Barely a week before the presidential and national assembly elections this Saturday, Senator Sa’idu Ahmed Alkali, APC Gombe north, distributed sewing, grinding and noodles-making machines to poor and vulnerable women populations in Dukku, Funakaye and Gombe LGs in an alleged attempt to attract their votes, WikkiTimes’ Idris Kamal and Hafsah Ibrahim report.
As Nigerians prepare for one of the country’s most decisive elections since 1999 to pick their president and federal lawmakers, Senator Sa’idu Ahmed Alkali, the lawmaker representing Gombe north under the All Progressives Congress (APC) has devised a new votes-buying technique to secure his re-election bid.
Vote buying has been part of Nigeria’s electoral history, especially since the return of democracy in 1999. But it has assumed a more glaring dimension in recent elections.
With over 87 million or nearly 50% of its estimated population living below the poverty line, many voters, especially in the poverty-ridden northern part of the country, are susceptible to selling their votes to desperate politicians.
However, the country’s apex bank in October last year announced a move towards a cashless economy and declared that the then notes would be no longer valid in the days leading up to the presidential election. With this leading to a widespread cash crush, politicians like Senator Alkali, through a political group, Arewa Women for Tinubu and Inuwa, are now handing gifts to voters in exchange for their votes.
Zainab Muhammad, Gombe State Coordinator of Arewa Women for Tinubu and Inuwa told WikkiTimes that in the last two weeks, with support from Senator Alkali, her team in a series of visits to 11 federal wards in Gombe LGA, distributed sewing, grinding and noodles producing machine to poor selected women to get them to vote for the lawmaker and other APC candidates during the polls.
“Two weeks ago, we paid a visit to communities under Gombe LGA and distributed food items to 200 women. We gave them beans, suya beans, gas cooker and N20,000 each. This is to empower them and enable them start up their businesses,” she said.
When pressed further, the coordinator grudgingly admitted that the distribution of the items is not solely for empowerment’s sake, but also designed to induce the low-income beneficiaries to vote for Senator Alkali, Governor Inuwa Yahaya and Bola Tinubu respectively at the polls.
“Senator Saidu Ahmad Akali, himself, paid a visit to Funakaye local government. He distributed noodles processing machines, fridges and grinding machines to vulnerable women. Some of the women received training in poultry farming and were given chicken feed and medicines as startup capital,” she said.
Such gift is against article 127 of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, which states that:
A person who — (a) corruptly by his or herself or by any other person at any time after the date of an election has been announced, directly or indirectly gives or provides or pays money to or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election, or on account of such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting at such election; or (b) being a voter, corruptly accepts or takes money or any other inducement during any of the period stated in paragraph (a), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
For Balkisu Abdullahi, one of the women leaders in Pantami ward of Gombe LGA, any woman who accepts gifts and refuses to vote APC would not be forgiven. However, she did not disclose the plans they put in place to track their beneficiaries that failed to vote for Senator Alkali and other APC candidates.
“We are distributing these items so APC candidates across the board can emerge winners in the forthcoming elections,” she said enthusiastically, trusting their subtle votes-buying strategy.
She added, “A lot of women have benefitted from these recent palliatives. We can only appreciate our beneficiaries if they come out and vote for APC across all the political seats. You see these women, my wish is their command. They cannot refuse to vote for APC. We have done so much for them.”
Bilkisu said the lawmaker last week gave the women of Mallam Sidi, a community in Gombe, sewing machines, refrigerators, gas cookers, and grinding machines.
Fatima Abdullahi, one of the beneficiaries that received the lawmaker’s gifts, said it was the first time she would get such a gift from a political officeholder, thus disclosing she would vote for him.
“I have never been given such a big gift. I am definitely voting for Senator Sa’idu Alkali and all other APC candidates at the polls because I can’t repay them otherwise. I want to use my vote to thank them again,” she said.
Similarly, Sadiya Abdullahi, Aisha Pantami and Aishatu Abubakar have also pledged their votes in exchange for the gift, like many other women.
Sanusi Isah Dukku, a political ally of Senator Sa’idu Alkali when contacted by WikkiTimes, said vote buying could only be done at polling stations with cash. He argued that the current cashless policy of the apex bank impeded vote buying.
He said his principal deserved reelection considering the projects he was able to attract to Gombe North Senatorial zone in the last four years.
“Vote buying can only be done at polling stations with cash, not items distributed before the election. This is the first time that Senator Sa’idu Alkali is distributing items to women.
“You don’t buy votes when you give your supporters items to add value to their lives because ab initio, they have the intention of voting for you. It does not matter the distribution came around electioneering time,” Dukku insisted.
His statement, however, contradicts the earlier quoted Article 127 of the Electoral Act 2022 which stated that inducement can come in any form at any time after the date of an election has been announced.
Mallam Usman Gurama, a Gombe-based renowned political analyst who also teaches at the Federal College of Education, Gombe told WikkiTimes that politicians have tactically impoverished the electorates over time, therefore, making them irresistible to the subtle art of vote buying.
“People have been impoverished. Whatever they get from these politicians, they collect. We can say these politicians have tactically put these people in this situation so that when they come with these inducing materials, they quickly push their hands to collect,” Gurama said. “Partly, we can say it is a form of vote buying, whether we like it or not. It must be regarded as such. It is a very bad thing,” he added.
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.