similar voters’ inducement strategies by parties and their candidates during the past election, praying that the nation reaches a stage where the voice of the people in elections is undiluted.
With particular reference to the elections in the state, Ojo said candidates who are victims of rigging become handicapped to contest election results when the electorates themselves and the electoral process show that they are comfortable with a compromised result.
Though he gave the All Progressives Congress (APC) a pass mark in its performance in the February 23 election, he said the party was not unaware that there were some ‘funny manipulations’ and lapses that made the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have the highest number of votes in the presidential election as well as why Governor Abiola Ajimobi lost the Oyo South Senatorial election.
Ojo, however, said the March 9 governorship election would be a different ball game, noting that the ruling APC will not be careless to allow a repeat of observed manipulations in the February 23 election in the State.
“Every election is crucial to every politician. You approach the electorate and the voice of the people is the voice of God. You have campaigned and given them reasons why they should vote for your party and why they should vote for your candidate.
“Interestingly, when you look at the pattern of voting, you discover that there are some who are enlightened and could make a reasonable choice. However, in some other areas, you have people who can easily be influenced.
“I want to tell you that, in the last election, there were manifestations of vote buying which were visible, and I am surprised that INEC is not talking that line. It was a situation where you buy the conscience of the people and the ballot went to the highest bidder. We are supposed to have passed that stage.
“People should be able to go to the polling unit, cast their vote without being influenced with money. So, the role of money in the February 23 election is rather unfortunate. Actually, the poll went to the highest bidder.
“I am still studying the result in Oyo state, but we know very well the water that passed under the bridge. However, because we are in government and do not want to behave like a do or die politician.
“If we want to talk of rigging in any constituency and the people that voted are comfortable with the result announced and care not, then they have not protected their vote. If in any local government, the result is tampered with, and the people there are comfortable with it, what do you do as a candidate?
“I must say that Governor Abiola Ajimobi has fulfilled his destiny. He has been Senator for four years, governor for eight years, so if he is interested in going further to serve as a Senator and for reasons best known to the people and the electoral system allow itself to be compromised, then the ball is entirely in their court, not in the court of the candidate.
“The lesson from the last election is that the ruling party has to be extra vigilant in the sense that PDP carried the day in terms of a total number of votes. We know what happened in some places. The ruling party will not be careless this time and open its door for funny manipulation in the coming election.
“This is because the result jolted some people in the party and they assume that as a party that has done very well. The general impression is that there is no reason why we should lose that Senatorial district but we have seen the lapses in some places and we shall plug the holes,” Ojo said.