By Pamela Eboh
Vote buying has taken the center stage in the supplementary election for the Ogbaru Federal Constituency in Anambra State as well as official lateness by electoral officials
Visits to the various polling units across the Ogbaru area showed that some of the registered voters who turned out to exercise their franchise had exhausted their patience and returned home, while some who went home earlier had returned the second time, before the arrival of the electoral officials.
At Iyiowa Odekpe ward, officials arrived at about 10:27am, against the 8.am scheduled time for commencement of the exercise.
However, many voting centres visited within the Council area witnessed huge influx of thugs, despite the massive deployment of security officials, including police, navy and army personnel.
At Manus primary school, Okpoko Ward six suspected thugs, said to be working for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate in the election, swooped on journalists who were riding in a vehicle with government number plate, suspecting them to be agents of the ruling party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
Also, at St Luke’s Anglican Church 3, Okpoko Ward, polling unit 004, agents of the PDP and APGA were seen in their camps, where they were making payments to voters who voted for their parties.
The dramatic turn was when a veteran journalist, Mr Sunny David was mistaken for a voter by canvassers of the PDP, and was put on the queue for payment, after he agreed to enquiries from the agents that he voted for their party.
While calling for more security presence in the area to end the surreptitious fraudulent act, some of the residents of the community who spoke to journalists under the condition of anonymity decried the act as illegal deal,.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State government has expressed worry about the high level of vote buying recorded in the supplementary election..
Expressiing his dismay at the new trend, the Commissioner for Works, Hon Ifeanyi Okeoma said tthat he level of vote-buying was denying voters the opportunity of making their rightful choices in the election.
Speaking with journalists at Okpoko, Okeoma said: “We are worried. For us (APGA), people should be able to vote their choices, without looking at any inducement.
“We are hopeful that despite the high level of vote-buying, APGA will still win the election, because as you already know, Anambra is APGA land.”
The APGA candidate, Hon Arinze Awogu and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Hon Chuchu Onyema, the who is also an incumbent lawmaker are said to be involved in vote-buying.
According to a source at Manus primary school polling unit in Okpoko said one vote costs as much as N10,000.
Though Okeoma insisted that his party, APGA was not involved in vote buying, an agent of Labour Party, Mr Chinedu Eze wondered why almost all members of the Anambra executive council were deployed to Ogbaru for the election.
He added, “I have seen the commissioner of works here, I have seen Dr Alex Obiogbolu, who is the special adviser on politics, I have also seen commissioner for Local Government, community and chieftaincy affairs, Tony Nwabunwanne here. None of them is from Ogbaru. So, if they are not buying votes, what are they doing here when there is restriction of movement?”